Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Worst Mistake

“Whats the useless skin around the vagina called?... A woman.”

Isn’t that a hilarious joke?!  No?  You didn’t think that was funny?  You thought it was offensive and sexist and subscribes to the harmful misconception that everyone with a vagina is a woman (and, similarly, people without vaginas are not women)?  Yeah, I didn’t think it was funny either.  I was even less inclined to find it amusing given the circumstances under which I found this joke.

Before I explain those circumstances, I think we should pause and focus on the word “joke.”  These are definitions of the word as found on dictionary.com:

1. something said or done to provoke laughter or cause amusement, as a witticism, a short and amusing anecdote, or a prankish act: He tells very funny jokes. She played a joke on him. 

2. something that is amusing or ridiculous, especially because of being ludicrously inadequate or a sham; a thing, situation, or person laughed at rather than taken seriously; farce: Their pretense of generosity is a joke. An officer with no ability to command is a joke.
3. a matter that need not be taken very seriously; trifling matter: The loss was no joke.
4. something that does not present the expected challenge; something very easy: The test was a joke for the whole class.

My personal favourite is number 3 because it is clearly not applicable in this situation.  This joke and where it stems from is hardly “a trifling matter” and we cannot pretend that it is.  We have not reached a point of gender equality where we can look back at it and laugh, and even if we did reach that point, there’s not a hell of a lot there to laugh about.  Telling a woman to get back in the kitchen or to go make a sandwich isn’t funny.  It’s not that we’re too sensitive; it’s that we’re too oppressed.  We are still the victims of institutionalized discrimination that prevents us from equal rights, earning equal pay, getting respect, and being taken seriously in general.  This brings me to that aforementioned circumstance and how I happened upon the "hilarious joke" I opened with.  

Acquiring 1,445 likes in 8 hours, this cartoon was posted on Facebook by a certain group, accompanied by the caption “Worst mistake in history”

Come again?  The “worst mistake in history” you say?  I hope you’ll understand why I’m not particularly amused by this kind of joke.  And I hope that in that understanding you DO NOT chalk it up to me being “too sensitive” or not having “a sense of humour” or some other bullshit that is meant to justify this kind of blatant misogyny.  It is hardly an issue of not taking a joke; it’s more an issue of recognizing the thinly veiled message of the disgruntled, privileged male who is grossly misinformed in his opinion that women currently wield too much power, and being fed up with it.

Usually, when I get upset I say something.  (It’s this wonderful ability I’ve had ever since I learned how to talk.)   So, I said something.  

“this is not just a joke.  this is extremely sexist and extremely harmful.  where the fuck does anyone get off expressing discomfort because a group of people (a group which, incidentally, makes up roughly 50% of the globe) learned to speak, a.k.a. voice their opinions, feelings, complaints?!  how dare anyone present this as a problem and how dare they label that ‘problem’ as ‘the worst mistake in history?!’
this isn’t just a cartoon and I will not relax becuz it’s just a joke.  anyone who is saying that is so thoroughly embedded in the misogynistic perception of the world and our culture that they don’t realize how ultimately harmful and inherently pernicious this cartoon is.”     

My comment got 10 likes before it was removed when I disliked the group.  In retrospect, I think I should not have disliked the group because now the majority of the comments look like this:


These are just some of the comments you can find on this picture.  For the record, I didn’t block out their names because these assholes don’t deserve anonymity.  Don't try to placate me with the standard "they're just jerks on the internet."  It's true that they are jerks on the internet, but it can hardly be reduced to that.  And to Chris Favuzza: Seriously?  It’s a “bitch fit” to be offended when everything about this cartoon, comment section, culture, mentality is a personal threat to our dignity.  This kind of thing plays no small role in how women are treated in the professional world, not to mention the dating world, the domicile, the medical world, the education system, and the legal system.  Where do you get off thanking those who displayed what you would call “a sense of humour” but what I call “complacency?”  And I'm not personally attacking all the women who found this funny; I am, however, pissed the fuck off at the culture which allows this kind of thing to go on and then tells me to "shut the fuck up" about my anger.

But since everyone is so quick to cry about how a lack of humour is causing all these “uptight” women to get all bent out of shape and hysterical about a simple joke, let’s focus on that for a second.  Fuck Sam Phillips and his truly original request for a sandwich, let’s look at what Tremayne Craigg has to say:

You probably would just laugh, Tremayne, but I would argue that that has more to do with your relative position of power than with your genuine good nature.  It’s not the same when a joke is made about a man’s worth in society as when the joke is made about women.  And, personally, I don’t think it’s nice to do that to men either but that’s just because I happen to be an egalitarian.  You see, Tremayne and people of his gender have the luxury of moving on.  And I really didn’t appreciate being reduced to a “sensitive bitch” because I was offended by a) the cartoon, b) the caption “worst mistake in history,” and c) the asshole comments telling me to lighten up, calling me useless, demanding that I go make a sandwich, explaining that I require a dick shoved in my mouth, and reiterating that I need to get over myself.

