No Longer Standing By: Teaching the Bystander Effect

There is this unit that I teach called “True Crime,” and in this unit, the class discusses our fascination with “true and fictional crime stories.” To do so, we read an essay penned by Walter Mosley: “True Crime: The Roots of an American Obsession.”  After reading a certain cluster of paragraphs, I draw my students’ attention to supplemental sources that refine his claims. One of them being:

“True-crime stories, murder mysteries, up-to-the-minute online news reports, and (as always) rumor and innuendo grab our attention faster than any call for justice, human rights, or ceasefires.”

This idea that we rather watch from the sidelines than have the coach put us in the game. Naturally, students are confused at first, so I use this statement to draw their attention to a few examples that showcase this belief.

As a class, we read an article on Kitty Genovese, a woman who was stabbed multiple times outside of her apartment. We read how, according to the New York Times article, 37 witnessed the murder. We read how out of those 37 reported witnesses, not a single one offered assistance to Genovese, despite her pleas. Throughout the years, this number has been contested and it has been argued that many did not have a clear understanding of the crime, and therefore did not see the need to intervene. However, these specifics only matter to an extent. 37 or 2, that is still too many people that chose not to help.

There is a looming silence that typically occurs as I read the article to the class due to a feeling of mutual disgust that occupies the room. However, there has always been one voice in each class: “I wouldn’t want to get involved either! I am not risking my life for nobody!” Although it saddens me that this can be an immediate reaction, I welcome responses such as this. I explain to my students that there are ways to get involved that do not result in immediate danger. I explain to my students the dangers of a society filled with individuals that match this sentiment. I use statements such as the one mentioned above to introduce my class to the bystander effect.

I show videos of the Smoke-Filled Room, and watch my students ridicule the woman who remains in the room far beyond their expectations (“She’s buggin’!” “Nah, if that were me, I would have been left!“). I show them a few more examples to drill the notion in their head. Students make connections to a time that they saw a car accident, or a fight that they witnessed, I hear so many different tales that all end in the same way. There is a multitude of factors that lead to this ending: fear of going against the norm; fear of risking one’s self; believing that someone else will handle it; etc. However, all of them end with a cluster of people watching rather than acting.

Half a century after Kitty Genovese, a teenager was stabbed outside a bodega in the Bronx. Whereas those involved in the tragedy of Kitty Genovese chose to turn a blind eye, these witnesses actively watched the crime. During the time of Kitty Genovese, callers had to dial ‘0’  to reach an operator and then get connected. Today, some phones are programmed to complete the call to ‘911’ after simply dialing the number ‘9.’  Yet no one offered Junior a hand because their hands were too busy holding devices recording the events.

After reading about Kitty Genovese and discussing the bystander effect, I ask my students, “Should bystanders be responsible for intervening when witnessing a crime? Are we obligated to help those clearly in need?” The class debates this issue and we typically reach the consensus that at the very least, individuals should report the crime. When that one voice I mentioned earlier continues to object, a bunch of students retaliate with, “What if your mom was the one that needed help? What if you were the one that needed help?” 

When I teach this unit again in the Fall, I will include this story of Junior. When I teach this unit again in the Fall to my 9th graders, who are either already 15 or turning 15, I will include the story of 15 year-old Junior. Not because I want to scare them of the dangers in the world – they are already well aware of this – but because I want to remind them to question the status quo. As history suggests, just because an event or action was accepted (or allowed) by a community, it does not make it morally sound. In fact, it is often the case that it only required one person to challenge normalcy for it to be altered. Our society has gotten so caught up in capturing the narratives that we have forgotten that we are all active characters that have the potential to alter its course. We continue to view ourselves as insignificant, and we therefore forget that all it takes is one to ignite change. We should not be afraid to go against the norm when it involves watching the murder of a 15 year-old boy.

“I know I’m Not the Only One” : How Black Panther and Meme Culture Taught Me About Individuality

Am I the only one who [insert typically unoriginal idea here]?

