All posts by jenniyaj

Photography And Ethnic Skin Color

After the birth of my daughter, I booked an appointment with a photographer to take her newborn pictures. The photographer’s website was filled mostly with photos of white babies, but on her Facebook page there were also photos of ethnic babies as well. The photos all looked great so I didn’t think there was anything to be concerned about. 

A week after the photo session, the photographer had uploaded four pictures from the photo shoot that she edited. I showed them to my family and my oldest sister had made a comment that my daughter’s skin looked really cool toned. I didn’t understand what she was talking about at first until a week later when the photographer uploaded all of the photos from the photo shoot onto her website for me to access. The majority of the photos had yet to be edited. Looking at them in comparison to the edited pictures I realized how much paler my daughter was. It was like the warmth of her skin color was taken out. My daughter’s skin looked like the vampire Edward Cullen in the movie Twilight. Even the white newborn babies on her website had more color and liveliness to them than my daughter did. 

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before edit

Later that evening I emailed the photographer and told her that I didn’t want the photos to be edited or filtered. My partner and I wanted my daughter to look natural and look like her authentic self so that we could remember her the way she was born. If there were to be any editing, I had only wanted the red markings on her body, that were left by her clothing, to be removed. 

Weeks went by and  I received my order in the mail. I was devastated, disappointed and upset all at the same time. The photographer didn’t listen to my request, and so I’m left with photos that don’t represent my daughter’s true image.

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after edit

I’ve heard of racial biases photographers tend to have towards those who have darker skin. Choosing lighter skinned models over darker skinned, or lightening the skin color of a dark skinned model. A new movement has recently begun where unedited photos are being embraced. Companies like Aerie have begun to choose models of various sizes, shapes, color and ethnicity. Their photos unedited and unfiltered. The idea is to have models that their customers can relate to. To move away from body shaming and instead embracing how one truly looks. Unfortunately, not everyone is following the trend and who knows how long it’ll last. With the popularity of social media, editing and filters are still frequently used and plastic surgery has risen.

Luckily for me, I have digital copies of my daughter’s photos and will be re-editing them. Not only do I want to preserve her true image in the photos, but  I would never want my daughter to be ashamed of her skin color nor her ethnicity.

COVID-19 Impact on Black and Latinos Revealing Racial Injustice?

As the virus began to spread across the states, the CDC stated those who are known to be of high risk  are the elderly and anyone with an underlying health condition. This speculation was based on what China experienced in their population. A few months after the first case was reported and deaths continue to occur throughout the nation, scientists and doctors are realizing that young adults and youths are also vulnerable as well even if they don’t have underlying health conditions. 

While the country was focused on protecting its senior citizens, data has been released by several states to the public indicating Blacks and Latinos are most affected by the virus. Data in cities like New York are showing the two racial groups to be highly susceptible to being infected by the virus and having a higher number in deaths in comparison to Whites and Asians. 

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An article by The Guardian, makes an argument that these statistics reveal not only racial disparities but racial injustice. Others listed within the text, make the argument that everyone is to be concerned and that all death matters. If we look at facts and statistics of underlying health conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory problems and etc, these are conditions that are prominent among these two groups making them high risk populations. Unlike their white counterparts, most Blacks and Latinos are unable to work from home.They make up the majority of essential workers, and the service sector. 

Another mention in the article is the injustice in the healthcare system. Historically, minorities have always had poor healthcare and healthcare treatments. Even now many lack access to health insurance and still receive poor quality care from their healthcare providers for many various reasons. To be tested for the Covid-19 and to seek treatment at a clinic can come at a high cost. Those who have no health insurance, insurance that has a high copay, or are unable to pay for their copay because of the loss of their jobs, will unlikely be willing to get tested and get treated if they experience severe signs from the virus. 

Black lawmakers and politicians are pushing the rest of the states to publish their data. Seeing the information for what it truly is, would encourage those in power to make decisions to pass laws that would protect those who are most vulnerable and possibly even out the inequity that is being experienced in the healthcare system. 

