by, Nicole Fitzsimmons, Asst. News Editor
From a lack of motivation to extreme stress, life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a complete roller coaster at this point. Alexandra Xuan, a junior economics major with minors in global business and Arabic, has created an outlet for herself and other students to find solace during these chaotic times.
Xuan is no stranger to the fear and difficulty that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under layers of stress, bad news and life adjustments, she began to search for a way out of the constant cycle of negativity by developing a weekly newsletter for students that supports positive feminist news.
“I was never really conscientious about the news that I was consuming at this time,” Xuan said. “It appeared to be like an endless cycle of alarming news that did nothing but scare us, and there is nothing wrong with having fear– I think that’s a natural feeling to have every once in a while, especially now in times of uncertainty. However, I would expect feeling fear for a prolonged period of time to be dangerous to our mental health. I wanted to do something about this.”
Xuan began to search for new activities and hobbies that would occupy her mind in positive ways. In turn, she sought out positive news stories, despite the large amount of unavoidable negativity in recent weeks. While it was hard to find any good news in general, Xuan specifically noticed the lack of good news surrounding women, even prior to these uncertain times.
“Somehow, after scrolling through some artsy feminist Instagram feeds, it sparked in my mind that even prior to these uncertain times, a substantial amount of the ‘positive’ news about women that were published probably had to do with a male perpetrator in an assault case who was finally sentenced,” Xuan said. “News like this is not news that we, as women, should keep reading about, as this may instill a certain notion that Hollywood is probably always bad for actresses, women should stay away from male CEOs, etc.”
In an effort to counter the way women are portrayed in the media, Xuan wanted to create something that would remedy this narrative. She wanted to focus on news about female executives of big companies, successful female entrepreneurs or on the celebrations of female accomplishments outside of women’s history month.
As a result, Xuan started the “[SHE]DONIST DISTRICT,” which is a weekly newsletter that empowers women with positive feminist news stories. Positivity is a key force in these newsletters, and they usually begin with a news section about women, and continue with anything that promotes productivity such as Zoom call tips, activities, arts or skincare favorites. The newsletter usually concludes with a bright inspirational quote by one of her favorite instagram pages.
“[SHE]DONIST is a wordplay on hedonist, which by definition is someone who seeks pleasure and avoids suffering,” Xuan said. “These newsletters are meant to bring a smile or a boost of positive motivation to readers on Monday mornings, and since it is meant to do so for an audience that consists of predominantly women, the ‘she’ was placed at the beginning. Though, again, these newsletters and this community are open to everyone.”
To create these newsletters, Xuan scrolls through multiple news sources as she usually would during her morning. Since starting the newsletters in March, she began to focus on women’s news sections, specifically on the ones that struck her as positive, motivational or emotionally moving. While the subsequent sections vary weekly, she sets aside time on the weekends to accumulate all the articles and write briefings on each. In the first newsletter that was sent out, she highlighted gratitude towards health workers, workers in the front lines and female celebrities who have used their platforms to help or donate. Coincidentally, the first newsletter was sent out in March: Women’s History Month. She linked articles that celebrated the most influential women of our time, along with other ideas and recommendations at the end to boost productivity, induce self care and to recommend things to watch, read or listen to.
In the near future, Xuan plans to create a community on social media for [SHE]DONIST DISTRICT and to also grow the platform for more people to feel inspired. Her goal for this community is to have a place for readers to respond, comment, suggest and interact. Currently, these newsletters are sent to Manhattan College students, students at other colleges, graduate students and people who are working full-time. The reactions have encouraged Xuan to take the newsletters further.
“I have personally gotten texts about how this project has brightened people’s moods or has inspired productivity,” Xuan said. “These comments have really made me feel a sense of purpose.”
What began as a passion project has become something motivating for members of the MC community and beyond. Xuan has offered a spark of optimism in the midst of negativity. In the hopes of growing the [SHE]DONIST DISTRICT community, she is also interested in collaborating with anyone who is interested or has experience. Access to past newsletters, or an opportunity to sign up for them can be found here.
“I believe using positive reinforcement in journalism for women would be a game changer that should have been made many, many, many years ago,” Xuan said.