Skyping the Specialist: Technology in Medicine

Two years ago, the Supreme Court approved the Affordable Care Act. Individuals were required to purchase health insurance coverage by December 23rd of last year. With this legislation, it seems that healthcare is becoming increasingly accessible to Americans.

Yet in some places, healthcare disparities exist not due to lack of coverage but a shortage of practitioners. A recent NPR article touched on the pressing shortage of doctors, particularly psychiatrists. Twenty-eight counties in North Carolina do not have a single psychiatrist.

To compensate for this, the state is trying telepsychiatry. Hospitals use a two-way video connection to connect patients with psychiatrists elsewhere. Some important aspects to the system include the usage of a secure teleconferencing system rather than a service like Skype, as well as how easily patients can adapt to the system.


At my hometown clinic in a town of 3,000 residents, specialists from larger cities use teleconference to treat their faraway patients. A nurse or physician’s assistant from the home clinic remains in the room with the patient so they are able to palpate the patient or collect samples.

Although the idea of telemedicine often strikes people as strange initially, users have found huge advantages to the system. Patients who are unable to leave their hometowns due to issues like finances or transportation now have access to specialists.


However, the system also has its setbacks. Like any computer, the teleconferencing system is subject to technological difficulties. Additionally, some patients find it difficult to develop rapport with their physician when he or she is on a screen.

Like we have seen in AmCon this semester, technology is rapidly changing our lives, including the field of medicine. It remains to be seen whether the overall effect of this change is positive or negative.

My personal belief is that much like freedom of speech or religion, healthcare is a right. Telemedicine is helping to make healthcare more accessible to all.

Generation Y: Bringing back Oral Tradition

Throughout my education, we have always discussed the oral tradition of years passed; how stories and culture were passed down from generation to generation, grandfather/grandmother to grandchild, elder to tribe.

When writing/reading were introduced and established in our world, many people started writing down their thoughts and stories instead of sharing them verbally.

We lost a lot of the oral tradition as it became obsolete against the power of pen and parchment.

But I think our generation is bringing it back and I believe that this is due—in large part—to online video sharing.

The creation of websites like Youtube have allowed us to share our stories with society in a way that was previously impossible, opening up the possibility of sharing our thoughts and ourselves with the entire world.

I remember a TED talk given by Chris Anderson (a TED curator) about how powerful web video has the capacity to be.

(You can see it here:

In his video, he talks about how writing and reading are still pretty new innovations (as we know from our reading in The Shallows), whereas face-to-face communication has been around for millions of years.

There is an almost magical connection that is made between a speaker and their audience that does not always exist between an author or essayist and their audience, probably due to the fact that we have been fine tuning face-to-face communication for all of those years.

Anderson says that “it’s not too much to say that what Gutenberg did for writing, online video can now do for face-to-face communication.”

I, too, am struck by the immense power we hold at our fingertips to pass on our stories to the next generation through time via the internet.

We can share the issues and struggles that have impacted and defined our generation face-to-face through a computer screen.

Just a little while earlier, I got distracted by a slam poet and was transfixed for the next hour watching poet after poet speak to the world about the issues that have made an impact on them.

There is a girl from the Bronx who speaks with such intonation and passion and darkness that I thought she had to be at least in high school.

She was twelve years old; a sixth grade slam poet prodigy.


Kioni “Popcorn” Marshall speaks of “love” in a way that I have never heard nor experienced, digging deep into the root of the word and questioning its meaning in an abusive parent’s relationship with her child.

She speaks of a mother’s love, a mother who smacks her child, leaving bruises on her face, and then rubs away her daughter’s “heart bruises with peacock-scented lotion.”

What’s unique about her stories is that they are supposedly not personal narratives.

They are stories that she was told or heard about, stories that one wouldn’t necessarily think a twelve year old would know about, because—according to her father—her parents don’t “keep her in the dark.”

