My Favorite Figure Skating Costumes from the 2019-20 Season

The 2019-20 figure skating season has been a whirlwind of surprises, excitement, and drama. The cancellation of Worlds made the year feel a bit incomplete to me, and I’m not sure how long it will be until the skating world as we know it is back in full swing. However, this season gave us many great moments, and I want to focus on the good parts. For me, one of the highlights of figure skating competitions is the variety of costumes. Skating is one of the few sports that allows for artistic expression in this way (you don’t see Olympic downhill skiers wearing rhinestones and feathers as they’re clearing the slalom), and I want to give a round of applause to all the costume designers who created some true masterpieces this season. In no particular order, here are my favorite costumes from the 2019-20 season.

Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, “Rain in Your Black Eyes”.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Look…I know that these costumes Do. Not. Match. I still imagine they had a fight about what color to wear and Coach Hongbo Zhao said “fine, go out in whatever you want!” But separately, the costumes are gorgeous. Wenjing’s dress looks fit for the Oscars – I would love to see it turned into a glorious full-length evening gown. The deep green is mystical and looks great with the jeweled accents. Cong’s costume is simple but doesn’t just look like the dreaded plain black shirt of most pair guys.

Evgenia Medvedeva, “Exogenesis Symphony 3”.

Photo credit: Danielle Earl

This costume is such a unique, artistic masterpiece. It’s always a bit tricky to design a unitard that’s not too flashy but doesn’t look like a boring black training outfit, and this one checks off both boxes. The black background provides a solid base that’s not too distracting from her skating while the blue decorations add eye-catching focal points. The sleeves look like wings, so now I really want her to skate to “Arrival of the Birds” by Coldplay. It reminds me a lot of Yuzuru Hanyu’s costumes. I would remove the flaps of fabric on her legs, but overall it made a memorable impression and worked well for the program.

Jason Brown, “I Can’t Go On Without You”.

Photo credit: US Figure Skating Fan Zone

It’s hard to make a black costume for men that doesn’t put the audience to sleep, but Jason Brown absolutely killed it with this outfit. From a distance, it just looks like a regular t-shirt and pants, but it’s the little details that completely transform it into a stylish ensemble. The faux leather and silver zipper add a sleek, modern vibe, and the slim fit of the shirt accentuates his strong lines and excellent posture. It’s cool, it’s sexy, and it doesn’t get in the way of his skating. He really looks like a rock star out there, and I hope other male skaters take tips from him about making black costumes that work.

Kaori Sakamoto, “The Matrix”.

Photo credit: Jung Yeon-je
Photo credit: Kyodo News

As a big Matrix fangirl, I was very excited to see Kaori’s costume for this program. I was expecting a unitard because that’s what Trinity wears in the movie, but I think the dress was the right choice for her. It’s not easy to design a costume that would fit into a computerized dystopia full of martial arts and gunfights and can also survive a four-minute performance on skates. Instead of copying the costumes straight from the movie, the designers incorporated the theme into the final product in a way that suits Kaori. The leathery material and slits in the skirt are a nod to the Matrix’s trench coats, and I’m in love with the green sparkles, which imitate the computer codes in the movie. I think this costume captures the essence of Trinity while playing to Kaori’s strengths.

When working with faux leather, it’s easy for the dress to turn out looking a bit cheap, but this one is cool, striking, and edgy. Overall, it gives her a very strong presence on the ice.

Alina Zagitova, “Me Voy”:

Photo credit: @azagitova on Instagram
Photo credit: sportsdaily.ru

When I first saw this dress at the summer ice shows, I gasped out loud. Alina generally has good taste in costumes, but this one is by far my favorite. It’s such an elegant, classy silhouette and the black lace looks vintage and expensive. This program was more mature and emotional than Alina’s previous programs, and the dress rose to the occasion. I would love to wear this to a cocktail party – it’s subtle, yet it accentuates her natural beauty. The red accents give it a touch of color on the ice, and while I’m not usually a fan of skaters wearing gloves, these ones look nice. Can do you tell I’m a sucker for black lace dresses?

Yuzuru Hanyu, “Origin”:

img_7228.jpg
Photo credit: Sponichi Tokyo Photo

I already gushed over this costume in my Grand Prix Final review, but I want to talk about it again here because it’s so stunning. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of beads or frills on skating costumes, but I had to make a big exception for this one. The deep purple gives it a quiet, almost understated luxury, providing a background for the gorgeous details. The gloves accentuate his gracefulness and the top blends perfectly into the black pants. It gives off a vibe of dark magic – I’d love to see him use this costume for a program to Dracula. (Did anyone else notice that it’s the same shade as Alena Kostornaia’s dress from her Twilight program?). It’s truly fit for a king.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, “Oblivion”:

Photo credit: Elena Vasileva
Photo credit: Elena Vasileva

As a proud Slytherin, I fully approve of this dress’s stunning color. I think green is a criminally underrepresented color in the skating world, and it looks incredible against Liza’s hair and skin tone. It’s simple, sheer, and sexy, like a luxurious negligee. The sparkling decorations around the neckline and side are beautiful but unobtrusive. I can’t say I love the gloves with this particular dress, but overall, this dress was a job well done!

Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro, “Love on the Brain”:

Photo credit: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Every time I see this dress, I want to burst out singing “Dancing Queen”. She looks like a retro disco goddess. This jeweltone shade of blue is simply flawless. The rhinestones along the neckline create such a flattering silhouette, and everything about this costume totally exudes Kirsten Moore-Towers magic. Mike’s shirt is basic but I like how the cutouts mimic the beading on Kirsten’s dress.

Lubov Ilyushechkina/Charlie Bilodeau, “Je Voudrais Voir la Mer”:

Photo credit: Getty Images

This is really just a review of Lubov’s costume because Charlie fell prey to the Pair Man’s Plight of basic black shirt and pants. But I’m still going to include these costumes in my review because her dress is so pretty. The pale blue is so serene, classy, and beautiful, like Lubov herself. The long sleeves and high neckline give it a vintage elegance, and the dark blue streaks remind me of the sky just before sunrise. It’s light, dreamy, and lovely. Also, this color always reminds me of Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter.

Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud, “Someone You Loved”:

Photo credit: @inthelopodcast on Instagram

Evelyn and Trennt caught my eye last year with their good taste in costumes, and they continued to impress this season. Evelyn’s dress looks like a gorgeous flower. I like the subtle ombré around the waist; it’s beautiful without being distracting. Like Wenjing Sui’s costume from earlier in this blog post, I think this dress would make a breathtaking evening gown. Also, can we talk about Evelyn’s flawless makeup? Trennt’s costume is simple and I would’ve liked to see some color on him, but the rhinestones and belt add some little focal points.

Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov, “Te Amo”:

Photo credit: Sergei Bobilev/TASS

I included this one on the list because of her dress – I absolutely love it! It’s simple, romantic, and suits her perfectly. The halter-neck style is chic and flattering, and the cutout in the front makes it flirty without being tacky. My motto for skating costumes is “black lace makes everything prettier”, and that is especially true here. It’s really amazing how Tarasova/Morozov’s costumes have improved so much in the past few seasons, and I think this is the best dress she’s ever had. I would’ve liked his shirt to be solid burgundy, but it works all right.

Rika Kihira, “International Angel of Peace”:

Photo credit: Kyodo News

The first time I saw this dress, I fell in love. The brilliant color reminds me of the ocean, and the gold decorations are extravagant without looking cheap. She looks like the young queen of some wealthy empire. It fits her well and looks vibrant against the ice. I’m so bummed that she didn’t keep it for more competitions – I think it’s more eye-catching than the pale green/gray version she wore later. Rika has quickly become one of the best-dressed ladies in the sport, and I look forward to seeing her costumes next year.

Jessica Calalang/Brian Johnson, “Light of the Seven”:

Photo credit: US Figure Skating Fan Zone

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer: I’m not sure how her dress has anything to do with Game of Thrones. But it’s so beautiful that I don’t really care. I appreciate the simplicity of the silhouette, and the hazy purple looks perfect against her hair and complexion. I could see this dress in a program to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s strong, but not overbearing. Brian’s costume is fairly basic (pair guys continue to be a walking poster for the Men in Black franchise), but I like the placket on the front of his shirt. It hints at the medieval fashions from Game of Thrones without being cumbersome. In general, Calalang/Johnson tend to be a well-dressed pair and I really admire their costume choices!

Cheng Peng/Yang Jin, “Allegria”.

Photo credit: VCG Photo

Once again, Cheng Peng came up with a stunning dress for the short program. The pale pink is light and dainty, and it moves beautifully on the ice. I’m usually not a fan of girly colors, but this dress works. The black lace forms a little corset, creating a flirty, vintage dress fit for a queen. I also have to give a round of applause for Yang’s jacket. Although it’s still another case of Pair Men in Black, this outfit is equally worthy of praise as Cheng’s dress. The cut of the collar is bold and striking, and the silver details remind me of Black Panther. These costumes are excellent designs on their own, but together, they form a strong aesthetic on the ice.

Madison Chock/Evan Bates, “Egyptian Snake Dance”.

Photo credit: Getty Images

To be fair, Madison Chock is a queen who could look good even if she was dressed in an old pillowcase like a house-elf from Harry Potter. But she has generally good taste in fashion, and of all the stunning dresses she’s worn, I think this is my favorite. It’s as if she’s draped in a glistening net of jewels and gold. Usually, I don’t like gold dresses because they tend to look flashy and cheap, but this one is a masterpiece. It’s glamorous, sexy, and totally unique – she looks like a true Egyptian goddess. I also want to mention her cool braid; it reminds me of Angelina Jolie’s hairstyle in Tomb Raider. I can’t look at Evan’s shirt without thinking of the U.S. Army, but at least he’s not wearing black, and the green actually compliments her dress nicely.

And the award for Most Fun Costume goes to…

Photo credit: Golden Skate

I couldn’t do a blog post without mentioning Papadakis/Cizeron’s wild costumes for their rhythm dance to “Fame”. They tweaked them a few times throughout the season but my favorite is still the bright set from the Grand Prix in France. Guillaume is the only man hot enough to wear that headband and not look like a total dork. It looked like they had walked out of a Jane Fonda workout video. The costumes were low key ridiculous but they suited the program, and Gabriella and Guillaume brought the swagger to pull them off.

—-

This concludes my review of the best costumes from the 2019-20 season. Feel free to comment below with your favorite costumes of the year. Until next time, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Belle’s Rambling #7: Coronavirus is a Fact, Not a Debate

Hey everyone, it’s Belle. I really hope you are reading this from home, because right now, home is the safest place to be. I know everyone is saying this, but it’s really necessary.

I don’t need to give you all a recap about the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s been all over the news lately, and most places in the world are literally on lockdown. The Summer Olympics got postponed, malls and restaurants are closed, and even celebrities are getting quarantined. Graduations and proms are cancelled, movie release dates are getting pushed back, and basically the whole world’s been turned on its head.

But the thing that’s most puzzling to me is how some people actually think the coronavirus is an issue for political debate.

It would probably help if President Trump and his friends in Congress weren’t using it as an opportunity to start a catfight with China while people are dying.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a classmate who comes from a conservative background. She was complaining that everyone was overreacting and it wasn’t fair that everything was getting shut down. When I brought up that people were dying, she dropped the line I’ve heard way too many times: “It’s just like a regular flu. People die from the flu too and no one shuts everything down. Everyone’s just freaking out because it’s some weird strand from China.”

Thankfully, another of my classmates quickly diffused the situation by bringing up video games, but it was a very uncomfortable experience for me. People can argue about opinions, but you can’t deny facts. The coronavirus is killing thousands of people worldwide, yet some folk still want to sit there and say it’s not a big deal.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that majority of Democrats supported an immediate response when the outbreak started while majority of Republicans took minimal action. The coronavirus has revealed the flaws in the Republican-built healthcare system. And the Republicans in government knew about it. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be trying to sweep a whole pandemic under the rug.

It’s bad enough that they’re trying to cover up their inadequate healthcare program, but it’s even worse to see the distraction they’ve devised: blaming the Chinese.

Look, I know the virus started in China. I know that their government didn’t contain it as quickly as they could have, which allowed it to spread faster. But fueling the notion that the Chinese are strictly to blame for the coronavirus brings out some blatant racism, and the US government isn’t helping. Even if China had the greatest government in the world, they would not have been able to shut down the virus before anyone died. They could not have contained it within their borders because not all infected people are aware they are carrying the virus, and the US government would’ve had a fit if China started detaining American citizens who seemed perfectly healthy and wanted to fly back to the States.

That’s why it is never okay to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”. At first glance, it doesn’t sound that offensive – after all, it originated in China. However, “Chinese virus” places the blame on Chinese people as a whole, not the Chinese government. It reinforces the concept that all Chinese people are carriers and enables racism. Let’s face it: not all Americans are smart. If some bumpkin who’s never seen an Asian person before hears that the Chinese are bringing a virus to America, he’s going to be scared for his life when he sees anyone who looks even remotely close to Chinese. And since that bumpkin probably can’t tell the difference between a Chinese person and a Thai or Korean person, that breeds prejudice against all Asians and Asian Americans. I’ve heard quite awful stories about Asians facing an increase in discrimination since the coronavirus outbreak began. Being half Asian, it makes me very uncomfortable to know that some people might perceive me as a threat simply because my mother was born in a country that shares a border with China.

