Life Simulations: Are You Playing to Win?

After work, I made myself a delicious Lobster Thermidor because my cooking skills are top-notch (level 10 to be exact). The TV is on the fritz again so I attempt to repair it on my own before calling the repair man. This is a tragic decision as I am electrocuted. Luckily, my husband is home and can afford to gamble his life in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the Grim Reaper.

Up until the last bit, the scenario sounds plausible, and while the latter half might sound outrageous, that’s as far as the envelope of reality is pushed in The Sims. As a fan of the game, I always found my interest in it perfectly normal. The game allows the player to fantasize about living a different life. I can pick up the newspaper and apply to be a criminal. Of course I have to start as a low-life pickpocketer, but with enough time and effort, I can achieve my dreams of becoming a criminal mastermind.

I am currently on my third life cycle in Bit Life, a life-simulation game. There is no objective in the game, just live the life of your assigned person. There is no mythical aspect – you are just living someone else’s life. To clarify, there is a difference in the simulation games available. I am focusing on the mundane, or real-life, simulations: “In a medium that built itself on unprecedented interactivity and literally boundless potential for action and adventure, the relatively passive experience of caring for an animal, a town, a field of crops, or even a little cartoon version of yourself, has become big business” (Nintendo Life). Games can transport us to different realms and time periods – yet with all these options available, I find myself most enjoying simulations that require me to do about everything that I hate in the real world. In Animal Crossing, I design homes and keep my villagers happy by performing various requests –  typically involving bug catching or fishing. In Harvest Moon, I have to go to bed super early to tend my crops and livestock all while wooing my partner in hopes of presenting them with a blue feather before I die (I usually stop playing before that can even happen #cheatcode).

Growing up, I suppose costumes were our first entry point in role playing. You could  become an entirely different person through selecting an outfit. A seemingly good use of a child’s imagination and a convenient way to have your child begin thinking of possible career options. Then there is “make believe” or as my brother used to call it, “be whatever you want to be,” to which  my sister and I would select a rock or tree to ruin his attempt in having fun. Yet even in this attempt, we still existed as something other than ourselves – do you know how hard it would be to curl up into a ball and say absolutely nothing? This imaginative play also contains house or school – you know, since attending 6 hours there was never enough. As children, these games are important as they allow “children [to] role play and act out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them. [These games also allow children to]  experiment with decision making on how to behave and . . . social skills” (Learning 4 Kids). Essentially, these games are training grounds for children to enter the real-world.

At my house, we had an elaborate game based on an episode from The Cosby Show. Theodore believes that he is ready to make it on his own, so to prove to him that he is not ready, Dr. Huxtable, removes all of Theodore’s possessions and charges him for amenities and supplies. When my cousins would come over, we would remove most of the furniture from the downstairs guest room and turn the play room into a furniture store. Using Life money, we would sell the room, furniture, and food. Unlike The Cosby Show, our episodes would always end with some sort of scam: selling faulty furniture that would constantly need repairs, or a shady landlord that would rob its tenants – we were criminals in the making. Perhaps that is what is so alluring about these simulators. In these games, we are allowed to engage in activities that would be frowned upon in the real world. We are finally allowed to feed into the voice that we desperately attempt to starve out.

Most of my favorite games fall under the life-simulation genre. I like being able to engage with the constant “What If?” nagging in the back of my mind. In these games, I can find the answer without endangering myself. “What if I told people what I really thought instead of just keeping my mouth silent?” Click, Scroll, Select: Insult. On the other hand, the simplicity behind these games is extremely rewarding. I can completely furnish an entire home, raise a family, and tend to livestock without having to leave the comfort of my room. Whereas I was barely able to attend college, student teach, and work part time. With my often chaotic schedule, it was soothing to enter a world where I was completely in control and constantly rewarded.

