Free Love: Then & Now

In Roger Streitmatter’s Voices of Revolution, his fourth chapter focuses on the “free love” publications of the Victorian era; periodicals against traditional institutions of marriage and committed to providing sex education, endorsing sex for pleasure, information about abortion and more.

The three publications Streitmatter focused on were Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly,  The Word, and Lucifer, the Lightbearer. These publications shared many of the same characteristics: they were created and distributed with the intent to bring down the institution of marriage and educate their audience about healthy sexual activities, in addition to pushing against the government censorship on such publications that used graphic language (“penis,” “sexual intercourse,” “abortion,” “genitals,” etc.).


I think this chapter is very consistent with many movements and publications today that are still striving for the same types of messages. It’s a reminder that history is constantly repeating itself: a century and a half later, we still discuss many of these things.

The institution of marriage is still well and good (thought granted, divorce is legal, at least in America). Many of the Victorian publications fought against marital abuse and rape, something which is still alive and well, and marital rape can still be construed as legal in 8 states.

Sex education is something that isn’t consistent in all public or private schools, and despite studies proving its helpfulness, many schools still do not include it in their curriculum, leading many students to be confused and misled about safe ways to engage in sexual activity.

A recent group of voices that echoes the sentiments of the Victorian “free love” movement has sprung up advocating for a redefinition of not only marriage, but the way we look at relationships – monogamy, some say, is not a realistic option, and engage in more open or non-traditional styles of relationships, arguing that these should also be recognized. Many feminist advocates also believe sex work should be legalized and supported as empowering and fiscally conscious career choices.

These voices are supported in many independent outlets in today’s media world. Vice consistently publishes articles on sexual freedom and non-traditional views on relationships, including multiple pieces by popular pornography star Stoya on subjects such as how feminism affects her and the porn industry as well as the pitfalls of monogamy. Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a weekly webcomic run by a couple in Seattle that offers reviews of sex toys and important information for safe sex with authors, strippers, artists and more as guests. Even more mainstream publications like Huffington Post publish articles on important issues regarding relationships, sexual activity and spousal abuse.

While these types of issues often get more attention in our immediate world, the fight the Victorian free love publications started has far from ended. Even though their initial attempts were largely regarded as failures as they did not spur widespread action, their ideas carry on years later and they were the first to get them into print.

Wasting Time or Making Change?

About a week ago, I was sitting at a table with seven other university students for a scholarship dinner. As an ice-breaker, one of the questions we asked each other was “what do you waste the most time doing?”

Unanimously, every single millennial sitting with me answered, “social media.”

It might not seem surprising to some – there’s a consensus that millennials spend all their time during the day on social media. While this is not strictly true as stereotypes often lie, they do spend more time on more modern media than their older counterparts, understandably, as they are a generation that grew up on this type of connectivity.

But is it wasting time?

While social media is often hounded for being a procrastination tool and too much useless information, millennials are also using these platforms to learn. 88 percent of millennials get their news from Facebook, something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

While there is a push to get rid of heavy reliance and interaction with social media (with some millennials abandoning it entirely), I think it is often discounted and demonized without taking into account the powerhouse of connectivity and activism it allows.

In the New York Times article “Movement Began With Outrage and a Facebook Page That Gave It an Outlet,” journalist Jennifer Preston explores how social media (namely Facebook and YouTube) became a catalyst for true change in Egypt after the brutal death of Khaled Said by local police officers. Without social media, there would have been no way to gather 473,000 users to share updates and hear the most recent news about the happenings in Egypt.

Without social media, this type of change could have taken much longer – maybe even years. But this new media has allowed people to be more quickly connected and enlightened about what is happening in the world. While, of course, the internet allows for “armchair activists” to be able to simply share a video or click a link and pat themselves on the back for doing good work without actually doing anything (remember Kony 2012, anyone?), it also acts as a platform for the truly engaged to find people fighting for the causes they also believe in.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allow users to tap into real-time happenings around the globe. People from anywhere can upload videos, statuses, updates about anything that is occurring around them, which is invaluable when it comes to crises and protests where the people affected can gain support and help from those who may be across the world from them, but can see what’s happening on social media. You can gain perspectives from all sides – you can easily get hundreds of different people writing on what they’re seeing and experiencing, immediately, from a first-hand perspective. It creates and interactivity for important global conversations. It cultivates a voice that you often cannot ignore if you are very tapped into those sites.

So yes, millennials may spend up to 18 hours a day engaging with media, but they may be making the world a better place in the process.

Journalism isn’t dying; it’s evolving

I’m not sure how many times I’ve had to state this sentence to people who feel as if it’s their business to comment on my current college major; “oh, well it doesn’t really matter, that’s a dying field anyway!” accompanied by a hearty laugh whenever I offer my “I’m majoring in Journalism at Ithaca College” into conversation.

