Mayura Iyer loves travel, taking naps, and speaking out on gay rights and immigration on PolicyMic. She's a student at the University of Virginia and our outstanding pundit of the week.
As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one exceptional PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member. This week's question is for associate culture editor Laura Donovan.
Check out last week's Q&A with Michael De Los Santos.
About Mayura: She is a rising 3rd year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, majoring in public policy with a double major in women, gender and sexuality studies. She is a huge Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fan who loves travel, Thai food, naps, coffee, and sunshine.
Caira Conner (CC): First things first, tell us about when and why you decided to join PolicyMic.
Mayura Iyer (MI): I first heard of PolicyMic in January 2013, when my friend shared an article his cousin (fellow pundit Siv Cheruvu) wrote for the site. I became really interested in the site and noticed that they were looking for people to apply for the remote writing internship. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get more experience in writing, and would be a good outlet to write about issues that matter to me. I went ahead and applied for it, and a few days later I was writing 4 articles per week as an on-call breaking news writer!
CC: You've written a good bit on gay rights (DOMA, Prop 8, and the NHL Gay Athletes Initiative) as well as a number of immigration reform stories and cultural issues. What are your particular hot-button issues? Is there an advantage to covering your specific interests on PolicyMic?
MI: Equal rights for the LGBTQ community are incredibly important to me as a social justice advocate, and immigration reform is important to me as the daughter of two immigrants who came to the U.S. with two suitcases and very little money. My parents still managed to give me and my brother a fantastic life, with “problems” that don’t even meet a fraction of the hardships that they faced. However, I’m also interested in U.S. foreign policy, and I’m increasingly interested in our education policy and in improving the public education system.
I feel that the advantage in covering these specific interests on PolicyMic is that it gives me an outlet to express my opinions, and then receive comments and feedback from other users that allow my opinions to develop, or to consider other angles of the issue that I may not have recognized. By doing this, I get to benefit even more from the PolicyMic experience, and improve my writing skills and knowledge on the issue at the same time.
CC: If you could change one thing about your user experience with PolicyMic, what would it be?
MI: One thing in particular that I found frustrating were times when I was assigned a story, and after I submitted it saw that there were 4 other articles published on the exact same thing. Examples of this were during the Boston Marathon bombing, Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy, Anthony Weiner’s mayoral race, and Michele Bachmann’s resignation. While each article isn’t identical and will differ in some way or the other, having so many articles hammering on the same issue is overkill, dilutes the issue, and decreases the quality of debate. I feel that there needs to be some way to keep track of the stories that are written so that not too many on one subject are published.
CC: As an undergrad at the University of Virginia, what is the best thing that could result from your using PolicyMic?
MI: As a student, I feel like the best thing that can result from me using PolicyMic is for it to help me learn even more. Learning doesn’t end when you get your diploma, and it certainly doesn’t happen only in the classroom or in the pages of a textbook. I feel that PolicyMic’s greatest value is in helping me improve as a writer and communicator, as well as helping me improve as a thinker by allowing me to understand different angles of issues through the diversity of opinions on the site.
CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'?
MI: I like to try new foods and I’m always hunting for new restaurants to try. I’m also obsessed with my amazing German Shepherd, Anakin (by the way, I named him). I also like to travel and to explore new places. However, I’m always down to just curl up in bed and watch the Lion King or Aladdin for the millionth time.
Oh, and I also like napping. Napping is awesome, and it’s actually really good for you!
CC: Your turn. What's one question you have for a member of our staff?
MI: My question is for Laura Donovan. As a culture editor and writer for PolicyMic, you say that you want to expand coverage on bullying and youth aggression, and you've talked about how you were bullied when you were younger in a few of your articles. How do you plan on expanding coverage of these issues, both on PolicyMic and elsewhere? Also, people have often made the criticism that the term "bullying" has become so broad in its definition that almost anything can qualify for it. Do you agree with this criticism, and if so, how do you think this problem can be fixed? If not, why do you disagree with it?
Laura Donovan: I love this question! So glad you asked.
For starters, I've written a lot of different articles on bullying, for PolicyMic as well as my own personal blog. I was even featured in a book about bullying and outsiders, so you're right that this topic is especially important to me. I plan on coming out with another bullying piece this month that I think many of our readers will appreciate. Though I've written some straight news posts about horrific bullying stories, I focus more on the bigger picture of school harassment, and people seem to appreciate that more than just the standard "this week, this kid was beaten senselessly for having red hair" narrative. I want to make it a point to pen at least 1-2 solid pieces on bullying a month, but as you know, I spent most of my time editing, so if I ever get to a point where I cannot write as much as I like, I'll focus on assigning more bullying narratives. Regardless, it's important to me that we continuously cover this issue as well as document its progress overtime. School bullying seems to have gotten worse because of the internet, but with advanced technology also comes the opportunity to further expose the problem, and I'd like to see the U.S. do that.
I definitely agree with that criticism- and I've written about this before. It's important that we resist the urge to label every negative encounter as bullying. That hurts kids who are the victims of constant torment, and they're often told to just man up and deal as such. There's a difference between an eye-roll here and there and merciless harassment/abuse, and both of these things can be found in schools. I think we can fix this problem by not throwing around the word "bully" so much. The media must be held accountable for overusing the word. You'll notice I only want to do 1-2 bullying pieces a month, and that's partly why.
CC: Mayura, you're a tremendous part of our community. Thank you for your excellent contributions to PolicyMic. We're lucky to have you!
For more news on Mayura, follow her on Twitter: @mayuraiyer