Gender roles and cheap toys:
Blue Kinder Joys aren’t just for Kinder boys
The monthly pilgrimage to the grocery store is inevitable. Mother dearest complains that ‘she misses going out’ and bribes us with the option of picking an item of our choosing. My indecisive self never seems to know what to buy, but my brother struts around the grocery aisles, with an assured air about him, and I know exactly what he wants to buy.
My mother pushes an overfilled cart to the billing counter, and just as the last item is checked, scanned and bagged, he brings an armful of egg-shaped plastic packets to us, coloured with the familiar orange and white. These ones also have a tinge of blue at the top; a warning sign for young girls, a proclamation of a backward notion and an instigator of unfair gender roles.
At the top, it reads, ‘For boys’.
I remember when I was younger, Kinder Joys weren’t segregated based on gender. There was that same egg-shaped plastic packet, sold at a similar overinflated price, standing innocently in checkout counters, waiting for children to notice them. The notion of a Kinder Joy solely for girls and boys in a time and age where gender fluidity, expression and exploration is at its peak is just not it.
The problem lies with the division of the toys inside the Kinder Joy. For the ‘girls’, you have the pink and purple princess propaganda, and for the ‘boys’, an adrenaline-inducing assortment of cheaply produced toys aiming to instil a foundation of rigid masculinity.
I wonder what’s going to happen when these companies realise that there are more than two genders.
The whole idea of gender is a social construct. Sex is assigned at birth, and depends on what chromosomes you have. Gender is part of your identity; it grows with you, changes with you, and you have every right to explore and discover what works for you.
Toxic gender roles are problematic for two reasons: they enforce the gender binary (i.e. the idea that there are only two genders) and unfair expectations for unassuming children who just want to play with something, without complex and idiotic societal notions hindering them.
Society has progressed exponentially, in terms of development as well as social attitudes. In countries like India, where cultural biases and norms lead to things like the Kinder Joy fiasco, this growth is held back.
We do have a long way to go, in terms of gender equality, freedom of expression, and the basic right to be the person we want to be. The Kinder Joy is just the beginning. It sets out strict (and might I add, backward) ideas for children, whose ideas and attitudes are still malleable. They carry these thoughts with them till they grow up, ultimately guaranteeing a future where things are no better than they are now.
Gendered products aren’t just a problem for people who don’t identify as ‘male’ and ‘female’. Evils like the Pink Tax (inflated prices for products that are essentially for ‘women’) exist solely because of gendered products.
The Kinder Joy is just the beginning. The ideas of the gender binary and absolutely ridiculous gender roles haunt us even till adulthood. Think of when you go shopping for clothes. There’s always a men’s and women’s section, but nothing more, nothing less. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it louder for the people in the back:
GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT.
Classifying clothes based on femininity, masculinity and androgyny is ultimately something that will make a huge impact, as a forward one for those who think gender roles are stupid, and those who haven’t thought of them that way.
But let’s start somewhere simpler. At the root of the very cause. Let the Kinder Joys be gender neutral. For every child, for every person, regardless of how they identify.
Oh, and 35 rupees is WAY too much to pay for something like this.
Black holes: The supermassive suckers of the universe
By now, if you’re still reading this column, you must have realised that Intricate ConnectionsTM is for the more intellectually-oriented, #iaminSTEM people. And now that 90% of my reader base has gone, I’d like to address the 10% of you who stayed. In case you haven’t noticed, I love physics. I’ve heard many people talking about black holes, trying to understand what they actually are, and more often than not, they’re probably wrong. On that note, the rest of this article is my futile attempt in explaining to you what a black hole actually is by telling you what it is not.
Full disclosure, I’d like to mention that I have no working knowledge about black holes and they will continue to boggle me for eons to come. And with that, let’s begin.
Something I feel is very similar to a black hole, but not quite, is one of those Magic 8-balls. Think about it. Both of them are spherical or at least elliptical in shape, and both of them are usually black in colour. However, one sucks gullible travellers in due to the curvature of spacetime around it, while the other sucks gullible travellers in using empty promises of a bright future (these are the same people who believe in numerology, horoscopes and sun signs. All-in-all, not complaining). Another uniting factor among the two is that Magic 8-balls work in terms of probability. When you ask it something, it gives one of ‘signs point to yes’, ‘my reply is no’, or ‘better not tell you now’, which means it has a variety of answers. A black hole too works in terms of probability, so to say. After crossing the event horizon, the answer to the question ‘Am I going to die?’ will 100% turn out to be ‘signs point to yes’.
