11/26 Opinion: Has Legislative Council benefited the school?

On Monday or Thursday, during tutorial, student representatives from fifth period classrooms are called to the auditorium to attend a Legislative Council meeting. Legislative Council was originally created to help strengthen the voices of students on campus, but after three years of having the council, is it really fulfilling its goals? Listen to the podcast below to hear more about Legislative Council.

Legislative Council Podcast

*Whoops, it seems like Tech Helen needs a little help with attaching the actual podcast. Hehe. 😀

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10/26 Opinion: Stanford’s alcohol policy.

 

This little piggy drank a bottle,
This little piggy also drank a bottle,
This little piggy drank from the bigger bottle,
This little piggy drank from a smaller one,
And the first passed out, but the second did too

The last line is all one needs to know and all that matters.

In the uneasy wake of the Brock Turner case, a former Stanford University student who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the school’s campus, Stanford updated its alcohol policy this August. Whether it was in response to sexual assault or not, the alcohol policy is undoubtedly biased and unrepresentative of the students — and most importantly, uneffective.

Stanford’s updated alcohol policy bans containers of hard alcohol, spirits (alcohol content of at least 20% ABV) and distilled liquor in containers 750 millimeters or larger from campus. The ban is a “harm reduction strategy,” limiting the consumption of alcohol, and improving Stanford’s drinking culture.

“When considering a policy, one can look at it through multiple lenses,” wrote George Boardman, Stanford’s vice provost for student affairs. “I challenge you not to focus on the policy as something to be worked around.”

There needn’t be much “focusing” or “working around” at all.
In banning 750 mL (16.93 shots) containers of alcohol, the largest available size is now a “pint,” or 375 mL (8.46 shots) of alcohol. Be it a 375-milliliter or 750-milliliter party, sober freshmen turn drunk in both scenarios.

Certainly, the majority of alcohol retailers may only sell containers 750 milliliter or larger, which will reduce the availability of alcohol. The financial “barrier,” or jump in the alcohol’s cost-per-volume, from larger containers to smaller containers, could potentially turn away students.

Nicknamed by the students as an “open-door policy,” students are requested to leave doors open if consuming any alcohol, and faculty can intervene if things get out of hand. This establishes a sense of freedom for the students, and decreases the need to chug Budweiser in the confines of the bathroom, shrouded in darkness. Simultaneously, faculty have a sense of relief, as they are quickly informed of dangerous situations.

However, in the light of the “hard-alcohol” ban, students may begin “closing the doors” to drink their hard-alcohol, not only losing the sense of trust between students and faculties, but increasing alcoholic behavior “behind closed doors.” For example, RAs may be unable to quickly intervene during a transport.

The alcohol policy, itself, isn’t exactly the tipping point. It is Stanford’s Alcohol and Drug Subcommittee of the Mental Health and Well-Being Advisory Committee’s ten participants behind the policy and their limited diversity. According to Catherine Götze, Stanford student and writer of blog “Cath in College,” the alcohol committee recommended a ban on all hard alcohol in “frosh dorms” — a strategy to decrease transports to hospitals.

However, Gotze and a fellow student were the only undergraduates in this committee of ten and the only ones to vote against the policy, while the eight other non-undergraduate committee members voted for the policy. With the policy influencing all undergraduates, it’s expected — required, really — that a greater percentage of students participate in the voting, so the student voice can be heard and acted upon.

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The policy is geared towards improving the alcoholic atmosphere, and fails to meet the mark. Parallel, in the context of sexual assault, the policy won’t decrease the possibility of rape, either.

Her drunkenness, his drunkenness. Any victim’s drunkenness, any rapist’s drunkenness.
None directly correlate to sexual assault, although intoxication is a significant — but not the
perpetuating-factor. One is raped because of another human being, a predator. In soberness, he or she already perceives women or men as “objects” free to pursue and engage. Thus, when in drunkenness, the predator executes this belief. As to how, who and where a rapist became accustomed to thinking this way, it may be the result of slanderous media, Hollywood’s gender stereotypes or perhaps the beliefs of a father or friend.