I know what you’re thinking. We’re all living in a stressful and fearful time right now. Many of us are unsure about what our outcomes would be like if we were to get the virus. All of our lives matter but the United States is unlike China where their population is more homogeneous. To compare ourselves to them would be ignoring the diversity of this country and the racial injustice minorities have experienced for years on this land, especially when it comes to healthcare. The facts about how the Covid-19 is impacting race should be acknowledged by all parties who have the control to protect the people of this country and give everybody a chance to survive through these hard times.

Pedophilia Should Not Go Unpunished

 

A recent news article of The New York Times was published called, “Long-Silenced Victim of a Pedophile Writer Gets to Tell Her Story”. Ms. Gee, at the age of 15, had a relationship with a much older man named Mr. Matzneff. Years later she saw her picture on a book, and in the book, the letters that he had made her write to him. He had used her face and her letters to justify that relationships with adolescents were okay. Ms. Gee made efforts to remove her face and her letters from his book but was unsuccessful. She tried to give her side of the story by sharing it with journalists but was turned down. It isn’t until now when the Me Too movement has gained a lot of attention, that Ms. Gee, who is now sixty-four, was able to give her testimony to the media.

Mr. Matzneff had published many books on his intimate relationships with young teenage girls and with young prepubescent boys in the Philippines. He, his actions and his books were praised. Even though it is illegal to have an intimate relationship with an adolescent in France, there was still a gray area Mr. Matzneff could tread on. He also had many powerful connections that allowed for his books to be published and connections that also aided in his relationships with the young teens. 

In a world where men feel like they have control to silence women, children’s voices are also hindered even more so when it comes to sexual abuse. These actions should not be tolerated and laws need to be made to protect victims and potential victims. Not only should laws be changed but the attitudes and behaviors towards these ideas and publishings should as well. 

When it comes to child sexual abuse, it terrifies me as a parent to know that about 95% of the abuse that occurs is someone that the child and the family knows and almost over half of those incidences are family members. Many of those who are victimized don’t come out until much later on in life or not all. Oftentimes it’s because we don’t open the discussion with our children about what kind of touch is wrong. Culture and religion can also have a huge influence on whether or not a child will tell as well. 

In the Hmong culture, sex and intimate touch are never discussed. It is also a very male-dominant culture as well. My older sister was a victim of child molestation. Our family knew nothing about it until she revealed it to us in her mid-twenties. She said the person who did it to her was my father’s youngest brother. I was shocked but my parent’s response to her was even more shocking to me. They didn’t believe her. They didn’t understand why she waited so long to tell them. They told her she was young at the time. It was so long ago that the story may be twisted and she didn’t know what was right from wrong then. It wasn’t just my parents that shocked me but my whole father’s side of the family also stood behind my uncle’s back\ over my sister’s. When she and her family came over to Minnesota to visit, she had told my uncles she didn’t want to see my youngest uncle during her time here. Despite her wishes, they invited him anyway because they thought her request was ridiculous. 

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Not only does my sister have to live with the fact that she isn’t able to come to Minnesota and see family without her molester being there, but in her marriage union, her sister-in-law’s husband went to jail for downloading child pornography. She also has to see him during family get-togethers with her in-laws. 

It is so important for us to protect those that we love and those who are most vulnerable. As parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and members of the community we need to open up the topic and have a discussion with our young ones about sexual abuse. The conversation should start as soon as our children are able to comprehend and understand right from wrong. We also need to listen and advocate for them instead of turning away, because the moment that something happens we can take the right course of action to seek justice for them. For Ms. Gee, it is much too late. Mr. Matzneff is being trialed for up to five years in prison for promoting pedophilia in his books, but that sentence could be extended if more recent victims of Mr. Matzneff come forward to testify against him.

Do Mothers These Days Have a Choice Between Work and Family?

As I am writing this, I am 36 weeks pregnant. Aside from being an expectant mother, during the school year I am a part-time employee and a full-time student. With such a busy schedule, I never invested in buying a television so in order to keep up with current events I subscribe to the New York Times. Scrolling along the site I came across an article that read, “Why Mothers’ Choices About Work and Family Often Feel Like No Choice at All”, written by journalist Clair Cain Miller who is known to write articles on gender and families.

