CULTURE

Late Capitalism Diaries: Lingua Franca’s Cashmere Activism Vs. Lingua Ignota’s Rage

Lingua Franca and Lingua Ignota offer opposing ways of processing Marianne Williamson's "dark psychic forces."

According to former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, "dark psychic forces" are haunting America.

These forces, she implied, manifest themselves as fear—a fear that President Donald Trump weaponized in 2016.

Though not new, or even particularly creative, Trump became the hyper-visible avatar of this evil in 2016. It makes sense, then, that Trump's election spawned a loose movement known as the "Resistance," as well as a resurgence in mainstream feminist activism in conjunction with the #MeToo movement.

The term "Resistance," however, is not quite as radical as it may seem, as it implies a sense of hope and faith in the current system. To resist is to attempt to preserve, to avoid an insurrection, to refuse change in some way. It's to abstain from something, to refuse temptation, to resist change. Though a lot of powerful movements arose from this "resistance," so did a significant amount of corporatized, performative activism.

One such corporate-activist movement is Lingua Franca, a high-end brand that mixes activism-inspired messages with luxury goods. Lingua Franca offers one way of responding to the wickedness of men and the world at large. As I was reading about Lingua Franca, with all its cutesy, optimistic messaging, I couldn't help thinking of another Lingua: the relentlessly pessimistic noise musician Lingua Ignota. Together, both Linguas offer linguistic frameworks for processing the end times*, presenting different ways of contextualizing trauma, evil men, and the capitalist system that upholds them.

Lingua Franca and the Price Tag of Performative Resistance

As a recent profile in The Cut reads, Lingua Franca is a cashmere sweater fashion brand that has labeled itself as "the official cashmere of the resistance." Founded by Rachelle Hruska MacPherson, it sells things like $380 sweaters and cards emblazoned with slogans like "WE THE PEOPLE" and "ROSES ARE RED / VIOLETS ARE BLUE / I WANT TO DESTROY / WHITE SUPREMACY WITH YOU."

Hruska MacPherson was inspired to move her company towards activism in 2017, when three F.I.T. students from Iran came in crying after Trump instituted his travel ban. "It was the first time in my white privileged life I had politics affect me. It's insane and ridiculous, but it's the truth," Hruska MacPherson told The Cut.

It would be easy to dig into Hruska MacPherson, but the fact that she was able to live until 2017 without being influenced by politics (while some people are incapable of avoiding them) is more indicative of a larger problem, one more related to Wall Street fossil fuel barons than small Bleecker Street shop-owners.

Armarium

Inevitably, Lingua Franca reeks of Hruska MacPherson's delayed turn to activism and the culture that allowed her to turn a blind eye for so long. The brand also embodies capitalism's eerie habit of repackaging activism and social justice and using them as advertising fuel, a product of capitalism's natural drive to consume and market anything that could potentially create a profit.

Despite its complicity, Lingua Franca has its upsides. The company donates some of its proceeds to charitable organizations, and all its sweaters are hand-knit by women in New York who are paid between $20 and $27 per hour. Hruska MacPherson is trying. Most fashion companies don't make an effort to make a stand for something; instead, they source labor from overseas and contribute to the environmental crisis.

We are living within capitalism. We are flawed. Everyone's trying to make it through; but some have it a lot easier than others. No, it is not fair. Yes, it could change if the people on top wanted it to.

Lingua Franca's website expresses some awareness of its own insufficiency. "We're living in uncertain (and often scary) times. We don't have all the answers. But we try to listen and we try to learn," reads a postscript on its "about" page. Listening and learning are absolutely undervalued skills.

Linguistically, a lingua franca is about communication, but it's mostly about the knowable and the visible. The term "lingua franca" is defined as "any of various languages used as common or commercial tongues among peoples of diverse speech." It refers to "a common language consisting of Italian mixed with French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic that was formerly spoken in Mediterranean ports." A lingua franca is predicated on the idea that common ground can be found. It's hopeful and always illuminated—by the kind of artificial light that makes for fantastic photographs but sometimes hurts the eyes when you stare too long.

merriam-webster.com

Lingua Franca is one woman's way of responding to the rise of an evil man, whose rise proved the existence of an evil that white women like Hreska MacPherson had long been able to previously ignore. Trump's election and subsequent events, such as the travel ban and the images of children trapped at the U.S. border, had eye-opening effects on many American citizens, particularly those who had previously been sheltered. The election helped bring these events out into the open, creating space for a lingua franca—a common, palatable dialogue—a resistance that could exist comfortably within a pre-existing capitalist system, a resistance that mandated the participation of even those who benefitted from that system and had previously lived comfortably.