Ultimately, it is up to Stanford to unearth the “backstory” of a rapist, instead of fussing over alcohol container sizes.

Ultimately, it is up to Stanford to unearth the “backstory” of a rapist

This new policy is certainly a start to reforming the alcoholic atmosphere. Yet in the grand scheme of “sexual assault,” the alcohol policy is a nuisance and distracts Stanford from the real aggressor: the assaulter’s mental mindset. Their image of “palm trees and golden sunlight” defamed, Stanford University may be feeling unsettled and “raw,” unaccustomed to being out in the open in such a negative way, ravaged by both the public and its own students.

The spotlight has always and will forever shine upon Stanford University, but for academic and athletic achievement.

Policymaking isn’t their strong suit, just yet.

10/21 Opinion: I pledge…

PERHAPS, IN AGES PAST, you actually enunciated the “A” in “America” as a kindergartner, rapt in attention and absorbed by the haze of red, white and blue, repeating “I pledge allegiance…” Yet as years pass and your patriotism subsides, allegiance to America becomes a monotonous routine that has almost no  meaning.

In many states, it is encouraged that public school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. According to government teacher Ben Recktenwald, the California Education Code 52720 states that every public secondary school must conduct daily appropriate patriotic exercises. The reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance fulfills this requirement. In accordance to that law, MVHS opted for the “Historical Thought of the Day” announcements, which are heard daily during fifth period. Fortunately, for MVHS, pressure to pledge allegiance is not so prominent; instead, the sole source of stress is frantically finishing yesterday’s math homework to “In this day in history, Union Troops defeated at Chickamauga seek refuge …”

The Pledge of Allegiance, in itself, isn’t exactly offensive. It speaks to typical universal values of “a nation indivisible with liberty” and “justice for all.” However, the phrase “one nation” unified “under God” is considered controversial because it violates the First Amendment’s oath to “make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

On May 9, 2014, an unidentified family of a student in Boston requested that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts take out the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Ultimately, the court declined the request, because participation in the pledge is voluntary and mainly a patriotic exercise, rather than a religious one. While the family’s lawyers argued the phrase “under God” defies the First Amendment, the children of the family “did not receive negative treatment because they opt not to recite the words ‘under God,’” the decision countered.

In 2015, in Carlisle, Pa., a Wilson Middle School student was refused treatment by the nurse for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. An atheist group later requested apologies from the school district. In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that no child can be forced to recite the pledge, but this decision was obviously disregarded by the nurse.

Of course, “under God,” or any specific phrase of the pledge, isn’t the tipping point. Through the constant repetition, younger children are brought up to believe in only one “American ideal” — unity under God, for example — and fail to utilize or recognize their First Amendment rights of free speech and acceptance of all religions. In all seriousness, if America is the “land of the free,” why are we required to even listen to a single interpretation of the American dream?

priyas-graphic

Also, one must consider if the pledge’s intended effect — patriotic unity— is even acknowledged or apparent in elementary or high school students. Patriotic unison isn’t to be “tamed” or “monitored” by rote memorization or recitation. Rather, a prominent, patriotic attitude should be voluntary. Anyone can recite “justice for all” or “pledge allegiance.” How they feel when they recite it is another matter entirely. Does the flag, a star-stitched cloth or the reciting of a sentence evoke patriotism at all?

Does the flag, a star-stitched cloth or the reciting of a sentence evoke patriotism at all?

When sophomore Sureena Hukko recited the pledge in elementary school, she said, “It never really meant anything to me when I was doing it. I just kind of did it because the school required me to.”

If “I pledge Allegiance” is uttered dispassionately, without any understanding of the patriotic connotations or roots, there is no point for children to say it in the first place.

“They are just going through the motions,” Recktenwald said. “With patriotism, you can’t force someone to love their country, but you can talk about ‘here are all the patriotic aspects, and be aware of the negative aspects.’”

The internet erupted into controversy after Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the National Anthem during a preseason game on Aug. 26. In an exclusive interview with NFL Media, he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” There was a lot of backlash, and a high amount of anger and protest at his “disrespect.”

The first settlers of America were impulsive immigrants who traveled here to follow their own emotional and diverse beliefs. To recite the same sentence every day can never instill the rawness of these American dreams — even if your hand is over your heart.

