Women & their (in)visible power

It’s been a strange week.

A couple nights ago, my Vietnamese co-worker got smacked in the head by some random guy at a bus stop. A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine who is Taiwanese got punched in the face by her father, bruising her eye.

Women, and specifically women of color, are harmed every day — and not just by complete strangers, but by our own kind, and people we know and love. Am I paranoid because I am assuming the physical insult done to my co-worker was because of her race? Maybe I am. And is it sad that I’m not surprised my acquaintance got punched by her father? Maybe it is. But faced with these abuses, what did my friends do? Nothing. No call to the police, no reporting, no self-defense, nothing.

* * *

There is an almost complacent reaction when women of color endure such abuse, like it’s expected and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why?

Because we are used to it. We experience it every day.

Generations of physical, emotional, and mental trauma has — for whatever reason, whether it be displacement, sexual abuse, cultural expectations, family dynamics, life — sunken permanently into the soil. A woman, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on, have experienced pain, and shoved it into the mouth of her daughter, to be a bitter taste in the back of her throat for as long as she will live. For the women who have passed on that pain, they know no better. They cannot fight patriarchy and break the cycle; tradition is too formidable a force. And in their frustration, they misplace their anger onto the next generation.

If I promise to myself I will never beat my daughter as I have been by my own mother, will I keep that promise? If I swear to myself I will never emotionally tear down my daughter as I had been, will I uphold it? Will the cycle stop with me? Or will my willpower slip because of my anger?

* * *

Women are taught, from birth to death, to have constant doubts about themselves. The media, the men in our lives, our workplaces, all teach us that it is normal, even desired to have all these qualms and anxieties: am I pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, good enough? In a Twitter post, Feminista Jones dares other women:

Not surprisingly, women began replying back with situations where they simply said thank you, accepting the compliment without further ado. The men who said them either retracted their compliments or just moved on to direct insults. As Feminista Jones says in an interview about that post:

It’s the idea that they [men] bestow the compliment on you, and you’re not supposed to be aware of it.

It’s almost as if recognizing our own beauty as women is unacceptable. We can be complimented, yes — but we have to act modest, as if we are undeserving of such affirmation. It’s almost as if low self-esteem is required for a woman to be desirable to a man. It’s almost like it is a sin for a woman to recognize her own power.

My friends being hurt; the subtle microaggressions I and countless women of color face every day, the resurrection of feminism in the 21st century, the intergenerational trauma that women of color are burdened by, and how that manifests — it is all palpable, especially in the States’ harrowing political climate. The macro feeds into the micro, and vice versa. The unrest can be felt.

It is time for a change. I ask you: When will it stop?

* * *

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Daily Post prompt: Qualm

Growing up, and the (dis)appearance of loose ends

You know, my mother used to tell me to put things back where I got them. I used to struggle with this as a child. I would take something, do something, and then—nothing. I couldn’t follow my bread crumbs back. There would always be some loose end around the house — scissors left on the coffee table, shoes blocking the doorway threatening to trip someone, a jacket on my bedroom floor… My mother would be a rich woman if she got paid every time she had to tell me to return things where I got them.

Now, in my mid-20s, I am so good at it. I take something, do something, and as if my feet were following some script, I walk back and put this “something” where I found it, exactly how I found it. You would be proud of me, Ma. Maybe this is how you are getting compensated — your daughter’s finally learned her lesson, and is admitting it publicly.

When did I metamorphose into this very tangible adult? I walk like an adult. I talk like an adult. I pay my bills. I work about eight hours a day, but really, only six, because I read an article recently that Sweden only makes its people work six hours a day to maintain that work-life balance, and I fancy myself a Scandinavian. And! I put things back. There are no loose ends — at least, none that can be immediately seen. (And I am slightly despondent to come to the realization that that is an adult — a human with no visible loose ends. Is that what we all are, when we finally “grow up”?)

And yet, there are so many invisible loose ends. In fact, I feel like one giant loose end. I feel like trendy jeans — you know, the type that taper down to your ankle and are frayed oh-so-tidily at the hem? That’s what I feel like. Like trendy, frayed jeans — like, I got popular, but for no good reason.

