When I Say “I’m Tired”

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.png

It wasn’t long after my birthday that Amber finally pressed me  further when I said that I was tired casually at brunch. It’s a response that I give often to the tedious question of “How are you?” and its variants. It’s a bit of a default response from me nowadays but the people that actually care about me that have noticed it. So I wanted to go over a few of the reasons why you’ve been hearing me say “I’m tired.” quite a bit.


It’s a Default Response

Typically, if I say “I’m tired.” I’m probably just avoiding answering the question of “How are you?” and its many disguises. I’m seldom intentionally trying to be rude with this answer (sometimes I am, see “catcalling” as an example) but I find it hard to be open with that question. Many people don’t want to hear that I may be a little sad because I miss my parents. Or that my day at work was long. Or that I’m really thinking about how a snake would hold a knife. It’s a means of protecting for the both of us, really. You don’t really want to know how I am if you don’t know the full leathery demon that I am. If you are, however, formally acquainted with my true casual swamp witch self then there may be other reasons why I’m saying “I’m tired.”


I Am Actually Tired

I have insomnia (likely caused by anxiety but we’ll get to that). I’m also anemic (thanks, endometriosis) and I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t always take great care of myself. My job is sedentary and occasionally I have a fickle appetite that means that dinner is Hawaiian sweet rolls and a dream. None of this likely helps the fact that I am truly an insomniac. That means there are plenty of nights that I just do not sleep. I take a fair amount of medication to make sure that I do sleep but every once in awhile, that fails me and I am up, awake and alert with my thoughts as the rest of the world sleeps. It is normally pretty easy to tell the difference, though, between being physically tired or emotionally tired. You can tell if I am actually tired by the size of the bags under my eyes: if I just look slightly puffy, probably did sleep some the night before. If you could, in fact, check my bags as luggage while flying, then I probably didn’t sleep and I would suggest not speaking or moving too quickly without dropping off tacos or coffee to appease me.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because of Mental Health)

I am anxious. My thoughts can be oppressive and unkind. That means that emotionally, I am seldom allowed to rest. It means that oftentimes in my mind I hear mostly negative things about myself and mostly untrue things that my friends must certainly feel about me. My brain is always buzzing and that noise makes it very hard to really rest. I joke oftentimes that my panels are written at 3 A.M. and while that’s said in jest, sometimes it’s true. I do try to use the time I am awake with the owls to create and be creative but often times that just leaves me more tired. Being anxious on its own is a burden to carry but the way it affects my sleep schedule and clouds my mind is insidious. So even though I may have physically slept for several hours, most of it isn’t restorative or restful.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because the World is a Hot Dumpster Fire)

While at Jo-Ann Fabrics not long ago, when asked “Why are you tired?” as a somewhat valid follow-up question from a questionably concerned cashier my response was thus:

“Ennui, malaise, the patriarchy, microaggressions, racismhomophobia, sexism…I can go on.”

She was satisfied with my answer or at least annoyed that I was flippant. But obnoxious response aside, I’m not entirely joking when I provide those as answers to the question of “Why are you tired?”

It’s exhausting having to go through day to day life being worried if someone is going hurt and/or kill me for being myself. And this is a feeling I have never had before in my life. I am from a remarkable amount of privilege and even though my life may not always be conventional, I’ve been never worried about someone hating me or hurting me because of who I am. This irrational (let’s be real, it’s pretty rational) fear is incredibly taxing and takes up more of my brain than I like admitting. And I’m a social media manager, I don’t have the luxury or ability to “just log off”; it is my job to stay connected. But all of it really is quite draining. It’s exhausting having to day in and day out hear catcalls and statements that either seek to qualify or quantify my level of blackness or whiteness. It’s exhausting looking at social media to see another mass shooting, another racially or gender/sex-based crime. It’s tiresome watching the president flail around and thus play chess with human lives. The world is a dumpster fire; the good news is we can recover from a dumpster fire but that doesn’t mean that the fumes and fallout are pleasant to enjoy while it burns.


I’m finally realizing just how often I say “I’m tired.” in day to day life. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s a lazy verbal shorthand for a myriad of feelings. I can be more vulnerable. I’m pretty used to putting myself second while also always being afraid of putting too much on people so this is a clever little trick to give an answer without giving an answer: it defuses people who are asking either out of obligation or a shallow level of caring and it also builds a wall around me from having to answer to the people who actually do care about me.

I’ll try to be more careful with my words in the future: I’m a writer after all, I can do better.