Because it’s not as if people don’t need the news. Are physical hard copy papers dying off? Absolutely. But is that because people have stopped caring? In fact, it’s the opposite. They’ve turned to a platform where they can offer their information and voice their opinions – the internet.

In Will Bunch’s article “A Landmark for Bloggers — and the Future of Journalism”, he writes that the George Polk Awards honored a blogger for the first time in 2008, which marked a huge turning point in investigative and muckraking journalism. Awards honoring bloggers means that the tide has started to turn, and the true talent in investigative journalism has turned to where they can connect with information more easily.

In 2013, blogs were rated the 5th most trusted online information source. And in 2015, for the first time, online search engines became the most trusted way to find news information, and traditional news outlets dropped to second place.

It’s obvious that people are staying informed, just in a different way than the past. So, of course, the question is: why?

And it seems pretty logical. As Bunch writes in his article, it’s an easy way to tackle a lot of information at once. Your audience become reporters; your job as the blogger is to compile and fact-check all the information, but you have interested commenters doing the heavy lifting. The Talking Points Memo Muckraking blog had their readers each take a page of a PDF, read it, and comment on the post with their observations and page number. A much faster and more efficient way to get through a 3,000 page document than trying to do it all by yourself in a newsroom, wouldn’t you say?

Information in the current day spreads faster than it ever has before and it is continuing to evolve. Bloggers fill in the niches that both traditional and even independent sources can’t always fill; they go to the smaller gaps, find specific content that they can pull apart and analyze. They find the holes in popular reporting and offer multiple points of view.

But the main reason I think blogs are so popular nowadays is because they’re interactive. They offer a platform to talk about something you’re interested in, even if you aren’t the prominent blogger. Whistleblowers are turning to the internet, to bloggers, to smaller, independent sources because they know that they’re passionate about these subjects and will do everything in their power to spread the word.

News is faster, but it also now offers ways to be more efficient and find out the truth. Fact-checking can take a Google search instead of multiple phone calls. You can find live sources at an event through Twitter. Finding experts is easier than ever. There is much more room for error in trying to push out content as fast as possible, but there’s also expansion on how we can find that truth that journalism strives for.

8 Steps to Self-Love

Like I wrote in my last post, I’m no expert on self-love. But I’ve definitely been improving over the past 6 months or so, and I think it’s important to share how I’ve started working on it because let me tell you, it’s not an easy feat.

1. Decide to love yourself

Like the cliche goes, “acceptance is the first step.” For years in high school I kept saying I would work on turning negative thoughts around, I would exercise, I would try and get better. But I didn’t really mean it, because there’s such a safety in complacency; I understand that. So the first step is you have to choose not to be miserable and to start on a journey of self-acceptance.

2. Listen to your body

I love fulfilling my body’s cravings – if I want some soda, I’ll get some soda. I love dessert. I have a HUGE sweet tooth and I don’t mind giving my body what it wants most of the time; needless to say, for the most part, it’s at appropriate times and I eat fairly healthily the rest of my life. I have to snack a lot because if I don’t, I’ll start passing out (and no one wants that). I sleep 10+ hours a night because that’s what it takes for me to feel rested. But my best friend has a really hard time doing those kinds of things; she gets sluggish and doesn’t feel her best self if she eats too much junk food or oversleeps, so make sure you learn about what your body really needs and what you can use as fuel and what you can’t.

3. Meditate

I’ve written about how much I love the program Headspace in the past, and I still can’t get over it. I’ve been using Headspace for over a year now and I’m still obsessed. I feel like it really helps me get in touch with my emotions in a way that is controlled and safe, which is something that’s important for me with my anxiety. You don’t need to use Headspace (though I suggest you at least try it out), but try taking some time for yourself. It’ll help you stay calm in the face of stress and learn to ride out any unpleasant emotions you might come in contact with.

4. Move!

This is a really difficult one for me because in the past, I have loathed going to the gym. I competed in three sprint triathlons but I hated the training. I’ve discovered the key is finding things you enjoy. I hate doing one thing for a long time, so when I do cardio, I mix it up – 10 minutes on the erg, 10 minutes on the stairmaster, 20 minutes on a spinning machine, then do some lifting. But it also doesn’t have to be the gym – a walk can make you feel better. Yoga, jazzercise, pilates, boot camp, whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up helps your metabolic rate (which also helps with your ability to eat snacks – yesssss) and gets your mind focused on something else.

5. Take time for yourself

Go get a coffee. Read a book on your own. Listen to some podcasts. I like taking the bus somewhere and not telling anyone so I have alone time for a couple hours (the only problem being I live in a small college town and almost always run into people I know anyway… it’s the thought that counts). Light some candles and take a bath. Even the biggest extrovert can take some value in being by themselves for a while.

