‘Pandemic: New Horizons’ or How Animal Crossing and Other Games Offer Comfort in Chaos

Kaitlyn is a junior Social Work major and is a student staff member at the Women’s Center.

Are you feeling isolated? Lonely? Lost in a chaotic world that doesn’t make sense anymore? Me too! At a time where we feel more out of control than ever, video games are something that I know many of us are using to keep us going. I asked some of my friends what games they were playing, and how it’s been helping them cope with the chaos. Everyone agreed that the games they were playing functioned as a distraction, and something that brought them joy. Others felt that it brought a sense of control.

In terms of control, I feel like we’re lacking a lot of that right now during this pandemic. I don’t get to visit people, go out to movies or restaurants, or even just stop by a Yankee Candle to get too many candles (when you think about it, the scented candle industry is hit pretty hard here). In Animal Crossing, I can feel control… I get to decide what I want to do, where I want to go, what flowers I’m going to plant, and even if I want to sell my prized oarfish or give it to the museum. Really, I just want to keep it forever. Regardless of my fish-mongering tendencies, it’s nice to build a world all your own where animals are neighbors and you have no-interest loans. It’s like a lucid daydream in some ways.

-Amelia

Rosie had some more…unique hopes for the games.

If I make my island in animal crossing perfect, then maybe one day I’ll get sucked into my switch and live out the rest of my existence on this island where I can play with cute animals.

-Rosie

Games can also be a great way to connect to friends during a time where a lot of us are feeling isolated.

animal crossing is my heart and soul. i can dress however i want, talk to the cutest little islander characters, and visit my friend’s islands! it helps me stay connected to the people i hold close in my life.

-Scout

While animal crossing is a popular choice during this pandemic, there are some other games that are getting people through too! Kay has been playing a lot of Stardew Valley in recent weeks.

Stardew Valley is a game you can’t rush through. It guides me in being patient and taking time to enjoy the game.You can slowly build relationships with the other characters in Stardew Valley. Every CPU character has their own personality, daily routine, likes and dislikes. Over time you learn more about the townsfolk!

-Kay

Autumn has been playing a lot of old school runescape. Her favorite part? The grind. They also find the game to be a good distraction.

It’s a massive time sink that I can play without thinking about much else.

-Autumn

Not only are video games a fun way to distract yourself from the terrifying reality that we’re facing, they can be really affirming too! In Animal Crossing for example, clothing and hairstyle choices aren’t confined to binary gendered options. You can design your character however you like, and have fun designing your character to be whatever feels best for that day. There are endless possibilities!

In ACNH, they default to they/them pronouns for everyone. That feels really really good.

-Amelia

I’ve been playing a ton of Animal Crossing lately. Hanging out with my cute islanders, listening to the calming music, and decorating the island all bring a little more peace to my life. It’s a strange and scary world right now, and it’s okay to feel every bit of that confusion or grief or fear. And, when all that feeling gets a little too overwhelming, it’s okay to escape for a while into whatever world makes you happy.  

Nonbinary in the Classroom

A person with short brown hair smiles into the camera.

This post is written by Sam Hertl (they/them pronouns), a social work intern completing their field placement in the Women’s Center.

*Trigger warning*

There are heavy topics mentioned such as the rate of violence against trans lives, suicide, and mental health issues. Please read with caution. 

There are two hearts pictured in gif form. The heart to the left has a black border with a top to bottom pattern of the colors blue, pink, white, pink, and blue. The heart to the right also has a black border with a top to bottom pattern of the colors yellow, white, purple and black.

The two hearts pictured show the trans flag to the left and the nonbinary flag to the right.


Can I just say that living in a society where the highest court must debate and make a decision as to whether or not LGBTQ+ people will be safe from workplace discrimination is incredibly taxing as a queer person? When protective factors (like employment) for marginalized communities are up for federal debate, holding one or multiple marginalized identities becomes increasingly difficult no matter if you are in the workplace or preparing to be. This means that finding a space where your identities are not only recognized but respected and affirmed is crucial to living a healthy life.

