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A vial of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at Northwell Health South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. President Biden said that Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, a collaboration between rivals aimed at ramping up the pace of inoculations that will help provide enough supply for every adult in the U.S. by the end of May. Photographer: Johnny Milano/Bloomberg via Getty Images Nationwide, people are grappling with the weight of life during the coronavirus pandemic as they reflect on an entire year living under some kind of lockdown. For many, the pandemic has meant working from home, less physical contact with family and friends, and a complete change in how they interact with everyday life in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones safer from the deadly virus. But there is some hope for relief, now that a third vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use in the US. Johnson & Johnson has also applied for approval in the UK. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now being administered across the United States for people ages 18 and older. Despite the fact that there are now even more vaccines being made available to millions of people across the country, some are skeptical that the J&J vaccine is less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer two-dose vaccines, due to lower efficacy numbers. Media reports on the new vaccine have focused their attention on its efficacy rate: 72% for Johnson & Johnson, compared to 94% for Moderna and 95% for Pfizer. But the lower rate shouldn’t discourage anyone from getting the single-dose vaccine, which is equally as effective as the other two at preventing serious illness, according to The New York Times. The J&J vaccine’s lower effectiveness number refers only to its ability to prevent all infections as a result of contracting the SARS-Cov-2 virus. While it may not be as good at preventing mild COVID cases, Johnson & Johnson’s single dose is just as successful as the other two at preventing the most serious cases of this virus, and that’s most important. For more context, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also more effective than the flu jab. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.” Dr Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco told The New York Times that with any of the three vaccines, “There’s essentially no chance you will die of COVID, which is breathtaking.” This is notable, considering the virus has killed more than half a million people in the US over the last year. The goal of any of the three vaccines is not to completely root out COVID-19, which is likely here to stay. Instead, the hope is to turn the virus into something like a mild flu or the common cold while we seek to achieve herd immunity and in that regard, things are looking up. “When you think of what do you want from a vaccine, you don’t want to go to the hospital, and you certainly don’t want to die,” Johnson & Johnson CEO and Chairman Alex Gorsky told CNBC’s Squawk Box. “And what we have seen as far as 100% efficacy in those parameters, again with a single shot.” Experts say they would recommend any of the three vaccines and suggest that people get whichever one is first made available to them. That is our best possible tool when it comes to moving past the pandemic. Lisa Lee, an infectious disease epidemiologist and public health ethicist at Virginia Tech, said last month that a third vaccine option “substantially reduces the time it takes the US to reach herd immunity.” Lee also noted that as more of the population becomes vaccinated, there is less opportunity for further mutations of the virus to develop. “When we stop transmitting between people, we also stop the opportunity for mutation,” she told CNBC. After a long year in relative isolation, as people sit with the grief of losing their old ways of living and their loved ones and the uncertainty of what comes next, it’s only natural that they might question the efficacy of a new vaccine. We’ve been dealt so many blows in the last year, after all. But rest assured that if your time comes for the vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson single-dose job is made available to you, it’s just one more layer of protection for all of us. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?People Are Dressing Up To Get The VaccineWhy Are Women Having To Justify Their Vaccine?I Helped Create The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The spinach stems were too long; that’s what I got for shopping at the bougiest supermarket in Astoria, New York. But, I would make them work regardless. I dumped the greens — freakishly long stems and all — into a nearby bowl. I grabbed a pair of kitchen scissors, ready to chop them down to size. As my hands began to move on autopilot, trimming and discarding the stems, I found myself smirking, then smiled, chuckling aloud. My housemate, Alex, looked up at me. “I feel like my grandma,” I said, proudly. Alex let out a loud, “Awww.” I smiled even more widely. When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother, Lois Ann, could usually be found in one of two places in her Queens Village home: at the kitchen sink or at the dining room table, peeling potatoes, washing tilapia, or snapping string beans. It’s a ritual that’s continued even as she’s entered her ninth decade. Just last month, during a casual Sunday visit, my grandma asked me to snap that night’s string beans with her. Grandma prefers to take charge in the kitchen, so an invitation to join in on meal prep always feels like receiving a golden ticket. She endearingly shook her head at the way I snapped my beans — clumsy and crooked — before finally saying: “Watch me.” I did, just as I always had, in awe of her speed and skill. My grandmother grew up on a farm in North Carolina, in the years after WWII. Her mother died when she was six, so she was raised