Saturday, May 15, 2021

Lifestyle & Culture

India of Light and Darkness

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by Diya Barmecha

The movie, White Tiger was released a few weeks back on Netflix, and  features the child of a rich businessman,named  Ashok played by Rajkummar Rao and his driver Balram played by Adarsh Gourav. In one short scene sitting, setin a small dhaba (restaurant) Ashok after living in the US said to Balram, “You know this is the real India.” However, Balram described India as something else. He said, “There is an India of light and an India of darkness” These two interpretations are made by characters that reside in India, they aren’t able to see India. So how do filmmakers or other viewers interpret India? 

Filmmakers try desperately to show the “real India” but they all end up putting forward the same things and miss out the land of diverse culture and exotic mysteries. The White Tiger, which was based on a 2008 book by Aravind Adiga may not have shown the real India, but at least it featured real Indians. This is one of the few Hollywood movies that was shot in India and comprises only of Indian cast. 

In the past, there have been movies where Hollywood or British actors paint their faces brown to pass as an Indian. For example, in “A passage to India”. Indian representation, however, has come a long way from those days.Even Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which was supposed to be set in India, was shot in Sri Lanka. They showed the “savage” nature of our culture with people eating snakes and monkey brains. Even in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” there was a home for British expats in Jaipur. It may not seem feasible from the view of many Indians, but that’s how the filmmakers and movie industry have visioned it in various movies. 

To truly represent India in all of its truths, one has to live in India. All the films about India that have gotten international attention are film adaptations from books which are written in English. This would mean that the main audience would be international. Other mentions of India primarily the themes of Mumbai’s big slums and New Delhi’s big class divide. Isn’t the real India more than just these themes? Shouldn’t the filmmakers be aiming to capture India is all of its reality — good and bad?

Balram in The White Tiger was right to say that there is an India of light and an India of darkness, but what he failed to mention is that there is a big part of India that is in between the darkness and the light. The movie highlights the struggles of being a part of a lower socio-economic class and how they are pushed around. In the movie this was interpreted as a rooster coop. 

The roosters in a coop at the market watch as each one gets slaughtered and yet they do not rebel or try to break out of the coop because they have accepted their fate. Similarly in India, people watch as the wealthy and the powerful walk over the others and yet they are unable to do anything. Balram has the belief that the culture of a traditional Indian family makes sure that the rooster coop ways are kept alive. This exists because if a servant tries to disobey his master, the master will punish the servant’s family as well. Towards the end of the movie Balram has the realization that to break free from the coop one must be willing to sacrifice everything. Their morality, values, and even their loyalty to their family.

The real India as we can see is an India of light and an India of dark but what many fail to mention is that there can be a transition of many people from the dark parts of India into the light ones. These transitions as mentioned above require the letting go of morality, values and loyalty. The interpretation of real India lies hidden to people in foreign nations as well as people residing in India as well.

Substacks Effect On Independent Journalism

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By Aahana Khemani and Arjun Mehrotra

Technology has been playing a role in multiple different fields and areas. As diverse as the arts, sports, science, or even math! Journalism is a profession that has been greatly impacted by technology. This can be said in terms of printing and publishing physical newspapers, or even having it reach out to more people via the internet. A form of technology, an application to be specific, that has really made a mark in journalism history is Substack. 

Substack is an online platform that allows customers to send digital newsletters and monetize them. It has more than 250,000 paying customers. Substack’s top 10 publishers together bring in a revenue of $7 million, annually. In this article we will be exploring the impact that Substack has had on society, focusing on its influence on independent journalism. 

Substack is one of the world’s biggest sites that focuses on independent journalism, where authors can publish their own work without having to be part of an organization. It allows you to create your own articles and newsletters and gives you your own domain. There are thousands of topics that people write about, from breaking news to their own personal opinions on things like food and movies.

Traditional “newspaper” publishers have also been changing in the past few years. During the pandemic, Substack saw its number of writers increase as more than 30,000 media jobs got cut. Substack and other sites became great ways to receive news. They found that they would get a more wide variety of topics from many other independent authors. “Traditional” journalism has changed into a much wider category where people can simply log on to a site and learn about so much more through many other perspectives. Learning more than just the plain facts which we get from the internet.

