Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Wear Pigtails Like A Good Girl


I wear my pigtails because I've always had "bad hair."  Every woman on the Dominican side of my family put in their long, labourious hours trying to tame my hair, or explain it at the beauty parlor.   Sometimes straightened without my permission, my hair was out of my own control for so long.  Now that I manage it myself, I want all my difficult and unruly curls intact so every person who ever reinforced that “bad hair” label can be mesmerized.  I wear my pigtails to show off how good my "bad hair" is.

  

I wear my pigtails because my sister used to say I looked so cute in them that I could get away with murder.  If my looks could kill, you would surely need a medic.  Apparently women are all vixens, sirens, and temptresses, and "jail bait" when they're too young to consent.  I was devastated when I turned 14 because I knew I wasn't a "nymphet" anymore.  I had only ever learned about my sexuality in terms of male pleasure and believed that Lolita was the pinnacle of girlhood.  I was on a date with an older man recently and he called me "dangerous" when I teased him.  But logically and realistically, he was the dangerous one.  Bigger than me, stronger than me, more credible than me in a court of law if he decided to take by force, because his tits weren't hanging out.  So to reclaim my role as a baby femme fatale from the legal side of 17, to murder you sweetly and to call attention from the blood on my hands, I wear pigtails like a good girl.

 
  

I wear my pigtails because I'm not quite sure how to be femme and I feel like a little girl who snuck into Mommy's make-up and jewelry.  If I have to revert back to childhood to feel feminine, I may as well be a spoiled princess this time around, like my rough childhood never allowed.  I'm not really a femme; I'm playing dress up like a naughty, pouty, foot-stamping Babygirl who needs discipline and a nice, firm tug on her hair.   I wear pigtails like a good girl so you have something to grab when you’re teaching me how to be good.





I wear my pigtails because I’m already big.  Every part of my body stands out and takes up space: big voice, big lips, big tits, big stomach, big arms, big thighs.  There’s no need to try and make my big hair seem quiet and small.  Women are constantly being told that there is no room for big, loud women here, but the more space I occupy, the better!  I demand to be seen and heard.  I wear pigtails to do myself some good.

 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just a Kid (Who Murdered Some People)

tw:  bombing, shooting, racism, Islamophobia

Today I read the letter "Dear Dzhokhar, I Can't Hate You" and something immediately struck me as I processed the reasoning behind it.  Something that makes me kind of sick.

It's like this, I understand that you're feeling the Christian spirit in the wake of this tragedy.  I know that I shouldn't say anything about your relationship to the Boston Bombing because your family was actually involved in the incident and I was not.

HOWEVER,

when you write a letter about how you cannot hate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because he's "just a kid," I can't help but remember that Trayvon Martin was just a kid.  He literally did nothing to warrant his fatal gunshots- he certainly didn't set off bombs that killed and injured people- yet he is still referred to as a "thug" every single day.

So, I'm not trying to invalidate your spirit of forgiveness, but I honestly wonder if you would still pray for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he looked like this

instead of this

Because I doubt it.  But my goal here is not to attack anyone's faith or coping mechanisms.  My goal is to understand why someone who sets off a bomb at a major sporting event gets referred to as "a kid" while an unarmed teenager who gets gunned down for walking home from a corner store gets referred to as "a dangerous thug who needed to be put down like a rabid dog."

But of course, I already understand before I even pose the question.

And, of course, it doesn't just end there.  It could never just end with the simple and uncomplicated issue of racism, because Tsarnaev is a Muslim, you see, and he was not born in the United States.  That's why this issue is of national importance and why the words "enemy combatant" were even uttered.  That's why, in his letter, Rev. Mr. Michael Rogers felt the need to tie the bombing in with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

It seems that in this mad rush to link Tsarnaev's actions to Islamic terrorism, everyone seems to be forgetting one very important detail.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a fucking U.S. citizen.

He was not born here but he gained citizenship.  And even though he used bombs and not a gun, his attack is more like the Columbine or Newtown shootings than 9/11.  But we have trouble recognizing the fact that White American Christians instill terror in us as well in this country.  So the media will align Tsarnaev with other Muslims who we view as great national threats rather than acknowledge that this is strictly a domestic problem.