She has an amazing ability to tap into emotions and stories about “rape, murder, abuse, not being loved, loneliness, being enclosed, feeling trapped…” even though she herself has not gone through them.

Maybe it is a little problematic that she is talking about something that she doesn’t fully understand, but what is extremely fascinating to me is this: it seems like what was once passed down generation to generation through oral tradition, is now being passed up through the generations, grandchild to grandparent, child to nation.

Through the innovations associated with technology and worldwide video sharing, our generation has begun to change the game.

We are beginning to transform and expand our capacity to learn and the audience we are able to reach with our message.

Once again, the human race has turned to oral tradition—we have reinvented it—to pass forward the stories and struggles and feelings that shape our generation.


Here is a video of “Love” by Kioni “Popcorn” Marshall:


The Impact of the Arts

Since freshmen year, and even during last summer, I have been volunteering with the A+ Art Club. The A+ Art Club members are a group of young adults on the autism spectrum who meet up once a week at the Northfield Arts Guild and create visual art as well as experiment with the performing arts. The A+ Art Club’s gallery opening was this Tuesday and it has caused me to do some reflecting on how impactful the arts can be. The program was founded in 2010 and since its inception the arts have helped these young adults gain skills, not only artistic skills, but social skills. I have heard from many parents and community members that since the founding of the A+ Art Club the club members have come out of their shells. They hang out together in downtown Northfield, which was something that did not happen prior to the creation of the A+ Art Club, and they are also more willing to get up in front of people and participate in activities such as singing, dancing, and acting.


The art therapy is a very powerful form of therapy that can reach people in ways that traditional talking therapies cannot. The visual arts do not require any verbalization of feelings or thoughts. It is particularly effective for people who don’t have the abilities to put their feelings into words, whether it is because they don’t possess the vocabulary to put how they are feeling into words or because they don’t have the ability to speak at all. It can even be a means of relaxation at the end of the day as it was for me as a child when I was struggling with the effects of partial deafness. Expressive therapies that utilize art, theater, dancing, and music allow people to start working through their feelings and thoughts without having to confront their struggles until they are absolutely ready. Expressive therapies are growing in popularity and seeing the impact that it has had on the members of the A+ Art Club is a testament to its effectiveness and I hope it continues to grow in popularity and reach people the way it has reach the A+ Art Club members as well as myself.

What Should We Do?

There is a humanitarian crisis occurring in Nigeria right now. Nearly a month ago, 272 girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night by a terrorist group known as Boko Haram, or “Western Education is sin”. The girls were taken into a nearby forest, and there they remain awaiting their fate to be sold as sex slaves or wives to the highest bidder, around $12. And yet, despite the size of this travesty, very little has been done to rescue the girls. At least on a government level. Parents and people around the world have started their own grassroots movement, with protests and #BringBackOurGirls on twitter, but there has been next to no efforts from the Nigerian government. In fact, the military actually lied about how many girls were taken and that most of them had already been rescued, when in reality, all 272 girls were still sitting in the forest.

Protestors in Nigeria

As far as global involvement goes, the United States waited until this week to take decisive action in convincing the Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson to accept aid. But why? Why did it take us so long to intervene in such a travesty? Especially when we seem to have no problem intervening elsewhere.

Maybe it’s because in the past, our intervention served our own interests. I’ll be honest, I’m hard pressed to find an example in history where the United States has acted purely out of humanitarian reasons. In South America, we had the lovely Big Stick Policy, where everyone’s business was our own and we didn’t particularly care what government was in place, as long as they did what we wanted. Even World War II, the war known as the great humanitarian war, we didn’t get involved until our interests were at stake. Atrocities were being committed against Jews and other minority groups, yet we just wanted to stay out of it. And today, we’ve had continuous involvement in the Middle East, whether they want it or not, with the proposed plan of protecting freedom. But to me it seems like no one knows exactly what it is we are fighting for.