Written with Vivian Chiang

9/21 Staff Editorial: Beauty Matters. For everyone.

Note to the reader: This article represents the overall opinion of the El Estoque staff.

Illustration by Sara Entezar
Written by Mingjie Zhong, Helen Chao, and Sara Entezar

We have all heard the same, timeworn sayings: “Beauty is only skin deep.” “You are beautiful, just the way you are.” “It’s what’s inside that counts.” And — drumroll — the proverbial classic: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The irony shades black-and-white; while arguing that beauty doesn’t matter, that we are all individually, uniquely, singularly beautiful on the inside, those sayings inevitably shape their own failure by nature of their content. They strive to convince us that we should not care about beauty because it doesn’t matter — and, obviously, it shouldn’t. Yet the opposite is unflinchingly true: Chasing after beauty standards is dramatically apparent in our society.

Because we have all also heard the stories of women undergoing plastic surgery for increased job opportunities. We have heard of girls who suffer from anorexia and related eating disorders to achieve the ideal female thinness, and of the countless hours young girls will spend in front of a bathroom mirror before Prom or a date or even school, applying the perfect accent of eyeliner, the last touch of golden bronzer. And with each of these instances, it is hard not to suspect and recognize another common thread: the unsettling ratio of females to males involved.

But it’s 2016 now, and the voices questioning all kinds of gender gaps in our society have only gotten louder — especially with Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination to presidential candidacy by the Democratic Party. Individuals like Ursula Burns, the CEO of multibillion dollar corporation Xerox, and First Lady Michelle Obama have taken active steps to challenge gender imbalance in the social, economic and political worlds. However, as we fight for gender equalization today, we cannot forget that the strongest symptoms of gender stereotypes manifest themselves in the world of beauty.

And there is a huge imbalance in the way men and women treat beauty standards, and how each gender is, in turn, affected by said standards. There is little question that beauty standards exist for both genders, but we as a society do not place the same importance on these beauty standards for both genders. In a survey of 272 MVHS students, 66 percent of students agreed that the importance of beauty is different depending on gender, and out of 274 students, 72 percent of responders believe that beauty should matter equally for males and females.

However, the discrepancy is nevertheless apparent in the cosmetic industry. Female makeup products are often given glamorous names, such as Maybelline’s “Lash Sensational” mascara, in contrast to men’s more medically-oriented and subtly marketed brands. For example, feminine makeup brand NARS offers a “Radiant Creamy” concealer, while male makeup brand Formen merely names its concealer “Formen’s concealer” — and advertises the cosmetic product as an “essential part of male grooming.”

Grooming. Wearing concealer, Formen seems to say, is basically like taking a shower or washing your hands; you’re just cleaning yourself. The restrained name of Formen’s concealer also tries its best to refrain from being too out there, too loud, too conspicuous. And Formen’s Invisible Blotting Powder is “100 percent translucent and undetectable,” as if male makeup were such an embarrassing commodity.

Yet Formen isn’t alone; most male makeup brands are quick to make the distinction between male and female products, consciously avoiding “colors and terminology that are remotely girly,” writes journalist Brad Tuttle for a Time article. The words “power” and “boost” can also be found in several male cosmetic products — men’s skin care company Jack Black offers makeup products with names like “Repeat Defender” and “Protein Booster Skin Serum.”

If American society really places the same emphasis on grooming and achieving a particular standard of physical appearance similarly in both genders, why is the marketing for male makeup products so much more subdued?

“If American society really places the same emphasis on grooming and achieving a particular standard of physical appearance similarly in both genders, why is the marketing for male makeup products so much more subdued?”

Additionally, according to a 2014 report published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 87 percent of total cosmetic surgical procedures conducted by ASPS certified surgeons that year were on female patients, while the remaining 13 percent of cosmetic surgeries were performed on male patients. Definitions of what “beautiful” means for each gender have been carved out, but these definitions take a much greater toll on women than men.