 

Nothing Exhausts Like a Microaggression

_Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority._ Mary Wollstonecraft.png

You’re so pretty for a black girl.
You’re so well-spoken, I’m impressed.
You went to college? Amazing. Were you the first one in your family to do so?
Your hair is so straight! Is it like that naturally?
Did you grow up with both parents?
I only date black girls.
Those are just a few microaggressions and all things I’ve heard before in some form or fashion and all of them make my eyes roll so loudly that you may just be able to hear it from wherever you call home, dear reader.
Let’s talk about microaggressions.
A microaggression is a seemingly innocuous comment usually hurled at people of color that to the deliverer of the comment (typically a white person) does not seem problematic but to the person of color is either mildly or highly offensive.
The problem with microaggressions is that due to its mostly harmless appearing nature, it’s difficult to challenge them or call someone out on their statement. It doesn’t sound racist and overreacting is a surefire way to to essentially confirm many of the stereotypes attached to people of color (being sensitive, overreacting, being dramatic).
So today we’re going to go over a few microaggressions and we’re gonna discuss why they are problematic and how to respond to them if you encounter them in the wild!


You’re Pretty for a Black Girl/I’ve Never Dated a Black Girl/I Only Date Black Girls
Welcome to the beautiful world of exoticism, my friend. There’s nothing like a qualified compliment. I hear this one a lot from mostly white men and they mean well, they really do. But short of a little extra melanin, I’m not too far off from a white girl. I like comic books, video games, anime, costumes, I bake, I go through a book a week: none of those things have anything to do with race. Now, if it’s a statement about how “hood” one may be, well, that’s a whole different bag of troublesome. I’d also like to point out much of the irony in these sorts of statement. I as a black biological female who mostly dates white guys am frequently called a racist for it. But if a white man dates black women because of how “hot” they are, he just likes something different. And if a black man dates white women because black women are too “mean” or too “dramatic”, he just wants to avoid crazy. Thus proving that the patriarchy knows no bounds.
You’re So Well-Spoken./Did You Go to School?
Apparently, it’s a surprise that a black girl can read. Apparently, it’s still a surprise in 2018. Dear reader, if only you knew how my eyes do roll when I’m told that I’m well-spoken, intelligent or smarter than expected. I’ve been told I talk “white” which unless you have synesthesia, shouldn’t be a thing. I’m fortunate that I was always a curious kid. I’m lucky that I was able to go to college and finish school with a degree and I’m even more fortunate that I get to work in a field I love and studied for. I’m aware of all of my brothers and sisters regardless of race that are not able to do what I did: but a thinly veiled statement about how surprised you are because I am black and educated happens to be tiresome.
Did You Grow Up With Both Parents?
No. I did not. I was raised by my aunts and other family members. But Death was the factor that separated my family not a “deadbeat dad” or the American prison system. I’m aware of the stigma that any people of color have strained relationships with families: realistically, that’s a very universal thing. Sometimes families are not nuclear. And sometimes that’s okay. I am so lucky my aunts raised me after I lost my dad and I know plenty of well-adjusted people who happened to be missing a parent or two due to a myriad of reasons. I am not the person I am just because I’m a member of the Bruce Wayne Orphan Club and it’s never an excuse for anyone alive on this planet.
Is That What Your Hair Looks Like Naturally?/ Your Hair is So Pretty! Can I Touch It?
Nope, it sure is not. I get relaxers because I was told from a young age that I couldn’t be too black and I needed relaxers to fit a certain hegemony. I’ve been getting relaxers since I was 7 and now I’m somewhat dysphoric about my hair. I do not feel attractive or good when I have too much new-growth. Also, never try and touch a black woman’s hair or anyone’s hair without their explicit consent. If I had a dollar for every well-intended person who thought it appropriate to touch my hair…well, I wouldn’t have a day job. I feel even more for my brothers and sisters who go natural. Hell, even at times I’m tempted to touch Amber’s hair but I would never because most black women have hair full of secrets. Now, you are allowed to compliment my hair! I spend plenty of time and money on it for it to be seen. However asking if this is what it looks like naturally is naive. Also, please do not ask if it’s real or not…we’ve made excellent advances in weave technology for a reason.
Where Is Your Family From?
My family is from Texas and Alabama and I have family all across this great nation, even on up in Yankee territory. Oh, you meant like which part of Africa? Good question! You see, there’s a problem when a person is not considered a whole person for over 100 years and continued systemic racism suppresses any data or information about them: it’s hard to find records. Now, I can get a DNA test and find out based on genetics and such but I personally have very little interest in where in the Motherland I came from. That being said, I do have a DNA Kit in the trunk. Who knows, maybe I’ll use it.