by her grandma, Ella Louise. Grandma grew sweet potatoes in the backyard with her younger sister and caught and killed chickens for Sunday dinner. She eyed Ella Louise as the older woman cooked, watching her grandmother’s skilled hands. When my grandmother turned 10, it was finally her turn. Soon enough, she was perfecting mouth-watering dishes like collard greens seasoned with bell peppers, onions, and bacon fat; coconut and pecan pies; and macaroni and cheese made with margarine. When Grandma left the South for New York and married my grandfather in 1960, she carried the recipes of her youth into this next chapter of her life with him in the Bronx. Grandpa, born and bred in South Carolina, quickly learned to love the North’s preference for rice over white potatoes. The next two generations of her family held up my grandma’s dishes as the definition of what good home cooking was supposed to be. Even the most mundane weekday could turn into an impromptu gathering at her dining table. Grandma would buy pounds of cod, tilapia, and flounder at the Sutphin Boulevard fish market in Jamaica, Queens, and set off a phone tree between my aunts, cousins, mom, sister, and me: “Grandma’s making fish, you coming over?” Every birthday meant a chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry cake — baked from scratch, of course — was waiting for the birthday girl — or Grandpa — at the head of the table. From the mid-2000s to the early-2010s, we observed “spaghetti day” every Wednesday — a tradition born out of our collective love of Grandma’s spaghetti dressed in meat sauce, which was always served with fried fish and a side of steamed carrots or broccoli. There was only one downside to growing up under a matriarch whose talent was throwing down in the kitchen: Grandma allowed no one to help her fry, boil, or steam anything. And I never learned on my own. Why go through the trouble of learning to cook or bake if I could just wait for my grandmother to place a plate in front of me? As a result, cooking instructions of any kind made my eyes glaze over. Advice about the ideal water-to-rice ratio or how to know when pasta is done went in one ear and out the other. The desire to prepare meals more involved than a tuna-and-cheese sandwich got further away from me as I got older. I was spoiled, but also intimidated, and clumsy around food. Grandma’s gusto in the kitchen had trickled down to my mom, aunts, sister, and cousins — all of whom taught themselves how to cook — but skipped teaching me. I moved upstate for college in 2010, then commuted to and from grad school four years later. The time away from Grandma’s dining table jump-started my survival instincts. I learned some basics, though I still mostly stalled out at microwaved curry over minute-rice and rigatoni alfredo. It wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment an hour away from my family in 2018 that I became responsible for cooking all my own meals. And my transition from boxed pasta to glazed carrots wasn’t seamless. When I wasn’t charring vegetables by accident, I was drying out salmon. Grandma would have cringed if she’d seen me. Progress was slow, but by the third preparation of each meal in my mental Rolodex, I’d gotten the portions of salt right and learned how hot was too hot. Mastering some more involved dishes also helped me realize that I was less proud of a perfectly prepared meal than I was of my burgeoning food prep skills. The times I most wanted to brag to my grandma were when I found myself expertly chopping tofu into cubes of eight, sautéeing spinach leaves in garlic, or seasoning a salmon fillet “just right” with jerk powder. The act of preparing each meal mirrored the familiar sight of my grandma sitting at the dining room table and snapping her string beans; it was when I felt closest to her. My visits to Grandma’s kitchen have slowed to a near halt; commuting across the borough admittedly gets time-consuming and expensive, and the pandemic has only made it harder. But I still recount my efforts and milestones to Grandma over the phone, and am gratified when I hear the surprise in her soft laughter as I tell her of my accomplishments. The times I am able to stop by are cause for a celebration these days, events honored by Grandma frying flounder, making spaghetti, and steaming broccoli, even if it’s just the two of us catching up at her kitchen table. Occasionally, one of us has brought up the spaghetti days of yesteryear, over a decade earlier. I’ve asked Grandma if she misses them, and she rested her chin in her hands. “Oh yes,” she said wistfully. “But it’s just not the same anymore.” Outside of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my grandma’s kitchen is the emptiest it’s ever been. The years have moved not only me, but also my aunts and my cousins further away. Age and illness have slowed my grandma down. But even so, Grandma recently told me she never stopped calling my cousins on Wednesdays to ask if anyone was coming over. The days of us gathering around her table while she refilled our plates with a smile stayed fresh in her mind. “Anything for the grandkids,” she still says. There are times when the distance between Grandma’s kitchen and my own feel especially wide. But during mealtimes, I always feel close to her. I’ll stand by the stove and watch as the ingredients I chopped, seasoned, and toasted come together to create my breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. As I eat, I imagine sitting at my grandma’s table, rambling excitedly to her about some dessert I read about that I just have to bake next, while she cleanly snaps string beans and watches me go on, a smile forming. I’ll watch her work the whole time, and consider buying string beans at the supermarket the next day. Mine may be more snapped more crookedly than the ones Grandma prepares, but they’ll still taste nearly as good. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?5 Delicious Recipes From The Diaspora You Must TryCooking Shortcuts To Improve Your Lockdown MealsThe Tastiest Batch Cook Recipes To End Washing Up