It feels like the more life I experience, the more I encounter this frayed feeling. And I have this theory for that.

We’re all told to put things back, and not just to put things back, but to put them back the way we found them. So, you spend half your life trying to follow this laissez-faire mentality, of leaving things alone, of keeping things to that baseline, of not rocking the boat—when you finally figure out, mid-way through a stressful, life-changing experience—you’re supposed to rock. that. boat. You don’t just put things back the way you found them. No, none of that passive bullshit.

You’re supposed to leave things better than you found them — be an interfere-er, be an idealist, be self-motivated. 

So, in light of this newly-realized philosophy, you become this walking, talking, “8”-hour-working, bill-paying adult who not only puts things back, but improves them. Or at least, tries to. Because, well, it’s so much more demanding of your time and energy. And the risk for loose ends and frays and all that, increases, as you develop these things for yourself, what do you call them… oh, what’s the word… goals! You develop goals for yourself. And your world gets messier as you try to enrich yourself contrary to your generation’s famous habit for instant self-gratification.

But it’s also so much more rewarding. 

I’m still getting accustomed to the idea. I’m not quite at the “doing” phase yet. But I have to laugh a bit, because wouldn’t it be so much more efficient to tell children, at the advent of their youth, that they are champions, and that they’re supposed to make the world a better place, one little action at a time, rather than waiting for them to figure it out 20, 30 years later?

Rock that boat, kids. 


Daily Post prompt: Champion

My true colours

I’ll tell you what I am;

I am the orange of parched desert sand
the cracks running through like veins.

I am the green of salty ocean depths,
the likes of which you have never explored.

I am the yellow in sunflowers,
the amicable jaundice all over your body.

I’ll tell you what I’m not;

I am not the dichotomous black and white,
the swipes left or right of hasty judgment.

I am not the unforgiving black and white,
the stripes of a prison uniform.

I am not the simple black and white,
the enemy of nuance and true understanding.

I choose to live in burnt orange, enigmatic green, and infectious yellow;

Oh, but most of all, I choose to live in shades of grey.


Daily Post prompt: Nuance

“Great” expectations: Habits & relationships

Today, and every day for the last few months, I have wondered about the habits we perform in romantic relationships: physical ones, mental ones, and most especially, emotional ones. You know what I mean; these habits are the little tics, the behaviors, the thought patterns unique to you that seem to migrate from one person you’re with to another.

Like for me, I know my fingers will always find their way around the hair at the base of his neck, no matter who it is. I know, that for the first few months — or even year — together, I will be a creature of insecurities, constantly comparing myself to their exes, telling myself I’m not good enough. And finally, I know my expectations, molded by the fire and friction of previous relationships, will cause me to be disappointed if he doesn’t meet them.

It feels like I have a template for relationships that changes subtly with each man. Ex #1 made me love men who could talk. Ex #2 made me love men who could dance. Ex #3 made me love men who did sweet little gestures for me. You know, etc. With the end of each relationship, that template would evolve and take a life of its own, like some constantly shifting microorganism, altering itself after some change in its environment. Little by little, the template adapts to incorporate traits that I love, and to accommodate for the traits that I, shall we say, don’t love, but am willing to tolerate.

This is fair, right? This is the part people always optimistically talk about — that grand experiment of dating different people to figure out what you like and don’t like, right?

Well, that all seems fine, but… what if you’re a neurotic freak who holds on to the past? What if that’s the case?

How would I know to trust my template? How would I know I’m being fair in my evaluation of the person I’m with? How would I know my expectations are still legitimate to hold on to? How would I know if my habit of holding on to these expectations is still healthy? Is it even right to hold on to expectations in relationships?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and frankly, I’ve always been wary of ambiguity. I need rubrics, comparisons, examples, and long, drawn-out discussions with girlfriends who are just as neurotic as me, if not more so. Obviously.

This habit of mine, of keeping a death grip on my ideals based on past relationships, is not as cute as my finger wrapping around his hair. And although it’s perfectly natural that certain habits apply to my next relationship, the extent to which I let other habits overtake my relationship should be mindfully kept in check. Habits are hard to break, and are relics from our past that may no longer be relevant to our present.


Daily Post prompt: Expectation