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Come As You Are

“But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.”

― Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

It’s rare, but sometimes a film will touch my heart so deeply that I’ll spend days living with the characters in my head.

When I watched A Suitable Girl, a women-of-color-made documentary we’ve covered this week on The Establishment, my heart wept. I spent that night curled up in bed, covered with goosebumps, a mountain of balled up tissues by my bedside.

I was reminded of Aditi, my college friend who got engaged right before our final exams, getting accepted into one of the hardest degree programs in the country, but who had exchanged any career aspirations for an engagement ring.

I was reminded of myself, the raging feminist, who cried each time I was rejected by prospective suitors for being too tall, too fat, too modern.

And then, I went to the place I always try to block out for my sanity. I thought of my mother. The woman who had her wings clipped when she married a stranger at 21.

But it’s not just women in South Asia. And it’s not just in the context of relationships. Here, in my work on gender equity advocacy in America, the same themes of judgment, shame, and oppression keep showing up. Just this week, I’ve had two requests to coach modern, professional American women on how to be “likable.” I attended an all-day conference in Seattle which urged women to ask for more money because… the wage gap. I’ve said the words “impostor syndrome” until I was blue in the face.

But what if? What if we stopped judging all womxn by their ability to snag a man and be liked?

What if we told more womxn that we are more than enough, with our large hips, and melanin-filled skin, and our loud, bossy, opinionated, dominating, angry voices?

Would the world fall apart? Or—dare I hope—would it rise up to meet us and the space we demand to take up?

With love + solidarity,
Ruchika Tulshyan
Founding Editor

The Problem With ‘Cancer Miracles’

By Sascha Cohen

Early stage patients have a very good shot at curative interventions, remission, and long life spans, but for many of us — those with cancer that hides out for years before making itself known, or is repeatedly misdiagnosed, or mutates into a treatment-resistant subtype, or simply spreads very quickly — it’s too late for a miracle.

By definition, the cancer will win, and not the long-suffering patient, unless they get hit by a bus first.

Fantasies that tell us otherwise are dangerous and insulting, and they don’t only come from Hollywood.

The idea of the “miracle cure” represents a conglomeration of media mythmaking, mainstream religious tropes, New Age spirituality, pseudoscientific quackery, and good old-fashioned commercialism.

Meet The Filmmakers Highlighting The Complexity Of Modern Marriage For Women In India

By Madhvi Ramani

Being able to tell a story of marriage in India through the lens of women directors has immense consequences on the storyline.

Oscar-winning ‘The Big Sick’ and ‘Meet the Patels’ are two recent documentaries showcasing arranged marriages in South Asian communities; both, and others like it, have been criticized for presenting women of color as caricatures.

In multiple films on the topic, women of color are an afterthought to be pitied — far from being the protagonists.

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Building A Better Breast Pump Should Be Everyone’s Hackathon Challenge
By Marya Errin Jones

On April 27–29, MIT Media Lab will host its second Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon.

The aim of the hackathon, the first iteration of which took place in 2014, is to bring technological equity to the table, to develop improved lactation devices, to fight the stigma of breastfeeding, and to brainstorm services that better support women who want to breastfeed their babies in a society that often shuns the practice.

Centered on collaboration over competition, the hackathon brings together top CEOs of women’s health companies, teams of doulas, mothers of color, and LGBTQ parents and families to help generate better solutions for the breast pump.

Why does this matter? For far too long, we’ve seen that when engineering teams aren’t diverse, only certain people’s problems get solved.

For 17 Years, Vanessa Potkin Has Been Exonerating The Wrongly Imprisoned

By Erica Commisso

The Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin planned to stay at the organization to help exonerate the wrongly accused for just one year. She’s been doing it for 17 years and counting.

In addition to fighting for individuals, the Innocence Project seeks to reform the justice system through education, in order to prevent future injustices and wrongful convictions.

Lead image: Unsplash/ Warren Wong