But what if one's existence had always been uncomfortable—even unbearable—before Trump?

Lingua Ignota and the Sound of Self-Immolation

Lingua Ignota is an experimental musician who released the excellent album Caligula this year. Born Kristin Hayter, the Providence-based musician creates stunningly violent, erratic music that combines abstract, medieval Christian hymnals and classical influences with Hayter's guttural screaming. The result is the sonic equivalent of a subway bombing.

As a project, Lingua Ignota was born from trauma. Hayter is a survivor of domestic abuse, and her experiences inspired her to create a thesis at Brown University entitled BURN EVERYTHING TRUST NO ONE KILL YOURSELF. She then started setting the sentiments she explored in that thesis to music, and Lingua Ignota rose from the ashes.

The term "lingua ignota" refers to an "unknowable language" that was created by St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century abbess who is said to have designed the language for "mystical purposes."

Wikipedia

The abbess is always heavy on Hayter's mind. "With Hildegard, I think of divine immolation," Hayter said. "She wrote of "sparks of God" and "living light,", and in illustrations she's depicted with flames surrounding her or rising from her head. God spoke to her through fire… I'm trying to construct something that speaks the unspeakable, and so I use this sort of amalgam of musical devices to make my own sonic language which is meant to also be ecstatic or outside the self. There is always the urge to escape the body, to immolate."

Lingua Ignota's "initial premise was survivors of violence reclaiming their bodies through self-immolation, this idea that violence begets violence, and that resistance and empowerment meant weaponising the self with fire—that nothing else was possible," said Hayter in an interview with The Quietus. Unsurprisingly, Hayter's songs are not hopeful. They are about murdering men. They sound like something is being ripped open, like demons are being summoned from below. They are the polar opposite of Lingua Franca's neat, cashmere resistance. They are the opposite of soft. They don't ask for sympathy. Instead, Hayter stated that they are attempts to explore "the depravity of people in power politically these days; and also the depravity of people in power in our communities and intimate relationships."

The Collaborative

Lingua Ignota's music is not implicitly better or more ethical than Hruska MacPherson's project, and maybe Lingua Ignota is just another relatively privileged white woman's attempt at processing the unprocessable. But sexual assault spans race and class, and sexual trauma has a way of living in the body. When Trump was elected, that trauma (somewhat ironically) was forced out into the open.

Lingua Ignota had been splitting her sides open and screaming out her demons since before Trump was elected, but her work can be read as another, more helter-skelter reaction to what Trump represents to so many. Though she is a performer, her shows embrace suffering and nuance and focus on destroying illusions. With its refusal to be remotely palatable, her work could be read as the antithesis of the wellness-corporate feminism machine; it could also be read as a death threat to abusers everywhere. It's gospel for the f*cking tired, for everyone whose life was forever altered by the irresponsible actions of terrible men who felt they could take everything while facing no consequences.

If lingua franca (the language) was built for trading purposes, lingua ignota is about implosion and deconstruction. If Lingua Franca (the company) is the emblem of neat, pristine, Instagram-ready capitalist activism and corporate feminism, Lingua Ignota and her brutal solo performances are embodiments of a more primal, slippery, fleshy rage, one that accesses a profound emotional response to horrors that, often, we are too burned out and desensitized to actually face, let alone protest.

If lingua franca is the language of the "Resistance," lingua ignota might be the language of the apocalypse.

Originally a Greek word, the term "apocalypse" refers to "an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling." An apocalypse is a revelation, and the shattering it implies is inextricable from the rise of something new.

dictionary.com

Though the sentiment behind Lingua Franca is inspiring, real change and healing will not come from cashmere sweaters that exist within and perpetuate capitalist systems. Maybe, to see real change, we need to embrace a kind of apocalyptic thinking. This doesn't mean we should be bogged down by abstract fears of the world ending*. For the fires are here. The floods are here. The violations happened. We can't really hope to see change while attempting to work within the same systems that brought Donald Trump to power and legitimized pain and oppression for so long.

Perhaps, to actually protest these "dark psychic forces," and to change the course of this burning earth, we need to be going towards their sources. Maybe we should be trying to dismantle the bomb at the heart of it all rather than perpetually twisting the pieces into slogans, or waiting for the wounded to emerge screaming from the shrapnel.