This may not be news to most, but the trans community faces tremendous minority stress and endures an alarming rate of violence. Trans students have been vocal about their struggles in educational settings, for example. They’ve reported being less involved in school due to lack of visibility, little to no connections with campus and local trans communities, burn out, mental health concerns, and structural barriers in their institution. 

Even with all the drawbacks, there are a lot of reasons why trans folks would and do go to college. Some go to learn more about themselves and the world. Others go to help increase their chances of entering a better position in the workforce. Regardless of one’s motivations, trans people in the classroom are preparing for the workplace and already seeing moments of inequity

At UMBC, students face similar issues. Recently UMBC’s student newspaper, The Retriever, posted an article noting the lack of protection for trans students who are misgendered during their time at UMBC. Journalist Johanna Alonso features trans students who detail their personal experiences being misgendered both in and outside of the classroom. 

A cartoon giraffe with heart shaped sunglasses on. The glasses have a moving rainbow color to them.


The following are specific issues myself and my nonbinary peers have experienced while in college:

Avoidance & Misgendering 

  • Being told by people, both peers and professors, that they need time to grapple with your pronouns and/or gender identity.
  • People actively avoiding using your pronouns even when you’ve asked them to use your pronouns, and instead using only your name every time they address you. 
  • Professors completely avoiding addressing you. This can be for a variety of reasons such as avoiding using your pronouns altogether, avoiding messing up your pronouns, or because they personally disagree with your gender identity. This unknown can cause excess stress. 
  • Preemptively avoiding participation in class to avoid more people misgendering you when they address you.
  • Professors deadnaming you during roll call due to numerous structural barriers that prevent you from having your name legally changed or alternated in school databases. 

Tokenization 

  • People asking extremely personal questions with the expectation that you have to share with them.
  • Sharing extremely personal experiences with people anyway to communicate how important it is for folks to use your pronouns (and they still don’t use your pronouns correctly).
  • Peers misgendering you while in class with no space to correct them in the moment. Sensing those peers didn’t realize they misgendered you and then just sitting with that through the rest of class, feeling that it’s too late to bring it up.
  • Being the only openly trans person in the classroom and feeling isolated in your feelings.
  • Acting as an educator and spokesperson for the entire trans community when you are only one person.

Content Erasure

  • Hearing and seeing “he/she” in assignments, powerpoints, and lectures when a singular “they” could easily fit into the sentence grammatically and be more inclusive.
  • Having to dissociate throughout class because attendance is mandatory even when it’s not a safe environment for trans people and being unable to learn properly because of this. 
  • Learning classroom content that applies to, but never mentions the experience of people in the trans community. 
  • Never learning about the trans community’s specific needs in classes and knowing that your professors and peers will continue to perpetuate a trans exclusive world because your professor, department, or curriculum isn’t doing the work that it should.

Take a moment to let that all settle in. Reread it. This is important. This is not made up or abstracted. These are experiences that I myself and my peers have had.

A cartoon blue owl with a pink heart on its chest is sitting on a branch. The owl opens its wings to show the trans flag colors on each wing. The colors from top to bottom are blue, pink, white, pink, and blue.


If you’re reading through these pieces and thinking that some of these things are avoidable, you’re totally right! The following are some terms and concepts that’ll help you understand how. 

Minority Stress Model

Stress that stems from systemic prejudice has a real and lasting negative impact. The National Institute of Health published an article by Ilan H. Meyer defining minority stress as, “The excess stress to which individuals from stigmatized social categories are exposed as a result of their social, often a minority, position.” There are some limitations to the focus (specifically on sexuality) in this article, but it can be extended to gender identity and other people who have marginalized identities. Meyer details the four main processes of minority stress in relation to the experiences of sexual minorities:

  • External factors, objective stressful events, and conditions (both chronic and acute).
  • Expectations of such external events and the vigilance this expectation requires.
  • The internalization of negative societal attitudes.
  • Concealment of one’s sexual orientation/identity. 

