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

Betrayed by a “maybe”

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Sometimes I think, did my mother really allow her daughter to get molested?

Sometimes I think, did she know the extent of the harm she was causing by allowing this to happen?

Sometimes I think, did she know she had inflicted permanent scars upon me the very day she found out and made silence her response?

* * *

I remember the day I confronted her. We were in my stepdad’s office. We were glowering at each other. I had done something despicable to her, and I, stubbornly unapologetic, thought that moment opportune to turn it around on her.

I said, “Ma, did you know what [he] did to me?” I paused and tried to read the expression on her face. She gave nothing away yet. “Did you know he was touching me inappropriately back on the island?”

Her lips pursed, and she looked sideways, almost as if the memory could be found splattered on the wall or something. Then she looked back at me with searing eyes and said, “Maybe. I think so.”

I was rendered so numb by her answer that I forgot I was staring at her. It was like I blacked out with my eyes wide open.

All I could do was think back to all the little hints from my childhood that possibly implicated her:

When he would pick me up right in front of her and jokingly tell her I would have the body of a porn star when I got older … When he would keep asking me to give him a forehead massage right in front of her … When he would stay home while she would run errands …

* * *

Sometimes it feels like a bad dream. But I knew it was reality as soon as I heard my mother confirm my worst fear. Screw her half-assed “maybe”. She knew. And over the course of my childhood, she let it happen.


Daily Post Prompt: Maybe