While we’re at it, if we’re naming the virus after a country that had an incompetent response to the outbreak, we could easily call it the American virus. Judging from the death tolls, Trump isn’t doing any better at containing COVID-19 than the Chinese government.

That said, I am trying to have patience with people, because I understand this is a frightening time for all of us. In times of crisis, it’s natural to panic. But it’s not natural for your panic to include racism.

And yes, there are some people who are overreacting, but 9 times out of 10, it’s out of fear rather than malice towards others. Stockpiling pallets of hand sanitizer isn’t going to protect you from the coronavirus. But once again, it’s a national emergency – we need to address this situation with compassion and a willingness to help. Right now, our president isn’t exactly inspiring confidence in his ability to handle the situation…which is basically his job.

We can’t fix the President. He’s on his own. But we can each do our part to keep the nation on track. Stay home. Support Asian businesses. Don’t hoard supplies. And consider voting blue in November.

Yours truly,

Belle

Belle’s Rambling #6: “Ladylike” is Overrated

Warning: NSFW

I’m writing this blog post because I am fed up. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a video on YouTube encouraging women to “dress modestly so you can attract good men and avoid the wrong kind of attention”, and I couldn’t even make myself watch the whole thing because it was the most dehumanizing, misogynistic trash I had seen. This isn’t meant to be a callout, so I won’t mention the name of the YouTuber who’s got me so ticked off, but I am going to address the views she expressed in the video because I’ve heard them way too often, and I’m sick of it.

I’m not judging this YouTuber as a person. She was probably raised to believe that this was the right way for a woman to behave. But hearing this coming from another woman made me literally shake with anger. It’s these kind of beliefs that have shackled women in society for hundreds of years, and it’s our job as women to help each other shatter the glass ceiling, not to seal up the cracks in it.

Disclaimer: this post addresses traditional gender roles in a predominantly cisgender, heterosexual society. I’m discussing misogyny and sexuality in male/female relationships, and I understand that a lot of this won’t apply to the LGBTQ+ community. I will probably write a piece on gender roles as an LGBTQ+ person at a later time, but today’s post focuses on the dynamics between straight women and straight men. Also, there’s some talk about the birds and the bees, so proceed with caution.

First of all, the YouTuber’s statement comes from the viewpoint that a woman’s only purpose in life is to attract men. She presumes that when a woman dresses in skimpy clothes, she’s trying to catch a boyfriend. Of course, this is true in some cases, but not all. The way a woman presents herself is a form of self-expression, and her sexuality is part of that expression. Sometimes, women want to look sexy because it makes them feel good about their own bodies. There’s nothing wrong with putting on a crop top because you’re proud of your toned abs – or you’re embracing your tummy rolls. If you feel good about your body, you have the right to show as much or as little of it as you like (as long as you’re not literally running down the street butt naked). It’s okay if a woman prefers to dress modestly because it makes her feel more comfortable, but she doesn’t have the right to attack women who prefer not to. The pressure to be conventionally beautiful has been shoved down women’s throats for centuries, and it’s totally okay to be proud of how you look. Personally, I rarely get dressed with the intention to look attractive to other people; I put on whatever makes me feel beautiful. Women are not merely objects for male appreciation – we are people, and we need to satisfy ourselves before we can satisfy anyone else. A woman’s sexuality belongs to her, not to the men around her.

Second, the YouTuber’s position implies that it’s not okay for women to crave casual male attention. She immediately assumes that a provocatively dressed woman is looking for a bed partner. However, there’s a lot more to sexuality than rolling in the sheets. Sometimes, people just like to flirt. It’s a playful, innocent way of satisfying human nature, and we all do it – sometimes even subconsciously. It’s like trying on an expensive pair of shoes without actually buying them and going broke. There’s a big difference between showing a bit of cleavage to a cute guy at the library and stripping naked in his bedroom and saying, “Let’s sleep together”. The YouTuber’s view actually reinforces the dangerous concept that wearing revealing clothing equals consent. It doesn’t matter how much skin you’re showing: if you don’t explicitly state that you want to have sex with this person, you have not given them an invitation to touch you. And if you’ve already started and you want to stop because you don’t feel comfortable with it, you have the right to say no.

Next, the YouTuber underestimates the ability of men to be decent human beings. I know, I know, some men are pigs. But if we don’t give men the opportunity to respect women, they’ll never learn how. On that note, the YouTuber is right: we do need to teach men how to respect us. But you can’t teach a man to drive if you never let him get in the car – you have to show him the proper way to drive without running anyone over. The truth is, straight men are hardwired to feel attracted to women. Rather than covering up because we don’t want to “tempt” men into disregarding us, we need to expect decency and equality regardless of what we are wearing. We need to teach our sons that a girl’s beauty is meant to be admired, not used as a justification to ignore her opinions and downplay her abilities. If we continue “sheltering” boys by telling girls to cover up, we are teaching boys that there’s something wrong with a girl who chooses to dress more provocatively, and when one crosses his path, he will believe that it’s perfectly fine to mistreat her. No boy comes out of the womb thinking he is superior to girls – he learns misogyny from the society around him. Ignorance and inexperience with women is not the same as respect.

It’s human nature to notice sexy people, but it’s human responsibility to treat sexy people with decency. The idea that a man can discredit a woman because he thinks she’s beautiful is absolute bull and actually has nothing to do with physical attraction. If a man won’t respect you in a bikini, he won’t respect you no matter what you’re wearing because he’s the kind of guy who probably won’t listen to any woman in the world. Your worth and intelligence don’t change just because you take off a sweater or unbutton the collar of your blouse. He’s not ignoring your opinion because he’s checking out your legs – he’s ignoring your opinion because he thinks women are inferior. Trust me, he doesn’t respect the frumpy old lady who works next to you, either; the only difference between you and her is that he wouldn’t mind sleeping with you.

A good man can appreciate a beautiful woman AND listen to her plans, views, and needs. If we try to attract husbands who are only nice to us because we cover our bodies, they don’t truly respect us. They believe that they own the rights to our sexuality – they want us to act like nuns in public, then take off all our clothes the minute they decide they’re in the mood. They expect us to sacrifice our own confidence and independence and believe we only have the right to feel beautiful and sexy when they say it’s okay. Why? Because they’re jealous. They don’t want other men to look at their wives, so they want to wrap us up like the abominable snowman until no guy can even see how gorgeous we are. Rather than taking issue with the men who think it’s okay to mess around with other men’s wives, these kind of husbands place the blame on their wives. Remember, there’s nothing inherently sexual about a naked woman. We’re all born naked; we clearly aren’t trying to seduce anyone as we come out of the womb. It’s the man’s mind that turns her into something desired, and it’s the man’s responsibility to maintain respect for her regardless of how she is dressed.

