Cultural Criticism
In the midst of a crisis we must grasp on to the things that bring us joy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused distress throughout the world. I have many restless nights, tossing and turning around in the comfort of my tattered, worn-out sheets only to be found with the anxiety about this situation that consumes me whole. My mental health has only been getting worse, not being able to get out of my bed for simple necessities like food. No schoolwork has been completed because I feel like there is no point anymore. Every time I try to complete a piece of work, I break down until there’s a lump in my throat preventing the tears from falling onto the scratched up, wooden desk.
During this time, mental health concerns are reaching their peak as many people are facing the reality of depression. There’s this monster that follows you around constantly, breathing down your neck every second of the day. It’s like there are chains digging into my pale, wintery complexion, the cold metal slamming me down onto the floor until I’m on my knees and I can’t get up. Finding out school was closed for the rest of the year made my heart break — the thought of not seeing my friends for such a long time made me feel like someone just punched me right in the gut. My friends are people I can rely on for the so-called happiness I desire. 
My parents have been struggling with money since they’re both self-employed. My mom can’t really find any work as she’s a house cleaner and everyone is petrified about this virus. My dad, on the other hand, works day and night as a house painter. It isn’t so easy and he exhausts himself to provide for his family. It makes me sad to see them struggle so I try to help out as much as I can, offering to pay for my own things with the money I received from Teens in Print.
My mind has become blank and hazy. The only thing I can think of is how much of a failure I probably am to my teachers and parents for not completing my work. It’s hard to be committed to something as important as homework when your mental health is getting in the way and preventing you from being the only thing you want to be in life, successful and noticeable. The fear of being forgotten or away from the people I love hurts the most. Spending time with yourself is rather difficult, you get to know yourself more, the positives and the negatives. You reflect on all of the bad decisions you’ve made in life and what you could’ve done better. 
COVID-19 has had an impact on all of us, the old and the young. It has separated us from the people we hold close to our hearts, longing for the days when you can finally hear the sweet lullaby of their voice in real life, not just on an electronic device that can only do so much. Standing 6 feet from each other and not being able to dive into the warmth of a hug from your loved one is difficult. 
Diving into the depths of this virus, you have to be mentally and physically aware. You have to be prepared to not spend time with your loved ones who you hold so dearly. You have to be prepared for the rising cases, and for someone you know to maybe have the virus. Death is something you have to be prepared for because everywhere you look, people are dying.
If you can find something that brightens up your day for a few milliseconds, you’ve won. During these times we need to look forward and see the positive outcomes. We can’t dwell in the past because, at the end of the day, the past is something that digs us deeper into the hole.
There are few things that make the corners of my lips curl into a gentle and warm smile. The smell of the dew that clouds the air in the morning, the small water droplets sitting perfectly on the emerald green leaves. Or how the golden, glistening sun shines through the cracks of the blinds, landing on my tired, droopy eyes. But, one thing I look forward to every day, no matter if I can hear the pitter patters that the rain echoes, is my cat. His tuxedo-like pattern trailing up his soft and warm body always makes my heart flutter with glee. The long, milky white whiskers that poke out just a bit too much. Or how his long torso wobbles from side to side, making him look like a goofball. He always seems to cheer up my mood, knowing I have this small companion by my side every day for the rest of my life. It’s ironic, his name is Lucifer but he’s the sweetest thing you’ll ever meet, to me, at least. I love him with all of me and that’ll never change.
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Cultural Criticism
All it took was a global pandemic for our government to address simple issues
Caleb Bove
It would be impossible for anyone in America to ignore the serious change our society has undergone due to the Coronavirus pandemic. According to CNN, in America alone more than 90,000 people have died due to the disease, multiple businesses have closed down and millions of jobs have been lost. While many are using this opportunity to lament and criticise the faults of our governments systems, which is an important thing to do, it is just as valuable to look at the way these systems have been so swiftly improved during this crisis. 
It is important to recognise the inevitable future in which this pandemic will end and society attempts to revert back to the way it was because when this happens we must make sure to remember how this pandemic changed our world. We will become a better country by acknowledging the amount of good the government can do in moments of crisis like the return of running water in Detroit households that had the service shut off due to unpaid bills in an attempt to improve hygiene. We must never let go of systems or ideas that granted us aid in this trying time and we must fight to keep them even when things get better. 
