Posted in feminism, Personal Post, Uncategorized

Taking a Tough Look at Myself

“I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.”

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto

Maya Angelou introduced me to that particular quote by Terrance, a Roman playwright and philosopher and ever since I saw her talking about him, I’ve done my best to try to internalize it. But unfortunately I am human and I tend to forget it, forget that I have all of the components in me to be the next great inspiration or the next element of destruction.

As human we tend to forget that we are indeed flawed and there aren’t many differences between you or I. I won’t be so presumptuous as to say that I have never said anything racist or hurtful, I won’t pretend that I am perfect. That would be stupid and haughty.

A very dear friend of mine and I met for coffee yesterday and I always enjoy talking to her because she is everything that I believe a person of faith should be: understanding, empathetic, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and accepting. She considers herself Christian, but she is not radicalized–I absolutely cannot say how much I respect her.

We talked about several things, the main thing being about the results of the election–if you want my thoughts and feelings you can click the said links. Both being self-proclaimed feminists, we feel about the same. We talked about how hate crimes have run rampant since the election of Donald Trump, and how people are one way in front of a crowd but another way in front of their peers. I referred to a particular photo I saw on Humans of New York’s Facebook page (here is said photo), it wasn’t the photo that really captured me, but the caption underneath:


“I think a lot of people live on the borderline of racism. I work in a machine shop with about thirty older guys. I don’t think there is one bad guy in the group. You’d like them if you met them. All of them love their families. But I’d say that I’ve heard eighty percent of them make racist comments of some sort. A lot of the older guys drop ‘n bombs.’ But if a black guy walks up, they’ll be friendly. They’ll even go out to lunch with him and share a meal. I honestly don’t think they see themselves as racist. Every one of them will deny it. They’ll point to the black guy that they’re friendly with. They won’t point to the things they say when he’s not around.”


It struck a chord with me–but I wasn’t really sure how to process it. I was ignorant to think that I hadn’t been guilty of doing that myself, but I wasn’t ready to face it. Then my dear friend sent me this video:

I realized that I had been guilty of saying racist things and condoning racist behaviour.

I also realized that a lot of my racism was simply born out of the environment that I live in (super conservative, narrow minded thinking, small town that meets all of the stereotypes), and being young and stupid. Before I became the person I am today, I was a super radical christian who was on the precipice of a mental breakdown because I also had a strong sense of justice. I chose to be that way because it was the only way I thought I could be, I was a naive kid who had just lost her mother and was looking for anything to make the pain go away. I don’t condone my behaviour, looking back now I know why I was that way but I’m not going to say it was right. I am rather ashamed of it because I abhor hypocrisy, and I feel like a hypocrite. However I also realize that I can’t really focus on that now because it is in the past and there’s nothing I can do to change it now. I can only focus on being a better person today.

I want to be a force  of good in this world, I want to use my talents to make it better–even if it’s just a little bit. To do that I need to constantly look at myself and make sure that I’m practicing what I preach. I also have to be gentle with myself, remember that I am a flawed human being and accept that I will make mistakes but I must learn from those mistakes an be better.

I think we all can learn something from each other, if we just take the time to sit down and talk. We can be a force of good–and I intend to use my talents constructively instead of destructively.

Posted in feminism, Personal Post

“You voted for WHO?!”

The struggle I’ve been facing is dealing with people in my immediate family, or some acquaintances/friends, that voted for Donald Trump. My first knee jerk reaction is to just  not talk about it and avoid it like the plague–however that can only work for so long.

I’m an “avoider,” I haven’t always been that way but it’s how I am in this current moment because its a coping skill that I’ve developed in order to basically deal with all of the stuff that was surrounding me. Avoiding can be a healthy skill to an extent, you deal with it when you’re ready, but avoiding something forever is just not plausible. As I can attest to, it causes more anxiety the longer you avoid it.

So how to deal with such a volatile cocktail? How to face it with an open mind when you feel in your heart that they voted for someone who is a sexual predator, someone who treats women worse than the very ground  he treads upon. How could they vote for someone like the very person who assaulted you?

I have to remember that this is not the reason that they voted for him, nor can I demean or belittle their intelligence. I have to find a balance of not agreeing with them, but also still being respectful and loving them. I don’t have to worry about many of my friends, I tend to surround myself with people of like minds and pretty easy-going. However you can’t choose your family, you can’t just not speak to them either–at least I can’t.

