Protect Drunk Girls

Women have always been regarded as the sole source of all their suffering, and no one more than the drunk girl.

In her stumbling and fumbling, through her tears, and in spite of her laughter, we know her to be immoral and gross. We know that whatever should befall her on this “ladies night,” this “birthday celebration,” this “newly single,” “newly engaged,” “newly employed” or “just glad the week is over” night, is exactly what she deserves.

Can you imagine, having done no legal or moral wrong, but upon having bad things happen any way you are now made to be the villain in your own trauma?

This is the great shame of society, among which there are many more, but what do we do? Do we seek to rectify, to apologize, or to make the next time right? No, we persist in the belief that a woman looking for fun finds what she seeks and a woman without reserve and modesty gets what she needs I suppose. It’s easier that way, to go on as we have and let the harmed fade away, or be put away by force if need be. The best among us try, but even in us, the way we find is wrong.

“Where are the men!”, we cry, “to keep us surrounded and safe?”

Where are the women I say! To keep us safe but more than that to keep us sure of our right to live, and drink, and be merry. Why can’t we be loud and a little too much from time to time without humiliation and pain? Where are the women to tell us it is okay? Where are the women who would see us safely home? Where are the women who would cry out to the men of their sin instead of always inventing and enforcing new ones for us all to suffer under?

Summer is coming, with warm night, open rooftops, and cold drinks and signs screaming “ladies drink free ’til midnight.” Drunk girls will be let loose in the world, and I feel for them knowing many won’t make it through what should be a time of joy but many will come through changed forever and with that will come shame and blame because no one will protect them.

If you see a pedestrian on the ground, hurt, bleeding, not breathing, do you help them? Or do you assume that they brought their injuries on themselves and leave them? Do you feel annoyed at the inconvenience, huff, and leave them to their fate?

Imagine you saw an intoxicated person getting into the driver seat of a car, would you say something? Would you call a cab or summon an Uber from your phone? Whatever you would do, I bet you know what you should do. If you saw a drunk woman walking alone on the street would you do the same? If you saw her surrounded by a group of men would you walk away?

Too often I have been out with others who have lost track of their friends or allowed them to leave with strange men. I try to speak up but all I hear is so and so is going to do what they want, and I’ve felt powerless.

I’ve even, I’ll admit, fallen into the trap of judging, ridiculing, and turning a blind eye out of annoyance and frustration. It’s hard to keep caring after you warn them and warn them, and still, they don’t listen, but I have to wonder about the consequences. I wonder how much of the world’s suffering do I carry because I didn’t protect a woman in need?

Many of us have made the same mistake. We’ve had too much, done too much, and ended up in dangerous situations. Some of us walked away unscathed? Did we deserve a consequence? Did we deserve to be groped and raped? Could you look yourself in the mirror, remember a time when you went out of a wild night with a friend, and tell yourself you deserved the same as the countless women you’ve seen in the news who are now missing, assaulted, or dead?

Of course not. You made a mistake, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all, and that is yet another idea we have to rid ourselves of too. I hope when it happened to you had someone to look after you. I hope you know how lucky you were.

But I want the world to change. I want all women to feel protected, and I want all women to protect drunk girls at all cost. From those who would take advantage of them, hurt them, or abandon them.

Drinking or not, every woman is worthy of care and comfort. Drinking or not, we all want the same thing, some time to let loose and feel a part of a place and time where there is only joy and love. There is no sin, no shouldn’t have, there is only the safest way, and we all have to help each other to that.

Protect carefree girls. Protect girls who do too much and take it too far. Protect young girls who are learning their limits and those of the world. Protect girls trying to have the night of their lives. Protect girls having a bad night too.

In a perfect world, you would never have to worry but this world is far from that, and something else must be done. We can appeal to the men. Love us, respect us, protect us, some will and some won’t but how can you know the difference? And anyway it is hard to trust the same ones who ridicule and abuse you.

I say we look to ourselves, to women, all women, to have the understanding and the courage to lead the way to safety, love, and a sense of freedom. Help your sisters find nights of fun and release without fear, or guilt, or pain.

Protect drunk girls, wherever you go, the night of and every night after, for as long as they need you.

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Inspired by the Instagram account @ProtectDrunkGirls

Featured image via Unsplash

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More Women of Color for 2017

“Two friends and I set up a rule — no more white women for 2017. We are not accepting friend requests online or in real life. We don’t have the energy required to vet people and then wait for the other shoe to drop.”

— Graeme Seabrook

Earlier this year, at work, I overheard a coworker, a white woman, complaining about her family’s struggle to pay for her eldest child’s college education. They had applied for many scholarships, but either hadn’t received enough or any at all. This woman, in her frustration, and with no shame at all, told a room full of people, “If my child’s last name had been Gonzalez, things would be easier.”

Sigh.

This woman didn’t understand that when it comes to private scholarships, white kids tend to get them more, and public ones, like the Pell Grant, are need-based, and minorities tend to be poorer. So, it has nothing at all to do with race and more to do with income. The fact is, this woman makes too much money, and her kid didn’t meet merit-based requirements, that is why she didn’t qualify. None of this is the fault of anyone named Gonzalez.

Now, I already didn’t like this particular woman, but what killed me was all the other white women around her nodding along. Women I’ve known for years who swear they are not racist, who swear that they don’t see color, who swear that times have changed and we all need to come together in love and cooperation. White women nodding along to a racist statement like that are in fact racist themselves or cowardly. Neither type of woman is one I want, need, or have time for in my life anymore.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Things like this happen around me all the time, and no amount of running to HR or speaking up stops it. They never stop thinking people of color are lazy, or getting something they aren’t. They never stop assuming darker skin means you don’t belong here, or that you are guilty, or stupid. They never stop blaming everyone else when a little of the suffering and hardship of the world touches their lives lightly and for the briefest moment. I am tired.

There have been so many white women I counted as friends, women I thought of as open-minded, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate. I never knew they were racist until it was too late. That is, not until after I’ve become emotionally invested in the relationship I had—and subsequently lost—when they expressed their true feelings. I don’t mean to say this is everyone’s experience, or even that it is typical, only that it is mine and many others and that it is hard.

My anger has been bubbling, I will admit it. It was on a slow burn before but this last election cycle has left me angry, bitter, and even more than that, exhausted. And now, between the hate I hear on the news, the voting demographic breakdown, and the kind of crap I hear and see from white people on a daily basis, I can’t take much more. I just can’t.

This is anger, not hatred. I do not hate white people, I do not blame all white people, but I am exhausted by white people, even the allies, at times.

It’s been bubbling for a while, and I am trying to find a way to care for myself without saying or doing things I will regret later. I am weighing what is best for me against what people will think of me, and I realized the latter shouldn’t matter. I am the one who has to live with me, and I am the one who has to carry the pain of my past and the anxiety of my future in this country, alone. I have to do what feels right, for me.

Last week I read a story on Medium by Graeme Seabrook about her own anger and exhaustion and her need to do what was best for her regardless of the feelings of white women in her life. She, like me, isn’t full of hate, she just hurt and tired. She said something in that story that has stuck with me, she said her and her friends have a rule: “No more white women for 2017”. I read the story, and I couldn’t get those words out of my head.

Those words frightened me. This is not how we are supposed to react. This is not how we are supposed to think or feel. This is not the “right thing.” We are supposed to be bigger and better than that, right? But the more I mulled it over, the more I understood it. It wasn’t about hate, it wasn’t about exclusion or racism, it was about prioritizing. It was about the kinds of people, connections, and even media that we seek out and demand. It was about who we let take up space in our lives and minds. It’s about diversifying your life for a while.

I have many white friends I adore. Friendships I would never give up because they add value to my life. Hell, I am half white myself. I was raised by a white woman. I am engaged to another half white woman who was raised by a white mother too. I couldn’t exclude or hate whiteness without hating myself, my loved ones, and where I come from too. It’s possible but it’s not me. Instead, what I aim to do, is to stop making whiteness and white voices the default, the norm, the prized, and the protected, in my life.

In 2017, I am not entertaining white questions, concerns, or criticisms especially on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or religion. I am not letting them think it’s okay to be ignorant anymore and I am not letting them force me to educate them in exchange for their compassion. I am not letting them slid by doing the bare minimum or nothing at all. I am not accepting ignorance, fragility, or innocence as excuses. I am not accepting apologies so easily anymore.

This year I’m looking for new friends and new connections with women of color, from all cultures. I want to read more from women of color. I want to donate money to and buy more from women of color. I want opinions, advice, and stories from women of color. I want to follow, reblog, retweet, and reply to more women of color. I want to be among more people who look the way I do, feel the way I do, live the way I do, and suffer the way I do too. I want to help people who need me.

I think all of us should seek these voices, regardless of our own race, gender, or sexual orientation. Let’s make women of color a priority in our lives and see what we learn about ourselves and the world.

But even as I write this, even as I feel so sure this is what is right for me, I feel that familiar guilt. I am making assumptions. I am not giving the benefit of the doubt. I am dividing people. I am accusing people of feeling things they don’t. I am judging books by their covers. Except, I don’t think all white women are racist, but I know some of them are and I just don’t have the energy to wait around to find out who is who.

I know it may sound harsh, and I may be hurting some feelings, but I’m only working out what I need. I want to try something new. I want to change the way I see and experience the world and the people around me. I want to find safer spaces, different spaces, and hear new points of view. I want to know what the world might be like if whiteness didn’t command so much of my time and attention.

So, sometimes when someone is hurt, vulnerable, and maybe even a little afraid, or at the very least just tired and in need of a little space, we should give it to them, even if it hurts us to do it. I’m, not cutting anyone out, I’m just cutting different people in. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or hate anyone, I’m just trying something different, for me!

And I am not apologizing for it.

I do not have the time or energy to accept you now and wait for you to hurt me. I have chosen to put myself and my emotional safety first. I have chosen to center women of color in my life in every way.

I do this BECAUSE I have been judged by the color of my skin every day. Suffering does not automatically make me a bigger person. It just hurts.

— Graeme Seabrook

P.S. I am sure many of you will have thoughts on this post, and I do welcome them, but please remember this is a place for me to express my feelings. I am under no obligation to reply to hatred or harshness. I reserve the right to delete and block, and you have the right to create your own internet spaces to write how you feel too. Thank you for reading.

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The Modern Witch

“Womanhood
is learning how to witch yourself
in slow motion.
When they say your name
like a curse,
say it back to them
like an incantation.
When they call you cold,
show them how you conjure fire.”

— Brenna Twohy

Every girl goes through a period of flirtation with witchcraft. Some more intense than others. Some only a passing curiosity, some a full-blown obsession. At some point, we all yearn for the ritual and religion, a place for women alone, and a promise of control.

I do not, nor have I ever, subscribed to any religion, but it has been a temptation in my more vulnerable years. I was never more vulnerable than when I was 17 years old. I was on the verge of the abyss of womanhood, barely understanding what that meant or where it might take me. In short, I was a typical teen. I was feeling and fearing the same as every other girl and so, found myself drawn to the mystical and the romantic.

My girlfriend and I would take buses to out-of-the-way stores where we browsed incense, herbs, tarot cards, and candles. We bought boxes covered in the images of the moon to hold all our trinkets and charms. We read books about goddesses and gemstones, the equinoxes, and planets falling into retrograde.

We never really wanted to cast spells or invoke the Gods, we just wanted some control. We wanted to banish all the things in life that were hurtful, stressful, confusing. We hope if we carried the right stones, quieted our minds, and asked the universe—at the right time and in just the right way—to find favor with us, everything would turn out ok.

We wanted to believe we weren’t such fragile things. We wanted to believe there was someone greater than us that we could call help. We wanted to believe there were great and beautiful goddesses, who understood our bodies, our struggles, looking down on us and smiling.

Approaching such possibility and power was scary, though. What we were searching for was tightly connected to our womanhood, our blood, and our ability to bring life. All of the parts of ourselves we feared. All the parts of us we knew men feared too. This country has a well-documented history of controlling women when it could and killing them when it couldn’t. Women seeking or exhibiting power outside of what could easily be explained, suppressed, or directed by men must be courting the devil and asking for death.

From Joan of Arc, to Margaret Jones, to Marie Laveau I wanted to be everything these women were accused of being. I wanted to be strong within myself, for myself, and I wanted to gain strength from other women who found power and peace with who they were too.

I wanted to have a place among nature and to feel the universe living through me.

That isn’t quite what I found.

I lost my love for witchcraft when I realized no amount of casting this or that spell during any time of the month or year, could stop the world from hating me for being a woman. It couldn’t even stop me from hating myself for the same reason.

I grew up and entered a workplace where I heard women put down and saw them isolated and shamed for being sluts or bitches. I saw women working against each other, accusing another of what she must know was in her too. I saw women working harder than the men and the men making just as much. I saw what I had always seen everywhere I looked and went, women living without any control over how they were seen, treated, or perceived. I saw women who had no control over what happened to their bodies or what went on in their minds. I saw women who were less than human in the eye of men and the eyes of one another. There was no great and powerful goddess looking down on all of us and finding favor.

I grew up, entered the real world, and learned that witches weren’t real. No women were loving themselves and connecting with the forces around them. I never saw a woman make a change in her life, or embrace any version of magic in herself.

I learned there was no place in this world where women are appreciated for being women and not condemned for not being men. I learned there was no place where women seek out the power and understanding of the company of other women. I learned we were all happy to go along, reenacting a subtle version of ever witch trial forever and ever.

I forgot about the moon, the equinoxes, the herbs, and charms and set about learning to navigate in a world that believed I was evil, or dirty, and told me so every day. I buried my need for connection to nature and forgot all about the practice that offered me a feeling of safety and possibility.

But I never gave up on the idea that there was something bigger in me, something beautiful and strong. I changed my world through hard work, observation, and persistence. I decided I would not be condemned for my stubbornness, my strangeness, or my sexuality. I decided that if I were accused, I would own it, and if they tried to drown me, I’d swim like hell and let them think what they wanted

I looked back and realized I had could fulfill the needs I had then, of a community, and strength, and acceptance through other means. It took faith, yes, and acceptance and humility in the face of what I could never understand and of what I could never defeat.

I learned a new kind of magic.

I became a modern witch.

I think all women have it in them to do and become the same. I think most have without realizing what they are.

There are new rituals, centered around self-care, creativity, and getting shit done. There are new spells we cast; we call them affirmations, and we say them to ourselves every morning when we rise and repeat them at night before we drift to sleep. We write manifestos and to-do list and have no doubt what we say will come to be. We spill our hearts in journals, poetry, and blog posts, and bare our souls to the universe and one another.

We demand space and the right to express our power without the control or guidance of men or masculinity. We find reasons for seeing ourselves as beautiful, not just for our bodies, but for our minds and spirits too. We use our strengths to work miracles and turn the world into a place where we are valued, represented, and listened to. A place we no longer have to feel afraid, confused, or hurt.

The modern girl takes note of who she is and makes no apologies for putting the internal first. She rejects consumerism for consumerism sake and only buys what helps her express herself and makes her feel powerful. She knows that ritual has its place in this world. She embraces routine and meditation because she knows they work. She remembers the stories of the women who came before her, she learns from them and honors them too.

She looks to the future, marks the changing season around her and inside herself too and makes the most of both. She is mindful and grateful for the world around her and is awed by the trees, the wind, the clouds and the life she takes the time to notice around her.

She holds bits of earth and rock and metal and knows that while may not bring about any good or bad energy they serve to connect her to what has deep under her feet, the Earth, mother to us all, who has existed long before any of us and will long after we are gone.

She remembers where she comes from, where she is going, and what can be accomplished with time and the power that exists in this world, and somewhere deep inside of her.

“Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Some are made of witchcraft and wolf and a little bit of vice.”

— Nikita Gill

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Privacy’s Place in the Presidential Election

“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

— David Axelrod

Harsh words, but true. For those of us living in fear that Trump and his “basket of deplorables” are going to be running this country for the next four ears Clintons lack of transparency can be frustrating. It seems simple to us. If she would just be open, honest, and forthcoming with all the details of her life, this election will be a breeze.

She’s been caught deleting emails her and her team deemed private. When asked about it, she only says she’s provided what she needed to provide and reminds us that no one would want their personal emails read. End of story. She been asked to release transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, but she blows it off and assures us it is fine. When American’s question her health she says nothing. Then when it comes out she has pneumonia, she says she didn’t think it was a big deal.

Each of these incidents and much more besides have only raised suspicions, inflated conspiracy theories, and cost her votes. The media continues to focus on these issues rather than her policies, or Trump’s very real, very shady dealings. The American people continue to call for transparency from her, and she continues to fight it.

I’ve started to wonder why she does this. I’ve wondered because any other candidate—if they are working to deceive the American people—would work harder to spin and cloak the lie when the truth comes out. Clinton instead acts as if she really does not understand what the big deal is. She explains her answer again but offers very little apologies. She doesn’t want to waste time on it, and she is annoyed you are asking again.

“My sense of privacy — because I do feel like I’ve always been a fairly private person leading a public life — led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of both the press and the public’s interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me.”

Hillary Clinton

I am not here to tell you there is nothing at all to see behind the curtain. I believe Clinton, like all people, probably has some dirty secrets. What I am trying to figure out is whether she is as calculating and dishonest as her critics say. I don’t think she is; I think she is just the kind of person who decides for you whether something is important enough to talk about. She’s the kind who will give you a direct answer if you confront her with it, but that is all. She won’t apologize, and she will consider the issue closed afterward.

It can be frustrating for sure, but I don’t think it is malicious.

I happen to be very much in love with another woman who is uncompromising in her demands for privacy. My girlfriend hates to have to answer for or explain something when she knows she is either not at al wrong, that she may have made a mistake but obviously did not have bad tent ions, or if she thinks it is simply none of your business. She also hates to be forced to divulge information before she is ready. To talk about things like that are exhausting to her and after awhile become annoying.

If I ask her a direct question, she will no doubt give me a direct and honest answer, but it is up to me to figure out what questions to ask.

I never know if I’ve gotten the full story but I always know that if something is really bad, she will tell me, so I trust her, I let go, and I let her have her privacy. Not because she hasn’t ever made a mistake, or lied, we all have, but to push her only makes her cling to her privacy tighter. She lives in a world where to give up her privacy leaves her vulnerable in a way she cannot cope with.

I wonder if Hillary Clinton feels the same. Especially after decades of the public hounding her and making the most awful assumptions and jokes about her, her family, and her character. I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same.

“The cumulative effect of that is a perception not unfounded in the public that there’s always a part of the Clintons that they’re holding back from you, that there’s always a more complicated reality than what they’re really telling you,”

Matt Bai

She asks for privacy, she asks for understanding, but is she asking for too much?

I do fear that whatever Clinton does, whether she is transparent or not, she will be demonized. If she had told us she was sick, we would have accused her of being weak or unhealthy and therefore unfit, so she powered through it. I certainly don’t blame her. She may have been thinking about the American public’s tendency to overreact.

Does she deserve privacy?

I think so.

Some might argue that she knew what she was getting into and has no excuse for holding back. To that, I say Clinton seems very much like the type who believes she can do the job without having to give in and live up to the same expectations of those who came before her. I can’t say I don’t admire that.

With each elections cycle we ask more and more from our candidates, but is it because we need to know, or because we have a sick fascination with consuming as much of our candidates as we can. They are not potential leaders of our country, not to us. To us, they are players in a reality game show and the more entertained we are, the more votes they get. The player with the most votes wins the grand prize.

For a candidate taking the job seriously, the rules may be a little confusing. A candidate taking the job seriously may refuse to play by the rules

I am not sure if she is right or wrong, and I am sure, like all of us, Clinton has her secrets but is it right to press her so? I don’t have the answer; I just want more of us to be asking ourselves where the lines lie. What areas do we not have a right to force our way into? We should examine why we need to know something. We should examine how we might feel if it were us.

We should also ask ourselves how much of this comes down to gender? How much of this is about a woman who should have nothing to hide? How much of this is about our access to women, their bodies, their minds, and everything they do? We should ask ourselves why Clinton must tell us more about her health when she has released more tax information, more health information, and who we have a complete history of.

We should ask ourselves whether we are being unreasonable before accusing our candidates of the same.

We should ask ourselves what these elections really mean, and what is important to pursue and what is only filling time and satisfying a sick addiction the American people have with knowing every intimate detail of our politicians and celebrities.

Think about what kind of people we are electing when we are making that the criteria.

“I’ve always believed in a zone of privacy and I told a friend the other day that I feel after resisting for a long time, I’ve been re-zoned.”

Hillary Clinton

 

 

But…They are Deplorable

Here in America, the election is coming to a climax, and everyday things get weirder, crazier, and more and more exasperating.

This past week I have had enough. I was pushed to my limit after hearing Trump’s talking heads and surrogates condemn Clinton for her “basket of deplorables” comment. I lost it when I heard them attempt to twist her words after she called out a faction of this country we have all been ashamed of. When she mentioned a fact we already knew, that those people we are ashamed of have recently become emboldened and have decided they have a place at the table.

They took the comment out of context and twisted it into something ugly and untrue. This time, I am pissed.

On the surface I get it. If I hadn’t taken the time to find out what Clinton had said exactly, if I had just taken Trump’s word for it, if I only heard his attack ad, I might be offended too. Luckily, the Internet exists, and humans possess the gift of logical thinking, mostly.

Luckily, I am here to explain things.

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

I took the liberty of emphasizing the important parts for you.

Clinton starts by saying not only is she grossly generalizing but she’s only talking about half of Trump supporters. This is an instance of “If it offends you it might apply to you, and if it doesn’t apply to you, you shouldn’t be offended.”

Clinton didn’t say all Trump supports; she didn’t even say half of all Americans. She said what we all already know to be true. That the kind of people who hold sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic views tend to say they are in support of Trump. Hell, we all know that those kinds of people tend to support Republicans in general. This is nothing new.

Not all Republicans or Trump supports are like that; we know that. We know that there is more to being conservative too. There are issues of fiscal responsibility and personal liberty, but we also know that these matters have been overshadowed.

There is a fear among many Americans that the Republicans who are saying those hateful things are the ones who are going to be running that party and possibly running this country. That is why it is important for Clinton to point out which party that particular group of people has decided to join.

I think we can all agree that sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, eat., have no place in America. We know that.We all know we should be accepting of people who are different from us. We know that is what America is supposed to be about. Freedoms to be who you are regardless of where you have come from.

What I see, and what many other non-Republicans see, is a party that accepts the people who think America is only for people who look and believe a certain way. They give those people a home and make promises to them for votes, and that is very dangerous. Republicans think they can shelter and condemn all at once. Republicans think they can spin the support of these “deplorables” and continue to cry innocence. Clinton is pointing out the fallacy and the danger of this hypocrisy.

Whatever you may think of Clinton, she told the truth up there. The fact is, people who hold such hateful views tend to support the Republican Party. In 2008 The American National Election Studies ran a poll and found that 45% of white Americans he’d negative views of black people, in 2012 that number had jumped to 62%. Those people were also heavily skewed toward Republican, and we know they still are. That poll only looked at racial bias, what about sexism and homophobia/transphobia?

The folks over at FiveThirtyEight discussed this very topic and shared a lot of data and opinion. They concluded that not only do most people who hold those views tend to identify as Republican but that they preferred Trump over any other Republican candidate. I think we can safely say that whether or not half of Trump’s supporters are deplorable isn’t the point. The point is, he is definitely their candidate of choice, and there is nothing at all wrong with pointing that out.

Hell, even Trump himself has used questionable language. He’s blamed immigrants for everything going wrong in this country and even called them criminals and rapists. He told Black people that they had nothing to lose since they were already living in poverty and sending their children to crappy schools. He wants to ban all Muslims and has accused refugees seeking safety within our borders of being terrorists. In my opinion, he is one of the “deplorables” Clinton is talking about.

Some say calling these people names and condemning them might be making the problem worse. They say instead we should be showing them that the people they hate are in fact people, and you change their mind. They sat we should lead by example. The logic behind it is sound; there may even be science behind it, but the reality is, we’ve tried that, and we are tired.

I am now in favor of a two-pronged approach. Yeah, use empathy and understanding and lead the horse to the water, sure, but sometimes a little tough love will do the trick.

Sometimes “deplorables” need to be reminded of what they are. They are always in danger of believing that their views are not only right but widely held, and I think it’s a good idea to say “Hey, you are hateful, and there is no place in the future of this country for hateful people.”

That being said, I do encourage everyone to begin emphasizing the second part of Clinton’s statement. She mentioned the people who legitimately support the Republicans, and I do believe there is a legitimate reason to be a Republican. They are the people who worry about our economy, our freedom, and our military. They see a different set of problems and propose a different set of solutions. Those people do have a place in this country. Those people are worth listening to and understanding.

Those people are a part of America too.

Clinton is saying she has heard them. Clinton is saying they matter. She is urging her supporters to hear them too.

That was the point of her speech.

***

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Original image via Gage Skidmore

 

Finding Enlightenment in a Unisex Bathroom

If you hadn’t heard, North Carolina is considering revising it’s controversial Bathroom Bill HB 2, which forces people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate rather than the one they identify with. They are revising it, not repealing it. The revisions are crap too. Still discriminatory, still ignorant, still harmful. Now they will require a “doctor’s note” that your gender has been reassigned. Sometimes people can be so awful.

“The discriminatory proposal being offered by lawmakers today does not change the harmful status quo for nearly every transgender person in North Carolina. Many states, including North Carolina, require transgender people to have gender reassignment surgery to update their birth certificates. However, only 33 percent of transgender people actually have gender reassignment surgery. This is due to a variety of factors — including but not limited to cost, age, health and medical needs, and access to skilled providers.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the arguments on both sides of the recent rash of bathroom bills across the country. I’ve read a lot of the arguments for forcing people into the bathrooms that match the biological sex they were assigned at birth. I have not found any of them to be solid or based in and reality.

A lot of it, all of it, is just plain transphobia and homophobia disguised as concern for female safety. They warn of men dressing up as women for the express purpose of raping and molesting women and children.

Pro tip: If men are overwhelmingly in favor of a law they say will protect women and children, that is probably the opposite of what the law will do.

What we seem to be forgetting is that there is nothing stopping rapists and child molesters from doing that now. These doors aren’t locked you know. Hell, men don’t even have to dress up as a woman to get in there, they can just walk in. What we seem to be forgetting is that when it comes to attacks in bathrooms involving Transgender people are the ones at risk, partly because they are forced to use a bathroom they shouldn’t be using!

Obviously, this is about people making assumptions about what gender feels like for other people and deciding the for them what they need or should accept and be comfortable with. It’s a lot like when people think it isn’t possible for lesbians to enjoy sex because a man isn’t involved, or that agender people need to be fixed because having no interest in sex has to be a mental illness, or that all gay men are pedophiles. It’s hurtful, it’s ignorant, and there is no excuse for it.

We forget that there is a natural variation in the ways there are to be a human being and be considered normal. People forget that just because you have never felt this or that way does not mean it isn’t possible for a person to feel that way. People forget that just because you don’t need something to feel comfortable and safe in this world does not mean other people don’t.

People also forget that other people’s genitals and sexual preferences are not anyone else’s God damn business.

Also, fun fact for you, there have been no reported cases of men dressing as women to gain access to a women’s bathroom to assault or harass anyone.

“Where do I go to the bathroom now? It’s literally against the law for me to use the men’s room, and it’s also risky. Even though I’m more than a year on testosterone—I’m getting facial hair, my hair has receded a little—I still don’t always pass as male. Or do I use the women’s room, follow the law, and clearly make people uncomfortable?”

Charlie Comero, a 35-year-old transgender man in Charlotte, North Carolina

To be clear, I am on the side of using whatever bathroom you feel comfortable in. I am also on the side of having more one toilet bathrooms with locking doors for people like me who feel more comfortable peeing alone.

Throughout all of these God awful debates on bathroom usage, I kept thinking: “If only these people could experience the joy and revelation that comes with being free to use any bathroom you like the would understand why this isn’t as big of a deal as they think it is.”

I’ve had the opportunity to pee in just such an environment, and even for me, a pretty open minded, understanding, and empathetic person, it was eye opening.

Here in Denver, there is a gay club called Tracks. Tracks is huge! In fact, the location used to be an old factory. They have at least three, probably more, dance floors, just as many, if not more, bars, and an entire alleyway for a smoking area.

They host huge events every month, drag shows, costume nights, elaborately themed parties, and more. Growing up queer in Denver you know about Tracks, but I had never gone there. I had heard it was loud, and the crowds were large, so I didn’t think it was my kind of place, but one night about two years ago I was outvoted by a few of my friends and off we went to tracks.

When we walked in, I was immediately overwhelmed by the crowd, and as I usually do when I am anxious, I went to the bathroom, and just like my friends always do, they agreed to go with me.

Again, I had had never been there before, but my friends had and so when I went into the bathrooms labeled for “Women” and I was pretty freaked out when my male friends followed me in. Just as I was turning to tell them they were in the wrong bathroom, I saw that there were many men in the bathroom.

Honestly, for a second I thought I was in the right place. It took a few seconds to adjust to my surrounds before I realized the place was filled with people of all genders. There was no “Women’s” or “Men’s,” there are labels on the doors, sure, but everyone went wherever they felt comfortable.

The whole experience made me realize it’s actually kind of nice to be able to pee in whatever bathroom you want. I didn’t have to leave my group; I felt safer, and I felt the relief of not worrying about my, or anyone else’s gender. I’ve never felt that in women only bathrooms. For a genderqueer person who hates being forced to choose under any circumstances, it made me feel normal.

I had a feeling everyone else there felt the same. Two of my male friend were gay, there was my girlfriend and me, and a straight woman, and a straight man, in my group, a pretty good mix of people, and they all agreed that it was better this way. No one in my group felt uncomfortable; no one made them feel uncomfortable.

Everyone in that bathroom was doing what we all do in bathrooms, peeing, washing their hands, primping in the mirror, and taking selfies. No one cared about anyone else’s gender.

NO ONE CARED!

Like most changes that happen in our lives, it isn’t the actual change that is scary; it’s our inability to cope with the fact that something will be different.

Remember all those years before Marriage Equality, when Religious Right-wing Crazies were telling us that “if we let the gays get married the world as we know it would end?” Remember what happened after we legalized Gay Marriage? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world kept turning, no one got hurt, and a lot more people were happy. It was a good thing despite all our anxiety and whining.

I imagine that if we got over ourselves for one second and thought about the worst case scenario, the realistic worst case scenario, we would see that no matter what gender people are they are going to do the same things we all do in a bathroom. I think we can all be grown up enough, mature enough, and compassionate enough not to make a big deal about it if we try.

So let’s try, shall we?

Let’s try to imagine that things people say they need to feel safe and comfortable are not things that are going to make our lives hard or scary. Let’s try to remember that making people feel comfortable and safe is something we should strive for and encourage, not a reason to spew more hate into the world. Let’s try to remember that people are made of more than their genitals; that people are still people no matter their sex or gender.

Let’s try to imagine that people who are different from us, or need different things than we do, have all the same goals and dreams as us and only wish to make the world a better place for us all.

***

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Being Uncomfortable, Voicing Discomfort, and Leaving Uncomfortable Spaces

I am not good at speaking out when I am hurt by the words of others. I hate confrontation, it makes me uncomfortable. Lately, I have been thinking about the consequences of keeping quiet.

Maybe it is doing more harm than just saying how I feel? I allow other people to harm me because I don’t want to make waves, or make anyone feel bad, or start an argument. I am not protecting myself and I am not challenging misinformation when I hear it. I am allowing these people to become more comfortable in their ignorance and giving them the idea that it is okay to say the things they do.

I am not helping anyone by doing nothing.

***

Years ago a coworker and I are discussing the possibility of gay marriage. She knows my girlfriend, and she knows we have been together for many years. She has always been very nice to us and I was shocked when she revealed to me that she did not agree that lesbians and gays should be allowed to marry. She explained that she was a catholic and while she understood that there were rights my girlfriend and I would never have she could not agree that we should.

I should have told her that she was wrong and that we did deserve those rights. I should have explained to her how much it hurt me and my girlfriend to know that we wanted it for all the right reasons and that it hurt more than she could ever understand to be denied by the government. I should have told her that watching politicians compare me and my love to molesters and abusers made me cry at night. Or I should have just walked away.

Instead, I told her I understood, and that everyone was entitled to their opinion. I made her feel ok when she had not only been inappropriate, but hurtful.

**

I sat back in the office with “the guys”, a group of 4 or 5 men I worked with every day and called my friends. They were watching a video comparing a woman’s level of “crazy” to her level of attractiveness. The premise being that the better looking she was the crazier she is going to be. At the end, it states that if you are with an attractive woman and she isn’t crazy, then she is a man. Sounds like a bit of transphobia too.

I should have  told them what they were saying was sexist and harmful. I should have told them that playing that video in front of me made me feel like they weren’t being very good friends to me. I should have told them that it was invalidating and frustrating for women to never been taken seriously and for men to make jokes about it.  I should have told them this was not appropriate and not what I came to work to hear. Or I should have just walked away.

Instead, I murmured something about that not being right, and when they laughed me off I laughed along too. I let them carry on their joke because I didn’t want to be a killjoy.

***

A coworker is making a joke about there being no other black people in the room while I and a friend who has albinism are sitting right there. My friend speaks up first, her skin may be white but she is just as black as this coworker. The coworker tells her to calm down and motions to me, “It’s ok, Lisa doesn’t count either”.

I should have told her that despite my skin tone and despite what privilege may come with it, it is not ok to say I don’t count. I have been hearing that my whole life and I do not care to hear it in my place of work. I should have told her that perpetuating the idea that mixed people don’t belong anywhere. I should have told her that growing up mixed wasn’t easy, that never being one or the other, and being hated by both hurts you before you can even understand why. I should have told her what she said reminded me of all that and hurt me all over again. Or I should’ve walked away

Instead, I only replied sarcastically that I know I don’t count, I never have and never will, and then I am silent. I let her treat me the way other people had treated me my whole life because I had given up fighting.

***

I am learning to sift through my feelings about these little hurts I deal with all the time. I am learning how to articulate them in  way that other people will understand why these words hurt and when these ideas are harmful. I am learning not to let people get away with hurting me just because something is funny or because it makes them feel better.

I am learning not to feel bad for protecting myself from people who perpetuate problematic ideas just because it makes those people uncomfortable to have their words challenged.

I am my number one priority and I need to remember to treat myself that way.

***

Inspiration and title of this post comes from 10 Personal Rights That I, As a Black, Non-Binary, Queer Person, Refuse to Compromise On via Everyday Feminism

Original image by Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany (ws’08 (21)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Dressing for No Gender

Identifying as a genderqueer person when your gender actually appears to be pretty clear-cut means living in a world where you may never feel 100% comfortable in your own skin. My body says to the world that I am very much female but inside I feel something like a mix of both genders, or maybe neither gender, or maybe some days I feel like a bit more of one or the other? It is hard to explain.

I have been this way my whole life and the hardest part has been finding a way to express this through the clothing I wear so that I can walk around feeling confident and comfortable. Unfortunately, the world we live in still has some outdated ideas about the way women should look and dress and that leaves me wishing every day for things to change. It leaves me…

Wishing my body was shaped for the clothes I want to wear. I wish I was shaped like all those good-looking boyish yet feminine model types. That’s the way I picture myself in my head, both handsome and beautiful. I want my outsides to match the way I feel inside. Alas, that will never be, because I am stuck with wider hips than I want and a butt and bust too big to be considered boyish. Nothing fits me right and I am often forced to settle for clothes that are not quite what I wanted but close, which somehow feels worse.

Wishing that the men’s and women’s clothing departments were right next to each other, or better yet, just one fucking department. This way I could mix and match better. Sometimes I like a shirt in the women’s department but I need to match it with some jeans in the men’s, or vice versa. Why must I walk all the way across the entire store, and sometimes traverse to a whole different floor, to buy what is essentially the same thing, clothing? Why does there even have to be men’s or women’s clothing departments, seems silly to me.

Wishing men’s jeans, shoes, and shirts were regularly sold in smaller sizes. I have met men that are just as short as me and I have no idea where they must get their clothing. It is a struggle for me to find shirts in a size small, jeans in the 32×32 range, and shoes in a size 6. I cannot tell you how many times I have found the perfect item of clothing only to be told: “They don’t make that in a size smaller than *insert size just above the one I am asking about*”. It’s heartbreaking.

Wishing the women’s clothes were made to be more practical, the way men’s are. What’s with the tiny, sometimes nonexistent, pockets? Why do all the coats stop at waist level? Why aren’t jean’s sold with a waist and an inseam size? Do people think women vary in size less than men do? Why don’t women have options like a slim or regular fit? Do people think women all want their clothing to fit in the same way? The women’s clothing section reeks of oppression and standards no one can achieve.

Wishing that it were easier to express to companies what it means to want to wear both men’s and women’s clothing. It’s like no one has told them that sometimes people are a little different and might not fit into this or that category as nicely as they want to believe. For example, for a while, I was receiving a monthly subscription box that sent cool gadgets, accessories, and clothing. I wanted nail polish but I also wanted men’s shirts. I wanted men’s jewelry but I also wanted the girly phone cases. There was no way to specify any of this when I initially signed up and I eventually had to cancel it. I was really bummed but I was getting a bunch of stuff I didn’t want or couldn’t wear. If they would have just added more options to the damn sign up form…

Wishing that the companies that made gender-neutral clothing were not charging an arm and a leg for it. I mean, yeah, I’m grateful that you have seen a need and intend to provide a product for people like me but don’t you know that poverty is more prevalent in the LGBT community than it is in the heterosexual/cisgender community? Why are you dangling a solution in front of my face and keeping it just out of reach? Maybe it is because the “androgynous look” has always been a part of “high fashion” and, therefore, a sin to provide to the lower classes.

Wishing everybody didn’t feel the need to tell me what I should wear or what they want me to wear. What people don’t understand is that telling me they think I would look really good if I wore women’s clothes is actually pretty insulting. When people (it’s always a group discussion held around me) start talking about what I should wear, usually dresses and skirts, or leggings, I feel like they are telling me that I look bad. Why else would they want me to wear something else? I don’t hear them telling the guys in the room to wear dresses or the women to wear a tuxedo, why do it to me?

Wishing more people understood what it means to be genderqueer. I rarely talk about the way I feel about my gender identity or expression. Most people I know either think I am making it more complicated than it needs to be or they just don’t get it, sometimes they think something is wrong with me. It’s easier to use female pronouns and use terms like “tomboy”, that’s as far as most people’s knowledge and comfort level can stretch.

When someone does get it, when they understand that for me gender almost means nothing at all, that I am perfectly fine having the parts I do but that they aren’t a part of who I am, it can be a great relief. It makes me feel like I am being really seen.

For most people their gender is a part of who they are, for other people being of no gender, or a mix of gender is very much a part of who they are too. Clothing manufacturers and retail stores need to understand that and make it easier for people like me to find what they need to dress in a way that makes them feel good. It is no small matter I assure you. It is not a matter of fashion, it is a matter of looking in the mirror and seeing someone you recognize. It is a matter of not seeing a version of yourself that feels so unlike you in every way.

It is a matter of being able to walk this earth feeling comfortable, confident, and complete.

A Few Words on the Daniel Holtzclaw Case and Verdict

I just really can’t believe it because it’s the police. And I thought stuff like that only just really happened on movies. I couldn’t believe what was going on was really going on.

– S.H.

I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Daniel Holtzclaw. You would think a story about an ex-cop being charged with sexually assaulting 13 women, aged 17 to 58, would be big national news but it was hard to find mention of it on any national news networks. Until yesterday that is, when he was found guilty on 18 of the 36 counts.  The jury recommended a total of 263 years of prison time for Holtzclaw’s crimes.

Holtzclaw targeted his victims for their skin color and their criminal histories. Most were battling drug or prostitution charges and all were black so he figured no one would listen or believe them. Why wouldn’t he think he’d get away with it? All women have trouble getting authorities to listen and believe their stories of rape and assault, it’s even worse for black women.

I know that like I’ve been in trouble before, so I mean like, who am I to a police officer?

– T.M.

During the trial the defense argued the usual for these kinds of charges. The sex acts we consensual, Holtclaw is an upstanding, ethical citizen and servant of the public, the victims had a history of criminal activity and lying, and finally, the entire community hated him so of course they would try to hurt him with false rape accusations. Holtzclaw did not take the stand in his defense.

I admit I did not expect a conviction. The jury was all white and mostly male and we all know how that goes. They deliberated for almost two days, which didn’t feel like a good sign. I would’ve bet against a conviction and I tell you today I have never been happier to be wrong. I wish he could have been found guilty on all of the charges and I hope the women who’s assaults he was found not guilty of can still find some closure in knowing this man will (hopefully) go to prison for the rest of his shitty life.

But then I thought, then again, you know, who are they going to believe? It’s my word against his because I’m a woman and, you know, like I said, he’s a police officer. So I just left it alone and just prayed that I never saw this man again, run into him again, you know.

– C.J.

When I saw the video of him rocking back and forth and sobbing as the judge read the verdict I couldn’t help feeling a little joy in his suffering. I could tell he never thought that this would happen. He never believed he would actually be caught, let alone charged and convicted. He never thought there would be real consequences. He thought he could do whatever he wanted because of that damn badge. I imagine the whole thing feels surreal to him. I hope his whole world is crumbling and I hope he cries for a very long time. I wish him all the misery possibly and I refuse to feel bad for it. This man deserves far worse than he will get.

I saw many wishing that he suffers the same treatment as his victims did. I draw the line there. As someone who fights to end rape culture I have to advise against this sort of talk. We cannot pick and choose when rape is and isn’t okay. Instead I hope he never finds peace or happiness the rest of his days. I hope he suffers in his own guilt and the knowledge that he has been the worst kind of human being possible. I hope he knows he can never be redeemed.

I am happy about this conviction but I do wish that more victims could find the justice they deserve. According to RAINN only about 2% of rapists will ever serve a day in prison. It’s next to zero if you only include the assaults of Black Women. I hope that the other officers out there abusing their power in this way (we know they are out there) see that this is not okay. I hope they see that things are changing and People of Color are not going to stay silent.

I hope that Holzclaw’s victims, and all victims of sexual assault and rape, continue to move toward a place of peace and healing.

My thoughts are with you all, always.

*************

Quotes from the victims via Buzzfeed

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Bell Hooks

Hello and happy Wednesday! It’s time for Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. Each Wednesday bloggers share their favorite quotes to inspire and motivate each other to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution for the week comes from American author, feminist, and social activist, bell hooks.

Gloria Jean Watkins was born on September 25th, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Watkins derived the name “bell hooks” from that of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She grew up in a working-class family with five sisters and one brother. Her father, Veodis Watkins, was a custodian and her mother, Rosa Bell Watkins, was a homemaker. Throughout her childhood, she was an avid reader. Her early education took place in racially segregated public schools, and she wrote of great adversities when making the transition to an integrated school, where teachers and students were predominantly white.

She taught at several post-secondary institutions in the early 1980s, including the University of California, Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University. South End Press (Boston) published her first major work, Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism in 1981, though it was written years earlier, while she was an undergraduate student. In the decades since its publication, Ain’t I a Woman? has gained widespread recognition as an influential contribution to postmodern feminist thought.

Ain’t I a Woman? examines several recurring themes in her later work: the historical impact of sexism and racism on black women, devaluation of black womanhood, media roles and portrayal, the education system, the idea of a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy, the marginalization of black women, and the disregard for issues of race and class within feminism.

Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern female perspective, she has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.

It is writing that truly rescues, that enable us to reach the shore, to recover.

– bell hooks

Writing rescues me everyday.

In writing I have found a way to express, or distract, myself from intense or overwhelming emotions.

At least once a day something will upset me. Some small irritation will blow up and turn into got rage burning in my chest. Maybe my coworker filled out a form wrong or a friend made fun of something I am sensitive about. Maybe someone at work isn’t doing their part or an ignorant (yet innocent) remark was made within ear shot. Whatever it is, it can cause me to blow up if I am not pulled out of my anger. I know I overreact or read too much into situations so I’ve learned that rather than make a fool of myself or regretting my words I turn to writing first.

Sometimes I get sad. Not by anything in particular, sadness is just a part of who I am. Let’s call it melancholy instead. I think about the inevitability of death and why there is so much suffering in the world. I think about the homeless, the sick, the poor, and the victimized. I think about what makes humans tick. I long to share those thoughts that with other people but these are not thoughts my friends regularly have. So I bottle it up and when it gets to be too much, I turn to writing. With writing I can go on and on uninterrupted about the beautiful tragedy of human existence without judgement.

Sometimes I feel alone. I don’t feel understood, not the way I wish to be understood anyway. Talking to people and explaining myself gets exhausting. I tend to over explain and twist and confuse the subject beyond recognition. I go off and tangents and tell parts of the story that aren’t relevant at all. Even if I manage to what’s going on inside me in a way that is understandable to another human being they don’t get why I feel the way I do, or why this is important. With writing I can say all I need and be listened to. I am not so alone.

Sometimes I feel overjoyed by something and I need to express it right away. I have noticed a funny habit of people to resist sharing your happiness, or laughing at it and making you feel embarrassed. I still share my happiness with my friends and family but it is with writing that I am most comfortable to do so. With writing I can be as enthusiastic as I choose and never fear looking foolish.

My emotions often leave me feeling like I am stranded at sea. I can’t get out and I am getting so exhausted. It’s like I really might drown. Writing brings me to a shore where I can rest and release what threatens to drag me under. I am calm afterward. I can dive back into the ocean of the human condition and swim and splash once more.

And I swear, each time I can swim longer, and father out, than before.

*************

Original image via Unsplash

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia