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.


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.