Inspiration Report

40637403412_d573a0f08a_zWhether you turn on the news or talk to your neighbor, it is hard to escape the divisions carving themselves into the American landscape. Liberals call conservatives evil and heartless. Conservatives call liberals brainless. Millennials blame earlier generations for their struggles. Parents and elders say young adults need to stop expecting a free ride. Radicalized Muslims attempt to murder their friends in their beds. Neighbors turn on innocent Muslims in response. Murder, riots, rape, violence, insults and hate are all that anyone seems to encounter today. Where once differences were accepted and people could agree to disagree, increasingly Americans have told neighbors, friends and even family, “It’s my way or the highway.” In the midst of the cultural breakdown, however, hundreds of thousands of Americans set aside generational, racial and religious differences and came together in the name of a common goal.

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, Americans across the nation took part in “March For Our Lives,” a movement dedicated to student-led activism and tightening gun control laws. The movement was largely in response to the Parkland school shooting on Valentine’s Day that killed 17 high school students.

The official March For Our Lives took place in Washington, D.C. Thousands of people of all ages and ethnicities gathered in the nation’s capital to call for stricter gun laws. Survivors from the Parkland shooting attended as did celebrities such as Paul McCartney. For those that were not able to make it to Washington, there were sister marches all across the country. It is estimated that there were 800 similar events throughout the United States, and the total number of participants is estimated to be between 1.2 and 2 million people.  Every region of the country had at least a few marches, and in Washington, many of the streets surrounding the National Mall were closed to vehicular traffic in anticipation of the march.

The debate about gun control will continue to rage as people argue over how to define the Second Amendment in the modern era. Regardless of whether you are pro- or anti-gun control, however, there is something inspiring about seeing so many people come together. In a time when divisions run deep and those who try to reach out to those of a different political ideology are shunned, a student-driven march of over a million people shows that maybe, just maybe, the rifts in America can heal, and our nation can leave the insults behind and once again learn to agree to disagree.

Selena_Gomez_UNICEF_3,_2012_(cropped)Trolls and haters thrive in the depths of the internet and exist in legions on social media. Their most recent target was a series of pictures of Selena Gomez on a yacht off the Australian coast. The singer was photographed lounging in the sun with her friends while wearing an orange and black miss-matched bikini. Almost as soon as the images hit the internet, people began body shaming Gomez.

Gomez recently underwent a kidney transplant after suffering from lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacked her kidneys. The surgery was successful, but it had complications that required Gomez to have an artery reconstructed. She has since recovered from the surgeries and has worked to become more comfortable with her surgical scars.

“It was really hard in the beginning. I remember looking at myself in the mirror completely naked and thinking about all the things that I used to bitch about and just asking, ‘Why?’” Gomez said. “I had someone in my life for a very long time who pointed out all the things that I didn’t feel great about with myself. When I look at my body now, I just see life. There are a million things I can do ― lasers and creams and all that stuff ― but I’m OK with it.”

When the issue came up again with body shamers on social media, Gomez fired back at them. The singer did not respond with anger or insults but instead with an inspirational video .The video featured a montage of Gomez and her friends enjoying themselves on the yacht with a caption that called out “the beauty myth” as “an obsession with physical perfection that traps modern woman in an endless cycle of hopelessness, self consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of flawless beauty.” Gomez, however, is done trying to meet unrealistic expectations. Her post when on to say that te singer has chosen to “take care of myself because I want to, not to prove anything to anyone.”

The post has gone viral on social media with well over 3 million likes and nearly 60,000 comments. Gomez friend Amy Schumer put up her own post that said she was “inspired” by Gomez. “No striving for another version of yourself,” Schumer’s post said. “Let’s love ourselves today. Just how we are.”

Gomez is merely the latest celebrity to use inspiration or humor to shut down body shamers without adding further fuel to the fire. By answering hate with encouragement and insults with inspiration, Gomez left her haters without something to fight and gave her fans a reason to smile.

32353643692_74f8f4d210_zBarbie has been an astronaut, explorer, athlete and Madam President for years. Now, this classic doll is going to be modeled after real-life women. Mattel’s new line is called “Inspiring Women” and will be filled with Barbie dolls that resemble female role models such as Amelia Earhart and Katherine Johnson. These dolls will be sold in toy stores, but Mattel does not have a precise date for when these inspiring dolls will hit the shelves.

Mattel sees the creation of these dolls as a natural extension of the brand that has had Barbie in dozens of male dominated careers from NASA to politics. “As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honoring its largest line up of role models timed to International Women’s Day, because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president and general manager of Barbie. “Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real life role models to remind them that they can be anything.”

The new “Inspiring Women” line currently includes Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and Katherine Johnson. Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism and Johnson shattered barriers through her work at NASA. Johnson was one of the black women who worked at NASA and calculated dozens of trajectories including the flight of the famous Apollo 11 moon landing. Johnson worked closely with Mattel to ensure that her Barbie resembled her as closely as possible.

Barbie has a second line based on real women as well. The “Shero” line honors 14 modern women who recently broke boundaries in their fields. The current line-up includes “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, Australian wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin, Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim, ballerina Misty Copeland, Olympic gold-medalist Gabby Douglas, Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams, Polish journalist Martyna Wojciechowska and Chinese ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan. Unfortunately, the “Shero” line is not set to be mass-produced or sold in stores, unlike the “Inspiring Women” line. The more popular dolls from the “Shero” line, however, have made it to toy stores in the past.

The “Inspiring Women” line has received some criticism for not giving dolls based on real people realistic proportions. Proponents of the dolls have responded that the dolls are mass produced and made to be sold in toy stores. By giving them the typically exaggerated proportions of most Barbie dolls, the “Inspiring Women” dolls will be able to wear normal Barbie clothes and thus have a greater reach. They will be played with by young girls looking for role models instead of sitting on an adult collector’s shelf.

The “Inspiring Women” line was announced just in time for International Women’s Day and has already garnered a lot of attention. The dolls will come with educational information about the woman they represent and hopefully let Barbie continue to inspire girls everywhere to follow their dreams.

4208306580_118659686e_bThe Olympics are always exciting, but little is more exhilarating than a dramatic upset especially in a sport that is normally dominated by one or two nations. Yet, that is exactly what happened in Olympic curling last week. In the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, John Shuster’s teams finished last and second to last in the Games. He was ridiculed on social media, and his name was made an Urban Dictionary verb for failure.

The joke, however, is on Shuster’s haters. The 2018 U.S. team was consistently on the edge of being eliminated from the tournament, but they managed to defeat the Canadians on Thursday. Canada has taken home the gold in each of the last three winter Olympics, while no U.S. team had ever done better than the bronze. In the eighth of ten ends, however, the U.S. took the lead. The Americans’ eventual two point victory over Canada, however, guaranteed that the Americans would have a record breaking Olympics. At worst, they would take the silver.

The gold medal match was between the U.S. “rejects” and the team from Sweden who defeated the Swiss by six points. The gold medal match was a long back-and-forth game that slowly ramped up the intensity and pressure on all the players. Late in the game, however, the Americans again took control of the game. They used a blockbuster eighth end to seize a five point advantage that Sweden never managed to overcome. The final score was 10 to seven in the U.S.’s favor.

Each end had its own drama, including one end that was so close a special device had to be brought out to measure which stone was closest and thus which team got the point. “We play a game that comes down to millimeters,” Canadian curler, Marc Kennedy commented. “It’s a really…hard game at this level.”

The U.S. team was ecstatic to win the gold especially after starting the tournament well behind the nations who were predicted to win medals. “We’ve played our best when our backs were up against the wall,” said U.S. curler Tyler George. “We took it to another level this week. Usually we’re fighting and scraping to get into the playoffs but for five days we were the best team in the world and we did it at the right time…We always knew we had it in us, but to do it when it matters most is what I’m most proud of overall.”

Shuster called the American team’s win a story of “redemption,” and curler Matt Hamilton said that the win felt “almost unbelievable.” Despite the team’s impossible success, Shuster surprised interviewers when he was ask to pick out a memory that made this victory so sweet. “I look back at 2006 and standing on the podium and getting an Olympic medal and that being one of the most incredible moments of life,” Shuster said. “That’s when I knew that, for me, I wanted to go there, sing my national anthem on the top of a podium.”

Shuster got his dream, and when the national anthem played, he was not singing alone. His “ragtag” team of victorious underdogs joined him in song.