Lighting A Fire In Women

“Gaslighting” is a term that I think few of us have been able to avoid in the last couple of years. It is popping up on news channels, social media outlets, and mental health awareness information all over the world. The definition on Google is simple, “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” But how many of us know about medical gaslighting?

Let me paint you a picture: you are a woman walking into a doctor’s office because you have been feeling unwell for some time and know that there is something deeper going on medically. You sit and have the doctor listen to your symptoms which could be anything but especially concerning emotions, weight gain, or pain. The doctor tells you it’s nothing to be concerned about and when you try to push and say that it’s not normal for you to feel this way, they dismiss your feelings yet again. Maybe in this case this is the first doctor you are seeing for this problem; maybe it’s your twelfth. But you still feel as though you are screaming at them while they are wearing noise-canceling headphones. 

This is something that most women experience in their life. Don’t believe me? Take it from someone who has had it happen to her for over 6 years now. I have chronic migraines, which means that I have a headache every single day from start to finish. I have gone to see specialist after specialist, even traveling across the country to try and get a cure or explanation. Most of these doctors have told me that my symptoms are because of my “womanly hormones,” birth control, I was “being too sensitive,” and so on. At one point one doctor even told me that it was because I was overweight and that if I just lost weight all my problems would go away. That particular doctor told me this at the age of seventeen after I told him repeatedly that I had rapidly gained weight without any change in my pretty healthy lifestyle, and couldn’t shed any pounds despite diet and exercise. His response was a bit of a laugh and throwing at me some pills, that had a side effect of weight loss but no other relation to my symptoms. This included mental lagging which meant that my already struggling grades in school due to my health became worse because I was unable to form sentences due to forgetting words or would forget information for testing even if I had studied for hours and hours. 

Here I am six years later writing an article about medical gaslighting after seeing the term pop up across multiple news outlets in the last few months. These stories told of women that had cancer go undiagnosed because their doctors were unwilling to listen to them or run further testing. This new term of “medical gaslighting” and reading these articles made me feel validated and like I had allies. Writing that down feels a bit sad thinking about it. Why is it that for me to feel like I’m not crazy or don’t need to question what I am feeling, do I have to know that others are going through the same thing? And that those people had to go through cancer, strokes, or chronic illness for me to know I’m not alone?

To answer some of the questions that you may have about medical gaslighting and why it is especially a problem for women I would point you to a book that I discovered because of an article that I read on the topic. This book titled, The Invisible Kingdom by author Meghan O’Rourke was very much eye-opening to me. Though I will warn you, reading the chapter titled “The Woman Problem” will leave most people baffled and ready to smash the patriarchy. Even knowing that “Until recently, most medical research was performed almost exclusively on cisgender men and male animals” according to O’ Rourke. Her book also cites women’s health research associate director, Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, who states, “we literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology.” This alone begins to frustrate me, but as I continued reading I learned that in emergency rooms women are 13-25 percent less likely to receive opioid painkillers as well as having to wait fifteen minutes longer to be seen than men in those emergency facilities. I’ll also point out that O’Rourke says, “When a female patient complains of pain or discomfort, her testimony is viewed as a gendered expression of a subjective emotional issue rather than a reflection of a “hard” objective physiological reality.” 

This is hard to read for me as a woman, knowing that because of my gender a doctor is already not going to take me seriously is like walking into battle already defeated. But I actually have it better than some, because for women of color the statistics are even worse, so though I am screwed for having ovaries I still have a certain privilege for being a white person with ovaries that I must recognize. 

Even still, as someone that does have a serious medical condition that has gone undiagnosed because of doctors who would not listen to me, I know how frustrating it can be. I know the mental toll that it takes on a person to have the medical field, an institution that we are told from a young age will protect us and heal us, tell me that what I’m feeling is in my head and not real. For most people that experience gaslighting, I think we all know what it’s like to question whether we are right in what we feel or we really are crazy. 

I’ve gone through months of doubt because of what doctors say, or insurance companies denying coverage of procedures because I’m “too young and too healthy” to have the condition I do. Making me jump through more hoops to prove myself to them. I’ve had powerful moments of telling my primary care doctor that I’m not asking him to run a test anymore, I’m telling him that he is putting in the order for blood work whether he wants to or not because he invalidated me so long that it put my health at risk. I’m willing to talk about my struggles with others so that no one, especially no other young woman has to go through what I have in order to be heard. At the same time that I am writing this article, this week alone I have had two doctors shut me down and tell me that what I am experiencing is not happening according to their tests. 

