Hand in Hand

If she holds his hand

She’s an itch, a bitch

Independent, she can’t

Not without a man

And if she is, she’s considered a lesbian

A goddess for one to gawk

With a head for one to mock

Not of worth

Unless naked

Or adorning a short, short skirt

Can’t she dress the ways she desires

With more than man that she aspires

Too much does her body inspire

The wrong things—what the man wants—the liar

If he holds his hand

Is he still a man?

Has he lost what makes him a brother

If he gives into the arms of another?

A being that must be strong

For anything but strong is wrong

He must not cry, he must not sob

He must not wear the woman’s garb

Beaten for being like her

Being awarded for beating her

Forced to live with tightened bounds

But his cries for help lack resound

Can he not live free from the whip that cracks?

From the voices that praise and despise his sex?

If they hold their hand

They are feared, abandoned

The letter overlooked

In the alphabetic set of oppressed crooks

A confusion to pick apart

A problem—an issue not for the faint of heart

For those who have lived with the chains of bi

That punished anyone that dared to try

Those that believed we could be more

More than what we and they have built at the core

Can they not choose what to feel?

Must we comply to the chains; must we kneel?

If we hold each other’s hands

And forget about if one is darker or lighter than

Perhaps then we will realize

That we are living short, piteous lives

Must we be unsatisfied

If we cannot lower one or hate before we die?

There comes a time when we must perceive

That we are not alone on this land or across the sea

Unified we can be better—together

Not in agreement, but with respect, with understanding, for one another




chuaya-loChuaya Lo transferred to St. Cloud as a third year undergraduate. She greatly appreciates the diversity and emphasis on heading towards the goal of a better world of equal treatment and respect. In her free time, Chuaya enjoys writing fiction, watching anime, TV shows, playing video games, and drawing/writing graphic novels. She’s majoring in linguistics with a TESL minor, with the goal of teaching English in Japan.

The Mark Cohen Complex 

When I traveled to the Philippines for three weeks at the end of last summer, I had a plan to write about my experience. I wanted to share my experiences of seeing my extended family, seeing the sights, and experiencing the difference between cultures that makes the group of over 7,000 islands so unique and dear to my heart. I wanted to write about the horrific traffic, the sky that turned the color of loamy water with the combination of pollution and fog, and the mom and pop shops pressed up against each other like the sardines they undoubtedly sell. I wanted to write about the first day in particular when my uncle picked us up from Ninoy Aquino International Airport and instructed his driver to take us on a tour of “The Real Philippines.” I made a point to bring along a small blue notebook to write down observations and then turn them into a candid analysis of Philippine life through my eyes.

The sight isn’t something that I’ll easily forget. Naked toddlers waddled into the middle of traffic and two five year olds crouched near a drain pipe with plastic Ziploc bags, filling them with rainwater, tinted yellow by God knows what. My sister pressed her finger to the window and said plainly, “That doesn’t look safe.” A few days later, driving in the same car, I witnessed the erecting of a shanty: cardboard and plastic bag walls, sporadic gleams of tin just to give it something resembling strength and to give the illusion that it wouldn’t blow over with typhoon winds. Something deeply bothered me when I looked at this, but I still wrote it down, though keeping most of the details through pure memory. Then, during the last week, we went north of Naga City (where we were staying) to the smaller town of Panicuason. Specifically, to the house on land that my mother and a few more of their siblings owned. It was far from a mansion, just a one story structure with two bedrooms a bathroom and a kitchen; it was one hundred-percent livable. What caught my attention and set off alarm bells in my head was the house adjacent to the main structure, belonging to the maid tasked with the upkeep of the house. Dried out banana leaves and various grasses were woven together for the roof. Posters for cell phone plans made up part of the door, or maybe the outer wall (a literal side by side comparison). And it hit me that I’d never step into that house, that I’d never get close to the shanty or even worry about water to the point that I’d risk my health just to get some. But part of me still wanted to write about it, explore this struggle, and turn it into something.

I started calling this the Mark Cohen Complex, named after the filmmaker in the musical RENT. I called it this for two reasons:

  1. It’s the desire to help in the form of art. Me through writing and Mark through film.
  1. Too late is the realization that it serves more as a buffer between the artist, their art, and the message it’s trying to convey. A wall. A separation to keep that uncomfortable rolling of your stomach out.

In the musical, an old, homeless woman calls Mark out for filming some police officers urging her to get off the street, saying, “I don’t need no goddamn help from some bleeding heart cameraman. My life’s not for you to make a name for yourself.”