I'm glad that the people this incident has touched are finding positive ways to deal with the tragedy, but there are still so many issues and tensions here that have yet to be resolved.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sexism Sucks (Like a Woman With a Lollipop)



tw: sexual harassment 

I had to go to the bank today because last week my account was overdrawn.  I'm poor as fuck, lest you forget.  I frequently get low balance alerts but I usually manage to scrape enough together to make a deposit before it gets overdrawn, so this was something I didn't know how to deal with.  


When I got to the bank, I decided to talk to a consultant or something instead of going up to a teller, to make sure I straightened everything out at once.  While I waited for the only person on the floor to become available, I helped myself to one of the lollipops in the dish because
1.       I was nervous about my financial situation and this would give me something to fidget with
2.       it gave me something to play with while I waited for her to attend to me
3.       it contained sugar and that shit's yummy

This turned out to be a big fucking error in judgment.  My house is not really that far from the bank, but every set of eyes that lingered on me in that short walk made it seem longer and longer.

I am used to a certain amount of street harassment.  It doesn't mean I like it.  It doesn't mean I invite it- even if I'm sucking on a lollipop. No, seriously.  That shit has nothing to do with you, the pedestrian walking past me.  But a woman can't just walk from point A to point B.  A woman with a lollipop in her mouth is clearly asking for it, right?  WRONG!

Has it ever occurred to you that a woman with a lollipop could possibly be nothing more than a person enjoying a piece of fucking candy?  Like, I don't think I would've gotten half the bullshit I endured had I been eating M+Ms.  But no, because it was a lollipop, it made you imagine me sucking your dick.  Fine.  I don't really care.  That's your own business.  I know I'm hot, I know lollipops are incredibly sexualized.  The part where your little private enjoyment of the 5 seconds it takes for us to cross paths becomes my problem is when you vocalize that shit and I have to hear you. 

I had a few guys whisper some shit to me in the first few blocks from the bank.  Concise, one-word comments that I tried to brush off and act like I didn't hear.  But then came the one that made me snap.

A group of middle-aged White dudes were clustered in front of an apartment building.  I crossed over to their side of the street to avoid the Firehouse entrance on my side.  As I approached them I told myself to relax because they were in a circle, facing each other, and looked far too engaged in their own conversation to say or do anything.  I wasn't even making eye contact with any of them.  And then I heard one of them say to the rest

"...sucking that lollipop real good!"
I was fed up at this point with pretending I hadn't heard shit.  I immediately whipped around and shouted angrily "I can hear you, you know!!" and, without waiting for a response or even seeing their faces, turned back around and kept walking.  Just as I began to lament not calling them assholes or walking up to really confront them, I heard one of them whine to one of the others "She heard you say that."  It wasn't congratulatory or celebratory or proud.  It was the whiny voice of a child who is getting in trouble for something their friend made them do.  And these men were grown.

I imagine they hold down jobs and have families and have people who look up to and respect them.  The fact that these grown-ass men, some of them with white hair, could feel perfectly comfortable hypersexualizing a woman walking past them on the street, and then crumble so completely when they are confronted about their little joke, is just one of a hundred billion reasons why sexism is still a problem we are dealing with.  

But happy Women's History Month. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

To the Allies



tw: rape

We, the oppressed, need to have allies.  We need White allies, straight allies, male allies, etc. and we need them for two reasons.  One, we need them in order to be taken more seriously.  That's a problem.  It's not right that the rest of society (namely, the oppressors) will give our movements and causes and fights for equality less credence if we don't have someone they can relate to on our side, but that is the reality of it.  That's why the current system is fucking broken!  If we did not need allies to help get through to the other side, then we wouldn't be in this predicament of being treated like sub-humans in the first place.  That would mean that the ones holding the positions of power would have already seen that we deserved to be treated with the same respect and given access to the same rights and means to success as everyone else, from the start.

Two, we need people around us who treat us like people, whether they can relate directly to our troubles or not.  And if some of those people are the ones who don't share that identifier with you, it kind of gives you hope about the world at large.  And that's probably wrong too, but it's because we expect others like us to get it.  Maybe we shouldn't but we expect that our experiences being queer or being female or being poor, etc. are sort of universally felt throughout the people in our community.  Because, while there is that overwhelming sense of alienation and solitude that comes with feeling "different," there is also that reassurance that comes with finding others like yourself.  And even if the differences between me and the next bisexual woman that I happen to meet  are like night and day, we would still both be part of the 24-hour span; we would still both be bisexual women.  

So when we meet other people who are "different" for the same or similar reasons as we are, we pretty much expect that they will also want to be treated with more respect and stuff.  Maybe you will disagree on the ways in which the movement should go about attaining equality, which is another issue entirely, but unless one of you has some seriously internalized issues, it would be safe to assume that you both want society to make some room for you and your pursuit of happiness.

It's when we encounter the people who do not understand that experience firsthand that we feel our guard go up.  It's when the other person couldn't possibly have the same things at stake that we prepare ourselves for their disgust and ignorance and hatred, etc.  So, it's when that other person doesn't treat you like the rest of the world has treated you that you kind of start to have hope about the rest of the world because, hey, this person gets it.  This person was able to catch on to the fact that I'm a person and I should have rights- maybe there's a chance that others will too.

But that stuff, in no way, makes it okay for allies to demand things from the oppressed in return.

As an ally, you do not get to congratulate yourself for treating someone with basic human respect because that should be on your agenda anyway.  Similarly, but to a much greater extreme, it's not a favour to someone if you don't rape them.  You're supposed to not rape them.  You don't get to cash in on it later because you didn't rape them.   

(Frankly, I'm uncomfortable with the fact that I made this into a rape analogy and I totally understand if you are too- but I couldn't think of a more obvious example of when you shouldn't expect everyone to congratulate you for doing the right thing.  And, actually, rape culture is definitely relevant to this discussion about oppression and respect.  So, if you'll forgive me for doing that, I have a bit more to say.)

If your being an ally is conditional on the behaviour of the queer, disabled, female, PoC, trans*, etc. company you keep, then you are a very shitty ally.  And no one needs the shitty and faux allies.  People need the allies who think that helping others and treating everyone with equal respect is a given, and who recognize their own privilege and understand what that means.  You're not helping to bridge the gap between how people deserve to be treated and how they are being treated if you are using the time and energy to tell them what to want and how to behave when they ask for it.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, oppression is not about you, personally, if you have privilege.  Your opinions on oppression matter, they do, but they do not deserve equal or more attention than those of the people who are actually suffering the discrimination and the injustices.  Yet they do get equal or more attention, usually more.  That's because, as I mentioned earlier, the current system is broken.  So if someone is telling you to check your privilege and stop talking, you need to check your privilege and stop. fucking. talking.  Your actions do a lot more than words.  Honestly.

Look, I get it; you want everyone to know that you genuinely care about this stuff.  You want to stand out from the rest of the bad guys who are actively making things difficult for your friends.  You want them to know that you're someone they can trust to be on their side.  But it's so much better if you just do the work that it takes to fix things and stop trying to make it all about you.  One way to do that is to understand that no one is attacking you on a personal level for having privilege.  And if you do feel like you are personally being attacked, maybe- just maybe- it's because you are doing something wrong.  It would be incredibly disrespectful of you and a shitty ally thing to do if you immediately chalked it up to that person being "too sensitive" or getting angry just for the sake of getting angry, or a case of reverse [insert any -ism here] instead of taking the time to try and see their side of it. 

I'm not saying that these attacks are never just pure anger and frustration.  But you do have to realize where a lot of that anger comes from, nonetheless.  What I'm saying is that you need to understand what your privilege means.  It means that no matter how your personal experiences have actually shaped your life, you still stand to benefit more from the fact that the system is broken.  You might not have benefitted from it in a way that you can see, but you have definitely lived your life with an immunity to some of the struggles that the oppressed face daily.  And when you fail to recognize that, you are helping to keep the broken system the way it is.

