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Women for Weed: The Next Frontier

A 64-year-old retired archeologist never thought she would use marijuana as a remedy to help her sleep. After trying a variety of prescription pills with no significant improvement, Tandy Ford came to the realization that in low doses, cannabis could relieve her insomnia.

Before Ford tried cannabis to help her sleep, the variety of available remedies to meet her needs were limited. This is a common problem for many women who have recently became cannabis consumers.

Ford, who suffers from chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder that causes progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs, uses cannabis daily to treat the symptoms of her disorder.

“Quite honestly, it helps with everything: pain, inflammation and insomnia,” said Ford.

In recent years, companies that primarily targeted male consumers have begun to recognize the economic power of women. The latest industry looking to redesign their products for appeal to this demographic is the cannabis industry.

As the legal status of marijuana loosens nationally, many cannabis businesses are looking to widen their consumer appeal.

“I think there has been very little targeting (of women) up until very recently,” said Jim Smith, a 68-year-old advertising consultant in Los Angeles, who went on to say that the targeting for cannabis had been structured with the patterns of purchases, which were more likely to be males.

According to a 2017 study conducted by the Arizona Department of Health Services, males make up 59 percent of the cannabis consumer markets. But in the era of recreational marijuana use, women are a desirable consumer base for the cannabis industry as companies begin to revamp their brands away from the previously stigmatized stoner-persona into a more modern style befitting of the 21st century.

Gravitating towards an older demographic of women, not just women in general, may also have significant value for cannabis companies. Many women over the age of 50, who came of age during the baby-boomer era still continue to use or have rediscovered the appeal of marijuana now that it is legal (at least in the state of California).

“I began using marijuana when I was 16,” said Sherry Wolf, a now 70-year-old special education aid. “I still use it now, although in much fewer quantities as it’s much stronger now than it was when I was younger.”

A study conducted in 2018 by the Alcohol Research Group revealed that older Americans (those between the ages of 50 to 60) are 20 times more likely to use marijuana today as opposed to 30 years ago. The study also found that while the use in adults has risen over the last decade, the usage rate of people aged 18 through 29 has stayed at a constant 30 percent from 1984 to 2016.

When speaking to several older women who use cannabis regularly about what they looked for when purchasing cannabis, three things influenced their buying decisions: health information, potency and packaging.

“I think packaging is vital,” said a 70-year-old librarian and recreational cannabis user who began using marijuana in the late 1960s (she declined to use her name because of the stigma). “At my age you don’t want to overdo it, so having more potency information on the packaging is a big deal,” she said.

A few marijuana brands have begun marketing their products directly to women. Brands like Suicide Girls and TSO Sonoma have released their own line of cannabis vape cartridges that give descriptions of potency, while also focusing on making their products look more feminine.

In 2018, NPR reported that in light of statistics showing that more than two million Americans abuse prescription drugs yearly, states like Illinois are beginning to embrace marijuana as an opioid alternative.

In a study conducted in 2017 by BDS Analytics, the findings indicated that more women are beginning to incorporate cannabis into their self-care health regimens. Menstruation, menopause and chronic illnesses were listed as top reasons for female cannabis use.

“Particularly, I think there may be some products that will appeal more to women, with respect to topicals and pain relieving lotions,” said Stan Coleman, 73, an attorney and branding partner for Cheech’s Private Stash. “It’s really hard to know why products would appeal to one person versus another. The challenges in branding any product is giving it meaning and reason to why the public should use it.”

When trying to understand how cannabis is marketed, it’s important to know what kind of product the industry is dealing with.

“In regard to a product like marijuana, it’s what’s known in the marketing world as a “me-too” product,” said Smith.

A “me-too” product is when separate companies share the same product but market it according to the targeted consumer they’re trying to reach. This can make it hard for businesses to differentiate themselves from other brands while also appealing to a variety of people.

Bottled water is an example of a “me-too” product, according to Smith. When extra vitamins are added, it can be targeted as good for kids. However, if companies instead added calcium, the product can suddenly become appealing for elderly females who have osteoporosis.

As cannabis companies try to expand their consumer base to include a larger female demographic, the industry may face some rigorous challenges. With stigma still surrounding cannabis users, branding companies face the burden of revitalizing its use to fit into modern lifestyles.

As of 2018, 70 percent of women still believe that cannabis consumption carries a stigma, with 66 percent of users hiding or denying their usage, according to a survey conducted by Van der Pop, a Seattle based publication on female cannabis consumers.

“When it comes to my use, I’m pretty reserved about who I share that with,” said the librarian. “I worry that people would think I’m flaky and less of a professional.”  

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Women Sneakerheads

Women in the Footwear Industry making a change for women sneakers

A week before every school year I remember my mom taking me shopping for a new outfit and a new pair of shoes. As kid and teen wearing a brand new pair of sneakers in your first day of school was everything.

I was a bit of “tomboy” growing up. I never really liked bright, colorful or shiny things, especially on my shoes. Through elementary school I would wear Converse high tops, sometimes I would even wear my brother’s shoes because I thought they were better.

In middle school, I would wear vans. Seventh grade is when I got my first Gazelle Adidas in black. In high school I got a pair of Nike SB.

In my twenty-two years, I’ve only owned one pair of high heels but no other footwear makes me feel as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. Since I can remember, I’ve always selected shoes from the boys section because all the girls section were limited and too pink.

To this day, I only own one pair of shoes that were designed and made by a woman. The rest are men shoes.

Walking into a sneaker store you will always see that men shoes have a wide selection of brands, colorways and sizes. The men selection takes up half of the store while the other half is for kids and women. Many companies have used the method “shrink it and pink it” redesigning a man shoe into a smaller version and making it pink or “feminine” for  women. But not all women want pink or “feminine” sneakers.

What women want are the colors and designs as men shoes but in women sizes. Even shopping for sneakers online the women selection is still limited that many rather buy shoes in young male sizes.

The footwear industry, being predominantly male, aim to target male consumers by creating exclusive styles and sizes for men. We have the famous Chuck Taylors All-Stars, Air Jordans, and Adidas Stan Smith “classic” sneakers designed and made for men.

For the past centuries men would design shoes for women according to their beliefs of what women should ideally wear and like. However, in the past two or three years, the sneaker industry has been making a progress on inviting more female designers, artists and athletes to design shoes for girls and women.

Since 1996, Sheryl Swoopes was the first female WNBA player to have an athlete Nike signature shoe Air Swoosh 1. Until 2012, Maya Moore was the first female WNBA to be sponsored with Jordan shoe brand and has released her newest collaboration version of Air Jordan 10 NRG Court Lux. In 2010, artist and music director Vashtie Kola was the first female to have her own signature sneaker with Jordan and design a pair of Air Jordan II for girls and women.

Last year, The 1 Reimagined launched a project by 14 female Nike designers that took two classic male sneakers the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 by reinterpreted to create 10 different models of both classic sneakers all in white silhouettes.

The same year another project was launched called Nike Unlaced, a in-store and online concept curated for women that will have exclusive styles and expanded unisex sizes including on Jordan styles and Virgil Abloh x Nike the Ten and expanding sizes for Nike Air Force 1 and Air Max.

In an episode From the Ground up by Highsnobiety, Andrea Perez General Manager and Vice President of Women’s Jordan Brand highlights that the brand made a long term commitment “we’re not on this for just one drop, we’re not on this for one season, for one collection, we’re on this for the long run we want to make sure we continue deliver great product for her.”

“We want to make women feel the same way men feel when they wear Jordans,” said Perez. Twenty-five year old fashion influencer Aleali May is the second woman to collaborate with Nike’s Air Jordan in 2017 to design the Air Jordan 1 in both women and men size.

Many famous female artist are now running high position for footwear brands. For example, in 2014 Rihanna was named creative director for Puma creating her own footwear line Fenty x Puma.

In 2017 Kendall Jenner, the second-youngest of the Kardashian family was announced the brand ambassador for Adidas and launched a new campaign this month Adidas Sleek shoes that offers women new silhouettes.

Female rapper Cardi B was named ambassador for Reebok last year and campaigned for the new unisex silhouettes Aztrek.

Editor of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour, collaborated with Nike Air Jordan Brand last year to design Air Jordan 1 and 3 in women sizes.

Two years ago, Nike Skateboarding worked with professional skater Lacey Baker to design the first Nike SB Bruin High shoe for women. The same year, Nora Vasconcellos was the first female pro-skater to team with Adidas. In 2018, Vasconcellos had her first signature shoe with Adidas Matchcourt RX Nora that came in unisex sizes.

