Who You Gonna Call? …Women

Can I just applaud whoever first considered remaking Ghostbusters with an all-female cast? We are so used to these classic images in entertainment and don’t even consider what it might be like to switch things up.

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An exciting, fresh update to a classic movie like this one really gets me wondering what we might be seeing next.

As if you couldn’t tell already, I am a feminist. I believe in equality for every single person on this planet. So I will proudly support any effort that uplifts those who typically get the short end of the stick in society. And when these efforts are ones that are very visible, ones that we can all see and admire, that makes it even better.

As a young girl, I personally never really had strong females going against patriarchal norms. Most often, I’d actually choose to focus on male characters because they were portrayed as much stronger and more important than the minor female characters just present as an eventual love interest for somebody. Even if she did get involved in some action, the man would still seem to overshadow her.

I was probably too young to watch them, but I did watch James Bond movies (I swear, I never knew what they were doing in the bedroom), and again, he was a character who I thought was so cool. I didn’t necessarily focus on the fact that he was a man, but whenever I was pretending I was a cool spy, I never imagined any feminine qualities having a place in that imaginary role. Even watching all of the Indiana Jones movies further convinced me that leading epic adventures was a man’s job.

No matter how subtle these instances may be, they still play a huge impact on how kids grow up viewing the roles of gender in society. Many parents have stereotypes in their head of what to expect in their little boy or girl, what they might like and what is acceptable. When I look back on my own childhood, I feel like I was in an awkward middle ground of acknowledging that I was, in fact, a girl, but definitely exhibiting tomboy-like qualities. I never liked wearing dresses, the color pink, or makeup (and I would run away before anybody could braid my hair), I always preferred animals over baby dolls, and I could play with my brother for hours, even if it was just watching him play video games. Yet I still had a box of Barbies I occasionally touched and a dollhouse in my room. Femininity almost felt like something foreign, that embracing it meant I couldn’t enjoy my favorite things  or be who I wanted to be.

Obviously I am a proud, strong woman today who enjoys the feminine things in life, but it took it a long time for me to realize that there is not just one correct way to be feminine. That qualities of stronger and more demure nature could coexist. The books we read and the media we watch are crucial ways to demonstrate how this is in fact possible.

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This girl’s got spunk, no need for makeup or a lover’s embrace to take on anything. It’s not like it’s great to have companions like Finn by her side, but the movie represents them as equals.

I think it’s very interesting when we do break traditional molds because we often hold very low expectations of these “remakes,” that they will never live up to the original versions. But then every success is just that more noteworthy. Take for example the latest Star Wars saga. (Side note: when the first note of the theme rang out in that dark theatre, I definitely started crying. But anyway.) I, like so many others, was blown away by Rey. She embodies the ideal female character for me that I want other young girls to look up to: a woman who is strong, confident, doesn’t need a love interest to accomplish her goals, and doesn’t let her femininity slow her down in any way. Even the tough Katniss Everdeen still finds herself stuck in a love triangle, and Herminone Granger still tends to hold a lesser role to Harry Potter’s shenanigans.

And why limit challenging stereotypes to just women roles? Let’s see more various races and sexualities in major roles for society to admire, too. The entertainment industry, whether it means to or not, becomes a way for people to try to understand how to play our own roles and characters in everyday life. Fiction becomes inspiration.

I think it would be the coolest thing to see a female James Bond or Indiana Jones. We picture these certain images in our heads, whether we’re visualizing a book or just thinking of a movie, of what we expect from our favorite characters, and doubt ways of shifting those perspectives. When we connect with these imaginary people on emotional levels, letting go of that can be as tragic as abandoning your child. But once we give creators the necessary space to renovate our mindsets into ones more accustomed to embracing diversity. We’ve already made huge progress, but I see much more to come.

So when trouble is in our midst, we don’t always long for a typical white male to save the day. Strong figures, adventurers and superheroes can come in many different packages.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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It All Happened at Summer Camp…

Last week and this week I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to revisit one of my favorite places on earth. Strangely enough, as the title suggests, it’s a summer camp.

When I was younger, I never had an interest in attending summer camps. My first thoughts were of the stereotypical camps out in the woods, living with three other people in a cabin and doing outdoorsy activities. Honestly I imagined every summer camp being the one like the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap.

