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#BringOurGirlsBack--Adding to the Cause

3 min read

The campaign is the worldwide response to the abduction of 276 Nigerian School girls by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic extremist faction. Model and Sports Illustrated Cover model in 2007 and 2011, Irina Shayk joined the ranks of Anne Hathaway, Michelle Obama and Amy Poehler with her addition to the pictures, only she did it a little differently.



Posing topless with only the paper brandishing the hashtag covering up her breasts, Irina Shayk expressed her solidarity.


Her good intentions were met with scathing criticism.  

Some claimed she posted the picture to turn the attention on herself. One person commented “Seriously? Do you even know what that means?” Another poster said, “This isn't just another photoshoot. These girls were kidnapped and you decided to show half your t***? How mature of you...!”

Admittedly, her pictures did not seem to fit the nature of the cause. For me, it’s quite bizarre to see someone unclothed advocating such a serious cause.

This uneasiness felt by me and the quick accusations of others raise more important questions about the nature of our society. Why is it that we are made so uncomfortable by nudity? Is Shayk’s nudity representative of feminine power or is she succumbing to the patriarchal norms of our society in order to bring attention to or even herself?

Another person commented, “This is exactly the justification terrorists are probably using to prevent women from receiving "western education.” Perhaps, Shayk was attempting the opposite.  By demonstrating that it is “ok” to pose nude on public social media in Western society, Shayk brings the shortcomings of a society that is extremely misogynistic to light. This maybe going too far, but perhaps Shayk attempts to say that in society where men and women aren’t segregated by their sex that atrocities such as the abduction would occur less frequently or not at all.

Then again, Shayk may have been completely misguided in her decision to post semi-nude photos with the hashtag Bring Our Girls Back.


Regardless of the cause or the meaning behind it, over six months have passes and the Nigerian girls remain separated from their families and homes. Media attention has turned away from this atrocity rendering the scathing comments null and inconsequential. At the end of the day, the Nigerian girls need to get home and in the long run, no one should really care whether or not someone posted a risqué photo attempting to contribute to the cause. 

Islamic Extremism or Violent Extremism

2 min read

In the recent summit regarding the conflict in the Middle East, Obama refrained from using the term “Islamic Extremism.” A heated debate concerning the reasoning and efficacy of this choice ensued. Obama has stated that the Islam practiced by extremists is a “perversion” of true Islam and calling the extremists “Islamic extremists” grants them legitimacy. According to Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, “They need for this to be a war between the United States and Islam, for people to believe that they are religious figures and not just terrorists.” If this is a war against the West and Islam as a religion, then Muslims in the west might feel attacked and may have trouble aligning with America. Additionally, assigning a religion to the terrorists begets Islamic prejudice in the West. Label making brings about dangerous broad generalizations as not all Muslims believe in the destruction of America and the West.


Those in disagreement with Obama state the importance of “calling a spade a spade.” Though it is possible, and not unheard of that government officials and the non-islamic population looks to discredit Islam by assigning labels that procure prejudice, the fact of the matter remains that Al-Quaida and now the Islamic State in the Middle East are Islamic organizations that derive their lifestyle, choices, and doctrine from Islamic texts. It is important for those fighting them to understand these nuances in order to deal with the threat most effectively. It is true that a history of Christian terrorists, Jewish terrorists, and other religious terrorists exist, but the threat in the Middle East today is Islamic terrorism—their interpretation of the Kuran, their life style. Obama's detractos feel that veiling this fact could prove dangerous.

Is there truly a danger in ignoring the religion of these terrorists? Are all of the terrorists truly Muslim? Would calling the threat "Violent extremists" really belie the fact that the terrorists are Muslim? Do the costs of labeling the terrorists as Muslim (such as the creation of anti-Muslim Western prejudices) outweigh the benefits of this label?
These are all important questions the administration must answer, but perhaps more importantly, the public must consider, before proceeding.

I Shot the "Serif"

2 min read

by: Jessamyn West

There was a time when Microsoft computers had two fonts: Arial and Arial with no serifs (the projecting feature on the edges of text)-called Times New Roman. The printouts computers created were academic and banal, the websites you could visit were bland and sterile. The novelty of the “internet” never quite wore off, but everything besides the information gathered was monotonous. There would come a time when a need for a “fun” font would arise.

In 1995, Microsoft broke ground and published an informal font by the name of Comic Sans. Comic sans removed the serif and curved the sharp edges of letters. Initially created for Microsoft’s “comic dog” to give computer users instructions, the “fun font” spread like wild fire. Everyone was typing in this new “cool” font.  Ironically, Comic Sans ceased utilization just as rapidly as it expanded. It was over used, played out, and now, when Comic Sans is seen on any flyer or poster a voice in the back of your head inquires, “Does that person even know how to use a computer?”


I found this article extremely applicable to reading done in class. At first everyone who was anyone in on the secrets of technology used this new and excited way to type. As soon as moms, dads, bosses, and grandmothers figured out how to use this style it died out. Those in the technological know wanted nothing less than then to be associated with those on the edges of innovation. Any notice messaging with the comic sans was suddenly received with scrutiny as the font suddenly became “uncool” and obsolete. Fortunately, there are now hundreds if not thousands of fonts to choose from.  Every billboard, website, flyer seems to utilize a different font capable of encapsulating the desired tone. 

The American Top 40

2 min read

Casey Kasem, a figure remembered fondly by many of our parents as the cheery host of “America’s Top 40,” has since become a symbol of the institution that tore up the notion of self-selection and true democracy in the selection of the “top 40 tracks” at any particular time (Timberg).  Timberg proposes that those who were born after Casey Kasem’s time and even those who experienced his lively broadcasts are beginning to view him as the spearhead of the movement who answered only to label investments and not necessarily the population’s taste. Research done by the University of Porto in Portugal suggests that song familiarity plays a crucial role in “making the listeners emotionally engaged with the music” (Pereira et al. “Music and Emotion in the Brain: Familiarity Matters”). In a way, the rich labels’ ability to pay popular radio stations to play their songs translates into them picking the songs that the population likes. Declaring “America’s Top 40” only works to further the label company’s power as the songs deemed most popular only receive more air time. Little chance exists for the vague artist with great music whose label company lacks the funds to pay for air time to ever become popular. This state of affairs is unfortunate, but there might still be hope. With the introduction of new mediums of song exposure such as Pandora, Spotify and Google play, radio stations might be forced to play what people actually like and not what the labels pay them to play. I hope that this trend continues. People’s tastes should not be dictated to them, rather they should discover their tastes for themselves.


Pereira, Carlos Silva, Joao Teixeira, Patricia Figueiredo, Joao Xavier, Castro Luis Sao, and Elvira Brattico, et al. 2011. Music an Emotions in the Brain: Familiarity Matters. no. 6. PLoS ONE. Accessed 2014. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027241.


Timberg, Scott. "Casey Kasem, Ronald Reagan and Music’s 1 Percent: Artificial “popularity” Is Not Democracy." Saloncom RSS. June 22, 2014. Accessed January 15, 2015.