The social environment often provides meaning to people. Situations in the social environment can lead to stressors such as listed above. Although stress is not linked only to holding a minority identity, it is certainly an important aspect to note. I will use the processes in this minority stress model to further explain the three categories featured above about the nonbinary classroom experience. Refer to the listed points above while reading about each category. 

Avoidance & Misgendering

As an aspiring social worker, this is disappointing to see in my classes. Nonbinary students in other majors, such as STEM-related fields, may not get the opportunity to study other people’s identities and thereby have even less space to learn about differing identities. 

When considering the minority stress model, it is clear that external factors in educational settings such as the lack of knowledge and awareness about nonbinary identities can create stressful moments for nonbinary students. It doesn’t help when nonbinary students are exposed to harmful educational environments where professors and peers repeatedly misgender the student. Therefore, nonbinary students often anticipate these scenarios ahead of time. Worrying about when the next time someone will misgender them can cause excess anxiety and discomfort for nonbinary folks when in these harmful environments. 

Students who have “non-western” names, whether cis or trans, often face similar avoidance in their classes. Professors mispronounce names, mix up the names for students of color in the class, or actively avoid addressing students with names they frame as difficult to pronounce. This communicates to these students that their name isn’t worth learning. Rita (‘ree-the’) Kohli, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside noted, “Is it framed as my inability to say someone’s name or is it framed as the student doing something to make your life more difficult?”. 

Tokenization 

Being an openly trans student in the classroom sometimes means that you are the only publicly known trans person in the room (and for many, the only trans person they are aware of in their lives). This often somehow translates to cis professors and peers that you are the spokesperson for the entire trans community, and that’s only if they acknowledge your trans identity. For this reason, many professors and peers expect you, the local trans person, to provide the class with real-life examples so they can better understand you, or trans people as a whole. It’s burdening to be seen as a representative of a community that you only partly embody. 

It’s endearing that some cis people want to learn, but it shouldn’t be the burden of the only trans person in the room to teach everyone about trans identities and trans lives. As a social work major, this is increasingly harmful to experience in my classes, but again it’s essential to note that trans students in courses outside of the humanities and social sciences often don’t even get the opportunity to learn about different populations of people. 

Many departments in college settings do not have a gender-inclusive and trans-affirming curricula. It’s typically only Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies courses (whose express mission it is to expand our lens on gender) that mention trans people at all, let alone those with nonbinary identities specifically. In relation to the minority stress model, being isolated as the only openly trans person in the room can create even more stressful events for trans individuals and inherently cause trans folk to internalize the act of othering created by trans unaware peers and professors. 

Erasure

Although all people experience otherness, there is often also an erasure of identity. With gender identity, it’s a constant battle in the classroom. Many professors may not realize the power and influence they have. Some students end up keeping their gender identity hidden if they face other stressors. Many LGBTQ+ students with disabilities tend to disclose only one of their potentially invisible identities when in a group setting. They may not be given space to disclose any of their identities in the first place. 

This lack of space may create an unsafe environment and make it harder for those who hold multiple invisibility identities on top of disability status to disclose other aspects of their identity such as gender identity and sexuality. This leads to an overwhelming amount of erasure faced by students with these intersecting identities which can result in both shame and isolation for these folks. Looking at the minority stress model, this can be noted as the concealment of one’s identity. 

A person is dancing by moving left and right and lifting their foot up into the air. From toe to toe, a rainbow appears while the person kicks their leg up.


Impact on Students

There is a strong need for affirmation in the classroom that is not happening. For example, language professors use in their lectures and assignments has a harmful impact. Binary language can be the usage of “he or she”, “mom or dad”, and “sister or brother” when “they”, “parent”, and “sibling” are easy and gender-inclusive alternatives for these terms. It’s increasingly difficult to learn as a nonbinary person in an educational setting that doesn’t make space for nonbinary people. The repeated exposure of seeing binary language can make nonbinary people feel invisible.