I was talking to someone about this, I was expressing my distress with the issue and they said something that was very helpful (forgive my butchering of the quote): “To vote was their right, and it’s a right that we must treasure. They voted for the candidate that they believed would bring the most effective change–not because he was a sexual predator. I know that it’s hard to accept.”

To my family who voted for Donald Trump, know that I still love you but I will have a hard time accepting your decision because of my past experiences. I am still living with and dealing with my sexual assault, and I will be for the rest of my life–I’ll overcome and not be as fragile, but it will always be a blemish on my heart. I want to have a civil conversation with you, because that is how understanding is bred, that is how ties are strengthened.

Love is productive. Hate is counterproductive. Peace is constructive. Violence is destructive. I wish to be a force of positivity against such negativity.

Remember dear reader, at the end of the day, if you want to be the change in the world–it must first start with love.

gandhi

Posted in feminism, Uncategorized

What is the State of Our Nation?

I’ve been asking myself that since about two in the morning last Tuesday. I haven’t slept much since then, as my anxiety and my racing thoughts have been running wild across the plains of my mind.

You may be thinking: “Oh you’re a feminist, so you voted for Hilary cause she’s a woman.” or “This is just another post where a whiny millennial didn’t get their way.” or even better: “Trump won, get over it–it’s not the end of the world.”

Maybe not the end of your world. Why? Because you, you who feel like Washington has turned it’s back on you. You who feel that our capital needed to be “shaken up.” I get it, truly I do. You were tired of the same old politics, and the corruption.

So you elected someone you thought would change that. You practiced your right to vote, I’m not condemning you for something that so many people don’t have the liberty of not doing. To be honest you have the right to stop reading this now, this is America and freedom to do what you damn well please is a blessing. But if you don’t stop reading, if your curiosity is peaked, then I want to state this:

These are my opinions, this is my blog, and I will exercise my right to say what I want and how I feel. Feel free to leave a comment, but know that you won’t change my mind.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me start by saying that yes I did vote for Hilary Clinton, no I didn’t do it because she was a woman, yes I consider myself to be liberal in some sense, no I don’t believe all Republicans are evil, and yes I am a feminist. There, now let us dive in to why I am wondering what has become of our country.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. I was assaulted just five months after the death of my mother. I am a survivor of suicidal thoughts, and I have PTSD, severe depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. I struggle every single day to find a reason to get out of bed and to keep living. Now my nation, my home, has told me that I am less of a person because I am female, because I have a mental illness, because I stand in solidarity with those who are “different.”

Why do I feel this way you may ask, to which I respond: “How can I feel any different?” Look at his campaign, all I saw was a complete and total disregard for women. I can’t respect someone who says “Grab em’ by the pussy, they’ll let you do anything.” or something along those lines. To the men I ask you: What if he was talking about your daughter? Or your mother? Sister? Aunt? Girlfriend? You must have at least one woman in your life that you care about. If there isn’t then you are excused from reading the rest of this.

Imagine how I must feel. For most of my adult life I was ashamed of what happened to me, why? When someone molests you, you go through what is called a “grooming” period. This means that they are basically gaining your trust, making you believe that everything is okay. They make you believe that it is you who is in the wrong, not them.

Add that to the cesspool of how we as a society treats sexual assault, it’s not easy. A fact sheet from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault states this:


 

Not all survivors find it necessary to report sexual assault to the criminal justice system in order to move forward from their experience. In fact, some feel that the criminal justice system re-victimizes them in its process. Some survivors find that the services provided by a rape crisis and recovery center or similar provider are the only services they feel comfortable pursuing. While measuring rates of sexual violence can be difficult, there is no uncertainty in the national data that the majority of sexual assaults are never reported to police.

It is believed that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.

Due partially to low reporting rates, only 9 percent of all rapists get prosecuted. Only 5 percent of cases lead to a felony conviction. Only 3 percent of rapists will spend a day in prison. The other 97 percent walk free.


