Wellesley Underground

An Alternative Alumnae Magazine for Graduates of Wellesley College
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Thanks to Makkah ‘10 (@MsMakkah) for sharing this great piece by Ikhlas with us.

In response to Sasha Brookner’s book, Muhammed’s Mistresses, Ikhlas wrote this response. below is Makkah’s favorite excerpt, which we think is relevant to the post around the veil and empowerment.

Feminism, in my understanding, isn’t about choosing at all. It is, in fact, a very patriarchal notion that one (i.e. woman) must choose one or the other—work or mother; virgin or whore; beautiful or ugly, and the list of “choices” goes on. If we are to embrace a wholistic approach to feminism then it must be inclusive and allow for a spectrum of women that are committed to justice whether or not they read Leviticus, choose to mother, or even model.
I encourage Brookner to express her belief, as all women and men should have the freedom to do so. But in doing we must not discount the voices of women theologians and religious women that adhere to their traditions and work fiercely in reclaiming their faith traditions that have been stolen by patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism and now the disgustingly misused and misunderstood secularism.

Bina Shah is a writer currently living in Pakistan.

I wonder if the original poster has ever spent time in Muslim countries or amongst Muslim women. In the West, women choosing “the veil” are doing it to assert their political identity as Muslims, which is an empowering gesture. In my country, women use the veil for many reasons. There are some who are forced to do it - but far more wear it because it’s just the conventional way of dressing (in Arab countries, men are as covered top to toe, including headgear). Others wear it as a way of asserting their religious belief. And yet more women wear it to gain agency - as they’re able to go out of the house, go to work, college, school, etc., with “the veil” serving as a vehicle towards those life goals. 

In our circles, we do compare the oppression of being forced to wear the veil with being forced to wear a bikini, or expose one’s body. there’s a great cartoon where a woman in a bikini is looking at a woman in a veil and both are thinking, “How oppressive!” I don’t think the original poster is comparing it to sexual acts but to the act of putting on clothes or taking them off according to societal/religious diktats.


Aerial shots of Wellesley College

(via broadlybrazen)

Submission in response to this post.

While historicizing and culturally-contextualizing terms and movements are very important, I call bullshit on the idea of needing to contextualize empowerment in the context of the veil, or any other aspect of the patriarchy that women are “reclaiming” as symbols of their power.

Empowerment means strength, voice, audience, solidarity, community, confidence, and fucking POWER. Women do not need to assume masculine identities or aspects to achieve these, but redefining the subaltern/subjected position as the subject position does not make it so, and we need to be able to slough off — or at least ironize — the aspects of femininity that have been assigned to us in order to make us pathetic, and in order to make pathos weak, and that obscure and damage our strength and our ability to overcome the limitations of mainstream expectations of women. Bowing to something that is expected of women, even while saying that one is *choosing* it, is not empowering.

I feel the same way about the veil that I do about women feeling empowered by stripping, being subs, or being SAHMs. There is no challenge to the hierarchy that has been in place for millennia, so exactly how is this revolutionary? 

-MDS ‘04

In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to make a call for submissions of primary sources (journals, letters, poems, stories etc.) from Wellesley alums on what it means to be a woman or on gender identity generally. Take this subject matter to mean whatever you would like ( a letter to a friend about falling in love, a journal entry about figuring out your life, etc.)

These submissions may be anonymous. Please send your submissions to us at wellesleyunderground@gmail.com. 

Before asking ethnocentric questions regarding empowerment of others, lets begin with a discussion on the definition of empowerment. Agreed?

- SCA ‘08

Dear Wellesley Women,

Women are a growing part of U.S. military forces, and will make up about 15% of the entire veteran population by 2030. However, veterans services and research has overwhelmingly focused on the needs of the male majority of veterans, and little is known about the post-military goals and needs of women who serve. You may have read some disturbing statistics in the news: women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the veteran homeless population, young women veterans may have unemployment rates of 20% or higher, and at least 1 in 5 women veterans have experienced sexual trauma while in the military. 

The goal of my current project is to help articulate what we do know about supporting women veterans, and to understand the gaps in the research. Can you help me expand the knowledge base by spreading the word about this online survey for women veterans?

Here’s the survey link: www.surveymonkey.com/s/servicewomen

The survey is totally anonymous, and takes about 15-20 minutes. As a token of appreciation for completing the survey, respondents will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for $25 to Amazon.com. Women 18 years and older who have formerly served in active duty but are not currently on active duty are eligible.

If you’re not eligible, you can still help me spread the word by posting the survey link on Facebook or reaching out to any veterans you know. Since it’s impossible to select a random sample of women veterans, I’m relying on social networking to reach as diverse a sample as possible—even if you don’t know any women veterans, you might know someone who does. 

Thanks to anyone who can help!

Helena Pylvainen ‘08

One week until Women’s History Month. Get ready.
—ST ‘11

One week until Women’s History Month. Get ready.

—ST ‘11

Inspired by Kate Spencer’s recent piece on reactions to Lena Dunham’s love interest on girls, Ms. Ayoub wrote her own piece on fat-shaming.

While home for Thanksgiving this past year, I decided to put on my excavator hat and clean out my room. I have always been a big writer, and I was looking forward to going through the countless notebooks I had from age 7-18, ripping out fun stories I had started (The Man with the Poison Fingernail! - Age 8) or poems I wanted to remember (“As I walk walk walk and I strut strut strut I see a pretty pretty flower in the yuck yuck muck” - Age 7 - filed under “Prolific”). And then I found them. Tucked away amid the notebooks, I found letters and drawings of myself. But these titles were horrifyingly different.





Fat shaming. As I flipped through the pages, my eyes grew wide and my heart grew so heavy as I uncovered entry after entry of fat shaming. It was the same handwriting as my early poems, lighthearted stories and silly thoughts, but the voice, oh god, the voice of those pieces was so hateful, so mean, so purely evil, I couldn’t believe I had written that about anybody, let alone myself.

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Over the past decade and a half, I’ve given talks on dozens of college campuses about the need to increase socioeconomic diversity, but never before had I witnessed what I observed during a recent speech at Middlebury College.

Before introducing me, students from the sponsoring organization, Money at Midd, began the forum by publicly announcing their names and how much they and their families paid each year in tuition and fees. The first student, Samuel Koplinka-Loehr, said that his family paid about $18,000, and that he added $3,000 from his job. He passed the microphone to the next student, who said his family paid the full $56,000 comprehensive fee. A young woman said that her family could not afford to pay anything, but that she worked to pay $1,200 toward college costs.

I was dumbstruck, then elated, by the frank nature of the exchange. At Middlebury—and on campuses throughout the country—class is coming out of the closet.

Long hidden from view, economic status is emerging from the shadows, as once-taboo discussions are taking shape. The growing economic divide in America, and on American campuses, has given rise to new student organizations, and new dialogues, focused on raising awareness of class issues—and proposing solutions. With the U.S. Supreme Court likely to curtail the consideration of race in college admissions this year, the role of economic disadvantage as a basis for preferences could further raise the salience of class.

This interest represents a return to an earlier era. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, class concerns animated Marxists on campus and New Deal politicians in the public sphere. Both groups papered over important dimensions of race and gender to focus on the nation’s economic divide. Programs like Federal Housing Administration-guaranteed loans and the GI Bill provided crucial opportunities for upward mobility to some working-class families and students.

Colleges, meanwhile, began using the SAT to identify talented working-class candidates for admission. But FHA loans, the GI Bill, and the SAT still left many African-Americans, Latinos, and women out in the cold.

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Wellesley Asian Alliance is absolutely thrilled to announce that Wellesley College will have its first Asian American Studies minor starting 2013-2014. The minor consists of five courses housed under the American Studies program, and it will allow students to count courses from East Asian and South Asian Studies, as well as American Studies, History, Psychology, Religion, and many other departments. 

Since our founding in 1994, WAA has been advocating for the recognition of Asian American Studies at Wellesley College. This is the fruit of many years of hard work, perseverance, and inspiration by supporting faculty, administrators, students, and WAA alumnae. To all of those who have supported us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We couldn’t have done this without you.

Love and solidarity,
Wellesley Asian Alliance, 2012-2013

(via shepherdsnotsheep)

Thanks to Emily Randall ‘08 (@soyemily) for this month’s YAOTM submission


Ariel is a Renascence woman. A minor real estate mogul. A butcher. A baker. Author of “A Vegetarian’s Guide to Meat”. MBA in Sustainable Management. Co-founder of Wellesley’s WEED. And, a little more personally, my very first Wellesley crush (though I’m not sure I knew it at the time).

As a first year I met Ariel working at Cafe Mangal in the Ville. We served on WEED’s e-board together, and she introduced me to a friend in a la Mode. She helped me find my footing on campus, and was a constant inspiration. Hers was the very first Tanner I attended.

It’s been fabulous to watch Ariel’s career path shift and develop. She makes me believe that a Wellesley woman really can do anything!

Check out Ariel K. Diamond’s website for more!



Thirteen-year-old Lauren Rojas decided to send Hello Kitty 100,000 feet into space with a high-altitude balloon. Here are her recorded results.


Seventh grade girl builds rocket, sends Hello Kitty into the upper atmosphere

A seventh grader has made good on the dreams of middle schoolers everywhere by sending Hello Kitty into the stratosphere. According to ABC News:

Lauren Rojas, a 12-year-old from Antioch, Calif., got the idea after seeing a television commercial in which a balloon was launched into the sky. She thought she could do the same with her Hello Kitty doll. She would test air pressure and temperature at high altitude for her school’s science fair.

And so she did. With these incredible results. (via io9 Seventh grade girl builds rocket, sends Hello Kitty into the upper atmosphere)

So. Cool. 

Also more links: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/02/04/watch-this-amazing-12-year-old-launch-a-hello-kitty-into-space/

1,989 plays
Le Loup,


Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

Song: “Grow” by Le Loup

iTunes :: Amazon :: Back to Brain Pickings


See below for our recent interview with Lauren Friedman ‘09 who started this blog: http://myclosetinsketches.com/ 

Her work has been featured in Lucky Magazine and on Refinery29

1. How did you get started with My Closet in Sketches? What keeps you going with it? How do you spend your time otherwise?

I started My Closet in Sketches in the middle of a creative draught - I was sick of coming home from my 9 - 5 job in the non-profit world and just watching TV. As a lifelong lover of art (and doodling!), the website was born when I made a quick sketch of an outfit I wanted to remember for the next day. I realized almost instantly that I’d never seen anything like it on the internet before, and thus, MCIS was created.

It’s been really important to me that MCIS remains a creative outlet, free of outside pressures such as making money or getting more traffic. Because it takes me over two hours to make an individual sketch, I never force it - when the inspiration strikes, the inspiration strikes.

While I started MCIS with a full-time job, I am now completely self employed - which means that I have a lot of side hustles. I illustrate every month for Lucky Magazine’s “Dear Lucky” column, I do closet consultations, I do chalk and menu art for cafes and restaurants, I teach art classes, I am working on a book (to be published in spring ’14), and I spend far too much time loitering at my best pal’s coffee shop.


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