And I couldn’t make a name for myself out of the lives of people I saw for less than a second. The churning won out, and I decided to write this piece instead.

I figure that many artists have at least the first part of the complex. And why not? The purpose of art is expression or attempting to make meaning out of things not easily explained. But for me, it was hard to write about the things I saw. I wasn’t sure if I was stepping into shoes that I didn’t even own, or if I was stealing stories and images from people who barely have even that. The line between creating art and using people to do so became a really big issue for me, and I’m still struggling with every aspect of it. I know it’s not about me but about the people who suffer injustices at the hands of cyclical poverty every day. But I can’t use their voices as someone who stays at hotels, resorts, and three story residences when I visit. I’ll never know their story or feel their struggle, so it’d be wrong for me to try and express it.

Many times what starts off as an attempt to help and raise awareness romanticizes the issue with no real work to fight the issues that are romanticized. I think it’s important for artists to understand this line and to start making a concerted effort that directly benefits what they’re trying to create the art out of. With that in mind, after asking people I know who live in the Philippines and have greater knowledge of the workings of local organizations, here are a few charities to support:

Save the Children: Philippines

Gawad Kalinga

UNICEF Philippines

With this I’m hoping to do my part beyond sharing the beauty of this country through the written word.



thumbnail_147Mariam Bagadion is a second year student at SCSU double majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She has a passion for writing and social justice and thinks the coolest thing in the world is when the two can be combined. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches Netflix, and plays one of the three songs she knows on the ukulele. 

To Those So Concerned

My flesh is not yours

You cannot control it


I do not live to please you

Your actions do not affect me


Your jargon is futile

It is not your burden to save me


Your comments are complacent

Your aim seeks propriety  


You do not understand my pain

So do not force your opium down my throat



Image: http://culturalconundrums.theblogpress.com/2015/02/04/pro-choice-what-does-it-really-mean/



mara-martinsonMara Martinson is a freelance editor, creative writer, and graduate student. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from UW-Superior and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at SCSU. She teaches ENGL 191 and in her free time, enjoys writing, reading, knitting, crafting, and spending time with her partner and family. Her creative work has appeared in journals including The Nemadji Review, Kaleidoscope, and The Upper Mississippi Harvest. Mara describes her work for Collective Feminism as feminist, capturing the emotional struggles we face. 

Black Representations in Film

Crunk Feminist Collective recently published an insightful post on their blog titled, “Moonlight Musings & Motherhood: On Paula, Teresa and the Complicated Role of (Bad) Black Mamas in Film.”

They present an intriguing critique of the new film, Moonlight, and in particular, how the black female and male characters are problematically represented.

Here is an excerpt…

As an autoethnographer, I am invested in the importance and significance of black folk telling our own stories and telling our own truths, and telling them even if and when they may be stereotypical or troubling.  But representation matters.  So, I find myself wrestling with what it means when filmic depictions of black men and women imply that progressive black masculinity, and positive black womanhood, cannot co-exist.  In many ways, these images suggest that in order for fluid black masculinity to be possible, black women and black women’s bodies must be somehow sacrificed.

Continue reading here!

Have you seen the film?  What did you think?  Let us know here on the blog or write us at collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu

Image: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2016/10/28/moonlight-musings-motherhood-on-paula-teresa-and-the-complicated-role-of-bad-black-mamas-in-film/moonlight_2016_film/

Inquiry on Issues No. 1

Our blog team tables in Atwood twice monthly and one activity we offer to the students and faculty on campus is “Inquiry on Issues.” This activity provides individuals a chance to write down any questions they have about feminism (anonymously) that our blog team can answer here on our blog!

We have retrieved two thoughtful questions thus far and they will be answered by two of our blog members: Ruth Sybil May and Melissa Anne Frank.

  1. How do I talk to a trans person about pronouns if I don’t want to offend them?

Talking to someone about what pronouns they use can seem daunting. You want to be respectful without crossing any lines or boundaries. And as a trans person, I must say that I take to it kindly when people respectfully ask what pronouns I use, because it shows that they care and are aware enough to ask in the first place. 

