By Furqan Mohamed
Editor - Chika Ojukwu
"Tragedy porn" is essentially the mass influx of images and videos containing people suffering from a traumatic experience. The rise of tragedy porn is something of a sociological phenomenon, brought to us by the rise of modern mass media. When you have tragic images of people from a specific demographic persistently shown during a news cycle, it often encourages people to act. This being because viewers see those experiencing pain as a part of their own community. We share these images and videos because on some level, we understand that media at times can be a force for good. However, it has been seen that this so-called “tragedy porn” can change from caring and defending the vulnerable to privileged people detaching themselves from their suffering.
People often need proof before deciding whether or not to intervene and whether resources should be contributed. Black, Indigenous, and other peoples of colour are often not trusted to be narrators of their own experiences. This means that the burden of proving suffering is on marginalized groups so they can convince people with privilege to help. Not only does this force oppressed and marginalized folks in a position to put their worst moments on display, but it also forces other marginalized people to watch.
Activists are constantly asked, "Why do you specify Black lives?" To answer why, videos of men who look like George Floyd, or young women like Oluwatoyin Salau, must become shared for public consumption. There is a long history of oppressed groups serving themselves on a silver platter in order for the dominant culture to intervene. The obligation of proving that there is pain and suffering almost always lies on victims. The unethicality of that, paired with the effects that "tragedy porn" has on said victims is beyond measure.
To be truly effective with activism, one has to know that harm reduction is as, if not more important than awareness. In a world that makes it increasingly difficult to engage in activism, it is important to realize that we can make subtle differences in the spaces we take up. Harm reduction is a theory that aims to prevent harm in the short term and is quite possible to achieve. Refusing to exploit images of suffering people for likes and retweets by reporting those images is a place to start. We must recognize the fact that for every image and video of a Black/Brown/womxn suffering shared, there is a Black/Brown/womxn who must view that with almost no trigger warning. Not to mention that there are family members who must grieve and cope with violence against their loved ones in front of the public.
Exhaustion can begin to factor in with the excessive inrush of images depicting suffering of Black and Brown people. Ironically, the defense of sharing these images comes from the fact that we want people to act, however, the opposite is truer. Prolific sociologist Robert Merton and other researchers have become known for their theory of “narcotizing dysfunction”. This means that increased media coverage of a specific topic (such as missing and/or murdered Indigenous women in Canada or Black women and men undergoing violence from the police state) actually decreases the plausibility of public action.
Influxes of images and videos that have trauma and violence against people can create sympathy-deadening effects. In the book Distant Suffering by sociologist Luc Boltanski, he introduces the idea that if it is thought that there is too much violence against a certain group, people believe nothing can be done. Images and videos depicting hardship are meant to invoke pity, and sometimes people lose the ability to pity because of exhaustion.
By all means, this does not mean that we should never share photos or videos depicting tragedy. It’s just that when we do, we must be ethical with the way we share them. Progress for Black and Brown people should not come at the cost of their dignity and mental well-being.
Be responsible. Better activism demands this and a better world commands it.
Excerpts of this piece were originally published on Teen Eye Magazine.
Poetry by Amy Liu
When māma used to ask me to sign papers,
I’d drop my Chinese middle name in signatures
and whisper it to myself.
When māma used to pack me leftovers,
I’d hurl them into cafeteria trash
and curl up in hollow Tupperware containers once full.
When māma used to tell me I was pretty,
I’d laugh and cry in the mirror because
of the Eurocentric beauty standards they fed me instead.
But now, I stand.
Back against the willow, lotus feet grounded in soil,
reclaiming the love I lost.
By Maira Ito
Editor — Paola Duran
“What are they wearing?”
“Where can I get it from?”
“Everybody has that gaming console and I don’t want to be secluded.”
Social stereotyping is defined as thoughts that are adopted by specific people and are expected to represent a majority. Our communities morph to the likes of the wide majority, turning it into a social norm, either unconsciously or consciously. For decades, there was a separation within communities on those who were caught up on trends and those who weren’t. Youtube videos, hashtags, Instagram posts and stories, Tik Toks-everything in our modern day is categorized depending on the likes of the generality.