As huge of a fan that I am, there is a major problem with these games. As we began to age, there is an increase in the dissociation of self caused by them. From what began with being participants in costumes, and continued to masking our wishes behind dolls and action figures, we are now merely tapping a button. Simulations have become a double-edged sword. On one end, now more than ever, we are truly allowed to transport ourselves into another life without making any adjustments; however, in this transportation, we miss our stop, forgetting that in this instance, the journey is not the destination. We become so consumed with these fictional lives that we don’t realize the absurdity behind them. When playing The Sims, I would make sure that my family was skilled in every possible trade – I sat in front of the computer watching them read cook books, and despite the fast forward option, it was still time consuming.  To think, in that time, I could have read a real recipe! Instead of having a Sim that made a fabulous Lobster Thermidor, I could have become an accomplished chef. As I mentioned earlier, these games often lack fantastical elements, so rather than providing an escape from reality, they simply become an alternate reality – and that is where the danger lies.

Just look at the shift in what children watch. It used to be Barney or Sesame Street – puppets replicating appropriate behaviors and social skillsNow, children go on YouTube to watch other children playing. I watched the above mentioned shows to fuel my imagination – to see and learn about things that I couldn’t see in my own life. But today? Children are watching to get an imagination. We used to be the ones calling the shots, clicking the buttons, but we have now become the ones waiting for commands. I used to joke around at the possibility that we are just like The Sims, controlled by some outside force, yet now I am laughing a bit less. Perhaps we should direct our focus on instilling an imagination in the upcoming generations instead of determining how we can make these simulations more authentic. After all, for me and for what I believe to be many others, the enjoyment of these games derives from the simple fact that it is not real. The escapism is what is alluring, but we need something to escape from. It’s time to customize our approach – there is no winning in life-simulators and there is certainly no winning if we continue on the path that we are on.

On Being a Woman on the Streets

A teacher once told me a story of a man who decided to follow her home. She stopped by a house nearby, relying on the kindness of strangers to pretend that she lived there so that she could call for help. Unlike many, she escaped.

Within her tale, she uttered,

“I was not walking as confident as I should have been.”

I’m sure that, in telling this anecdote, she did not expect that this would be the sentence that most resonated with me. That this sentence would echo in my mind almost a decade later. That this sentence would be the reason that I policed myself to walk “confidently” when alone.

“In January 2018, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person, nationally representative survey on sexual harassment and assault, conducted by GfK. It found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.” (Stop Street Harassment)

Yet how does one walk confidently knowing the statistics? Why should one walk with confidence to prevent an occurrence that should not exist? I didn’t know it at the time, but I internalized a mindset that blamed the victim. Despite a clear perpetrator, my teacher blamed herself, and, in that room, there was no presence available that altered the narrative. Perhaps if someone asked, “What does that have to do with anything?” the line would be long forgotten. In a room filled with skeptical students – ones who constantly challenged authority – no one thought to question. Does that reflect how we viewed such instances? Tragic yet preventable by the victim? Maybe. Or did we take this statement at face-value because it derived from the victim?

I imagine telling this story to my students, and with the most certainty, I can say that they would interrupt my telling once I mentioned walking up to a stranger’s home. They would not take kindly to this. Probably because they are more educated in “stranger danger” than my cohort. Whether this increased awareness is beneficial is certainly debatable (Are we desensitizing our youth? Or are we merely preparing them?), I want to focus on those who are similar to me. What can we make of experiences related to assault and harassment prior to the recent rise of the #MeToo Movement?

Although it was not as overt, most of the conversations about similar cases that I heard while growing up would be chalked up to “boys will be boys” or questioning of the victim’s appearance. I can’t speak for all, but I would like to believe that many of my peers outgrew this outdated (and heavily problematic) mindset. However, unlearning takes time. You have to work towards it, chiseling the misconceptions away, hoping that you do not remove something important. Yet even after all the chiseling, you are still left with the foundation provided. There will be ideologies that remain – ones that you might have to continue to combat.

I suppose that is where I am. As progressive as I believe to be, there are times where I find myself reverting to harmful stereotypes concerning my body and its agency. When I walk alone at night, I check my posture. Stand up straight. Look ahead. Be confident. My walk to my car is not a runway and I am tired of insisting that there is an audience. At times it feels as if I am justifying a possible unwanted encounter – this happened because you did not walk in confidence. Instead of telling a story about a lack of confidence, how about omitting the predator?