Another thing I feel that resembles black holes is a printer. Look at it this way - both of them suck stuff in. In a printer, it’s paper. But in a black hole, it’s everything. There is no discrimination based on caste, creed, race, colour, or even size, a black hole sucks everything inside irrespective. The only difference is that printers eject that stuff out too. When you put a paper into the top of the printer, you expect it to come out from the backside. But we haven’t quite discovered where a black hole’s backside lies. There have been theories about the existence of a white hole, which does the opposite of a black hole - it only ejects stuff. Honestly, I don’t think the discovery of a white hole would be really pretty. It’ll look too much like a Gujarati uncle with diarrhea on a warm summer morning.
Coming to my third point, I believe that another thing that is very similar to a black hole is a merry-go-round at Disney World. Both of them spin around; black holes are a tad bit faster, but merry-go-rounds aren’t that far behind. Again, the difference between them lies in what they suck in - black holes suck in, well, everything, and merry-go-rounds suck in pre-adolescent children who are weirdly passionate about horses. One commonality between a supermassive black hole and merry-go-rounds is that they are anticlimactic - when you are going in, you’re very excited to see what’s going to happen, but at the end of the ride, you think ‘That’s it?’ See, black holes and merry-go-rounds are much more alike than you might think! Black holes may come in all shapes and sizes, and likewise merry-go-rounds may have either cats and dogs or Ariel figures to sit on. The underlying similarity between them - they suck.
And that ends my list. While we might think that black holes are very complex, they aren’t so different from the things we are used to after all. The only thing that is stopping any object from becoming a blackhole is the volume it occupies. If you condense anything to be small enough, it too can become a black hole. So, if you think about it, any object is not and could be a black hole simultaneously (Schrödinger is probably rofl-ing in his grave right now).
To conclude, if this article has taught you anything new about black holes or about anything in general, I’m sorry, that was not my intention, go back and read it again. If it didn’t, then I want to leave you with one last thought - You too are a black hole.
No you’re not, don’t freak out. Have a great day.
Image sources: Wikipedia, Astronomy Magazine, iStock
I’d like to ask you something that’s relatively abstract - what does the colour red mean to you? What does it remind you of, and what does it represent in your life?
That’s a pretty loaded question to begin an article with, and it’s also not one that’s easy to answer. Lots of things in our lives are red in colour. Red could mean an infinite number of things. It’s an ambiguous colour, so you might be pretty confused. Don’t sweat it, though! I had just as much trouble answering that question when I first came across it too. It isn’t just you and me, though; the flags of various countries make it apparent that the world hasn’t really been able to answer that question either.
I’ve never really been a fan of visual art. Be it painting, digital art, or photography, I just wasn’t very excited by it. In fact, I was and very much still am the kid that instantly resorts to stick figures when asked to draw humans. One part of visual art that’s always piqued my interest, though, is vexillology: the study of flags, their design, and their meaning.
According to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, the red in their flag is “most expressive of [their] country”, and it’s meant to represent one of the four elements: fire (no, Ishana isn’t ghostwriting this). With that piece of information alone, we’d likely be led to believe that red is a symbol of fire. Not so fast, though! We have a contender - the tiny Caribbean region of Grenada. Apparently, the red in the Grenadian flag is meant to represent courage and bravery. That isn’t exactly the same as “fire”.
It’s not just Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, though! We have a ho(i)st of country flags that see the colour red differently. In the Zimbabwean flag, the colour red symbolizes aspirations and hopes, while in Kenya’s and Iran’s flags, it stands for the blood shed by martyrs. In Spain, it represents bullfighting, and in Japan, it represents the Sun. And of course, in the king of all things red, the Soviet flag, red is a symbol of revolution.
You might be confused (vexed, even) as to why I’m saying all of this, so let me clear it up a little. Flags teach us an important lesson about colours and how they can work differently in different places, but they also tell us why that is. It’s each country’s experience that shapes what its flag means. The Soviet red, for example, wouldn’t mean what it does if not for its violent history, struggles, and sacrifices. This is something that’s incredibly important to my initial question: we all see red in terms of the experiences we’ve had, and what we’ve gone through determines what it means to us.
In stark contrast to my stance on visual art, I’m a huge fan of music. I love playing it, making it, listening to it, everything. So, naturally, I’ve come across the transcendental phenomenon of this Earth, known otherwise as Jacob Collier. While most would describe him as a Grammy-winning producer and expert in harmony, I’d say he’s more or less a modern-day musical revolutionary. I’d stumbled upon a live masterclass he did in Paris, and he made a casual remark that I found really interesting - “Every note works with every chord”.
Wait, what? How? How could every note work with every chord? In music theory lessons, we’re taught that there are some groupings of notes that we should avoid because they sound terrible, and now Jacob Collier’s telling me that’s just a load of, as the British would say, poppycock. To his credit, though, what he proceeded to say changed the way I looked at harmony forever.
The fundamental idea he brought up was that it doesn’t matter whether the notes are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for each other - what matters is where the notes are going. I can play any wonky, weird combination of notes I want, and as long as each note is in the right context, and I take each note somewhere, I’ve made it work. To better illustrate what I mean, here’s me playing a super weird chord, and then me making it work
A Tale of Vexillology, Harmony, and Fluidity
As with vexillology, harmony also teaches us something interesting. A note doesn’t always mean the same thing, and it doesn’t always have the same purpose. It doesn’t always give off the same vibe, it depends entirely on the context it’s placed in and where it’s going. This is also vital to my question about red: it could, at different points in time, mean different things to us. It depends on the framework within which we’re experiencing it.
I’ve spent a little over a week writing this article, and over that time period, I’ve come up with tens of things the colour red could mean to me. When I started, the colour red was a little CD marker I had on my table. To me, it meant permanence. A few days into the article, I was watching the Jacob Collier masterclass again, so red was the YouTube logo. Then, it stood for unbridled enthusiasm, as is the case with most things related to Jacob Collier. Right now, it’s past midnight and I’m on the verge of falling asleep, so red reminds me of my bedsheet. It represents peace and bliss.
That’s the most important thing, maybe ever. Fluidity. Anything in our lives that means something to us only means that because of our personal history with it, and the context in which we’re sensing it. Everything that brings us joy does so because we have happy emotions tied to it, and everything that brings us sadness does so because we see it in a grim context. Our lives are by-products of our unique, inconstant, and meaningful experiences, and that’s something we need to celebrate.
The world around us is no less fluid than the water we drink, the sweat we brush away, or the blood in our veins. Which, by the way, also happens to be red.
The Jacob Collier Masterclass (well worth watching if you've got 26 minutes to spare) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLJVvjqMjbo
Learning to Write Poetry
We’ve discussed how to read poetry in detail in past issues. I hope you’ve started reading poetry on your own, and that it’s proving easier to understand and enjoy. Today we’re focusing on how to write your own poetry. I’ve been writing poetry for a couple of years, and reading my friends’ poetry for a few months now. From what I’ve seen, I can say that people who read poetry don’t always write good poetry, but people who don’t read poetry almost never write good poetry. There’s a certain understanding of and respect for the genre that makes all the difference. However, I’m hoping you are all poetry readers by now, so it’s time for you to send in some work!
From this issue onwards, we’re going to change up the format of this column a little. I’m running out of my own poems to republish - surprisingly, republishing a poem once every two weeks isn’t very sustainable! However, we’ve had some wonderful poetry submissions pouring in, so today we’re publishing a poem I absolutely loved, by Sanjana S. I’m not publishing any work by my fellow core team members today, but there will be poetry by myself and other core team members in upcoming issues!
to be human
by Sanjana S
to be human is to be afraid.
how can you not? in an existence so fleeting,
so seemingly inconsequential,
a flash of light, a dead star.
to be human is to romanticise.
romanticise the simplest of things,
like poppy fields and sunrises and the wind.
to make our nightmares into fairytales
in the hope that everyone could get a happy ending.
to be human is to be consumed
consumed by passion or vengeance
hatred or fear
or worse, love.
to be human is to love
to love with the force of the entire universe
to love and to hurt, all at once.
to be human is to imagine,
imagine the universes colliding, the stars aligning,
everything that went wrong or right,
to get to this moment.
to be human is to rebel,
to fight for what you know,
in your heart, is right,
no matter what the world might think.
to be human is to live.
because the suddenness of death
has some kind of strange peace to it,
life is euphoria.
Sanjana is a tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor and crazy cat lady. Besides constantly romanticising her own life to the soundtrack of Lorde and Taylor swift, she enjoys reading, writing, and political discourse.
Now it’s time for today’s recommendations. My poetry book recommendation for the day is Devotions by Mary Oliver - a beautiful piece of work that isn’t too difficult to read. It’s a personal favourite, and I recently gifted a copy to our editor, Snigdha, for her birthday.
Heliocentric by Keith S. Wilson
Affrilachian poet Keith S. Wilson is the author of Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). His poetry and prose have appeared in Elle, Poetry magazine, the Kenyon Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. Wilson's nonfiction has won an Indiana Review Nonfiction Prize and the Redivider Blurred Line Prize, and has been anthologized in the award-winning collection Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy. (Poetry Foundation)
Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change by Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye is a professor of creative writing at Texas State University. Nye told Contemporary Authors: “I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime … Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.” (Poetry Foundation)
Prayer/Oracion by Francisco L. Alarćon, translated by Francisco Aragón
A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Latino and gay identity, mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history, and American culture are all portrayed in Alarcón’s writing.
Poet, translator, essayist, editor, and San Francisco native Francisco Aragón studied Spanish at the University of California at Berkeley and New York University. Exploring how language and genre both connect and diverge, Aragón’s poems locate personal experience within a wider cultural and historical conversation. (Poetry Foundation)
For the past few years, I have always felt that I don’t create as much art as I should. School, classes, and existential dread take up a lot more space in my daily routine than they used to. Personally, to create art I need to find time and motivation. I barely have one, and I’m still searching for the other.
Also, I cannot draw. Correction: I cannot draw well. To be more specific, I have a hard time drawing realistic stuff, and the only thing I hate more than talking to humans is drawing them. As someone who wants to pursue design, I am working on this and going to classes where I need to regularly submit assignments. So I’m creating something, but the empty feeling inside is still there and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not an artist. I’m not a designer either, but at least I know that I could be one. Apart from an insane amount of practice and skill, art also needs you to be in touch with your emotions. Impossible. Whenever I see people who are able to communicate their feelings through sculptures, paintings, or sketches, I stare in awe.
Design requires you to understand other people’s perspectives and solve problems, so I find it easier to separate my emotions and understand how to apply any feedback in a logical way. But art is a lot more personal and all feedback, comments, and criticism shatter me. How am I supposed to show my emotions through art when I can barely understand them as emotions?
This makes me think that everything I do, feel, and am has to be packaged and presented in a way that makes it palatable for everyone around me. Because I know that while perfection feels unnatural, too much imperfection makes people uncomfortable. So there’s a balance that needs to be maintained. But the only way to maintain it is to analyse everything and everyone around me and see what level of imperfection is tolerated.
People may say that being yourself is the best thing to do because others fall in love with your little quirks and imperfections. I have learnt that while this is not completely false, different people can tolerate different levels of me being myself (which is honestly very understandable). So I have had to develop filters and modify, or even suppress, parts of my personality based on where I am and who I am with. I don’t think that means I’m being fake or insincere. Sometimes it’s just basic common sense. For example, I cannot go around talking about how I have a forty-seven step plan to burn- (for legal purposes I cannot finish that sentence).
So, almost all the quirks and flaws that make you fall in love with someone or something are, on some level, intentional. The bloopers after a movie. The audible breaths that a singer takes in a recorded song. The “unfiltered” emotions shown in YouTube videos. They remind us that those people are human. But in a way that we can digest. They don’t show us the hours spent rehearsing a single scene, the million times a chorus is sung to get it perfect, or the blanket of deafening silence that accompanies the crying. Because it’s uncomfortable to realise just how human we are.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to love yourself no matter what and remember that everyone feels the same way you do. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if everyone overthinks everything like I do. I don’t know how many people are reading this article and disagreeing with every sentence I write. I don’t know what conclusion to draw or how to reassure you that everything will turn out well in the end because everything I’ve written here is based solely on my experiences. I’ve only been alive for sixteen years. There’s still so much that I do not know. And it terrifies me.
Anyway, back to art. I still believe that it relies mainly on emotions and skill. Since I have too much of one and too little of the other, I realised that I could just create art because I wanted to. As someone who lives in a whirlwind of deadlines and to-do lists, doing something that requires neither feels unnatural.
This took me around eight hours spread over three months and I created it in the hope that it would make me feel better. While it did not, I still like the way it looks. I hope you do too. And even if you don’t there’s literally nothing I can do about it. So, please keep your negative comments to yourself because like I said, I cannot handle criticism.
16 years on this rock floating around in space.
Gross, that sounds like a start to a generic poem. Let me try that again. In my 16 years of being alive, I have…
Nope, that sounds like I’m in an interview. If only I had a sibling to help me get started, am I right (a sibling that isn’t Devansh, that is)? Oh well, the gist of it is that I am an only child, which means I am quite close to my parents and I consider myself a relatively spoiled child as I receive all the attention from them.
Now, I don't want to talk about the good things that come with being an only child (there are several of those too). I want to describe, to the best of my abilities, how I feel as an only child, and certain thoughts and behaviours I project because I am one.
The song “(l)only child” by Salem Ilese perfectly sums up how I feel. When I first heard the song, it just immediately resonated with me. It explains the pros and cons of being an only child. Because of my love for this song, I am going to quote it here -
The chorus of the song, as the kids say these days, just hits different.
Oh, I'm not gonna blame being a lonely child,
On me being an only child,
But what is a lonely child,
Without the only?
These lyrics are the portrait of my life. This song is a masterpiece.
My favourite lines that I resonate with are -
Yeah, I can be useless,
Promise it's just a phase,
Guess I should give them space.
This line is so accurate. I really am quite lazy at times and I just sit on my bed and do nothing and I do my best to convince myself that it’s just a phase and that I’ll do work later. The second part about giving people space is something I really need to learn; as an only child, since I don’t have siblings to talk to, I look to friends for attention and happiness. I know, yes, this is extremely unhealthy and I should get happiness from myself, and not others, but it’s become a repetitive habit, especially during lockdowns with me sitting at home all day. In the past month I have learnt that I should most definitely stop pestering my friends and annoying them every few minutes and give them space, while finding things to do on my own, or talking to my parents and family instead.
Life as an Only Child
The biggest downside of being an only child, is almost certainly the lack of company from a sibling. I don't know about others, but I sometimes long for a sibling so much so that I have developed sibling-like relationships with several friends of mine. Of course, we are closer to our parents and that’s a huge upside, but there are certain aspects of having a sibling that I long for at times. Like, whenever I see two siblings talking or even bickering, it puts a smile on my face and it just feels really wholesome to me. I don't think I would be a mature sibling, though, I would most definitely get into fights. But that does not mean I will stop thinking about how life would have been with a sibling.
Every single person with a sibling I know always calls me immensely lucky for not having one (except Snigdha and Kabir, they are very cool). I will never know if having a sibling will be fun or not, but what I do know is that I have always longed to have one. I also have thought about how my life would be different with one and I cannot seem to come up with a conclusive and comprehensive answer. Deriving happiness from doing things unrelated to my friends is something I want to learn to do. I need to learn to be happy with myself and the things I do, without looking at others in jealousy. I really just wanted to talk about my thoughts and life as an only child and how I hope to learn and grow in this article.
MY LIFE IS A MOVIE, I'M NEVER OFF SET
Picture this. You’re a superhero, spandex and all, faced with the most difficult decision of your entire life: save the entire world, or your girlfriend of two weeks. Or instead, you’re the teen protagonist of a rom-com, forced to choose between your childhood friend and the most popular boy in school. Perhaps you are a hip-hop dancer, with the opportunity of a lifetime staring you right in the face, but there’s a catch: You may never see your parents again.
What do you do?
All of these are moments of definition. Life-altering decisions that leave you reeling, feeling like everything has changed.
I grew up reading a million stories that contained turning points like these. And at some point, they changed me. Trained me. Through a healthy diet of Matildas and Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potters’ and Percy Jackson‘s, I’ve grown into who I am today.
Through these stories, I was trained to seize the opportunity, and never let it go. That life-changing decision, that holds your life in the balance. Because the ones that get it wrong don’t get to tell their stories. And that is a fate worse than death, because what is putting pen to paper if not a form of immortalisation in the pages of history?