Let me give you an example, to make it a bit easier to understand: thrifting. I’m sure it won’t be super hard to scroll down on my Youtube to try to find at least one person who made a video titled “Thrifted Clothes Haul”. It’s rather humorous really, going back a couple of years ago, when the kid that thrifted was often seen as “poor” and “strange”. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Remember that famous scene from Mean Girls, with (Spoiler Warning), Regina George glorifying a girl’s “vintage” skirt, only to shame it when she turned away? Now this particular trend, transformed into a commodity, something that everybody does, even if they have more than enough money and could just purchase regular store-bought clothes. Loose fitted sweaters, dad shirts and mom jeans-those mixed with some gold jewelry and fancy scrunchies, is what everybody my age is wearing.
However, is it really all that bad? The new trend for the 2020 year, had a more positive impact within our society as it encourages an environmentally friendly mindset and discourages fast fashion. But when do social norms become problematic? Even I, fall short on the constant demand to please the general likes of my generation’s standards, however overall this constant need impacted me more negatively, and here is why.
Growing up all of my clothing and moral beliefs were a product and influence of my grandmother. Having raised me, I paid full attention to the way she talked, to her body language, her tendencies, and her walk. Everything she did was ingrained in my developing mind. After immigrating to a new country, where the world didn’t revolve around her, it took me numerous years to discover“myself”. As a pre-teen, I often found myself manipulating my personality to fit the likes of others, or doing what would catch more friends. I envied the “popular” group, more specifically I envied their handle on their academics, their social implications and their seemingly perfect families.
This resulted in many years of anxiety and introverted behaviour that led to awkward encounters stemmed from constant overthinking and saying things at the wrong moment. This continuous feeling is so socially accepted, it’s ridiculous. It can be something so miniscule as wanting the same backpack or sweater that everybody is wearing, spending needless amounts of money on materialistic items with the purpose of showing off, or more long-term objectives such as choosing a career that’s popular and is socially acceptable, even if it’s not what the person actually enjoys.
Popular trends slowly turn into dictators for personalities, defining the line between popular and anti-social.
Merely getting a better understanding and being awarethat social stereotyping prevails and is a defining and driving force for our generation, will help maintain the anxiety and stress that follow it. One problem of the generality of people that I know is that they put the expectations of others, before the expectations they have for themselves. We worry about what job will make others happy, instead of worrying about how WE think of ourselves. Social stereotyping spans out in more than just the clothes that are popular to wear, it spreads to our career choices, and even our future spouses and relationships. Gaining a better awareness for the issue, is ultimately healthier not only for the individual but for everybody.
Artwork by Teri Anderson
Teri Anderson creates work that looks into the idea of craft in art, textiles, installation and sculpture to create a linear or surreal environment which the audience have to inhabit. The work links to her heritage and how textiles were key in their family history: including sample machinists and pattern cutters. Building on this, Teri proposes an art practise which incorporates a craft based techniques into the art based discipline of installation.
Artwork by Jacqueline Wu
Artists Statement: In times of crisis and strife, we need to take time to really reflect on our inner self in order to muster the courage and strength to hang on. We can then learn about ourselves to develop a stronger mental mindset for the present and future so that we can support each other. I created this piece because I wanted to bare my inner reflection and self and show that it’s ok to not be okay. More than ever before, we need to be able to express our innermost thoughts and emotions in order to create a happier, more connected world with less judgement and more love and empathy.
Jacqueline is a 16 year old artists based in Stoney Brook, New York.
Poetry by Muna Ahmed
My Mornings from Before
I used to dread waking up early in the morning,
Whether it be for school, work, or just simply to go to Quran class
I’d groan at the sound of my alarm,
And act as if it’s fallen on deaf ears
I’d angrily pull the blanket over my face
Just so I can finish that little bit of sleep weighing heavily on my eyes
That is how my mornings used to go
before quarantine of course
But now I wake up early on my own
Just to stare at the ceiling
and reminisce on my mornings from before
I watch the sun pierce its beautiful rays through my drapes
shining my room with serenity
I lose myself in the sun's light
and my heart starts to smile at the sound of birds chirping
It brings me joy,
Because this is how all my mornings go now
But between you and me
I miss my mornings from before
It sounds mad I know
To long for something chaotic when there's peace right in front of my eyes
But, if my calm quarantine mornings have taught me anything
it’s that peace can only exist amongst chaos
And so if my peace just happens to exist within my chaotic mornings
Then I can't wait for the day when I can angrily pull the blanket over my face again
Photography by Raquel Blatter
Raquel is a photographer and artist from Long Island, New Jersey. In this photography series she portrays a persons desire for human connection after being in social isolation.