Big Stick Policy

Clearly, we are not a shy country and are perfectly willing to stick our noses where no one else wants them, so why play the retiring miss now, when the lives of hundreds of young women are at stake? Personally, I think we need to make a choice. If we are going to involve ourselves in other people’s business, we should do it to make the world a better place, not just to protect our own interests. Sometimes the right thing doesn’t come with a paycheck. The people of Nigeria and around the world are crying for action, so shouldn’t we give it to them? Otherwise, we should quit meddling in everyone else’s business and give the rest of the world a fighting chance to solve their own problems, without our “help” getting in the way.

Building Down in Order to Build Up

Over the past few decades, a traditional stigma of young adults has been slowly reversed. Now more than ever before, teens don’t mind hanging out with their parents, in fact, they have come to rather enjoy it. Even further, there are now cases where a teen’s friends don’t necessarily go over to their house to visit with their friend, but also to visit with their friend’s mom or dad. In my opinion, this can be attributed to the fact that (good) parents love their children unconditionally. Even though they may still be extremely embarrassing, parents, unlike so many of their child’s peers, never feel the need or the desire to debase their kids (or their kid’s friends) in order to enhance their own image. Out in the real world, however, such foul play often flies as fair when it comes to comparing two people or products, as demoralizing the threating competitors to boost one’s reputation is something that is seen on a daily basis. Essentially, the real world is less like a loving parent and more like the bullies at school who tease you to make them feel better about themselves. This phenomenon of negative-positive comparison can be seen in politics, advertising and global negotiation, among other things.

The extent to which the proclivity humans have to put something or someone else down to build themselves up is rather alarming to me. Are we not good enough just being ourselves? Is a product not sellable without trashing its competition? Is a politician not to be successful by relying on his or her own platforms alone? Although the world has always been a place of comparisons, it has gotten out of hand. Simply put, I don’t understand why people (or companies, or what have you) think the best way to success is through breaking down someone else’s integrity to build a false sense of one’s own. A person or product should find success through highlighting its own strengths rather than another one’s weaknesses.

Let me give an example. Over Spring break, I had dinner with my cousin who is a diehard Microsoft fan. This does not bade well with me, someone who could not be paid all Bill Gates’ money to use a PC as my main operating system for the rest of my life. We had never really hashed out our opinions until that night. As she was explaining what makes the Microsoft “Surface” tablet better than an Apple iPad (the price, the features, etc.), I had an epiphany. Having seen the commercials for the tablet myself, I was familiar with their advertising technique but I hadn’t really put a finger on why it bothered me so much until she began pointing out the comparisons. I realized that it was not her being a PC fan that bothered me (I mean, it’s still her loss, but whatever) but rather it was the way that Microsoft didn’t feel confident enough in its own product to sell it without any comparisons. They needed to put down something else in order to make their product seem better. You might be thinking, “Abigail, you’re insane, advertisements have been doing this since the beginning of TV” and yes, while that is somewhat true, this is the first time that the actual product being put down was mentioned and even used in the ad itself. Not only did Microsoft slam the product, they went a step further and actually took to mocking the iPad and doing so quite bluntly. Even when Apple produced their infamous “I’m a Mac” commercials (which was the beginning of the sword battle), they did not pick a specific element or product or even a particular company to pick on but rather used the general “I’m a PC” to illustrate what’s new and different about a Mac. (Just to give an example of the opposite of this, which is what should be aimed for; even after this mockery, Mac stayed strong by continuing to produce simple, speak for itself ads that did just that: let the product speak for itself.) Where did the integrity and confidence go in the world? What happened to business ethics?

(there are plenty more of these, all of which are funny, and while they do put down PC- not a specific brand- they always make him funny and is an overall likable character)

Another clear example of this situation can be seen in politics. Negative campaigning, or “mudslinging” has had a presence in our country’s elections for decades and is impossible to avoid seeing at least one ad breaking down an opponent. In the 2012 election, while there were many ads of this nature, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was one of the only candidates that did not sponsor any negative ads, choosing instead to air ads that highlighted her strengths rather than her opponent’s weaknesses. Her ads made me like Amy for what she had to offer, not for what her competitors didn’t.

