Heineken’s new ad hailed as the “antidote” to the Pepsi commercial

It’s been widely covered that the Pepsi ad was a complete flop. It was pulled after literally one day, during which it was savagely (and accurately!) berated as being tone-deaf, self-congratulatory, and appropriative of the Black Lives Matter movement while using a white, female model as its medium. The idea that all of America’s culture and race problems could be solved by Kendall Jenner giving a police officer an ice cold Pepsi is one that definitely should not have been allowed to leave the New York office it crawled out of.

This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for Coke to come out of the woodwork with an ad (not starring Taylor Swift) that did not, “miss the mark,” as Pepsi put it. But another carbonated beverage company stepped in and got it perfectly, perfectly right, first. Hi, Heineken!

The ad features three pairs of very different humans: a man who doesn’t believe climate change exists and one who isn’t insane; a man who describes himself as alt-right and a woman who describes herself as a feminist; and a “solemn” older gentleman with conservative views and a transgender woman.

Heineken confirmed to TODAY that the ad, which runs just under four minutes and 30 seconds, is “a real-life social experiment that features real people. We were very deliberate in casting real people with their own views in our film.”

The pairs, without knowing the other’s background and views, must work together to assemble barstools and a bar. Then they are shown each other’s self-introduction videos, where they describe their own ideology. At the point, they have a choice: they can either walk out and never speak again, or they can sit together at the freshly constructed bar and discuss their differences over a Heineken.

What happens is predictable and is about as groundbreaking as a beer commercial can get, but it was exactly what the public needed not only in the riptide of the Pepsi ad disaster, but also in the current state of the world. But why does this commercial work so well to promote unity in diversity, whereas the ad by Pepsi crashed and burned?

I think this ad really showcases what is wrong with passionate opinion-havers of today. Opinionated media is funneled to people via their Facebook likes and Internet search histories. People tend to socialize with others that have the same ideology that they do. In this way, it becomes incredibly easy for them to think that they are absolutely right and everyone else is absolutely wrong, because all they ever see or hear are opinions and, at times, biased research that reinforce their own beliefs. And when people do actually interact with others that have opposing beliefs, it’s usually through some kind of social media war, berating each other in the comments. I don’t think that’s how the UN does it.

In this ad, real people with real opposing views had to sit face to face and confront those views. They were forced to realize that their “enemies” are not simply usernames on a screen, but real people whom they can work with and whom they might have many other things in common with. Most importantly, the ad showcased that people that disagree with one another might be able to find common ground by amicably talking it out like adults. It didn’t take a hot button issue and slap its logo on it, the way Pepsi did. It focused on the actual conversation – and hopefully, many more will stem from this ad and help people see that we all really aren’t so different from one another.

Imagine that. Talking and treating other people like human beings to fix our problems.

In times like these, I’m constantly reminded about a video that rolled around Facebook for a while that really changed my own ideology (I know, ideology changes stemming from Facebook videos probably aren’t super valid but just trust me on this one). In the video, a former CIA Clandestine Service officer sits down with Al Jazeera’s AJ+ to discuss what she’s learned from working undercover in counterterrorism for nearly a decade.

And her main takeaway? “Everybody believes they are the good guy..

“The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them,” she said. “If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not you might’ve made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.”

And that’s something to chew on for a while. It’s applicable in nearly every scenario. Think about others and what they have endured, and put yourself in their shoes before making judgements. We should have learned those skills as children, but at least we have some decent media out there to help steer us in the right direction.

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Posted in Diversity, Pop Culture | 2 Comments

Victoria’s Secret “What Is Sexy” list is trash and here’s why

The Victoria’s Secret “What Is Sexy” list has been getting dragged pretty much since its inception, and this year was no exception. In a shocking twist that no one saw coming, 2017’s “What Is Sexy” list included eighteen white people out of twenty-four categories and absolutely no black or Latina women. Also, every single person save for James Corden, the only man on the list, was roughly 110 pounds soaking wet. Basically, this list was the Vogue “diversity” cover all over again.

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This is what is sexy.

Let’s take a look at the winners:

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The diversity we see here is Vanessa Hudgens, who is half Filipino. They literally have one half of a person of color in the first nine spots.