While online journalism may not be preferable for all, it definitely has multiple 

In conclusion, Substack has definitely changed the world of journalism for many individuals who enjoy writing and expressing their opinions! 

Using Our Own Cells To Save Us

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By Diya Barmecha

Spinal cord injuries have a possibility of causing damage to the spinal cord. This results in a loss of various normal functions such as mobility and sensations in that area. The main causes for these fatal diseases are trauma like a car accident or a gunshot. Other diseases like Polio or Friedreich’s ataxia can also be a cause. In India, the average incidence of spinal cord injuries are 15,000 with a prevalence of 0.15 million

The World Health Organisation believes that the incidence of SCI increases in developing countries due to the imminent health burden present. However, there is hope for these patients as early research suggests that with infusion of stem cells, these patients will be able to regain the sensations and movements that they had lost. Stem cells can morph into any other cell type. 

Research and studies predict that there will be improvements in the first few weeks of the stem cell therapy. According to a small study, these improvements can last for a total of six months. One small drawback and potential variable to investigate is that the 13 people in the study had injured and not severed their spinal cords. Their main limitations were their loss of motor function and coordination of their bladder and bowel movements. Out of these 13 subjects, 12 had shown improvement in their sensory and motor functions within six months of their infusion. These improvements were quantified by the changes on the American Spinal Injury Association impairment scale which measures the injury severity.

Dr. Griffin Baum, a spine surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital located in New York City who was not a part of this research expresses his excitement by saying, “This is exciting because there are really limited treatment options for patients with spinal cord injury.” 

The researchers in Yale university along with the help of scientists of Japan took the mesenchymal stem cells from participants’ own bone marrow. They multiplied them in a lab and then infused them back after 40 days. These Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells found in the bone marrow’s skin and fat tissue. This type of therapy is called Stemirac. This is approved in Japan since 2018 and still is under controversy due to the lack of the research and data done on it. It is yet debatable how these stem cells minimize or reverse the damages. 

The first and foremost implication is that this method is safe and has had no serious side effects in any of the participants so far. However, the improvements and why they take place are yet to be quantified. These improvements include better mobility in the spinal cord, better sensory functions. This spontaneous recovery until now only occurs in spinal cord injuries according to researchers. Given its less reliable nature Baum has also said that, “I think the results should be taken with a grain of salt, and enthusiasm should be tempered. More research is required to see whether, on a larger scale, these results could be replicated and statistically significant,”

However, according to a professor of radiology and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Mike Modo, “The amazing thing here is that after just a single infusion of stem cells, we are seeing benefits out of six months,” he also continues to mention that an added benefit is that the therapy is done through intravenous infusion which is minimally invasive and comparatively very safe. He adds, “IV delivery is minimal in terms of impact on patients, and that is the big contribution of this paper.” 

Although it sounds superficial now, I believe that in a few years the technology and the will to create something to help the patients suffering from spinal cord injuries will be present. These experiments have only shown improvements in the patients for 6 months for now. However, with more research this duration can increase and maybe we can truly get a cure for this discomfort with the stem cells of a human. There are many researches and studies happening about stem cells and how it is going to change the way we look at technology and medicine. Therefore, in conclusion, despite the pros and the cons, I believe that stem cells could really once and for all put an end to the spinal cord injuries, with more, deeper research.

Intention or Imitation?

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by Diya Barmecha

There have been many articles and opinions about where the influence of movies can take viewers. A movie director’s main aim is to entertain and depict our current society. In doing so, some movies show things that people can get negatively influenced by. There are various Bollywood movies where drinking cigarettes and consuming alcohol, by characters, is shown off the top of my head such as Sanju among others . The warning declaring it to be injurious to health is always present at the bottom of the screen. 

However, the effectiveness of this disclaimer can be questioned. 

This is just one of many problems that arises —  there are many ideas that people, especially the youth of our society, can get influenced by. It doesn’t matter how many “no smoking” ads there are or what the package of the cigarettes says. In the movie it shows a person, with cigarette in hand and enjoying, clearly not bothered by the health complications that can be caused due to the cigarette.

 To see how much actions or things we see can impact us and our actions, an experiment was conducted by psychologist Albert Bandura.

“The Bobo Doll Experiment”. 

Bandurra  wanted to see if social behaviours such as aggression could be acquired from observation. He tested 36 boys and 36 girls between the ages of 3 and 6. Bandura along with Ross and Ross tested with a five point scale how aggressive the children were in the nursery. In the first stage 24 children were shown a video of an adult aggressively playing with a bobo doll. These children were then sent to a room and asked to play with a bobo doll. The next 24 children were shown a video where an adult played with the bobo doll without displaying any signs of aggression. Whereas the remaining 24 children weren’t shown any video and asked to play with the doll.

At the end of the experiment the findings of the psychologists were that the children who observed the aggressive video displayed  increased signs of aggression. Additionally, the children who were not shown any video showed no signs of aggression and played as they would with any toy. This proved that what we see influences the way we think and do things. We imitate what we see in our surroundings. 

An Ajay Devgn film, Drishyam was quite popular among the audience because of the unique script and the tendency to keep the audience on its toes till the very end. This film showed how a father disposes of a body and covers the tracks of the accidental muder committed by his daughter and wife. 

Suraj Harmalkar, a 34-year-old man killed his girlfriend, Amita Mohite and hid the body the same way it was done in the film. While confessing to the police in Boisar he also mentioned that the inspiration was taken from Drishyam the movie. Although the makers of this movie did not intend for this to be the case, there have been many such cases where people have been inspired by movies and imitated negative actions. . A similar case in Kerala’s Malappuram district occurred. A gang of four robbers went and made a hole on the floor and looted the bank of 80 kgs of gold and more than 50,00,000 rupees. They confessed being inspired by the movie, Dhoom.

Although these action-thriller movies entertain many people, do film-makers have to be mindful of their impact on real life?

Reel or Real Life

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By Diya Barmecha

Cinema, something that is used for pure entertainment has now slowly but surely changed its roots to educating and persuading. The Bollywood industry is known for its “masala” or pure entertainment movies. Many have even commented and joked saying you should watch these movies after leaving your brains at home. Biologically not possible but it is necessary to do this because some comedy movies make no sense but with blinds to our eyes we tend to believe it is true. However, there are many movies that educate the audience on what happens in our world. Movies like Panipat, Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and others show us what has happened in our world. 

Even though these movies aim to teach the audience and tell them a true story. The main reason for the movie to exist is to entertain. This is why movies say “Based on a real story” and never “A real story” There are many films that have added facts or hidden some facts to make the story more enjoyable. A recent movie Gunjan Saxena is one such example. This movie that aired on Netflix was the most popular drama movie in 2020, competing with other popular films and series like Masaba Masaba, Emily in Paris, etc. The movie followed the life of Gunjan Saxena as she went ahead to become a pilot at a time where it wasn’t common for women to be pilots. It showed how her aspirations and belief made it possible. It demonstrated her work for the Kargil war and other significant moments in her life. 

However loved this movie was by the audience, the film itself had many facts twisted and changed. This flaw was pointed out by many including the real Kargil Girl, Gunjan Saxena. Facts like she was the first girl in Kargil or that the gender disparity was so magnified were exaggerated. However, like the Kargil Girl said in real life, “The intention of the movie was to inspire people to chase their dreams with hope and positivity, the way I chased mine.”

The movie aimed to inspire and tell the story of a female pilot and it did just that. Hiding behind the creative license the creators of this movie are entitled to do as they please. Since this is a movie and said to entertain they can twist facts as they please even if they give misinformation. Historical movies like Panipat, and Padmaavat also have an exaggerated love story to it so that it intrigues and appeals to the majority of the audience. 

Like many have posed the question, I do so myself and ask, is this moral? Is it right to tell the story of another while twisting the facts? 

The most we as the public can do is to point these mistakes out. After pointing it out and posting about it on social media, the directors, actors, and producers can view your take on their creation. Hopefully, they can make changes accordingly. However legal it is to twist facts due to the creative license it is not right to do so. Narrating the story of a person is a great honour. However when facts are twisted it is not right. Blockbuster movies like Mary Kom and Pad Man have reached great heights and even if they portrayed the story with not much change, it would have had similar viewership. 