That bomb will only be dismantled when we act—by donating to causes we believe in, elevating marginalized voices, and rallying around politicians who promise to create something new rather than maintaining more of the same.

Warner Bros.

Three days into 2020 and we're already on the brink of World War 3.

If that's not proof we're living in the darkest timeline, I don't know what is. Luckily, considering nuclear warfare is the logical conclusion of this failed experiment called "human civilization," our species has already conceived plenty of potential guidelines for life in a deadly wasteland. These guides, better known as "post-apocalyptic movies," can help us prepare for the worst and, quite frankly, the most deserved end-times scenarios.

Snowpiercer

CJ Entertainment

Bong Joon-ho's pre-Parasite take on class warfare sees the struggle between rich and poor play out aboard a never-stopping train that carries the last surviving remnants of humanity. In Snowpiercer, the world entered a second Ice Age due to failed climate engineering to combat global warming, but thankfully, we'll probably get blown up before global warming gets the chance to kill us. Minus the cold, though, Snowpiercer teaches us to move to the front of the train and overthrow the bourgeoisie the first chance we get. Otherwise, they'll do really awful stuff to our arms.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road

Warner Bros.

Probably the most accurate post-apocalyptic roadmap for the future of the global West, Mad Max: Fury Road conceives a desert wasteland dominated by rabid, drugged out white men. Then it'll be up to one really beefed up dude, but actually mostly a bunch of badass warrior women, to reclaim the scraps of society from the same people who most likely ruined it in the first place.

The Day After Tomorrow

the day after tomorrow

20th Century Fox

The Day After Tomorrow, an overwhelmingly scientifically inaccurate disaster movie that depicts cataclysmic weather events due to global cooling, probably doesn't have many lessons for our end-times (considering most of us will be piles of ash or smudges on the wall). But it does present an alternative that might make us thankful for the way we're going to go when Donald Trump triggers nuclear holocaust. At least we won't be cold!

Waterworld

Waterworld

Universal Pictures

The vast number of post-apocalyptic fantasies based around weather-related phenomena suggests to me that even the most creative people couldn't actually imagine a US president being dumb enough to try to start a nuclear war. But here we are, and Donald Trump's supporters are just as eager as ever to send their grandchildren to their deaths. Anyways, Waterworld isn't going to be happen, but it would still be cool to drink filtered pee as a source of nutrients.

Children of Men

Children of Men

Universal Studios

Anti-immigrant police state? Check. Abortion bans and restrictions on reproductive rights? Also check. The post-apocalyptic future conceived in Alfonso Cuaron's children of men might actually be the future a lot of modern Trump supporters crave (or at least the ones who survive the nuclear blast). As such, this might be one of the better sources to study to ensure your future survival. So here's a juicy tip. If guns are going to be everywhere anyways, we might as well start training.

Zombieland

Zombieland

Sony Pictures Releasing

I'm not sure that the nuclear fallout will turn everyone into actual zombies, but zombie-killing techniques aren't necessarily the core takeaway from Zombieland. Rather, the key lesson is make rules for yourself and always follow them. That's what college-aged survivor Columbus does, proving that a solid set of rules can ensure that even a scrawny dude built like Jesse Eisenberg can traverse the apocalypse using his brains.

Rollerball

Rollerball

United Artists

Okay, Rollerball might not exactly be "post-apocalyptic," but if we're going to live in a post-apocalyptic society anyways, I'd prefer it to be one where I can play Rollerball. If I'm not nuked right off the bat, I'd prefer to die during a gladiatorial rollerskating battle. Is that too much to ask?

CULTURE

The Decline of Trump's Twitter Account and Why Chrissy Teigen Is a Threat

Depressing data shows that Trump is, in fact, getting worse.

At any given time, Donald Trump is ready to complain that he doesn't receive enough credit.

More accurately, Trump is always keeping track of who's stealing public attention from him. From Anthony Scaramucci claiming that Trump was "intimidated" by how "good-looking" Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to Trump calling four Congresswomen who challenge his racist rhetoric "weak and insecure people," the president is apparently threatened by any high profile figure who is funny, articulate, informed, and not a douchebag. Among Trump's approximate 14,000 tweets in the last three years, many have been dedicated to feuding with celebrities and other politicians, from Justin Trudeau and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Cher and, most recently, Chrissy Teigen.

Over the weekend, Trump lashed out about not receiving enough praise for signing the First Step Act, widely regarded as the first piece of legislation for badly-needed prison reform. On Sunday, MSNBC aired a documentary special, Justice for All, about the mass incarceration problem in America—which maintains the dubious honor of having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 655 per 100,000 people imprisoned. An avid advocate for criminal justice reform, musician John Legend appeared in the documentary, and like immigrants, universal health care as a human right, and weather science, that made Trump very, very mad.

After the special aired, he tweeted, "I SIGNED IT INTO LAW, no one else did, & Republicans deserve much credit. But now that it is passed, people that had virtually nothing to do with it are taking the praise."

Twitter

To paint the full picture here, the First Step Act is unequivocally the most significant law in recent times to reduce unjustly long prison sentences and reduce federal sentences for some drug convictions. However, the law isn't groundbreaking by any means (especially compared to some states' prison reforms), and its benefits still exclude many inmates, including undocumented immigrants and those with previous criminal history. Ultimately, the law is expected to have a limited impact on incarceration rates. More significantly, Trump's proposed 2020 budget underfunds the act's programs to a concerning degree; and, as of August, prison reform activists are still concerned that "the Trump Administration [isn't] committed."

But none of that is the point to Trump. After all, he signed the damned document, didn't he?! He tweeted, "Guys like boring musician @johnlegend, and his filthy mouthed wife, are talking now about how great it is - but I didn't see them around when we needed help getting it passed." (By the way, the act received bipartisan support, with most notable opposition coming from members of Trump's own party). Trump's main concern is why he didn't get a shoutout in the network's special, while John Legend got to show his amazing, ageless face.

Legend responded with a patriotic call to action: "Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody—ANYBODY—will praise you. Melania, please praise this man. He needs you," he tweeted. He repeated, "Your country needs you, Melania."


As for Chrissy Teigen, proud "filthy mouthed wife," long-time detractor of Trump, and Twitter queen in her own right, she responded with her characteristic candor: "The absolute best part of his tweet is I literally didn't speak in the special, nor was I mentioned. I'm cackling at the pointless addition of me because he cannot not be a bitch."

Twitter


The former Sports Illustrated model has garnered over 11 million followers for her frank and hilarious reality checks about everything from unrealistic beauty standards, monthly periods, the daily trials of parenthood, and how much John Legend resembles Arthur the animated aardvark to matters of slightly larger import—like prison reform. Soon, #fithymouthedwife, #TeamChrissy, and #PresidentP*ssyAssBitch began trending on Twitter, along with Teigen's name.

Even all-American dirtbag Anthony Scaramucci, Trump's former communications director, weighed in on Trump's latest Twitter feud and neurotic need for attention: "Have any of the other presidents in recent history—modern history—gone after their private citizens whether they're celebrities or not celebrities?" Scaramucci told CNN. "(For) the last two and a half years this guy has acted like a bully, crazy person against his fellow citizens."

Excellent question, Mooch! Well, let's remember that a modern-day POTUS uses Twitter the same way his forebears used radio to broadcast addresses to the American public. For instance, from 1933-1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt embraced the broadcasting potential of radio (yes, we're diving deep enough to seriously compare Donald Trump to Franklin D. Roosevelt) "to come into your home and sit at your fireside for a little fireside chat," giving approximately 30 informal "Fireside Chats" (each between 13 and 44 minutes) while he pushed his New Deal policy and talked America through the outbreak of World War II.

What does Trump use his social media presence to do? What message does he spread to his more than 64 million followers? He's feuded with dozens of celebrities who, like Teigen, dare to criticize his policies or his tiny, tiny hands; and, when he has discussed policy, he's increased the volatility of the financial market. How? According to a very depressing analysis by J.P. Morgan, when Trump tweets about the Federal Reserve, U.S. interest rates respond. In particular, words like "China, "billion," and "products" are associated with negative stock market returns, so says Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Twitter


Tweetbinder

And, of course, he's getting worse, in both number of tweets and, apparently, sleepless mania. Since 2016, Trump has turned to Twitter not so much to spread policy but to act like a lonely junior high student who's subtweeting his/her entire school. If you take a look at his Twitter archive, and his usage has been increasing since he first took office in 2016. In 2018, Donald Trump posted more than 3,400 tweets, at an average of 10 tweets a day—easily the most social media engagement of any president thus far. (For context, as of January 2019, the total number of tweets Barack Obama posted was 15,573.)