Do You Celebrate Kwanzaa?
No, my family has been Catholic and/or Christian for decades. My Father was Baptist and ended up at an anti-science fundamentalist Church in North Texas that wouldn’t let me read Harry Potter or play Pokemon as a kid and Mom was born, married and buried Catholic. I’m a lapsed Catholic but a Catholic at that. And while yes, I am black, I celebrate Christmas like any other Christian and I eat an entire Advent Calendar on Christmas Eve like any other bad Catholic.

You Have a White Name!/You Don’t Have an Ethnic Name.

No, you are right. I do not and that was very intentional. And the idea that a black woman should have a more “ethnic” name is troubling for a startling list of reasons. I was given my name because it fits me and my family. There have been plenty of studies that confirm what many black men and women knew forever: having names that are too ethnic does sometimes stifle you as far as opportunities go. It shouldn’t, but it does. Also, feel free to ask where my last name came from: the answer is slavery.


Microaggressions suck for an enumeration of reasons, mostly because they maintain a certain level of exoticism to people of color that we thought was lost in the Victorian era. It calls back to a day when people of color were spectacles and were described lushly while simultaneously being enslaved and mistreated. There’s plenty of blatant and labored discussion of how beautiful many slave owners found their slaves: but not beautiful enough to consider a full legal human until 1865. And they don’t just happen in Tinder conversations: they happen at work, on the bus, at the bus stop, in coffee shops, in bars, in Ubers and more. And while it may be petty to clock a microaggression, handling such things with grace is at times difficult.
And sure, there will be plenty who say I’m being too sensitive and that microaggressions aren’t real and that they were invented by libertard beta cucks or by militant feminists (which is a thing!) but rest assured, microaggressions are real, happen often and they do wear on the soul.

The New Normal

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead.png

In 2016, a long-brewing storm began to stir to life.

In 2017, that storm broke ground.

In 2018, we are still in the process of coping with this deluge.


That storm that I did my best to analogize is the #MeToo movement and the wave of individuals stating that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by people in power or celebrities.

Now, I’m not here to talk about the movement itself; I’m here to talk about its effects as someone who has been at the end of more sexual harassment than I like admitting.

Today, we’re here to talk about the storm and what it means for all of us left in its wake.

But there’s one thing that needs to be said immediately before we can go any further. 

Sexual harassment isn’t new.

This is not something that started last year, 10 years ago, or even 100 years ago. For as long as there has been the patriarchy, there has been forms of harassment. There are old rituals that were for “fertility” that now would essentially just be bride-kidnapping. Look at Lupercalia. Men in wolf skins run round and whip each other and women for the sake of fertility. Well, if a man in a wolf skin came anywhere near me now, despite me being a Classics student, I would absolutely call the police.

And as societies change, our attitudes on courting rituals changed. There is not a universal definition of rape and while many places agree loosely on what consent, there are always a few that seem to have less strict definitions on the act. Even though, universally, most understand the difference between “No” and “Yes”. 

Let’s start with what many will agree was the canary in the coal mine for all of this: Bill Cosby. Cosby was America’s black dad. He was non-threatening, intelligent and funny in a family sort of way. He seemed wholesome. He seemed like a good person.  He seemed non-threatening. We were all very wrong. Women recently began to claim that Cosby drugged and assaulted them. But many did not believe these women, there are still people that don’t believe these women despite Cosby being on trial now for his crimes. How could America’s chill black dad be a monster? Turns out, he could be a monster pretty easily and now most who read the news regularly enough know that he’s a monster and don’t question such a fast. And now we are left with this hollow shell of a reminder that someone once beloved is now nothing short of a villain.

Because let’s not mince words, one man’s flattery is another woman’s sexual harassment and that brings us back to #MeToo and the continued predation that directors, writers and producers have used to manipulate and control their actors both male and female. The stories are tragic, heartbreaking and exhausting and all of them are believable.

So what do we do now that this is our new normal?

I’d like to present an example near and dear to my heart: Quentin Tarantino.

Tarantino is…eccentric and he’s actually one of my favorite directors of all time and the creator of some of the finest films this generation has seen in my humble opinion. In a scene in Inglorious Basterds he is shown choking one of his actresses with his own bare hands because he was the only one who could do it just right. He famously berated and endangered Uma Thurman during the filming of both Kill Bill movies (some of my favorite films of all time). And even though we knew that he was a tough director and had less than ideal interactions with actresses: he was an artist. Hell, in a past life I praised him for that scene in Inglorious Basterds. It takes vision to realize that only your hands look good choking the life out of an actress.