Upon first meeting someone (or even if you’ve known someone for a while), I generally directly ask about a person’s pronouns in 1 of 2 fashions: What are your pronouns? or What pronouns do you use? I’d stay clear of the whole “preferred pronouns” because it is quite cissexist; meaning that cisgender (which means someone who identifies with the gender that was designated to them at birth) people are never thought of to have “preferred” pronouns; they’re just pronouns. Pronouns are mandatory, not just a mere “preference” for most people. And once you ask someone what their pronouns are, they may turn around and ask you, so be prepared to state your own pronouns.   

Also, try to be sensitive to the fact that it might be uncomfortable to be asked about pronouns in front of a lot of people; especially if that person doesn’t know if they are accepting or to be trusted, so try to ask only when it feels safe and comfortable to do so.  

Another good piece of advice is to default to using the gender neutral, singular form of they/them pronouns when unaware of the gender/pronouns that a person uses (and some people, like I, use they/them pronouns anyways). This way you can maximize respect by not assuming what pronouns they use prior to finding out.  

It can feel uncomfortable when first starting to ask people what pronouns they use, but it is a great habit to develop to shift our culture away from making assumptions about people’s genders based on their gender expression, and move towards a self-determined horizon where everyone gets to define their own gender and self-narrate their bodies on their own terms. And this can be used when talking to someone of any gender, because you can’t always tell what a person’s gender is just by looking at them.  

I wish you good luck on your pronoun quest!  

 -Ruth Sybil May 


2. From a feminist standpoint, how would the song, “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease be interpreted? This is nothing academic; I’m just wondering for my own sake.  One of the lyrics, for example, is:

“You better shape up
‘Cause I need a man
And my heart is set on you.”

While it is perfectly fine to be a woman and want a man in her life, is it okay to change for a man, or ask a man to change/“shape up” for her?  In the context of the movie, Sandy shows up dressed in leather.  She’s dressed unlike her preppy self, simply to impress Danny.  Yet she sings, “To my heart I must be true.”  How is any independent-thinking girl supposed to reconcile this?  I know this song is from the 70’s and written to be catchy; I’m just wondering what a feminist thinks of it.

This is a great question!  As a lover of musical theatre, I have often looked at some of them and thought about how they perpetuate the very stereotypes that I fight against on a daily basis. Even some of the best musicals can look at things in a way that isn’t great.  Take for instance one of the hottest musicals in the last two years, Hamilton.  While this musical is breaking boundaries between race and class, it also escalates some sexist, classist, and racist issues.   

Grease is a lot like this.  The idea that Sandy changes just to get a man is a sexist issue. Let’s be real, almost every song in the musical sung by Danny Zuco’s band of problematic men is quite sexist; from lyrics like, “Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?” to, “With a four speed on the floor, she’ll be waiting at the door.  You know without a doubt I’ll be really making out in Greased Lightnin’.” 

But the Pink Ladies of Grease aren’t much better either.  In Summer Nights, the gals are more concerned with whether Sandy’s beau has a car than if he can treat her well.  

While Grease is steeped in cultural norms of sex, race, and identity, it is also about believing in yourself, perseverance, and learning to be your own authentic person.  These themes live together in many of the same ways that our own identities do; they are sometimes confusing and conflicting. 

Just because we love something doesn’t mean it’s perfect!   

I think the most important thing is realizing where those imperfections come from and thinking about how our own biases work. Of course, finding a partner in your life is something that some people want to do, but it’s important to recognize that changing only for that person is not the way to go about it. I hope that, someday, Danny will dress again in that preppy outfit to show Sandy that both of their choices are valid for their lives. 

As for myself, I will enjoy musicals and think deeply about the problematic issues in them. I do this as a way to relate to the problematic nature even in myself, and as a way to relate even more to the world and people around me. 

I hope this answers your question! Thanks again for submitting and keep ‘em coming! 

-Melissa Anne Frank 


As always, we are open to answering your questions, and we welcome you to talk to us at our booth or send your questions about intersections of our lives to collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu. Remember, we will not identify you on our blog, so your question(s) will remain anonymous!

Kardashian-Jenner Sisters: Cultural Appropriation

Whether you’re browsing through TV channels or even looking through social media, it isn’t uncommon to accidentally come across new gossip about the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, or even their latest fashion go-to looks. The Kardashian-Jenner sisters are well known for their TV show on E, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But besides that, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many other forms of media.