But don't worry: When Trump's latest Twitter feud doesn't make it to the trending page, you can avoid his tweets by not logging on at 1:00 PM or 3:00 AM, at which times Trump tweets the most. What are you doing at lunch time, President Trump? Why aren't you sleeping at 3:00 AM? Take a break, Mr. President—for all our sake's.

CULTURE

Versace, Givenchy, Gucci, and Coach Apologize to China

The companies have come under fire on Chinese social media platforms for anti-nationalistic products.

Over the weekend, Versace posted a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries from China.

Immediately, the shirts generated backlash from China's Sina Weibo social media network.

In response, China's Versace ambassador, Yang Mi, terminated her contract with the company. "China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times," read a statement posted by her agency.

Following the outcry, the / other similar high fashion companies Coach and Givenchy came under fire for similar mishaps. Both labels have previously released clothing that lists Hong Kong as a separate nation, and a Coach shirt also implied that Taiwan—considered a province by Beijing—was a separate country. Gucci has also come under fire for listing Hong Kong as a separate country on a drop-down menu on their website.

In response, Givenchy ambassador Jackson Yee, a member of the boy band TFBoys, also severed fashion ties with the brand. Today, a hashtag on Weibo calling for a boycott of Coach has been read over a billion times.

All the brands have posted social media apologies, including Donatella Versace, who captioned a picture of herself on Instagram, "Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused."



The backlash comes during a period when China's national sovereignty and unity are under fire. For over ten weeks, widespread and sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests have torn through Hong Kong, resisting a bill proposed by the territory's chief executive Carrie Lam, which threatened to allow authorities to prosecute criminals in mainland China instead of Hong Kong.

Read more about the Hong Kong protests here.

Fashion Mishaps: Symptoms of a Larger Problem?

Though they come at a particularly sensitive time, these mistakes have not happened in a vacuum: They are a symptom of the fashion industry's lack of diversity. In recent months, companies including Chanel and Gucci have appointed their first heads of diversity and inclusion, perhaps at last becoming aware that with the help of social media, racist fashion products can no longer be brushed under the rug. (Chanel has come under fire once again for appointing a white woman as head of its diversity department, leading to even more social media criticism).

Other high-profile gaffes from fashion companies include the time when Dolce and Gabbana faced fire for portraying a Chinese model eating with chopsticks, when Gucci merch resembled blackface, and when Kim Kardashian West's beauty line briefly co-opted the name "Kimono."

Social media accounts such as Diet Prada have helped call out racism that has long been part of the fabric of the fashion industry, which has long cherry-picked styles from cultural stereotypes. "The nationalist sentiment has been rising in recent years. All aspects of the fashion industry need to be thinking about this at every level, that is, this decision, this product, whether this kind of marketing will cause a public opinion crisis related to nationalism," said Joyce Xu, the Executive Editor of Chinese digital business publication Jiemian.

In today's hyper-surveilled social media age, even fashion brands and celebrities must be aware that each of their actions—or lack thereof—is fundamentally political, especially during a time of upheaval like the one that China is experiencing. "In general there has been a bit of a shift from the government, basically saying, 'If you are going to be a celebrity and make money being a celebrity, that's ok, however, you have to live up to the ideals of the [Communist] Party and if you do anything counter to that, we are going to be taking a very close look at everything going on in your life. Celebrities are being extremely careful right now," said Mark Tanner, the managing director of a Chinese insight-marketing agency. It's clear that fashion brands need to follow suit.

CULTURE

Twitter Is Photoshopping Ivanka Trump into Famous Scenes and It's Great​ #UnwantedIvanka

Being someone's daughter is not a good enough qualification for public office, or anything else for that matter.

Twitter/ @moriiyanis

On June 29th, the French Presidential Palace released a video showing Ivanka Trump trying to insert herself into a conversation with world leaders at the G20 summit.

It's absolutely brutal.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Chairwoman of the French International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde attempt to talk about serious world business. Donald Trump's nepotism-appointed-diplomat-daughter smiles and eagerly tries to contribute, but her complete lack of qualifications don't impress the world leaders, who ignore her completely save for a few timely side-eye glances.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who actually earned her position as a U.S. Representative, responded with an incredible burn: "It may be shocking to some, but being someone's daughter actually isn't a career qualification." Which, ya know, is right. Clearly world leaders don't care what Trump's umpteenth generation rich daughter who has never worked an honest day in her life has to say about anything.

