Story By: Taylor Lamb

Sometimes I feel as though I need to start referring to myself as a “blackwoman,” one word, so people will stop trying to separate those two parts of my identity. This is a sentiment that has been heavy on my mind these past few months since news of Nate Parker’s old rape case came into the forefront. It was upsetting to see another black male creative, who is making supposedly important media for black people, have a history of mistreating women. The news left me disappointed. However, the online reaction I saw after was what truly devastated me. My timeline was flooded with black men and women (but mostly men) saying the news was false, just another attempt to take the black man down; saying, “bitches lie about rape all the time.” Even worse were the ones who said things such as, “Maybe it’s true, but it doesn’t matter. It was 19 years ago. White men in the entertainment industry do this all the time and no one cares. This movie is more important than that. You need to support your fellow black man!”

Yes. I am black. But ain’t I a woman too?

According to a study conducted by the Black Women’s Blueprint, sixty percent of black girls are sexually assaulted at the hands of black men by the age of 18. That is 3 out of 5 black girls. That is clearly an issue occurring within the black community, deeply affecting black girls. Occurring at the hands of black men, and yet so many people ignore these facts. They say sexual assault is a “women’s issue,” and things such as police brutality are “black issues,” and no one seems to care about the black women standing at the intersection of both. This separation idea makes it easy for black men to brush off Nate Parker’s rape allegations, Bill Cosby’s rape allegations, R. Kelly’s rape allegations. They don’t see rape or sexual assault as something they need to fight against. And their sisters, cousins, mothers, friends– black girls they don’t know but express solidarity with on the Internet when it benefits them– are left to defend themselves, alone in the battle.

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Story By: Madeline Baker

I love a good podcast. Seriously, I listen to podcasts almost everyday when I’m getting ready in the morning, on my way to class, working out, or getting ready for bed. One of my favorite podcasts is This American Life. If you haven’t heard of it, you should really get into it. It’s hosted by Ira Glass and tells amazing stories each week about different people from different backgrounds. One Monday afternoon, I was listening to a particular episode that discussed identity: who we are, and how we define ourselves. A Pakistani-American woman, Mariya Karimjee, began talking about her identity as a female, and how, for a long time, she had never thought about her sexuality and how it related to her identity. At 15 years old, she asked her very conservative Muslim mother if it felt good to have sex. Her mother replied, “No, not for us.” That is when the woman revealed that at 7 years old, her mother had taken her to a local doctor in Karachi, Pakistan, who told her it was time to get rid of “a bug.” That same day, she went to a family friend’s house, lay down on a tarp that was set before her, and held her mother’s hand as the older woman performed a female circumcision. When I heard this story, I sat up on my bed in shock. This was a real thing? People did this to their daughters? How is this humane at all?

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Story By: Pinky Hossain

I am afraid of the dark. When I was young, I didn’t like to sleep because I feared those tiny little colorful beads we see when we turn off the lights. I couldn’t tell them where to go, what to make. They moved on their own accord, dancing to their own mechanisms. They could be beautiful. They made circles or spirals or zigzags, like a display of synchronized swimmers. I remember napping with my mother and telling her that they looked like colorful grains of sugar swirling through the air. Though, more often than not they didn’t dance so gracefully. Sometimes they molded themselves into something cruel, grotesque, overpowering. I saw them writhe and slither into a face I didn’t recognize – an old man with withering, melting cheeks.

I was afraid of being alone in small spaces too. I didn’t like to shower because I was completely isolated. I couldn’t help but imagine that I was the only person in the universe, that reality ceased to exist outside the doors of my bathroom. As soon as I entered, my brother, my mom, my dad, the walls of my house, my neighborhood, my school, my hometown, my country, the world, the universe, the cosmos melted away and it was just me and the violent spray of water beating down on my face. I hated closing my eyes. I saw those intimidating dots, their menacing spirals bouncing, bubbling, thriving around on the inside of my eyelids. I waited for them to zig zag outwards and swallow me into their eternal darkness. They told me that I was unsafe, that I should be ready at any moment to lose any sense of a stable reality.

Eventually, I realized that these fears were small manifestations of a fear of death. I mean it’s a wonder that we’re alive today. Each one of us could die a thousand and more times in a day. Every decision, every minute action, every choice that we make and every choice that our predecessors made were choices that steered them towards our production. I could have been nonexistent at any point in my bloodline. Somehow, Grandma Begum lived long enough to reach the nice marriageable age of twenty-two where she happened to give birth in a deathly political climate just before her husband died. Somehow, her son found the one woman, in a country of eighty million women, who had an egg that would latch on to the two-hundred million sperm cells that were unleashed on one fateful February day. All the universe’s internal and external mechanisms had to have been and have to be working in exactly the same rhythm to produce such a beautiful and original tune for us to dance to at this particular moment. So I must be in a universe where a version of me actually survives the infinite ways I could die. It should be comforting knowing that I die in another space and live in this one, but I dream about my alternate self, dead, in another universe. She doesn’t dance. Instead, she drives a perilous vehicle. She drives and drives, dreaming about dancing.