First of all, the fact that they’re voting Taylor Swift for any kind of award is laughable, given that she has replaced Anne Hathaway as being the woman that the Internet loves to hate. She also hasn’t released a damn album since 2014, so it’s kind of confusing how she can win “Sexiest Entertainer” since it is doubted that people are still entertained by “Bad Blood” and “Shake It Off.” But she fits the mold of young, white, and rail thin, so that might explain things.

But the bigger problem is within the first nine spots, the only diversity is Vanessa Hudgens, who is half Filipino. They literally couldn’t have a single person of color? No one else you could think of? Not Nicki Minaj, not Rihanna, not Zoe Saldana, no one?

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On the second tier, we see a little more diversity. Priyanka Chopra is an Indian actress, Jamie Chung is a Korean-American actress, Victoria Justice is half Puerto Rican, Chrissy Teigen is half Thai, and Olivia Munn is half Chinese. Here’s the problem: what even are these categories?

Sexiest red carpet look? Sexiest festival and street style? The only one that is decent and even kind of lends itself to the woman’s intelligence is Chrissy Teigen with sexiest author. The rest of them just further exemplify the same societal tropes that society has made abundantly clear it is sick of.

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Women disagree with Victoria’s Secret. THIS. REAL. This is what is sexy.

This is the reason why brands like Aerie and Adore Me are giving Victoria’s Secret a run for her money. To avoid the Photoshopping scandals that Victoria’s Secret constantly finds itself in, Aerie made a mindblowingly simple choice: 86 the Photoshop and instead show real, relatable women modeling the clothes, with no retouching. Women everywhere are choosing Aerie over Victoria’s Secret for this reason alone, even besides the fact that their prices are better and their stores don’t look like Valentine’s Day year round.

Which goes back to that awful list. If Victoria’s Secret is claiming to be the authority on what is sexy, they should look beyond the damn cartoon of what they think sexy is. You don’t have to be white to be sexy. You don’t have to weigh less than 125 pounds to be sexy. You don’t have to be 5’9 with abs and long, flowing hair to be sexy. You can just be you. Other companies see that, so why is Victoria’s Secret still acting with an Abercrombie & Fitch mentality?

All in all, this list was a complete white-washing and size-shaming, coming from a brand that is already not doing too hot. Personally, I suggest you spend your money at a store where they sell clothes in your size and they are proud of that fact.

Posted in Diversity, Pop Culture, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Political climate results in lower international student applications

West Virginia University had an all time high of 2,274 international students as of fall 2016, but that number might dwindle if the university follows along the same path of many others in the country.

According to a new report by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, universities nationwide reported a 39% drop in international student applications, especially those from students in the Middle East. Schools like the University of Missouri, University of New Mexico, and Iowa State University have all reported significant drops.

With the new presidential administration’s attempts at banning immigration, as well as their aggression toward DACA students, this seems like an inevitable outcome. But sadly, this might make a huge difference in the funding of many universities, especially WVU.

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International students add to the collegiate experience.

Many students and, obviously, politicians, do not realize the significant impact that international students have on universities. Aside from the undeniable benefits of having international students on a college campus, as it can lead to situations that allow for, can you imagine, learning, international students comprise a very large amount of universities’ budgets each year. For instance, Indiana State University reports that 20% of its revenue comes from international students, even though they only comprise of 8% of the student body.

That’s because at many universities, international students are charged full out of state tuition, fees, room, and board. A lot of those schools do not offer scholarships to their international students, and a lot of them also charge them separate, higher fees for registering Internationally.

At WVU, international students are offered scholarships, although they are very minimal and would only knock off about a quarter of what international students pay each year. For these reasons, it seems imperative that universities keep their international enrollment up.

This is especially true at WVU. The WV state legislature has yet to decide on a budget, but some plans that have come out show that the university could potentially lose $15.8 million in state funding. This was slightly less severe than Governor Jim Justice’s budget plan, which only cut the university by $4.4 million.

WVU has already experienced $96 million in budget cuts over the last five years alone. This is invariably why students see their tuition hike up each year; in fact, it has increased from $3,420 per semester in 2002 all the way to $7,154 per semester in 2016. That’s a 117% increase in just over a decade, just for in state students, not to mention how the increases have affected out of state or international students.

This is not to say that international students simply serve the purpose of bankrolling American universities, but rather it is the irony of the current administration’s tactics surrounding immigrants and their attitude that they bring nothing to this country. Not only was the country built by immigrants, but even today our country depends on them economically, which seems to be all that this administration cares about. If they had had any idea that just how greatly banning brown people would in turn hurt white people, it is questionable as to whether they would have made those actions in the first place.