The power lies in our hands. At the end of the day, movies are made for audiences like you and me. The only way we will stop getting movies with twisting facts is when we stop watching movies like this. We are left in a world where we are doubting if this is real life or reel life.

Review of Soul

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by Arjun Mehrotra

The newest Pixar movie “Soul” is a really interesting one because it strays away from the popular “Children’s” plot that we find everywhere. You can watch this movie on Disney+

Soul follows the story of Joe Gardener, who teaches music in a middle school and whose passion is jazz music. He wants to become a jazz musician but his mother Libba Gardener, who runs a tailor shop, persuades him to take the band teacher job. He then finds that Dorothea Williams, one of the biggest musicians in the city, wants him in her band! Joe is very excited because this has always been his dream, but when he’s on his way to the gig, he dies…

Joe falls down a manhole and is taken to the “Great beyond” but Joe isn’t ready for death, he wants to get back to that gig because his life hasn’t started yet. So he escapes and is transported to the ethereal “Great Before” where souls are prepped to go to earth. He needs to find a way to escape and get back to earth and on his way, he meets 22. 22 is an interesting character because she’s the pessimist in this story, she doesn’t want to go to earth and says that earth is very dim and dull. Joe however has very differing views and exclaims “I can’t die! My life was about to begin!” and so Joe and 22 fall through the portal that sends souls to earth but during the rush of coming back, 22 is put in Joe’s body and he is turned into a cat. And so begins 22’s discovery of life on earth. In the beginning, she doesn’t understand how human motion works but by the end of their journey she begins to like earth, talking to a barber, and simply walking through the streets of new york. In the end, Joe manages to get his gig and 22 starts her human life. 

This movie is excellent because even though it talks about mature themes like death and the purpose of life, it conveys it all through a style that children will enjoy as well. In the end, it’s all about Joe’s quest to achieve his goal of being a musician, but the small interactions that he and 22 made along the way, is really beautiful. They discover that your “spark” isn’t just your hobby, it’s your way of life. There’s an amazing scene where 22 and Joe sit on a sidewalk and look at the sunlight while leaves float through the air. The look on 22’s face of discovering the warmth and joy of being on earth, really captures the theme of this movie. The moral is that Joe’s goal wasn’t the biggest thing about this movie, it was just about the joy of living. 

Angels And Demons – A Review

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by Tara Hebbar

A 616 page that took me 1 day to read. That sentence itself explains the gripping nature of the book by Dan Brown. Angels and Demons has a fast paced story line and it’s intriguing developments and characters are just some of the jewels in this thriller. Starring Robert Langdon, who is  the protagonist in many of Dan Brown’s books this book not only was a delectable story but also a mini encyclopedia into ancient beliefs and religious wars. 

Set at the CERN, one of the world’s largest physics centers in Geneva Switzerland, the story follows Robert Langdon who is called upon to investigate the mysterious deaths of one of the most reputable scientists at the CERN. Robert Langdon is an iconology and symbology professor at Harvard. While investigating, along with the scientist’s daughter, Robert Langdon gets pulled into a race with time as they look to save the Vatican City and the world’s popes from a  disaster. With near death experiences, kidnappings, threats, deaths, combat, it is almost impossible to put this book down. Each chapter leaves you with no choice but to turn the page. 

My favourite thing about this book is the inclusion of history with religious conspiracies and facts. The mixture of the two seemed so natural and flowed very easily. Together, it weaved the perfect storyline! There was never a moment when something seemed unbelievable and everyone one was to make an assumption, Dan Brown would be sure to disprove it within the next couple of pages. Hence, not allowing the reader to find the book repetitive or over extended by any means. It provided me with a fast paced thriller, but additionally provided me with tidbits of knowledge in a field of learning – Iconology which I don’t come across very often. It explains a lot of things we’ve heard in the past and the things we continue to see and experience in the present.

