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Mass Shootings Can Be A “Mental Health Problem,” But They’re Still Primarily About Guns

Radar
Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images

It’s not a case of either/or

America claims to be the greatest country in the world, and yet, when it comes to gun control, we can't seem to focus on more than one thing at a time. In response to the devastating mass shooting at a Texas church over the weekend, that left 26 dead and more than 20 wounded, Donald Trump said it's mental illness, not guns, that is to blame. Trump is clearly echoing the sentiments of other Republican lawmakers, who are influenced by the NRA, and only uses the mental illness excuse when the shooters are white. This doesn't need to be an either/or conversation; it can—and should—be an issue of both guns and mental health.

While only about 3 to 5 percent of violent acts are committed by people with mental illness, it'd be hard to argue that better mental health treatment in the United States wouldn't benefit a lot of people. The brother of Stephen Paddock, the gunman behind the Las Vegas massacre, said that Paddock had "not a bit" of mental illness history. Yet, considering Paddock's history with domestic violence, it's hard not to wonder what benefits he would have derived from counseling and psychiatric assessment and care.


However, Trump can't blame mass shootings on mental illness and then, at the same time, support legislation that allows those with mental illness to purchase firearms and champion a health care bill that excludes mental health care. If we're going to talk about both gun control and mental health, we need to do something about both critical issues. The fastest way to prevent a tragedy like what happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and in Las Vegas just a month before that, wouldn't be to wait until Republicans create a health care bill that includes affordable, comprehensive mental health care coverage, it's to legislate gun access.

 

We wouldn't even have to ban a wide range of guns at first, considering the same exact category of firearm was used in many of the major mass shootings in this country. From Sandy Hook to Orlando to Las Vegas to Sutherland Springs, the gunman used an AR-15. In some instances, bump stocks were used to modify the guns to fire rounds more quickly, emulating an automatic weapon. By banning variations of AR-15s—which were originally designed as weapons of war—and bump stocks, we're ensuring that these kinds of horrific acts are impossible, whether a person has a history of mental illness or not. The millions of Americans who own an AR-15 can find another weapon for self-defense or use a different gun to hunt if that's what they're using it for. There's no excuse good enough to justify the lives that have been taken by these machines. 

 

Regardless of what Trump wants to blame the latest mass shooting, we are going to keep having this conversation every few weeks until we actually do something. Getting rid of these guns should be the first step, or at least getting them out of the hands of civilians, particularly those with a history of mental illness. Next on our agenda should be making health care more affordable and accessible to the average person. 

The number of therapists that accept health insurance continues to decline, giving people fewer and fewer options to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. Instead of arguing over what matters more, mental illness or guns, let's agree both are extremely important, and then set about the best path to addressing those issues head-on. The people of Sutherland Springs obviously have our prayers and thoughts (it's difficult to think about anything else), but what they deserve is our action. 

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.