When Rape Culture Infiltrates Summer Camp

If you know me well, you know that I had a life changing experience at summer camp. I worked there for four years — first as a junior counselor, then as a counselor, then as an administrator. I made the most incredible friendships, learned to be a leader, and found the strength I needed to be confident in myself and my beliefs. I have no doubt that I would not be the same person today if it were not for my time at camp.

Summer camp is also where I learned to be proud to be a feminist and where I first came face to face with socially enforced rape culture. I was 20 during my final year at summer camp, and I was working with the most extraordinary group of women. All four female administrators were under age 30, and we worked together with a 40-year-old man who was camp director.

In my previous years at camp, I’d come to know it as a liberal and progressive environment, in which everyone was accepted and listened to. This particular year, we had decided as a staff to take a hard stance on bullying — any reports of bullying or harassment and you’d be kicked out of camp immediately. We’d already expelled one camper after a controversial incident, so it was obvious to all of the administration that we weren’t going to tolerate bullying of any type. Or so I thought.

It was a sunny afternoon when a counselor came to three of us — the youngest three administrators — and told us one of her campers needed to talk to us. Sally*, the camper, was on the oldest girls floor, which was comprised of 15 and 16 year olds. She sat on the bed in her room and told us that one of the teen boys on the opposite floor, Thomas, had grabbed her butt during a game of four square. We were stunned. We told her we’d deal with the situation and immediately went to find Thomas’s counselor, Luke. Luke said he’d talk to Thomas about the incident, then send him to the main office.

When the two administrators and I spoke to Thomas later that day, he was in tears. He had no idea what we were talking about. He swore up and down that he had no recollection of the incident. He wasn’t a particularly conniving or clever kid, so we tentatively believed that he was baffled. We told him that he needed to be more aware of his actions and watch his body more carefully, since he was making girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe. We made our stance on bullying and harassment clear to him and explained that even unintentional actions could count as harassment. Thomas apologized profusely and told us he’d be more aware. We didn’t bring the issue to the camp director because Sally wasn’t comfortable with him knowing.

Two days later, another girl, Mackenzie, approached us and said that while standing in line during a camp BBQ, Thomas had cupped her butt. The three of us were outraged. We informed her that we took her report very seriously and would handle it immediately. We called a meeting with the camp director and the other administrators and office personnel.

“Thomas’s parents need to come pick him up,” we told the other administrators after we explained what had happened. The women nodded in agreement, and the office manager began searching for his file. Our male director, who had blown the previous bullying incident out of proportion, didn’t seem to be on board. He asked to hear the accounts of what had happened multiple times before responding, “Well, boys will be boys. He’s only 16. I’ll have a stern talking-to with him.”

The women in the room were dumbfounded. We simultaneously started spewing information about sexual harassment and assault. One at a time we barraged him with our own stories of teenage harassment, trying to convince him that yes, it was a big deal, and yes, we did need to do something about it.

Actions have consequences, we told him, and both the butt-toucher and the teenage girls needed to know that. If we do nothing, we told him, the girls will see that even in a liberal and accepting environment, boys can get away with whatever they want. If we “give him a stern talking-to,” we explained, he’ll understand that harassment gets you a slap on the wrist, and the girls will understand that their comfort and safety doesn’t matter. If they, god forbid, get assaulted down the road, they won’t tell anyone. They’ll think that silence is safer and speaking out does nothing. They’ll tell their friends, and the cycle of institutional rape culture will continue.

For 40 minutes, our boss argued with us, claiming that this wasn’t as severe of a situation as we were making it out to be. Eventually, we wore him down. He called Thomas’s parents. Since they lived 4 hours away, though, and camp was ending the next day, he agreed they could just come get him at the normal scheduled pickup time. As a punishment instead, Thomas wouldn’t be allowed to attend the final dance, our boss told us.

There was clearly nothing we could do to change the situation, so we told the director that Thomas would need to sit in the nearby lounge so we could keep an eye on him. “Well that’s not fair,” our boss responded, “he’ll feel like a zoo animal being watched by all the other campers.” Again, we were shocked — Thomas was already barely getting a punishment at all; the least we could do was put him in a place where the staff could see him and Sally and Mackenzie could know that he wasn’t going to bother them. Our director thought that Thomas’s embarrassment was more important than the girls’ fear and discomfort. We finally got our way, but we fought tooth and nail every step of the way.