But after Uma Thurman came out and provided a much needed humanizing voice about the actual horror that happened behind the camera. Suddenly, many of these scenes that were once praised are now tainted under a new darker lens.

And honestly, that can be said about many directors. Stanley Kubrick terrorized more than one actress during the filming of his excellent filmography. Alfred Hitchcock terrorized several of his actresses while he was making moves that would change cinema forever. But in their day, and in books, articles and interviews: that was just what it took to get the scene and they were visionaries for it. And that doesn’t even include all the microaggressions producers and directors have used to get the scene just right.

And 10, 20, 30 or more years ago: that was fine.

It was perfectly acceptable for such behavior.

One problem: it isn’t now.

So where do we go from here?

I’m not being cynical at all by saying it’s exhausting living in a world where suddenly everyone you looked up to is a monster. That is not said to minimize the allegations, they are all very valid, but as we judge older social mores by current views: how will we continue to move forward as lovers of media and hell, just as folks who lover conversation?

I’m not one that often enjoys hearing that the world is too politically correct now. To me, that’s an excuse often used by men who are out of touch and need a convenient line after they’ve said something repugnant.

I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man who screams “harassment” is listened to. I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man of color can say that they have experienced hardships because of their race. I am thrilled that LGBTQIA folks can candidly discuss the issues they face with great dignity daily.

I’m concerned that we will only continue to look on the actions of the past with harsher scrutiny. But that concern is tempered with hope. I do worry that some more nuanced things are lost in the conversation. I do worry that we may just one day become too politically correct.

But this is where we are now. Daily, more and more people come out against those who are famous and not so famous. Daily, we make steps in the right direction. Sure, sometimes those steps mean we stumble. But every single damn day we move forward so that one day, a little cosplayer will never have to face the harassment I did. We are reaching towards a day that an actress will never be preyed upon for the sake of advancing her career. We are quickly approaching that day.

And I welcome it.

 

Harassment vs. Compliments

“I'd rather take coffee than compliments just now.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.png

There’s a bus driver on my route almost every week day. He greets me when I’m at my least human and can only manage to grumble at him like Grendel does through his novel and makes sure I arrive safely downtown. And as I skitter off the bus, he says to me:

“Have a good day, mija.”

Now many of you who stuck around for my series last year on sexual harassment, you may think I bristle at such attention. Not at all. I accept his comments every day and do my best to be gracious despite my at times hellish commute.

So that makes for an interesting question that I feel shouldn’t need to be asked: but hey if we all answered questions like that, we’d never find out that salted caramel is a delicious option and that red wine and cola is a sin. With today’s current…climate, let’s call it, let’s have a candid discussion about what constitutes harassment and what is just a person being nice.

Now, here’s where this topic gets messy. It is highly subjective and highly personal.

Let’s try two scenarios. Picture yourself in them. Or you can picture me in them. Either is fine.


Scenario 1: You are waiting for your stop while on the bus. A man stares at you. He smiles. It’s somewhat unnerving, but it is a smile. You do not return his advances and once you reach your stop, he follows you. It is not his stop. He gets off abruptly. He rushes to reach you. He finally catches up to you and says: “Hey, beautiful.” you do return his greeting but flatly. His next statement is more intense: “You wanna be my girl?” this time, you flat out reject him. He continues following you for a few more paces down the sidewalk and you duck into a local coffee shop to avoid being cornered by him.

Scenario 2: You are sitting at a local cafe. You are at a table alone. A man offers to join you. You turn him down at first but upon further inspection, you notice that he is reading one of your favorite authors. You invite him to join you. You talk. He is forward but not in a way that bothers you. He says more than one forward thing, in fact, but none of them are irksome. He asks for your number and you accept his offer.


These two scenarios are probably a little more clear but now let’s let the lines blur some.

And we’ll go back to our mostly friendly bus driver.

Scenario 1: A bus driver you routinely see greets you in a friendly way and calls you a non-offensive diminutive name as you leave the bus.

Scenario 2: A man on a local park bench regularly calls you a diminutive name as you pass by.


This one is tricky because realistically, what makes the bus driver situation passable is the fact that the bus driver is in an authority position. He means well wish I hop off the bus or nearly run into a stop sign. In that instance, I’m a young (not too young) woman in a big city that he sees regularly.  The man on the bench? That’s another story. Even though he may not mean any harm, I don’t exactly enjoy hearing “Hey, baby.” from a random park vagrant.