The correlation between attractiveness and income in the context of gender is also glaring, explains University of Chicago doctoral candidate Jaclyn Wong and University of California, Irvine Associate Professor of Sociology Andrew Penner, in an April 2016 research paper. The two sociologists examined data from a national study of over 14,000 individuals and found that “attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness.” Yet this gap is significantly diminished when factors like grooming — applying makeup and styling hair — are taken into consideration. In Wong’s and Penner’s words: Grooming habits account “for the entire attractiveness premium” in women, but “only half the premium for men.” Another way of putting it: Investing effort into appearance statistically matters more for women than for men.

As a result, women often face elevated levels of social and financial pressure to integrate particular grooming habits into their daily routines. These pressures play a paramount role in the female quest for beauty, because if simply donning powder concealer and eyeshadow can help women attain higher incomes, who would not?

Beauty is inherently tied to social construct and is not as timeless as we may think, journalist David Robson further argues in an article for the BBC. In a 2015 experiment conducted by assistant professor Haiyang Yang from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and Leonard Lee from the National University of Singapore, the researchers found that the more we are exposed to others’ standards of beauty, the more our own personal concepts of beauty change and shift to conform to the status quo. This kind of herd mentality, however, suggests that our sense of aesthetics is not immutable, despite the existence of scientific rationale explaining why we find particular physical traits — such as symmetry — attractive. Fluctuations in beauty standards over time also indicate a certain fluidity in what we find beautiful.

While this kind of herd behavior means that we are especially susceptible to media portrayal of unrealistic body types — think Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body” Campaign — it also offers an encouraging prospect: What we deem beautiful is not strictly fixed, so we retain, to an extent, the ability to mold and alter socially accepted beauty standards.

Ultimately, the value we place today on physical appearance in each gender is far from equal.

And even though male beauty standards do exist, the importance we place upon males for reaching such standards is not as potent as the social pressure on females. Male beauty standards typically exist in the form of hypermasculinity, the emphasization of stereotypical male features, such as aggressive and dominating behaviors, physical strength and sexuality. From the brawny warriors in Ancient Greece to Michael Phelps’s Under Armour ad, in which Phelps lifts weights and huddles in an ice bath, masculinity is imposed on males through selective media and stereotypes of the public.

“From the brawny warriors in Ancient Greece to Michael Phelps’s Under Armour ad, in which Phelps lifts weights and huddles in an ice bath, masculinity is imposed on males through selective media and stereotypes of the public.”

Yet in a 2012 British research study, researchers asked 40 males and 40 females to adjust digital representations of male and female body shapes, until they arrived at an ideal body type for each sex. This final body type for the participant’s own sex was then contrasted against his or her own body. For females, women and men preferred a smaller waist-to-hip ratio and bigger breasts, along with an overall slender and willowy form. The “ideal” body shape for women, according to men, had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.2 — considered underweight — whereas the current United States BMI for women is actually 26.5 — considered overweight — resulting in a shocking difference of 8.3. As for the men, the BMI average of the ideal male type, 24.54, is extremely close to the United States’ actual male average of 26.6. Essentially, while the desired male and female body types both differed from that of the participants themselves, the body shape and BMI of males was already closer to the ideal male type. This suggests that males are held to a “lower,” or more achievable and realistic standard than women, and are on a much more relaxed leash — adhering to beauty standards matters less for men than for women.

In the past few decades, women have made long, historical strides in the United States, and gender roles have never been more balanced in American history — a Pew Research Center article announced, in 2013, that women were the “sole or primary breadwinner” for four in 10 households in America — a figure that quadrupled since 1960. But modern beauty standards are a product of social construct, and the imbalanced pressure to achieve such standards is a fundamentally obscure reflection of our social values. Our beauty standards should positively align with the changing values and trends of our society, and if we’re pushing for gender equalization, we must remember the gender gap in standards of beauty. We have the power to condition ourselves to treat beauty equally in both genders, and to place the same level of import on beauty standards in both females and males.

9/2 Opinion: Soylent, the cardboard milk.

For all the mathematicians out there, the shortest distance from Point A to Point B is not a straight line. In the 21st century, the shortest distance is no distance: your Uber driver at insurmountable speeds (practically teleportation), eager to deposit you at Point B and pick up the other engineer at Point A (Google, of course).