Maybe after seeing how this affects his target demographic, President Trump will learn that immigrants greatly add to this country, in more ways than just economically.

I wouldn’t hold your breath, though.

Posted in College and University Issues, International/Immigration Issues, Politics | 3 Comments

What it’s really like to date an international student

Almost everyone who has ever attended college, hung out with college students, or has ever been, like, twenty-something knows that the dating scene at this stage of life is insane. There is a plethora of stressful issues that inevitably pop up in almost every college relationship, like: Are we actually in a relationship? if not then; When should we DTR? or; Where do I even find someone who isn’t terrible?

Realistically, we’re all just looking for someone who we can eat Cheetos at 1AM with, whose bed we can collapse into after a long day (or night), and who we can lament our lack of money, abundance of homework, and overall misery with. While it seems like all of that shouldn’t be too hard to find in a human, today’s hookup/play it cool culture makes it pretty difficult at times.

Well, I spoke with a girl who had luckily met someone who could be that person for her, but in finding him she also discovered a whole host of other issues to overcome. Her boyfriend is an international student from the Middle East, and the differences between their cultures and religious views are major points of contention in their relationship.

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A relationship like this was depicted in the 2004 UK film, Ae Fond Kiss

The student asked that I not reveal names in order to avoid controversy.


“Everything about our culture and us is different.”

What ethnicity would you use to describe yourself, and what year in school are you?

I am a female, white American and I am a junior here at West Virginia University.

What ethnicity would you describe your partner as, and what year in school is he?

My boyfriend is Middle Eastern, and he is also a junior.

How did you meet?

We met downtown.

Do you go out together? If so, or if not, what do you do?

We have only been out drinking together once in our 10 month relationship. But we mainly go out to dinner, see a movie, hang out at eat others’ houses or take weekend trips to different cities.

” I am not allowed to post pictures with him.”

What are the cultural differences between you two? For instance, music, food, TV, pastimes, etc.

Everything about our culture and us is different, which is what makes the relationship so challenging. As far as music goes, he loves American music and I have sort of grown a liking to his Arabic music, although I have no idea what it is saying. In our culture, all of the hip hop music is very vulgar and disrespectful towards women. You will not find that in Arabic music, it is all about love and heartbreak, but nothing ever beyond that.

How is your relationship different from relationships in your partner’s home country?

There are no relationships in his home country. Dating is absolutely not a thing in his country, which has taken somewhat of a toll on our relationship. He told his parents about us, which is more than most Middle Eastern Muslims would do.  In his country, it is not always arranged marriages, but you do not date beforehand either. The reason why this is so hard sometimes is because there is no dating, I am not allowed to post pictures with him, in case someone from his country saw it and spread it around. On social media, you will not find a picture of us together. Anyone who does not know me would think I am single, which is why I struggle sometimes with the thought of being hidden.

How do you think your relationship is different from other American relationships?

Things are different because we are an interracial couple. We get stares, and people have even made remarks. Being a Muslim in America is not ideal right now. Also I love to drink. I go out a lot. He, on the other hand, does not drink at all, it is against his religion. Other than that, I do think we are a pretty normal couple. Honestly, we are just two people who love spending time together and eating loads of food.

“Being a Muslim in America is not ideal right now.”

How do others (friends, outsiders) view your relationship? Do your friends or his friends know about your relationship?

The friends that have met him love him because he truly is one of the most caring and giving people I know. I have only met a few of his friends, but they know about me.

Do your parents know about your relationship? What are their opinions if so?

My parents know about the relationship also, and they took it hard at first. I am very open-minded and my parents are trying to be. With the American stereotypes of Muslims right now, my parents were a little iffy. They have never met my boyfriend in person because I live far away, but I discredit their opinions because I refuse to accept opinions on him solely based off of his religion.

Do his parents know about you? If so, what are their opinions on your relationship? If not, what would their opinions be?

His parents do know about me. They don’t understand why he would be in a relationship with a girl who is not Muslim, but they don’t express too much concern because they know when it’s all said and done, he will be with a Muslim woman from his country.

Does religion (yours or his) play a factor in your relationship?