While the intensity of the put downs and bullying is upsetting to me, as it displays the lack of integrity, confidence, pride in one’s work, and ethical standards in this country– and many others around the world– there is still something more that really cooks my goose. When an accuser attempts to make it seem flawless simply for its own personal benefit by pointing out the mistakes made by the competition, it is the pot calling the kettle black, as there is no such thing as a perfect person or product. Not only this, but all this negativity is insanely depressing. Ultimately, we should let what is being promoted shine with its own light alone (no matter how dull it may be) rather than dimming another in order to make the former appear to shine brighter. With the constant finger pointing and bullying that takes place in the real world, it’s no wonder that teens are choosing to stick with someone who has no conditions of acceptance.

When Jokes Aren’t Jokes

Let’s be honest, we at St. Olaf have a bit of a problem discussing the hard issues casually. Frankly, it’s scary. We don’t want to argue or seem ignorant, but the fact of the matter is, some things just need to be talked about.

So let’s talk about race. Or, more specifically for this article (seeing as 400-500 characters will never adequately cover the topic of race), let’s talk about student disappointment with St. Olaf’s responses to race issues.

This past fall semester, I was a panelist on the BORSC racial diversity panel. This panel was comprised of eight students from various backgrounds who responded to the survey BORSC had sent out previously. We presented a conversation (aided by a proctor posing questions) for the Board of Regents discussing topics like diversity, community, and cultural sensitivity on St. Olaf campus.

The next project the Board of Regents opted to head was Sleep Deprivation Awareness.

Similarly, the recent Racial Diversity Panel presented by St. Olaf faculty focused more on numbers than on people. Additionally, many students’ questions and stories were edited out of the panel or not allowed to be shared altogether.

(Note: come to Tomson Atrium during community time Thurs for #authenticoles)

And then there’s Cinco de Mayo.

I received a snapchat yesterday of a poster hanging in Buntrock Commons advertising a mayo eating contest “celebrating” Cinco de Mayo at Lincoln Inn (The Creativity for Community Honor House)

I was absolutely appalled. It wasn’t even funny. Cinco de Mayo is an extremely meaningful Mexican holiday that already has a long history of insensitivity and appropriation (i.e. “Drinko de Mayo”, non-Mexicans wearing sombreros and big fake mustaches to ‘celebrate’).

Later, I found out it was a prank:

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 2.07.39 PM


The tasteful response gives me hope, but I am still extremely saddened by the fact that someone on this campus thought it was funny in the first place.

Jokes like this aren’t jokes, they are microaggressions. I think we all remember the incident in Rand last year, yes?

The problem arises when people within the dominant societal power structure (i.e. white, wealthy, able-bodied, straight, cis, etc.) trivialize and dehumanize those who are not favored by the societal power structure, sometimes without even realizing it.

By reducing Cinco de Mayo to a drinking holiday, or a mayo-eating holiday, you are trivializing a culture and taking identities from real people. This isn’t some new “PC” (political correctness) movement, this is about respecting real people and their cultures. This is about realizing that if we are ever going to live in a multicultural world, we are going to have to learn to respect other cultures instead of diminishing them.


Teens become the Choosiest Beggars

A recent news article posted on The Wire discusses a topic that is almost always on my mind: food. I know that I cannot be the only one with dreams of food constantly occupying my thoughts, as it only takes a quick look around to see the large amount of overweight and obese people there are in our population (for me, this task is unfortunately a little too easy during the summers when I work as a lifeguard). As of last year’s posting, the United States is the second fattest country in the world with an obesity rate of 31.8%.[i] The article, titled “Teens Blame Michelle Obama for Their ‘Nasty’ Tater Tot-Free Lunches,” talks about First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent efforts to end this national trend towards obesity by focusing on children and young adults.