I don’t want a husband who doesn’t let me wear Daisy Duke shorts because he’s afraid another man will check me out. I want a husband who treats me so well that I would never even think of cheating on him – and one who thinks I look dang hot in those shorts.

Finally, the concepts in the YouTube video contributes to the culture of “slut-shaming”. I don’t even like using that term because, to quote the great Taylor Swift, “There is no such thing as a slut.” The idea that a woman must be chaste is merely a device men use to control women and enforce the idea that men should be in charge of women’s bodies. Men are rarely judged for posting dozens of shirtless selfies on Instagram, but a woman puts on a short skirt and the whole world burns. Women are constantly judged for having too many relationships or even just feeling physical attraction to another person because we teach girls that sexuality isn’t natural. A lot of girls are told not to even think about sex until they’re getting married, which is an unrealistic expectation given that there’s usually at least ten years between the onset of puberty and a woman’s wedding day. We need to teach girls that sexuality is part of normal life so they can learn to manage these feelings rather than being confused and ashamed of them. Studies have shown that comprehensive sex education is linked to lower teen pregnancy rates. Instead of shaming girls for being human and turning sex into something taboo, we need to inform them in an open, judgment-free manner.

A great example of the double standard surrounding promiscuity is Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina. Anna, a young Russian noblewoman stuck in a dull marriage to a much older man, has an affair with the rogue pleasure-seeker Count Vronsky. Society disowns Anna, but Vronsky takes little of the blame. This illustrates a mentality that prevails to this day: If a man sleeps around, he’s a Casanova. If a woman sleeps around, she’s a whore. A promiscuous man is seen as comical; a promiscuous woman is seen as dishonorable. The problem isn’t about women showing their bodies. The problem is how men react to it.

In conclusion: Women shouldn’t have to “earn” respect from men by dressing modestly. Women deserve to be respected regardless of what they are wearing because they are human beings.

This has been a long, somewhat awkward piece to write. However, I think it’s necessary to educate all genders about how to treat each other and how they deserve to be treated. We can’t turn a blind eye to the miseducation around us. We need to teach this generation of girls to know their rights, take ownership of their own bodies, and never apologize for who they were born to be. We need to teach this generation of boys that women are humans just like them and their opinions aren’t any less valid just because they’re beautiful. One person at a time, we must tear down this toxic culture of misogyny. The revolution begins today.

Yours truly,

Belle

Memories of Sochi

I am excited to announce that this blog post is part of a collaboration with Claudia from the amazing blog Frozen in Time. She’s looking back on some amazing performances in the skater’s home country, and she’s asked me to contribute a piece on two great home ice performances. I’ve chosen to tell two stories from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi: the breathtaking rise of Julia Lipnitskaya and the dark horse victory of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

—-

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

I was a bit of a reluctant figure skating fan. It’s always been my mom’s favorite Olympic sport, but growing up, I rarely had the attention span to watch it with her. When I begrudgingly sat down to watch the 2014 Olympics in Sochi with her, I honestly thought I would be bored. But then I saw Julia Lipnitskaya.

She was a petite, delicate girl, only a few years older than I was. She was fifteen, the commentators said, but she had the small face of ten and the quiet seriousness of forty. Her hair was woven into tiny braids, and she wore a deep blue dress with tiny sequins that sparkled like stars in a midnight sky. She stared through the screen with these beautiful hazel eyes that seemed to capture a deep longing, a secret ache. Watching this performance now, I can’t help thinking she looks like the young Cosette from Les Miserables – a beautiful angel child with a powerful, resilient heart. The music? A Russian song called “You Don’t Give Up on Love”.

02DE9702-CE72-447B-A8A6-CCED861D1549

She knelt on the ice and drew a heart with her tiny, graceful hands, then stood and began to skate. She floated across the arena like a fairy, swinging into a triple lutz-triple toe loop combo, then a double axel. Her flying camel spin was fast and nimble, and sitting there in my living room, I gasped out loud. She flitted through the step sequence and landed the triple flip, but the highlight of the program was yet to come. I had seen many skaters do spins before, but never like Julia. Rather than catching her blade for the Biellmann spin, as most skaters do, she grabbed her calf, bending herself so her head was touching her back. The flexibility required for such a position is insane, even in a sport where flexibility is essential. She then pulled herself into a combination spin, gaining speed as she rose with one leg parallel to her head, forming a perfect “I” with her body. Everyone in the audience gasped, twelve thousand pairs of eyes watching one girl spinning like the beaters of a mixer.

4BB7B9B2-F76F-41E3-9C7A-A5A1D03DFF1A

That was the moment I fell in love with figure skating. I know people talk more about her iconic free skate to “Schindler’s List”, but for me, that team event short program to “You Don’t Give Up on Love” was the performance that stayed closest to my heart. Even today, I remember nothing but indescribable awe as she left her soul on the ice.

The next night, I was actually excited to sit down and watch skating because they said Julia would be performing again. That was the night “the girl in the red coat” carved her place into the heart of the figure skating world forever. Twelve thousand pairs of eyes, with millions more watching on TV all over the world. Seven jumps, three spins, a step sequence, and a series of breathtaking spirals and Ina Bauers.

Every moment was perfect.

Schindler’s List is a story of hope and strength amidst the horrors of the Holocaust. The girl in the red coat is a symbol of innocence, a child thrown to the wolves of hatred and cruelty. Watching these performances today is bittersweet. The whole world saw a beautiful doll, a brave little hummingbird fluttering around the ice. They didn’t see the harsh conditions she suffered under from her strict coach. They didn’t see the endless lines of reporters and paparazzi that tried to steal every moment of her life after that night for their own tabloids. They didn’t see her battle with anorexia that eventually forced her to retire at the age of 19. They saw the rainbow, but not the brutal rainstorm that created it.

B348443A-C670-4652-86BA-18D38BEEC001

Julia never returned to the Olympics – like the stunning Titanic, her maiden voyage was to be her last. But she left a greater impact on the skating world in Sochi than most skaters can create in an entire career. Although she suffered at the hands of pressure and fame, she emerged from the darkness and now coaches a new generation alongside fellow 2014 Olympic medalist Elena Ilinykh. I am thankful not only to that little girl in the red coat, but to the strong, compassionate woman she became. She gifted me a lifelong love for figure skating. I would not have a figure skating blog or all the friends I made through the skating fandom if I hadn’t watched her performance that night. The Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi saw many brilliant stars during the Olympics, but Julia Lipnitskaya left behind a courageous heart and an unbreakable spirit.

