Tired of watching my back and my vagina—But not gonna stop

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The day after the election, I was inconsolable, like many people. I couldn’t come to terms with what happened. And so I wrote. I wrote something that I didn’t post because it was not who I want to be. Yes, it was how I felt, and who I was at that moment, but it is not who I am. It was a very broken piece, filled with sadness, and not much else. Just mourning.

But now, I want to add my voice to all the others that are protesting the election’s results. And the absolute absurdity of seeing a sexual predator every time someone references the current President of the United States. And that this predator uses hateful rhetoric about basically anyone who is not white. As a woman of mixed race, I wonder what my experience would be in this future America if I looked more like my mother, who is very dark brown. Language is incredibly powerful, words can slowly be integrated into everyday vernacular, slowly chipping away at civil rights. It’s a trickle down process, but it happens. History has proven this time and again.

Because my skin is so light, I don’t feel comfortable speaking as a person of color. What I can speak to is my past, which was a lovely childhood marred by a few occasions of sexual abuse. And how that affected me forever after and how I maneuvered in the world after those moments.

I feel like I’ve been watching my back for years, or to be more accurate, my vagina. Since the age of 3 or 4 (not sure how old I actually was when the abuse began and ended), I’ve suffered the male gaze, endured the comments, and pretended not to notice. I was about 5 when I first saw punk rockers in a McDonalds with my mom. They wore all black, had dyed hair—one red, one green, one blue. One had a mohawk. At least one of them was female, and I remember being scared of them all, and thought, no one will mess with them. But all they did was politely order some food and leave. I was about 12 when I met two goth skaters who were polite and I never saw them again (they were friends of a friend). That was shortly after I had developed breasts and men were checking me out. Around that time, I innocently wore a hand me down short skirt and old dudes leered at me. My mother pointed it out and I was sickened and wanted to cover up immediately.

That’s when I walked down the path to darkness. That’s when I slowly started picking out black clothes from shops. That’s why I bought oversized clothing. That’s why I started listening to dark music by musicians who couldn’t get the girl. I didn’t want to get got. I wanted to live in a world where I was left alone. No one bothered me. No one saw me.

And now I live in a world where I feel more visible than ever before. It goes both ways. I can see the utter ugliness that exists outside my little bubble. Social media has allowed women to share over and over, the abuse they encounter and endured. It allowed me to know that I was not alone.

The day after the election, I was filled with despair. To see a known sexual predator makes me wince and I have to see him every time I go online, see a newspaper, a magazine, the news. It makes me wince with discomfort and anger. But now, I’m filled with anger and hope. I attended a children’s art show entitled “Gurl Please, Gender Bye!” and the art was made by children ages 5–12.** What we have here, what we are experiencing, is truly a time period that will change. With protesting, with authors and journalists, with hope, with children.

Trust me when I say I understand that I live in the Bay Area, and what I experience is not a struggle. Childhood abuse was not good. But just being a weird goth straight-ish chick isn’t what I would describe as unsafe. What is dangerous is happening in other places, to other women, to people of color, to LGBTQ people.

So writers, please continue writing. Don’t be silent. And I apologize if I lean too heavily now because I don’t know what to say. With your strength, my words will come.

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This photo was taken the day after the election, after a day of crying. Note: I asked my friend for a masculine version of a feminine cut. It’s growing out quite nicely. I’m looking like like a hung over dude, so there’s that.

 

 

* I unintentionally live a life of privilege because I look more like my father than my mother.

** This art show was curated by Ammo Eisu at CASA, with a generous grant by SOMArts Cultural Center

Paul Beatty’s Reluctant Hero in The Sellout—Reinstitutes Segregation and Accidentally Acquires a Slave To Save his Hometown

The Sellout, Paul Beatty

 

Paul Beatty’s brilliant satire, The Sellout is about a present-day man who accidentally acquires a slave and loves his former town so much that he physically redefines its town lines and reinstitutes segregation. I bought the book because it sounded like a thought-provoking and challenging satire, one of the cover blurbs, called it “Swiftian satire of the highest order.” I assumed I would appreciate the humor and the authorial voice, but detest the protagonist. But Beatty created an incredibly likable character, one that truly means well but can’t help when strange things happen to him (like having a suicidal man he saved pledge his life as a slave to him). He ends up in the Supreme Court as a result of his trying to improve his community. Continue reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New History in Between the World and Me

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Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Between the World and Me as a letter to his fifteen year old son growing into a black man in America. This letter, is 152 pages long. Because this work feels precisely like a letter, it results almost in guilt while reading it because you feel all the love and pain and anguish and anger that Coates experiences and expresses to his son. These are emotions that aren’t generally shared when writing about American history.* Books about history can induce anger, frustration, and guilt, but those are experienced by the reader, and not outright expressed by the writer. Why? Because we were told that history is what actually existed. We do not learn until later that history alters by who is telling the history, who is the writer, the “academic.” And so these “history” books we read growing up, are very one-sided, and of course, emotions are removed, falsely assuming objectivity. But how are they objective when they are only telling one version?

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Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State is So Strong I’ll Never Read it Again

 

An Untamed State, Roxane GayMost often the sign of a good book is one you know you’ll read again. When you turn that first page and you realize you’re hooked and you can’t wait to reread it. But sometimes, there’s those really strong books, brilliant really, and you’re grateful to have somehow stumbled on them, but you know you’ll never read them again. Ever. Why? Because they haunt you. Because they tell you a story you don’t want to hear. Because you never want to live in the situation the character was in. Because the story makes you realize how comfortable you live. Because you feel such guilt reading about these horrific atrocities from your cozy bed, slowly sipping a coffee you made at home with your clean water from your apartment faucet, when your fridge is full (or it could be if you shopped properly). Because you’re so privileged and the story is so horrible you never realized the world could be that bad.

Roxane Gay‘s An Untamed State tells the story of a Haitian American woman who is kidnapped in Haiti and held for ransom. Mirielle Duval Jameson is married and has an eight month old son. Her father grew up in a shack with his parents and twelve siblings. He moved to the United States and became successful, always working for men who held his being Haitian against him. So he moved back to Haiti, and became the most successful developer there. His family always worried about being kidnapped: in fact, they joked about it. And when it happens, the most successful man in Haiti, her father, refuses to pay the kidnappers and negotiates for less. He could afford it but refuses to give in to the thieves (yes, he considers them thieves before kidnappers). Mirielle Duval Jameson is held by her kidnappers for almost two weeks.

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Women, Explain Things to Me. Rebecca Solnit and the Feminists who Talk

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It seemed everywhere I went I saw Rebecca Solnit‘s Men Explain Things to Me. Having recently read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and finding a kindred soul in Gay, I was excited to read this new essay that gestated the term “mansplaining.”

The essay which gives the collection its title, Men Explain Things to Me, is quite short. In it Solnit recalls a conversation with a man. She is telling him about a book she wrote when the man interrupts her to tell her about a seminal book on the same subject released that summer… And it’s her book but he is too daft to realize it, nor has he read this book he is telling her about. Solnit uses this incident to explore this phenomena of men explaining things to women that women already know. And of men telling women what is right (most often regarding our bodies).

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