The Veil of Political Correctness

Political correctness only gives you a tool to make it seem like you are informed or not prejudiced. It never teaches you to reach out and have conversations with other people, it does not teach you to constantly be educated. Anyone can fall into ignorance or prejudice. It’s how we truly want to deal with it that makes the difference

In one of my favorite scenes of Harry Potter, Sirius Black goes into the veil and is never seen again.  The veil changes everything, and once people go into it, we can’t go back.  In some ways, this is a reflection of what has happened after the Election. We have gone beyond the veil of political correctness and people can’t unsee all the maladies that USA has.

There has been more than 700 hate crimes around the USA since the election, and a movement of Nationalist and  White ” Pride” has come into the fray that of the Alt Right.  There are still people who want to deny it exists. Everywhere you turn  there are reports of hate, prejudice and intolerance.  I was on the phone with one of my best friends and I was a little perplexed. ” Why are people so surprised that racism , sexism and intolerance still exists in this country?”

I started to contemplate the idea of political correctness and it being a veil for privilege or awareness. By avoiding certain words in your vocabulary, by trying to be politically correct due to the fear and the  real consequences for your actions, by policing speech people we are able to give an appearance of equity in society.  The USA can keep on with the narrative that it is an educated and informed society free from prejudice with equal opportunities for all.

People are shocked by someone saying a racial slur, and forbid them to use it but we don’t stop the behavior or provide educational programs in schools to teach tolerance. We don’t engage in real dialogue of why this keeps happening decades after the civil rights movement and women’s rights movements.  Neighbors of diverse races and background merely politely ” ignore” each other while living in the same street, yet will continue to harbor prejudice in their heart.

For me, who walks in between a bunch of worlds, this dichotomy and hypocrisy rarely shocks me. For some reason people are who they are around me. The moment they ask me where I am from and I say ” I grew up in El Salvador” since I was a kid people have been saying things like ” Oh it’s a shame that Latinos bring crime into this country” or ” People are so barbaric over there” or ” I am glad my ancestors were slaves in this country and not some backward country in latin america ” ( Double whammy for that one folks!!). It’s as if, because of my skin color and the way I talk ” American” somehow I am not an Other but a ” Them” and by consequence they can tell me how they really feel.  This was not limited by people who were white, but people of many cultures and backgrounds who had misinformed opinions about El Salvador.

” Well, at least you know how people feel and you aren’t left guessing ” Said my best friend Rachel. I guess this is true. Of course, I can walk into a store and no one will think I am going to rob it. I can speak and no one will be annoyed by my accent. Living in other countries is considered exotic and interesting and not something that is a disadvantage. I have an Arabic name and have a religion that is not Christian but I look innocous enough that people can ” pardon ” that.

What people are voicing around the country is something they already had in their heart. This was not something that started with a presidential candidate, rather it only broke the veil of Political Correctness. Should we go back to simply using the right words , and yet have small microagressions of prejudice? Should we smile politely and interview people of color for jobs and yet still end up hiring people ” like us”?

When I was walking back from the prayer vigil for the North Dakota pipeline, a well meaning protestor asked me where I was from. I told her I grew up in El Salvador , and she started to ” inform” me about all the political groups in El Salvador  she was a part of, and how things worked in the country I grew up in all my life.  I’ve seen that before too, the kids with Che Guevara on their wall, who spend a long time talking about injustice and are knee deep in the latest educational or political theory book they have been studying. Some go to their preferred place of activism to take over the narrative,  to ” educate” people of their own suffering and experience because they have read a bunch of books in an Ivy League University.

Others are well adept in Slacktivisim and love to post things on their walls that made them seem well meaning and informed.  For them,  activism is almost a show a way to pat themselves on the back. My x boyfriend was like this, always lecturing me on how to think or talk constantly putting things up on his wall to seem informed reminding me about how much you have to ” Check your privilege”.  Being around him was exhausting, it was all about the ” right ” thing to say, and never truly admitting that sometimes you were ignorant about things.  In that world, it was all about seeming ” open” but never truly about engaging in conversations with people of diverse opinions. It was silently judging everyone else was was prejudiced or ignorant but in many ways it made them complacent in their own misconceptions.  It was about talking about causes but never truly volunteering or trying to work towards significant change.

He would talk about his “exotic” x girlfriends as if they were badges of his awareness. He would make sure he would say it in front of any of my friends especially if they were a different race or culture.  It’s the kind of activism that is more about a sense of guilt and how it looks then really wanting to make a difference.   At times this approach is judgmental and divisive, a sort of competition of who is  most ” aware “, the type that posts about their achievements more than actually doing anything . The cause ceases to be important.  You know the type. The kind that loves to pose in front of a lot of ” diverse” children smiling to the camera and give inspirational quotes about their achievements. They know all the right words to say , but cease to see people as people and more as causes. They are more about how activism looks to other people and not doing actual true significant change.  Yes they are politically correct, educated and ” aware” but are they really truly free from prejudice?