Laura* had been a fully employed member of the workforce since 1985, and at her most recent job as an office administrator since 1999. In August of 2020, however, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and with no other job lined up — or even a plan to find one — she made the decision to quit. “For 21 years, I had been commuting 90 minutes each way to my job,” Laura tells Refinery29 “This was eating away at what little personal time I had.” She had long contemplated making a change — perhaps moving or reducing her hours — but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit, and she was furloughed for two months in the spring of 2020 that she actually committed to acting on her feelings. “I finally had the opportunity and the luxury of time to reevaluate my priorities, spend time with my family and with myself,” she says. “My partner and I really enjoyed being home together, spending time with each other and my daughter.” At the start of the pandemic, countless workers around the country were in a similar position, and while temporarily losing your job can be stressful and dire, for some — particularly those with a certain amount of economic privilege — it can provide an epiphany. Like Laura, Olivia was furloughed from her job in digital content at the end of March 2020. After three months, she was asked to return to work in June. “Being out of the business for that amount of time — which I know is a lot shorter than some furloughed folk have experienced — really made me realise what was important to me,” she says, “and opened my eyes to just how unhappy I was.” By September, without a backup plan in place, Olivia had also quit. Last October, Dr Erin Cech, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, surveyed college-educated workers in the US for her forthcoming book The Trouble with Passion: How the Search for Fulfilling Work Fosters Inequality. She specifically asked survey participants — all of whom were employed — whether they had lost their jobs or were furloughed as a result of COVID, and the results were surprising. “There’s this sentiment that people who go through employment instability are automatically going to become more economically rational and that they’re going to prioritize finding a job and salary,” she explains. “But, what I found is people who encounter this kind of employment instability as a result of COVID are actually more likely to value passion and value work-family balance in a job.” Of course, it isn’t just those who were furloughed who chose to leave their jobs without another lined up in the last year. As the world changed due to the pandemic, so did the way we work. While some companies adjusted to allow employees more flexibility, others took advantage of the illusion of constant availability that working from home created and tried to maintain productivity and profitability, even with fewer resources and reduced headcounts. Dan left his job as a credit analyst in August 2020 in part because the highly bureaucratic job felt “meaningless,” but also because the worsening economic environment had made the job even more stressful. Dan was already in pursuit of a career change and was working on another degree in order to make the switch, but he had originally intended to wait to quit until he found another job in his new field. The pandemic made his day-to-day work and working conditions intolerable. “With everything going on, including serious orthopedic problems exacerbated by the lockdown and management’s unreasonable attitude, I reached my breaking point before finding another job,” he shares. “Also, once there was a crisis and we started talking about essential workers, it made me feel even more fundamentally embarrassed to be part of an organisation where about 40 people got paid six-figures each just to hop through bureaucratic hoops and write empty words in an expensive Midtown office, while people with actually necessary jobs couldn’t pay their rent.” For Grace, who worked in television production before quitting in July 2020, the pandemic also intensified workplace issues. For several months, she had been expected to work more hours without additional pay. “The office had been a pretty toxic place up to the pandemic — I was harassed by another member of staff for my first four months on the team without any recourse by HR, my supervisor, or his boss — so I had been aiming to get out for a while, but, obviously, the 11.5-hour days and minimal pay were big contributing factors to quitting,” she says. “Plus, the only reason I was allowed to start working from home was that, as I was told at 5.30pm on 18th March: ‘You may have been exposed to COVID-19 and we don’t want you getting anyone else sick.'” Rielle, who quit her job at a media charity in December 2020, had a similar experience. As her team worked to adapt to the changes caused by COVID-19, her role steadily expanded and demands became difficult to keep up with. “The crazy workload started to snowball for me. My boss was super-impressed by how much we were getting noticed by the community and kept bringing up his expectations, and they became unreasonable. He started becoming very rude during meetings, especially when his deliverables weren’t being met. This caused a lot of anxiety for me,” Rielle says. “I felt like I couldn’t escape from work or say no to additional tasks that were falling on my plate, because I didn’t have an excuse. I was just home. It didn’t help that, because of the pandemic and my toxic boss, all my workmates were also always on edge about everything. Working remotely has definitely hindered my team from bonding and creating relationships that help in collaboration, too.” According to Cech, the pandemic has acted as a “destabilising moment” in most people’s lives, which has prompted or even required us to stop and think about the things that we most value in society. “There is a vein of cultural evaluation that says: ‘Get as much money as you can; get as much economic success and prestige as you can.’ But, there are all these other countervailing cultural perspectives, like: ‘Love your work even if it doesn’t make as much money’ and ‘Prioritise time with your family and friends,'” she explains. “So we’re seeing this moment where the pandemic has allowed some people to step back and ask themselves, What do I really value? What’s really important to me? How do I align my decision-making with that?” However, she also says it’s important to point out the huge caveat in all of this: a financial safety net. Every person I spoke with about quitting their job acknowledged that privilege played a huge role in their ability to do so. Some had partners or other family members who could support them during their time off, while others dipped into savings or retirement funds. Even those who had to rethink their spending habits and tighten their budgets had enough of a cushion to get by without bringing in a steady pay cheque. Brisa, who just put in her two weeks notice and plans to spend her time off taking care of herself and dealing with a chronic illness, says that one of the main reasons she was able to quit was because she still lives with her parents. “I’ve had so many complicated feelings about having the privilege to leave my job,” she says. “At the same time, I don’t have the privilege of living in a healthy body. I didn’t have the privilege of working somewhere that was willing to make the necessary adjustments for me. All these details made a difference. Ultimately, my body’s limitations and the stress of the role outweighed the experience I was getting and any other positives of the job.” Though the pandemic has clearly been a catalyst for many people to re-evaluate their relationship with labour for a variety of reasons, many of those who chose to take a break from work during this time of economic uncertainty were still concerned about how others would react to their decision. Olivia said she was “absolutely terrified” to tell anyone that she was quitting her job without something else lined up. “After a couple of weeks of tears that ultimately led up to me handing in my notice, my manager came across as quite sincere and understanding, but also told me that I would find it hard to get another job in the current climate and would be lucky to find something that suited my skill set,” she says. “This was something that stuck with me and did make me feel nervous and somewhat question whether I should be quitting, but I knew that I didn’t want to find another job straight away.” Though Olivia’s colleagues were supportive and understood why she had decided to quit, there was still a noticeable shift in many of her daily conversations with them: “It went from the usual ‘what are you having for tea?’ to ‘have you found another job yet?'” Because our capitalist culture places such a high value on work, it’s hard not to pass judgment on or be seriously concerned about someone who chooses to stop working, even if it’s temporary. It simply doesn’t feel natural. According to Cech, this is partly because, for most upwardly mobile adults, there is a strong tie between who we are and what we do. This is, in part, a result of what in sociological theory is called the reflexive project of the self, which posits that we, as individuals, are projects that have to be worked on, refined, and made better. “One of the clearest instructions we’re given culturally for figuring out how to do that is to find a job that aligns with our sense of self and work at it really hard and move up the ranks,” Dr. Cech explains. “So if we don’t have that career or we don’t have that occupation as an anchor, there are not a whole lot of other things that can fill that void.” However, when people leave their jobs, which are viewed as these instruments of self-improvement, they’re often freed from the pressure to constantly produce and grow. Instead, they’re able to simply live. “I have learned to relax for the first time in my life — this may seem like a throwaway line, but is actually THE most important thing I have accomplished,” Laura says of her time since quitting. “As an overachiever, I never felt I was doing enough, I never sat down, I never had a moment of peace, and the first few months at home, I didn’t know what to do with myself, I couldn’t sit still. I have slowly learned to be a different person, to do what pleases me, to read, listen to podcasts, make art, and do other things which I enjoy.” Olivia, too, began to do whatever she wanted. She started baking again, doing crafts, and sleeping better. “I absolutely loved having time to myself and actually feeling like I had time to myself,” she shares. “My mental wellbeing completely skyrocketed, and I felt so happy and free.” Dan feels similarly. “I like having a break to focus on myself and my health for the first time in a while,” he says. “It’s nice to not have to wear corporate drag every day — both physically and mentally.” Rielle is catching up on cookbooks she bought in the past and never had a chance to use. Grace has been spending quality time with her aging parents. “I really like being able to make my own schedule and plan things on my own terms,” she shares. Because of everything that has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this time has come to be viewed as a sort of cultural reset. Certainly, the people to whom I spoke — as well as many others — have experienced transformations, to varying degrees, in their individual relationships with labour. Still, Cech isn’t convinced it will lead to a lasting change in our collective attitude toward work. “It may cause a shift to a very limited extent in terms of these people having to educate their family members or their friends on why they’re not engaged in the labor force or why they’ve stopped, and I think that will provide opportunities for reflection among the people that they are in conversation with,” she says. “But I don’t know that it would make a very big shift. I