A major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic is the ease of access and price of food. Healthy food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, not only requires a considerable amount of effort to prepare and eat, it also costs a lot more than unhealthy food, which tends to be easier to access. When a household is living off a minimum wage salary, it is more economical for them to go to McDonald’s, just as it is more convenient for a family with a packed schedule to go to Burger King. However, there is one meal throughout a child’s day that is not contingent on wage or ease of access: school lunch. It was with this reasoning in mind that Obama took to investigating just exactly what kids were being served in their cafeterias around the country. When it was discovered that a majority of schools were serving food with almost no more nutritional value as fast food, Obama began leading the fight for legal action. The result was the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act. Now that this act is in place, as the article tells us, some schools are having a difficult time adapting to the new requirement of offering a whole grain, protein, fat free or low-fat milk, fruits and vegetables. However, the article is very clear in pointing out that Michelle Obama really doesn’t have anything to do with the national school lunch program except for being a cheerleader and advocate. The students complain that while there are healthy options, they do not seem very appetizing to them, saying that they would rather not eat at all than eat the healthy food and crave pizza or chicken nuggets. It’s not like there is no food for them, it’s just that they don’t choose to eat what is offered. The most ironic thing to me, someone who has had their fair share of public school lunches, is that the food at a lot of these schools was probably already nasty tasting before the new regulations kicked in but it is only now that the students find it hard to swallow what is being served. Rather than realizing that they themselves are the cause of their hunger as they are choosing not to eat what is provided, these teens are blaming Obama for something she had little involvement in.


Yet, regardless of whose “fault” it is for instituting these “nasty” lunches, it is the student’s response that is the most alarming part of the whole ordeal. While I myself am no skinny-Minnie, health food junkie, I do believe that it is important to make a conscious effort to eat healthy. Not only does it make you feel better about yourself but also it helps fuel the brain and the body for success. It is disturbing to me that kids are blaming someone who was trying to help them and their parents simply because they feel so entitled to junk food. Teens are posting pictures of their lunches on Twitter, most of which only have two items on the tray with captions like “Thanks Michelle Obama, I’m going to be so full after this […] lunch.” While the picture of the tray only had two food items on it, the article notes that the student who posted the photo had the option to take up to three more things to eat.


In my book, Obama was doing something noble. It makes me sad to see so many large people, especially children, wandering around, not knowing where to start changing their lives. Now that some help has come along, it is painful that it is being beaten down because of the entitlement felt by these kids. Ultimately, the thing that disturbs me the most about this is that in a world where beggars can’t be choosers, these kids are so far down the path of junky eating that they are the choosiest beggars of all.


Original Article:

[i] Boyd, John. “We’re No. 2! U.S. No Longer World’s Fattest Country.” Houston Chronicle [Houston] 9 July 2013: n. pag. Houston Chronicle. Web. 5 May 2014. <>.


An assortment of blurbs

For my last CitizenBlog, I thought I’d do a roundup of a couple of interesting topics, including Japan, Cuba, smallpox, nuclear power, and more.

First, we have “[Japan’s] Education Ministry to begin using English during internal meetings”:

In a bid to be more globally competitive and raise the level of English education in the country, the Japanese Ministry of Education will soon begin conducting their meetings in the language. As using English in meetings is highly unusual in the country, the ministry will start implementing it slowly, beginning with high-level officials in their department.

Maybe it’s just because I love learning Japanese, but I really dislike this idea. Although, if it’s just in the Education Ministry, and not a government-wide mandate, I suppose it would be OK… not that it’s my place to tell Japan what to do, anyway. I’m just afraid that this sort of initiative will turn into a country-wide mandate to embrace the future (“english! yay!”) and forget the past (“日本語はだめだよ!”). Well, what will be, will be, I suppose. Still, I’m going to give it a thumbs down.

Part Two: Apparently, the WTO has followed Australia’s lead and decided that tobacco should be sold in plain packaging.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab olive-coloured packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small standardised fonts.