Let’s take the conversation down one more level. Here’s a phrase and I want you to imagine it in as possibilities as you can.

That’s a nice dress. You look good in it.

I know  the default voice in my head that read that was not as a kind compliment but as a catcall. But I’m also aware that it can mean many different things on different days. If I’m feeling that dress, even if it’s a forward statement: I may be more receptive. If you happen to catch me on the more likely occasion of me wishing to blend into the background of my bus seat: then I may not be as kind to such a statement, though I’ll almost never be outwardly cold to anyone who “means well” (My resting bitch face and deeper voice for a lady do that just fine for me.).


And that’s what makes this whole discussion so strained. It’s highly subjective. The difference between a harmless instance of flirting, someone trying to genuinely connect and a catcall are sometimes as simple as how I am feeling on that particular day. And I know that’s frustrating for men to hear. Rest assured, the same can be said about female to female interactions. I’m if anything more put off by a woman calling me by a diminutive at times while I’ve also been clocked more than once for casually calling a woman “doll” and “hun” almost out of reflex because despite my views I am Southern as hell.

And in this somewhat muddy environment, it’s difficult to know when someone is being too sensitive or when someone has gone too far.

But here’s where I take an issue and here’s the whole point of this.

It shouldn’t have to be like this at all.

If I’m at a bar and have no issue with a person laying it on thick, that’s acceptable. If I am put off by someone trying way too hard at Travis Park, that is also perfectly acceptable.

Now what can possibly help the conservation is a base level of acceptance that a human’s feelings are most of the time valid. I do not owe any person an explanation as to why I am okay with one instance versus another. And as long as I am mostly kind, not breaking any laws and mostly tactful: my annoyance at one act versus another is valid, fair and my own.

I get rightfully annoyed when any human tells me I should smile more. You should hear the story of me telling my Uncle exactly how I felt on the matter. (If you ask nicely, I may tell it in the comments.)

And there’s plenty to be said about it being a bit generational as well. Older folks do tend to think they are just being nice. Many of the times I’ve been called something diminutive or told something that I find questionable: it’s by someone older. Back in their day, when the dinosaurs roamed, it was perfectly fine to tell a woman that she should wear makeup; she’d be prettier if she did. Back in their day, it was fine to call any woman you see by a pet name. Back in their day, it was fine for an older woman to demand a younger lady wear heels or to cover up their shoulders.

That was back in their day.

I’m from a cusp generation here in the South. As I was younger, many of those behaviors were still perfectly acceptable in North Texas. My great-grandma regularly commented on how nice it was that I wasn’t too dark. That was a compliment to her. My mom’s old Air Force office lady friends would often make comments on my weight as a small one. That was perfectly sound advice. Another great-grandma was very concerned over the fact that by 17, I was not marriage. By her standards, I was at risk of dying alone.
As I grew older, I found myself annoyed with such comments from men and women but accepted it as part and parcel of existence on this planet. I started cosplaying which meant that I grew to accept sexual harassment as a natural part of being a biological female in costume. It wasn’t until much later and in empowering younger cosplayers and fans that I had to stand up for myself because it made no sense for me to preach a higher standard of self-confidence to my kouhai than I believed in for myself.

The generation after me likely will have very different views on what is a compliment, what harassment is and what it means for someone to be aggressive or a potential assailant.  And in this current political climate where it seems as every single person you have ever looked up to is likely a garbage human (I firmly believe most of the allegations that have come out against most reported garbage humans.).

Next time, we’ll discuss this new higher standard more in depth.

 

Blame the Woman, Save the Man

“...her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.” ― Simone de Beauvoir.png

It’s been a feminism heavy month, hasn’t it? I promise not every closing of the year will be so somber but it feels appropriate considering the current era we are in. Today we discuss victim blaming, playing devil’s advocate and why imaging women complexly will save the world.

The last few posts have been talking about my adventures in online dating and in my essentially gripes about not having anyone I can talk to about the matter. But there’s a common theme in every feminism post I’ve done (even the earlier ones). There has always been someone saying that the situation is “my fault” or to be less hyperbolic “I made it easy for myself to be in that situation.”

My question almost always is: how.

By existing?

That’s troublesome, isn’t it?