think the status quo understanding of who people are in terms of identifying with a career is quite deep.” And, because most everything costs money, many of those I spoke to mentioned that, despite getting financial support from elsewhere, the one thing they miss about being employed is having a steady source of income. Though they love their newfound freedom, they don’t enjoy the ever-present worry about being able to cover regular expenses or emergencies. That is the reason they’re all planning to eventually return to work. Olivia, in fact, recently started a new role, which is completely remote. “I feel a lot happier than I did in my last job,” she shares. Dan says he’ll probably start looking for something when he feels physically and mentally ready, likely within the next few months. Brisa isn’t in any hurry to find something else, and when she does, she expects it to be part-time or freelance. Grace, who is currently up for a few new positions that she’s hopeful will work out, has also been freelancing and taking on temp work. Though none of them decided to permanently stop working, their time away from the workforce, reexamining priorities has prompted changes. Rielle, who is actively looking for a new job, is being more choosy. “If I’ve learned anything in the past year it’s to be very intentional in the next career steps that I take,” she shares. “I’m really pushing myself to get a job that aligns with my goals and also being very speculative about my next company’s work culture. I’ve also learned to embrace the uncertainty, which was really hard to take.” Laura isn’t planning to return to work until the autumn. In order to assure that she’s able to work less and live more, she’s open to restructuring her assets, changing her living arrangements, and even moving away from the expensive city where she currently lives. Her mindset has been completely altered by her time off. “I have lived my entire adult life petrified about not having an income, about not being able to make ends meet, about losing what I have worked hard to achieve. What I feel has been the most profound change is that I now know there are other ways, other options — that I can make choices other than the tried and true,” she says. “I finally feel confident that I can make things work no matter what happens, and that the old model of having to work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, while sacrificing everything else, is not the only model, and may in fact not be the healthiest model… I wish I had reevaluated sooner.” *Some names have been changed Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Long Live The Good Enough JobThe Dream Job Is Dead. Did It Ever Really Exist?"I Quit My Job As A Lawyer For A Spiritual Career"
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When was the last time you got dressed up? Or better yet, the last time you got dressed up for an actual occasion? I can’t recall an experience in the last year for which jeans and a T-shirt didn’t suffice. Then again, I’m not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and therefore, haven’t had to pick out an outfit for what Brooklyn-based actress Ashlie Atkinson — someone who has received her first jab — calls “the event of [the] year.” For her, the answer to the question above is easy: She wore a full-length, sequin gown to her vaccination appointment. Wearing a sequined full-length gown to my vaccine appointment because it’s the EVENT OF MY YEAR pic.twitter.com/zkqxT8KvME— ashlie atkinson (@ashlieatkinson) February 23, 2021 “When I finally got an appointment, I was really excited. It’s the biggest thing I’m going to do this year,” Atkinson tells Refinery29, days after her appointment. The dress, which had been gathering dust in the back of her closet for more than a year, was originally purchased for Atkinson’s since-canceled roller derby league’s annual gala last September. Not knowing when or if she’d get another chance to wear the formal gown, she wore it for her first jab — with white, slush-proof plastic boots, heirloom earrings that had been passed down from her grandmother to her mom to her, and a face mask that was given to her by one of her best friends. “I was fully representing all of my loved ones,” she says. Atkinson had meningitis as a child and, 10 years ago, suffered a pulmonary embolism, which, in part, qualified her for the vaccine. When she received the appointment, she was excited to finally have an opportunity to go to the hospital under optimistic circumstances. In the past, Atkinson says that she’s often felt the need to dress up when going to the doctor, because of the way people make assumptions about her based on her weight. “I don’t have the luxury to go in wearing UGGs and yoga pants,” she explains. “As a fat person, I always dress up as a self-preservation measure. I do it to make them understand that I have value, and that I care about myself, and that they should care about me as well, though I’m not normally in sequins.” Getting a vaccine was a way for Atkinson to dress up, not as a defense tactic, but as an expression of joy. “I just really wanted to celebrate the moment,” she says. In Cheshire, Bethany Hughes, a customer service and sales agent for an airline, also recently got vaccinated. She, too, planned an outfit for the occasion: a white T-shirt printed with The Fortune Cat, a symbol of good luck and protection in Chinese and Japanese culture, on its pocket; a pleated skirt, and tights, with the caption. “I chose my T-shirt for two reasons: (1) It was recently Chinese New Year,” she says. “And (2) I was feeling a bit nervous about the vaccine as it was my first in nearly 10 years, and the lucky cat denotes good luck.” In addition, she says she wanted her outfit to show off her tattoos because they are a part of her self-expression. “My high-waisted, black, flare skirt makes me feel feminine and powerful, swishing around through the local rugby ground where the vaccines were being administered.” According to her, tights were a