During this pandemic the government has been forced to address weaknesses in our country's infrastructure. Normally hospitals act on a policy of having just enough resources and people on staff at any given time, which resulted in them being quickly overpowered by the swift influx of infections. Also, our government struggles with feeding its citizens so much so that schools have had to continue dispensing food to compensate for people who would not be able to feed their children without public schools. When observing these adjustments, it is important to look into the reasons why these issues had not been addressed before this pandemic, and what will happen to these changes when the threat of the pandemic is reduced.  
Here in Boston, we have seen all of our public schools close down and we have mostly switched over to virtual learning. To compensate for the fact that many students do not have easy access to the internet at home, Boston Public Schools distributed chromebooks that would provide this access. Similarly, many students relied on school for multiple meals a day, prompting the city to make all public schools free food dispensaries. 
These actions are in every way a positive reaction to the forced lockdown. While this  competence is certainly something to encourage, it is important to look into why certain policies like these were not in place before the lockdown. Why couldn’t there be a program that distributed leftover BPS breakfasts and lunches to impoverished families? Considering that virtual access was still an important part of their education, why were students without internet access not given the opportunity to acquire chromebooks before the lockdown? These are holes in the system that mainly affected people who were unable to advocate for themselves. City government workers with the ability to fix these problems have been uninformed and able to neglect the situation because of this lack of advocacy.
The concept of maintaining changes that were made during the lockdown could be taken to higher levels as well. Why not give people unable to pay water bills reduced bills instead of simply shutting off their water access? It would help improve hygiene in impoverished communities, which is important even without the fatal threat of a pandemic. In this time of trouble, we the American people should take notice of the systems put in place to make things more effective and fight for them to remain once this pandemic passes. This may require any amount of action from continuously reminding officials of these problems, to active protesting so that those with the power to maintain these changes feel obligated to do so.   
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Cultural Criticism
Though we’re seeing improvements, women’s representation still has a long way to go
As a little girl I would watch my mother get ready. First, she picked out an outfit. Next, she did her makeup and got dressed. Finally, she chose a wig that looked good with the outfit. I was amazed at how much effort she put into looking good, just to wipe it all off as soon as we got home.
When I was younger I thought that my mom worked as a secretary, but in reality she was just one of the front desk workers. My mother worked hard. My dad who was unable to work due to a disability dropped her off at work early in the morning and we picked her up around five p.m.  
As a little girl, all I saw on television was the woman of the house staying home all day while the man of the house went to work. I thought that maybe the writers of these shows were confused because all I saw was hard working women providing for their families. It was as if these shows were telling us that this is how it's supposed to be, but looking back on my childhood, that couldn't have been further from my truth. Why were children's shows portraying women as nothing more than housewives ? 
One example of this comes from one of my favorite cartoons “The Amazing World of Gumball” which focuses on a cat called Gumball and his best friend. One episode really stood out to me because the mother shares that her boss said females can't be employee of the month because the men will be too distracted by their pictures. She also shared that other employees were receiving promotions for the work she did. She goes on to explain that she isn't given the same amount of respect or credit for the work she does simply because she is a woman. Before she could finish her sentence her husband interjected and said “good job Gumball” as if he was the one that just explained sexism in the workplace. 
At some point in our lives, we may lose interest in the typical kid shows and start to watch more mature things, such as reality tv shows or crime shows but those messages stick with us.
“They don’t have to be what they see on tv.” said Silanise Moise the CEO ofBeauty without Borders, a worldwide program that helps women learn to embrace themselves as they are. Moise's program also encourages women to not let anyone stop them from being successful. She mentioned that she didn't watch “reality” shows because she just isn't into those. But we both agreed that some reality shows make women look like “ghetto” or “ratchet” emotional monsters that fight over looks and materialistic things, when in reality the majority of us are very well behaved. 
It is 2020 and women are still being stereotyped despite being represented in a lot more areas than we were back in 1848 when we first started fighting for our rights. But we're still lacking representation in areas of power and influence like politics with congress being roughly 24% women according to the Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.
It's upsetting because women all around the world are brilliant, beautiful, talented and have voices. Women have become scientists, astronauts, doctors, CEOs, and so much more. We almost had a female president, but apparently she didn't make the cut because she wore a pantsuit. There will be more on that later but the point is, us females are just as hardworking and amazing as men but we are often shut down when we try to step outside of society's boundaries. 