The column discusses the debate between republicans and democractic views on families and family policies. The one thing they can agree upon, Clair says, “Is that parents should have choices”. In a country where there is no such thing as paid family leave, the cost of daycare is expensive, the cost of living continues to rise, work hours are long, where most jobs are not understanding of family circumstances, many women feel like they have little to no choice at all when it comes to having to choose between work and family.

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That was exactly how I felt. That I didn’t have a choice.
My due date is coming soon and I inquired about maternity leave at my job. According to my job’s policy I had to work a certain amount of hours in order to qualify to have paid maternity leave. Unfortunately, I received an email from HR stating that I did not meet the requirements to qualify for paid maternity leave, thus I must take unpaid personal leave. By taking personal leave my job there was not guaranteed.

I was already stressed about the fact that I wasn’t going to have paid maternity leave, but to be told that my position at my job was not guaranteed while I was gone bothered me even more so.

Even then, my partner and I cannot survive on a single income, especially with the cost of having a baby in the mix. As much as I want to spend time with my baby and bond with her as a new mom, I can’t afford to be away from work for very long. According to an article written by The Guardian, 1 in 4 women tend to go back to work in just 10 days after giving birth, even though they are advised by their doctors to allow 6 weeks for their bodies to recover not only physically but mentally as well from giving birth. Much like me they either don’t qualify for maternity, their place of employment doesn’t offer maternity leave or they cannot afford to be on a single income for 6 to 12 weeks. It is even harder for women who are single mothers.

Women play a huge role in the workforce and at home. We take on a lot more work and responsibility in comparison to the men in our lives. Having healthy children is also important to a growing economy and its future. A majority of developed countries offer paid medical leave and family leave, sadly the U.S. does not. Hopefully, in the upcoming election 2020 that will come to change.

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness a Good Idea? Blog 2

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness a Good Idea?

Throughout the 2020 presidential election, student loan debt forgiveness has been a frequent topic of discussion during the debates and campaigns. With the Coronavirus pandemic here, Illan Omar has presented the idea of cancelling $30,000 in student loan debt to help aid individuals and families that have to decide between paying off debt or paying their living expenses. She isn’t the only politician scrambling to figure out how to relieve the financial burden of the many Americans who are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head while businesses shut down to try and prevent the spread of the virus. As a student myself who is expecting to graduate soon, student debt is among my top priorities to take care of. When I think about my student debt, I think of the Greek god Atlas as he carries the weight of the world on his back. That is how I feel about my debt when I see the number across my computer screen.

Before I started on my journey to obtain a degree, I thought I would work full-time and do school part-time so that I could pay as I went through college so that in the end I would be debt-free. Of course, after three years of doing this, it felt like my end goal was going to take forever and I was tired of working a job that didn’t pay me enough to live the life I wanted to live, which was to have financial stability, to be a homeowner, and have enough extra money to put towards retirement. I figured, either I could continue down this slow path and get my degree when I’m much older or I could take out the loans and finish faster. So I pondered on my choices and chose to take out the loans because I was tired of working these lower entry jobs that only paid me enough to make it by until my next paycheck. So here I am today, about to graduate but I have a huge debt to pay off afterward. 

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Student Loan Balance by State          Federal StudentAid

The idea behind forgiving or cancelling student debt was to reduce the gap between the wealthy, middle-class and the poor, and that by relieving many Americans of this financial burden that it would stimulate the economy. Homeownership would increase, the creation of small businesses would increase which in line would increase employment and the decision to have a family or afford to have children wouldn’t be a difficult one. The idea sounds positive but would it really have a positive impact on the economy?

Economists say that from a survey that was conducted, student debt has made a great impact on the hardship of homeownership for many. Relieving it would increase the real estate market, but it comes at a cost since the majority of loans are federal loans which would increase the federal deficit. The difference would have to be made up by increasing taxes, and would individuals really be ok with forgiving the tuition of a doctor or a lawyer who has a lot of debt and make a lot of money at the end of their education? If this idea were to happen, what would that mean for future students who need to take out loans and would forgiving student loans be abused?

