racism

Eventually the Pendulum Swings

Greetings from the Left coast. It’s been quite a while.

I’ve had an entire day now to mull over this Trump victory— I mean, really let it sink in before speaking out—and I find myself now compelled to publicly share my thoughts.

I’m so happy for you Mr. Trump.

Congratulations. You won.

I mean, not the popular vote, which is why there are so many protests occurring, but hey, electoral vote, so what does it matter because you won, right? (except it does matter because, as I’ve just said, half the country is outraged, and it’s not some kind of sore loser outrage, but rather more of a “WTF, howthefuck have my rights just been compromised” type of outrage)

It was pretty clear that pretty much everyone here in California yesterday was walking around in a haze. In a complete, WTF-induced haze, trying to make sense of it. But as one person said to me yesterday, out of her shock and disbelief, “Yeah… I’m just trying to make sense of this… But you know what— I’m from Ohio, so I do get it.”

And for better or worse, so do I. My own father voted for Trump. Which in and of itself continues to baffle me. (Like, dude, you adopted a brown baby [me] who was born of one “illegal” parent from El Salvador) But I digress…

We’ve all been sitting here wondering how we could go from electing the first Black president to the man who questioned his very eligibility because of his race. We’re wondering how we could go from Black Lives Matter to electing a man endorsed by the KKK. We’ve all been wondering how we could go from potentially electing our first female president to a man who has condoned sexual assault and spouted hateful misogyny over and over again.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Hate Votes, meaning that so many people have been so disillusioned with the government, and were so angry with the choice of candidates, and henceforth our very “democracy,” that they just wanted to vote “anti-establishment.” Enter Trump. Many of his supporters were not as much for-Trump, as they were against-Hillary.
  2. Economic policy has trumped (pun intended) equality, social justice, and common decency. People care more about his economic ideas and potential business acumen than the horrible things he has said. Racism, sexism, and downright bigotry are being overlooked and pushed aside because, you know, he’s going to “make deals” and that’s more important.
  3.  Going back to #1: Eventually the pendulum swings.

It’s almost a game of two steps forward, two steps back when it comes to our political climate and presidential elections. After eight years of Obama—after eight years of any president, mind you, the same happened with George W.— often, if not always, people want change. A striking change. And Trump offers the most striking change of all.

But you know what? This is what is going to keep the optimistic political fire inside me burning bright.

Eventually the pendulum swings.

Bernie may not have won the presidency or even the democratic nomination this time around, but his impact has been undeniable and indelible nonetheless, and he underscored a major movement going on in this country. We have been shown, to some extent, just how far we can go. Even if it wasn’t all the way, there is room for progress and we are going to create even more room. Those of us that declare Trump as #notmypresident are only further revved up in our political fervor and social activism. I know I am.

I am heavily disheartened by the intense apathy and disregard for racism and sexism demonstrated by this election, let alone the very active role both have played throughout the Trump campaign. I am horrified at the potential Supreme Court nominations to come. And I am beyond saddened and beyond disappointed by just how insidious and endemic sexism is in our country that this candidate— THIS person, of all the possible candidates out there— won over Hillary. I have zero doubt, and firmly believe, that if it was Donald Trump versus a “Hal” Clinton (i.e. another man), Trump would not have won. That is just my personal belief, but I know I’m not alone.

Notwithstanding, this means that I am only going to continue to fight even harder than I have in the past. A friend of mine asked me yesterday morning, “Where and how do we fight back?” I’ve thought really long and hard about this question. It’s a great question, and I think one a lot of us are asking ourselves, as well as each other, right now.

This is what I’ve come up with so far… Do take into consideration that this is coming from someone who is a reproductive justice worker, political activist, and in the process of obtaining a Masters in Social Work. I am no political strategist, nor am I even some kind of amazing community organizer *ahem* but nonetheless, here are my thoughts:

  1. As a reproductive justice worker who helps low-income women of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities obtain access to reproductive healthcare and services, I am going to fight even harder for this access. In a country in which, yes, we do have the right to choose, such a choice is not always so easily accessible, even here in California. There are still women who have to travel hundreds of miles for abortion services, women who may not have access to a car or even very much money. There are women afraid to seek out aid because they may be undocumented, a minor, or in a domestic violence situation. These issues are part of our everyday reality, and part of why reproductive justice— not just choice, but reproductive justice— is so crucial. Although Roe v. Wade still stands, the Republican party’s way around this is to chip away at access, and create further barriers for women. I think it’s crucial for us to do what we can in the way of protecting and increasing access, as well as paying attention to state and federal policies encompassing such things as insurance and immigration. If you can volunteer somewhere, great! If not, at least pay attention to state and local elections and use your voice!
  2. On this same note: I am currently helping to push the EACH Woman Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (as we like to say here in the Bay Area, “Barbara Lee speaks for me!”), which leads to another important mode of engagement: Find out who your congressperson is and pay attention to what they’re doing!
  3. Similarly, let’s keep our eyes on these women.
  4. Finally, let us remember: eventually the pendulum swings. Seeing as I’m playing the long game here, let us take these next four years to work even harder at our activism, to pay greater attention to House and Senate bills being penned by our elected officials, and create an even bigger space for progressive ideas and policies. This is the time for us to find one another and work together, and work very hard.

There are a lot of protests going on right now and a lot of people don’t understand why. Well I do understand why, but I also think it’s important to take that angry, frustrated energy inside of us and put it into useful, meaningful, productive action. This is why I’ll be paying close attention to Trump and the policies and actions he will be attempting to make over the next few years.

Because I am going to be a part of the counter-action.

And when the pendulum swings, I’ll be ready.