In college , I worked at a vegetarian Co Op. (I was a horrible employee. I admit it. I left at the earliest possible moment, so take this story with a grain of salt). There was a girl there , we shall call her Thea.  Every week there was an employee meeting ( not paid btw) and everyone talked about their ” feelings” . I briefly said I was doing ok, there was a flood going on in El Salvador but everyone seemed to be fine. I shrugged. Then it was Thea’s turn. Her blonde dreadlocks wobbled around her as she teared up. ” I am so worried for my womyn ( Yes, that’s how she pronounced and wrote it) in COATetepeque ( She made sure she emphasized it) those wonderful women that I spent two weeks with … ” The girl went on and on and on and on. Everyone ran to console her while I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Girl, this isn’t your tragedy. Stop.”

I know, I am being really judgmental about this type.  I’ve found that oddly this type is also the most judgmental towards my own background. When I say I grew up in El Salvador and I don’t feel like giving the whole explanation of where I am from,  and when people find out my mother is Scottish and my dad is Italian they think I’ve ” Lied” about my background. That I am not really ” from ” El Salvador. It causes a real visceral reaction in people.  It’s as if I have to justify my existence. It’s an odd thing, because if the roles were reversed and you told someone who was not born in the USA but grew up there that they are ” Lying” and they are not ” really American” it would be insulting and absurd.

The truth is, I am not from a particular place. I am from many countries and backgrounds. I’m ok with that.  I think people who are multicultural and to an even larger degree people who are biracial or multiracial challenges political correctness, challenges what people want to believe or judge about others.

Political correctness only gives you a tool to make it seem like you are informed or not prejudiced. It never teaches you to reach out and have conversations with other people, it does not teach you to constantly be educated. Anyone can fall into ignorance or prejudice. It’s how we truly want to deal with and to take the first step towards ridding ourselves of prejudice that makes a real difference.

I’ve encountered three types of prejudice in my life , the first is just simply ignorance. Some people just don’t know. They weren’t taught in schools and they are mirroring what their parents are saying.  Then there are those who hate others and know they hate them.

But there is a third kind which I think are the most damaging. It’s the kind that simply denies it’s existence. It’s the kind that live in a bubble, the perfectly nice polite person who knows all the right words to say but doesn’t really truly want to hear when things get ugly. It’s the person whom if you say you have been sexually harassed on the street will say ” Oh I am sure you didn’t hear it right”. It’s the reaction when you say that your friend in Spain was ostracized for being hispanic who will just shake their head and ignore it. It’s the person who wants to live in a society where pain and ugliness does not exist. Who desperately wants to think that we live in a world that ” sees no color”.  They want to erase the narrative because it challenges everything they believe in. Imagine if you thought all your life you lived in a safe neighborhood and then one day your neighbor has their car stolen.  The first reaction to this is ” Oh maybe they just lost their car or maybe the man didn’t really mean to steal the car, it doesn’t mean that my neighborhood isn’t safe”. If they admitted that their neighbor’s car was stolen on their street, it would mean that their view of the neighborhood is a lie. It would mean that crime does exist it just hasn’t happened to them.  Instead of working with your neighbors to address the issue and try to make your street safer, you live in a denial that it even exists. The neighborhood slowly becomes so filled with crime and problems  until it reaches a point where you can’t ignore it anymore. This is what has happened to America.  And yet still you can try to make yourself believe that it doesn’t exist or happen.

That’s the most dangerous kind of prejudice as it is willful ignorance, surpressing the victim and gaslighting their experience because it makes someone uncomfortable.  It’s hiding behind a word and not really want to see the ugly things behind the veil. It’s seeing footage of a crime and STILL denying it.

It’s calls for unity and love yet not really wanting either, rather to surpress the uncomfortable reality we live in. Real unity is not in words alone. It is in actions, it is in the everyday cosmos of living in a diverse world where there isn’t just one truth. It’s acknowledging that while you may not have ever said horrible hateful things to someone , it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Instead of denying it’s existence, grab someone’s hand and smile at them. Instead of taking over the narrative, try empathizing with your fellow man.  We need to start talking with each other, trying to have these difficult conversations. We need to admit we don’t know all the answers just because we have the right vocabulary.

Finding Peace and Equality

 

Annoying Clichés in Young Adult Romance Fiction

O.k I am going to talk about my LEAST favorite genre in the young adult books. This is also the one I am pretty concerned about because there are some themes that are being retreaded over and over and over.
When I was a kid, if you wanted to read YA romance novels you usually turned to sweet valley high. They weren’t perfect- they are pretty darn close to pretty little liars- but it seems Ya fiction has come a long way from that former assessment.
I guess romance novels have become a beast in of itself, and while I was sort of expecting chick lit- which I don’t seem to mind reading from time to time- this seemed a lot more like harlequin romances than anything.
They are also trending number one in teen novels…beside fantasy/ sci fi and dystopian novels.Which have the same similar themes. As I started to read them a lot of them became blurred into the same darn plot albeit some key changes here and there.

Lover Boy as the Bad Damaged Distant Guy

He has penetrating eyes, and strong biceps tends to be a ladies man but doesn’t seem to connect with anyone. He is damaged , in some way or another. He has a dark past which usually involves sexual, physical or some kind of abuse. He has horrible parents or absent ones. He has no direction in life until he meets….

Wimpy Damaged Heroine

Our damaged heroine is a victim. She has been a victim of horrible parents/death/rape/incest/domestic violence… but somehow is still pretty wimpy. She shivers a lot and is unaware of her captivating beauty. That all changes when she meets ( insert ridiculous name here ) who awakens her and frightens her at the same time. Even though he is dangerous, and can’t stand having anyone talk to her or any men around her she feels ALIVE. She has no real ambition of her own. We don’t know any of her talents, we don’t know how she thinks and quite frankly she is pretty annoying. Despite people saying how great she is, she is pretty one dimensional

I hated these two themes more than anything else because it promotes the idea that if you fall in love, your pain and scars will disappear… if anything without therapy a relationship with two very screwed up individuals can become even more conflicted , toxic and codependent. It is not a cure, and romanticizing codependency is an extremely irresponsible thing to do . They very rarely really deepen on how this pain affects the characters. If you really want to know the effect of physical or sexual abuse go read i know why the caged bird sings, among other books. It’s really very dark and you do not recover just by some manly man cradling your weakened body into your arms.

Unecessary Conflict
After a lot of misunderstanding they get close… like fall- in -love- after- three- days -close. And then like there is some random stupid barrier that doesn’t allow them to get closer …. some misunderstanding

At the last minute
They realize their love until

Another unecessary conflict
Usually someone is about to die, is going to die or will die. Only they don’t …they make some miraculous recovery.

The girl is always a virgin
There is a lot of very steamy love scenes in this which surprises me because it is catered to teens where the stupid inexperienced virgin ( that everyone is surprised she is a virgin at 17 ….) gets experienced finally by the bad boy.

All Characters are white and American…
These guys don’t get around much in terms of diversity.

The characters get married
They get married without finishing school, having any ambition or even a view of the future. Most of these characters get married within six months of knowing each other.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Bad romance novels bad. I am not a romance novel expert so please school me but surely we don’t have to retread the same plot over and over to appease teenagers.

Trolling Behind the mask of anonymity

For a couple of years, we have seen the Troll slowly become more and more powerful in our daily society. This year, especially seems to be the year of the Troll. People have become emboldened to hurt others because they see it yields results.

When I wrote this piece a couple years ago I didn’t truly understand teh depths of cyber bullying and trolling and how brutal it can be.   There is something altogether sinister about trolling , the person who is attacked ceases to be anything other than a target to do harm.  Armed with an army of trolls, together they can try to bring down entire population of people. They hack into websites, telephones, steal privacy, find phone numbers, and try to find the biggest underbelly of their vulnerability.

And the question is… why? I’ve been livestreaming for a year and  ever since I started  I have noticed the high toll of trolls come my way. As more and more people became attracted to watching my Periscope, so came the trolls in droves. Initially it flabbergasted me, and it saddened me not for myself but for the young kids I knew they were targeting as well.

The Troll is consumed by jealousy, of seeing the world in Black and White and trotting the world with their own personal agenda. There have been several different kind of ” trolls” that invade my space, and as a writer and an observer of human nature I found it all really fascinating… What made these people waste their time trying to bring others down? Did they feel empowered by their anonymity? Did they feel stronger by doing so?