—-

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away,
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov came into the 2014 Olympics as underdogs for a medal of any color. When they stepped on the ice in Sochi, they had never even qualified for a World Championship or a Grand Prix Final, but a series of consistent performances throughout the 2013-14 season put them on the cusp of a breakthrough. Although they had performed brilliantly in the Olympic team event to help Russia earn the gold medal, all eyes were on the battle for gold in the individual event between two world-class pairs: Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov and Germany’s Aljona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy.

In the short program, Stolbova/Klimov delivered a clean, strong performance to “Surrender” by Jesse Cook. Quick, sharp, and intense, they filled the home arena with fierce, fresh energy and stayed on their feet while other teams faltered. At the end of the night, they found themselves into third place, and hope for an individual Olympic medal was born.

6ED7C106-06AB-4F8E-9687-DF607A0CD106

Stolbova/Klimov’s free skate was set to the soundtrack of “The Addams Family”. This program almost didn’t make it to Olympic ice – at the beginning of the season, they had actually planned to get a new free skate, but eventually chose not to change it. It seamlessly combined the quirky, charmingly macabre tone of the film with the precision and athleticism of classic Russian pair skating. The performance starts with the ominous creak of a door opening, and suddenly Morticia and Gomez Addams come to life in the Iceberg Skating Palace. They cover the ice with swift, powerful crossovers, and Fedor launches Ksenia into an effortless triple twist, a new element they’ve finally perfected. They turn the corner into a silk-smooth throw triple flip with an incredible running edge on the exit, then sweep into a set of side-by-side triple toe loop-double toe loop-double toe loops. They move fearlessly through the first lift, death spiral, and expertly synchronized side-by-side spins, and the crowd starts to follow them. Fedor emphatically kisses Ksenia’s hands as she locks her legs around his waist and throws her body back until the top of her head is nearly parallel to the ice. He dramatically flings his arms wide, moving forward on his skates while she balances unsupported. Neither breaks character as they enter a catch-foot spiral, forming a spider with their exquisitely graceful limbs.

The audience bursts into cheers as the iconic Addams Family theme rings out across the arena. Ksenia and Fedor run across the ice in a cheeky, energetic dance, then spring into a pair of flawless side-by-side double axels. The crowd’s euphoria builds as Fedor swings Ksenia high above his head in a reverse lasso lift. The music eases into a slower breathing point, stretching a moment into a memory. Ksenia reclines over Fedor’s knee, and he bends down to gently kiss her and pull her into a pair spin, right in front of the Olympic rings on the boards behind them.

The music climbs again as they finish the spin, climbing to the crescendo on the wings of the cheering fans. Fedor flips Ksenia into the final lift, effortless and smooth. They’ve been skating for nearly four and a half minutes now, but they show no signs of slowing down. This is their night, and they refuse to give a single moment of this opportunity away.

But there’s still one element to go: the throw triple salchow, set in the last few seconds of this performance. One landing will make the difference between success and defeat, glory and setback. They turn as one, winding up for the final hurdle between them and the Olympic podium. Fedor throws Ksenia into the air. She snaps into a tight, quick rotation, making three turns before bringing her foot down on the ice. Her free leg swings back, her blade carves a wide arc as she rides backwards on a remarkable running edge, and her hands fly up in victory.

The landing is perfect.

737FED77-E85D-414B-8427-2FF6C7B9E6FC

The crowd roars with pride and leaps into a standing ovation as Ksenia and Fedor hit their closing poses. Ksenia is swinging her fist through the air, her mouth open in a cry of triumph. They turn to face each other and bring their hands together in a high-five before melting into an embrace. The camera finds Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, Russia’s Olympic pair skating champions of 1964 and 1968, clapping along with every other soul in the arena. The audience is a sea of tricolor Russian flags and chants of “Ros-si-ya, Ros-si-ya!” as Ksenia and Fedor make their way off the ice to the kiss-and-cry. Even as the scores come in – a personal best of 143.47 for a total of 218.68 – they don’t know they will be Olympic medalists. There are three excellent teams yet to skate, teams with impressive collections of Olympic and World medals. But in this moment, Ksenia and Fedor are celebrating, because they’ve done everything they are capable of.

Three performances later, Stolbova/Klimov are crowned Olympic silver medalists. They share the podium with their compatriots and training mates Volosozhar/Trankov, who claim the gold for Russia on home ice. Savchenko/Szolkowy, who attempted an extremely difficult routine but botched two elements, finish third behind the two Russians. To the rest of the world, Stolbova/Klimov’s sudden rise is an upset, even a fluke. But Ksenia and Fedor look perfectly at home on the Olympic podium. They believed in their ability to win before most of the skating world knew their names. Perhaps their silver medal was unprecedented, but it was certainly not undeserved.

B5B4FDCF-C825-4BD8-9DF2-16CBC420D18D

At the time, it seemed to be only the beginning for this promising young pair. However, their career was hampered by injuries, and Sochi would be their first and final Olympics. Yet for me, this is one of the most memorable Olympic performances I have witnessed. Their charisma, enthusiasm, and power on the ice was second to none, and they gave the performance of their lives on the night they needed it most. In fact, Ksenia and Fedor were the first pair skaters I ever truly loved, and although I’ve discovered many other couples I enjoy, they are still my favorite pair to this day.

—-

Happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Belle’s Rambling #5: How the Truman Doctrine and the Cold War Destroyed Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Bid

Last week, Bernie Sanders announced the end to his presidential campaign. Joe Biden has continued winning states in the Democratic primaries, and it seems very likely that the 2020 election will be between Biden and the incumbent Trump. As a progressive whose ideal ballot consisted of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I’m disappointed by this turn of events, especially since Sanders was leading the polls when the race began. So what went wrong? Why wouldn’t the American people like a nice old man who supported people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and the poor? What was so radical about that?

There’s one surprising answer to that: the Cold War.

Bernie Sanders identified as a socialist. While socialism has gained recent popularity amongst millennials, the previous generation of American people have been taught to associate it with some great evil because of Cold War doctrines. I firmly believe that the misconceptions around the definition of socialism were one of the main causes for Sanders’ loss of votes, so I want to debunk some of the common myths around this political policy.