6. Help others

This is another one I’m still working on myself, but it’s helpful to take the pressure off you for a while. We often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to go out of our way to make others’ lives easier. Volunteer somewhere. Go out with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Listen to what people need and try and find a way to do that for them.

7. Accept yourself

I didn’t say “love” yet. You’ve got to get to a place where you can be comfortable with you first. Force yourself to list good things about you. Get friends to write notes about your good qualities if you have trouble coming up with them. If you don’t like your physical looks, get naked and look in the mirror (I started sleeping without clothes on because I was so uncomfortable with my body – really hard at first, but it gets easier. I promise). List things you like about yourself. Post selfies. Write reminders about how beautiful you are on your mirror, even if you don’t believe it.

8. Don’t forget that it’s hard

Especially for those of us with mental illnesses that get in our way, it’s a journey. Don’t forget that. Don’t beat yourself up because you trip and fall off the bandwagon. Don’t get mad if you mess up and you hurt yourself. Remember it’s important that you’re trying.

On Being Single & Okay With It

How many times in your life, do you think you’ve seen the idea of someone else “completing you” somewhere? In a quote? In a social media post? On a commercial? In a movie? How often is the concept of finding someone to make you happy reinforced in our everyday lives; that one person is out there, waiting until you fall into each other’s lives and grow old together?
hands-437968_640Listen, I’m not saying that (good) relationships aren’t great. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to be alone forever. But I think we need to abolish this idea that someone else exists in the world to “be your other half.”

Recently, I’ve seen a few of my good friends go through some pretty rough breakups because of fairly innocuous reasons: they grew apart, they aren’t at the same place in life, etc., etc. But one thing I’ve heard from multiple people on why they haven’t broken up with their significant other sooner is because they’re afraid of being single.

And that’s understandable, right? No one really wants to be alone – having that one person locked into a relationship with you pretty much guarantees that person cares about you, will be there for you, is always someone to do things with, etc. (Unless they’re not, and you seriously need to get out of that relationship ASAP).

But here’s the thing.

Just because you’re single, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. 

I think a lot of people forget this. You are your own independent person, and friends are just as important as significant others. You (hopefully) have surrounded yourself with people who make you happy and encourage you to be a better person. These are people to hang out with, to talk about problems with, to go places, to do things. People who care about you and will be there for you. If you don’t have people who you feel that way about, maybe re-evaluate your friendships. Maybe it’s time to make new ones. If your significant other was your only friend, reconsider why you were actually in the relationship with them.

Especially in your 20s, you need time to discover yourself.   

What I’ve heard from a lot of my friends is that they have a security blanket in the relationship. I can’t say I’m not a culprit of this myself cause sometimes it feels nice to have that guarantee. But I think before you get into a relationship, you need to learn how to be alone. You need to figure out how to define you before you know how to define yourself +1.  This is my major problem with people from high school trying to do LDRs when they get to university. There are so many growing pains that happen in college that you need to be able to stretch and breathe and do things on your own without having to question what your partner will think about it. Be you. Too many millennials don’t know how to, and we should change that.

You need to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else. 

Now, self-love is something I’m no expert on. And this is one of the main reasons why I’m not currently seeking out a relationship, because I’m not in a place where I feel like I’m the best partner I could be. And that is okay. Besides the fact that I’m graduating in a year and it just wouldn’t be realistic (because I’m a selfish person who wants to travel the world and I don’t expect anyone to follow me to the ends of the earth cause like, damn, do your own thing, worry about yourself), I enjoy learning about me and who I am when I’m on my own. And while I wouldn’t say I truly love myself yet, I’m learning to. And I think learning how to love the person who some people truly hate more than anyone else (hey mental illness!) makes loving another person so, so much easier and full.

And listen.

It’s okay to be bitter when you see friends getting married and engaged and falling in and out of love. Jealousy is a natural emotion. That happens, especially when it’s getting jealous of something you’ve been taught to value above almost anything else. That’s pretty much how life works, especially when we’ve been socialized to think that way.

But you’re not looking for your better half. You’re not looking for someone to complete you.

You’re already whole.


A Semester’s Recap

Hey, so it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I kind of dropped the ball on this whole blogging game for a while, mostly because this semester was one of my most challenging academically and emotionally. Returning from London was a whirlwind and taking my two most difficult classes of my college career in addition to reintegrating myself into organizations, RAing and just university life in general again made it very complicated and was not a great choice in hindsight. But, hey, we’re on the other side now! And while this semester has definitely kept me in check with how imperfect I am, I’ve also learned a lot and made some really close friends in the process, and I am so excited to spend my last summer before becoming a college graduate in Ithaca. But since I don’t really want to write out an actual recap of my semester, here’s a list of things I have learned this semester.