As I walked to class the other day, I was calmly looking around, gazing at different houses as I passed by them. One thing caught my attention in particular. In one window of an apartment building, there was a poster facing the street showing the Jenner sisters modeling. There is no doubt that whoever lives in the apartment building enjoys the Jenner sisters and perhaps they even look up to them. This made me think about how influential the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are. The Kardashian-Jenner sisters most definitely have had a huge impact on the way people see themselves, others around them, and the world as a whole. I am arguing that this is problematic. I argue this because the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are guilty of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is a form of disrespect to another culture due to the unacknowledgement of why these elements are culturally significant.

So, let’s take a closer look at some photos the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have posted.


Almost a year and a half ago, Khlo‎é Kardashian posted this picture of herself on Instagram. She decided to caption this picture “Habibi Love.” In this picture, she is wearing a niqab. A niqab, not to be confused with a burqa or hijab, is a veil that some Muslim women wear on their face that does not cover their eyes. Wearing a niqab is a part of some Muslim women’s faith. For Khlo‎é to be adopting this significant element of another religion is disrespectful. It is disrespectful because Khlo‎é does not identify as a Muslim and rebranding the niqab erases its cultural significance.


Kylie Jenner posted this photo on her instagram and captioned it, “I woke up like disss.” First of all, we definitely know Kylie did not wake up with that hairstyle. We also know, that Kylie is guilty of cultural appropriation due to the fact that she decided to have a cornrow hairstyle. This hairstyle has historically been worn by black women and originated in Africa. Kylie’s decision to have cornrows is inappropriate due to the lack of acknowledgement of where cornrows came from and why they have been historically worn by black women.

Cultural appropriation eliminates the historical roots behind whatever is being culturally appropriated. The Kardashian-Jenner rebranding of other communities’ elements to be “trendy” is disrespectful and socially unacceptable. People look up to these women and when cultural appropriation is seen as the norm, people stop questioning it. It’s time for the Kardashian-Jenner sisters to stop culturally appropriating and start culturally appreciating.



heather-helmHeather Helm is a student at Saint Cloud State University. She is currently studying Women’s Studies, Psychology, and Human Relations. Heather is extremely passionate about helping others. She aims to apply a feminist framework to her anticipated career in the future as a Social Worker. 


Battle of the Bodies: Learning to Accept Ourselves

Why is it okay to call me skinny (generally accompanied by a disgusted face) and it’s inappropriate for me to call a heavier woman fat? Both comments are equally hurtful (depending on the individuals’ insecurities). And of course, this incessant debate stems from the current expectation that women should be thin and not weighed down by extra weight. But why is extra weight deemed unattractive today? Why is being thin shameful and envied? Why can’t both be mutually accepted and admired?

What people tend to forget is that no one has the same body structure or metabolism. We all come from couples that have unique body chemistries and even our siblings have different characteristics than us. For instance, I have three siblings and each of us have dissimilar body types than one another. Body diversity is a beautiful thing and it’s time that we all embrace it because no one’s body will ever be the same and fit into the mold society has set out before us. It’s not fair or rational to be upset with someone because they effortlessly (or with effort) embody the current fad of what makes women sexy and appealing today.

The ideal female body is a myth that continually changes in society with each time period. You will notice that during the Renaissance, curvier women were highly coveted; other cultures have marveled at women with mustaches (of all things), and Victorians admired pale women because they symbolized a sense of delicateness. Of course, this list can go on, and in other cultures and nations women are renowned for assets that Americans find odd. Even today when we look at the past few decades, there are startling differences in desired body shapes and beauty. So this trend with thin women will change and (especially with the many movements and campaigns created to promote women of all sizes) society’s tastes are expanding to accommodate curvier women, and those new groups of thin women not fitting the ideal figure will yet again be alienated by society. And all of this has been perpetuated by the media, beauty industry, and archaic ideas of fitness and health.

When we pull out our phones, laptops, etc., we are immediately confronted with impeccably beautiful women. These women tend to have slender physiques and flawless skin. We idolize these women because they look perfect and allow our minds to desire looking like them. It’s obvious the women in these pictures and commercials are re-touched to appear more attractive than they are naturally; we revere them because they are what’s expected of us. It’s a never ending cycle of realizing models are caked with makeup and/or re-touched and vowing to remember this, but it is our inherent need to fit into the mold the male gaze (coined by Laura Mulvey) has designed for us that keeps us at the will of society’s presumptions.