Once when working at retail, I had a customer enraged that his jeans were not on sale – reading is a fundamental skill, but one not yet possessed by the neanderthals. In a fit of rage, he called me a bitch and promised to be waiting for me outside, after my shift. Was I not confident enough when I explained the store’s promotion? Should I have been more assertive when he demanded a manager and I pulled, “I am the manager?” Unfortunately these are the questions that begin to form – but a more substantial question would be, why does this man believe that this an acceptable reaction to a misunderstanding? Is this how he communicates with other women? His threat remained unfulfilled, but I was shaken for a bit. Afraid that such a moment would repeat and that the next individual would be one who stood by their word. Needless to say, it was difficult to remain “confident.”

To address my earlier questions, I think we need a change in this narrative. Omitting certain details while stressing on others. Any successful author knows that revision is crucial before sharing a story. Sure, speaking without a filter can have its benefits (yet with our current president, I would beg to differ), but we have to remember that when we speak, it is not often for ourselves. We speak to be heard, so shouldn’t we keep our audience in mind? When speaking to those who might be susceptible, like I was years ago in that classroom, we should be delicate with our words, especially when dealing with fragile issues. It might seem like I am blaming my teacher. I’m not. Her thinking did not develop on its own. And that is where I think the problem lies. There is a difference between being the wronged and being in the wrong. I may not always walk confidently when I am on my own (could you blame me?), but I can confidently say that a walk does not translate to treatment.

Dethroning Anxiety: Arizona’s Gift

I recently took a trip to Arizona, and out of all my mini adventures, it was surprisingly the most thrilling. Typically, when you think of Arizona, adrenaline might not come to your mind. That word is probably replaced with hiking, death rays (or to Arizonians, “sunlight”), ASU (which is basically an entire neighborhood devoted to a college), and of course, the Grand Canyon.

To begin this post, I think that it is important to establish that I am a nervous wreck. Not in that cutesy “I have anxiety” type of way that people actually believe is amusing (those memes that float around with “SAME!” when someone is excited because their social plans are cancelled) – because, if you are like myself, you know that the nerves are inhibiting. In fact, I often do not even get to experience the excitement of cancelled plans because I cannot muster the strength to even arrange anything. To explain, I am constantly in a state of worry and paranoia. When I was discussing with colleagues that I was planning a trip to Arizona, one of them suggested to rent an Airbnb, to which I politely responded, “Hmm, maybe,” whereas my mind went, “Yeah, no fucking way. I am trying to relax on my vacation, not partake in some thriller where I am bound to die.” It is not a joke either, in my mind, I truly believe that it is a possibility. Whereas that might not seem as far-fetched, my nerves prevent me from other activities as well. Up until recently, I have had an incredibly irrational fear of someone breaking into my window. My room is in the basement – it is physically impossible for someone to fit into my window – unless they are a contortionist (a possibility that I have considered). When I’m in the shower, I’m afraid to wash my hair ’cause I might open my eyes and find someone standing there (how Rockwell wrote my life anthem 9 years before I was born still baffles me). Perhaps my crime induced paranoia stems from my late night binges of Law and Order as a child, so I will provide a few examples that are less criminal-based.

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Pictured: A terrified me smiling through the pain.

After quitting a horrible job as a barista in a Barnes and Noble Cafe (even though I was hired as a sales representative), I refused to step foot in the building because I was afraid that someone would recognize me (I mean, eventually I did return and quite honestly, no one cared). I love singing along when I listen to music, but you will never catch me performing karaoke because of my worry that people will watch and judge me. People that I know I have a less than 1% chance of meeting again, prevent me from fully enjoying myself.  There are many things that initially make me want to participate, but one millisecond of my brain processing turns into over-analyzing and then leads to me opting out. While we were at the Grand Canyon, there was a rock available in the middle of a flat spacious surface. I climbed on and immediately became terrified of falling, even though there were rails to prevent this and I was nowhere near them, and even if I fell, I would not be near them. These are just some of the ‘irrationalities’ that my anxiety uses to constantly disrupt my reality.