The report goes on to list why people, particularly women, do not report sexual assault:

Survivors cite the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:
• Fear of reprisal
• Personal matter
• Reported to a different official
• Not important enough to respondent
• Belief that the police would not do anything to help
• Belief that the police could not do anything to help
• Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
• Did not want family to know
• Did not want others to know
• Not enough proof
• Fear of the justice system
• Did not know how
• Feel the crime was not “serious enough”
• Fear of lack of evidence
• Unsure about perpetrator’s intent

Society is quick to point the finger at any other criminal but a rapist. In a report done by CNN, it is actually scary as to why women do not report their offenders. This tweet sums it up perfectly I think:

@RachelintheOC (Rachel Thompson)

Because people require proof, even for children, and accuse us of lying or wanting attention when we did nothing wrong

That is why those women didn’t report until just a few months ago. That is why I am so upset that a sexual predator is now in charge of our nation. How can I feel safe now? I’m scared to even walk down the street, I’m scared for my female friends, for my sister, young girls…I am legitimately terrified.

fullsizerender

I honestly don’t know what else to say, I’m hurt by this decision and I need time to heal; as do the rest of us. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way when 97% of rapists walk free. So if you do feel this way, if you are upset and hurt–I am here to validate you. I want you to know that there are people who feel the same way.

So what do we do now?

We March.

We Speak up.

We fight.

I am not one to stand before a crowd and profess my beliefs, but I am one who will take up the pen and use it to fight.

donnatroyquote

So let us rise.

Posted in feminism

Women in the Workplace: Inequality Still.

I recently graduated from college in December, I was glad to finally be done and was looking forward to what the future held for me and my shiny new degree. I immediately started to send out resume’s and portfolios to every place I wanted to work, and then some. I had little luck for a while, then I was approached by my, now, boss about working in the insurance industry that my grandfather had set up in my town. I gladly accepted.

Thus began my lesson.

Now I am a feminist, I proclaim that proudly and am not ashamed of it. I had heard about inequality and how women were basically fodder in the workplace, earning about 78% of what their male counterparts make doing the same job. I’ve read articles about how women are treated in the workplace, often getting the short end of the stick simply because of their gender. All of this was common knowledge for me because I was a feminist.

However I had never lived it.

I should point out that all of my coworkers, except for the Vice President, are female. So the atmosphere is a little less sexist than most office jobs. It was when I started to talk to these women, hear their stories, and see their faces that I began to really see what it’s like and reflect on my own experiences with sexism, which I won’t discuss here because I don’t want this post to be about me.

One particular story stood out to me, and I won’t reveal any names because that’s not my place, and I am an advocate for privacy. I share an office space with two lovely women, they really are just wonderful and a lot of fun. We began talking one day whilst doing our work, and one of the women began to tell me about her experiences in the insurance industry.

This lovely lady has almost 30 years experience in the insurance industry, she’s adept, smart, and a damn good worker. She began talking about how she, for most of her career, had basically been a trainer for someone else. The person was usually male, and younger; she would train these men and they would move up the ladder, she would not get a pay raise, and often made less than what the men made. “I’ve been shit on all my life when it comes to this.” she told me, and it set something off in me. I was angry, and I felt so upset for her–why on earth should she get shit on for doing the exact same job?

You may be wondering “Well if it was so unfair why didn’t she speak up?” I used to wonder the same thing, then I started to think about how society as a whole treats and “raises” women. And then I had a realization from the most unexpected source: Beyoncé.

Yes you heard right.

I came home and put on my Spotify playlist, I was mulling about when Beyoncé’s song “***Flawless” came on. At first I didn’t really pay attention, but then about a minute or so into the song, it cuts to a dialogue, I’ve taken the liberty of giving you a transcript:

We teach girls shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: “You can have ambition, but not too much. You can be successful, but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.” Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage; I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a system of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments which I believe can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

I immediately stopped what I was doing and googled that speech. I was floored, it was such an “aha” moment for me! I was like “Holy hell…that’s why women don’t speak up. A.) Sometimes it won’t do much good because the man will simply see it as a woman “bitching” and B.) Women aren’t really taught to speak out! We’re taught to be “polite” and “meek.” I found that the transcript above was from an amazing TED talk (you can find the transcript of it here). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a feminist from Nigeria, and she was mainly talking about the major inequalities in Africa, but it’s absolutely flooring how much it resonates here in America.

As women, we have to realize that we are not limited because of our gender, and that’s easier said than done because you’re talking about fighting through hundreds of years of men telling us that’s how it is. We teach our girls the same thing, and teach our boys that they are superior because they’re boys. We need to start raising our children differently, raise them to see that equality is beneficial for all. Masculinity is a terrible cage to put a boy in, he’s forced to be a certain way and not just be himself because that’s not “manly.” If we all were treated equally, not based on our gender, everyone would benefit.