So I can’t finish this article with a happy ending, I’m on the other side and taking you with me, point of view. I can tell you what I do know though to try and help anyone reading this in the future if they experience medical gaslighting. Although my message is directed at women, I also hope that men learn something to help themselves too. My tip is to stay convicted; know that you and your health are worth fighting for answers, and if a doctor truly will not listen when you push back, get a new doctor. Period. The fact is that there will be someone out there that will believe you. Wasting your time, energy, and emotional investment on a doctor that is unwilling to assist you is not worth it. I hope that this advice is something that helps someone get the answers and treatment they deserve and feel validated, as I did, if only to avoid being on the bad side of the statistics in the future. 

Spring Break Day Trips for the Adventurous Student

With spring break quickly approaching, many FRCC Westminster students may be dreaming of long days filled with sleep and Netflix shows. But for those of us who can’t afford a trip to warmer tropical destinations yet still dream of some fun activities to fill our days off, I present to you a list filled with the wacky, weird and wonderful things in our own backyard here in Colorado. 

The time estimates that appear next to the towns are given in reference to a starting point from the FRCC Westminster campus, but all can be found with a quick google search to chart your own routes. Make the most of our week off and take some friends to make some new memories!

Paint Mines Interpretive Park – Calhan (2-hour drive)

This is a perfect road trip for people who like the great outdoors and going someplace off the beaten path. Located in a very much middle of nowhere town, which is about 45 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, you cannot even see the amazing landscape from the road or parking lot. A short hike in will reveal amazing views and over three miles of trail to follow that can easily fill an afternoon. This attraction is amazing due to the variation of the rocks that have eroded away, leaving behind the bands of color left behind by different sediments over thousands of years. 

Baldpate Inn (Seven Keys Lodge)- Estes Park (1 & ½ hour drive)

Another spot that can’t be seen from the road is this inn that sits just outside of Estes across the street from a beautiful lake with trails to walk around. When you walk in, just say that you are there for “the keys,” and you will be directed to a room filled with keys of all shapes, sizes, and origins from all over the world. It is free to enter, but stick around for a while and read up on the history of why the keys are collected. It’s also a great place to grab some homemade lunch that truly is the definition of mountain deliciousness. 

Swetsville Zoo (sculpture garden)- Fort Collins  (1-hour drive)

Want something even a little stranger to fill your time? Check out this amazing sculpture garden created just outside of downtown Fort Collins. The sculptor, Bill Swets, loves to transform old metal into living creatures, and the property is filled with so many sculptures to explore it will make for a great afternoon activity. Afterward, head into town and walk around and try some of the great restaurants, maybe even check out the local art galleries while you’re there. 

The Wild Animal Sanctuary- Keensburg  (1-hour drive)

Though this spot is a bit on the pricey side compared to the other destinations to fill your spring break with, it is definitely one worth the trip if you have never been. The tickets for an adult are $50, but that money does go to the operations of the sanctuary, which rescues animals like lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) but is also home to camels, wolves, bobcats, and so much more. Not only are they doing so much to help protect and save these animals from horrible living environments, but they are giving them a place to roam free. The sanctuary has acres upon acres of property out in this rural farm town and visitors get to view the animals from a mile-long suspended walkway above their habitats. A fun little fact: many of the tigers rescued from the zoo that Joe Exotic owned ended up going to this sanctuary. 

UFO Watchtower, Gator Farm, The Great Sand Dunes National Park  (4-hour drive)

These three are all lumped together for a bit of a longer road trip experience, but they are all in the same area and on the way to The Sand Dunes. The UFO Watchtower is an…eccentric stop to say the least. This little igloo-looking hut is surrounded by a bit of a shrine or as they call it a portal that is filled with all the weird wonders that people decided to leave behind for outer space visitors to discover. It’s a great stop to look at the stars at night from the upper deck and maybe even see something out of this world.

The second stop is another strange attraction of course! A gator farm in the middle of nowhere in Colorado may sound a little strange, but these chompy little dudes were brought in to help control tilapia populations at a fish hatchery nearby and came to stay. Visitors even have the opportunity to hold smaller gators for a picture if they are brave enough before walking through to see the bigger gators, lizards, turtles, and other reptiles on the property. 

The Sand Dunes are always a great stop if you are eager for outdoor activities. From sandboarding (think snowboarding but on sand) to hiking the dunes, this natural wonder is a great place to see at least once in your life. Fair warning, be prepared for warm and cold temps, pack sunscreen, and if you are unlucky to be there on a windy day just know that having your legs sandblasted is pretty painful. 

Hope this list provides you with some great starting points for your spring break adventures and let us know here at the newspaper what you thought!