 

Please feel free to leave comments with further ideas on how to engage in meaningful and productive action

American Horror Story: Holding a Mirror Up to Society

American Horror Story: Coven. Above: Madison Montgomery, played by Emma Roberts

**Spoiler Alert: Details from the season 3 premiere of AHS: Coven ahead***

AHS, or American Horror Story, Season 3 has a lot of self-proclaimed “feminist themes” contained within it, and after finally watching the season 3 opener the other night I can totally see what they mean.

Some of the real horror in the show is not so much exhibited via witchcraft or black magic, but rather, by way of the racism and sexism demonstrated throughout the series. Already, in this powerful first episode, the character of Madison Montgomery (played by Emma Roberts, pictured above) and her new witch cohort, Zoe, go to a frat party where Madison is drugged and raped by multiple frat brothers.

 

I think the following quote sums this up best:

“Madison is brutally date raped by several of the frat brothers, and we were forced to witness most of it from her drugged-out perspective. This is Horror Story. Any other series would have had Zoe bursting through the doors in the nick of time. Nope, not on Coven.”

 

I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pretty disturbing scene, and while it induced some serious cringing and nausea, I also couldn’t help but think of how trite this plot detail could sound to some. You know the story: Girl goes to frat party, girl gets roofied, girl gets raped. It’s disgusting how trite this sounds. Yet it’s trite because this shit actually happens. It’s not just a scene out of a show, or a movie— it’s Steubenville, Ohio, it’s Richmond, California, it’s the reality of many girls and women— it’s real life. Yet the show did such an amazing job of visually representing something that could sound so trite as so disgustingly, nauseatingly, horrific, I felt a deep sense of gratitude at the portrayal of it. It took something that could sound trite and made you see it for what it really is: appalling, sickening, gruesome, horrific.

It’s actually a positively galvanizing scene.

When I was 15, I was one of the weird goth/punk girls in high school and I was roofied and sexually assaulted by a football player. It sounds so cliche, right? Yeah, I know. Yet it actually happened. And it was anything but cliche. I was drugged. We were out and about in an outdoor mall and I woke up with kids just a couple years younger than me (around 13) slapping me awake, trying to feed me coffee, asking “Hey, are you okay? No, no, don’t close your eyes, keep em open, okay, stay awake. Are you okay?”

This shit happens.

And it’s not okay.

Perhaps we need a show like American Horror Story, holding up a mirror to our collective face in order to make us so violently repulsed by what we see so that we can begin to change it…

So once again, I, for one, am really glad that AHS put this scene in it’s show. It’s a shockingly powerful way to represent something very real that may end up seeming [sadly] cliched and commonplace due to it’s regrettable ubiquity. When representing rape within popular media there is a fine line between gratuitous content and content that serves a purpose, and I truly think that the galvanizing nature of this scene and it’s context was well-employed. If you’re not already watching this show, you totally should— especially if you’re a feminist. It’s some of the best subversive feminism out there in the mainstream media (not that there’s much to choose from).

[an addendum]

I think I should have included a little something more in yesterday’s post, therefore I am adding this little addendum…

A few personal experiences that have my opened my eyes to my otherness according to our society… i.e. not Hispanic, not white, not normal, not fitting into any neat little category, but rather a mysterious, ‘exotic’ other…

1) I was once told by a boy at school that I was “not Hispanic enough” to understand something

2) I was once told quite specifically just what was wrong with my face according to a boy in high school

3) At my last job a male customer asked me if I was Italian, or Greek, or [insert other European background here], and after my answering in the negative a few times he finally asked, “I’m sorry, but what ethnicity are you?? I just have to know…”—and this happens to me a lot, FYI—I finally said, “El Salvadorean,” and he said, “oh, wow, that’s surprising… I mean, you’re pretty, you look European…”

*The lesson here, in case you didn’t get it, is that people from 3rd world countries, e.g. Central America, are not attractive.

4) When I started dating my current boyfriend [years ago] I told a few people, including him, that he was the first white boyfriend I’d ever had. A few friends kind of laughed, like, “ok….haha…you’re being silly…who cares, etc.” and the thing is, I realized- they didn’t get it, they didn’t see it like me (and after all, how could they). That ‘thing’ is: I learned early on that I was not attractive to white boys, white boys would not and could not be attracted to me – I’m “weird” looking after all. (Hence, the constantly being asked by random strangers what ethnicity I am) How do I know this? I was told so through various insults as a teenager girl. I grew up in Venice, CA, but got bussed up to a high school in Malibu from 7th grade on. And that was it- that’s how I learned my place. I went from being “normal,” maybe even pretty according to some, among my racially diverse elementary school peers (*think black, white, Mexican, Korean, Costa Rican, Ethiopian, etc.*) to being an instantly unattractive freak among the sea of blonde-haired and blue-eyed girls in Malibu.

And that’s my story. I heard and underwent a lot of harmful treatment there. That’s where I learned what the standard is. That’s where I first learned about white aesthetics. That’s where I first learned about my otherness. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. *And* I know white girls and women undergo similar pressures to conform to arbitrary standards of beauty as well. My sister and I have both been through the ringer when it comes to social pressures, standards, criticisms, and sexism impacting us in severe and traumatic ways- and she’s white. (I’m adopted)

I’m just giving you a view into one girl’s experiences. And that’s not to say that my journey or experiences have been rougher than anybody else’s. Mine are my own- they are unique to me, my gender, my ethnicity, my sexual orientation, etc., just as my sister’s or any other woman’s experiences will be unique to her and no one else could ever truly understand them. We all experience things differently. It’s not about ranking types and levels of oppression, but rather understanding that we are all subject to this system, these inequalities, and how we experience these things will inevitably vary.

In the words of Cherrie Moraga, “The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression. The danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression purely from a theoretical base. Without an emotional, heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, nonhierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place.”