Religion is absolutely the deal breaker of this relationship, which is something we both acknowledged from the start. Once things got more serious, we realized, this sucks. We talked about compromising. He would be okay with living in America to stay here with me, but if he gives up his home country, I have to convert to Islam, and I won’t do it. I am not religious at all. I do not identify with any religion, and I feel like that is a personal journey you must take on your own. It shouldn’t be forced for the sake of the relationship.

“They know when it’s all said and done, he will be with a Muslim woman from his country.”

Do you have any plans for the future together? What benefits or difficulties do you foresee?

We have zero future together post graduation. So, many people ask me, what is the point of being together? I always respond by saying it’s hard to think about, but we are just taking it day by day and enjoying each others’ company. We know we can never end up together, but we love spending time and taking trips together. We have tried breaking up before, but we are so close and do everything together that we decided just to be back in a relationship and enjoy it while it lasts.

Is there anything that you want people to know about dating an international student?

Although this relationship is knowingly going to end, and people think I am crazy for that, it has been an amazing learning experience. I have opened my eyes to so many other ideas and practices and learned a lot about his religion and country. I will admit to say I was a little iffy about the Middle Eastern students on campus before dating my boyfriend, but he has really changed my views and for that I am thankful.


While, of course, the experiences of one person are not necessarily representative of an entire culture (many countries make up the Middle East, and there are many different sects of Islam), this story is very common on the whole in relationships between Muslim men and women of other cultures.

There are innumerable differences in dating across virtually every culture, so it’s important, like it is in any kind of relationship, to set your expectations early and be open about them with your partner.

Posted in College and University Issues, Diversity, International/Immigration Issues | 10 Comments

The San Bernadino school shooting was caused by domestic violence

It’s a sad, sad story that has gradually become the norm in American headlines: “Three people dead in a school shooting.” Only this time, it was not a bullied or troubled student that was the gunman in a high school; a 53 year old man entered an elementary school, went to his estranged wife’s special education classroom, and killed her, also striking two students. One was an eight year old boy who later died from his injuries. He then fatally shot himself.

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Cedric Anderson and Karen Smith were married for 72 days.

At face value, this story is incredibly heartbreaking. It’s the kind of meaningless violence that forces people to ask the question, “why?” And once more information became uncovered, that answer became abundantly clear.

Anderson was a serial domestic abuser who had threatened to kill before.

Interviews with Karen Smith’s mother reported another all too familiar story. Anderson was a great man for the four years Smith dated him. And then they got married and everything went downhill with great speed.

“She thought she had a wonderful husband, but she found out he was not wonderful at all,” Sykes told the Los Angeles Times. A few weeks after their marriage, and a few weeks before their subsequent deaths, Smith wound up moving out of her own home that Anderson had moved into. She stayed with her adult children while she presumably awaited divorce proceedings.

This is a common theme in domestic homicide cases; the victim tries to leave the abuser, or they are successful in their leaving. At or after this point is when 75% of domestic homicide deaths occur. Even more troubling, if the violence occurs in a house with a gun, the chances of the victim being murdered jumps 500%.

And Smith was not the first woman Anderson abused. The police were called to his address on five separate occasions over the span of a year around 2013, and he was later arrested for assault and battery. He was arrested for spousal battery in 2012. In 1993, he was charged with two counts of battery.

If Smith had known these things beforehand, it is doubtful that she would have married Anderson. For situations like this, on commenter had an idea:

It has become very clear that something needs to be done in this subsection of justice.  Politicians and “the media” seem to be much more focused on terror attacks, of which 71 deaths on U.S. soil have resulted from 2005 to 2015. As much of an issue as this is, when that statistic is compared with those of domestic violence, one cannot help but wonder why there is not more legislative or media coverage of these issues.

Three women are killed everyday at the hands of their intimate partner abusers. Something as public as this event was, involving the death of a child, should not have to happen for legislatures nationwide to make a great effort in doing women everywhere a service.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Trump’s administration threatens DACA students everywhere

On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced a new immigration policy called DACA, which stands for Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals. Under this policy, minor children who were brought to the United States illegally with their families are able to apply for the program which allows them to obtain a work permit and attend higher education without fear of being deported when they sign up.

Initial research showed that about 1.7 million people in the United States would be eligible for this program, and since then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administration has admitted more than 750,000 undocumented students into it. However, under the new presidential administration, these students are now living in fear that their newly granted documentation does not protect them against Trump’s immigration policies.