welcome escape from the baggy joggers she’s been living in. Brooklyn-based blogger Yvonne Morel tweeted prior to her appointment: “I have my outfit ready for my vaccine on Sunday. I am going to be so extra. It’s deserved.” As a Type 1 diabetic, Morel’s spent most of the last year at home, worrying about her health and thinking she “would never see the end of this,” she tells Refinery29. “However, as things started to look ‘up,’ I began taking advantage of the few times I have been able to comfortably go outside by making sure to dress up.” For the occasion, she paired her favorite ASOS pants with Adidas sneakers and a sweatshirt with the phrase, “Daughter of an immigrant” printed across the front. The latter is from a brand of the same name, which was founded as a way to say thank you to all the parents that “bravely crossed borders” for their children, according to the website. “I always said I would wear this jumper when I get my vaccine because my mum — along with my dad and brother — are very much the reasons why I have been able to remain as calm and positive as I have during this pandemic,” she says. “She was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.” Chloe Tear, a disability blogger and content designer for a disability charity called Scope, also took her outfit into consideration before heading to get her first vaccine shot in Leeds, England. She wore a floral face mask, overalls covered with tiny (French!) cats, and a yellow raincoat. “I chose this outfit to make me feel empowered,” she tells Refinery29. Despite meeting the criteria for the vaccine due to her having Cerebral palsy, Tear wrote on Instagram that she was initially left off the list for England’s group-six qualification. She had to fight to get herself a shot — something that she recognizes is a problem, not only for her but for all people who have disabilities. “It’s not something we should have to fight for,” she says, “but these dungarees empowered me to keep fighting for my rights and to support others to do the same.” Shelley Benhoff, from Orlando, Florida, wore heels and a tiara to her vaccination appointment on Friday. Like Tear, these items made her feel powerful and confident. Because she’s at high risk of severe illness from COVID, Benhoff has hardly left her house since last March. “Like so many, this past year has been very hard for me,” she says. “Fashion is a way of expressing myself that I have been denied for a year now.” In a way, her appointment marked the end of that chapter for her. Atkinson echoes that sentiment. “We’ve had very little to look forward to. So, it’s really been nice to have something to be excited about.” After all, it’s not just a doctor’s appointment. It’s the aftertimes finally visible on the horizon. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Why Are Women Having To Justify Their Vaccine?I Helped Create The Johnson & Johnson VaccineWhat You Should Know About The COVID Vaccine
A modern-day witch-hunt is a deliriously loaded proposition, at once apocalyptic and archaic. But when 22-year-old Jess, a mental health and body positivity advocate from London, posted on Instagram after receiving her coronavirus vaccine to reassure her 14k young followers that she was doing fine, for all the microchip conspiracy theories and vilifying of Bill Gates that the zeitgeist could have vomited into her DMs, she didn’t expect what happened next. Unfortunately, Jess is one of a number of young women being harassed online into justifying their COVID jabs. “I suddenly had users questioning my eligibility and demanding answers,” says Jess. “This made me angry. Being young doesn’t guarantee perfect health and while I’m happy to share my experience, I know others might not be.” Jess cares for a family member over 80. The pandemic has brought enough stress already – the last thing she needs is the Instagram equivalent of the FBI questioning her experience. Watching this trial unfold on my Instagram feed, I was appalled. There is a long-held assumption (thanks, influencer culture) that because someone presents one aspect of their life online, their followers are at liberty to know everything about them. As much as I hoped what happened to Jess was an isolated incident, I had a feeling that other young women were facing similar backlash. Twenty-two-year-old Estelle* has also been subjected to the vaccine witch-hunt: a follower popped up, intrusively probing her eligibility, after she shared a post-vaccine Instagram Story. “I didn’t realise people would respond in this way – maybe I was being naive,” she tells me. “It took me a while to respond because I was taken aback. I explained I have asthma but, really, I wanted to make it clear the question made me uncomfortable. If you’ve been vaccinated, you’ve clearly been offered it for a reason.” Despite simply following the directions of the NHS, Jess and Estelle’s statements show that they were made to feel they had done something wrong. Just as Estelle uses language which shifts accountability to herself – her suggestion that she was “naive” and felt she couldn’t speak up – these women’s personal milestones are obscured when they have to justify their jabs. The opportunity to start waving goodbye to COVID has turned instead into something painful. Thirty-three-year-old Nay runs an Instagram account to raise awareness of her type 1 diabetes. “For me, it was a celebration,” she says when I ask why she chose to post online after her vaccine. “I take thousands of injections every year and this is the first I’ve actually looked forward to.” Nay says that before questioning another’s experience you should “honour them” because to make these women relive their trauma simply to justify themselves to you is to invalidate their lived experience. We’re all living through this pandemic but everyone’s experience is idiosyncratic and distinct. The problem with social media is that it packages us up into tidy Instagrammable stereotypes. While getting jabbed might seem trivial if you’re young and fortunately