This was the first taste I got of the fight I’d need to face anytime I spoke out about sexual assault and harassment. It’s a fight we women see every single day. There has been an outpouring of stories about sexual assault and harassment in the news recently, but it’s important to remember that this is something all women — whether they’re famous or not — deal with every single day.

*All names have been changed

Featured Image: Flickr / Petra Bensted


There’s A Difference Between A Catcall And A Compliment


When women walk down the street, no matter what they’re wearing, they are always ready to be catcalled. You might think I’m being dramatic, but I promise you I’m not.

Every day as I walk down the street, I stare straight ahead. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new place or my block at home — I always know it’s possible that a guy will decide to comment on my body. I regularly walk around with my middle finger at the ready and “go to hell” on the tip of my tongue. I try hard to stand up for myself and yell back, but I also have to think first and foremost about my safety.

One of the biggest arguments that men (and sometimes women) like to make about catcalling is that women should take it as a compliment. They say, “it means they think you’re hot,” or they try to explain that “they don’t mean it to be intimidating, they just want you to know that you look good.”

But here’s the thing: I’ve been complimented and I’ve been catcalled and they are NOT the same thing.

Let me explain.

Walking from the subway to my last office, I would walk by a lot of men who were hanging out on the street. A lot of them were construction workers, delivery-people, and drivers. I’m not trying to generalize blue collar workers because I have definitely been catcalled by white collar workers as well, but because they were the ones standing on the street more often, they were the ones who harassed me most.

I became so used to the stares of these men that I was always prepared to be catcalled. I heard everything from the normal “hey sexy” and kissy noises, to “mmm show me a smile baby” and “damn, girl.” I didn’t get any particularly creepy catcalls there, but keep in mind that I heard most of these at 9:00 in the morning.

So you might be thinking, “So what, they were just telling you that you were sexy.” But that’s not the case. Those men were taking advantage of the street space they hold to make me feel uncomfortable. At this point in time, all men know that catcalling makes women feel uncomfortable, if not unsafe. So men catcall women entirely to get a rise out of them.

And here’s the difference between that and a compliment: One day on my way to work, I stopped to cross the street. While I was waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk, a man approached me and said, “Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that your hair looks really nice in the sun right now.”

That is a compliment. And you know how I responded? I didn’t flip him off, I didn’t yell “f*ck you” at him, and I didn’t tell him to go to hell. Instead, I said, “Oh, thank you,” and I smiled at him. I didn’t walk away feeling degraded and off-put; I walked to work slightly happier.

So, men, if you want to see a smile, don’t shout “show me a smile,” say something that might actually make someone smile. And don’t scream “hey sexy, nice hair,” mention in a non-threatening way that my hair looks nice in the sun.

I’m sick of people trying to convince me that catcalls and compliments are the same thing. I’ve experienced both, and I’m here to tell them that they’re wrong.

Epic Things


As I said in my life update, I recently started a new job as a Junior Writer at Epic Things. I’ve been totally loving it — great coworkers, young work environment, wonderful office space — and I wanted to share some of my articles with you, the people who have supported me since the very beginning.

A lot of the articles I write are stupid stories about trending celebrity news, exploding poop, or sexy women. Some of them, though, have been really great to write. Those are the ones I’m going to share with you. You’re obviously more than welcome to read the rest of the things I’ve written, I just won’t be posting the links to them here.

  1. Netflix “She Rules” Video Is Exactly What We’ve Been Waiting For

  2. Watch This ‘Shark Dancer’ Risk Her Life To Help Injured Sharks

  3. When Celebrities Read ‘Mean Tweets’ Of Themselves On ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’ America Rejoices

  4. Michelle Obama Goes On ‘The Late Show’ And Proves She’s Just Like Us

  5. Beach Created By Bombs Is So Gorgeous That Your Mind Will Explode

  6. The 15 Best Celebrity Reactions To The First Presidential Debate

  7. Katy Perry Uses Her Body To Get People To Vote

  8. Joe Biden Will Cameo On Tonight’s Episode Of ‘Law & Order: SVU’

10 Adorable Tiny Houses That You’ll Want To Live In Right Now

ICYMI, tiny houses have become all the rage the past few years. From television shows to YouTube channels, tiny houses are sweeping the nation. And why wouldn’t they be? They’re perfectly-designed miniature houses that play into the sense of comfort and coziness that we all seek. And in an overly-materialistic society, tiny houses seem like the perfect way to live a nomadic, traveling lifestyle while still having the comforts of home. Plus, for those of us who aren’t particularly outdoorsy, but still want to experience nature, tiny houses are the perfect solution to camping. Even if you’re super attached to your material goods, I promise that by the end of this post you will be pulling out your checkbook to make a down payment on your own tiny house.