In Arizona, I fought those worries. We drove 2 1/2 hours to Grasshopper Point – for those of you not familiar, it is a creek located in the mountains, surrounded by cliffs. Naturally, thrill-seekers dive off the cliff. I watched in awe. When would one have the chance to be able to do this? Specifically, when would one from New York have the chance? I was met with an itch to join the cliff divers (many of whom were far younger than me), but my mind immediately went to work: Look at how many people are watching. What if you make a mistake? (If you are wondering what mistake could possibly be made, take it up with my mind since it was convinced that there could be one, and even more convinced that I would be making it). People are wearing shoes, they probably need it to protect their feet from the rocks after the fall, you don’t have shoes. You are wearing a bikini, the pressure from the drop might cause it to loosen and fall. Out of all the scenarios running through my mind, this seemed the most plausible, so I suppose that is why it stuck with me. My boyfriend could see that I was compelled to join them, but I told him that I wanted to watch a few more people jump (apparently, I would be able to watch enough divers to master their technique). I decided to go for it, but as I approached the cliff, the bikini issue came back. I was offered a t-shirt. Shit, now what’s your excuse? Since the t-shirt remedied one of my main anxieties, I found myself climbing. When I reached the top of the cliff, my fear intensified, my longtime fear of heights did not necessarily help. What if I slip when I try to jump? What if I somehow defy the laws of gravity and sink instead of float back up? What if this jump kills me? My dad would be pissed if I died from this. I would be pissed if I died from this. I pushed my entire body against the rock and watched those around me plunge to their deaths as their bodies rose from the water while they laughed like the maniacs that they were. In that moment, something clicked, or perhaps unhinged. I didn’t want to watch – I wanted to be involved.

I jumped. You may expect me to describe the beauty in that moment, how alive I felt, but it wasn’t majestic or graceful – it was awkward and chaotic. I swam back to the shore, freezing. But that was the point. I. SWAM. BACK. TO. THE. SHORE. Meaning, my mind was wrong, I jumped, I lived – I could do it again (if I had another two hours to spare to find my courage once more). This time, I would not wallow in regret on my ride home. I did jump of the cliff and it was exhilarating.

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No need for a t-shirt, photos are free.

The next day, we went to a wildlife preserve and were given the opportunity to feed a giraffe. We had the option of hand-feeding, or placing the celery between our lips to receive a kiss. I wanted to do the latter, but I was met with the typical obstacles. What if you mess up and everyone sees? What if you somehow break the celery in half and it falls on the ground? What if you pull back when the giraffe comes and everyone sees what a baby you are? “But I won’t be seeing these people again,” I told my mind. But you will be with them for the rest of this ride. How egotistical. As if these people journeyed all the way here just to watch me mess up. I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous, and that is the worst part, knowing it, but not being able to change it. Yet once again, I found myself asking, when would I ever have another chance to do this? I fed him twice, and the second time, I was so mesmerized by the creature in front of me, that I did so without thinking. I did “kiss” a giraffe and I did not need to buy a t-shirt to remember it ($30? I don’t think so).

Afterwards, we went to a reptile show that needed volunteers. Without knowing what it was for, I put my hand up immediately. Unlike many moments in my life, I was selected. We all walked over and they revealed the biggest python that I have ever seen. We were told that we would be the ones to remove the python from its bin. I was a participant in a show – people were kind of required to watch me. But I did not care. The excitement of the moment superseded my anxiety of a “what if?” future. I did hold a python and that shit was heavy.

I know that this trip did not remove my anxiety. It is a trait that will continue to follow me for the rest of my life. I have not transformed into an adrenaline junkie, nor will I be an Airbnb renter in the near future. However, this trip allowed me to tackle my anxiety head on. Instead of allowing my anxiety to dictate my actions and force me to remain as an observer, I challenged it. And each time, I was pleasantly surprised. I do not want to remain the king of wishful thinking, I want to dethrone the “I would, but” and knight the “I did and.”

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.

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.

 

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.