Hollywood’s Return to Noir

Light and shadow, good and evil. Two polar opposites by nature, destined to be apart. But in the world of noir, they are one and the same. 

Currently, The Batman is playing in theaters and thousands are rushing to see the Dark Knight deliver justice to Gotham’s seedy underworld of organized crime. Leaning forward, as Batman emerges from the inky blackness of shadow into the deep glow of the fluorescent lights, with only the rain to accompany the slow footsteps of vengeance. Films about the dark knight have always varied in color and style. From the emergence of Tim Burton’s dark interpretation to Joel Schumacher’s neon-inspired jokey reimaging, only to beget Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. We have seen many different types of Batman, but we have never truly gotten to see him as the world’s greatest detective. A crime fighter that will track his prey through the shadows evaluating every clue, every thread that makes up a tapestry of mystery.

Writer/Director Matt Reeves introduces Batman to his greatest ally and tool. Noir Cinema.  

 The style of film noir started in Germany where the iconic low-key, black-and-white filming was being used in European cinema. It was the French critic Nino Frank who first coined the phrase “Film Noir,” which translates to “black” or “dark film” although initially dubbed “melodramas,” this style of film was embraced by Hollywood during the Great Depression and on into post-World War II. 

This is due to the attitudes and existentialist mindset of America in the wake of two major world-altering events, the emergence of McCarthyism and the growing threat of atomic warfare. This led Hollywood to embrace the idea of the Anti-Hero. With cynical protagonists filled with disillusionment and pessimism, launched into environments filled with fear, violence, and a sense of claustrophobia of the hard world. Combined with the use of awkward angles and using shadows to hide actors, the film style was immediately made an American cinematic legacy.

Noir started as crime and gangster films, then spread into erotic, science fiction, end even horror, not being bound by genre, but by its own style of storytelling. Classic images of noir included rain-soaked streets in the early morning hours; street lamps with shimmering halos; flashing neon signs on seedy taverns, diners, and apartment buildings; and endless streams of cigarette smoke wafting in and out of shadows. Such images would lose their indelibility with realistic lighting or color cinematography. 

The inherent subjectivity of Expressionism is also evident in film noir’s use of narration and flashbacks. An omniscient, metaphor-spouting narrator (often the central character, a world-weary private eye) frequently clarifies a characteristically labyrinthine noir plot or offers a subjective, jaded point of view. 

In other films—such as Wells’s Citizen Kane and Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, the denouement (often the death or downfall of the central character) is revealed in the opening scenes; flashbacks then tell of the circumstances that led to the tragic conclusion. Tension and suspense are increased by the use of all-knowing narrators and flashbacks, in that the audience is always aware of impending doom.

 The heroes of noir generally share certain qualities, such as moral ambiguity, a fatalistic outlook, and alienation from society. They also exhibit an existential acceptance of random, arbitrary occurrences as being the determining factors in life. Although the “hard-boiled detective” is the stereotypical noir hero, the central male characters in film noir range from drifters to college professors. The ethics that these characters espouse are often born more of personal code than true concern for their fellow man.

 For example, Humphrey Bogart (the actor perhaps most associated with the genre) as private eye Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon is emotionally indifferent to the murder of his partner and avenges his death primarily because “when one of your organization gets killed, it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it.”

 Such compassionless pragmatism is found in the noblest, as well as the most tarnished, of noir heroes. The weakest of such characters exhibit an abundance of tragic flaws, often including an uncontrollable lust for duplicitous women. 

Noir women are often characterized as “femme Fatales,” or “spider women;” in the words of one critic, they are “comfortable in the world of cheap dives, shadowy doorways, and mysterious settings.” Well aware of their sexual attractiveness, they cunningly and ruthlessly manipulate their male counterparts to gain power or wealth.

The success of this film style is not resistant to the development of technology and time. Many movies have adopted and improved the style through time. Movies such as Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” made waves as a noir set in color, breaking the literal color bar but telling an in-depth story of corruption and brutality. 

LOS ANGELES – JUNE 20: The movie “Chinatown”, directed by Roman Polanski and written by Robert Towne. Seen here, Jack Nicholson as J.J. ‘Jake’ Gittes and Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross Mulwray. Initial theatrical release June 20, 1974. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Later in 1982, Ridley Scott’s science-fiction drama Blade Runner (1982) revisited the use of set design to enhance the mood, an idea that can be traced back to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

 Richard Tuggle’s Tightrope (1984) features film noir’s theme of disillusionment in a police officer who discovers he is as much an outsider as the criminal he is pursuing. 