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There are many qualifications that a student must meet in order to qualify for the program, along with a $465 application fee.

The first arrest of a “Dreamer,” which is the nickname for a student with DACA, occurred on February 14th, 2017. The second occurred on March 1st, 2017. These arrests shocked and angered immigration rights activists, but on the larger scale, it called into question President Trump’s recognition of the validity of DACA students’ rights to remain in this country.

The goal of DACA was to take some of the heat off of “low priority” illegal immigrants, or those who have no criminal history and have spent the larger portion of their lives in the United States. In turn, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly referred to as ICE, would be more focused on detaining illegals who are serious or violent felons, and as such pose a greater threat to American society… which is sensible.

A subsequent effect of DACA was giving young, undocumented immigrants a chance at making a life away from crime. Approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools each year. If these students are not allowed to work and they are not allowed to attend higher education, what options are left for them?

Sarah Ma, an international recruiter in West Virginia University’s Office of Admissions, has a very simple answer.

“Crime.”

Ma painted a grim picture of the current situation for DACA students at WVU, one that is certainly represented nationwide. She said that before the current administration, she received contact from DACA students probably once a day, inquiring on how to go about their applying to WVU. But since Trump took office?

“I have not gotten one email,” she said. “These people are hiding now.”

Most universities are open with their DACA policies – they have instructions on how students in these circumstances can apply as well as resources for the students to ensure that they remain eligible. Ma wanted to pursue adding a page like this onto WVU’s admissions website, but she has been forced to wait and see what the current administration’s policies will be before she can promise potential students a future at WVU.

Ma estimates that of the over 2,000 international students at WVU, about 10% of them are undocumented. Over 200 students who believed they could securely attend this university now have more to worry about than simply their studies. In these uncertain times, they are looking over their shoulders in fear that the promise given to them by the federal government will be taken away. They risk being deported to a country that they have not called home in almost ten years, or that they may have never seen.

Congress will be the ones to decide whether these students and workers will be able to safely remain in the United States. For the sake of the 200 WVU students and the hundreds of thousands of others nationwide, hopefully they will act quickly before more Dreamers are detained.

Posted in College and University Issues, International/Immigration Issues, Politics | 2 Comments

Trump revokes workplace protection for women right before Equal Pay Day (no, this isn’t satire)

Equal Pay Day is a symbolic event that is recognized each year. Usually taking place within the first two weeks of April (this year it took place on April 4th), it symbolizes how far women must work into the year to catch up to what men made monetarily in the year prior. This event helps bring to light the gender wage gap in countries around the world.

Apparently blissfully ignorant about such causes, on March 27th, the 45th President of the United States signed yet another executive order, revoking the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order that was put into place by President Barack Obama. Now, it might be just me, but fair pay and safe workplaces really sound like things I want to keep sticking around. They sound rather helpful.

Well, that’s because they are – or, were. The Obama-era order required companies that won federal contracts (which are worth millions and millions of dollars) to follow 14 civil rights and labor laws. These included ones that protected parental leave, attempted to prevent discrimination against women and minorities, helped ensure equal pay for women, and required fair practices surrounding the handling of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Why I, and presumably many others are wondering, is why would a president who said things like:

“Empowering and promoting women in business is an absolute priority in the Trump administration because I know how crucial women are as job creators, role models, and leaders all throughout our communities.”

do this? It is completely beyond me. And the juxtaposition of withdrawing such a crucial piece of legislation that certainly affects women everywhere with the nearness of Equal Pay Day is almost too good for a Hollywood script.

Still, the jury is still out on whether or not the wage gap is actually significant enough to symbolically drag all the way into April. According to some reports, the real Equal Pay Day should occur sometime in early January. This is due to the fact that the formula that is used to devise what day Equal Pay Day will take place on does not account for such factors as occupations, college majors, or length of time in the work place. It uses the unadjusted formula, and it simply compares the salaries of full time” workers. The adjusted formula, which accounts for personal choices that are made by both sexes, puts the actual wage gap at somewhere near 4.8-7 cents… not the 17-22 cent gap that is repeatedly perpetuated by the media.

As caustic as this misinformation might be, the workplace protections that Trump revoked could cause an even greater problem in the lives of working women.

Posted in Politics, Women's Issues | Leave a comment