If you want a round of applause for occasionally treating someone who gets a raw deal from society slightly better than they are used to being treated, that's not helping.  Because, essentially, what you're doing is applauding yourself for not being the person who broke the system, instead of being someone who's trying to fix it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Year I Lost Everything (and Gained So Much More)



before you read this, this is long and this is more personal than most of my posts, but that's why I wanted to post it.
tw: suicide, drug abuse, and depression

 
Today was a Friday last year.  I didn't have class but I had a routine, yearly check-up scheduled with the Women's Health Center and then I was gonna see a friend's show in the evening.  My girlfriend wasn't on campus that weekend but we were planning to have some really terrific sex when she came back, 'cause it had been a while.  I had five final papers to start worrying about and working on, since I am a masochist who signs up for five classes a semester whenever I can.  It was all okay, though, because it was nothing I couldn't handle.
 
And then the year of absolute shit was upon me.

At my routine check-up (that never takes more than 20 minutes), the nurse practitioner found something.  "I'm feeling something that isn't supposed to be there" she said as she examined me.  There was a lump, an irregularity, something that required an ultrasound.  So there I am in the lobby, chugging glasses of water to prep for the ultrasound, texting my friend that I don't think I'll make it to his show and I'm really sorry but something just came up.

The ultrasound technician definitely sees something wrong and it's probably an ovarian cyst but we won't know until later tonight.  So, you know, just walk back to campus on this dark, cold December evening, alone and weak from not eating all day in anticipation of the check-up.  

I get the call around 9pm, the one from the nurse practitioner that says I'm definitely going to need surgery to remove what they believe is an ovarian cyst.  And now it's real.  I have no idea how to handle this information.  I remember filling out forms before freshman year and talking about the parent's contribution to my tuition with my father and how, when it came to the health insurance, he told me that he probably couldn't afford that part.  "Just take care of yourself and let's hope you don't get sick for the next four years."  Okay.  Fuck.  Because now I'm halfway through my Junior year and I never could have foreseen needing this surgery.  And I will never be able to afford it.  This is the shit they don't prepare you for when you go away to college, when you live on your own, when you try to make it in the real world.  They never tell you that one Friday you're just gonna go in for a routine check-up while your girlfriend is out of town and have your whole world shatter before your eyes.

So my girlfriend and I spent the next two months in and out of the Women's Health Center on campus and the Cancer Center at [local hospital].  We would spend the next five or six months worrying about my emotional state and the obvious deterioration of my mental health.  The surgery itself, which happened in January, radically altered everything about my life (which I blogged about) from how I ate to how I had sex to how I was as a student, etc.  We were advised not to have penetrative sex before the surgery for fear of coming into contact with and harming the thing that had to be removed, and were not allowed to have any sex for two months after the surgery.  It was difficult to leave my bed most days and I was so drugged up on painkillers that I didn't even have the inclination to, so I missed a lot of classes.  I missed a lot of everything, actually, because I wasn't getting exercise or fresh air, wasn't going to work at my campus job, wasn't eating regularly, wasn't showering more than a couple times a week, wasn't going out and being with people, wasn't doing my schoolwork, and worst of all, I wasn't really telling anybody.  I was slipping into a real depression, especially since my sister was back home and could only make the trip up to see me once, and my girlfriend was taking a semester off and we rarely got a chance to talk.  So, I developed a sort of dependency on my painkillers... and lied to my girlfriend about it whenever she confronted me.  She wasn't physically present which made that part really easy.

I was supposed to take my Percocet whenever I felt pain from my incision but it wasn't just pain from my incision that I was feeling.  I was getting headaches from my poor diet and terrible sleep schedule, and getting dizzy from standing up for too long.  My back started hurting from having to put effort into standing up straight because the incision made it more comfortable to hunch.  I couldn't masturbate, so I couldn't rely on the natural endorphins that are released and make you feel good from having an orgasm.  I couldn't even fucking laugh without it hurting.  I didn't like being awake and missing my girlfriend and knowing I had work I wasn't doing and thinking about how much money I still owed for the surgery (even with the school's standard health insurance covering most of it) and worrying about how I wasn't talking to other people and hating the huge scar on my body now and having anxiety about how I wasn't leaving my bed.  That's when I started taking my Percocet for any random reason I could come up with.  And one night, I thought about taking enough to kill myself. 