First of all, let’s take it back to the roots. In the 1840s, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a series of works that formed the basis of modern socialism. At the time, many countries still had an appalling economic gap between the nobility and the working class. Between them lay the bourgeoisie, or middle class, that had no noble titles but lived comfortably off the labor of the working class. Laborers were forced to work unreasonably long hours in unsafe conditions. Marx and Engels wanted to overthrow the monarchy and abolish the middle class that was exploiting the poor. They planned to set up a system where there was no such thing as social class, the laborers controlled the government and economy, and wealth was evenly distributed so no one went hungry. At their core, Marx and Engels’ theories actually weren’t too far from the founding principles of democracy in the United States.

However, many of the socialist governments that rose from these doctrines had little in common with the Marxist utopia. As socialism gained popularity, it branched off to form a feisty little sister: communism. Communism was built on socialist principles, but it was more extreme. It called for revolution and pushed the working class to rise up against their oppressors, and it was communism (not socialism) that took hold in many countries in the early 1900s.

There’s no nice way to put it: Joseph Stalin created the American fear of communism. When the Soviet Union was established as a communist state atop the remains of imperial Russia, Stalin took control as its leader. Since there weren’t many large communist countries at the time, he became the face of communism worldwide, but he managed to violate nearly every Marxist principle in the process. I will even go as far to say that Stalin was not a true communist. Let’s compare Stalin’s policies to the basic cornerstones of Marxist communism.

Marx: We must put an end to the privileged upper classes.

Stalin: Let’s set up a bureaucracy of elites to hold all the power.

Marx: No one should go hungry.

Stalin: Come on, surely you can get through this widespread famine while I figure out my five-year plans.

Marx: Nationalism is a disease that divides the human race.

Stalin: Okay, Soviet republics, we’re going to cram Russian culture down your throats and make you all swear allegiance to our flag.

Marx: End the oppression and set people free!

Stalin: If anyone opposes me, send them to the gulags in Siberia.

Thanks a lot, Stalin. Now everyone thinks this is what communism is supposed to look like. And this is the form of communism that has cropped up in the rest of the world. When people say “communism”, people don’t picture a happy little country where everyone has enough to eat. They picture the Berlin Wall, political prisoners, and strict censorship. This is not the world Marx and Engels imagined.

The problem with any doctrine, philosophy, or religion is that it is open to interpretation, and no two humans interpret the world the same way. A tyrant can adopt the façade of a belief to justify the horrors of his regime. We see “Christian” leaders who advocate for gay conversion therapy, “Muslim” leaders who push back against women’s rights, and “Jewish” leaders who fully support the Israeli occupation of Palestine by any means. We see pro-life politicians claim they’re just here to “save the innocent children” while ignoring the innocent children who now won’t have access to abortions. We see a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and it can damage the perception of entire groups in society. I don’t need to even mention how the 9/11 attacks brought on a wave of Islamophobia or how the coronavirus outbreak has led to racism against Asians.

The United States had good reason to fear Stalin. He was a ruthless dictator who caused a lot of destruction in his brutal reign. Although his successors took a less aggressive approach, Stalin had established a corrupt form of government that exploited the people of the Soviet Union, and that became the model for communist countries worldwide. This system created intense dissatisfaction, which led to the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the general decline of communist influence in the world.

However, several countries in Europe have adopted a new policy: democratic socialism. Citizens pay high taxes, but the government provides free or nearly free healthcare, childcare, and education. According to the Gini scale of wealth inequality, the gap between rich and poor in these countries is significantly lower than in the United States. There aren’t armed soldiers on every street corner or a wall holding these people in; in fact, these countries often rank highest on the “happiest countries in the world” lists.

So what’s the secret? How have they not become a totalitarian regime with prison camps and crippling poverty?

The problem with failed communist countries isn’t Marx’s ideas, it’s how far the leaders of these countries have strayed from Marx’s ideas. I think any time there are people fleeing a country, it means that something is probably wrong with how that country is run. The countries that come up in conversations about human rights abuses in communist countries – the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Romania – have all been victims of a form of pseudo-communism. If you break down their economies, you’ll find that they aren’t really socialist at all. China is a tycoon in private enterprise. North Korea has been run by a single rich, powerful family since it was established in 1948. And we already talked about Stalin. None of these countries are centered around the Marxist model.

Communism and socialism are very broad terms. There’s a huge difference between a democratic country with healthcare for all and an autocracy where the government spies on its citizens. As Marx and Engels explicitly stated in the Communist Manifesto, the main goal of their doctrine was to create a nation that served the common folk, not the elite. But since Stalin and his cohorts spread the idea that these leftist governments created terror and poverty, there’s a stigma attached to the very concept of socialism.

It’s only been 30 years since the end of the Cold War, which means many Americans still remember the strong anticommunist movements in the West. The United States positioned itself as the perfect foil to the Soviet Union and established the idea that a “good government” was one that stayed as far from Marxism as possible. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s fiery speeches against the Warsaw Pact rallied the whole nation behind the concept that a right-wing, conservative, capitalist government was the strong good guy against the communist bad guy. This is the era my parents grew up in, and some of these beliefs continue even today. Why? Because he was, to a point, correct. The Soviet government was violating human rights. The people were suffering. But that was because of the corrupt Soviet bureaucracy, not because Marx and Engels had a flawed ideology.

And while Reagan was busy pointing the finger at all the terrible things about the Soviet government, no one was talking about how his far-right policies were denying healthcare to the poor, opposing civil rights bills, or allowing thousands of people to die of AIDS. A country on the far right is equally dangerous as one on the far left. Let’s not forget the names of some of the biggest anticommunists before Reagan: Francisco Franco. Benito Mussolini. Adolf Hitler.

No matter how many countries are making democratic socialism work, many Americans still cling to their conservative capitalist government because they are afraid of a Stalinist regime. They lean to the right because they think blocking leftist policies is the only way to preserve the democracy. They fear oppression so much that they create it. They would rather suffer without healthcare, abortions, or a living minimum wage than run the risk of letting socialist policies slip into the Senate.

And that’s when we bring up Donald Trump. If you asked me to sum up capitalism in two words, I’d say “Donald Trump” – a wealthy businessman-turned-president who values low taxes over welfare programs. It’s as if he read the whole manual on Republican economic strategies, then rewrote the whole thing on the wall in capital letters with a permanent marker. Our economy is under an extreme form of Republicanism, where services for the poor are sacrificed for tax cuts for the rich. He is the epitome of far-right conservative capitalism. And look where it’s gotten us.

Most modern democracies were built on the social contract theory, but we rarely adhere to it. The social contract is an arrangement between the government and the citizens – the citizens surrender some of their freedom to the government so the government will protect them. Successful democratic socialist countries stand by this principle far more than the United States currently does. The citizens entrust the government with their tax money so the government can ensure services to them; the government is their caretaker. As long as the nation is still a true democracy with fair elections, a socialist nation can thrive. The government becomes an ally of the people, not the enemy, and when people trust the integrity of their government, society finds peace.