There’s only one problem. How was I supposed to know when that fateful moment came along? That friend I needed to introduce myself to, that competition I ought to enrol in, that application that I never sent out? Which, out of the hundreds of billions of moments that we have lived through, is that moment?
At my extremely seasoned age of fifteen, here is my answer - There is no right moment.
Every moment is the right moment.
This might be confusing, or at the very least underwhelming, but I do not believe a single moment can make or break your entire life. Instead, your present is a culmination of every single choice you have ever made. Every word you have spoken and decision you have taken in some way determines who you are today.
And the thought of this, though slightly disappointing to most of you, is comforting to me overall. It reassures me that even though I believe I have made the worst mistake of my life, I will look back at it a few years on and laugh at the naivety of my former self.
The books that had trained me slowly revealed different worlds. In my dreams, then, were Leisel Meminger, fighting a silent war against Nazis, little boys, and Death himself. In my dreams I saw Celie and her letters to God, her arduous journey and unshakeable faith. I saw Katniss, born into a world of injustice and quiet rage, who burned it all down for love.
They showed me the importance of bravery, and how bad decisions are still decisions nonetheless, because at the end of the day, you are alive. The good moments, the quiet happiness, the little things match every monster you’ve ever faced.
My advice to you, and to myself, is to live your life like every moment is the right moment. Apply for that job, go on that date, save up for that dress.
It’s worked out for me so far.
DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING
They say inspiration can strike anywhere, and well, it did for me. Yesterday, I went out for dinner with my family to an open roofed restaurant with a bar, dance floor, music, and some real delicious food. For me, that strike was a little girl aged as per my assumption nine or ten, on the dance floor dancing the way I used to, the way we all do when we’re happy and free as a bird who just learnt to fly. It didn’t take me a second to question myself - “When did I become such a bore (or ‘mature’)? When did I stop being as free as her?”
I got that answer pretty quickly, for I lost my sense of fun when I grew. Party after party, birthday after birthday, I became too old for this - old enough to become a boring, unconfident, insecure teenager scrolling through the best days of my life, procrastinating everything, and not sensing my inner workings. Realizing it was difficult but the answers to the second question raised more questions. I stopped being as free as her when those glares came in; a girl dancing, laughing, and enjoying life isn’t what I appreciated. I came to terms with the fact that covering myself up wasn’t going to help me. A girl who opens her heart to the world and lives life to the fullest can’t be seen by many. It intrigues them and kills them to see someone happy, especially when they haven’t been given such freedom.
Another question that really triggered me was what my generation was working towards; Gen-Z, as we call ourselves, went through a whole lot, be it a pandemic or the patriarchy. Is our work really going to change minds? Or will the boomers or millennials keep going on until the end of them? What will become of those who always used to say, “Is this what your childhood is? We had childhood memories, we used to play outdoors, we didn’t have any social media or technology to make ourselves insecure, underconfident, and empty.” Feeling sorry or blaming us for what we have, THIS is what we have - a pandemic and toxicity of social media. At the end of the day, they’re not our inventions, they’ve been passed down to us successful boomers and millennials, and we can’t aim to pass it on to future generations. We want to have social media for future teenagers but with all that toxicity gone. We, as Gen-Z, are working, putting in our best efforts, so that when we are old, we can be proud enough to say that we changed the patriarchy or the societal standards. Having all these thoughts I was able to say - Yes. My people’s work will do wonders; even though it will take time, it WILL pay off.
Having these realizations, I was feeling rightfully lucky to be born at a time where I don’t completely own my freedom, but I’m a part of the change; in fact, to all those out there reading this, you are also a part of the change. The change for a better society for my future, maybe my own children, to stay in. Well, I am bold and confident enough to say so, and I encourage all of you out there to know that we are in the making of a better society, so be proud of yourself.
You must be acquainted with fads such as fidget spinners, the floss, and Pokémon Go. Or even pandemic favorites such as baking and WandaVision. The list goes on…
We are surrounded and exposed to so many fads every few months, and whether we realize it or not, we’re helping them gain popularity. I distinctly remember someone showing off their fancy rose gold fidget spinner one year, and the following year someone tried to teach me how to floss. But if I asked you to find your old fidget spinners now, you probably won’t be able to find them. You definitely won’t floss in the middle of the street. You probably have no idea how these extremely laughable-in-retrospect fads start or end - the large majority of fads seem like they would never gain popularity, yet they miraculously do so. As someone who tries her level best to avoid being part of a fad, this thought really plagued my mind: how do so many people fall for such silly products so quickly?
Fads don’t have to be products; they could be new apps, popular items of clothing, new slang, or any such collective behavior followed by a population for a short period of time. It baffles me how and even why people fall for these fads, which one day somehow pop up out of nowhere and then the next day fade into the past, as quickly as they came.
Imagine this scenario: you go over to a friend’s house one day and they’re sporting these new, ridiculously chunky shoes (I won’t specify which ones, but you can take a guess if you’d like). And then you go outside. And over the course of an hour, you see at least 5 other people wearing the same shoes. Do they seem as absurd now? Probably not.
All fads, including the one in the scenario described above, are simple cases of “follow the leader” and “monkey see, monkey do”. We see a large number of people behaving a certain way – buying a particular product or partaking in the newest diet – and it is human nature for us to follow them. This phenomenon is otherwise known as the bandwagon effect (or herd mentality), where people do something for the sole reason that other people are doing it too – regardless of their own opinions. All that matters is that their peers are doing it too. However, this effect is only one way in which fads spread. The actual initiators of a fad are (for the purpose of simplicity and lack of a better word), what I’ll call the “elite”.
The “elite” are those with huge influence over a population, for example a celebrity or a famous YouTuber. Let’s look at fashion trends to understand this idea better. Fashion trends start with their own set of “the elite”; the most expensive fashion brands and their rich customers. The general patterns and designs of the clothes produced by these brands gradually trickle down into the more affordable shops – and into the people who buy from those shops: the average population, us. The styles that we would normally see on a model are now also available to us to wear, so we buy them, thus forming the trend. (If you don’t understand, please go watch The Devil Wears Prada – not only is it a really good movie, but Meryl Streep’s character explains the concept of a fad masterfully)!
A similar pattern is followed for basically every single fad: an “elite” group partakes in certain behavior, everyone who knows them starts too, everyone who knows the people who know the elite start as well, and the behavior gets blown out of proportion.
Once a fad gets going, there are two more aspects that help to greatly boost their popularity. Firms that analyze consumer behavior are quick to identify fads and start producing and marketing these hugely popular products or services. And then there’s social media. Every single fad gets blown out of proportion on social media, which has such a huge outreach. I’m certain that all of the fads I’ve heard of are from people who’ve heard about them on social media (social media even has second-hand outreach!) Fads are promoted to such a point now that it’s not really acceptable to not be participating in them. We all feel a compulsion to be accepted; a compulsion that feeds the belly of the fad beast.
Ironically, social media is also what helps fads decline at such a rapid pace once people stop perceiving them as new. Once people stop participating in the fad, it’s not acceptable for you to be following it either. And then it snowballs from there, until the fad eventually completely disappears.
I thought the answer to my questions about why fads become so huge would be a lot more complicated than what I actually found out. It turns out, fads are just a result of normal human behavior. But I did learn a lesson from this: everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Do something because you want to, not because other people are doing it. That being said, it probably won’t stop people from participating in a fad because sometimes, all we want is to be accepted.
And that’s okay.
- MAITHREYI SRINIVASAN
Just another arbitrary day,
Just for fun she stood on the scale.
The smartest math addict- yes she has the crown,
And to her the result of this number is equal to a mental breakdown.
Triangle, rectangle, round, oval
Normal geometric shapes.
But anorexic models and celebrities
Show that hourglass is the perfect make.
Chloe Ting and Lilly Sabri
Workouts that will make you wail.
Deadly K-pop diets to starve yourself
On this mortal ship she sails.
Braces to get rid of crooked teeth
And have a flawless smile,
Rhinoplasty for that misshapen nose
And other feminine guile.
Previously a dainty innocent girl,
Now substituting sugar with harmful stevia,
She didn’t know how much was wrong with her body
Until she came on social media.
Deceiving camera angles,
Yes, she knew it was all fake.
Yet she got trapped in her insecurity
And in this darkness the exit became faint.
After hours of effort to change her image
“Who am I doing this for?”, she finally asked,
The answer was definitely not herself
And voila her vision was unmasked.
The lock had been decoded
And out the exit she fled with glee
Untroubled and confident,she was finally at peace,
And with her power and wisdom the ones stuck in this trap she freed.