1. It’s okay to say “no.”

As a perfectionistic overachiever, I always think I can do more than I can actually handle. Up until this semester, I’ve always said it’s okay to say no but I never really had to. This time around, I turned people down when they asked me to be in productions, make things for them, hang out, etc. As bad as I felt about it, I’m really glad I did as my mental health and my grades would have suffered (… more than they already did …)

2. People come and go in your life.

I lost some really close friends this past semester but I also gained some other awesomely close ones (many of whom are staying for the summer, which is phenomenal). But sometimes you have to let people go – and it’s often been hard for me to accept that everyone won’t necessarily like you all the time. Friends are like waves. You get really close to some people and then they fall out of your life, and that’s okay. Things change. People change. You change.

3. Work hard, play hard.

This also has been the first semester I’ve really allowed myself to let loose. I don’t know if it’s being able to drink legally, knowing more people who throw parties, nicer weather recently, forcing myself to make time to enjoy things, or what, but my weekends were often filled with hanging out with friends, playing League, going off-campus and just enjoying myself which really helped when the semester was so stressful.

4. Let yourself feel.

This is something that I’m still learning and started to learn last summer through meditation. But it’s something that was still so important this semester because I was messing around with medication levels and lots of other things and had an overwhelming amount of emotions regarding friendships, relationships, academics, missing London and so much more. And I have to consistently tell myself that it’s okay; it’s a journey.

5. You will make it through classes you hate.

You may not enjoy it, but you’ll survive.

6. Tindering in a college town is a bad idea.

You either run into biddies and bros, people from the rural outlying areas, and/or everyone you go to class with.


The various friend groups I’ve been in this past semester have often run into a lot of tension because people thing that passive-aggressively leaving notes or ignoring people is the way to solve problems. If you have something to say, for the love of all that is holy, just say it.

And we’re now at the start of what hopefully will be a wonderful Ithaca summer. Back home in June for two of my best friends’ weddings and to snuggle with my puppy again. Stay tuned!

Leadership Lessons Learned Abroad

Most likely surprising no one, being abroad taught me a lot of things. While I’m only required to write about one lesson I learned for one of my scholarships on campus, I’m notorious for wanting to overachieve and we all know how much I like lists, so I decided to compile a list of some of the leadership lessons I learned while I was abroad.

1. Let other people lead (sometimes)

This was probably the biggest lesson I learned, which is why I’m starting with it. I’m a pretty big control freak (to put it lightly) and have a really hard time delegating because I have a “if you want it done right, do it yourself” kind of attitude because I’m afraid of other people mucking it up. But an effective leader allows others to learn from their experiences – I was often the person in new places with the maps, the tickets, the saved lists of things to do, and I had to let some of my companions wander and learn about the cities for themselves without my dominating knowledge. Of course, I always had that information on backup, especially if we needed to get somewhere fast, but it was much more enjoyable to let others discover things on their own too.

2. Planning isn’t everything

As may be expected, I’m a huge planner. Before going to London, I had spreadsheets of places to see and go and what to do and when to do it. But something I quickly learned is you have to be much more flexible, because sometimes the best experiences happen on the fly and when you’re least expecting it.

3. Experience as much as you can

I found a lot of good leadership happens when the leader has a lot of experience in multitudes of situations – from new cities to how to deal with difficult people to navigating in an unfamiliar area. I got to see a lot of different parts of London, and of cities in Europe, and I found that I learned a lot by just seeing lots of things. My flatmates and I really tried to seize the opportunity we had of being abroad, and did lots of different things. Many of my classes also took us out into the city so we got to go to private art views, special exhibitions, theatre performances, small museums and more. Having a broad range of experiences to pull from and a large knowledge base makes it easier when you’re faced with decisions in leadership positions.

4. Respect others

This seems like kind of a “no, duh” kind of lesson, but I was honestly fairly shocked by some students’ lack of trying to immerse themselves in another culture. It’s important as a leader to respect others on an individual level as well as a cultural one, especially when dealing with international situations. I think especially as students, it was surprising to me that I knew some people who wouldn’t try to speak the language of the country we were in (even for small phrases like “please” and “thank you”) or would get annoyed at cultural differences like not handing the money directly to the vendor or how the public transport worked. It’s important as a leader to at least be respectful of others, even if you disagree or don’t understand them completely.

5.  Listen

Similar to the first lesson, I’ve previously had a really hard time not trying to interject my own opinions most of the time. This semester I learned (sometimes the hard way) that I often needed to simply shut up and listen to others because they have valid opinions and ideas too. This was a really hard one for me, and one I’m admittedly still working on, but something I’ve started to become more aware of in my own behaviors.