healthy, to others dealing with any number of issues, the vaccine is a life-saving light at the end of a pretty bleak year of shielding, misinformation and worry. Being forced to justify your health problems to others is sadly all too familiar to me. My dear dad passed away in 2016 when I was 18, after a long battle with kidney disease. Growing up, disability permeated family life. I experienced intrusive comments and unwarranted stares whenever I was with my brave dad, who struggled to walk and was visibly disabled even to the most ignorant eye. I always think back to the first time I witnessed ableism in play, at a family day out to a theme park. It was a far from carefree experience. Would the rides have accessible seating? If there are steps, are there ramps? How much walking is involved and where are the nearest benches for pit-stops? Nevertheless, Dad was determined that our special day was happening and joined me on a rollercoaster. With difficulty, he managed to lower himself onto the seat next to me. I was glowing with pride. The world is full-colour in this memory as we whizzed along the track. That was until he struggled to find strength to hoist himself out at the end, and I caught the eye of a pre-teen sniggering maliciously in the queue. Just like that, Dad’s personal breakthrough, and my deep-seated pride, felt stolen. This moment is one of many which have stained my outlook on society with distrust. It demonstrates why questioning someone’s lived experience is never okay. Indeed, for the women I’ve spoken to, an internalised guilt at getting vaccinated before their peers existed long before anyone fired a loaded question their way. Twenty-two-year-old Kate works in healthcare for Infection Prevention & Control. She also has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) so is vulnerable. Doubly ‘justified’ to have been jabbed, you might think, but when I speak to Kate, guilt shadows her words. She’s held back from telling certain people her news because she’s concerned about their reactions. “I think some of my guilt comes from how COVID has been marketed,” Kate tells me. “When we say ‘vulnerable’, it draws up a very specific stereotype that excludes many of us.” Jess, Estelle and Nay all harbour similar guilt. The loaded questions Jess received made her feel that she had “stolen” something. Estelle was vaccinated before her parents and subsequent demands to explain herself led her to question her validity: “It almost didn’t seem right.” Nay felt she had to go beyond the words “I am a diabetic” and explain that if she were to catch COVID, it could “cause diabetic ketoacidosis – a medical emergency – and I could die”. With 80% of disabled people living with hidden impairments, and still not enough public understanding, this witch-hunt makes those with so-called invisible illnesses feel that their experiences aren’t justifiable. Rebecca, an NHS practice manager in a primary care network in the Midlands, clarifies what might seem obvious but is clearly cast aside when curiosity overcomes us: “Being young doesn’t mean risk is lower.” “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has identified those in first need of the vaccine based on medical conditions, treatments, age and healthcare professions.” This should be all the justification anyone needs. Yet even this week the witch-hunt has taken another ugly turn as plus-size women speak about the trolling they’ve experienced for getting their vaccines, all completely in line with the government’s pre-determined vaccine schedule. “This is the reason I’ve only told a handful of people in my life that I’m getting it,” tweeted one plus-size woman in response to some of the ugly experiences being shared. Kate struggles to see why others would need to know why she has received the vaccine. “My reaction is that people shouldn’t ask, unless someone has the same illness as you and they’re asking for advice on a shared experience.” Estelle adds: “In an ideal situation, everyone would keep to themselves and not ask but I think if you really want to, the right etiquette would be to frame your question indirectly. By leading with an open statement like ‘Only if you feel comfortable telling me…’ it gives the person you’re asking the right to choose whether to respond.” Weeks have passed since Jess received the intrusive DMs. In light of the backlash, does she regret posting online? Not at all, she says generously. “I’m always open to talking about anything if it means helping someone.” The pandemic is a history-making event and not one life has been left untouched by its devastation. But I have to believe that for all it has shattered in the human psyche, we have a unique opportunity to learn important lessons about what it means to be a little more human. Respecting people’s different, nuanced and diverse lived experiences is one of them. Take one look at Jess’ Instagram feed and it’s clear to see: empathy and kindness always prevail. *Name has been changed to protect identity Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?COVID Ruined Afro Hair Salons But Women AdaptedWhat You Should Know About The COVID VaccineYour COVID-19 Vaccine Questions, Answered
It would be flippant to draw a parallel between the loss and anxiety experienced under the global pandemic and the fact that many have turned to wearing all-black over the past 12 months. However, whether WFH in a makeshift office or when pulling on an outfit for your daily walk, even the most exuberant wearers of playful patterns and paintbox brights have sought out the robustness of black. Reaching for black in lieu of coming up with a fun outfit for the day is one less decision to make in the morning, while the safety and simplicity of the colour offers calm when the world around us feels chaotic. There's longevity to the choice, too. Black is a good investment, transcending passing trends and the speedy, social media-fuelled carousel off which many of us have stepped since lockdown began for financial, sustainable and psychological reasons alike. Monochrome needn't mean boring, though. Black's rich and varied place in fashion history, its association with subcultures from beatniks to New Romantics and with visionaries like Coco Chanel and Issey Miyake, means it presents as considered and intentional, making the wearer look perennially put-together. Sure, there's happiness ahead and we'll be embracing a cacophony of colour and print come summer. But for now, we're content with our all-black outfits which shield us from the harsh present – and give us one less thing to worry about ahead of that Zoom call. Read on to see how 10 women are styling the classic colour, from floor-sweeping dresses to savvy suiting. This season, we're embracing our dark side and going colourless. Sure, we love a hint of citrus here and a splash of lavender there as much as the next fashion-forward dresser, but the sleekness of an all-black outfit just can't be denied. Dispel the notion that it's boring to drape yourself head-to-toe in black; a bevy of savThandi aka The Sartorial Lawyer has us jumping the gun and dressing ourselves for summer already. This floor-sweeping Evarae dress is just as perfect with silver jewellery and bare feet for wafting around the house during lockdown as it will be teamed with chunky sandals for post-pandemic strolling along the beach. Birdsong Medium Silver Hoop Earrings, $, available at BirdsongIris & Ink Albertine Cotton-Poplin Maxi Dress, $, available at The OutnetNext Two Band Footbed Mules, $, available at NextOkay, we know Marjon Carlos is wearing white shoes here but this look is a masterclass in texture and proportion. Pairing something high-shine with something matte, and something form-fitting with something loose are juxtapositions which always work. This JW Anderson knit brings unexpected playfulness to boardroom-ready leather trousers. The Line By K Harley Off-The-Shoulder Ribbed Jersey Top, $, available at Net-A-PorterWeekday Voyage PU Trousers, $, available at WeekdayRejina Pyo Gathered Leather Pumps, $, available at The OutnetWe usually hit up Brittany Bathgate's outfit repertoire for slick and sharp tailoring ideas but we love this fresh take on the slip skirt. Teamed with an oversized knit and military-style lace-up boots, it's a less feminine twist on the slip but equally as satisfying. Uniqlo Men's 100% Cashmere Crew Neck Jumper, $, available at UniqloWhistles May Bias Cut Skirt, $, available at WhistlesCarvela Sultry 2 Boots, $, available at Kurt GeigerWe've been a fan of Shaheen Chand's monochrome minimalism for some time but we particularly love the simple way she's styled her cropped, quilted Aligne jacket. Just add lace-up Derby shoes, a cross-body bag and straight-leg jeans and you're good to go. & Other Stories Oversized Quilted Jacket, $, available at & Other StoriesWeekday Rowe Extra High Straight Jeans, $, available at WeekdaySchuh Lance Black Leather Lace Up Flat Shoes, $, available at SchuhJessica Torres may be our go-to for zingy and zesty accessories, from cow-print micro bags to lime green shades, but her head-to-toe black looks are just as noteworthy. This cutaway activewear look will work perfectly for your Zoom barre class and for a takeaway coffee and walk around the park. Uniqlo Women Ultra Light Down Jacket, $, available at UniqloFabletics Callie Medium Impact Sports Bra, $, available at FableticsKaren Millen Curve Curve Lounge Viscose Jersey Cuffed Jogger, $, available at KAREN MILLENTime and time again, Alexis Foreman manages to prise us away from our faithful straight-leg denim and into a wide-leg trouser instead. We love the contrast between the palazzo leg of this Proenza Schouler pair and the second-skin black turtleneck top. Everlane The Pima Micro-Rib Turtleneck, $, available at EverlaneWhistles Wide Leg Crepe Trouser, $, available at WhistlesZara Mid-Heel Ankle Boots With Track Soles, $, available at ZaraWe've been wearing our black quilted coat all winter but Karen Blanchard just gave us a lesson in refreshing your favourite piece. The obi-style Loewe belt gives her outerwear a new silhouette, while pairing with black trousers and accessories (face mask included) amplifies the look.COS Longline Quilted Coat, $, available at COS& Other Stories Wide Waist Belt, $, available at & Other StoriesWhistles Amber Lace Up Boot, $, available at WhistlesFor the past 12 months, Monikh Dale has been our guide in making lockdown loungewear look good. Whether you opt for a co-ordinating set, a hoodie or a more considered silhouette (cropped sweatshirts and tapered joggers make all the difference), she's provided the inspiration we need to upgrade our holey old tees. Team an all-black set with leather sandals for a sleeker take on comfort. Uniqlo U Crew Neck Long Sleeved Sweatshirt, $, available at UniqloLes Girls Les Boys Loose Fit Track Pants Black, $, available at Les Girls Les BoysASOS DESIGN Flip Flops in Black Leather, $, available at ASOSGrece Ghanem's ageless style and appetite for experimentation constantly inspire us when we need a little sartorial pick-me-up. Though we won't be hitting an office any time soon, this boardroom-ready tailoring has us wanting to step up our workwear game. & Other Stories Angular Cat Eye Sunglasses, $, available at & Other StoriesH&M Straight-Cut Jacket, $, available at H&MH&M Tailored Trousers, $, available at H&MMarisa Martins' IG page is a masterclass in monochrome and minimalism. Easy basics are elevated with sleek silhouettes and standout accessories, and this knitted maxi dress is no exception. Simple but sophisticated, it has us itching to don our heels and hit a cocktail bar, stat. H&M Rib-Knit Dress, $, available at H&MAllSaints Edbury Leather Shoulder Bag, $, available at AllSaintsZara Leather High-Heel Sandals With Square Toes, $, available at ZaraLike what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The Pandemic Has Us Dressing In All BlackDungarees Are Your WFH Style Solution For 2021Your Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe Shopping Guide