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Story By: Amber Liu


As the upcoming November presidential election draws near, there has been an increasing push for students at UVA to vote. So, why should you?

I had asked myself this question after failing to “find the time” to register to vote for the primary election back in March of this year. I was busy with classwork, I didn’t know where to go or what to do, and worst of all, I didn’t even think my vote would really matter. I convinced myself voting wasn’t necessary— a decision I wish I hadn’t made.

Coming from an immigrant family whose parents had to work to obtain their citizenship, I failed to realize for a long time just how important it is to have a say in leadership and policy making. My parents take their right to vote extremely seriously, viewing it as a way for them to participate in a fair and honest means of influencing decisions that affect their lives. This is what voting can do. It is true that voting is not a requirement, but voting is a responsibility. When you vote—no matter who you vote for—you are not only fulfilling your civic duty, you are using your voice to affect change.  More than simply being a part of a long-standing tradition, you will be standing for your beliefs and your views. Couple this with millions of voices and remarkable change can be brought about. In fact,3 according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in the 2008 presidential election, the youth vote was decisive in securing Barack Obama’s victory in Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. Without these 80 electoral votes, Mitt Romney would have won the presidency.  Still think your vote doesn’t matter?

Taken from the historical perspective, suffrage has not always been universal . In parts of the world today, the right to vote still isn’t guaranteed, and even if it is, it may not be accompanied by a peaceful exchange of power. For women, African Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities, voting has not been a right easily obtained. It took hundreds of years before suffrage in the United States was finally granted to every citizen, and it remains underutilized. Our generation of young people must live with the consequences of what happens in the next few years. Our opinions matter now and will affect the view, diversity, and progress of our own futures as well as those of the next generation.

Over the past few months, over 50 different media brands have partnered with the nonprofit organization Rock the Vote to give their support for the #OurVoteCounts movement. Rock the Vote works to register young voters and bring young adults to the sphere of politics. Iris is aligning with the #OurVoteCounts movement and wants UVA students to not only vote, but also to make their voices heard. Already, you may have seen   helping students get registered to vote in Charlottesville. It’s a choice you won’t regret.

Register before the October 17th deadline at and we’ll see you at the polls!


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The F Word

Story By: Taylor Lamb

I refer to the beginning of my sophomore year of high school as my “Great Awakening.” That is when I found Feminism. It changed my whole life. I don’t remember much about Pre-Feminist Taylor but I know she was not constantly thinking of the way women are being oppressed, as I do now. She laughed at sandwich-making girls in the kitchen jokes, which gets an eyeroll from me now. She didn’t realize the way things were set up for women and girls to lose, and how the society she lived in wasn’t a big fan of her womanhood. You might be thinking that this awakening doesn’t sound so great considering how a myriad of injustices is the thing I woke up to, but I am so grateful for it. Once I realized I was a feminist, everyone else realized it too. I got a t-shirt that said “This is what a feminist looks like,” which I wore with pride. And my mom bought me a necklace of the feminist symbol, which I never took off. In my mind, everyone had to know I was a feminist. But now, in my third year of college, it’s a label I almost never use for myself. What changed?

Peep the infamous feminist symbol necklace in this photo of me from senior year

The label “feminist” has a long, sordid history. Since the feminist movement in America first began, there has been a negative stigma attached to the word. People thought feminists were crazy, man-hating, witches. They claimed they were only feminists because they “couldn’t get a man.” They
said they were ugly, they were violent, they were homicidal, they were bitter, and just about everything else you can imagine. Almost any insult you can conceive has been thrown against feminists since the Suffrage Movement, as insults are always thrown against people fighting for change.

And that is not merely just a fact of the past. In truth, more recently feminism has become a little more mainstream. Stars such as Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Beyoncé, and more have all proclaimed themselves feminists, which helps take the stigma away and encourages young girls to do the same. However, even now, the negative stigma surrounding the word makes many women afraid to claim it. I do not blame young women who don’t proclaim themselves feminists for fear of stigma. No one wants to be insulted. In fact, I know many women have shied away from even exploring what feminism is because of the negative stereotypes they’ve heard. The fear of the word is very valid.

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