In seventh grade, I saw a brochure for a camp at the University of South Dakota (where I currently attend) for South Dakota Governor’s Camp for the Gifted. I don’t remember what exactly drew me to wanting to go, but that was the first time I ever considered it. Especially when the thought of leaving home for a week into the unknown conditions was completely outside of my comfort zone. I never even liked sleeping over at friends’ houses, so sleeping in a dorm room with a complete stranger? What was I getting myself into?

And boy, that week at camp was uncomfortable. My first-ever experience living with a roommate, I ended up with a girl a year younger than me but somehow already accumulated an entire box worth of high-end makeup. Very intimidating for awkward little ol’ me. I took some fun classes like musical theatre and caking decorating, but I really didn’t reach too far out of my shy personality. Until Thursday evening the entire camp saw the high school campers (the Ambassadors of Excellence) perform a show they have been working on for two weeks (similar to show choir, but not…anybody who attends either camp knows how hard it is to truly describe it to others) and I was completely hooked. I knew I had to be an Ambassador. I even skipped a year of Governor’s Camp in anticipation for my Ambassador years.

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Little did I know stepping into my first days of Governor’s Camp that my life would ultimately change for the better. That the hardest moment of my senior year of high school would be leaving this place.

Even my first day being an Ambassador, I was a little weary, again not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but I knew it would be worth it. A main message camp stresses is the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone and not being afraid to fail, two things I can still struggle with. When I’m in a place where I feel myself closing up and resorting back to my awkward tendencies, the camp director’s booming voice sounds in my head, “Change happens just outside your comfort zone.” And when I use “keep the faith” when I close every post? Also from camp, the entire quote going something like this: “Keep the faith; the best is yet to come.”

You wouldn’t expect the best to come from a camp where you take some classes, listen to some speakers, participate in some team-building exercises, and spend hours learning singing and/or dancing routines to ultimately put on a show, costumes and all. I have always loved singing and dancing, but for some of these kids, they have never danced a day in their life or seen a piece of sheet music. What draws these kids to a camp like this? The community it creates: many of these kids never meet people they can relate to their hometowns, but at camp, over one hundred like-minded individuals come together, and the mosaic it creates is breath-taking.

When I say the camp really opens you up, I’m not kidding. Late into the camp after a final dress rehearsal of the show, the entire camp grabs their pillows and blankets and sits down to hear the senior members of the group show their vulnerable sides and talk about what camp means to them. This experience is eye-opening as each person opens up about their personal demons and struggles and how a simple thing like camp became their safe haven. You really realize how every single person faces the worst of life’s challenges, but having the messages and people of camp saves them. When my senior year rolled around, even I ended up sharing my personal hardships, many things I have never spoken out loud until then. But I can’t tell you how many hugs I received, or people coming up to me later about how they could relate and how much I inspired them. I tear up just thinking about it. Nothing compares to that feeling. Nothing.

From this camp, the ultimate goal is to regain back funding for gifted programs in the region that are severely lacking. But I think the main takeaway from this camp is that being “gifted” comes in all areas, whether it’s academics, athletics, fine arts or leadership. Gifted kids don’t all look, act or think in the same ways. This small but important minority is as diverse as rest of the younger generation, but these kids possess a drive to think beyond what’s expected.

Lucky for me, I will be writing a feature story on camp and gifted education for my internship, and coming back to the place I love two years later is great but strange. I realize how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time, but I look at these young people with in awe. The first-year campers I met my senior year are now seniors themselves, which is still hard for me to comprehend. But no matter if you’re an alumni camper or have never heard of it before, just spending an hour with these kids, you can tell they are special. They are driving the future forward. They are the ones who will do great things in this world. And I am so lucky to be a part of that.

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Within the first hour of walking around camp from an outside perspective, I am blown away by the spark of creativity and innovation I see in all of these people. I hope my work can do this place some justice.

Simply put, the Ambassadors of Excellence camp, especially my last year, was fantastic. The amazing people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had are irreplaceable. The connections I’ve made are truly of family quality. I don’t know who I would be today without it. It may sound like I’m being dramatic and exaggerating the impact this camp has made on my life, but I’m dead serious.

Have I ranted long enough? No; I will never be able to convey my emotions toward the Ambassadors of Excellence program well enough to fully describe them, but I’ll sure try. For anybody reading this, I hope you stumble upon people in your lifetime who you can relate to on a deep level, who make you think and grow, who support you in your darkest moments and help you celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how far geographically you may be. That is what makes this life truly worth living.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Less of Two Political Evils?