Cuba seems to be a bit angry about this, as the Telegraph reports:

Cuba has accused Britain of being anti-capitalist and threatening free trade with its plans introduce plain packaging on cigarettes and cigars.

Cuba said it recognized Britain’s “sovereign right to apply measures aimed at protecting the health of its people while recognising that tobacco is a harmful but lawful product in international trade”.

“We therefore respectfully ask that the British Government refrain from adopting such packaging until there has been a definitive ruling in the dispute currently before the DSB, so that this measure may be assessed on the basis of those findings.”

(Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have all brought legal action against Australia, the first country to ban colourful logos on cigarette packaging.)

While I am firmly against tobacco products, and I realize that the tobacco industry has gone overboard with its advertisements in the past, I am generally opposed to regulatory bodies that … erm, regulate the packaging of products. So, another thumbs down from me.

Next up, “Scientists Urge Delay In Destroying Last Smallpox:

More than three decades after the eradication of smallpox, U.S. officials say it’s still not time to destroy the last known stockpiles of the virus behind one of history’s deadliest diseases.

Going beyond the traditional fear that terrorist groups have hoarded a copy of the virus, there’s now speculation that it could be possible to develop a copy of smallpox from scratch:

Moreover, a recent World Health Organization meeting raised a new specter: Advances in synthetic biology mean it may be technologically possible to create a version of smallpox from scratch.

“The synthetic biology adds a new wrinkle to it,” Jimmy Kolker, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for global affairs, told The Associated Press. “We now aren’t as sure that our countermeasures are going to be as effective as we’d thought even five years ago.”

Still, there should be something decided about the destruction of smallpox eventually:

And Kolker, the chief U.S. delegate to the upcoming meeting, said a number of countries want WHO to appoint outside experts to evaluate how serious the synthetic biology threat really is by year’s end.

“This isn’t something that should drag on forever, and the U.S. doesn’t want it to drag on forever,” he said. “We can’t just ignore it.”

I’m going to give this one a thumbs up: we’re actually thinking a decision through!

Floating Nuclear Power: As The Dish says, “it could happen” (I’m just going to quote their entire blurb here):

There are many things people do not want to be built in their backyard, and nuclear power stations are high on the list. But what if floating reactors could be moored offshore, out of sight? There is plenty of water to keep them cool and the electricity they produce can easily be carried onshore by undersea cables. Moreover, once the nuclear plant has reached the end of its life it can be towed away to be decommissioned. Unusual as it might seem, such an idea is gaining supporters in America and Russia. …

The American researchers think there is no particular limit to the size of a floating nuclear power station and that even a 1,000MW one—the size of some of today’s largest terrestrial nuclear plants—could be built. They believe the floating versions could be designed to meet all regulatory and security requirements, which would include protecting the structure from underwater attack, says Dr [Neil] Todreas.

I just… Aren’t we still cleaning up from Fukushima? I know that we think we could build a plant that physically can’t melt down, but — if that’s the case — why haven’t we? Aside from money, of course.

Thumbs down. Down, down, down! How about, I don’t know, floating wind farms? Or floating solar panels?

And finally, I’ll wrap this up with my weird snippet of the week, from Talking Points Memo:

A South Dakota lawmaker is calling for a statewide conversation on the dangers of anal sex and claims anti-anal sex forces have been silenced and intimidated into silence by pro-anal sex forces. …

“Certainly there are board-certified doctors in our state who will attest to what seems self-evident to so many: gay sex is not good for the body or mind,” he wrote.

There are pro- and anti-anal-sex forces? Do they wage war? 😉 In all seriousness, though, why do lawmakers feel the need to meddle in our lives? Aside from their personal beliefs.

Maybe I should feel special that they think that our lifestyles are more important than running the rest of the government?

In summary, I wish I’d started something like this a long time ago. I had a lot of fun gathering up these posts, and I hope that at least one of them made you think.

Too long? Too short? Not enough thinking? Comments are welcome! I’m itching to try out that “reply” button.

Female Breadwinners, are they a Problem?

Wait…     is this still a question in our society? Like, actually? People are still talking about this? Apparently so, according to Fox and Friends, as of today, May 4, 2014. In this episode of the talk show, our host asks two women and a man (I don’t know who these guests are) whether or not breaking cultural gender norms in employment and the family structure is problematic. The video can be seen here:

To be honest, I couldn’t help but to laugh a little while watching. In the very beginning we start with the man’s response, which suggests that gender stereotypes around breadwinning is really a cultural construct, and problems that arise by breaking the norm is really just an issue with a shallow outlook on what’s important in the family. He says a strong, supporting relationship should be successful in overcoming the stereotype. That all makes sense.

But then back to the host, and things start getting a little silly. He asks, but is there something biological within men that make us need to be the breadwinners? (I wonder what credentials in Neuroscience or biology these folks have to answer that) He says “I get the cultural argument. We can all weave through cultural issues, but isn’t there a biological need for men to be the caveman, to go out and bring home the dinner?”. Well…  apparently “we all” can’t “weave through cultural issues”, because you just completely fell into one Mr. host. There are so many societies in history in which women were the farmers or the gatherers of most of the food, while men hunted (as much as for warfare practice as for food). But that point doesn’t hit the heart of the issue, as warfare and hunting is obviously the masculine thing to do, even if its not bringing back the food. The basic issue here is that based off of absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the science of gender this man is conjecturing that there just must be some biological difference that requires us to follow this norm. Or, if I can be bold enough to put my own conjecture out there, maybe the fact that you believe in a biological need for men to be dominant shows the depth of the effects your culture has had on your view of gender roles.

But the best is really still to come. The first woman to respond has, I think, the most priceless quote of the entire piece. “I think also as a woman you like being taken care of”. There you have it girls! Ever thought you were just missing something in life, that your work at St. Olaf just wasn’t filling some void in your heart? Well that’s because you’re just not filling that biological need to be taken care of. Here at Olaf you’re doing way to many things on your own, and not being helped by a strong man who can take care of you all your life, the biological need in every good woman’s mind.

Well, we still have one more response to hear. Maybe this one will pull us back into the realm of reality and we can stop pretending to be in the last century.

Host: “is there a biological need for the men to take care of the women here?”

2nd Girl: “yeah, but it doesn’t need to be financially”. Oh god..  here we go. Let’s continue. “there are other ways you can take care of your family. You can be the head of the household without being the one who makes the most money”.

There it is! So remember guys, it’s ok for your wife to make more money than you, just as long as you are still the head of the household and taking care of her in other ways.

To be fair, they make disclaimers throughout; Girl 2 does say after this: “I think, good work, so long as it’s honest work, is still good work” and that if “you are working to your best ability, money doesn’t equal success”. Girl 1 does say that success in this area of family life is all dependent on communication and the man says “it’s all about being comfortable where you are and knowing that money isn’t everything”.

Perhaps I’m a bit harsh on these people, but some of the things they said sounded laughable to me. But I guess when I think about it those social pulls are still there, even if I know they aren’t logical. It would still feel more normal to me to make more money than my future wife. Maybe once I’m older and have a possibility to be faced with this situation I might realize that cultural norms have been ingrained in me too, despite the fact that I can laugh them off now as silly old-fashion ideas.

Color Powder, Gang Rape, and Slacktivism

Gender dynamics vary widely around the globe with each individual culture or community possessing their own unique set of beliefs, laws, and inequalities concerning gender and sexuality. For instance, there is the extreme case of India, where women are subjected to daily verbal and sexual harassment. Bystanders of these events don’t take action because these occurrences are the norm in their society. To make it worse, the women are unable to stand up for themselves for fear of causing the perpetrator to become violent. These victims are forced to decide between their pride and their life.