I recently found myself once more in a situation that was less than ideal. I was walking to my bus stop for work. It’s early in the morning on the fringes of the hood here in San Antonio and a man in a van( yes, literally a man in a van) slows down and rolls his window down. That’s already 5 bad signs to a crime TV fan like me. He asks me a question and the first time I didn’t register his question. My music was exceptionally good that day. He had asked me “Do you need a lift?” I promptly said “no” and continued to walk on. I did have a bus to catch, after all. He wasn’t the first person who has asked me if I needed a ride at an ungodly hour mere blocks from my apartment. So, being the bright Southern girl that I am: I asked my friends about the matter. My gut was that it was a very light for of catcalling. Immediately, my more conservative friends chimed in (most of them male) about the matter.

He was just being nice.

Were you rude to him?

He was just trying to help you.

What were you wearing?

How short was your skirt?

Chivalry is dead.

And the counterarguments for a moment made me pause: was I wrong? Was a vicious misandrist harpie? After discussing the matter with fellow feminists it quickly became an issues of “You do not get in a car with strangers.”

I suddenly felt a little more human. I was gracious in my refusal but I’ve watched enough Law and Order:SVU to know that most women that get in the car with a man they don’t know (even with the best of intentions) usually ends up with the woman in a duffel bag dumped off into a riverbed.

It made me recall another incident where a cabbie outside of my apartment slowed down to ask me if I needed a ride and a friend on Facebook asked (likely in jest, but still) “How short was your skirt?”

My dear reader, I was in skinny jeans and a t-shirt. I was covered up and more importantly, even if I wasn’t: am I suddenly more of a target because of what I’m wearing?

When I was catcalled at a public park, immediately the discussion became about what I was wearing and why I was taking the bus anyways. Why is any of that relevant to me being harassed? Does wearing a low cut top or a short skirt or just existing as a female in public somehow mean it’s okay to be harassed?

Victim blaming is real and is a rather sinister aspect of most cultures. Women who report sexual assault or harassment are often times put against a metaphorical firing squad of questions just to “prove” there as a crime.

Were you drunk?

Had you been drinking?

Did you maybe say “yes” earlier in the night?

What were you wearing?

Well, he is a good-looking man. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say yes?

And to mention a point that I will later destroy if you wait a moment or two, there are women who have falsely claimed assault. I won’t say this number is substantial at all but it’s been enough to discredit the majority of women who have filed assault reports only to be sent through bureaucratic hell and having to recount their trauma over and over again until someone believes them. And those little things are ingrained in women from an early age. I know I was always encouraged to dress modestly not just for my family’s Catholic virtues but so that I wouldn’t be so easily sexualized as a teen. But even those efforts didn’t always work. I remember one instance when I was a teenager at Whole Foods Market of all places. I had on a t-shirt that had the Tootsie Pop owl on it (my love of owls even extended to my teen years) and the slogan on the shirt was “How many licks does it take?” (It was the early 2000s. Questionable fashion everywhere). Sure it was a little suggestive but I never saw it that way (I was a potato back then). An older man approached me and said very clearly: “I wonder how many licks it takes to get to your center.”

I don’t remember if I ever told my aunts about it. I didn’t wear the shirt again or if I did it was just with very close friends.

Was it a suggestive top? Sure. Was I too young for such a suggestive top? Probably. Does that mean that I should have had the unwanted advances of an older man? I sure hope not.

Victim blaming takes away the agency of women. It makes them no longer stewards of their own decision making and creates a false slippery slope that makes having a mature conversation about consent, feminism and equality difficult. If I am blamed for getting catcalled based on what top I am wearing it’s difficult to have the real conversation of: why did this grown man feel it necessary to shout lewd remarks at me from his car?

Which brings me back to one of the most unfortunate parts of this whole uncomfortable discussion. What’s even more insidious to me is the devil’s advocate argument. The one of “he was just trying to be nice”. I’ll humor that for now. Even if the man is just being nice, even if he does have the best intentions: unfortunately, there are plenty of men who ruined that kindness for everyone. There’s a reason in most state that hitchhiking is illegal. And are there instances where I am hypersensitive? Of course. I’m a human being and I sometimes get offended when I probably shouldn’t but even that is my prerogative.  

And even doing an entire month of feminism has put a wedge between me and some of my friends and those in my spaces. I’ve been told to be careful what I write lest I offend someone. I’ve been encouraged to be less “misandrist” and I’ve been told that I’m being a social justice warrior. I don’t think in any place I’ve been a misandrist. I rather like men but I don’t enjoy harassment and the fact that even talking about these subjects that it could be even considered man-hating.

I’m sure for more of you then I’d like to admit that this has been a difficult topic to cover. I want to encourage respectful conversation in the comments and I want to also encourage you, my readership, to know that I am here for you not as a woman or feminist but as a human person trying their best to survive in a world that is at times less than kind. Know that you have my support, my empathy and my time if you so need it.

