Some Things I Did On The Internet I Don’t Want Anyone To Know About: On Neopets and the Ashley Madison Leak

Some Things I Did On The Internet I Don’t Want Anyone To Know About: On Neopets and the Ashley Madison Leak

In the wake of the Ashley Madison breach, there’s been a lot of talk about the notion of “justified” leaks. In recent memory, “The Fappening” iCloud photo leak in 2014 resulted in a number of celebrities’ private photos making their way on the Web. The Internet was largely outraged and supportive of Jennifer Lawrence—arguably one of the more famous victims—and echoed her sentiments that the photo leak was tantamount to a sex crime, but this time around we’re a lot less concerned about protecting the privacy of some 37 million people whose Ashley Madison account information was leaked by vigilante hackers who took it upon themselves to Hester Prynne all those alleged adulterers.

Now I’m no Josh Duggar fan, and I’m not too keen on Sam Rader, the YouTube dad who siphoned his wife’s urine for a pregnancy test, either, but I do believe that every person deserves the modicum privacy they’re supposed to be entitled to online, regardless of where their behavior may fall on my personal moral compass. I generally embrace the notion that if you don’t want something to go viral, you shouldn’t do/type/sign up for it, but do we really want to live our Internet lives as though hackers might always be watching?

If that were the case, we’d never make another online purchase we were too embarrassed to make at a brick and mortar store. We’d never find the answer to another health question we were too nervous to ask our doctor. We’d never discover new communities. There’s a lot of shady and downright awful stuff available on the Web (e.g. ignorant diatribes on Facebook and zit popping videos), but Internet privacy is something we should all be entitled to (unless you’re up to something illegal, of course), whether we’re ordering a blow-up doll or signing up for a recipe newsletter.

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August 1st is #NationalGirlfriendsDay: This Calls For Mimosas and Mammograms

August 1st is #NationalGirlfriendsDay: This Calls For Mimosas and Mammograms

“So, this might be TMI, but
” is the standard disclaimer for a frank conversation a weird rash, a mole that might be a freckle, a lump that feels lumpier, or a tuft of hair in a place no woman wants to find hair. It goes without saying the ugly truth about a woman’s health issues usually flows as freely as Chardonnay on a girl’s night out when she’s with her friends, but many women are reluctant to raise their concerns when they’re face-to-face with an actual physician snapping on a pair of latex gloves. In a world that still largely regards “women’s health” as being synonymous with “period problems,” these candid conversations shared among girlfriends at brunch or waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar may seem like the stuff of a Redbox movie you regret renting, but they can actually play a significant role in women’s lives.

Outside one’s sacrosanct circle of girlfriends—the trusted ones who have held your hair back after too much tequila and hexed every employer and J. Crew bro who’s ever turned you down—talking about your health is a duty fraught with sweaty palms and an urge to flee. In the doctor’s exam room on that crinkly wax paper table cover wearing nothing more than a hospital gown and socks that don’t actually match in the light of day, every woman has experienced the same tense moment. After the doc scribbles something on your chart that you assume could only be, “Didn’t shave for this appointment,” the final click of a pen warns that it’s time for the question you’ve been dreading: “Have you had any problems lately?”

Initially, you think back to last week when you were in traffic and some jerk with more than five bumper stickers barged into your lane, prompting a Gone Girl-esque trance in which you imagined following him home and becoming his family’s nanny through a series of unlikely circumstances. Over time you’d strategically ruin his life little by little, removing the bumper stickers from his car one-by-one as his success and happiness go down the drain. You just want to confirm with a professional if that extent of hypothetical sociopathic revenge is an appropriate response to a reckless lane changer.

But then you remember how your period was doing weird things a few months ago. Or that headache last week that felt like electric eels were hammering your eyeballs from inside your brain. Or that day your nipple was super itchy. Or the diet you’ve been following lately that’s making you feel kind of woozy sometimes. Even with all these unresolved worries, our standard answer to the problem question is some version of, “Nooooope! Not that I can think of.”