Perhaps the best contemporary examples of the genre are Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997), a bleak story of corrupt cops, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), a similarly dark story inspired by the crime novels of James M. Cain. Both films are presented in classic film noir style, the latter in black-and-white. Later examples include Sin City (2005) and Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010) and even Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Even today, we can see the use of this classic form with the writer/director Guillermo del Toro being nominated for an Oscar for his classic noir styled film Nightmare Alley, and the newly released The Batman, a movie written and filmed to emphasize the Dark Knight as the world’s best detective, in a dark bleak Gotham City. With only the sultry and lethal Catwoman to understand him.

 Despite the setting, no matter what the time, film noir is an American art form, and just like America, it draws all to its shores.  

Becoming an Artist, One Panel at a Time

Andy Rodriguez is a twenty-something student at FRCC Westminster who has found a fondness for art. He truly is a bit of a Renaissance man when it comes to his passion. There has never been a second that I have known him when he does not have a sketchpad and pencil within a few feet. Even now, as I sit down to talk to him about his time at FRCC Westminster in Dot’s Diner in Boulder, he is scribbling away, capturing the other patrons as they eat their greasy breakfast.

My first question to him was what made him get into art, and after looking a little stumped and chuckling he replied, 

“This is hard….” 

An answer that is very much signature Andy. Being the humble guy he is, he took a second to think. He told me about how he was on track to be a lawyer, but then he started reading comics around 17 or 18, which really ignited a passion.

“I have a whole list of artists and comic books that started my interest in art. When it came to comics, I love people like Gary Frank, James Jean, and John Buscema and I would later come to admire earlier illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson and Frank Frazetta, and to go even further back I like Caravaggio. He has to be favorite at the moment, so much spirit in his compositions.” he said.

He told me how, when he started reading comic books, he would dig more into the history of the artists and authors of the books which really intrigued him. 

“I could probably talk about anything having to do with comic art, the Golden Age Illustration, or even fine art because of that time in my life that I just wanted to learn more,” he told me.

“So then what is your favorite style of art to do?” I asked.

“I don’t really have a favorite type of style, because I like to play with a lot of different styles and mediums.” He explained, “I think each medium informs what I am doing. That being said, my favorite thing to do is drawing, so line art is probably my answer.” 

This led me to ask about his coming to FRCC Westminster and how he feels he has grown as an artist since starting at the school. He told me about how he was able to gain a lot of training and go at his own pace, with teachers providing resources for his personal development. 

“All of these things allowed me to be more expressive with my artwork and skills.” He continued. 

“So then what class did you most enjoy or find most challenging?” I asked.

“You’re really challenging me with these questions,” Andy replied as he sketched some more and thought a bit.

 He told me that his most fun class was figure drawing, because it is his favorite subject to draw, and he got to have real people modeling for him in class. The most challenging he said was the 3-D art class that he is currently enrolled in because it is a new media for him and a new experience. He talked about how he really appreciates that the teacher in the class pushes his students to do better from project to project.

“So, what are your future goals or plans for your art?” I asked as we wrapped our working breakfast.

“I guess I want to start selling pieces.” Andy reflected, “I am starting to sell originals online right now, but I plan to do prints in the future, too. I am also trying to create more brand awareness by growing my online presence. I guess I’d really like to go into illustrating comics one day.”

“What would you say to students at FRCC Westminster, or anywhere really, that want to pursue art?” I asked Andy, as we paid our bill and started walking toward the door.

“Just do it!” he replied, in a very aggressive Shia LaBeouf impression. “Just kidding haha, but really, they should just go for it.”

I think that is pretty good advice considering it comes from the guy that I could never see him being a lawyer, but I know he is bound for great things in his art career. In his last remarks, he said that if people are interested in seeing his work, they should check him out by googling, “Andy B. Rodriguez Art.” and in his words, 

“They should definitely check out Dot’s Diner cause it is the best!” 

Getting Ready

Enjoy this third place submission for our annual Halloween Short Story contest, written by Luke Mott.

“Why are you dressed like that?” My little brother asks. 

“It’s how you’re supposed to dress for these things,” I answer, tightening my tie. 

“That’s stupid. I want to go outside and play,” he whines. 

“We will later.” I straighten my collar. 

A knock comes from the door. 

“Come in,” I say. 

It’s my Dad, dressed in black, hair tousled, eyes puffy, stinking of booze. “Who are you talking to?” He asks, looking around the room. 

“No one, Dad.” 

“We better get going,” he swivels his jaw, “It’s best we don’t keep your mother waiting.”

Spring Poetry Contest First place winner, Who’s Missing?