Read the rest of the article here!

Life Update: Fall 2016

For all the people who follow my blog in order to catch up on my life (and not just for my snarky social commentary), I want to update you on my life.

A lot of big things have happened since I came back from Lauren’s wedding in Hawaii, which I think is the last time I did one of these “life update” things. I know I said I would write more about the wedding, but I didn’t, because life got in the way. Although, I did write a tiny bit about my experience as her Maid of Honor, which you can read here.


On August 18th, my boyfriend Matt and I adopted a dog. We’d been thinking about it for a while, but we found a listing for an adorable one-year-old dog online, and later that day she was ours. She is a Tibetan Terrier mix and is partially hypo-allergenic (which Matt needed). Her previous owners received her as a gift (even though they didn’t want a dog), so they kept her for a while, and then surrendered her at the shelter. They had named her Bela, which we changed to Bella (short for Bellatrix).


When we adopted her, she had kennel cough, which is the dog equivalent of the common cold. What that meant, though, was that she was in isolation in the shelter. We brought her home that night, bought food and a bed, and started taking care of her. Within two weeks, she’d been to the groomer, multiple pet stores, and two different vets. I have legitimately spent more money on this dog’s medical bills than my own.


She’s been quite a handful, but we really love having her. To read more about how she changed my relationship with Matt in the first month of having her, you can read the article I wrote for Unwritten.



So Bella is big change number one. As some of you probably know, last summer I was working as a marketing assistant in the higher education department of Oxford University Press. After about six months there, I knew it really wasn’t the right fit for me. I started actively applying for jobs in January. I went on a few interviews, but nothing panned out. I grew increasingly more and more frustrated and desperate.

After applying to more than 60 jobs, I was finally offered a position as a junior writer at a website called Epic Things. I accepted the job, and started on September 14th. Epic Things is a small website under the parent company, Little Things. Little Things is primarily a website with uplifting videos, recipes, parenting tips, DIY projects, and pet things.

Epic Things is kind of like Little Things’ teen brother. We write a lot about poop, explosions, car crashes, celebs, and other “epic” stories. I’ve written a lot so far (almost 100 articles) and I’m really loving it. You can check out everything I’ve written here (please don’t judge).



A few days into starting my position at Epic Things, I got an email from another job I had applied to. A week or so later I had a freelance blogger position for a website called The Hoth. It’s a little hard to explain what I do, but basically I’m a ghost writer for blogs. So far I’ve written about guns (yikes), Pokemon Go, trucking invoice factoring companies, and cerebral palsy in relation to medical malpractice.

So on top of all the new things going on in my life, I’m also trying to eat healthier, work out more, and be more on top of housework (but these are things I’m always trying to do better at). Since my last post, I also turned 23 and have been trying to find time to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign (I signed up months ago and still haven’t gotten a chance to go).

Anyways, I think that’s everything. I’ll be writing more soon and trying to post some of my Epic Things articles (that I’m actually proud of) and Unwritten articles (if I ever find time to write them). Stay tuned for more! Love you all.

5 Non-Basic Dates You Need To Have With Your S.O. This Fall

Fall is finally upon us! Autumn means falling leaves, crisp and cool air, apple picking, sweaters, and cuddling up with bae. All you want to do when it gets cool out is go on leisurely walks, stay in bed all day, and snuggle up with some blankets on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that your relationship can get a little slow – gone are the summer days of sitting outside drinking wine late at night, going to warm summer concerts, and having picnics in the park. To make sure you don’t get bored with your SO this fall, check out some of these adorable autumn date ideas:

1. Go for a hike.

Lose the UGG boots and invest in hiking boots. Even if you’re not an outdoorsy person, going on a hike can be a great way to appreciate autumn’s natural fall beauty. Since the heat of the summer is finally gone, you can get some fresh air without sweating up a storm – and if your hands get chilly, that’s what your SO is for, right? So go get a look at those gorgeous leaves as they change color; there’s really nothing like it.


To read the rest of this article, click on over to Unwritten!

If These 6 Instagram Accounts Don’t Inspire You To Study, Nothing Will

With the fall semester ramping up, you’re probably already overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate. For some reason, professors seem to think that the beginning of the semester is the best time to give you crazy assignments, and they usually say something like, “since it’s the beginning of the semester, I’m sure you don’t have much other stuff to do.” Yeah, right.

But that’s okay; if you’re already feeling the procrastination setting in, we’ve got you covered. Check out these incredible Instagrams for all the studying inspiration you could need this semester!

1. @studeying

This young Australian woman posts tons of photos of beautiful notebooks filler with her perfect handwriting. She also posts lots of pictures of different office/school supplies – pen lovers will adore this account!

To read the rest of this article, click on over to Unwritten!

Dear Coach Craig: A Letter From A Grateful Gymnast

Dear Coach Craig,

Since I’ve been watching the Rio Olympics religiously this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about my gymnastics career. It was a career that gymnasts would call unsuccessful, but that outsiders would call victorious. Sure, I won the Oregon state competition, but I was a 15-year-old level 7. From a gymnastics perspective, I wasn’t a great gymnast. I usually didn’t even really feel like a good gymnast. All I know is that without you, Craig Bayer, I wouldn’t have been a gymnast at all.

So I have something I need to say to you, something that I’ve been thinking for years, but didn’t know how to articulate: Thank you. Thank you for being an incredible coach, an intelligent educator, and a fantastic mentor. You coached me when I was “uncoachable.” While other coaches wrote me off as too old, too scared, and too boring, you saw potential in me.

You don’t know this, but I wrote one of my college essays about you. The prompt was “tell us about someone who has influenced you in a significant way.” Here is what I wrote:

“You aren’t trying! Stop thinking about it, just do it!” My coach yelled from the floor. A tear threatened to spill out of my eye as I bit my lip and swung down to the mat. I landed with a cloud of fine chalk rising from the ground around my feet. I turned to face him, to prove to him that I was strong, that I could do this, but as I met his eyes a disobedient drop ran down my cheek. “What did he mean, ‘stop thinking’?” I thought angrily; this was not a concept I understood. To me, thinking is everything; I am organized and analytical — not thinking is never an option. Gymnastics is not an intellectual sport. That isn’t to say that people involved in it are not smart, but the sport itself is not about strategy or reasoning; it is based on power, precision, fearlessness, strength, trust, and more than anything, the ability to suspend thinking — to just do it.

Throughout the years, I’ve had my fair share of coaches. Whether it was moving across the country or moving between levels, new coaches always came with new territory. As with all people, sometimes I got along with them, sometimes I didn’t. Most of my coaches didn’t generally value my need to study a skill before doing it or to scrutinize every step. Stuck in my own head, I tried without succeeding to do what came effortlessly to the other girls. While some of my coaches gave up on me, or assumed I “wasn’t trying”, there is one standout in my mind: Craig. While Craig may not have produced any Olympians, and though he was never given the head coach position by the gym owner, Craig was the best teacher. He understood that different people learn in different ways, and that success is measured by the individual and what they expect of themselves. More than anything, Craig believed in everyone.

Every day for a year, my friend would get up on the bar, confident and ready. As soon as she was ready to go, with Craig spotting her, she would freeze, overcome with fear; he would slowly let her to the ground, trying to convince her she could do it. 365 days and countless attempts later, she finally did the skill. Craig had the ability to push people to be their best without making them feel inferior, and everyone knew they could trust him. Though Craig brought me to win the state championship, I knew it wouldn’t have mattered if I had won, or gotten very last place — he would have been proud no matter what. When Craig left in the summer of 2009, to go on to bigger and better things, I didn’t know whether I wanted to keep doing gymnastics or not. But Craig had always taught me to keep going, so that’s what I did. Whenever other coaches yelled at me, or told me I wasn’t good enough, I knew that it didn’t matter — all that mattered was my ability to push through and not to lose hope. Most of all, Craig taught me that a good teacher is able to accept that people learn differently, and not to give up on them in spite of that.

A few days ago, on the night of the women’s gymnastics qualifying round in Rio, I posted a photo collage on Instagram of me at the 2009 Oregon State competition. Within minutes the photo had comments from a bunch of former teammates; they read: “OMG I miss coach Craig!!”; “Oh Craig!!”; “I was going to say I miss Craig. But looks like we’ve got that comment covered”; and “Craig…… What a guy.” From those responses, I know that I wasn’t the only one you had a profound impact on; you changed us all.

I don’t know where you are now, nor how to contact you, but I’m hoping that through the power of the internet, this will somehow make it to you.

To the coach who believed in everyone, called little girls “shrimpy,” and made bird calls at every meet, thank you. You are the reason I loved gymnastics and the reason I cherish those gym memories today.