Take Hilary Clinton as an example. I'll admit that I was a little jealous of the fact that she could've been the first female president, but what she did was remarkable. Clinton looked America in its eyes and told us that she was here to make a change, regardless of the outcome of the election. Clinton inspired other women to stand for their rights when she made an appearance in a white pantsuit. Yet, some people were really disgusted by the fact that she wore a pantsuit. It's the 21st century people, women don't just wear skirts or dresses. I bet you if a man had to wear a tight skirt or a suffocating dress, he wouldn't dare question why Clinton wore what she did. 
So much has changed since 1848, but we still have such a long way to go before females are not only seen as equals, but treated as equals. Creating more programs that help motivate women to stand up for their rights and be more confident in themselves is a great place to start the long process of creating equal opportunity and treatment for women. I also think that we as humans should try not to focus on women's appearances, but rather what they do, think, and say. We should learn to value what's on the inside more because that's all that counts in the end. So in future years let's encourage women to go make a difference and leave their mark on the world.
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Cultural Criticism
Fat-shaming has a lasting impact on self-esteem and mental health
Everyday people hear the low laughs of someone making fun of someone else's weight. While body-shaming can be “good” in some people's eyes, it takes a lot of confidence and self-love away from a person who is being called out every day because of how “big” they are. It affects them much worse than people think because it's terrible for their self-esteem and it also perpetuates the idea that people should be judged mainly by their outward appearance. 
Fat shaming is the act of aggression, singling out, or making fun of someone who is overweight. It can occur at school, home, and even at work. Kids are more likely to get shamed than adults because when you're a kid you have this desire to fit in at all costs and sometimes that means fat-shaming and excluding others. When you're an adult you grow past that and try to not care about it anymore but even then, it will always be there in your head.
Even though some people like Bill Maher think that fat-shaming is good, it's not something to go along with. Bill Maher said that “fat-shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform.” Is he crazy? Shaming is never okay no matter how you do it. Shaming will most likely make it worse. Everyone is different and sometimes they can't take shame. Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress. I can't find anywhere that says shaming dramatically helps people. Furthermore, to address his point, I still see trash on the ground and I still see people not wearing seatbelts, and I definitely know racism is still around. So try again Bill. 
In fact, science is on my side when it comes to the effectiveness of shaming. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, fat-shaming is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and exercise avoidance. The evidence suggests that people internalize shame and it actually does more damage than good.
Deborah Carr, a Professor of Sociology at Boston University that studies the social, psychological, and interpersonal consequences of body weight and obesity claims those who are shamed “feel bad about themselves. They may start to question what they eat, what they wear, whether they eat in public because they might receive unkind comments from other people.”
It's not even about being big, it's about how we feel about ourselves. “Sometimes [for] people who were fat-shamed it doesn't matter how slender they become as adults, they always carry that image with them and they look in the mirror, and they are self-critical for many years. It takes a real toll on people” Carr said. 
No one deserves that type of hate or humiliation but if you are overweight, then your body is going to be a target of ridicule. If you shame others because of their bodies, shame on you because you have no idea what they're going through and you just make it worse by sharing unnecessary comments. Sometimes it's your own friends that make jokes about and they say that they are kidding but it's not funny, ever. But of course, people just laugh it off and pretend it doesn't matter when really it's cutting them up inside. 
Experiencing this kind of bullying can have lasting effects because kids and teens sometimes have trouble coping with the hate that they receive and they keep bottled up instead of talking to someone. They start to push themselves away from others and tend to not trust a lot of people because when you can't be yourself without someone talking about your weight or making you feel worse than you already do, it’s easier to just isolate yourself than possibly attract more hate and attention.
No one ever should feel ashamed of themselves because they are bigger. They should never feel out of place when in a store or hanging out with other people. Fat shaming is not okay and will never be okay. You need to know that you are beautiful and that you should never let someone make you feel bad about yourself because trust me you don't want to hold on to something as cruel as that.
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Cultural Criticism
We’re All Glued to the News in The Age of COVID-19
Utsav Srestha
Journalism. It’s been around as long as we can remember. From the early 1890’s when people like Ida Tarbell exposed the oil industry’s corporate monopolies, to today’s stories about the protests and rallies surrounding COVID-19, journalism has been a major part of where we are today. However, journalism has seen a massive spike in public interest the past couple months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why is that?