There will always be pros and cons, but in a desperate time like this where the people and small businesses are struggling due to the Coronavirus, a plan needs to be implemented to relieve everyone of their burden and the help the economy get back up on its feet once again. Debt is a great burden for many Americans. Corporations will thrive and they have been shown to be able to thrive in difficult times. Our politicians have the power to protect its citizens and I can only hope they do what is best for the people because after all this fear of the flu is over, it will be a long recovery.

Having False Expectations About Pregnancy

Lauren Freidenfields wrote a book and an article discussing how society and media give women the wrong ideas about what to expect when it comes to pregnancy. She writes to debunk these assumptions because not everyone’s pregnancy goes as planned and when the unexpected occurs women often blame themselves for the cause of any mishaps that do arise during their pregnancy when in reality they don’t really have that much control over their bodies or the results of their pregnancies. 

When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I was 26 years old and considered myself to be a very healthy individual. I rarely drank alcohol, ate a healthy diet and exercised daily. My oldest sister, along with the majority of my friends were married and had kids with no problems. I figured everything would be okay. It wasn’t until week 12 of my pregnancy that I felt painful cramps and discovered a little bleeding that I checked myself into my clinic to find out that I was having a miscarriage. I was devastated by the news.  The doctor gave me three options and I chose to miscarry naturally. Little did I know that it would be a pretty traumatic experience. My midwife, who was married but had not yet had any children of her own, explained to me that miscarrying naturally would be like having my period.

I’ll save you the gruesome details and just say that it was far worse than that.  

After that experience, I was quite emotional, but I still had a little hope. My OBGYN and the woman who did my sonogram assured me that it was still possible. Both of them shared their stories about miscarrying their first child and their successes having a child with their second try and onwards.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriages. The highest risks occur during the 1st trimester and are often caused by an error in chromosomal development. The chances of miscarrying a second time or more is 1 percent and a woman who has miscarried is most fertile within the first 6 months of their miscarriage and is encouraged to try again if they feel ready to. A few months later my partner and I decided to try again. 1 percent seemed like a really low chance of it happening again.  

In November, I miscarried a second time, this time within 10 weeks. I was in school at the time so I decided to do a D&C to get the process over with. Then in early December, I lost my uncle to cancer. He was very much like a father figure in my life, as my father was absent.

I was going through one of the roughest times in my life. Not only was I trying to mourn the death of my uncle and the loss of another pregnancy but I kept looking for answers as to why my body had failed me yet again. My OBGYN told me she wasn’t going to test me for anything until I lost my third child. I felt like a failure to my partner, ashamed, guilty, alone and the thought of suicide often came and gone during the night.  

One day, I randomly came across a Youtuber named Desi Perkins who posted up a video. I wasn’t sure what it was about since the title was very vague. In it, she shared with her viewers the story about her miscarriage and the difficult journey she and her husband went through, and still are going through, trying to have a child but being unsuccessful. After seeing that I realized I was not alone in the struggle of trying.

Nowadays, I have come to see more and more women share their experiences about their pregnancy struggles and miscarriages. I had not told my family of my second miscarriage until several months later. It was then that members of my family started to reveal things I never knew before. My grandmother, although she had six children, had many miscarriages before having her first and miscarriages that occurred in between having the other kids. My cousin has one child but tried for a second and was never successful. She told me she probably had many miscarriages, but just never went to the clinic to confirm her pregnancies because she didn’t want to know and was worried about what the news would do to her mentally. 

I had once believed that miscarriages are uncommon but I have come to realize that it isn’t true. Miscarriages can happen to anyone at any time, no matter the age, the health of the individual, or if you had one or two successful pregnancies. It is important for us as women to share our true experiences so that we can break down these false expectations about pregnancy and build a community of support no matter what the circumstances are that arises. 

I am happy to say that I am 37 weeks along with my now current pregnancy. As much as I am happy and anxious, I still hold onto the fear that anything is possible. Although the chances are lower during the 3rd trimester, I worry that she may be stillborn. Until I hold my daughter in my arms will my worries go away.