Most who do not reside in or have not visited India are unaware of the dire situation there. However, in December of 2012, a case of gang rape in India resulting in the death of the victim was enough to spark widespread protest and capture the attention of the rest of the world.

The fight against these injustices was finally able to gain some ground as anti-rape laws began to be implemented and the perpetrators of this case were all found guilty, four being sentenced to death this past December and a minor to three years in a juvenile reform facility.

The impact didn’t stop in India. Two exceedingly passionate students here at St. Olaf who closely followed this event felt compelled to do something. Connected through a political science class called Courageous Resistance, Apoorva Pasricha and Lauren Hagen started brainstorming ways in which they could raise awareness about this issue and give aid to those affected by it in India. The two came together with very different links to the topic, Apoorva having experienced the gender dynamics in India firsthand and Lauren an advocate of combatting gender expectations on a broad scale. This combination of a more general goal with a specific frame proved to be the perfect mix, culminating in the creation of the Ole Color Run.

Apoorva and Lauren to decided to utilizing a 5K based on a recently popular form of race called a paint race that involves throwing color powder on the runners, who end up covered from head to toe in different colors, in the hopes of framing the cause in a fun manner to maximize attendance and thus, maximize the impact they could make. Working to fighting injustices based in gender violence, the event will act as a fundraiser for two NGOs in India to provide money to directly support victims of gang rape and their families. A challenge the coordinators have recognized is that some Indian organizations are corrupt and money is not always utilized ethically. One of the NGOs they plan to donate to is a college where St. Olaf students go to study at on a handful of abroad programs. This formerly established connection eliminates any worry about the money being used inappropriately or being lost in administrative costs. On the other hand, the second NGO being donated to will receive the funds in increments so Apoorva and Lauren ensure that their hard work is being used in the manner they intended without attempting to control the functioning of the organization.

Although participants of the run will be informed about the issue through emails and speakers at the event, the coordinators also held a panel about gender identity, sexual assault, and masculinity beforehand. Sexual violence is a specific case of the negative repercussions of how masculinity is defined and is something that people everywhere encounter. Fighting for a cause is initially all about awareness. To ensure that the St. Olaf student body knew about this issue, a panel used as an effective way to let a large group of people focus on learning about the topic in depth. Additionally, the panel gave the audience a context of the issue, offering a more personal connection.

With these events, Apoorva and Lauren aim to, in Lauren’s terms,

“…not only go out of our existing network and reach out to these NGOs in India to help victims directly, but also to cause people to reach in. We want people to be conscious of how they view and respond to their own gender and others’, to be conscious of the way gender stereotypes affect expression of gender, and to be conscious of how masculinity is represented in our society.”

She noted that raising funds for gender violence victims is a huge part of being an advocate for this issue, but introspection is also key because gender inequality and sexual harassment need to be addressed on all fronts, not just the extreme cases.

In the true activist fashion, Lauren and Apoorva hope to perpetuate the discussion about gender injustices by making the Ole Color Run the first of many. Further, Apoorva expressed that as a long term goal,

“We’d like to create a more dynamic awareness and involvement among the student body by engaging them once a year in the event. This year, we’ll expose the crowd to gang rape and, in the years to come, we’ll expose them to other pressing issues that the run will be held for.”

While using the medium of a fun 5K does garner a larger crowd, it also blurs the line between participants who are there to fight for the cause and those who are there to do the Color Run. This concern is intensified by a growing form of social activism among our society named slacktivism. Discussed in Apoorva and Lauren’s class, slacktivism is the act of performing an easy and convenient action for a cause that makes the actor walk away feeling proud of their contribution. Oftentimes, they have accomplished nothing and never take action or even give thought to the issue in a meaningful way again.

Taking on a seemingly impossible task for two students at a small liberal arts college, Lauren and Apoorva set an admirable example with their empathy and passion. They are successfully working to fight gender injustices while simultaneously focusing on the civic engagement itself, fighting the awful trend that is slacktivism.