I promise we will cover more lighthearted topics as we wrap this year up.

Thanks for listening.

Double Standard, Double Shamed

-Out of the ashI rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.-Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus.png

The last post in this series was about consent, sexual harassment and online dating. Today we’re going to talk about double standards, shaming and how it’s almost impossible for a woman to “win” if love is truly a battlefield.

There’s a funny thing that happens to women. There’s really only 2 ways women are perceived when it comes to sex and sexuality: the virgin and the harlot. And both as far as the average Tinder man is concerned have their pros and cons. The virgin is inexperienced and naive. The harlot is experienced, too experienced. And while some men claim they want the virgin, they shun their lack experience. Others say they want a woman who knows what she wants, while then shaming that she knows herself, her body and her sexuality.

Here’s where I wanted to come back to that argument of “Oh, well you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?”

I expect to not be harassed?

That was the same logic many used against cosplayers back in the day before the “brave” voices like Yaya Han had to mention that cosplay is not consent. For many cosplayers, it was just an understood that well, if you’re in costume, you’re inviting harassment. It took years for many to rewrite these tapes and come to understand that no, a woman or man for that matter can and should demand basic human decency.

I’m even more struck by the whore/virgin double-standard that several men (not all men, I hate that I have to say that but I don’t want a comment section full of “nice guys”) have when it comes to the women they court.

Have you ever slept with someone?

How many men have you slept with?

Are you a virgin?

I want a girl with experience.

Last time I checked, I was not an item whose worth fluctuates by usage. And most importantly: how am I supposed to have experience while maintaining virtue? It’s frustrating that so many men are willing to discard a girl based on a “wrong” answer to any of those questions. And not to say some women aren’t just as critical as men are (again, hate that I have to pull this devil’s advocate nonsense: we’re gonna talk about this soon).

And how confusing is it to be a woman who knows herself and what she wants and is still shamed? I’m not on Tinder looking for the one but if I agree to something that’s casual I’m “easy” but if I demand at least pasta from my date before God know’s what then I am “demanding”. There’s just no way to win. I’m either an easy loose woman running around the internet like a mythical Net Lilith or I’m a chaste virginal Geneviere up in a tower of unreasonable expectations. This dichotomy has existed since man has been writing women. Think of most female characters in media (mostly in classical examples but modern media is just now catching up with some more complex storytelling). The myth of Lilith is all about the first wife of Adam who refused to submit to a life of missionary with the lights off and she literally became a demon because that. Men are told that as far as girls go, there are only two options. What that leaves out is literally everyone else. Think of all the sexually-actualized women who are called out of their name for knowing what they want. Think of all the girls who are choosing to save themselves who are ignored because no one wants to “risk” them catching feelings for them. You know how emotional those ladies get. But this exists in nearly everything a woman does. Too big? Oh well, you know how hard it is a big girl to get a date. Too thin? Nope, can’t have that, gotta have a girl with meat on her bones. Does she work? Oh, she’s gonna choose her career like those Tumblr Feminists. Is she not working? She’s a gold-digger and nothing more! Did she finish school? Well, you know what they say about girls who read too much. 

And none of these are decided by the woman herself. They are burdens placed upon her and it’s just unfair.

I’ve had an on and off relationship with dating apps since my most recent relationship ended and it’s frustrating that any time I have a negative experience and I reach out to friends and followers about it, I am met with the argument above and that’s simply not the case. Why can’t I demand more from others and from myself? Why can’t I be a woman online? Why can’t I hope to find love, a casual hook up or at least a free meal from a dating app?

I also can’t stand the invasive questions that men feel the need to ask. I’m not a prized milking cow or even a middle of the ground show pig. And these aren’t the cute normal questions like:

What’s your favorite color?

What are you reading right now?

Hogwarts House?

It’s more like things I don’t feel comfortable telling you, dear readership. And the amount of unsolicited photos of male parts I’ve received. Heavens. For me, it’s all an issue of being part of a bigger problem. It isn’t a huge issue to get one dick pic, it’s annoying but not enough to ruin my day. The issue is that for that man, this was the best way to get my attention. It isn’t so much about getting asked how many men I’ve been with in a medical way, it’s that my worth to this individual is tied to my virtue or lack thereof. The fact that some men feel the need to talk to a woman like this is vile and the fact that I get blamed for it because I could just “stop using Tinder” is fundamentally the biggest case for feminism in the modern era.

This post was short and I apologize for that. But next time, we discuss victim blaming.