Written By Mary Corro

Seated around the table

We are

Each with a place setting

Who’s Missing?

People who look like me

Experience life

Like me

Who’s Missing?

What’s on your plate

Who dished it out

Will you savor it or choke

Sometime we are fed

What we are

Supposed to swallow

Who’s Missing?

At times it’s delicious

Other times revolting

But we taste it, nonetheless

It doesn’t taste like

Any home cooking

I would recognize

Who’s Missing? 

Where are the foods

Of my childhood

Of my family gatherings

What do I answer when my son

Asks what to take to a White Thanksgiving

My reply is tamales and chile

Who’s Missing?

He takes my recommendation

But also prepares a salad, vegetable tray

And pumpkin pie

He returns with

A salad, a vegetable tray

And half a pumpkin pie

Who’s Missing?

Where are the tamales

And chile

I ask

They loved it

I felt included, he replies

We ate our family food

Who’s Missing? 

My son has found

His seat at the table

He plate contains 

His home cuisine and society’s dishes

His family has grown

He is allowed to be welcomed

He is no longer missing!

Great British Baking Show Review

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

If you’re in need of a wholesome reality cooking show to watch, look no further than Netflix’s Great British Baking Show. You can either start from the beginning, or start with the most recent season, which was filmed last year during the COVID pandemic.

All of the bakers had to quarantine before participating, and they couldn’t see their families during filming unless it was over video or on the phone. Despite that, all of the bakers have great attitudes. They are funny and kind to one another and will often stop what they’re doing to help someone else out. In the context of a competition, this comes across as especially touching. You get the sense that they’re genuinely happy for one another when someone gets “Star Baker” (the award given to the best baker of the week) and sad when someone gets sent home.

As far as the baked creations go, because all of the participants live in the U.K., there are some desserts and dishes you probably won’t have heard of if you grew up in America. Each week has a different theme, like “Bread Week,” with three different challenges/recipes for the judges to try. The first challenge is a “Signature” dish, where bakers can practice their recipe for the judges. The next challenge is the “Technical” challenge, where bakers have a vague recipe for a sign unseen dish that they haven’t gotten to practice. The third dish is an elaborate “Showstopper,” where the contestants should wow the judges with a dish that looks and tastes amazing. The contestants are able to practice their showstopper challenges, but it often goes much differently during the competition. There are also a lot of new words to keep track of, like “stodgy,” which is a word the judges use when they think a bread is too thick or heavy.

Now that I’ve watched more than just the most recent season, I can see that the talent varies a lot from season to season. Everyone on the show is an experienced home baker, but in the non-COVID seasons, the participants seem to come up with more complex and intricate dishes to show the judges. It’s possible that in the most recent pandemic season, there were fewer people willing to leave their families.

There’s no shortage of humor, with two hosts who are actors/comedians in the U.K. Matt Lucas, the newest host, has been on Dr. Who and Bridesmaids, among other works. Noel Fielding is a comedian who’s been on IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. They talk to the bakers during filming, sometimes distracting them, which is amusing to viewers and probably less to the competition participants. Viewers also get to know the bakers over the course of the show, with snippets of their lives shown.

With a few more months to go until widespread vaccination, there’s still plenty of time to watch a new show. Who knows, it may even inspire you to make a new dish like scones or pasties.

A review of Desire to Learn’s new app

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

FRCC students who are tired of checking D2L for their grades on their phone’s web browser have a good alternative. D2L now offers an app called Pulse, that students can download and start using on both iPhone and Android. 

The app is straightforward to use, with a simple user interface. After downloading and logging in, you will see a list of your courses. Clicking a course will display the different weeks, and within each week, your course content for that week displays. There isn’t nearly as much navigation to get to “course content” using the app as there is using a web browser on phone or computer.

Students can also use the calendar view by clicking on “Upcoming” on the bottom of the screen. This view will have a week at a time with a graph feature, indicating which days have assignments due and what those assignments are. I found this feature particularly useful for the straightforward display and integration of all courses, instead of just one course. 

Clicking on the “Notifications” tab will let students know when their grades have updated. I found this feature to lack the information that logging into D2L on a web browser provides. On the web browser, it’s much easier to see individual assignment grades. On the Pulse app, there are fewer notifications and clicking on a grade update will redirect to the website within an app, which can be frustrating to interact with.

Overall, Pulse is useful for a snapshot of your weekly work using the “Upcoming” feature and a quick reminder of your weekly work. The app isn’t as useful for doing any assignments, but the web browser on the phone isn’t either. Students still need a laptop to successfully use D2L, but the app is a good complement.