— A Grateful Gymnast


Lauren’s Wedding

This past Friday, my best friend Lauren got married in Hawaii! I’ll post more soon about how amazing it was and what we did while we were there, but for now I decided to just post a Polyvore image of something similar to what I wore for the wedding. The  dress is the right color, but we wore short dresses (with no sequins) that were much cuter. I was one of two maids of honor, and Lauren (being the wonderful bride that she was, and not at all a bridezilla), bought all of the maids of honor/bridesmaids pearls to wear for the big day. We don’t have the photos yet, but I can’t wait to share all the beautiful pictures of the wedding (and obviously the bride) with you.
Lauren's Wedding


9 Apps That Can Help You Face Mental Health Challenges

Under The Labels

People who struggle with mental health never know when they will have a good day or when they will have a bad day. From panic attacks to manic episodes, mental illnesses can strike hard, even during times when you think you’re handling things well. You could be having a wonderful week where you feel almost fully like yourself, and then you could wake up one morning and not be able to get out of bed. For all the times when you are physically debilitated by your mental illness, when you’re paralyzed by fear, when you’re unable to get off the subway, even though you passed your stop fifteen minutes ago – here are some apps you can download that can help you cope in those rough moments.

  1. Optimism: This app helps you track and manage your health. The app aims to help people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and…

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10 Celebrities Who Embrace Their Mental Health Issues

Under The Labels

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

One of the most common effects of suffering with mental illnesses or disabilities is feeling alone. Depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental disorders, are great at making people feel isolated. It’s this crazy feeling – you know on a rational level that other people are experiencing the same feelings, but somehow you also know that nobody has ever felt the same way you do. And until recently, a lot of people didn’t talk about mental health problems. Over the past few years, however, people have been more open about their own mental health, which has put it in the public spotlight even more. A lot of celebrities have been speaking out about their struggles, so whenever you’re feeling alone, just remember that you definitely aren’t.

1. Lady Gaga

“I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life, I still suffer with it every…

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What NOT To Say To Someone Struggling With Mental Illness

Under The Labels

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

Trigger Warning: This piece features phrases regarding mental illness that may be upsetting for some readers.

People experiencing mental health issues have usually heard some sort of insensitive comment from a friend, family member, stranger, or even medical professional regarding what is going on inside their mind. The point of “Under The Labels” is to work toward minimizing the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses, mental disorders, and other mental health issues. Often, people don’t even realize that what they are saying is insensitive; a variety of people who have experienced an insensitive or offensive comment about their own mental health have shared some of the insensitive comments they’ve heard below:

  • “Oh, stop being so dramatic!” – My mother, all the time
  • “Come on, how many therapists have you been to?” – A soccer coach of mine, in front of my team. He also called me ‘psycho’ instead of my…

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Learning To Cope: 33 Ways We Find Comfort

Check out my newest article for Under The Labels!

Under The Labels

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

When dealing with mental health problems, people find comfort in a variety of things. From eating specific foods to cuddling an old teddy bear to getting a hug from a certain person, we all get through our mental health issues in different ways. Below, people who struggle with their own mental health issues share what they find comfort in when they are struggling with their mental health.

  1. Hugging a pillow, stuffed animal, or other soft object.
  2. Yoga
  3. Holding ice in my hand
  4. I live near a river, it’s nothing particularly scenic but it’s usually pretty quiet. When I feel my depression take over and I feel numb, I lace up my running shoes and jog along the river when it’s dark. It makes me feel my breathing, feel my legs sting, feel the cold air on my face. It gets all the frustration out and I can…

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Anxiety Is Broader Than Just “Social Anxiety”

Hiding, Boy, Girl, Child, Young, Box, Hole, Torn, Eye

Think about the word anxiety – what do you picture? Someone afraid to talk to others, too shy to speak up in public? When many people hear “anxiety,” they translate that to mean “social anxiety.” While social anxiety is a very prevalent form of anxiety, anxiety itself is is much broader. As people have begun attempting to destigmatize mental health issues, it has become clear to me that many individuals mistake general anxiety for social anxiety. As someone who suffers from anxiety that is actually eased by social interaction, I wanted to explore the definitions of different types of anxiety to amplify awareness.

To read the rest of the article, click here!

20 Life Lessons You Only Learn In College

I’ve been missing college recently, which is what prompted me to submit this article to Unwritten.

Now that I’ve settled into post-grad life (I mean, kind of…), I came up with a list of things I actually learned in college during my time there. This list isn’t entirely complete, and probably never will be, but college was one hell of a learning experience. The lessons I learned in those four years will carry on with my for the rest of my life, and here are 20 of them…