A Casual Date With Consent

Feminism's agenda is basic- It asks that women not be forced to choose between public justice and private happiness. Susan Faludi.png

After a few years of being in long-term relationships and relatively uneventful ones at that, I have found myself a single gal in the big city. So like most Southern girls who are suddenly without a male caller in their lives, I went to Tinder. Now, full disclosure before the string of “Well, there’s your problem.” comments arise. I know full well Tinder is a hookup app. I know what it’s there for. I know what caliber of person Tinder usually attracts. And if you look down on me for going on Tinder, then I accept your righteous indignation. But what I will not and do not understand about Tinder is how men feel they can talk to women and that it is essentially a performance space to watch the slow death of consent.

Now, as a lady, the inherent dangers of being biologically female are not lost on me. I’ve been catcalled, harassed in real life and online and have faced several situations where just  because of my gender, I was put in a compromising situation. Online dating brings all of these to the forefront. It was highlighted for me when I actually considered meeting one of these men for a day in Market Square (the “date” was cancelled). I was thinking about Uber, taxis and driving myself or even public transportation as ways to get there. I wasn’t thinking about what to wear or how to style my hair (I was going for the side part with a heavy front bang, as always.). 

Never did it cross my mind that every other date I had ever been on I had no issue letting my suitor pick me up. But I didn’t want this unknown man knowing where I live. I also didn’t want to be put in a position that could literally be life or death for me if this date went south. How horrifying is that? No other time in my life was I ever this worried about my safety meeting someone new. I met Carlos online years ago and we met for the first time in public around 5 years ago. He’s one of my best friends now so clearly I’m not Static Shock 1990s PSA worried about “meeting strangers from the Internet”.  And in all honesty, it was Taylor, my dear friend who commented on how damn horrifying it was that I said I was more concerned about getting a ride than the consideration of meeting a man from Tinder.

But I want to talk about consent and here’s where I get personal. I’m a cosplayer so I’ve had men sneak hands up my skirt. I’d had people ask me for all manner of lewd act online. I’ve gotten pictures that were not wanted or warranted. I’ve had men try and bully me into acts I won’t perform and I’ve been shamed for not be willing to perform. I am one of many females that have faced a similar struggle quietly and with dignity.  Consent is a tricky issue in the West when it shouldn’t be. If I say “no” that means “no”. There’s not a hidden meaning. There’s not a situation that me saying “no” 4 times really equals one “yes”. There’s not anything more than “no” to a “no”. But time and time again on Tinder, I am bullied or pressured by men to do or say something I don’t want to.

Baby, c’mon.

Baby, you’ll like it.

I’m different.

C’mon, just send me one picture.

I’ll make it worth your while.

Let me see you.

In between each of those messages is usually a terse “no” or silence. And all the while, if I express my concerns, pain or grievances to friends some of them just say “Well, you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?” as if that somehow makes it alright. As if that somehow invalidates the ordeal. As if somehow that makes it okay. And what’s even more terrifying is that because it’s done online, I get all the pain and misery of having my wishes ignored with none of the actual threat of being in danger. What if this was real? What if this was a real situation?

C’mon. Let’s go.

I want more.

Let me see more.

You don’t really mean “no”, do you?

I thought you liked me, baby.

That level of bullying and pressure often times quickly escalates and for so many ends in tragedy when it happens in real life and in real life situations. And the pain of it being a “safe” place to watch the slow and miserable death of consent and the continued rise of the objectified female sex creature is that there isn’t enough to actually say or claim this is an issue. Like with cat-calling or other forms of sexual harassment women face all over the world, it’s difficult if not impossible to “police” male gaze. Online harassment is still an issue of legitimacy for many and I won’t go into the terrible things that have been said to me in forums, comment sections and other online places and spaces. 

The whore or virgin dichotomy is a painful one for women and when coupled with an already toxic male gaze culture, there is almost no safe place to go when trying to find a suitor but avoid sexual harassment. And true, while there are “better” dating apps and better places to find a mate: a woman’s safety or feelings shouldn’t be compromised because of where she chooses to find a partner. My safety in a situation should not be considered within a standard deviation of “safe” because I chose Tinder over Hinge. It also speaks to the issue of the “conditional yes”. That because I’ll go on Tinder and flirt that I should accept all that comes with it. Even if that all means harassment and degradation.

I apologize if this topic was difficult for some of you and I respect that this is an issue close to many hearts. I invite respectful conversation in the comments below.

Next time, we talk about shaming, double standards and how to be a better human being/online date.