 

The Mean Girls

These trolls baffle me the most. These girls are beautiful, skinny, young… they have everything going for them so why do they come into my livestream to call me ” an overstuffed pig” when I am doing makeup? What compells them to take time out of their day to do this?  They are still young, and believe that their beauty makes them invincible.  Perhaps they do this as an attention tactic, as a way to get views for themselves. Perhaps they do it for a reaction. There is something to be said about young female millenials who have been born with a smartphone attached to themselves. All they know is social media, and external validation. But this is a crumbling facade, filled with pink tinged filters and flawless makeup skills. Underneath, in the dark when all the lights have gone out you cannot deny the loneliness that creeps inside you. There is an anger that comes in the way they lash out on me. Sometimes they bring their friends, a posse of mean girls to say things and point and laugh. We live in a society that makes memes out of fat people, who takes photographs of people without them knowing in Wal Mart stores. There is a message ” She’s not me. ” Once, a young girl came in when we were dancing salsa. She was fat herself and she had invited her friends to make fun of me. This truly flabbergasted me, but I wondered if she herself was being bullied… if somehow she turned on me so she would not be the focus for once.

Trolls rarely are original either. Most of them say the same phrases over and over, or try things on for shock value.  I have seen these type of ” Mean Girls’ from every country imaginable : Mexico, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, El Salvador , England, United States…  They are also secretly, the ones I believe eventually are curious and become your follower ( most of the time through a different username). In the end, they are curious : How is it that a fat girl is confident enough to show her face in front of hundreds of people? Why isn’t she hiding away in the shadows? I hope they learn something from it  and I can give away the secret : Real confidence comes from who you are and not what you look like.

The Political Trolls

Everyone has an agenda, especially in today’s political climate. It’s a messy world, one that contains a lot of people who are invested in being ” right”. With the rise of the Alt Right and White Nationalists, this has become even more apparent. When I was livestreaming from El Salvador I would get an onslaught of people telling me that ” All Mexicans should be burned”… that I was a ” traitor to the white race” and that ” multiculturalism is death”.

They basically repeat the same talking points over and over. They bring in their army to try intimidate you. What’s scary is that this behavior is now being rewarded.  These people live in willful ignorance, and while as a Bahai I tried to reason with them that unity in diversity, that all immigrants are not the cause of the problems in America, that women aren’t crazy SJW’s… but the truth is they don’t want to change. They are hanging unto the change of the river and choosing to stay there. I refuse to believe they will win in the end. I am not a political person, but as you all have read throughout the years I believe in social justice. This is the one type of troll that can truly affect me . Not for me, but for all the poor people listening to their hate. When I decided to livestream about what to do for immigrants who might be deported in America, I had 13k people come into my Periscope, many of which were spewing out the worst amount of hate speech imagineable.  With this type of people it’s best to not engage at all.

 

The predator trolls.
These trolls are concerned with one thing and one thing only, trying to get women naked objectify and humiliate women . They feel empowered by saying the most disgusting things imagineable because they hide behind a veil of anonymity. What is baffling is that there are tons of places these people can go for that, but it’s almost as if they feel emboldened by people’s refusal.

 

The Trolls who do it out of Boredom

These trolls are the most baffling : they truly take glee on making others people hurt. There’s a disconnect behind what they do in real life and the fact that people are real behind the screen.  All the rage , frustration and hurt is vented on people they don’t know and they won’t ever know. The dichotomy of a life which embodies people who readily have jobs, children, school, mothers and sisters yet say the most heinous things imagineable is only a testament to a society which gleefully engages in the humiliation of others. Is this not an extension of an audience who gleefully watches Reality shows and sees peoples suffer? This has been going on for centuries, ever since the Romans watched the Christians being consumed by lions.

 

Words have power only if you give it power.  I choose not to engage with these trolls or to become enraged by them. When I die, I want to have died and led a meaningful life. I want to see the people who made my life give me purpose. I want to be a light in the darkness , a tiny speck in  the evening sky ready to fly with other lights. I don’t want to embrace a darkness, to humiliate, to give in to rage or hurt. These words are not mine but theirs. They are hurt human beings who choose to live a life where they think hurting others is a source of entertainment. They hold no place in my life.

One person told me I was a rhinoceros . I told him he was right. Rhinos are big , beautiful with thick skin who charge head first into the wilderness. There is nothing painful about being called an animal,  animals would never treat anything the way trolls do. Embrace who you are and rise above like the sun .

 

Breasts, Cleavage and Feminism

The other day, Emma Watson was under fire for a picture she had posed for were she showed quite a bit of cleavage. As the interview stated, she could not be a feminist if she was wearing something like this.  This was her response:

 

It’s an odd paradox. Feminism is surely something that is supposed to bring people together especially women, and celebrate sisterhood but why is it so often something we use to judge others and be criticize of HOW we try for this to happen?

Females are judged on a separate scale to men. Men can happily run around in running shorts bare chested and no one will blink an eye, but women are immediately judged by their appearance because it is the very thing they are defined by.