I personally find curvier women sexy even though it’s not my body type; this expectation that only slender individuals are sought-after by men and women is absurd and disproved in many ways.The expectations of sexiness stem from our patriarchal society and I find it surprising that being slender is in right now considering the high adoration put on hourglass figures. Contrary to this, we are lead to believe that women with smaller breasts, a narrower frame, and a definite thigh gap are attractive due to the media and how celebrities (who have personal trainers, chefs, and nannies) look. However, as the media is streaming these ideas into us, we are being brainwashed with flawlessly airbrushed pictures and videos designed to target our insecurities and make us buy makeup to cover our imperfect and un-like model skin, purchase diet systems/foods, buy workout equipment and videos, and so on. Society preys on our existing insecurities and creates new ones in order to fill a capitol need and maintain control through objectification.

So before you shame your body, remember that it’s unique. Although most of the women you see in the media are thin, remember that they’re not the entire female population; they were picked out of thousands of women just like you to maintain the female body stereotype and in almost every case, their appearance is not natural. Before you see a thinner woman and think, “She’s so skinny. I bet she never eats,” remember that that woman may have a health issue preventing her from gaining weight or maybe she’s struggling emotionally and needs support. And before you see a heavier woman and think, “She’s so fat. She needs to lose weight,” remember that she may have a health issue making her gain weight or is struggling emotionally and needs help. It’s paramount that we don’t judge because we don’t understand what other women are going through and it’s not our job to evaluate how well they fit in society’s frame of the ideal woman.

When it comes to our bodies, let’s look inward at ourselves and dig for our redeeming qualities; this’s not always easy, but essential in building our confidence and having the strength to appreciate the various appearances of others too. Let’s not compare ourselves to others, but appreciate and accept that we’re all unalike and that’s okay.


Photo: http://xonecole.com/beyondbeauty-11-images-that-celebrates-body-diversity-self-love-within-women/


mara-martinsonMara Martinson is a freelance editor, creative writer, and graduate student. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from UW-Superior and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at SCSU. She teaches ENGL 191 and in her free time, enjoys writing, reading, knitting, crafting, and spending time with her partner and family. Her creative work has appeared in journals including The Nemadji Review, Kaleidoscope, and The Upper Mississippi Harvest. Mara describes her work for Collective Feminism as feminist, capturing the occasional brutality of life and the emotional struggles we all face. 

Black Cool

By Sharai Sims

I have started a new phase in my life. I am a black woman, 22 years old, and living in rural Minnesota, ­­ where assimilation is a must for social acceptance. For so many years, I thought I was accepted because of my light skin and the ability to flat iron my hair so bone straight that you never saw my nappy roots at the nape of my neck.  I thought it was the traces of whiteness in my family line that separated me from the other black kids. Just as ambiguous as my looks, I couldn’t be placed nor did I try to limit myself when moving through social crowds and groups.  I was accepted seamlessly.

Because of the necessity I felt to assimilate, I never acknowledged the things that were actually setting me apart: my humor (black), my style (black), and my insight (black).

When I was a sophomore in high school, I remember a party that my white friends were throwing. At the party, all the popular girls (there were about nineteen of us) wanted to do a group shirt saying “sophomore class of 2012.”  Funny, I was actually flattered to be considered a) popular and b) the only black person invited, even though our whole school was pretty diverse.

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Reflection from the Post-Production of That Takes Ovaries

By Ruth Sybil May

A few weeks ago, I participated in the feminist play titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Women, Brazen Acts by Rivka Solomon and Bobbi Ausubel; of which I was a cast member. The play is an adaptation of the book similarly titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts, edited by Rivka Solomon. The framework of the book/play is a collection of true stories submitted by ordinary people recounting an experience in which they acted of courageously and bravely, told through first-person narratives. The play was organized by recruiting a cast of diverse community members to enact these true stories on stage in front of an audience, mixing activism with performance art in a way that is humorous, yet serious and inspiring at the same time.

Within the play, I played the part of Drake, a young, transgender man on a path of self-discovery and emotional bravery. During his scene, Drake works up the courage to come out to his mother as transgender despite knowing his mother would not react well. After sharing his truth, his parents are apprehensive at first, but soon do their research so they can better support and love their son no matter what, bringing their family even closer together than before.

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For My People

By Cassie Brown

For my people who are insecure
For my people who suffer from depression
Who also suffer from anxiety
For my people who don’t have many friends
Who feel alone during hard times
For my people who enjoy being alone
But don’t like feeling lonely
For my people who go throughout the day with a fake smile on their face
Who don’t like sharing their problems in fear of being judged
For my people who have scars to remind them how bad things are
For my people who constantly ask if it’s worth it anymore
And they feel the only escape from their pain is suicide

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