It’s also all too common for professors to teach content that applies to trans folks without mentioning them. In a social work class I took, for example, the professor dedicated a class discussion to adolescent suicide; however, there was not one mention of trans adolescents who face suicidal ideation. For the record, trans adolescents face suicidal ideation at a much higher rate than their cis classmates. When I raised this concern in class, as we are often encouraged to share our own knowledge and perspectives in the classroom, the professor seemed tense and tried to move on quickly. A nonbinary peer took this same class the following semester with the same professor and had a similar experience during the class dedicated to adolescent suicide. Avoiding these topics will cause a ripple effect in the rising class of professionals and continue to harm those who have marginalized identities that aren’t talked about in class. 

The alarming rates of violence against black trans women are a testament to this truth. Each year the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tracks the disparately high rates of violence against the trans community, mostly impacting black trans women. This year the HRC has reported that, “2019 has already seen at least 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means”. It is indisputable that people within the trans community are faced with tremendous challenges that can put their lives at risk. For this reason, trans folks (especially trans people of color) need extra support and resources to maintain a safe and prosperous livelihood.

The probability of hardship and discrimination faced by the trans community can lead to poor mental health. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey documents the overall health and wellness of the trans community and states that, “Thirty-nine percent (39%) of respondents were currently experiencing serious psychological distress, nearly eight times the rate in the U.S. population (5%).”


The following is a quote by feminist Adrienne Rich which adequately sums up the immense impact professors can have on students. 

“When someone with the authority of a teacher describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing”

Everyone has felt invisible before. Think of a time you felt this way. Consider this in relation to everything aforementioned.

Administrators, please monitor your educational environments and aim for inclusive excellence. Professors, please put in the work to revamp your classroom content. Peers, be an advocate for your nonbinary classmates. Parents of nonbinary and trans folks, pay attention to how school impacts your child. Everyone, ask the nonbinary and trans people in your life how you can best be there for them.


I don’t have all the answers, nobody does. I just ask that you take this seriously and start to do better. The following are a few tips I have for you after reading this blog:

  1. Learn how to look at gender differently. Challenge yourself, ask genuine questions, and do the research. 
  2. Ask your nonbinary and trans friends for their preferences (and consent) when it comes to how publicly they use their pronouns and how they want you to correct yourself if you misgender them.
  3. When introducing yourself to someone new, make it habit of telling them your name and pronouns. Follow up and ask for their name and pronouns. This might not be something that you accustomed to doing, but we are in the process of unlearning, and you can’t assume someone’s name before meeting them, so how could you assume their pronouns? 
  4. Learn how to give a quick and easy presentation on pronouns to give to people who aren’t familiar with the importance of pronouns. 
  5. When someone corrects you after you’ve misgendered them, tell them thank you for correcting you and restate the sentence with the correct pronouns. 

If this work is prioritized in the classroom, imagine how inclusive the next generation will be? 

Six different people are dancing with hearts, stars, and sparkles above them. There is a trans flag in the background showing from top to bottom blue, pink, white, and part of the pink line. The people and their shadows block the bottom part of the flag.


Additionally, I want to thank the professors and peers who have been putting in the work to affirm and normalize nonbinary and trans identities. Keep up the amazing work and encourage your cis friends to do the same. 

Here are some epic resources for folks to learn more:

Resources for cis folk:

Videos

Websites

Resources for trans & nonbinary folk:

The words, “THANK YOU” appear from top to bottom seven times. Below the word thank you, the phrase, Have A Great Day” is included.


*Disclaimers*

Hi, I use they/them/their pronouns and my gender identity is nonbinary. I recognize that this is only one perspective. I am not able to represent all nonbinary identities. 

I use the term trans when discussing the whole trans community and I use the term nonbinary when talking about nonbinary people specifically within the trans community. I will also be using nonbinary as an umbrella term that is extended to, but not limited to genderqueer, genderfluid, and gender non-conforming identities. Some nonbinary people do not identify as trans, although the language I use in this blog post suggests that all nonbinary folk do. 