I never actually went through with that, and I wish I knew what made me decide not to.  It was a real low point and, honestly, I don't even know how to feel like that again, thank god.  I wish I could explain what prevented me from doing it.  All I know is, my girlfriend saw me mention my suicidal feelings on Tumblr and reached out to me right away because she is actually the best human and gave me as much emotional support during the whole thing as she could.  But I don't know how effective that was in stopping me because I was still lying to her (and everyone who asked) about how I was abusing my Percocet, regularly.  It's no one else's fault, I just wasn't being honest because I didn't want to be told to stop.  I'm just so grateful that I ran out of my prescription when I did.  It forced me to deal with a few things on my own and without any drug dependency in the mix. 

The Spring semester that started a mere week after my surgery proved to be the most difficult semester of my college career.  I actually had to drop one of my five classes for the first time since freshman year and now, my finals week was rapidly approaching.  Time for all of that work I wasn't doing to finally collapse on me.  My finals week was the most isolated, sleep-deprived, mentally draining period in my life, but I managed.  And then, in my first week home after all that, my girlfriend broke up with me.  Now, to a normal person this probably seems like the coldest, most terrible thing to follow the months I just went through- but my ex and I are far from normal people.  In actuality, this was the best thing to happen to me since our getting together in the first place. 

You see, we are adult humans who talk about things.  And the things we talked about that night were how we knew we had to break up because after nearly two-and-a-half years of being together and trying to work things out, we realized that maybe we're just shit at fulfilling each other's needs... WHICH IS OKAY!  You can get along really well with someone and love them and respect them and communicate with them and just not fit well together.  And part of communicating really well with someone is realizing sooner rather than later that the relationship doesn't work, and being okay with that.  And I feel like that's something else that they never tell you, especially not when you're 21 and ESPECIALLY NOT when you're a girl. 

We have really unhealthy ideas about relationships because there's this heterosexualized notion of monogamy and romance and these unrealistic ideals of finding that one person, and smoothing everything out despite all your differences and your incompatibilities because you're supposed to complete each other.  And when you're a woman, it's even more important for you to find that match because your life depends on the man you give yourself to.  It's hard to believe that you can actually be truly happy when you're single when this is all you're hearing.  Maybe you disagree with me because you have had a different experience but these are the things that I've learned about love and relationships from actually being in them.  It's what I've observed from being a girl in this time and place and being told from the media and from cultural traditions and all sorts of things that I need to find the one person who completes me.  Well, what if that one person who completes me is me?

I was in that relationship, happy because we get along so well but unsatisfied because we weren't necessarily compatible.  And when you are insecure, you need more love and attention than another person can really give you, because you're trying to make up for what you don't have yourself.  That's the terribly sad but true paradox of insecurity.  And maybe this moment will never happen for you- and for that I am truly sorry- but when we broke up, I immediately realized that I didn't need to try to salvage and cling to a relationship that wasn't working because I was afraid I couldn't find better.  I have been told that I'm ugly or undesirable, so no one would want me.  Others have wrongfully believed that I'm ugly and undesirable, and have lost out and denied themselves the pleasure.  Oh fucking well.  Right now I can't be bothered.

Getting through the semester that I needed her most without my ex-girlfriend, and coming out of it relatively unharmed, taught me that I could survive without her (which I sorta didn't think was possible sometimes).   And looking back, I know I couldn't see it then but, I had so many people around me who cared about me and who tried to make my life easier.  I had bosses who understood when I couldn't cover my shifts.  I had professors who consistently encouraged me to rest and take extensions rather than force myself to come to class and hand everything in on time.  I had a medical staff that was working on getting me back to normal.  I had friends who literally devoted huge chunks of time in their weeks to just staying with me and bringing me food and helping me put my shoes on and just making sure I wasn't alone.  I had family who checked in with me and asked about me and drove me to the airport and the hospital and back to campus.  I had a girlfriend who gave me all the love and support that she could, that she knew how to give, that I was actually capable of realizing. 

And those things are hard to see and appreciate when you're hurting as much as I was, when you are as scared as I was, when you are in the downward spiral of losing motherfucking everything.  Okay, so I'm still paying medical bills a year later, and I still have this massive scar on my body, and I still get terrified at the thought of ever having to get another surgery sometime, later in my life.  But at least I can recognize that I am not alone.  And at least now I understand my own worth and can appreciate myself, which is something you don't expect to gain in the year you lose everything.