Iconic NBA players like LeBron James and Steph Curry are teaming up with footwear brands to release some of their signature shoes in girls and women sizes. LeBron teamed up with three African-American women fashion designers from Harlem’s Fashion Row to design the first-ever Lebron signature shoe for women HFR x LeBron 16 which was released September.

To celebrate Women’s Month, Curry released his signature shoe Under Armour Icon Curry 6, United we Win, in girl sizes after receiving a letter from a 9-year-old girl, Riley Morrison. In the letter Riley explained she felt disappointed because Under Armour didn’t carry Curry 5’s in only boy sizes.

“I hope you can work with Under Armour to change this because girls want to rock Curry’s 5 too” Riley said in the end of the letter. Under Armour released that Riley designed the sockliner for Curry’s 6 that were released March 8.  

According to NPD data, sport leisure is the largest category in athletic footwear. In 2017, sport leisure grew 17 percent, 9.6 billion in sales. While high heels sales drop by 11 percent in 2017, women’s sneaker sales grew 37 percent the same year according to NPD.

Having women teaming up with footwear companies will provide women consumers to sneakers they always wished for. Not only that women are designing shoes dedicated to ideally girls and women foot. Slowly the footwear industry is making a change by letting iconic and strong women create our footwear. For many girls and women sneakers are an important essential that make us feel empowered.

Are Mexican Restaurants Faux Real?

On a glum, overcast Monday afternoon in Old Town Pasadena, El Portal restaurant is starving for customers. All local businesses are closed for the night, making the family-run Mexican restaurant specializing in Yucatan cuisine a shimmering light in the middle of a ghost town. Salsa music engulfs the bar area which, despite the abundance of available seats, features three reserved signs occupying the end of the countertop. No employees think twice about this oddity, since they know that they belong to some of their most loyal regulars.

In walks Kyle Baker, a Pasadena health department worker and an El Portal regular for over 20 years. Visibly agitated by the stresses of life, Baker takes his seat and promptly orders the largest margarita available while simultaneously releasing a deep exhale.

“It feels like home,” said Baker, who has become enamored with the atmosphere, staff, and cuisine offered at El Portal.

“In Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of (Mexican restaurants) you can go to,” said Baker. “Many of them are good and authentic in many different ways, but here you find a great mix of authenticity in their specialized Yucatan cuisine.”


Authentic is a word that has garnered much scrutiny as it pertains to ethnic restaurants that promote themselves as such, but as far as El Portal and most Mexican establishments within the L.A. area are concerned, none of them meet the standards of a local chef from Jalisco, whose opinion contrasted with Baker’s.

“I hate the food that they make,” he said, “it’s not real Mexican food, and it really bugs me that they say it is.”

His bitterness derives from the reputation Southern California has for being the best place to experience authentic Latin cuisines. According to a 2015 Census estimate, over 48 percent of the Los Angeles population consisted of people from Latin descent, with 31 percent of them Mexican.

“This is L.A. man. We’re everywhere,” he said. “Even places on Olvera Street have some shady food.”

Opinions like this are not new to Armando Ramirez, the owner of El Portal. Having owned his restaurant for 24 years, Ramirez has seen all types of people complain about the authenticity of the experience he is selling.  

“They are right,” said Ramirez. “But then again, it is really hard to be truly authentic, especially when a kitchen is set up to handle a certain way of cooking.”

One example of these limitations is evident by one of the most popular Yucatan dishes called cochinita pibil, a type of barbecued pork. In order to be truly authentic, the pork must be cooked underground and slow-roasted above lava rocks, but a majority of kitchens don’t come equipped with a pit specifically designed to make this dish, forcing owners to utilize a different approach.


Ramirez compensates for the lack of equipment by wrapping the pork in banana leaves, a classic Yucatan method, and cooking it in the oven overnight. The resulting cochinita pibil is not what most natives would call an authentic dish, but it is the best iteration possible given the circumstances of the kitchen.

“You can look at authenticity in different ways,” said Ramirez. “If you build your restaurant from the ground up and say ‘I want to make it as authentic as possible,’ and you build your kitchen to be able to handle that, then I think you can sell real authentic food.

But in our case, we have to adapt to make it as best as we possibly can.”

Yet, even if extra steps are taken towards providing a wholly authentic dish, this only fulfills the standards of one food from a small region of Mexico. To appease the vast majority of Mexicans requires far more time and dedication, with an added emphasis on the former.

“In Mexico, we say ‘you have to cook with love,’” said Ramirez. “Certain authentic dishes take a very long time to cook.”

Ramirez singled out mole, a traditional black Mexican sauce, and the methods popular chefs have created to produce it in as little as 10 minutes. In actuality, mole sauce contains over 50 ingredients and requires multiple days of preparation and cooking. The ability to condense the time from hours to minutes and still have a satisfactory product is incredible, but how authentic is it? Is it fair to consider the resulting sauce mole if necessary steps were not taken in its production for the sake of efficiency?

“We have to adapt certain recipes so we can make them in quantities,” said Ramirez. “When you cook at home for five people, it’s very different from cooking for a thousand people...The main thing that gets sacrificed is the authentic aura.”

This goes into the necessity of understanding clientele, both quantitatively and tendentially. When looking at the menus of the most popular Mexican restaurants in the area, Ramirez points out that all of them, including El Portal, are nearly identical. Each restaurant owner decided that certain items were necessities because they are what keep a majority of customers content.

“At the end of the day, the restaurant business is about profits, unfortunately,” said Ramirez. “I don’t want to say that’s all we think about, but at the same time, we’re in the business to make money … Some people can make it going 100 percent authentic but our situation doesn’t allow us to go that far.”

Mexican restaurants as victims of circumstances may not sit well with certain individuals who demand authenticity in every bite, but that is a sacrifice most owners are willing to make. Especially if they get to have a few Kyle Baker’s in their lives.

“It doesn’t bother me like that,” said Baker. “People like to complain...If you’re not sitting in your own kitchen making your grandmother’s, mother’s recipe, then it’s probably not going to be perfectly authentic. I think that’s a very high expectation for people to have.”


CSUN Secret Sex Files

Deep inside the Oviatt Library Special Archives lies a little known secret of CSUN’s history: one of the largest collection of human sexuality.

With almost 10,000 pieces consisting of books, manuscripts, articles and other materials, the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection on Sex and Gender is possibly the second largest collection of human sexuality after The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University.

Located on the second floor of the library behind the quiet and often empty Special Collections and Archives reading room is where the archives are in a fluorescently lit room that is quiet, save for the hum of the running AC.

Nestled in the shelving are books on prostitution, cross-dressing, and fetishism as well as on children, religion, and medicine. In depth, the Bullough Collection is one of the three most extensive collections in the Oviatt’s Special Archives, according to Ellen E. Jarosz, the head of the special collections and archives.   

“The collection is quite large and we have books about anything from pornography, the history of the orgasm, to books regarding gender and how women were to dress and style their hair from morning and night,” said Jarosz.

As she cranks open the stacks, we are able to explore the narrow passages that are filled from end to end with books like “Feminised in Bondage,” “Sadist in Skirts” and “XXX: A Woman’s Rights to Pornography.”

They even have material that dates back as late as the 1600s, a book that gave the disease syphilis its name.

The collection was donated by former CSUN faculty member Vern Bullough, a historian and sexlogist, and his wife, Bonnie Bullough, a nurse practitioner and author. Vern started donating his collection to the Oviatt starting in 1973, when he was strongly encouraged by the former head librarian, Norman Tanis, who felt that special archives like these made a great library, according to the Oviatt Library blog.

The Bulloughs in photos look like your average grandparents with white hair, conservatively dressed in button-up shirts and long dresses and both wearing coke bottle thick glasses.

But don’t let that fool you, as this couple was anything but prude.

The Bulloughs were high school sweethearts who married as teenagers and, strangely enough, without ever dating. The catalyst that started Vern’s work as a sexologist was when he met Bonnie’s mother, who was a lesbian living with another woman in 1940s.

“I, of course, was more or less goggle-eyed and asked all kinds of questions about homosexuality,” Vern said in an interview with in 2003. “They put up with me, gave me books to read, and introduced me to their lesbian and gay friends who, like them, were not publicly identified as such.”

After that moment, the Bulloughs dove into the research of sexual studies in which Bonnie focused on women’s health and prostitution, while Vern studied topics such as the history of human sexuality, the gay, lesbian and transgender communities and sexual behavior.

Vern was a pioneer for sexual studies, especially during a time where sex was an incredibly taboo topic, making both he and Bonnie fear that they would be ostracized for their research.


Picking Up The Pieces After Prison

With a fine, unmistakable scar on his face that he received during a prison riot and an extroverted personality, Kris Perez maintains a deep connection to music by rapping on the weekends. You can catch this notorious performer on Saturdays at the tiny Lexington Bar, a place with narrow, graffitied walls.

Perez has evolved beyond prison. Today, he is a spiritual person and a husband, but he finds himself struggling to make ends meet. Each day is different for Perez, who is skilled as a barber, Braille transcriber and digital marketer.

Monday through Friday, Perez is on call every morning to do different jobs for people; he does everything from cutting hair to painting graffiti on model trains, which he sells for $200 a piece. The biggest hurdle he faces is coming up with enough income to help his wife pay rent and other bills each month. It’s tough, as his criminal record follows him around like a whisper behind bars.

With that being the case, he will have to continue hustling for many years to come, without any hope of developing a full-time career.


Will all the work he has put into his professional development become as silent as solitary confinement?

“No,” Perez said. “I’m thinking of creating my own company where I just go to people’s houses and cut their hair. Barbers are cool, but they don’t make much money.”

He crossed his arms from the opposite side of the table while he quietly waited for a beer behind a neon sign that read, “Stay with the beer. Beer is continuous blood. A continuous lover,” a quote by Charles Bukowski.

“I have scars on my face from trying to defend myself,” Perez said. “It was tough when I got out. It was hard to get a job. It was just hard to be around people in general. It was definitely a task adapting (to freedom), but slowly and surely I was able to work around the system and get certain jobs to kind of put myself back on my feet.”

His trouble started early when he showed unusual anger at age 13. Five years later he was arrested for armed robbery and assaulting a police officer. He was only 18 years old and recalls being on methamphetamine at the time.

While in prison, Perez missed out on seeing his two siblings grow up. His sister, Agatha, felt like she had the responsibility to get him an attorney, visit him with his son and write to him. As a young single mother, Agatha became firm and accepted that he had to face the consequences.

During the 1990s, the enactment of the “three strikes” law was prominent, and in 2001 Perez was affected by this as a first time offender — he received a maximum sentence. Agatha claims that his prison sentence ironically brought them closer together, since they had a sibling rivalry before he went to prison.

The whole family grew up with a spiritual and vegetarian lifestyle and despite his past, Perez has managed to continue that lifestyle.

Full of laughter, Agatha said, “Keeping his vegetarian style and diet while he’s in jail, that’s a whole other challenge. That was crazy! I was like, what? How are you doing that? He would swop up saying he ate what he could.”

While Perez was in prison, he also became certified in Braille and was almost hired as an instructor after being released, but was unable to take the job because of his criminal record.

His says his spirituality helps keep him “sane.” He follows Bhakti Yoga, a Hindi religion that focuses on chanting and is based on a philosophy called Krsna Consciousness. Leading up to his release from prison, he spent lots of time reading and researching about Bhakti, the religion he was raised on.

Today he practices Bhakti Yoga on his own and in groups, which helps him with his anxiety and PTSD. People buy his art, and his friends go to venues like The Lexington Bar to see him rap over the beats he’s created.

His wife Karla comes home from work every day at 5 p.m. and Perez cooks dinner. It’s important to them that they spend time together, almost as if it is their daily ritual.

After three weeks of dating, Karla discovered Perez was once in prison, but it didn’t shock her. She feels some of us have a friend or a family member who has been in jail, and says she is more impressed by his ambition and his ability to be a fast learner. His past has never affected their relationship.

Last month, the couple decided to get married in India.

“His temple attends India twice a year,” she said, “so I’ve never been to India. I thought, ‘I would definitely pay to go to India,’ and if they were going to get us married, that’s icing on the cake.”

Perez says that his optimism has never changed throughout his life because he learned at an early age that he always has to move forward. After 12 years of lost time in prison, he has gained hope, a wife, and the opportunity to make friends. He continues selling his art, and regularly performs his rap beats at venues.

“Don’t let societal pressures get to you. Just kind of pursue what you feel is right in your heart,” Perez said. “Don’t waste any time pleasing other people because that’s what I did and it dragged me down, like a crazy wormhole.”