Self Care: An Activists Survival Guide

AlexiaAlexia Petasis is an INDS intern on the Women’s Center student staff team. Alexia studies social justice and dance. In the following blog post, she runs through a list of crucial self-care survival strategies for activists. 

Every week, the Women’s Center asks a “question of the week” available for anyone to respond to. One week our question was, “what do you do for self-care?” This question was one I have heard many times, but this time it led me to ponder all the ways I have, or have not, practiced self-care as well as what tips I can offer everyone else. I’ve seen many people around campus this semester look drained, fatigued and overwhelmed by our campus climate. For some, this exhaustion was due to the various articles and subsequent student rallies that came about after allegations that UMBC mishandled sexual assault claims.

I’ve gathered some self care tips from my own experiences, the advice my friends find helpful, and others I’ve found online while on a quest to live my best social justice activist life, while not drowning carelessly into the pit of despair that social justice work sometimes feels like. As we head into Thanksgiving, let’s use the next few days off to reflect on ways we can practice self-care….

Take the Time to be Mad:

Over the past semester, many of our campus community members have experienced feelings of  anger. Anger at our institution and anger at the fact that this issue was more than an isolated incident. Being mad allows us to feel what we rightfully should feel and allows us to push ourselves to see what we can do about it. If we weren’t mad or bothered about issues like these, then there would be no driving force to pursue change. On that note, I’ve noticed it is equally important to be aware of how much “bad news” you consume.

During the semester, while UMBC was exploding with its own bad news about the alleged mistreatment of survivors of sexual assault, the news was overwhelmingly reminiscent of how the roots of injustice are so deeply ingrained in our society. Survivors of sexual assault nationwide have had to revisit their past trauma with the news pertaining to Supreme Court Judge nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault. An article published on CNN states, “the day Ford testified in front of senators and the whole country, the sex assault hotline saw a 201% increase in calls compared with a typical day”. It was almost like our school and the federal government were in a parallel universe and the influx of bad news was overwhelming.

So, be mad, but also be careful to balance out time to also think about the good things. As hard as it is, try not to allow yourself to stay so up-to-date with everything that you bombard your mind with all the bad in the world. This can cause opposite results and paralyze your abilities as an activist since it feels as though nothing is getting better. This leads me to my next point.

Surround Yourself with Other Activists:

This one is IMPORTANT! I didn’t realize just how draining it was to be around those who truly don’t give a sh*t about the injustices many face in our world. Therefore, I would first say, have conversations and meet individuals whose views align with yours and who want to help the world become a better place too. At the Women’s Center, I have seen so many bonds created in the lounge area of the Women’s Center and have been part of many conversations empowering us to speak our truths. We Believe You, a student organization on campus, holds weekly discussion group and general body meetings for survivors of sexuals assualt and allies. In the wake of campus conversations around sexual violence, it can sometimes feel good to be with people who are doing the work and also feel similar frustrations.

But, along with meeting activists in person, there are many podcasts out there that can make us feel hopeful of all the other activists we have doing amazing work and raising our consciousness about issues that are all around us.

One of my favorites is called “Transforming Together” by two staff members at HopeWorks, a domestic violence shelter in Howard County. Brittany Eltringham and Heidi Griswold shed light on issues happening in our country with an intersectional feminist perspective. They describe their podcasts as, “a blend of pop culture and social justice, the show is hosted by two queer folks who are committed to healing, laughing, and loving their way to a world free from exploitation, oppression, and violence.” Another resource called Know Your IX mentions various tips for self care on their website as well.

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Express Gratitude:

Express gratitude when it’s easy, but more importantly, make the conscious decision and effort to express gratitude when the world feels as if it’s a dumpster fire. Even if it is as simple as I woke up on time today, I made an extra good cup of coffee this morning, or I had a good conversation with someone. Try to start each day or end each night writing five things that you are grateful for that day. Every little bit of positivity you offer to yourself trains your mind to escape this bubble of pessimism towards the world (which frankly I do often too, but I am working on it).