For every one woman with no qualms about discussing everything from her labia to Lyme disease with her doctor, there are several more women who’d rather put their faith in Google and Dr. Oz rather than have an uncomfortable conversation with their physician. Every woman should strive to feel as comfortable with her doctor as her hair stylist or her attorney, but if you’re seeing same doctor who delivered you and diagnosed your chicken pox and for some reason is also the pastor at your church and your mechanic, it might feel a little weird talking with him or her about vaginal discharge. Your best friends may not be medical professionals, but as women we owe it to each other to be informed about what’s normal and what requires medical intervention ASAP and pass that information along the next time one of our former MySpace Top 8 ladies complain of a yeast infectionfluenza sinus strep throat pulled muscleitis.

When you’re celebrating #NationalGirlfriendsDay with drinks and a bootleg copy of Magic Mike XXL, take a second to check in and make sure your friends are taking care of themselves. Don’t assume that because everyone in your squad is posting fire selfies on Instagram or trying Paleo for the third time that health isn’t worth discussing. Ask if your sister’s crazy hours at work are still affecting her blood pressure. Trade pap smear stories. Dish on how your stay active between Netflix binges and happy hours. Find out your friend is handling her anxiety. We’re always moving so fast–buying the Oreos we “forgot,” attempting a fancy DIY Pinterest manicure, debating between Valencia and Lo-Fi, budgeting for our next vacation, working overtime to score that promotion–and health too often falls to the bottom of our I Should Maybe Think About That list. We owe it to ourselves and each other (and our cats, significant others, kids, dying plants, etc.) to be aware of how we’re taking care of ourselves.

 

To help you get the conversation going, Oscar Health Insurance Company has consolidated all the checkups and immunizations that should be on your radar, categorized by age, in an infographic for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oscar is all about their members really taking control of their health and offers their members a variety of services through their app to make sure they don’t wait until the last minute to get checked out. If you’re interested in learning more about Oscar (that’s the health insurance company, not the garbage-dwelling grouch), you can check our their individual health insurance plans in New York and New Jersey. In the meantime, use their checklist to see if you’re taking all the necessary health precautions, and be a good girlfriend on #NationalGirlfriendsDay and pass it along to the ladies in your life. I’m confident mimosas and mammograms could totally become a thing.

Oscar Women's Checkups

 

Instagram Banned #Curvy, And Here’s Why It’s Supremely Uncool

Instagram Banned #Curvy, And Here’s Why It’s Supremely Uncool

In a move that quickly enraged the Internet, Instagram banned the hashtag “curvy” because the tag violated Instagram’s policies and was being used inappropriately to share pornographic material. As a follower of Kylie Jenner on Instagram, I casually stumble upon my quotient of unexpected sexy selfies without needing to explore too much, so I can’t comment on what level #curvy has blighted the application’s sterling reputation. For me, one of the great things about Instagram is that it’s relatively safe to scroll through in public, something that can’t be said of contemporaries like Tumblr or Reddit. On Instagram, I can be reasonably assured that when I look through my feed on the train, I’m going to see more artistic pictures of laptops and coffee than I will penises, and I appreciate that. But going the systemic route and blocking #curvy altogether is a really bizarre way to address a legitimate policy violation problem.

Because #curvy was apparently synonymous with naughty pix, I went on Instagram looking to find images that violate their policies. And I have to tell you, I didn’t have to get too creative to come across a fair number of penises and breasts. The individual offending images have been censored here, because unlike Instagram it just made more sense to me to block individual images rather than striking their hashtags from the record entirely.

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Despite #curvy being blacklisted, images are still allowed to be tagged with #hot, #boobsfordays (which I mean, is that tag ever taking someone to a relatable Julie Louis-Dreyfus meme?), #sexybeast, and countless others that explicitly imply you’re going to come across pictures of some hot person’s naughty parts. It’s weird how prevalent these graphic images are, because Instagram’s policy on pornography and nudity seems pretty straightforward:

You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.

Sure, sounds fine to me. But if you’ve been on Insta lately, it’s pretty obvious the application is cherrypicking when they’re enforcing their policies, and that’s the real crux of the issue. Why make an example of #curvy, a tag that has legitimacy in representing the body positive community on an important social media platform, when #boobsfordays gets to stick around? More to the point, if the issue is the misuse of tags or an effort to filter content that isn’t relevant, why do meaningless tags like #follow4follow have a home there?

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 5.11.40 AM

What community does #follow4follow represent? Who does it bring together, aside from the Instagram users most desperate to raise their follower count? What message does it send, if any? Despite it’s apparent misuse, #curvy contributed to something important, worthwhile, and good, even though I disagree with the notion that “curvy” is interchangeable with “plus size.” Nevertheless, Instagram is an influential platform, and being able to glorify curvy (plus size, whatever, etc.) bodies there is significant.

I really wanted to give Instagram the benefit of the doubt that this epic ban had nothing to do with body policing, but when I searched #thin, I was surprised by what I found. First of all, I received this prompt on Instagram for the first time ever:

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Um, wait. Generally, if an application or website is enforcing strict terms of use, messages like this don’t need to exist because in theory there is no graphic or offensive content to come across. There’s a larger issue here that Instagram is a place where nipples and naked bodies cannot be seen, but images that could potentially promote eating disorders are okay. Personally, I’m of the opinion that an emaciated body is every bit as obscene–albeit for different reasons–as a curvy, sexually-suggestive one, but that’s a different matter.

When I finally got to these #thin images that I fully expected to haunt me, I came across the mother load of Instagram porn (which has been censored for this article):

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Look at all those images violating the terms! And right under our noses masquerading as #thin! Why would #curvy get tossed, but all this #thin porn remains? You can’t tell me the Official Tag Banners at Instagram didn’t search for related tags before making the decision that curvy had to be expunged for the good of Instagram. Clearly, people are using adjectives that often describe bodies to smuggle porn onto Instagram, and if that’s the case, why not ban all those tags? Curvy, thin, stocky, slender, pear-shaped, lithe–they all must go! Categorically ban them all if they’re so subversive, but don’t single curvy out.

Banning #curvy sends a really icky, crawly message, and gives deference to the idea that curvy bodies 1) first and foremost associated with sex above everything else (which isn’t something that should be assumed of any body type/size, if you ask me) and 2) have less right to be seen than some sexy beasts sharing what their stupid penis looks like with a Ludwig filter or #thin people simulating masturbation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that curves resoundingly connote sexiness, but it’s markedly less great (and borderline skeevy) to make a decision based on the presumption that titillation is primary function of curves and furthermore that those curves are somehow more dangerous or less desirable than #thinspiration or all those accounts that tell you how many squats will get you a great butt.

Not cool, Instagram. The next time you take some really weird measure to enforce your policies, do try to keep in mind that hashtags aren’t as precise as the Dewey Decimal system, so #curvy can easily become #curvee, #curvyyyyyyyyyyy, or #curvie, which might indicate you should pursue the individual users who post inappropriate pictures.

Coping With Waistband Gap and Aspirational Attire

Coping With Waistband Gap and Aspirational Attire

I’ve carried my extra weight in my thighs my entire life–ever since my mom struggled to find diapers that didn’t cut into my little baby legs–and believe it or not, losing 120 pounds doesn’t come with the reward of transformed hourglass proportions. I think most people would agree that one part of your body is bigger than the rest of you, it can become a major source of insecurity, and that insecurity only compounds exponentially when fashion turns its back on you, too. I may never be able to look in full-length in full acceptance that my thighs are excess carbohydrate magnets, but the biggest obstacle of my thighsolation is not cellulite or chafing–it’s thwarting the insufferable waistband gap all pear-shaped women have endured at some point.

Waistband gap.
Waistband gap.

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I Can’t Pretend Anymore: Minions Are The Absolute Worst

I Can’t Pretend Anymore: Minions Are The Absolute Worst

Minions. Seven letters once functioned as a broad-spectrum term to describe all the world’s sycophants—or, albeit less notoriously, mini onions—has now become synonymous with those abominable yellow imbeciles from Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. By popular demand, capitalist greed, or generous donation from the National Association for the Advancement of the Color Yellow, an entire feature film devoted to the origin story of these dreadful Minions is coming to theaters July 10th. As someone who normally roots for the underdog, it isn’t without regret that I confess after trying to give them a chance and pretending to tolerate them for entirely too long, I’m ready to admit that Minions are without exception the most grating, insipid characters ever brought to life in a kid’s movie.

Before I continue, it’s worth mentioning that Despicable Me is not a Pixar movie. Perhaps you, like me, assumed all movies using 3D computer animation were either Pixar or Disney, but that is not the case. (Not yet.) It’s entirely possibly that the production company is responsible for the Minions’ lack of appeal: they haven’t been blessed with the magic of the mouse or the jumping lamp. Many of the comparisons I’m going to draw between the Minions and other similar kids’ movie cronies will reference Disney and Pixar films, though it is worth mentioning this is not truly and apples to apples comparison.

Let me begin with the appearance of Minions.

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No One Is Looking At Your Fireworks Photos

No One Is Looking At Your Fireworks Photos

Every year in July, Americans wearing their washed-out flag shirts from 2000 that they’ve kept because they only wear them once per year (unless they recently painted their living room) gather together on an open field with picnic blankets and folding chairs to partake in the Sisyphean task of capturing the best moments of a fireworks show on camera. In a poll conducted by the United States Wasting Time Foundation (USWTF), when presented with a list of most patriotic pastimes, 73% of respondents chose “trying to take good pictures at a fireworks show on the 4th of July” over “listening to Bob Dylan,” “attending a baseball game and actually staying until the ninth inning,” and “proudly singing the chorus to ‘American Pie,’ but mumbling through every other verse.”

Human beings have a long history of being interested in capturing these temporal bursts of color in a format they can keep forever, but ironically never look at these photos after July 5th of the year the photo was taken. So dire was this need to immortalize fireworks on our memory cards and overcrowded photo libraries on our phones that camera manufacturers had to have an important meeting.

Leading Camera Manufacturer: The people want to be able to take pictures of fireworks.

More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: But a dark sky combined with a colorful explosive that’s at it’s most photogenic for about two seconds? For the amateur photographer, it’s impossible to get a good shot!

Leading Camera Manufacturer: You’re right


Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Well, why don’t we try to develop a fireworks setting to match the snow and pet settings we rolled out


More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: That’s a great idea!

Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Only let’s make sure it doesn’t work so all the fireworks just look like the outtakes from an acid trip at an EDM festival.

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Why Going To The Dentist As An Adult Freaks Everyone Out

Why Going To The Dentist As An Adult Freaks Everyone Out

According to those 1-800-DENTIST commercials and a Gallup poll that shows one third of American adults didn’t go to the dentist in 2013, a lot of people are throwing serious shade at the oral care industry. As someone who’s survived braces and who has but one cavity staining an otherwise untarnished dental record, I’ve actually always enjoyed going to the dentist. Maybe it’s because the dentist is one of the few medical specialities that doesn’t insist you step on the scale prior to each visit.

A tooth cleaning is the mouth equivalent of getting your hair washed at the salon without being expected to leave a tip. Plus you get all that free dental loot, like a soft bristle toothbrush, new floss, or the elusive tongue scraper, that all sit ignored on a shelf in your bathroom like the arrowhead exhibit no one visits at the museum. What other medical appointment sends you away with a goody bag that doesn’t include an expensive prescription or some disappointing test results? When it comes to health upkeep, the dentist is about as good as it gets, but for as much as I enjoy getting my teeth scraped with that little hook tool, I’ve noticed that going to the dentist as an adult is a lot more uncomfortable than it is when you’re a kid.

Earning respect at the dentist as a kid is pretty easy if your mom nags you enough to brush your teeth twice a day. As long as you don’t bite the dental hygienist (guilty) or expose how much sugar your parent(s) actually feed you, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be leaving with a sticker and one of those sticky hands from the treasure chest. During every trip to the dentist in my youth, I remember seeing one kid, who you’d describe as “being a handful” in polite adult terms and “being a miserable little twerp who should probably be in a time-out until he’s 45” in all other terms, in the waiting room who would refuse to go in when he was called because he hadn’t finish playing Pacman in the waiting room. Back in the exam area, you could always find an overdressed little girl en route to a family photo appointment at Sears who would start wailing the second the dentist lowered her chair. Most memorably, there was always one kid getting seven cavities filled with a vigil of dental office employees around him, soothing him as he cries and practicing the disapproving looks they’ll give his mother later. With all those grimy dental delinquents around, it was easy to establish a good reputation.

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