Consumers have been recently more invested and have been intaking far more coverage of events happening all over the world relating to COVID-19 because of one major reason: Safety. Both public and personal well being is the driving force behind this media explosion we’re currently living in. However, in all this panic, it is important to understand why journalism is so important now and what it means to find reliable journalism. In such a time, it is critical to think what can journalism do during a time of uncertainty, and why does journalism matter in the grand scheme of things?
Alyssa Vaugh, staff writer at Boston Magazine and professional journalist, offers that, “it’s critical that we as a community stay connected and stay informed with what's happening with the world outside [and] the ramifications of not knowing are obvious.” 
To Alyssa and much of the public, journalism is one of the most valuable sources of information, helping those who may not know what is happening get the information they need. Journalism not only informs us, but it also connects us. We’re all living on the same earth, and sharing stories about issues brings us much closer together. In such a high stakes crisis as this, it’s no wonder many journalistic media sites have seen a major spike in views. 
In fact, while it may seem as though media sites would struggle in the time of COVID-19, this is not the case. According to the New York Times, “USA Today’s online audience shot up 30 percent, year over year, and the number of readers visiting increased 60 percent from the first week of March to the second…” More and more people are tuning into these sites for information they need to stay safe. People have a constant need to be aware of what’s happening right now and these sites are the key gatekeepers to that information. While social media sites have also seen a spike increase (mostly due to boredom), news consumption has seen a far more drastic change. 
The next question to ask is, why is that important? “Truth and connectivity and information are at the core of democracy and can make a life or death difference as you can see right now,” says Vaughn. We need the information provided by journalists to guide our decisions and help us make the right ones, and it is even more important in today’s world with COVID-19. Our own personal safety and the safety of others rests on the fact that people are informed. Someone contracting the virus due to improper virus prevention techniques, like not wearing a mask, could cause serious harm to themselves and the people around them. We need to let journalism be our guide and help us in a time when it seems that the world is on the edge. 
“When there’s a pandemic like this I think it’s extra important for everyone to stay informed...listen to what the scientists are actually saying,” says Eli Harmon, senior at the O’Bryant and avid follower and activist of current news and politics. “[The] goal of journalism...should be to inform the public about what’s going on,” says Harmon. If this is true, then we should all be taking in information and passing it along to others. Journalism has the capability to spread truth to the masses, which inevitably leads to the wellbeing of all; We all just have to embrace it. 
However, before we embrace journalism, we must first determine whether or not we trust the information being delivered. Where does someone look to find a reliable news source, and more importantly, what does reliable news look like and mean? Well for starters, we can all agree social media, especially the infamous SnapChat, is not a reliable source (unless you believe in what some call “alternative facts''). As Cheyenne Petrino, senior at the O’Bryant and passionate political activist, points out, “You have to be very careful of where you're getting your information, where you're getting your news.” 
So be wary of social media sites when looking for reliable news. Reliability comes from a news company’s, group’s, or even individual’s dedication to truthful and factual reporting. When reading or looking for articles, hearing news from a close friend or family member, or even talking to a colleague,  you should be skeptical of headlines or stories that seem sketchy or unrealistic. Most importantly, people can't be “one and done” as Petrino says, when talking about articles or news stories. You should be making sure the source is accurate—like checking if you see many other organizations reporting on similar issues and topics. Remember, in such a high stakes crisis, having the correct information is one of the most important factors in preventing disasters. Someone spewing incorrect or false news could lead to catastrophic consequences. 
If we don’t take the time to fact check our sources of information, we could end up harming ourselves and others. According to Business Insider, “A man in Kansas consumed cleaning products over the weekend, according to a state health official, days after President Trump floated the idea of possibly using disinfectants as treatments for the coronavirus.”
It is clear that reliable information would have prevented anyone from even daring to try such a dangerous thing. The point to take away from this story is that news or information, coming from anyone, has the potential to influence or change somebody’s behaviour or actions, so it is extra important to make sure the information you are reading or receiving is entirely accurate, now more than ever. 
In a world seemingly filled with despair right now, journalism is the key to information and our safety. It can tell us what we need to know and how to act for the better of everyone. Most importantly, journalism is the string that connects us all. Through journalism, we have the power and capability to be more in touch with one another and ultimately learn from one another. However, keep in mind not all journalism is created equal, so be sure to check your sources and their credibility. With proper awareness of what good journalism looks like, it will open your eyes, as Petrino says, “to the fact that there’s a world outside just where we live and the places we go.”
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