This is the world Bernie Sanders offered us. But people refused to vote for him because they feared the word socialism. They went with Biden because they’re scared of change. He won’t implement major reforms to shake up the capitalist economy. He won’t raise taxes for the rich to provide free college for everyone. His policies may be more liberal than Trump’s, but he’s not going to transform the nation. He won’t rock the boat.

But sometimes you need to rock the boat when the boat is going under.

I am a socialist. I’m not afraid to say that. It shouldn’t be a “bad” word or a “controversial” word. Many socialist Democrats in the United States use the term “progressive” because it doesn’t carry the same stigma, and I use the label of progressive with great pride. But the fact that supporting universal healthcare or low-cost education is considered a radical idea in this country says a lot about the United States as a whole.

I wasn’t very politically aware until I was 14, and I still haven’t formed opinions about certain topics because there are pros and cons to everything. I didn’t choose to be a Democrat because it was the “cool” thing to do; I simply noticed that many of the people representing the Republican Party at the time were violating human rights while many of the people representing the Democratic Party were advocating for better human rights. Of course, that’s not to say that I believe all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad. But if believing in equality is considered radical, then call me a radical. I’ve had trolls call me a “commie” and conservative Republicans call me “one of those dumb liberals”. And I have compassion for them. They’re the ignorant ones. They’re making stupid decisions out of fear. They’re sacrificing their God-given rights because they don’t understand the brighter future they could have. And they deserve better. We all deserve better.

I urge you all to share this article and help fight the misconceptions surrounding the progressive movement. Look around you. Look at the immigrant children in cages. Look at the transgender people who have been denied the right to serve in the military. Look at the rising coronavirus death toll because President Trump insisted it was just a little “Chinese virus”. In the words of Disney’s Pocahontas, this is where the path of hatred has brought us. This happened because we were afraid of change. And it will keep happening until we learn to bend.

 

Belle’s Rambling #4: Why “Christians for Trump” is an Oxymoron

Trigger warning: mentions of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexual assault

I grew up in a Christian Republican household. My parents were Bush supporters, and the three things my dad ever complained about were work, weather, and Obamacare. It was a bit of a running joke in our family that if something was going wrong in the government, it must be because of “those wildin’ Democrats.”

But in 2016, they voted for Hillary Clinton.

To this day, my parents consider themselves Republicans, but now it comes with an exception: “Well, Republicans, but not for Trump. We don’t believe in all that nonsense. That’s not God-like.”

Over the past three years, I’ve developed my own set of political views. As a child, I naturally followed my parents’ Republican opinions, but I now identify as a progressive Democrat. While I still respect my parents’ views, I’ve also established my own value system. For example, as a bisexual woman of color, I only support politicians with good records on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and minorities. However, I am open to different opinions, and I have many friends with various political beliefs. At the same time, I’ve also had to establish a point where I draw the line.

Around the time of the election, I met a very nice girl, and we became friends. She didn’t talk much about politics back then, but she and her family were devout Christians. She was a modest, respectful, God-fearing woman. She didn’t drink, went to church every Sunday, and never used a more vulgar word than “crap”. She seemed practically perfect, and I envied her composure and commitment to God.

Until I found out she was a passionate Trump supporter.

Look, I can roll with other people’s opinions. I try to see both sides of the coin, even if I personally think one side is the correct side. But when the president thinks it’s okay to block equal pay laws, say all Muslims are terrorists, and put Mexican immigrant children in cages away from their parents, I can’t just respect that as a “different point of view”. He’s almost like a caricature, a supervillain, a shameless bigot who seems to actually enjoy hurting these people. This is the kind of stuff you read about in those YA dystopian books like Divergent or The Giver. This is President Snow in the flesh. This is evil. This is wrong. And this is the exact opposite of the Christianity I know.

That’s why it amazes me to see so many people who identify as Christians out here supporting Trump. “Christians for Trump” is like “Jedi for Darth Vader”. “Avengers for Thanos”. “Dumbledore’s Army for Voldemort”. It’s an oxymoron, and I don’t think people really understand it.

I’m not going to give you a long sermon here, but I want to list a few basic pillars of Christianity. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ spent His life teaching love and compassion to the world. He spread peace and kindness wherever He went, and He gave his own life to offer salvation to the people on Earth. Would Jesus rip children from their parents and lock them in cages? Would Jesus cast out a Muslim woman because he feared that she was different? Would Jesus look upon a transgender man and say he doesn’t have the right to serve his country like every other person in the nation? Or would he love them all and show them the compassion all human beings deserve?

These questions plagued me as I tried to figure out what to do about my friend. I really tried to see her side of things, and I genuinely think she believed she was doing the right thing. For example, her heart broke whenever she heard stories about abortions because she mourned the baby who would never experience life. And a piece of my heart broke with hers. But at the same time, I can’t justify a world with no abortions. I firmly believe that a rape victim should not be forced to carry and give birth to her rapist’s baby, especially if she’s still a minor. You can’t say you’re here to protect innocent, defenseless children if you think forcing a 12-year-old girl to go through that kind of trauma is okay. But my friend never looked at it that way, because she couldn’t see the forest through the trees.

I talked to her so many times, trying to gently explain my side. She never yelled at me for my opinions, never told me I was a horrible person, never tried to force me to believe what she did. I would like to believe that she respected me, even though she didn’t agree with me. But there was always a sheet of glass between us, and it grew thicker as she became more politically vocal on social media. It was so jarring to see this sweet, loving young woman preaching the word of God and Trump at the same time. She got furious at the idea of a “bad boy” catcalling a girl (and rightfully so), but she could support a man who admitted to grabbing women “by the p*ssy”.

There were so many great things about her – we could talk for hours about books, music, and everyday life like we were best friends. But on social media, she became a completely different person. She would laugh with me about my gay crushes, then post things like “Marriage is an indescribable bond between a man and a woman”. In her Twitter likes, I found tweets referring to the LGBTQ+ community as the “alphabet soup community”, which is frequently used by anti-LGBTQ+ groups as a derogatory term. It really hurt me to see these things from someone who claimed to love me like a sister. I tried to message her a few times about it, but she would never understand just how offensive she was being. She was a white, straight, cisgender U.S. citizen in a small neighborhood, and she would never be personally affected by Trump’s terrible decisions. Deep down inside, I knew she could never accept me for who I was – a bisexual Asian-American Democrat. No matter how much fun we had together, she would always believe there was something wrong with me. And to be honest, I would always believe there was something wrong with her, because I could never understand how a God-fearing woman could justify such bigotry.