No, you are not. The fact that you even ask this question shows how unoriginal you are. Ironically, we typically ask this question because we are looking for confirmation that someone else agrees with us. In fact, agreement on certain topics often becomes the seed that blossoms into friendship. However, this question is not an invitation. We don’t ask “Does anyone else _______?” Instead we emphasize “only,” hoping that the answer is yes.

Yes, you are the only person that puts their cereal in the bowl before the milk. You are an anomaly. An American Hero. The messiah that has been selected to spread your teachings of cereal preparation to others.

We find ourselves constantly hoping that we have stumbled upon some originality in a world that seems to be lacking.

Despite the constant desire to feel interconnected, we tend to take pride in the belief that there is something about ourselves that makes us unique from the herd. After seeing Black Panther, I kept on telling my boyfriend how some scenes reminded me of The Lion King. I didn’t think that it was an astute observation, but I did think that it demonstrated some intellect on my part to make the connection. That is, until I logged onto Twitter and saw a tweet that mirrored my exact observations (to further my point, here are images taken from two different posts on two different sites, neither of them being Twitter):

 

Now, I know what you are thinking, my assigned FBI agent must have relayed the information to the NSA, yet this was not the case. My agent is sleeping on me because I have mentioned several golden gems (that’s right, I am giving you the go ahead) and have yet to seem them blossom into fruition (*cough* plan your own movie ending *cough* {for serious inquiries on this, please contact}). I remember watching Shark Tank and becoming frustrated over the fact that someone stole MY idea for an invention (yet mine would have been more fashion-forward). The idea that was sparked over the need to make walking with my phone and umbrella a little easier. The idea that was ignited because I had a difficulty with just keeping my phone in my pocket as I held my umbrella. The idea that was probably thought of by thousands of others since I am not the only person that has developed an addiction to my phone, so much so that I would rather have my umbrella blow every which way than to keep my phone in my pocket.

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“And I know,  And I know, And I know, And I know, And I know, And I don’t know”

The fact of the matter is, we are not entirely special – despite this mindset being instilled upon us from an early age. We inhabit the same place, engage with the same routines, so we will naturally have the same responses to those interactions. We like to believe that we are all unique. That there is something about us that makes us different – in a good way. That we are all our own little Ruldophs (which is a problem in itself – when we are the ones that are different, it is positive. When others are different, it is often the opposite).

Not everyone is the exact same, but we all possess the same traits and habits, just slightly altered. We are essentially all cut from the same cloth yet the seamstress can develop many different shapes and sizes to fool us into thinking that different patterns exist. Like when you go to Old Navy and see one pattern used for a dress, skirt, shirt, shoes, and bag (don’t worry, I worked there), I am sure that you can talk to any person and discover at least one similarity. Yes, I am aware that this is not a complex concept, but it needs to be said.

 “And so we are all connected in the great circle of life”

– Mufasa

Surprisingly, it was not until recently that I discovered just how mundane my entire life is. This is all thanks to meme culture. Ironically, memes are defined as “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” As nothing in life is truly original (after thousands of years, how can it be?), we develop copies, sometimes exact, others with modifications (interested in this topic? Enroll at Queens College and take a course on Simulacra). The term history repeats itself is less metaphorical than we would like to believe. Although we all possess the same innate desires and instincts, we tend to believe that our experiences are what make us unique. However, memes have proved that this is simply not the case.

When we come across a meme we like, we typically adhere to the three archetypes. (1) We laugh, write “I’m weak *cryface emoji”; (2) “I’m dead *skull*”; or for the more poetic: (3) “MEEE!” The fact that our responses tend to boil down to these three options is telling as well. We find the meme humorous because there is a ring of truth to it. This universality is the basis for comedy. Comedians are storytellers – the only difference is that they report life rather than fantasies. When I was in Atlanta, I watched an Open Mic, and I can easily recall the joke that made me laugh the most. The comedian was referring to the fire drill implemented during elementary school: Stop, Drop, and Roll: “Kids nowadays, they don’t practice that shit! In the 90’s catching on fire was such a problem that we had to invent a whole system for it, but today, kids have discovered that all they have to do is not catch on fire.” The audience responded well, but would the same response be present if the joke was repeated to a newer generation that never had to roll around putting out imaginary fires? Or if the audience were home-schooled and they practiced changing the batteries for the fire detector?

This leads us back to meme culture. We reblog, repost, retweet, or share because part of us is excited that there is a community of others like us. A tiny part of us feels slighted, maybe even robbed: You mean other people did this as well? What does that mean about me?

individualitySuddenly, that one experience that tokened our individuality is revoked. As much as we want to feel like we are part of the collective, there is another part of us that wants to be the one happy yellow smiley-face in a sea of unhappy blue (if you can immediately recall the image, my point is proven once again). We want to be like everyone else, but we also want to be the one in the group that is slightly (only in a good way) different.

And that is just it. We are so fixated on differences that acknowledging similarities seems like a removal of self. We can only identify ourselves through the existence of an other. We feel like we have been robbed when we should really feel like we have gained. Yes, you may be special – but so is everyone else.  It may seem like I am contradicting myself since earlier I stated that we are not entirely special – so let me clarify, we are not entirely, but partly. Special can be defined as “better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.” We are not better or greater than others, but we are different from what is usual since normalcy is a myth. Why then does acknowledging others as special makes us feel less than? It is only this notion of uniqueness that we feel is reduced once more is identified. A rose is still a rose despite being packed with eleven others.

Perhaps it is best that we are not entirely different from everyone else. To go back to Ruldolph – yes he was different, and he was a hero, but he “wasn’t allowed to join any reindeer games” until he proved that his differences made him valuable. The truth of the matter is, in a society that praises individuality, we simultaneously frown upon it. We only like differences once they are shown to be practical, and once that happens, we replicate those differences until they seemingly lose their practicality. Constantly replacing the Mufasas with Simbas, until they are one in the same (have you seen Simba grown up next to his father?)

 

Motherly Advice

Imagine this:

Your baby is crying hysterically. She is in desperate need of a diaper change, but your dinner is about one second away from becoming charcoal. What’s a girl to do?

These were the scenarios that I would willingly place myself in as a child. Apparently, that is all that motherhood encompassed: cooking, caring for a child, and running out of time. With all those Shutterstock photos of mothers floating around, who could blame me?

 

This is a well-crafted definition of motherhood. Ultimately, that is also what I thought women amounted to: mothers (yet with pictures such as the one above, one has to question why so many girls dream of placing themselves in this situation).

When I was younger, I was certain that at this point in my life, the noble age of 25, that I would already be married with children. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher (a genuine want), but motherhood appeared to be normalcy. There was not much of an option, since in my mind, it seemed mandated. Not necessarily forced, just expected. When planning my life, it was more of a fill-in-the-blank instead of a written response, there was no room for deviation. Most of the questions verged on “When?“:

“When will you get married?”

“When will you have your first kid?”

Never did the question “Will?” arise. I never questioned myself if these were aspects that I truly wanted in my life and that was because I did not know that these ideas were imprinted on, instead of manifested by, me.

However, now that I am of the age, the eight-year-old mother version of myself with her cabbage patch doll on her hip, would be aghast. No children?! How could this be? Where did you go wrong? You had hours of practice! All those moments wasted. All the instilled anxiety through placing yourself in dire situations were for nothing! The conversation would not be long between the two of us as she would scurry away to remove her perfectly cooked dinner from the oven.

In those brief moments, I would inform her that becoming a mother is a debate that has been ongoing, only heightening due to my sister recently becoming a mother. I had this notion that once I held and spent time with her baby, my inner turmoil would be resolved. As if the moment that I held her baby, he would look me in my eyes and determine my life’s course. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a sorting hat. After spending time with him, I only became more conflicted. I used to feel guilty over this, as if I was somehow letting down my child self. I am not sure why I believed that she knew what she was doing, since after all, she was the same person that thought three lines accurately captured a person’s hair and that throwing herself on the ground was an effective way to express her feelings.

Part of this conflict stems from the fact that through maturing, I have arrived to the conclusion that motherhood is a choice. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it actually isn’t. As girls, we are unwillingly and unknowingly drafted into motherhood. Toys are all geared towards preparing us – in fact, I, and many other girls, probably inadvertently studied more on how to be a mother than for anything else. For instance, these are some of the  popular toys from my childhood:

 

The truth is, I am not sure if motherhood is for me. I love being around children, and I value family, but I also have ambitions. I try to rationalize my ambiguity, but I shouldn’t have to. When I woke up today and got dressed, I didn’t have to approach others and explain to them why I opted for leggings rather than jeans. Yet I suppose the answer for both is comfort.

At this point in my life, I am comfortable with where I am, although it is not where I envisioned myself to be. I am not sure if I want kids, and that is okay. I know plenty of mothers, and they are wonderful women. I also know women who chose a different path, and despite what society attempts to make us believe, they are not any less of a woman. If I do have children, I want it to be because it was a decision of mine, not because I ascribed to an outdated chauvinist perspective on what it means to be a woman that my eight-year-old self too readily consumed.

Quasi-Empathetic

Confession time:

I cry every single time that I watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. . .

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Smile while you can.

and it is not because it is the most underrated Disney movie of all time. What truly gets me in the film is the scene during the festival of fools. My main man Quasi is stoked to finally be accepted by his peers. He even gets crowned KING – but unlike most movies, this is not an altruistic act from the crowd. He is only crowned because they believe that he has the most hideous mask; however, one guard in the crowd thinks it is a good idea to throw a tomato at Quasimodo. Apparently, everyone attending the festival is an asshole and joins in on the humiliation. And although I know what will happen each and every time I watch this scene, the tears remain consistent.

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Imagine longer hair and you have me 25 minutes into the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I used to always be a bit embarrassed by my reaction. After all, I was crying over a fictional character going through a fictitious experience – yet now I know there is a deeper reason. It is not Quasimodo that causes me to cry (for he really doesn’t want to hurt me, he really doesn’t want to see me cry) – it is a testament to the animators’ ability to tell a story, and my own character. To quote the man behind my tears, Victor Hugo once said, “Those who do not weep, do not see.” I suppose that while watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I submerge myself into the film – I am not watching, I am seeing. Although the two seem similar, they are actually quite different:

Watching –  look at or observe attentively, typically over a period of time.

Seeing – be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.

Unlike watching, seeing involves more activity. While watching, information stops once retained. Watching is a passive act. With seeing, information that is retained becomes processed, and it is through this process that connections can be made, allowing for empathy.

Up until recently, The Hunchback of Notre Dame would be the only time anything on screen would move me to tears. I did not cry as Mufasa died nor did I shed a single tear in Titanic – only Quasimodo resonated with me, he not only rang the bells of Notre Dame, but the bells of my heart. However, within the past two years, this was no longer the case. My eyes were like dynamites, ready to go off at any second. Here are some recent examples:

  1. Inside Out – as Bing Bong acts as a martyr and instructs Joy to “take Riley to the moon for him.”
  2. Community – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” in which Abed envisions the entire study group as stop motion to cope with his absent mother.
  3. Queer Eye – every single time one of the participants revealed their new transformation and then said goodbye to the Fab Five.
  4. Forrest Gump – Forrest discovers that he has a son and immediately asks if he is “smart.”

These tears are not always a result of sadness. They stem from compassion (and typically cartoons). Yet this epiphany did not enter my mind until recently (ironically, this involved real people).

During my visit to the Georgia Aquarium, I watched a Dolphin Show. There was a segment in which one of the trainers had a child from the audience perform in the show. A crowd of 200+ people watched as a ten year old boy “trained” a dolphin. As the boy instructed the dolphin, we all saw the trainer discretely send signals to the dolphin – however, the entire crowd cheered for the boy. In that moment, all of us became united under a single cause: to make the boy believe. Yes, this is incredibly corny, but against my better judgement, I found myself tearing. I immediately tried to hide my tears – what was I crying for? When did I become such a baby?

After wracking my brain for some odd moments, a new question emerged: Why was I criticizing myself for experiencing the most heightened form of compassion?

Empathy.

In that moment, I was moved at how the entire crowd was able to function as a collective just to make one little boy – that none of us knew – believe that he was able to control dolphins. How absurd. How spectacular. How magical.

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Laverne illustrating the concept of watching from her speech at the cathedral (1996).

We are constantly told that there is no use in crying over spilled milk, and let’s not forget that it is banned from basseball as well. Big girls don’t cry (thanks Fergie). Boys don’t cry. However, to fully invest yourself into the life of someone else, real or imagined, is an incredible gift. So I say, crybabies, rejoiceth! In those tear-jerking moments, we stop watching, and we tear down the wall that we build to separate ourselves from others – after all, take it from Laverne, “Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.

 

 

Undressing my Wardrobe

The first shirt that I wore that showed off my figure was a red and white striped shirt that was like a crew neck with a button up underneath. I wore it to go out to eat with my family. And although I looked like a walking candy cane,  I remember my dad complimenting me and commenting on the fact that I should begin to dress more like this, more like a girl. Other than that outfit, I typically bought jeans from the boys’ department – carpenter, baggy, and just plain questionable. Not because they were “meant for boys,” but because of the prints on them: green graffiti lettering covering all the pockets. My shirts mainly ranged from 2XL to 3XL, and since I was very slender, I was always drowning in my outfits.

At the time, swimming was not an option. I wanted to remain unseen, succumbing to the ocean’s depths. I suppose my insecurities began around puberty, when I noticed that everyone’s body was changing yet mine seemed to be a bit behind. I didn’t feel comfortable, and perhaps I was trying to hide my body from the scrutiny of others.

When I wore clothing that complimented my frame, I was just reminded on why it should remain hidden. Once, in seventh grade, I wore a spaghetti tank top. Scandalous. The principal promptly approached me about my “inappropriate” attire. My mustard tank top possessed the power to distract boys from their studies. I was an unwanted condiment, and my principal made this very clear. The way he spoke to me marked the beginning of me mistaking my body for a sexual object.

That same day, I was performing a skit in drama class that I was really proud of, and all my drama teacher could remark upon was my potential in being a model. Rather than reflect upon my script, I noticed everyone’s eyes peer at my body. These incidents led me to believe that wearing clothes my size would amp up my sex appeal, so it was only natural for me to begin ditching my large clothes for tighter clothes as my interest in boys increased.

I had a black long sleeve shirt that I loved. It was very form fitting, and due to this, it was one of the few garments that I felt feminine in. Yet my middle school seemed to have a difficult time accepting the female form. When wearing the shirt, I was called to the social worker’s office at school and was interrogated about my eating habits, remarking upon how thin I looked. Feeling insecure and uncomfortable, I squirmed in my seat. At that moment, I remember wishing that I had opted for my trusty 3XL button up with a graphic of three guys break-dancing instead (fashion was never my forte). Her comment about my weight once again reminded me that my body had yet to experience the changes expected of me. She then asked if I wore black because I felt depressed. Depressed? I was wearing black to be the complete opposite! The year was 2007 but I was already emitting 2016 Kim Kardashian (just take a gander at her all black outfits of 2017. Was she ever accused of being depressed, or was she simply dubbed fashion qwueen?). Not to mention, did this woman even hold a degree? Is schooling needed for someone to make such an idiotic assumption? Was she hoping that I would respond, “Yes, black, the absence of color, symbolizes the absence of joy that I have in my life?”

Needless to say, after that meeting, I never wore that shirt again and went back to wearing baggier clothes as I entered high school.

When I first entered, I was often teased about my choices in clothing. This led to a constant battle that I was desperately attempting to win. Clothing became my armor in the war of words. When I was teased about my awkward physique – I searched for clothes that would compliment my figure, even if that meant constantly tugging down my dress. At 5’10, everything I wore fit awkwardly. If it was a good length, covering each and every inch of leg, it was also far too baggy because of how slim I was. If it fit my body perfectly and hugged my developing curves, it would be way too short. Wanting to prove my femininity, at least what I believed it to be, I typically opted for the latter during high school.

In addition to feeling out of place among my peers, this feeling traveled home. Among my sister and mother, I was the only one in the house who seemed interested in stereotypical girl things. I wanted to wear makeup, I wanted dresses, I wanted to be seen and admired. Due to this, I often found myself torn. I wanted to fit in at home, so I tried to reject outward notions of femininity, but I wanted to be desirable outside the home so I tried to over exert my false notion of femininity.

The clothes got tighter because I wanted to show off what little physique I had. My dad who once complimented my tight clothes now disagreed with almost everything I wore. He despised my V-necks, preaching to me about how boys thought, adding onto my misconception that my clothing defined my sexuality. Naturally, the more he resisted, the more I wanted those types of outfits: in my head, his disagreements confirmed that I was no longer a girl, but a woman. I was conflicted. I wanted to be seen as feminine by others, especially boys, but at the same time, I was not really interested in relationships or intimacy. In negotiating my identity, clothing was the currency. The less fabric I had, the more womanly I felt.

This roller coaster continued throughout college. Wanting to be comfortable, since I worked and attended school full-time, I would often opt for practically over style. However, a massive part of me would make sure that my outfits were still flattering – afraid that constantly appearing in leggings and big cardigans would engulf the very existence of my femininity. Wanting to appear as an intellectual among my peers, I also stayed away from clothing that might be too revealing. An idea planted in my mind from high school -the more exposed a woman is, the less exuberant her intelligence. As silly as it sounds, that was a battle I fought everyday.

It was not until recently that I have come to peace with my femininity and sexuality. The two are not interchangeable and do not go hand in hand. I am a woman, but that does not mean I have to dress or behave a certain way. The fact that I like to wear a pencil skirt, or a bodycon dress does not diminish my intelligence, or make me slutty. The fact that I also like wearing over-sized bombers and crewnecks does not make me less of a woman.  Rather than drowning my body in triple x’s, or displaying my body as a commodity in super super smalls, I have found a happy medium. This is all figuratively speaking because I now own clothes in almost every size. My body is not a taboo that must remain hidden, nor an object that needs appraisal. I now dress in what I feel comfortable and confident in, which varies day by day. It was never my outfits that needed changing; it was me.

Axing “As a Father of a Daughter”

“A boy who won’t be good might just well be made of wood.”

The Blue Fairy

Amidst the Harvey Weinstein scandal, celebrities found themselves talking to a little birdie to promote solidarity. However, nothing good lasts forever, and it wasn’t until long that the sweet melodic chirping was replaced with tone-deaf yapping. Tweets along the lines of “As a father of a daughter. . .” or “we need to change to protect the safety of our daughters” began to make waves (Important Note: celebrities are not the only ones guilty of this).  While I cannot speak of the intention behind tweets along these lines, I can certainly criticize the connotation that these tweets have. In lieu of the Women’s March held yesterday, I am urging everyone that has this mentality  to trade in the armor that they have knighted themselves in for torches to help shed some light.

The philosophy behind “As a father of a daughter” is problematic in many ways. At a surface level, this mindset suggests that women only deserve fundamental rights because they are associated to a man. Let’s just ignore the fact that all women are daughters and that because of this, such statements do not need to be made. It would be very similar to me stating, “As someone who was once a baby, all babies need to be taken care of.” It is a most basic truism, but I digress. This statement implies that the speaker can only understand the issues that women face because of their relation. It is also a trick excuse that needs to be retired. It is very similar to people who make racist remarks but claim that they are not racist because they have *insert race here* friend. In fact, there is a system in place for whenever a man is accused of doing anything remotely sexist and/or related to harassment:

  1. Remain silent and hope that the accusation blows over.
  2. Deny the allegations.
  3. Claim that because you are a son, and/or a father, there is no way that you could ever do that to a woman.
  4. Shocked by the fact that number three did not end the fiasco, grant a double-handed apology: I am sorry that you felt as if that is what happened. That was not my intention.
  5.  Remind the world that you will do better because once again, you are related to a woman.

While I am thankful that many of these voices have not harmed their daughters, wives, or mothers, that does not mean that they are incapable of hurting any other woman. To put it in terms that anyone can understand, let’s examine an analogy of a spider and a mosquito. Anytime a mosquito is near me, I will make it my life mission to exterminate it. However, I do not kill spiders because I find them practical. They serve a purpose for me. Yet I cannot go around campaigning that I am part of some insect alliance since all I do is differentiate my behavior when I find it convenient. Some fathers may engage in catcalling because the women that pass by them fit a different criteria than their daughters: they are not related, and therefore, do not deserve the same respect.

However, not all men use this philosophy to fight against accusations. Many use this reasoning as their purpose for getting involved, and while their desire to help the cause is respectable, their reasoning is deplorable. They claim to understand our struggle as women because they are related to one.  Witnessing or hearing about an event does not make you an expert. I have watched Aladdin countless times, and despite knowing all the lyrics, I will unfortunately never know what it is like to be Prince Ali. Fabulous he. Ali Ababwa. The point is, as much as you may want to empathize with someone, you cannot  claim someone else’s struggle as your own. Although I am a woman, there are many struggles that I was fortunate enough not to experience. The fact that I have never experienced them does not diminish my belief that they should never happen. If one person undergoes an encounter that makes them feel less than, that is already one person too many. There is no need for me to claim their narrative as part of my own book to know that their chapter should have never existed.

Upon a closer reading, the whole “As a father of a daughter” mantra is extremely outdated. Believing that society needs to change to ensure the safety of your next of kin is reminiscent of the whole damsel in distress ideology.  Engaging in our fight with the belief that your involvement is a necessity for our well-being goes against our very reason for fighting. We do not need men to protect us because we are fragile daughters. We need men to treat us equally because we are their equal. Familial ties should not be needed to establish morals.

Despite what Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket may have taught us, a conscience does not exist outside of us. It comes from within; however, you should certainly let it “be your guide.” With only 280 letters to tweet, you should not be wasting 20 of them.

Unapologetically Pulling the Trigger

I was going to need a few more Hypnotiqs to fall for this guy’s shit. . .

For New Year’s, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the Poconos for a little getaway, with a possible potential of snow (joke was on me since a week after we returned, a bomb-cyclone visited NYC and now I am sick of the snow). During our first night, we attended a live performance from a band, yet during the performance, I had a nagging itch (and certainly not one that made me want to dance). The band seemed innocent, a bunch of elderly men singing covers of love songs for honeymooners so buzzed that they probably thought Stevie Wonder was actually performing, but it wasn’t the inability to hit every note that bothered me. It was the lead singer.

“How is everyone feeling tonight?”

Slow, quiet applause (I assumed that this meant content. Perhaps louder and faster applause would have implied happiness. Or maybe, and this is what my clap meant, I am hesitant to let you know so show me your vocals first and then I will decide).

“Alright, alright. Fellas I want all of you who is with a lady tonight to raise your hand.”

A bunch of people raise their hand enthusiastically (a teacher’s dream).

“Okay, okay. I want you to take your hand, and put it on your lady. And – and,” licking his lips as his right hand moves towards his left shoulder. Slowly, he moves his hand to his chest, “And place it right here.”

Laughter from the audience. Annoyance from me. Perhaps I was not buzzed enough to find the humor in this. I reminded myself that I was in a resort that was geared towards couples, until I heard:

“Mhmm. Mhmm. Oh, oh. So-sorry. I didn’t mean to touch myself,” he chuckled as he reached for the microphone to begin singing. In case my retelling is not clear, he pretended to be aroused as he instructed the men in the room to synchronize grope their women.

At the moment, I felt like I was being hypersensitive when I realized how uncomfortable the entire gesture made me feel. I looked around the room and none of the other women appeared bothered, so I attempted to shrug it off and continue listening to the music. Notice how I said attempted? I could not shake the discomfort, and the more I tried to neglect the feeling, the angrier I felt myself becoming.

Throughout the entire performance, he would begin each song with a disturbing monologue. It seemed like it was getting progressively worse. For instance, the last thing that I heard him say was during his attempt to get the women in the room to scream “Hallelujah” since you know, Uptown Funk wanted to give it to us.

“Girls hit ya . . .” he sang as he pointed the microphone to the audience.

“Hallelujah” (and I have never heard a sadder one).

“Aw come on, I need better than that. Girls hit ya . . .”

He was met with the same response. So naturally he did not give up and continue singing the song, instead he resorted to his comedic talent (that someone once made the mistake of telling him he had):

“Fellas, I know you gonna make your wives hit that Hallelujah tonight. Yo-you know, even if they still aren’t sure what’s going on.”

I grabbed my coat. My boyfriend and I left. At first, I apologized to him. I felt bad because there were so many couples watching the performance yet I was the only woman who seemed to be so offended that I had to remove myself.

But what was I apologizing for? I did not cause a scene, although looking back on it now, I would have certainly been justified for doing so. I was afraid that I would be judged and labeled as a prude because, as I have heard before, I “wasn’t able to take a joke” at the moment. Yet the last time I checked, jokes were meant to be funny. Instead, I was being exposed to misogynistic microagressions that were meant to be presented in the form of a joke. I am tired of uncomfortably laughing at jokes like this because I am afraid of offending the person who is subjecting me to them. If the person feels like their “joke” is appropriate enough to tell, my response should be appropriate enough to experience – without any apologies. Through allowing comments like this, we are allowing these microaggressions to thrive and develop into the gruesome aggressions that we read about daily. Through providing our ears, we are allowing an unwanted visitor to enter our homes and become a tenant. It is 2018, we should no longer be oblivious as to who our visitors are! I will no longer subject myself to anything that makes me feel that I am less than because I wasn’t born with a penis.

Some people reading may be chuckling and thinking that I am overreacting, that I am simply some man-hating feminist who has been triggered. Which you are absolutely right. I am a feminist. I do hate men, but only because I hate people as a whole (this is partially a joke in case you, the reader, are also getting triggered). What is so bad about being triggered? To be triggered, I have to care enough about something. To be triggered, I have to be aware of my surroundings. Being triggered is what allowed me to pull the trigger and walk out of that shit performance.

I googled the band while I was writing the article, and while I can not say that I am surprised, I am disgusted that what I experienced is his signature material. I am not surprised because just like originally I feared, countless of women, and even men, may have felt uncomfortable yet chose to laugh because it was easier. Seeing the laughter, the singer continued to deliver his comedic gold. However, if more people expressed their discomfort,  I am sure that he would find that when he rubs his gold, he would simply find pyrite. Finding a piece of shit on the floor and concealing it in shiny wrapping paper does not make it any less of shit, rather it is more telling of the person who attempted to disguise it. He may not be aware that his “jokes” are offensive, but the very fact that he doesn’t know this, reveals that he is no more of a man than he is a comedian.