Another cool way to bring in more optimism among all the dreariness that comes with social justice activism is to sign up for The Good Trade email notifications. The Good Trade describes their daily newsletter as, “Everyday Inspiration For The Informed Woman: A 30 second read of good things to listen, follow, visit, browse and read—delivered to your inbox each morning. Curated by and for women.” Their mission statement at the bottom of the newsletter states that the inspiration of the day leaves you “informed + inspired about the good things that rise above the clutter”. To say the least, waking up and reading the good work that others are doing around the world can help to ground us and recenter our views of the world.

Embody Self Preservation:

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Finally, the infamous quote by Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Viewing self-care as an inherent part of any activism effort and a duty you owe yourself is crucial to taking good care of yourself while you are busy trying to take care of everyone else. As we head into finals and holidays and reasons for activism always continue to exist what will you do to practice self-care? Feel free to share your ideas or comments with us on the Women’s Center social media pages!

Survivorship Looks Different in the Asian American Community

Samiksha

 

Samiksha Manjani is a Student Staff member at UMBC’s Women’s Center. She is a Political Science and Sociology double-major and is currently a co-facilitator of the Women’s Center’s discussion group, Women of Color Coalition.  

 

 

As a survivor of sexual violence, I have found myself re-traumatized by the recent events that have happened at UMBC. In the aftermath, I struggled to focus in my classes and could barely complete my work. Despite this, I somehow managed to get by with everyday going by in a blur. I went through the motions day-in and day-out. I was slowly sinking back into depression.

One of the most common emotional and psychological responses to sexual violence is depression (RAINN). Depression is a mood disorder which occurs when feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for long periods of time and interrupt regular thought patterns. It affects a person’s behavior and can disrupt their relationships. Just like many other survivors, I also struggle with depression.

During this difficult time, I was shocked that no one in my life had asked me how I was doing. None of my friends had asked me how I was handling the news, despite knowing that I’m a survivor and that I also struggle with depression. They knew about the lawsuit against UMBC too. In fact, they knew so much about it that they talked to me about their opinions on the matter. Yet, they never asked me how I was processing the news or if I was doing okay.

At first, I thought, “wow, I have really shitty friends in my life.” But I realized that this was a drastic conclusion to make considering my friends were normally compassionate. Instead, I tried to put myself in their shoes. Why would my normally compassionate friends be so inconsiderate? Had my external behavior reflected my internal suffering?

I realized that, from an outsider’s perspective, I seemed completely okay because I went to my classes and work as usual. My behavior, communication, and demeanor had basically stayed the same so nothing seemed amiss. However, this was completely contrary to how I felt internally. Inside, I felt awful. Every step I took was harder, every assignment I completed took longer, and every smile was faker. I was falling apart on the inside, yet no one around me could see it.

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At first, I thought that this was just how I expressed trauma. But after some reflection, I realized that I knew so many other Asian women dealing with depression that were also still high-functioning. I was not the only person who exhibited depressive symptomology this way, and more importantly, it had seemed that this was especially common for other Asians.

My assumption was not wrong. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (2011) found that Asian-American teenage girls have the highest rate of depression compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group. Furthermore, the suicide rates for 15-24 year old Asian American females are 30% higher than the rates for white females of the same age (Mental Health America). Yeung and Kam (2006) found that none of the Asian patients in their study considered depressed mood as their main problem. However, more than 90% of them indicated having a depressed mood when asked to rate their symptoms on a depression rating scale.

Despite these alarming statistics, 51% of Asian Americans have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, compared to 29% of all Americans (Mental Health America). Furthermore, 21% of Asians, ages 25 or older, have attained an advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.), which is significantly higher than the national average of 12% (Baum and Steele, 2017; United States Census Bureau, 2016). Lastly, the median annual household income of Asian American households is $73,060, compared to $53,600 among all U.S. households (Pew Research Center, 2017). It is important to note, however, that there is variation in educational attainment and median annual income among the different ethnic groups which makeup “Asian Americans.”

These findings made me wonder, why do Asian women express depressive symptomology so differently than other ethnic groups?

One reason could be because of the immense pressure Asians deal with to live up to the model minority stereotype. The model minority stereotype characterizes Asians by hard work, laudable family values, economic self-sufficiency, non-contentious politics, academic achievement, and entrepreneurial success (Kang, 2010). There is a lot of American cultural pressure on Asians to fit into this “intelligent and self-reliant” stereotype. Such a stereotype has dire consequences; for-example, Asian students are pressured to rise to an academic bar that keeps rising. The mental health cost of reaching an unrealistic standard is demonstrated by the statistics mentioned above.

This pressure is worsened by the fact that many Asian immigrants experience downward economic mobility upon arrival to the U.S. Most Asian immigrants are highly educated and held middle-class status in their country of origin (Lopez, Bialik, & Radford,  2018). Because of this downward shift in class status, Asian immigrants have to work their way up from the bottom of the social and economic ladder in the U.S. This is a very daunting task given that many Asian immigrants not only have to support themselves and their families in the U.S., but also relatives back home (United Nations, 2017). This leads to an immense pressure to climb up the socioeconomic ladder and become financially stable.

Both the pressure of the model minority stereotype and pressure to support family members removes any possibility for Asians Americans to display characteristic forms of depression without severe consequences. There are high costs for Asian American immigrants if they do not complete their education, capitalize on job opportunities, and/or perform at their jobs. If they do not perform, they are risking not only their survival, but the survival of relatives back home. This does not mean that people who display traditional depressive symptomatology are somehow less “able” or “motivated” if they can’t complete these tasks. It is simply that the pressure to economically succeed robs Asian Americans the ability to address mental health concerns.

Another reason could be the large stigma within the Asian community surrounding mental health illnesses and treatment. Asian Americans are 3x less likely to seek mental health services than White Americans (Nishi). Furthermore, it is taboo within the Asian community to speak about having mental health illnesses (Chu & Sue, 2011). One large reason this stigma exists is because of the concept of familial shame within Asian communities.

There is immense pressure in the Asian community to preserve the family’s reputation and status at all costs. This is reflected in popular terms used within various Asian cultures which represent the process of shame or losing face: “Haji” among Japanese, “Hiya” among Filipinos, “Mianzi” among Chinese,”Chaemyun” among Koreans, and “Sharam” among Indians (Sue, 1994). If an Asian person has a mental health illness, it could be interpreted by the community as a result of their family’s failure to raise the person correctly. Therefore, Asian Americans are unlikely to acknowledge and seek mental health treatment in fear of “bringing shame” to their families.

I think in a lot of ways all of these factors have influenced the way that I have processed the trauma of my assault and the resulting depression. Like many other Asian American women, I don’t outwardly exhibit depression through conventional symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean that I experience depression less severely than other people. On the contrary, I struggle with depression so much sometimes that it’s hard to even do basic tasks (even if I end up somehow getting it done). Because of the fact that depression is one of the most common psycho-emotional responses to sexual violence and also that the Asian community presents unique depressive symptomology, it is logical to conclude that survivorship is likely to look different in the Asian community.  

Therefore, it is extremely important for friends, family members, and mental health professionals to recognize that survivorship manifests differently in various ethnic communities. As such, the type of support given must be individualized to meet the needs of survivors of different backgrounds. To best support survivors, the people within the survivor’s inner circle should adopt a lens of cultural humility.  

The Women’s Center uses this lens of cultural humility to best support survivors of different backgrounds. Cultural humility is a humble and respectful attitude towards individuals of other cultures that pushes one to challenge their own cultural biases. This departs from “cultural competency” in that it recognizes that a person cannot possibly know everything about other cultures. Instead, people should approach learning about other cultures as a lifelong goal and process.

I truly believe that if my friends had adopted a lens of cultural humility, they would have easily picked up on my struggles. If they had understood more about Asian culture and what it means to be an Asian immigrant, they probably would have been able to recognize my signals of distress. This is especially important for mental health professionals; they would be able to pick up more details from their clients if they held the mindset that “there’s always more to learn.” Using this lens, we can better support the survivors in our lives.