This is an issue we do not address nearly enough in this country, and it isn’t going anywhere.  It’s not just a fucking joke to be laughed at, and then disregarded; it’s a fucking tragedy and it is suffocating us.  What harm could it do to stand by and let that suffocation occur?  Well, it might prove to be the worst mistake in history.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Does Not Simply Get Surgery

Let me tell you a story about how lazy I am.

When I was in Junior High, I would spend my entire summer on the couch watching TV. I don’t mean I would come back from shopping or playing outside with my friends and then spend 4 hours on the couch; I mean I would wake up at noon, walk to the couch, and live there until 3 in the morning.  But this alone does not a lazy person make; you need to put in effort to achieve that- I had effort covered.  

Since my family couldn’t afford to give me a cell phone yet- and honestly, what 12-year-old really needs a fucking cell phone?-  I had to devise a way to answer the house phone without getting up.  I took a curtain rod that we happened to have around the apartment, brought the phone with me to the couch, and pressed the rod on the phone cradle so I could lift it whenever it rang.  

Now, I recently had surgery, so my life has been going through some radical changes in the past month.  I’m not allowed to lift anything that’s heavier than 5 pounds and bending down just doesn’t happen, so I couldn’t put my own shoes on until the other day.  Getting used to my own recovery period is very hard for me because my body is in constant pain and I spend most of my day being paranoid that if I sneeze, my incision will rip open… again.  

The day I came home from the hospital, I was really hungry and there was a bag of Cheez-Its just out of my reach.  Like any absolute badass would do, I used my headphones to lasso the bag and pull it towards me so I could feed myself.  This is the story of my life right now, but what does it have to do with the theme of my blog?  Well, my current state is intersecting with those parts of my identity that I like to center this blog around.  From the title we all know that I am poor, fat, queer, and Latina, so let’s talk about how this surgery is affecting me.

  • Poor
Because I have virtually no money, I was very fortunate that most of my expenses were covered by my school’s health insurance.  However, I’ve still had to pay nearly $100 in copayments and for all kinds of medications and anti-biotics.  Maybe that isn’t a huge amount of money to most people, especially compared to how much the entire surgery might have cost me, but it is a lot to me.  Plus the $100 it cost for me to stay on campus over winter break so I could be closer to the hospital and the doctor who performed the surgery.  Not to mention the fact that I feel like crap most of the day and, therefore, abhor the thought of leaving my bed, so I have to order a lot of take out to prevent myself from starving. 

Also, blood from my incision has gotten on pretty much everything I have worn in the past 3 weeks and isn’t coming out in the laundry so, since I just don’t have the energy to wash this stuff by hand, I have to buy some new clothes soon.  This is all in addition to my regular expenses like this semester’s tuition, my phone bill, and the books I need for class.  And then, on top of all of it, I have been in no condition to work, so I can’t even earn this money back any time soon at my campus job.  I’m in a very frustrating financial position at the moment… and I thought things were bad before the surgery.

  • Latina
Another thing I may have taken for granted before is my hair care regime.  Maintaining my Puerto Rican/Dominican hair has always been frustrating.  It’s thick, curly, difficult to manage, and feels not unlike barbed wire.  Since the surgery, it’s gotten even harder to take care of this hair.  Showers drain me of my energy, so I don’t take them everyday like I usually do and I certainly don’t wash or brush my hair as frequently as I used to either.  These friends of mine (white girls) offer to do my hair for me but I cannot permit that. 

Technically, they’re not allowed to touch my hair in the first place, but even if I let them for the sake of helping me out, white girls do not understand this hair- not unless they were raised in Washington Heights or majored in Ethnic Hair Care at Beauty School.  So, while I appreciate the gesture, I have to settle for only tending to my hair every 5 days.  This is highly problematic, especially for someone who is as self-conscious about their appearance as I am.  This brings me to my next issue.

  • Fat
The fact that I need to buy new clothes, as I previously mentioned, means that I must once again subject myself to the impossible task of acquiring clothes that fit me AND flatter my curves.  More adventures down a sea of aisles that carry every size except the one I need and the one just below that.  More attempts to squeeze my ass and thighs into something that was not made with my ass and thighs in mind.  But right now, that is the least of my worries.  A more important aspect of the fat issue during my recovery period is this attitude I have towards the rest I need.  

Consider the fact that I started this post by telling you how lazy I am- as if this is comparable to a pre-teen on summer vacation.  One of my biggest problems right now is that I think I’m being lazy when I call security for the ride across campus that I am entitled to or when I ask one of my friends to go fill up my water bottles.  There are so many stigmas attached to being fat and the false idea that people are fat simply because they do not exercise that I have internalized that harsh and unforgiving attitude and am criticizing myself for not being more self-sufficient.  I know that it’s wrong to think those things and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for these physical limitations but I can’t help it.  This idea has been so engrained in me that I hesitate to ask my friends for things; things they are prepared to bring me, tasks they are willing to carry out.  

I don’t want to be seen as a lazy fat girl, so I’m struggling with this issue of independence.  I have no money, so making simple accommodations like buying painkillers takes a huge toll on my already-empty wallet.  I can’t bear to leave my bed some days, so I’ve missed a lot of classes.  

I wish being cut open and sewn back together was all I had to deal with right now.  Balancing all this excess baggage is too difficult, and I can’t lift more than 5 pounds.