Social activism is usually prompted by empathy for others, particularly those who are marginalized in our society. However, many dismiss forms of activism designed to protect minorities because they feel that the activists are too extreme, and overreacting to the situations. These “extreme activists” are usually called social justice warriors, and they have a reputation of being radical, participating in protests and causing uproar. This gives them a lot of negative stigma and hate, which leads people to use the term “social justice warrior” as an insult towards these activists.
  If we call people brave enough to go against the system “social justice warriors”—with a negative connotation—is that really a valid critique of them, or is the insult just a tactic to devalue the practice of empathy? 
According to the Heritage Lecture, the term social justice is described as, “equality of the burdens, the advantages and the opportunities of citizenship.” Social justice warrior is a term that has been regularly used negatively, but why should that be the case if it means fighting for equality? 
Kathy Lebrón, Director of Communication and Storytelling of the social justice program Resist believes, “people use terms like ‘special snowflake’ in a derogatory manner to make the person they're labeling feel badly for voicing an opinion that makes them feel uncomfortable.” 
Yasmin Mohamed, a sophomore at Snowden International, agrees. She said, “people use those terms as a drag to those who actively support minority groups, and use ‘special snowflake’ as a dig at how they think people who don’t follow society norms desperately want to be different.” While calling someone a ‘special snowflake’ isn’t a life or death situation, it is often used to make a mockery of people.
When quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem, it sparked controversy, because many felt it was disrespectful that he did not stand and place his hand over his heart for the flag. But in fact, Kaepernick was kneeling as a silent protest against police brutality. Since then, the NFL created a policy stating that “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” and could risk being fined if they refused. His purpose was to promote equality, yet he got a lot of backlash for this and was accused of being too “sensitive.” 
People’s denunciation of social activism not only discredits the movement, but discourages others who may be on the fence about certain issues. When Catie Dodd, a passionate social rights enthusiast, was asked about the negative stigma surrounding social justice, she said “I know that I used to be embarrassed to speak out about injustice or to support those who did because so many people mock it. For a long time I was one of those people, because trying to fix things for the better was seen as over the top and extreme. I’m sure many other people have similar experiences, so if these belittling terms weren’t used, much more progress would likely be made.”

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Remember playing in the park during the summer with your friends, boys and girls all coming together to play tag and hide-and-seek? As teenagers, we are now playing more competitive sports like basketball, football and soccer. Maybe you are realizing there is a bigger gender gap in these sports and that you rarely play with the opposite sex. Maybe you have wondered if you are just better than them at competitive sports, or maybe that the sport is too rough. As gender equality has become a popular idea in modern society, we should also apply this to sports. I believe that in order for men and women to feel equal, we need to hold women to the same athletic standards as men in sports. 
It wasn’t until the year 1900 that women were allowed to play in the Olympics, according to Ever since then, women have only played recreational sports, rather than competitive sports. According to the Sport Journal, “women were not active in intercollegiate sports until basketball was introduced at Smith College in 1892.” 
Men and women should have felt comfortable playing together since the time sports began. Men and women should be able to play the same sport, and not be held at different standards when they play. 
Drew Hendrickson, Director of Tennis Fitness and Summer Programs at Tenacity, added, “We still live in a world where boys are encouraged to play sports more than girls, boys are pushed harder.”  
Hendrickson even states that it’s harder to find female legends. Boys were raised to look up to Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan and such, but girls are only now finally getting athletes like Serena Williams and Jackie Joyner-Kersee to look up to. 
But it’s never too late. According to Dan Lebowitz, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Sports in Society, equality is closer than people think. He noticed that men and women actually train equally. But, even though men and women train the same and workout the same, depending on the sport, such as the hypermasculine sports of hockey and football, men are watched more than women. 
Cheryl Cooky, a Perdue professor, stated in an interview in the Atlantic, “Men’s sports are going to seem more exciting, they have higher production values, higher quality coverage and higher-quality commentary.” 
There is more money spent on men in sports as of now, and this makes women’s sports less entertaining. Rather than spending money separately, a combined league will make the game interesting and visually appealing for both men and women. 
A benefit of having men and women play the same sport is that they can help challenge and humble each other. 
Seventeen year old Stencia Bastien plays for the Cristo Rey Boston track team and she said, “guys are a lot faster than me so it makes me want to go faster.”
 That’s the competition aspect. The humbling aspect is told by Keisa Ferreira, who is part of SquashBuster, and said, “women feel stronger and they have more confidence in playing against anybody, and men won’t feel overpowering. Once women reach their [males] level they won’t feel as cocky.” 
The men will be humbled and the women will be more competitive, and this will even out the games and make them much more entertaining to watch. 
I believe with a gender neutral league, sports will be much more entertaining, challenging, humbling and interesting for both men and women, and it will bring us closer to a gender neutral society.