**Please note that not every Asian person experiences depression this way. The goal of this blog is to highlight a common phenomenon in the Asian community. If an Asian person does not process depression or trauma this way, it is not a reflection of their Asianness, intelligence, reliability, or any other characteristics.**

What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?

Prachi Kochar

A reflection of what self-care really looks like for each of us, especially during finals, by Women’s Center student staff member Prachi Kochar.

It’s a common refrain that we’ve all heard, especially around this time of year. “Don’t forget to take care of yourself during finals week!”, “Remember that self-care is important!”, and so on. But what does taking care of yourself look like? Does it look like buying yourself your favorite drink at Starbucks? Does it look like going to the gym for a hard session on the treadmill? Does it look like sleeping in an extra hour? Does it look like going to the movies with your friends? Simply put, there is no easy “yes” or “no” answer to these questions. Self-care looks like what is right for you at this point in time. And self-care does not always fit into a neat little box of “Do this and you’ll feel great!” Self-care can be an ongoing process, a process that is sometimes painful and sometimes exhilarating. And it is something that everyone has their own interpretation of, which can be incredibly overwhelming – googling “what does self-care look like” yields over 29 million results!

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Besides these yummy cupcakes, what does treating yourself look like?

For me, self-care can take the form of sleeping in a few hours and giving my body and mind the time to rest and recover from stresses. It can also take the form of waking up early and going to the gym for a 7 AM yoga class or going for a run. Sometimes self-care means showing up for all of my commitments, even when I am tired, and sometimes it means saying “no” or “I can’t do it.” Sometimes self-care means pushing myself to finish all of my assignments when I am not feeling my best so that I will not be thrown into crisis mode later when all of my commitments pile up. What is most important is that I take stock of how I am feeling, mentally and physically, and do not become upset at myself for not being able to do everything, but also recognize that sometimes it is necessary for me to push myself to take care of myself. In other words, self-care sometimes involves doing the hard things and showing up for yourself. Continue reading

Trans Identities + Mental Health Resources Round-Up

A resource round-up provided by Women’s Center staff members

In case you missed yesterday’s roundtable on Trans Identities + Mental Health (or if you were there and want to keep the conversation going), we thought it might be useful to summarize some of the discussion in addition to linking to some useful reading materials and resources. Trans + Mental Health - event

As with all of our roundtables, we reached out to our panel members and asked them to keep some of guiding questions in mind as they shared their stories and examples. Some of these questions included:

  • Where do the intersections of trans identities and mental health show up for you personally? In the classroom? In your activism? In your peer networks?
  • How does stigma against mental illness impact trans people’s experiences seeking support or other mental health services?
  • How are the needs of trans people different and/or similar to those of LGB+ people with regard to mental health?
  • Why is the intersection of trans identities and mental health a social justice and/or feminist issue?

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Black Trauma + Mental Health Resources Round-Up

A resource round-up provided by Women’s Center staff member, Meagé Clements

In case you missed yesterday’s roundtable on Black Trauma and Mental Health (or if you were there and want to keep the conversation going), I thought it might be useful to share some resources that have helped me, as a Black woman, deal with my own experiences of Black trauma. It’s hard to summarize everything that was discussed; however much of the discussion revolved around the problematic “Strong Black Woman” stereotype. We also discussed the experiences of tokenization, involuntary (or feeling it necessary to have to be the) spokesperson in class, and microagressions. Black trauma isn’t just one kind of experience, and certainly isn’t only what is captured by the media. Rather it is a daily and ongoing experience – much like a death by a 1000 cuts. Below are just a few resources I’ve found helpful in learning that I, too, can be strong AND vulnerable.

The poem Dr. Jasmine Abrams shared: The Strong Black Woman is Dead

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Dr. Abrams kicked off the discussion by asking us to close our eyes as she read the poem, “The Strong Black Woman is Dead”

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