As is often the case online, Twitter latched on to Ivanka's pathetic attempt at inserting herself where nobody wanted her, to imagine "What if Ivanka inserted herself in other famous moments in history, too?" Is there anything Ivanka wouldn't falsely believe she was qualified for? Let's find out.

Here's Ivanka on the moon. She's not wearing a spacesuit, so she's probably going to asphyxiate within a few seconds.

Here's Ivanka chilling with Anubis in the Egyptian underworld and as a lady at King Henry VIII's court.

Here's Ivanka peeping those old farmers.

Here's Ivanka pretending to help Dr. Bunsen Honeydew with science.

Here's Ivanka trying to get in on dat God finger.

Here's Ivanka in bed with John and Yoko.

Here's Ivanka on a construction beam after pretending to "work."

Here's Ivanka listening to MLK but still low-key being anti-busing.

Here's Ivanka next to Jesus himself at the actual Last Supper.

Here's Ivanka pretending to have friends.


Here's Ivanka, like, totally slumming it!

Here's Ivanka embracing her inner mean girl.

Here's Ivanka taking credit for the work of black women.

Here's Ivanka "fighting" on the frontlines.

This Tweet is just savage and so good.

Here's Ivanka on the Titanic, but don't worry, her dad sent a helicopter for her when it sank.

Here's Ivanka witnessing the love story of a lifetime.

Finally, here's Ivanka politicking, and this one isn't even photoshopped. Ivanka really does just insert herself in places she has no business being because, again, being someone's daughter is not a good qualification for world diplomacy.

Sports

THE OPTION | The North Heads South

Amid rising tensions, North and South Korea agree to march under one banner for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Currently, President Trump and Kim Jung-Un are engaged in a protracted Twitter war, and tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are the highest they've been in decades. This isn't without cause however, as North Korea has successfully launched three ballistic missiles this year alone. On top of this, The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock now reads 2 and 1/2 minutes to midnight, the closest it's been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite the maelstrom, North and South Korea have managed to reconcile some of their differences over the past few weeks. Following a meeting with the International Olympics Committee this past weekend, the IOC president Thomas Bach announced that the two nations would walk out under the same banner during this year's opening ceremony.

North Korea will be fielding 22 total athletes across a wide range of disciplines including cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, speed skating, and figure skating. 12 of these athletes are members of North Korea's women's ice hockey team, and according to the BBC, these players will be assimilated into South Korea's 23-player roster, creating a unified team. The stipulations are simple. The South Korean coach, Sarah Murray, is still in charge of the team, with the small caveat that she must include at least three North Korean players on her final roster.

While the joint team looks fantastic from an international relations perspective, coach Murray isn't so sure about the implementation. Murray was only informed of the IOC's decision to add North Korean players on January 14th, less than a month before the team plays their first match. Murray believes that the move is dangerous for team chemistry and this is certainly understandable. An Olympic hockey team is allowed 22 skaters and 3 goaltenders. This means, that in order to meet the demands of the IOC, Murray will have to cut at least one player from her roster just weeks before the competition begins.

The IOC's explanation for choosing to enforce this decision so late in the game is simple: the South Korean team isn't very good. Their opinion is that it's virtually impossible for the South Korean team to medal, so screwing with the roster doesn't really matter. There are others who have decried the move as having sexist undertones, citing that the decision-making committee was entirely male, and that no men's team had to go through last minute changes.

As for the rest of the games, South Korea is urging athletes and members of the press not to defect while they're visiting Pyeongchang. While South Korea has encouraged defection in the past, they seem extremely eager to keep their lines of communication with North Korea open. Even for two countries in a decades-long standoff, relations have been particularly icy of late. Before this January, the last time the two countries had negotiators meet at the DMZ was in 2015. President Moon Jae-in sees the games as an opportunity to strengthen diplomatic ties with South Korea's neighbors and is hoping, that the games can help bring the reclusive country into more open negotiations with the rest of the world. It's important to remember, that the Olympics are, first and foremost, a vessel for international relations. Honest competition, while the games' professed ideal, is secondary. The unified Korean women's hockey team probably won't do well in the games, but the message this team sends is what's important. When it comes to sacrificing a team's Olympic chances in the pursuit of easing political tensions between nuclear powers, the ends justify the means.


Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff


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