I hope that I have sort of started a conversation. I am a feminist, if you believe in equality than you are too because men can be feminist too. I now plan to be more active in speaking out, not just for me, but for the generation of women who fell silent because they believed they had no other choice.

Posted in feminism

Online Harassment

The Internet is probably the most influential and fundamental invention of my lifetime. I’ve seen the birth of America Online, Macbooks, iPhones, and Androids; I’ve seen obscure websites like Facebook and Twitter grow into the juggernauts they are today. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of something like that.

However.

I’ve also seen the darkest parts of the Internet and what it can do to people. How it can ruin and sometimes end lives, and how one click of a button can change everything. I was watching a popular show on HBO called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and he was covering a story about Internet harassment. It’s mind blowing the amount of harassment that goes on, and if you don’t think that it does or that it’s not a big deal well congratulations on being an average white guy. If you are a woman and you make the “mistake” of trusting someone, or if you dare to have a thought in your head and post it on the Internet then you are probably going to face some sort of harassment or even worse. Take Anita Sarkeesian for instance. Those of you who are not familiar with her probably aren’t into video games; she’s very popular amongst that group of people, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Sarkeesian is a voice for women in video games and a critic as well; she frequently posts her reviews online and vocalizes the obvious sexism in the video game industry. She has not only received lewd remarks for doing so, but some of these are much more serious and threatening. She has received death threats not just geared towards her, but her entire family. She has also received rape threats that often are graphic and way too disturbing for me to even quote. Despite the threats she still keeps going, refusing to let these threats of violence deter her from her end goal.

Amanda Hess, a writer who posted a critique on the harassment of women online, received threats that were along the lines of “I’m going to rape you and cut off your head.” She went to the police, (it is against the law in California where she lives to make threats of bodily harm) and the police officer that came to her door didn’t even know what Twitter was. The officer didn’t really think that a crime had been committed even though clearly it had. When the police don’t understand something they cannot investigate it,if they can’t investigate it and come to a conclusion, then the person who committed the crime gets away with it. How would you feel if you were that person? Knowing that this sick individual got away with doing harm to you or your loved one?

Online harassment doesn’t just stop at threats of violence; there is another way women are harassed and humiliated: it’s called revenge porn. Revenge porn is where private and/or nude photos are posted online for the world to see without their consent. Now I can hear the response already: “Well if you don’t want that to happen don’t take those sorts of pictures!” First of all, not all of the pictures are taken; some are stolen from hacking webcams. Secondly that statement is what I like to call “victim blaming.” What you do in your own personal time with your partner is YOUR business, the news and other sources have hard-wired this sentiment in our brain. What victims are often told are “Sorry about your luck, but you trusted the person so it’s kind of your fault” or if it’s about general harassment some victims are often told “Just turn off your computer, it’ll go away eventually.” Okay first “turn off your computer” is not practical because we use the internet almost every minute from our PC’s to our phones, I mean somewhere in the world right now there is a sheep herder in some remote location using wifi; secondly blaming a person for something because they trusted another person is stupid, what if that person stole from you or worse? How would that make you feel? “Oh sorry about your loss but it is kind of your fault for trusting that person.” Insert any other crime into this situation, “I mean if you don’t want to get robbed, don’t live in a house!” “If you don’t want your identity stolen don’t shop online!” See what I mean? It’s all about the way we think about these things, and how they are presented to us. It’s always the victims fault until suddenly you are the victim. What you do with your significant other is your business, and if they betray that trust then our response shouldn’t be “well you shouldn’t have trusted them.”

If a woman goes to the police stating that someone threatened her life on Twitter, or if she goes to a lawyer because her vindictive lover posted nude photos of her online the response should not be “What in the world is Twitter?” or “Well you should date better people.” This is 2015, and the fact that women are still being harassed just because of the simple fact that they are women with thoughts is ludicrous.

The purpose of this article is not to rant or rage, the purpose is to get people to think of things differently. We need to raise our daughters to be strong and independent, and our sons to be respectful and upstanding. If you go to John Oliver’s YouTube page and watch the video on Online Harassment, you’ll see it has a 40% “downvote.” Why? Because people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that it’s happening and that’s the major part of the problem. We can be part of the solution by bringing it out in the open, talking about it, and teaching our children that these things are wrong.