As a girl with big breasts, the subject resonates especially hard for me. I feel constantly judged and slut shamed for wearing any outfit especially if it shows cleavage. A couple of years back I had a facebook photograph of myself that I liked my smile. However people thought it was ” Slutty” and were ” Shocked” at it and asked for me to take it down.

me march

On another occasion I had a photograph of myself at the beach in a dress.  Someone joked at how ” booby” I looked and tried to mock it, despite the fact that there are countless pictures of them in tiny bikinis. It seems the double standard is clear : If you have big breasts you aren’t allowed to show in a dress, you should never run and you should be cognizant at all times of how to sit stand lean or bend down.

I am constantly finding that women are ” Horrified” if I wear a dress with cleavage, or if I bend down or even stand a certain way. Often when I was younger I would make sure I would disappear in my shirts and wear as many scarves as possible. I would purposely look unflattering so as not to offend. It took me a long time to realize that what I wear does not mean I am not responsible of how others feel about it and in many ways this is a direct result of the rape culture we live in.

Last summer I was talking to a friend of mine and I came out in a jumpsuit I was particularly proud of since it cost me seven dollars. We were talking about assault, as I told her some of my painful stories of men following me in the streets. She told me ” Well maybe it was what you were wearing or the vibe you gave out … I mean after all that gives attention”. The idea that, somehow what I wear makes me responsible of a man harrassing me and stalking me, calling me names and even grabbing me and making me fear for my safety is ludicrous. What we should wonder more is WHY this happens to so many women, why so many men think this behavior is acceptable.

Breasts are a topic that make people uncomfortable , which is absurd because the very reason they exist are not even for sexual reasons but for lifegiving ones that celebrates motherhood. We distort this ideal to think that breasts are not only just sexual, but somehow belong to others. Having big breasts mean you get a lot of unwarranted attention, or made to feel guilty because somehow you want to feel nice. It makes you feel defensive that someone who is genuinely interested in you might have ulterior motives to do with your chest. The problem is not that it’s a nice feature to have, the problem is that it is something we are taught to be ashamed of and worse, it is not something that belongs to us. Somehow , because one has big breasts, we have to be judged by some other insane standard.

As the BBC article states

Ms Smethers says: “The real issue about all of this is the pressure on young women to look a certain way, to be judged on their appearance so if we are going to focus on anything that’s what I would be more concerned to be prioritised.”

Dr Mackay questions why the debate has been reduced to a celebrity exposing her breasts rather than issues such as women’s economic positions and cuts to women’s services

One time I was temping where I had to proctor a police entrance  exam. They told us to go in our best possible dress, as it was winter I went in a basic sweater dress. I had a jacket in my ammunition as well as a scarf in case it was needed. The other temp was a man who came in a rumpled shirt and khaki pants with a coffee stain on it. The first hour at 6 am I went with the woman in charge to take out the exams. She too was wearing a sweater dress. I went to the bathroom and by then most of the men were there to take the exam. There was another woman there and she was giving me a dirty look. The first woman said  ” I need to talk to you, you need to leave…” . I was perplexed. What had I done? SHe told me ” Please you know what you are doing”. When I told her if my dress was too insulting I had a scarf I could wear to cover myself up if that was necessary. She said ” Just leave you are making a scene”. Meanwhile the man who came in completely unkempt was allowed to stay, later on they accused me of not ” being professional”.  I sent a photograph of what I was wearing as proof that there was nothing much wrong with it. I got my check. Here’s the dress I wore:

1899941_10154771094915006_3782791840085683228_n-2

The point of that story is to say that somehow someone’s standard is different just because you are built differently.  Instead of focusing on what we wear we should focus on someone’s character, their personality and who they are as a person. There are plenty of issues we have to fight for including wage gap, lack of education, rape culture, violence against women among many other topics. Yet, somehow, it’s easier to focus on what we can control which is what someone wears and how they conduct themselves. Meanwhile, women throughout the world are going through horrific abuse and the very real issue of male privilege is still altogether prevalent. What women wear is the least of our worries.

While we all have standards of modesty, judging others and belittling them is not acceptable either. We waste far too much time focusing on externalized notions of what it means to be a woman and not enough time focusing on educating everyone on redefining womanhood.  Ultimately, having the freedom to make decisions- even bad ones- is what freedom of choice is. I’m not going to be ashamed of what I look like, and I am done feel responsible for other’s judgement or aggression. What matters to me is that I feel comfortable in my own skin, the only one who can truly judge is God and myself and that I am doing my utmost to help younger girls in low income situations become the best person they can be .I want them to look up to me not because of what I wear or who I am with but how we can all become active agents of change.