The only criticism I can give the book is the confusion on the readers part on what is and isn’t fiction. There are a lot of facts that seem real but aren’t. This is a problem I constantly faced while reading and after reading this book. It is hard to differentiate between the two, and with many facts that seem real turning out not to be. Therefore, if one is reading this book, I would recommend fact checking information as they go along. Not everything but facts that they think they will remember and use in the future.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy a good mystery or thriller because this is the paragon of one. It leaves you dizzy with realization and thoughts, and makes you friends and enemies, according to the interests of the protagonists . The book has been written with so much detail and the scenes described so well that I felt as thought I had taken the flight with Robert Langdon, witnessed the murder, fought the antagonists and visited the Vatican myself. Hence, for all the above mentioned reasons, this is a book that would go on the top of my recommendation list for every avid reader.

Ariana Grande is Engaged!

Aahana Khemani and Ayraah Lodha

Ariana Grande, one of the biggest pop sensations of all time is engaged once again! Ariana has had great success so far, and has received several different awards and honours for her musical talent. Her debut album Yours Truly went No. 1 on the charts and the same year, she won the AMA award for Best New Artist. Her talent has allowed her to be asked to perform at the White House Women Of Soul concert. She has inspired so many, she even won the iHeartRadio Music Young Influencer Award! Not only does she possess a flair for music, but also for acting! She’s performed on Broadway, TV and even made an appearance in many role plays of late night shows. However, this article is not about her singing and acting history, but her relationship history. 

Ariana, known as “Ari” to her fan base of millions, was once engaged to comedian Pete Davidson, which came to an end after a messy break up. Ariana has mentioned him in many of her songs including huge hits such as, “thank u, next.” The song featured lyrics such as “Even almost got married, and for Pete I’m so thankful.” She had lyrics about all of the people that she had been with in the past. She also created a song called “pete davidson.”  Fans claim their relationship came to an end as their relationship was moving too fast, after being together for just 5 months, they were engaged, they were both also in serious relationships previously. Pete also 

stated that he began shopping for rings as soon as he met Ariana. However, this relationship came to an unexpected end. Ariana’s family did not approve of Pete, and Pete’s family didn’t approve of Ariana. Seemed like the relationship just wasn’t meant to be, and Pete wasn’t her “True Love.” 

Now Ari is engaged to real estate tycoon Dalton Gomez! After first being spotted making out in a bar in California, Ari confirmed her relationship with Dalton in her music video “stuck with you.” It is also guessed by fans that Ariana’s song “positions” is related to Dalton. However, post dating for approximately one year, Dalton proposed to Ari! Dalton proposed to Ariana with a beautiful ring that had a significant meaning. In one of Ariana’s 2018 social media posts, she posted a picture of a ring with a pearl. The tagline mentioned “nonna had a ring made for me w/ the pearl from grandpa’s tie pin. she says he told her in a dream it’d protect me. <3” The ring that Dalton gave her, had this pearl on it paired with a majestic diamond! 

To conclude,  it looks like Ari and Dalton are happy as can be and are “stuck with each other” forever. Let’s hope their relationship has no “problems.” All jokes aside, let’s hope that they have a strong relationship and are happy together!

A Man Of The Future

by Diya Barmecha

Elon Musk, is one of the most influential and forward thinking people in the world. He has innovated and thought of revolutionary ideas that are going to change the world forever. For this he has received many awards. In 2019 he was awarded the Forbes list of most innovative leaders. In fact, this year (2020), his rocket company launched four astronauts into space. Additionally his company Tesla.Inc is going to the S&P 500 on December 21st. This is a significant moment for the company. However, this isn’t the most exciting news for Elon Musk this year. He has become the world’s third richest man, surpassing  Mark Zuckerberg who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Facebook. 

This year, according to Bloomberg which is a private financial software, data, and media company, Elon Musk has had the biggest gain on the ranking of the world’s 500 richest people. With an increase of $82.2 billion just this year! Tesla had made 15% in after hours trading while the shares of it ended up 8.2% which pushed his fortunes at $7.6 billion to over $109.7 billion. Tesla has been one of Elon Musk’s biggest successes. Tesla, is an electric car and a clean energy company. Their products range from electric cars, battery energy storage from home to grid scale. They also have solar panels and solar roof tiles for options to purchase. The Tesla electric cars use electric motors that have two moving parts and one single speed transmission that have no gears. The system is virtually maintenance-free. This is a car of the future.