By Ash Farzaei
Ash is a young, budding 14 year old Canadian photographer who enjoys capturing wildlife. He recently took up photography after gaining inspiration from his older sister and other photographers online. Ash is constantly experimenting with his style and hopes to improve and refine it as he progresses in the future. To see more of his photos, follow Ash on Instagram @tr_ashpics
Taylor Wang is a young artist whose work reflects the unique experiences she has gained in adolescence. Wang hopes to use her art as a vessel to express the fear and uncertainty of growing up as part of an interconnected, socially conscious generation. Through art, she creates open conversation across generations about mental health, identity, and contemporary issues. Find her art on instagram @yingshiart or at http://tayloryingshi.wixsite.com/arts
By Ann Villegas
I don’t know about you but this pandemic is terrifying and I’ve been affected in the utmost negative ways. Even before the city of Toronto shut down for non-essential businesses, the first confirmed reports of COVID-19 in the province already made me uneasy. I felt paranoid that I would catch it. I was worried that my family members would too. Now that we’re all officially in quarantine, I will admit that it wasn’t a smooth transition for me. I did not handle it well. I couldn’t get into the groove of things. I mean, I’ve accepted the situation, I knew how serious this was but I was overwhelmed, all I wanted to do was lie down, sleep and forget I even existed in the world. I vividly remember the first weekend in quarantine where I forced my boyfriend to binge watch Itaewon Class with me (by the way, the greatest K-drama right now) and do nothing. My anxiety was through the roof! This line from Sunny Fitzgerald’s article couldn’t have validated me any better:
Because individual circumstances differ and people process difficult experiences in a variety of ways, psychotherapist Dana Dorfman says, “there’s no ‘right way’ [to get through this], other than allowing yourself to be your own way.”
This was my own way of coping. I feel the need to remind people that it’s okay to do just that — to be. Around this time of already heightened anxiety, I was also noticing all these people on social media documenting their productivity. At 10 in the morning, two people I followed were already in their second workout of the day. It got to the point where I wondered to myself, “Why am I not like these people?! Why aren’t I taking this precious time to work out or do all the things I’ve been meaning to do, too?! Am I not normal?” This is obviously the capitalist part of my brain talking. Spoiler: I’m more than fine. Hustle culture never stops whether we’re in quarantine or not. That’s the problem, not us.
When my anxiety was at its peak a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to focus on myself. I stopped reading the news because it would only upset me. I took a much-needed break from my phone and social media right after working remotely. And I took care of myself. I would take a long shower, do some foundational self-care: skin care routine (masks!), yoga, breathing exercises and read (a lot). It felt so good to unwind and relax. Five weeks into quarantine, it’s safe to say that I have set a routine just right for me.
To clarify, I’m not shaming anyone for taking this time to be productive. Those leveling up with their fitness, pursuing creative projects and spending more time into their hobbies — I literally aspire to be you. I truly stand by it. All I’m saying is, mental health matters too. This doesn’t need to be the most productive time in our lives. There is no “business as usual” so take your time. Feel your feelings and take care of yourself. Especially for those who have underlying mental health conditions, I am with you. For me, my anxiety just doesn’t respond well with this situation. Seeing all this hustle content doesn’t help either. I felt this productivity guilt and it only pressured me to hustle beyond my limits. But we have to understand that we’re in a global pandemic! You have permission to shut this inner drive switch off.
Thousands of people dying from this virus, people’s livelihood are at stake and I feel the most for our essential workers risking their lives at the frontlines. In this dark time we’re facing right now, it’s ok to feel your anxieties and worries of the world rather than what your next big thing should be. It’s a frightening time we’re living in, an uncertain one that looks to be on-going. Take it easy. Your mental health comes first. Do what feels right for you. Wallow up if you need to, but please don’t ever, ever bury your emotions. Process your feelings and work through it.
Fitzgerald, Sunny. “Don't Feel like 'Getting Things Done'? It's Okay Not to Be Productive during a Pandemic.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Apr. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/productivity-coronavirus-pandemic-projects/2020/04/06/742edf54-76e4-11ea-85cb-8670579b863d_story.html.