As for 21st century meals, the shortest “distance” from cooking to eating is “just drink Soylent.”

Soylent, founded by CEO and engineer Rob Rhinehart, is a meal replacement available in beverage, powder and snack bar form, formulated to fulfill all of an adult’s nutritional requirements and appeal to on-the-go millennials.

At $2.69 per bottle and $7.14 per bag of powder, the affordability and nutrition replacement Soylent advertises is far-fetched. Four bottles of Soylent, or $10.76, equates to 1600 calories — a day’s worth of nutrients? What sorcery is this? Soylent’s nutritional label even boasts: “While not intended to replace every meal, Soylent can replace any meal.” Considering Soylent’s bioengineered algae and algal oil can substitute everyday “Big Mac lipids,” why, if the Trader Joe’s of the world were to disintegrate, one could still live with a happy, soy-protein heart, in awe of Soylent the Savior! Supposedly.

“if the Trader Joe’s of the world were to disintegrate, one could still live with a happy, soy-protein heart, in awe of Soylent the Savior!”

In all seriousness, considering Soylent nutrients are consumed “alone,” such as Vitamin C without the orange itself, their effectiveness may be dampened, and thus the advertised nutrition of Soylent an exaggeration.

“The [Soylent] design has all the nutrients you need, technically,” biology teacher Kyle Jones said. “Like taking a vitamin pill, the vitamins [of Soylent]are part of a healthy diet, but missing a natural state.”

According to Jones, if one were to chug this “cardboard milk” until his or her deathbed, jaw deterioration and digestive problems are probable.

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Soylent is advertised as a meal replacement and huge time saver. It’s thriving in the high-pressure, time-intensive professions in the tech industry. Even students at MVHS are beginning to take notice of it through word-of-mouth or online sources; junior Sameer Kapur first heard about Soylent through social media.

“I follow a lot of entrepreneurship and tech people through Facebook and Twitter,” Kapur said. “Many of these people endorse Soylent as a meal replacement.”

The reason for this endorsement stems from the lack of time many people have to make meals, or even go out and order food. As people put more time into their careers, “work” becomes a “home” — Google even offers homey nap pods to hardworking engineers — Soylent becomes an attractive alternative to normal food.

Ultimately, Soylent provides a way for someone to simply put powder into a glass, add water and get what the company claims is sufficient energy and nutrients to function. People can stay in the office and work while “eating” dinner, increasing the time spent working. Even people who claim they dislike the taste of Soylent say they might take it just to save time, if they had to. Junior Vedant Sathye said that in a pinch, he would still reach for the “cardboard milk.”

Despite the general positivity the Soylent trend has received, odds are that at least this version of Soylent will die out like most trends do. While the novelty of drinking your meals wears away, Soylent will solely and constantly be judged on its practical benefits. And therein lies the problem with Soylent. Of the people that have eaten it, none would say they would chose the taste of Soylent over regular food. Soylent is at best a utility, a nutritional drink available anytime in the United States and Canada. And it doesn’t really do a good job at that either, considering the questionable nutritional value of this engineered drink — which really renders at least this version of Soylent practically useless, a trend destined to flatline.

If grandpas and grandmas are giving thanks for Soylent on Thanksgiving, instead of turkey, remember that food isn’t solely nutrients: Food creates an intimate, conversational atmosphere, of “How was your day?” and “Eat your vegetables!” Think “Lady and the Tramp,” except Soylent, instead of spaghetti. Cringe.

“Think “Lady and the Tramp,” except Soylent, instead of spaghetti. Cringe.”

“You don’t want to be the person who’s so focused on whatever it is that they don’t even have time to enjoy food,” Jones said. “You’re overbooking yourself or you’re going too fast, too much.”

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight, and mid-midnight snacks are intermissions in one’s heady lifestyle, and sipping Soylent at a computer screen defeats the purpose of “breaktime.” One should not be so antisocial, apologies, so 21st century “savvy,” ubering from work to home in a flash, chugging “cardboard milk” in a deserted cubicle, instead of you, a date and a plate of spaghetti on Valentine’s Day.