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 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

I, a powerful & glorious mess

People are fragile. We all sit in display in dusty, long-forgotten rooms, like pieces of china ready to shatter at the bang of a door. We are put on pedestals and expected to stay up there — these are unsafe expectations for denizens made of glass.

We are so fragile that even occurrences from years and years past still leave marks. Sometimes, we are so unaware of our own fragility, that it takes years and years to realize that we have been experiencing the fallout of our own personal disasters for a long time.

* * *

I was sexually molested as a little girl. What he did, what he made me do — they are as misty as morning fog. I can still remember, but sometimes it seems so far away, like a dream.

The molestation itself is not what haunts me. It is the ripple effects that still leave me unsteady, and prevent me from gathering myself up again — like the fact that my sexual life did not start appropriately, or that I had a very unhealthy view of sex for a long time. My self-destructiveness rendered my body into trash, to be disposed of to anyone who paid attention to me, anyone who would bother to notice me, pick me up, use me, then throw me away.

I equated my self-worth with how effectively I could seduce someone.

“Love” was lust and being used. Jealousy was my go-to reaction when that attention I desperately craved was taken away.

My self-destructiveness eventually evolved into people-pleasing. I would bend over backwards, turn myself inside out, etc. for individuals whose approval I wanted — i.e. everybody. I would always allow the other party to wield more power, because I felt like I did not have the right to put my own needs first. I had the perception that I was helpless to change my circumstances. I always had an excuse for keeping quiet or for giving in:

“I’m not an expert on this,”

 “I don’t want to be an inconvenience,”

“I should just be content with what I have.”

After several heartbreaks and a couple regrets, I finally grew the instinct for self-preservation.

had  to protect myself — I was the only one who could.

I finally realized that my mind and soul, though deeply damaged, are worth saving. Through a few well-chosen friends, I finally realized that my mind and soul, though rather twisted, are worth celebrating. I am worth it.

* * *

As fragile folk, we need to recognize that the damage done to us does not lessen our worth. We are all imperfect and flawed, and we all absolutely need to be celebrated. There is no one like us—there is no one else like you—and we are all worthy of healthy, healing love. Sometimes, the hardest part is loving yourself, you with all your chips and cracks and stains and fractures.

People are fragile, and when the bang of a door knocks us off our precarious pedestals, we shatter and leave a glorious mess on the floor. But I am slowly learning to smile to myself, as it takes courage to leave my broken shards out on the floor, to better inspect them, and know that I can recover, all the wiser for it.

I am still working on being more gentle with myself, and to become accustomed to the idea that I was not—am not—the one to blame for the traumatic periods of my life.

You have power, I am learning to whisper to myself with love.

 It is my mantra every time I see the sunrise.


Daily Post daily prompt: Fragile