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Picture a city where a teenager is expected to carry the responsibilities of law enforcement and school at the same time while evil villains run around endangering citizens, until the teenager sweeps in to save the day. Since 2002, Marvel has released six films of “Spider-Man” as an adaption to the comics and TV shows. 
In the first movie of the franchise, Tobey Maguire played Peter Parker. Since then, two additional actors have also played this role: Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland. In 2019, a new movie in the franchise is set to hit theaters, “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” With the anticipation of the seventh “Spider-Man” movie, fans and critics have been raving and comparing each actor’s portrayal of the young superhero.
According to Cindy Gold, a professor of theatre at Northwestern, “whenever one is playing an iconic character, there’s the difficulty of not repeating something someone else did as they created the role.” 
Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland all lead Spider-Man differently. Tobey Maguire introduces the reality of Peter Parker, while Tom Holland uses his carefree youth in his depiction of a real-life teenager. However, Andrew Garfield exceeds the other two with better chemistry overall in his world of Spider-Man. 
I believe that acting is divided into three common cores: character development, building relationships with characters and connection with the audience. Based on this criteria, here’s my ranking of the three actors:
1. Andrew Garfield 
Andrew Garfield captures an emotional side of Peter. From the get-go, there is a close connection between Peter and Uncle Ben, like twenty minutes into “The Amazing Spider-Man,” when Ben and Peter have a dispute when Peter’s behavior changes abruptly because of his responsibilities. Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) have fiery chemistry compared to Mary-Jane and Peter Parker in the early depiction. There’s a ton of character development with Andrew Garfield, as the audience sees how Peter is before he becomes Spider-Man. In addition, Garfield carries out well the classic note of how Spider-Man makes smug and clever comments which also have a childish feel. Developing a connection with the audience, he tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings in many ways. His character feels truly raw with his dilemma of searching for the truth behind his father and the deed that he promises to keep before Officer Stacy’s passing (to keep Gwen out of it.) All of these reasons explain why Garfield is the best Spider-Man in the franchise. 
2. Tobey Maguire
Tobey Maguire only hits two of the common cores. One thing that Maguire does great is portray Peter Parker correctly. Peter Parker is in fact the smart outcast in the school who is pushed around constantly. In comparison to Andrew Garfield and Dane Dehaan’s portrayal of Peter and Harry's relationship, Maguire builds extreme chemistry with James Franco as the classic Peter Parker and Harry Osborn best friends pair, bringing a nostalgic feeling from the Marvel comics. On the other hand, Maguire makes Spider-Man look weak, and plays him uncomfortably. He isn’t confident enough and fails to make zingers in his battle with villians, thus becoming cheesy and overall, awkward. 
3. Tom Holland
A majority of teens think that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man because of his childish persona and fresh young perspective. He would be the best because Tom Holland is an actual teenager and inherits a better understanding of Peter Parker. 
According to Rauly Fabian, a student from John D. O’Bryant, “I think Tom Holland is portraying Spider-Man the best because he acts and looks like a true 16-year-old.” 
Also, Tyler Tse, a student from Boston Latin School, said, “based on his previous presentations of Spider-Man, he has proved capable of delivering a Spider-Man not only a handful of people enjoy watching, but the entire fan base.”
 However, I still stand by Garfield because of his growth in becoming Peter Parker, his bond with other characters and his correspondence with the audience as if we are there, thus creating a more effective Spider-Man. Generally, when you think of superhero movies, it’s all about epic battles and a super villain, but Garfield brought an emotional storyline to the table which makes his performance significant. 
Andrew Garfield overrides the other two actors by being the most convincing Spider-Man to save the city.

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Drop Your Textbook! Everything You Learned in History Class is Wrong
 Much of what we have been led to believe about history is shrouded in more misinformation than mystery. Our knowledge of the world is based mostly off information we have heard and never really questioned or looked too far into. According to a survey I conducted, there are a lot of facts local teens believe—not just about the world, but even about our own local history—that are simply untrue. Here are a few examples of cultural myths that teens fall for, so you can boast about your own superior intellect at your next family gathering. 

Columbus Discovering America
 In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and then committed mass genocide—weird how they cut that out of the poem. Christopher Columbus is often credited with the discovery of the American continent in 1492. However, according to the History Channel, he was not the first European to “discover” the new world. It was actually the Viking Leif Erikson who first set foot somewhere along the North American Atlantic coast in roughly 1000 A.D. Though he would not stay long, it is worth noting that Erikson had Columbus beat by four centuries. Columbus is most likely given more credit because his travels were better documented.

The Viking Aesthetic
Speaking of Vikings, we all know the generic Viking look: a big, angry, bearded guy with a horned helmet. However, according to the History Channel, there is literally no proof Vikings wore horned helmets. The iconic headpiece doesn’t even appear until the work of 18th century Scandinavian artists like Gustav Malmström, who added horns to the Viking's helms for added flair. Years later, costume designer Carl Emil Doepler would use Malmström’s work as reference while designing costumes for “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” that one opera with the singing Viking lady you always see mocked in cartoons. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Paul Revere’s Ride
“The British are coming, the British are coming!” shouted Paul Revere as he… almost immediately got captured by the British. According to documentation at Boston’s Paul Revere House, Revere did not even make it all the way to Concord, as he was captured shortly after leaving Lexington. In truth, it was Samuel Prescott who alerted the militia in Concord.  

George Washington and the Cherry Tree
 After being gifted a hatchet from his father, a 6-year-old George Washington chopped into his father's cherry tree. After his father discovered his misdeed, Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie; I did cut it with my hatchet.” However, this story does not appear anywhere in the journals of Washington or in any other primary sources. According to the Mount Vernon Historical Society, this was essentially fan fiction written about the president. After Washington's death in 1799, the people of the U.S. wanted to know more about the man who led them to victory against the British, so a biographer named Mason Locke Weems had the genius idea to make up stories that sound plausible, and essentially made Washington into a folk hero. 

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I pull up to the first address, checking the street number. The building towers 10 stories above me, and residents stream out of the heavy glass doors, headed for the subway. A notification appears on my phone: “You’ve arrived! Swipe to tell your passenger you’re here.” 
This new app has made it effortless for anyone with a car and an iPhone to drive people to the polls—all I had to do was sign up as a volunteer. The twenty extra people who will vote because of me probably won’t swing the election, but it still feels good to do something.
I hop on Twitter as I wait, and see a reminder about new voter ID requirements; a warning about what another term of Trump could look like; a report that ICE agents are asking for documentation at the City Hall subway stop. I pause with a pang of fear for Elena and her daughter. It’s okay, I reassure myself. They know not to answer the door to anyone. They’ll be there waiting for me when I get home. 
I look up to see a young woman hobbling out of the building on crutches. She has a boot on one foot and a Nike sneaker on the other, both of which clash with her carefully chosen outfit. As she navigates the busy sidewalk, I hurry to open the passenger door for her. She extends her hand. 
“You’re Elizabeth, right?” she asks, a huge smile on her face. “I’m Nora, it’s so nice to meet you!”
She gives off a hopeful energy, and as we’re chatting on our way to the next house, I forget about the nagging feeling that today could end the same way as it did four years ago. 
“If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to your foot?”
“That’s a great story actually,” she responds with a laugh. “I went to the Democratic convention this year, and I had aisle seats that were close to the stage. After Kamala Harris finished her nomination acceptance speech, she came into the crowd to talk to people, and her photographer was taking pictures while walking backwards, in heels, and she stepped on my foot.”
I look over at her, eyes wide in disbelief, and it takes everything in me not to swerve off the road. “You were—I mean—I’m so sorry about your foot, that sounds incredibly painful, but you were that close to her?”
“Yup,” she says, with a modest smile and a slow nod. “The boot sucks, but at least it came with a cool story.” 
“Wow. Did you volunteer with the campaign?”
“I did, actually. I was knocking on doors almost every weekend for the early summer, and then once I got the boot on, I was stuck inside, phone banking.”
“Every little bit helps,” I reassure her. 
We continue talking about the campaign and debate whether Trump was more or less disgraceful this year, or in 2016. When my next pick-up, a petite woman in her fifties who introduces herself as Marion, gets in the backseat, we invite her into the conversation, but to no avail. On my third or fourth try, I ask her opinion on a recent Anderson Cooper segment that made the rounds on the internet. 
She hesitates to respond. “I’m sorry, I haven’t seen it. I’m more of a Fox News person myself.”
There’s an awkward pause. I can feel Nora staring at me, but I intentionally keep my eyes on the road, figuring out how the hell to continue this conversation.
“That’s nice,” I comment, in an effort to fill the void. As soon as I say it, I can hear how fake it sounds. I internally slap myself. My parents raised me better than this.
“Your social media feed must be pretty different than ours then,” Nora says with a forced laugh. 
“Oh, I’m not on all those apps and things that you kids use. Too confusing for an elder like me.” 
I smile at her little joke, then feel a twinge of guilt for laughing with a woman who probably doesn’t care that the six-year-old in my house hasn’t been outside in months. Then there’s overwhelming shame when I realize I’ve assumed Marion’s entire worldview based on her news preferences. And then embarrassment when I still don’t know what to say. 
The rest of the ride is filled with quiet small talk, but luckily, we’re only a few blocks away. I drive into the drop-off area and accept the women’s “thank yous” and “nice to meet yous” as they climb out. Another person will be driving them home, so I probably won’t ever see them again. 
The awkwardness in the car retreats with them, but as I’m about to leave for my next pick-ups, I quickly decide that I need some sort of closure to the conversation. I put the car in park and jump out to find Marion in line. 
“Did I forget something in the car?” she asks, surprised to see me. 
“No, um, I—I just wanted to apologize,” I admit. “I’m sorry if you felt alienated during that ride, and I don’t really have an excuse, I just didn’t want you to leave thinking that I regret driving you or anything.”
I expect a stern response about respecting elders or something, so I’m surprised when her response is warm and sincere.
“It’s not your fault. Everyone is so entrenched in their own beliefs that they never leave their echo chambers. I’m guilty of it too—I’m surrounded by people who disagree with me, but I don’t remember the last time I had a conversation about my beliefs with someone outside my family.” 
“You’re not mad?”
“No, not at all. The only thing that frustrates me is that old idea that it’s rude to discuss politics with people you’re not close with. It’s created a world where we don’t know how to listen to each other, and that car ride was a perfect example. I’m glad you at least know it’s a problem. Most people these days don’t.”
“Well, thank you. I hope we’ll see each other around soon.”
I walk away slowly and think about the conversation for a little while, but soon enough I drift off, and don’t think about it again until I get home. 
“How is it out there?” Elena asks, as I dump my purse and our Chinese takeout on the kitchen table. 
 “People are exhausted.”
 “They were exhausted last time too, and look where that got us.”
 “It’s a different kind of exhausted. More like ‘I hope the work we’ve done is going to pay off.’” I remember my conversation with Marion. “But you’re right, one little city doesn’t speak for the whole country.” 
 A pair of tiny feet run down the hallway. “I smell food, is there food?”
 “Yes there is,” her mother responds. “Why don’t you thank Elizabeth for bringing dinner tonight?”
 “Thank you Elizabeth!” She squeezes her arms around my waist, then looks up at me. “Is there gonna be a girl president?” 
 “We won’t know ‘til after you go to sleep,” I say, trying to hide my worry. “Can you get the plates for me so we can eat?”
 She walks away pleased with the task she’s been given, but Elena gives me a pained look. “Last time she was only two years old. She was young enough that I didn’t have to explain it to her. What if I have to do it this time?”
 “We’ll do it together.”

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