It broke my heart to cut ties with her. She was one of my closest friends in a lonely time of my life, and I still miss her friendship. I hope that someday, she will realize that her beliefs are hurting people and God wouldn’t approve of that. I even hope that in 5, 10, or 15 years, we might be able to be friends again. But right now, I can’t wake up every day and hear her say that there’s nothing wrong with calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus”, that transgender people are “confused”, and that Captain Marvel is a bad movie because it teaches girls that they don’t need men to be powerful. It goes against my faith. I believe that God made all races, genders, and orientations equal – beautiful, flawed, and capable of great achievements and great mistakes.

Maybe these “Christians for Trump” really do think they’re doing the right thing. Maybe they don’t see how Trump’s politics are violating almost every rule of Christianity. Maybe they actually think every piece of information against him is “fake news”. But when I look at Donald Trump, I don’t see a shred of the goodness I see in Jesus Christ. I see a power-hungry tyrant who will stop at nothing to stay on top. And all we can do is pray that the people of the United States make the right decision in November.

Yours truly,

Belle

Belle’s Rambling #3: Between a Red Shark and a Blue Wolf

Trigger warning: sexual assault

 

The United States of America is royally messed up.

Since November 2016, I feel like I’ve been living in some kind of dystopian novel. I, like all my fellow Americans, have spent the past three years under the rule of Donald Trump. In 50 years, when I tell my grandchildren about this, they’ll probably think Grandma is telling tall tales. Honestly, I don’t quite believe it all myself.

I’ve come to realize that most politicians are corrupt. No one gets to the top without making promises they can’t keep. Even people with the best intentions will lie if it makes people support their cause. But never in my life have I seen a leader so shameless about their own corruption or backwardness. To be blunt, Trump is a misogynistic, lying bigot, and he’s proud of that.

A few months ago, I was very hopeful that the 2020 election would restore some sort of normalcy to the United States. We had a wide variety of Democratic candidates who seemed eager to make change for our country. My first choices were Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders because they were the perfect opposite of everything Trump stood for. After Warren dropped out, I was 100% down for the inauguration of President Sanders. However, it’s Joe Biden who’s been leading the primaries.

The same Joe Biden who’s been accused of sexual assault.

I had heard people refer to Biden as a “creep”, but I had no idea that he was involved in something so terrible until I saw Tara Reade’s interview earlier this week. With all the mudslinging in political campaigns, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s true. However, there’s no denying this testimony.

Sexual assault is a crime, and a criminal should not be our president.

I believe all the women who spoke against Joe Biden. I believe Joe Biden is a criminal.

Joe Biden belongs in jail, not in the White House.

I also believe all the women who spoke against Donald Trump. I believe Donald Trump is a criminal.

Donald Trump belongs in jail, not in the White House.

That’s the ugly truth of this country we live in. Both presidential candidates are sex offenders, and neither one has received any punishment for it.

This brings to light a dark truth about society: People don’t see sexual assault as a “real” crime.

If Biden was accused of breaking into someone’s house and hitting an innocent woman in the face with a golf club, he’d be getting sent down to the courthouse in handcuffs for trial already, because we all know that is wrong. But when people hear allegations of sexual assault, they tend to say, “Well, there’s a gray area.” And what gray area would that be? It’s still assault. It’s still a traumatic experience for the victim. It’s still illegal. And it’s still something the President of the United States should never do.

The #MeToo movement has been a revolutionary force of empowerment for survivors, and it’s brought several high-profile offenders to justice. But we still have a long way to go. At the end of the day, Trump and Biden are not only running free on the streets, but holding major positions of power. Something needs to change.

No matter what, the election is still scheduled for November, and I’m afraid to see what will happen. Trump supporters will capitalize on the accusations against Biden and make sure every soul on Earth knows that Joe Biden is a sex offender while ignoring the dozens of allegations against Trump. Likewise, the Biden supporters will downplay Biden’s crimes and pull up the infamous reel of footage where Trump said “grab them by the p*ssy”. It’s simple hypocrisy: people point out the faults of others but never admit to their own.

I am a Democrat. In 2016, I promised I would support the Democratic candidate because “anyone is better than Trump”. However, Biden does not represent what the Democratic Party stands for. In fact, both Biden and Trump are terrible examples of the political parties they represent. Biden is not a left-wing, progressive-minded Democrat who supports women, minorities, the poor, and the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, Trump is far from the “traditional Christian family man” of the Republican Party.

I love Bernie Sanders. I think he’s the leader this country needs right now. He’s not perfect, but his political beliefs are in line with my own, and unlike Trump and Biden, he hasn’t been accused of any crimes. If Bernie was my president, I could go to bed every night trusting that the government is doing its best to manage whatever is going on in the world. However, I know the facts: the odds of Bernie winning both the primary and the election are very slim. It’s a sad truth, but many people in the United States would rather vote for a centrist who’s been accused of sexual assault than a leftist with no accusations to his name.

There’s still a part of me that’s praying for a miracle: Bernie Sanders for president. But there’s a good chance it’s going to be either Trump or Biden. Lex Luthor or Thanos. And I hate this. I don’t want to see either of them win. I don’t want to spend the next four years under a president who thinks sexual assault is perfectly okay. But this is the world we’re living in.

With a heavy heart, I’m standing with the Democratic Party even if Biden wins the primary. It makes me furious to think that he might be our president, and I will never forget the testimonies against him. I will think of those women every time I see his face or hear his name. However, I believe he will do less damage to the United States than Trump will. We’ve already seen the havoc Trump has made in the past 3 years – Muslim refugees turned away, transgender troops denied the right to serve in the military, immigrant children separated from their parents. Biden is by no means progressive, but I trust he will not implement any policies that will restrict our rights more than anything Trump has already introduced. With Biden as president, we will have more Democrats in positions of power, and this opens up more opportunities for true progressives to make change – I am hoping he will choose Elizabeth Warren as his running mate to balance the ticket. By voting blue, we can force out not only Trump but Mike Pence, who infamously funded gay conversion therapy and supported extreme anti-abortion laws. We can clear out many of the far-right politicians who have sent this country into a downward spiral. Right now, that’s all we can do.

I will never support Biden. I can only support the campaign that will get Trump and his administration out of the government. I’m standing with the Democratic Party because I believe they’re the party that’s more likely to bring the change we need. But that doesn’t mean I will ever, ever forget the crimes of Joe Biden.

Let’s vote blue in November to stop Trump. Let’s fill the House and the Senate with dozens of good, honest Democrats. Let’s advocate for sexual assault victims and help the world understand the severity of this crime. And if we work hard enough until the next election, we might create a better version of the world where we won’t have to choose between a red shark and a blue wolf.