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.

 

Kindness’ Legacy

We were discussing legacies in our English class, so our English teacher accordingly asked us what legacy we wanted to leave behind. I half-listened to the responses because most of them involved being rich or becoming famous – things that did not really interest me. I also half-listened because my anxiety began to drown out voices. My response was way different. Mine did not align with everyone else. Once again I somehow managed to make myself the odd one out. I had two options, share what I truly wrote, or lie and appease my peers. I went with option A, and I regretted it faster than the time that I decided to cut my beautiful prom dress so that I could wear it during all the times that I would go clubbing (currently at a grand total of 1 time, and by that time, the dress was discarded).

I read my answer, “I want to save someone.”

She, the girl who found amusement reminding me that I did not quite fit in, laughed. She snarled her lips: “Who. Does. She. Think. She. Can. Save?”  The mere thought of me having the audacity to think that I could assist another human being caused her to laugh: “Her?” An echo of laughter followed hers, so I tried to clarify. I did not mean physically save someone the way that a doctor, nurse, firefighter, or police officer would – although I do not see how that would be amusing. I meant, emotionally and mentally. I meant that I wanted to be the person that could help someone else. I wanted to provide someone with the proper tools and support so that they could make a difference in their life to achieve their potential. I meant that I wanted to be someone who would hear a student say that for their legacy, they wanted to save someone, and I would commend them. I would protect them from any mockery because I know that children can be cruel. I would uplift them because I know that, although the bully might forget their actions, their victim will replay it over and over in their mind until they have twisted it enough to believe that they actually deserved it.

During Senior year, she was going through a rough patch. She asked me for help with something, and I remember that my gut told me to deny her. I remember that so vividly, the anger swelling up my bones, the burning in my throat, but I also remember going against my gut. I remember agreeing to help her. I remember helping her. I remember that she never apologized for the incident. I do not remember what she needed help with, but I do remember that I certainly did not regret helping her because it taught me a few things.

She probably does not even remember either event that I just discussed, but that is okay. That is actually the point. I believe that we should all help one another in anyway that we can. We are all existing and experiencing this life at the same time, so shouldn’t we

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I took this during the Coney Island Mermaid Parade two years ago, and I imagine this is Kindness in human form.

try to help make it easier for one another? It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, like a massive donation to charity (although those are certainly always appreciated). In fact, smaller deeds are preferred in my book because those are the ones that we often do without thinking – they are often impulsive. When driven by impulse, we have no ulterior motives, we are genuine. Think about the time where you saw someone with their hands full, struggling to open the door, and you decided to hold the door open for them. The person most likely thanked you enthusiastically. Or what about a time when you were driving yet you ushered a pedestrian to cross – do you ever realize how incredibly thankful they seem as they raise their hand, smile, and shimmy across the street? I’ve always find these moments bittersweet for it is sad that these gestures, they cannot even be called gestures because they are too small to be considered one, interactions show how surprised we are when kindness is presented to us. We show immense gratitude to things that seem like common courtesy because we have somehow found ourselves in a self-centered society.

That needs to change.

We can start a ripple effect – it is not about receiving credit for helping, it is about igniting the desire to help others. Kindness is the smartest investment that you can make. At first it may take a while to increase, but after purchasing multiple stocks, you will find that you are rich. Yet it does not only affect you. The beautiful thing about kindness is that it influences other investors and spreads like wildfire.

SHIT I’m Tired of Hearing . . .

Girl Talk: We have all been there. At work, at school, on vacation, on the subway, at home, at the store, at the gym, anywhere, someone (typically a man) has said something that, for some reason, ran through the filter of their brain but still made it out of their mouth. I cannot speak for the entire female population (because I am not a man) but I typically respond at first, and then sink into a black hole of despair, close my mouth, widen my eyes, and internally scream since (a) the person rarely realizes their mistake and (b) I know I am going to hear the same shit again tomorrow. In an attempt to save myself (and hopefully others), here is a list of things that I am tired of hearing.

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Aggressively, he turned to me, “Why do you have to do that?” I don’t understand the need to justify myself, but I did it anyway (out of habit): “Well he paid for my nails and haircut today, so the least I can do is pay for the groceries.” Even though I said this, he wasn’t listening because his mind was made up. Because he is a man. Because this is a man’s world. Ignoring me, he took the money from my boyfriend, as if mine was tainted:

“That is the man’s job. To take care of the pretty lady.”

Haha, of course. Silly me. I jumped over the counter, pushed him aside, and shoved my money in the register – or should I say, I would have done that but I just got my nails done and I am a pretty lady after all. Instead, I gave the money to my boyfriend as we exited the store and allowed the cashier to believe that it was the 1950s and I was rushing home to get my pot roast out of the oven. It is almost as if the cashier was the man who wrote the well-intended, yet tragically flawed, article, “Should a Man Pay for Everything?” You know, the article that outlines and advises men to follow THIS scenario:

“You: I’ve got this one.

Her: [Possibly looking shy and a little nervous]: No, let me pay for at least half.

You: [Smile and say in a joking manner]: Hmmm…actually, maybe you should pay for all of it because you were such a chatterbox over dinner. I had to sit here listening to you for like an hour. So, you pay for it.

Her: [Most likely laughing and blushing]: Um, okay…really?

You: [Smile and say] No, I’m just kidding. I love talking to you…you’re beautiful and interesting, so I’ll get the check this time. We can split the bill next time.

Her: [Giggling and blushing some more] Okay.”

If only the cashier engaged me in such pleasant banter, followed by compliments of my appearance! Let me revise the conversation to make it more suitable:

Her: I got this one.

Him: Wow, thanks!

Everyone Else: Minds their damn business.

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The mistake that I made was working out alone, without headphones. I had just finished a set so I thought that it would be perfectly acceptable to take a break and let myself breathe. Once again, silly me. I saw a man, most likely in his late 50’s approach me. The second mistake I made was allowing eye contact:

“You need help there?”

Confused, I responded “No, thank you.” I immediately became mad at myself: Why did I respond so politely? Why was I thanking him? Nothing about my stance nor my expression signaled that I was in distress in anyway. Yet this is how I responded because this is how I am conditioned. Reject them politely. Do not anger them. Ignore that you are offended. You do not want to offend them. I look down, waiting for him to walk away. As he comes closer, he lingers: “I’m only joking.” I turn around, lips pursed, eyebrows slightly raised, eyes squinted, and nostrils flared with a deep sigh that contains: “he did not just . .  .”  Another thing I am conditioned to do, turn my words into breaths so that I can remain quiet to ensure that he will leave.

You see, I get that you are joking but the only funny thing here is the fact that you thought you had comedic gold when you were just offering me up some coal. It’s funny how you believe that, even at your age and position, you could offer me more help than I can for myself. Oh, you know a joke is hilarious when you have to announce that it is a joke. What is even funnier is the fact that according to a survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment in 2008, 23% of women paid to exercise in a gym rather than outside since they had a (justified) fear of street harassment, yet I pay $30 a month to be exposed to your comedy hour. Anyway, to my response: I kept my lips pursed, nodded my head, and avoided eye contact as you disappeared believing that you had accomplished your mission. Whereas I had officially ranked you after Gabriel Iglesias on my humor scale.

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I work as a teacher. I love my students dearly. I probably care about them a bit more than I should, but I suppose I am just a bit sentimental. Time and time again, I always hear someone saying:

“It’s those motherly instincts.”

I am nobody’s mother. I do hope to be one in the future, but this is a decision that I have made, not a destined life path. The same people that claim my motherly instincts are the reason behind my profession are (a) not aware that there are amazing male teachers *gasp* and (b) the ones who question a woman when she is going to have a baby rather than if she is going to have one. According to Ragsdale’s “The Maternal Myth,” “To qualify as an instinct, the behavior should be automatic, irresistible, triggered by something in the environment, occur at some particular time during development, require no training, be unmodifiable and occur in all individuals of a species” (Psychology Today). Keep this definition in mind and pair it with the nurturing essence that people categorize as maternal. Based on this belief, a father simply cannot care for his child – he is not nurturing, he does not have maternal instincts, the child is in grave danger, the wife must remain at home so that she can care for the child, this is the law of the land – this is the law of 1950. As we are in the year 2017, and I bust my ass to succeed in my career, I would appreciate it very much if you accredited my success to my intelligence and work ethic, or your primitive mindset will activate my primal Fight instinct.

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Anger. Annoyance. Frustration. I am sure that these are feelings that are not unknown to you. I am sure that you have felt them before, yet for some reason, when I am mad, there is always a question behind it, and no, it does not involve my well-being, instead it is:

“Are you on your period or something?”

You know, since women lose complete control over their emotions when they have their period. Having cramps is uncomfortable, and I may be irritable because of it, but I do not undergo a metamorphosis and turn into someone with no emotional regulation. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard this question directed towards me, or towards someone else. In fact, when I was younger, I internalized this belief and even asked this question myself. Thankfully, I, unlike some, learned from my mistake by noticing the discrepancies among how we treat feelings in relation to men and women. How come men can be short-tempered at times without experiencing a monthly phenomenon that transforms them? It is as if these emotions are not accessible to women – as if these emotions can only be achieved once a month when the planets align on the 28th day of the cycle. As if our period is some omniscient creature in the sky determining our interactions. I am sorry that it is not clear that my annoyance is a direct response to your stupidity. Period.

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In middle school, I wore a spaghetti mustard-colored tank top. Although this was before mustard was deemed a worthy yellow to be worn, I was surprisingly not policed by the fashion institution. Instead, I was confronted by my principal because I was dressed inappropriately since he said:

“Your bra strap is showing.”

SHIT! Thank you for letting me know! I forgot that a visible bra strap is worse than looking directly at a solar eclipse. Although this was my first time hearing such a remark, it was certainly not the last. To be honest, I am not quite sure what reaction people expect from me when they tell me this. I think that they are hoping that I will end the madness and come to my senses before the disaster reaches its peak and is past the point of return. In reality, they are simply enforcing (without even meaning to sometimes) that a girl’s body is objectified. That a girl cannot have her bra straps showing because it serves as a reminder that a girl has breasts. That a girl cannot reveal that she has breasts because it is not modest.  According to Laura Bates, interactions like the one that I had with my middle school principal lead to “several big questions[:] [1] Are we saying that girls’ bodies are dangerous and sexual, even if they themselves don’t choose to seem them in that way? [2] Are we really saying that boys can’t control themselves and girls are responsible for covering up because otherwise the guys won’t be able to help themselves from looking/harassing/groping? [3] Who is being ‘protected’ and why?” (Girl Up 67). And the answer to question number three is certainly not a bra strap because those things are hella sturdy, but perhaps the male fragility is what’s being protected.

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When I told the principal that I did not have a sweater to put on, he commanded me to go to my gym locker and throw on my gym shirt since my current outfit was:

“distracting others.”

Yes, sir – but the fact that you made me retrieve my gym shirt made me miss class. But sir, the fact that I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day distracted me. But sir, the fact that my peers were able to somehow find their way through the halls despite my hazardous shirt seems to suggest that perhaps it is only distracting to YOU.  As Valenti adequately notes, “‘It’s not the responsibility of female students to mitigate the male gaze. You find female bodies ‘distracting’? That’s your problem, not women’s” (I Am Not A Slut 152). Yet at that time, I did not have the sense of the world that I do now. Instead, I immediately felt ashamed of my body. Not to mention I was incredibly embarrassed because I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day at school, which caused a stigma. I was wearing my gym shirt because I was dressed “inappropriately.” Without even knowing the word yet, I felt like a slut. We discipline girls because we believe that their bodies distract our boys, but we seldom teach our boys not to objectify a girl’s body.

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We have all seen the jokes behind a guy, with good intentions, reaching out to a girl and her automatically assuming that he is trying to flirt with her so she responds with the notorious: “I have a boyfriend.” I admit that I find some of them funny, and that sometimes the phrase is not needed but I do want to call to attention the reason why we even feel the need to use this phrase. You know, since the word “no,” or the blatant response, “No thanks, I am not interested,” is not a clear indicator that a girl is not interested in a guy.

When I used to manage at a retail company, I would walk over to the pizza shop to grab a bite to eat – since I am human and I need food in order to survive. Yet I often questioned my need for survival because of one worker who apparently loved being sleazy as much as I loved a greasy lunch. Every single girl that worked with me knew who he was because he tried the same tired tricks on all of us. It would begin with a simple compliment, and always led up to him asking to hang out. I would always politely decline, yet one day he finally asked me:

“Is it because you have a boyfriend?”

Something that has always bothered me. Why not ask me of I had a boyfriend before asking me out several times? Why ask this question after constantly making me uncomfortable? Because even though I never flirted or showed him any interest, he refused to believe that I was simply not into him. For him, there had to be something else. Yet being single or taken did not determine that I did not have any interest in him. I have never walked into that pizza shop and asked for a single order of pancakes, because no matter how bad I may have wanted it, it was not available. So for the pizza guy who was constantly trying to order a stroke for his ego: I was never there for you to believe that I would have been into you “if it weren’t for my lousy boyfriend”(cue Scooby Doo villain voice), I was there for the 2 pizza slice and 1 soda can lunch combo.

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Unfortunately, some of you reading this article will leave with this ridiculous notion that I am some man-hating feminist, and to that, all I have to say is: (a) you are probably a man, or (b) you are a woman in denial who has yet to discover the sexist world that you live in so you rather tear down enlightened woman due to the fear that if you agree, you will look like some man-hating feminist (which if that is the case, please return when you escape the darkness).

In this day and age, society would like to believe that it has evolved past these “trivialities,” but as someone who was able to compile a lengthy article that documented and analyzed multiple occurrences, it is very clear that I highly disagree. This article is meant to illuminate how some of us have internalized, and later project, very sexist notions – but then again, I am just a pretty lady who gets to hear this shit everyday.

Why My Interracial Relationship Isn’t Black and White

A little over a year ago, my boyfriend and I were walking on my college campus. An elderly black woman approached us and said, “You guys make such a cute couple.”

  1. Clearly – but . . .
  2. How was she able to say this with the utmost certainty? It is not like she witnessed the amazing captions on my IG posts or the time that he left a flower on my car while I was at work, so what was her deal?

Although I would like to believe that she had the purest intentions, it felt as if she wanted

IMG_3206[3657]

The hands that can apparently cease racism.

to prove that she supported our campaign, or that she would be interested in buying what we would be selling. To some, the prospect of a black man dating a white woman leads to a highly valuable commodity. Single-handedly, or should I perhaps say through holding hands, my relationship ends racism. People believe that our relationship is an indicator of living in a post-racial world but that very assumption goes against that very ludicrous statement. If we truly lived in such a world, my race nor his race would matter. Yet it does, significantly. Surprisingly, (sarcasm) to people who are not even a part of it.

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“You guys will have such cute babies! Mixed babies are the cutest!”

  1. Once again, clearly – the baby will come from me after all.
  2. I would like to think that my baby will be cute because it will be given the most favorable genes, you know, since the whole idea that “multiracial children are simply the cutest” is dehumanizing as it turns the baby into a fetish.
2050-human

According to NatGeo, this is how an average American will look by 2050.

In 2014, National Geographic’s 125th anniversary issue collected images of multiracial individuals to depict how the “average American” would look by the year 2050. The article asserted that America is expected to become an amalgamated race due to data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau as it showed an increase in both interracial marriages, and individuals selecting more than one race to identify themselves. Among these interracial marriages is the 2014 union of household names: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (just bare with me). Their marriage received a varying degree of responses involving fans who praised the couple for “seeing beyond race” while others saw this ‘miscegenation’ as problematic. Prior to their nuptials, the couple welcomed their daughter, North West, in 2013. Even though North is met with occasional racist remarks, she has generated a huge fan base due to her mixed-race. Similar to the multiplicity of her name, North West showcases the mixed orientations that American society assumes when approaching multiracial individuals. Multiracial people are fetishized because they are believed to be the product of a post-race world, and as evidenced by the National Geographic, it is this narrative that the media chooses to tell.[1]

Some scholars attribute the fetishism and commercialization of multiracialism to a misconception of its history. The 2010 census is believed to indicate a change in the ways that we perceive race as a whole, specifically multiracialism, because of its documented “rapid growth of multiracial identities.”[2] Yet in Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, LeiLani Nishime asserts that “A change in politics explains the ‘emergence’ of multiracial people as much, if not more than, changing demographics. It is not multiracial people themselves but the recognition of people as multiracial that is new” (2). The data collected from the 2010 census was a result from new categories that allowed multiracial people to identify themselves. Hence, the new millennia did not generate an increase in multiracialism, it granted alternative racial classifications that were once not accessible. This notion begins to deconstruct the assumption that multiracialism is the onset of a post-race era.

My relationship, and other interracial relationships are praised because of this assumption, yet as I pointed out, multiracialism is not a new concept. It has existed years before my relationship, and will continue to outlast my boyfriend and myself. Yet throughout that time, it was, and will never be, the eraser for race. In fact, I would argue that multiracialism reminds us that race is very problematic, and indeed prevalent as the individual is reminded that they are not entirely one race, nor entirely the other – they must exist in a space in between. So please, do not expect my unborn child to become a poster child for a system that will ostracize them for not fitting in.

[1] For example, Jeffrey Santa Ana discusses the recent exploitation of racially mixed people in cultural productions in “Feeling Ancestral: The Emotions of Mixed Race and Memory in Asian American Cultural Productions.”
[2] Nishime, LeiLani (2).

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“Is it true? Once you go black, you never go back?”

  1. No, but you know what is true? Once you ask me that question, we will not talk again.
  2. You are not only insulting me, but my boyfriend as well.

I feel like there is often this misconception that white women only date black men because they want to exploit them. I believe this notion is strongly tied to the notorious phrase, Jungle Fever. This phrase assumes that a white person is attracted to the stereotype of a black person: someone who is loud, aggressive, and highly sexual. I am not dating my boyfriend because he is black, I am dating him for the person that he is. The problem with statements like these are that it turns a person into a caricature. As said by Chin Lu when discussing the phrase Yellow Fever, being attracted to someone because they are Asian, “But someone expecting me to fulfill all the cultural stereotypes of my race that he’s infatuated with? That is called prejudiced ignorance and a refusal to recognize me as a complex, real human being” (the Bold Italic). So please, do not turn my boyfriend into a one-dimensional, poorly drawn caricature.

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“A black man who dates a white woman does not support our struggle.”

  1. Hypocrite.
  2. This is most certainly directed towards Dr. Umar Johnson and the man in Philadelphia who felt the need to loudly demean interracial relationships, specifically involving a black man and a white woman, while sitting two chairs away from us.

Remember how I mentioned that our relationship does not remove the notion of race? There is this belief that has been circulating around that through dating a white woman, a black man goes against who he is. That through dating this woman, he loses his identity as a black man, and he additionally rejects black woman. Isn’t that absurd?

I feel like I need to place a disclaimer here before I continue. Yes, there are some men that demean black women, and that is the problem. Not someone dating another race, but members of the same (and different) races bringing one another down. We constantly preach Love is Love, so why can we not believe that people are dating each other because of who their partner is rather than what their partner is.

Through my relationship, I have gained awareness rather than diminish his identity. As a white woman, I will never share some of his experiences – but that does not mean that I cannot learn from them. That does not mean that I cannot support him. As a man, he has not experienced the paranoia I face every time I walk to my car at night in an empty parking lot, but he has learned from it. Yet that is the beauty of a relationship, being able to see the world through another person’s perspective, and then using that to better yourself.

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“So you have like a black card now, right?”

  1. I am afraid that the card came up declined.
  2. The card is non-transferable.

I understand that race is a social construct but unlike gender, it is certainly not fluid. Nothing makes me cringe more than someone claiming that they have a pass for another

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I am sure when Chapelle made this skit he did not foresee people believing that racial drafts exist.

race because they are around people of that race. That is like me saying, you know, I spent one month living with my grandmother sewing scarves and eating Werther’s, so I am basically a 75 year old woman. Although this statement is less offensive, I do hope that it demonstrates the ridiculous logic behind the heading. People who claim this are usually the closet racists who think they can get away with racist remarks under the guise that they have the *insert race that they are insulting* card. My boyfriend is not an excuse for me to be racist, nor a way for me to claim a culture that it is not my own. Just like he is not any less black for dating me, I am not any more black for dating him.

 

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“Get Out!”

  1. Yes, I am referencing Jordan Peele’s film.
  2. Yes, two girls said this to me as my boyfriend and I left the theater.

I spoke about this moment the day that it happened in a post titled, A Letter To You Two. Perhaps what bothers me the most about this statement is the fact that this film was meant to illuminate how, according to Lanre Bakare, “however unintentionally, these same people [middle white class liberals] can make life so hard and uncomfortable for black people. It exposes a liberal ignorance and hubris that has been allowed to fester” (The Guardian), yet some of the responses, like the remark that I received, produced the same effect that the film was trying to expose. That “however, unintentionally” people can make it uncomfortable for the parties involved in an interracial relationship. That although we have the same problems that any other couple faces, we have an added pressure – on one hand, we are expected to be the solution for racism and feed into the juvenile belief that we are on the cusp of living in a post-racial world, yet on the other hand, our relationship failing can be chalked up to white and black being unable to blend into a neutral gray. However, just like any relationship, there is nothing black and white about ours.