Musk, who now owns 20% of Tesla’s shares. His founded rocket company, SpaceX has also had a huge gain of around $90 billion in his fortune. All of which have been this year. SpaceX which was founded in 2002 plans to reduce space transportation cost to enable mankind to colonize Mars. Its full form being Space Exploration Technologies Corp. On November 24, SpaceX launched its 16th Starlink Mission from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Starlink Mission is a satellite internet constellation that is being constructed by SpaceX that provides satellite internet access. This constellation will potentially consist of thousands of mass produced smaller satellites in the lower orbit of Earth that work alongside ground transceivers.
Elon Musk’s wealth could soar even further if he builds Tesla into a $650 billion company by 2028. Knowing Musk’s dedication to his work. We can hope that he is able to achieve this. With this new influx of money we hope he can create much more detailed and intriguing companies. As of now, the only people richer than him are Jeff Bezos who is  the founder of Amazon, he has $184 billion fortune and Bill Gates, Microsoft principal founder with $129 billion. Even with all the money Musk has, he has been a true human as he signed the Giving pledge which is a philanthropic initiative created by Gates and investor Warren Buffet. This encourages the world’s richest people to commit to giving away half their wealth to charity. The entire world can’t wait for what new Elon Musk has in store for us.

Blurring Gender Lines in Fashion

Image via Times ED
Image via Times ED

By Shiva Chopra

The gender binary – male or female, blue or pink, dominant or nurturing has long divided our world, with little space in between. Fashion and style were included in this, of course. Both men and women have been expected to dress in certain ways according to their gender for decades. Women are expected to wear skirts, heels, and makeup. While men are expected to wear pants and suits.

But now, today’s generation is breaking beyond these limited and artificial boundaries and blurring them. Much of this experiment related to fashion has taken place online, where adolescents can feel free to explore and often meet a more accepting audience than they would in real life.

Traditional stereotypes of what is called feminine and masculine fashion are being defied. Boys now embrace skirts and dresses. Online, their peers are usually very supportive, providing tips and inspiration for styling. More than 1.9 million views have accrued from one video of TikTok user @.jvdd wearing a patterned flowy mini skirt that he styles with a baggy royal purple T-shirt and white Nike Air Forces.

This overlaps with the “soft boy” aesthetic, which includes boys wearing designs (such as “pastels, fluffy sweaters, and florals”) that many would consider traditionally feminine. Another trend is “Femboy Fridays,” a weekly celebration of self-identified “femboys.” “Femboys” are male-identifying people who dress in a typically feminine fashion. This is also on the rise.

Girls, on the other hand, wear clothes and styles that might typically be considered masculine. From daddy jeans to athletic wear to oversized tee shirts and shorts. Recently, a rebellion against the tailored women’s T-shirt has been taking place, which many consider uncomfortable. Additionally, as a means of art and self-expression, girls wear natural or no makeup, as well as bold makeup. Gen Z girls use fashion and makeup in any way that makes them happy, which is in direct contrast to their conventional portrayal, as just things women wear to please men.

Of course, this isn’t the first time people in fashion have challenged gender norms. Marc Bain in Quartz, notes that in the 1850s, suffragists pushed for the right to let women wear trousers (at the time, a particular garment called “bloomers.”) For many women who began to work after World War II, wearing trousers became the new standard in the following century. In recent years, on the runway, gender-neutral and androgynous fashions are gradually seen. And yet, the idea that men wear typically feminine clothes is still not generally accepted. That is, maybe until now, when they mostly celebrate “men in skirts,” at least on the internet. Which, is a great start!

This shift in fashion suggests that there is a broader, universal evolution in the way our culture defines gender-with many Gen Z members leading the way. We understand – and accept – that “man” and “female” are not the whole story or even the beginning of it. Many individuals identify as non-binary or do not agree with the gender roles that they identify as. And since Gen Z members also use fashion, style, and beauty as a means of expression, it makes sense that our attitudes toward fashion will also shift as our conception of gender shifts. This generation is creating a society in which gender and fashion are not oppressive, but rather they are empowering, whatever they may mean to all of us.

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