For many Americans, they would say that the country is stuck between a rock and a hard place looking ahead at November’s election. With the Republican National Convention last week and the Democratic counterpart this week, tensions are high regarding the best choice for president. Those from either side of the aisle are weary of choosing either major candidate, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

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Rather than learning about what these candidates stand for, I see way more people in my everyday life complaining about “how bad they each are.” But you can’t expect anything good to come out of not voting at all or not informing yourself on either person.

This year is the first chance I get for voting for president, which is very exciting for me. On my eighteenth birthday, I was impatient to shout my preferred party affiliation from every mountain top. Now that I am a part of the democratic process, seeing so many people doubting this year’s decision aggravates me.

I have been quite young for every other presidential election year, but this year’s process has been a glorified reality drama. So many people are talking about politics, but are focusing on the tabloid-style news updates rather than the issues that really matter. Either national convention is an event tailored to bashing the opponent with every nasty detail they can find.

One specific example I think of is Mrs. Trump’s speech at the RNC that apparently copied Michelle Obama. Yes, the resemblance is notable, but the headlines completely blew up. But in the retrospect of everything else going on in America and the world, how much does it really matter? Going back to my previous blog post about society practically skipping over the grieving process to digest the tragedies that have wreaked havoc on us, from my time looking through social media and what people are talking about, a headline like the RNC speech seems to trend higher than the constant instances of international violence. A bit backwards, if you ask me.

If you thought the parties pulling further apart from each other to their separate corners, you’re right, and at this point, that trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. As long as we’re dedicating our time to bashing each other, we’ll never be able to truly cross the aisle and settle our disputes. Opinions will always vary, but compromise is key.

Do I think a new third party may form for those moderate voters who find difficulties identifying with the polarized versions of our current parties? Absolutely. If Bernie Sanders’s campaign taught us anything, it’s that when citizens come together focused on a purpose, we will make change. Bernie may not be the nominee, but his philosophies are making their way to the DNC and helping people reconsider what has become unfair and corrupt. Every vote and person matters. That’s the definition of a democracy, so if we want it to function properly, we have to take our individual roles seriously.

Back to Trump and Clinton. I’m remaining loyal to my party, but that doesn’t mean I see serious flaws in both people. Nobody is going to be the perfect candidate. If I could vote for four more years under Obama, I would in a heartbeat. But with this hyper-awareness on Trump’s and Clinton’s every move, we’re forgetting that a great leader is nothing without the people backing them up, which in this case is Congress. These Congresspeople are elected to serve each distinct voice in our country, and collectively they make or break a presidency (like the numerous instances of disarray that slowed down many of Obama’s proposals). The president is the public image we think of representing national government, but so many other players are also involved. Take the time to learn about local candidates and choose people who you stand for, even if you don’t want to stand for either presidential nominee.

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Even when I wasn’t as knowledgeable, I always supported and contributed to the Obama administration. I mean, have you really appreciated how much we have accomplished ?

Let’s acknowledge how far we have come in the past eight years, stop blaming each other areas of concern, and focus on the task at hand: choosing the next world leader. This person isn’t someone who simply walks around with paparazzi behind their backs. He or she will make crucial decisions on the direction America will take moving forward. With only a few months left before the big decision, we can’t spend our time on superficial details. We must fill our roles as informed citizens, studying the values and proposals of each candidate and determining who we want sitting in the Oval Office. Educating ourselves is much more than reading the day’s catchy headlines, but delving deeper into their histories and statements.

America needs somebody smart, ready to tackle any obstacle in his or her path with poise and courage. Whoever the country ends up electing, I hope we can set aside our personal hesitations and back up that president. The longer we all spend hating on our commander in chief, the longer it will take to make any type of progress. Again, if you don’t like the either candidate, it’s time to vote for Congresspeople who can bring your unique voice to Washington. And if the president doesn’t perform adequately enough, be ready to take things a little more seriously in 2020.

I may be young, in a demographic that has less-than-satisfactory voting habits, but I take democracy very seriously, as I suggest you all do as well. Then we can potentially look beyond the sensational stories and internet memes to reemphasize the importance of the ballot.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie