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.

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.

 

 

The Chubby Mermaid and the Scarecrow

As a pisces, I have always been attracted to water. There is something altogether peaceful and soothing about immersing myself into the ocean. I always ended up close to water, be it the pond by my Grandparent’s house, the ocean that is 20 minutes away from my mother’s house, the still swan and lake in Chertsey. Feeling water around me helps me to submerge into my surroundings. The sound of the water, the feel of it in my toes and the smells transport me away. Most of . my memories were with water.

As a child I was also quite fearless, disappearing into busy streets and going off into malls by myself. It was no surprise that I took to water quickly and learned how to swim. Even when water can become deadly, like the time I twisted into a whirlpool in the ocean in Tenerife, water has never been anything that I feared. When I am without it, I feel desolate and dry.  I was convinced, therefore, when I was seven that I truly was born a mermaid but somehow I had been stranded on bare land. I dreamed of going back in the ocean and my favorite story was that of the Little Mermaid, even if the fairy tale was quite sad.

My parent’s friends Carol and Andrew came to live in El Salvador a year after we moved. They were larger than life, but their son was tiny and skinny with large tufts of hair never quite placed in the right way. He reminded me of a scarecrow, and we spent some time in our childhood making up stories of my cat being sent to the moon. However, I was independent and thought boys were annoying so I often ditched him to explore on my own.

One day, we went to the beach. The beach in Atami is riddled with rocks and black sand. There is a huge drop to the beach as the resort is placed far above it and one of the most popular things to do was to frequent the water slide.

Another interesting part of the beach in El Salvador was a rocky salt water pool. The giant rock stood high above the beach but when high tide came the water would change. This pool changed it’s depth anytime high tide came making it go from a shallow pool to a deeper one in a matter of seconds. It was more than a little dangerous, being that you could easily be swept up to your death with the tide reaching the beach and falling to your death. There wasn’t any lifeguards or anyone safeguarding them, which in retrospect is more than a little baffling.

Carol was watching us from the pier as we went into the pool and neither Jason nor Carol could swim. But Jason insisted on going where I was going, and me being a chubby mermaid and him being a tiny scarecrow it was hardly a good idea.  At first the pool was great, the salt water and the slippery rocks and warm water was extremely relaxing.  You couldn’t even see the shore, as Atami rock pool was almost going past the tide.

Atami Escape Resort

I grew bored of the pool so eventually  I walked away from it. I was sort of far away when I heard a commotion. Jason, who was tiny and skinny and white was flailing in the water. The waves had come in making the pool far deeper. His little stick arms were flailing desperately back and forth yet everyone was just standing around looking and not helping.  I ran past them figuring at least someone would help but Carol could only try and go in somewhat. Without thinking, I jumped into the water. I remember seeing Jason fall into the deep, his white form like a ghost , I remember the force of the tides and I remember grabbing him out of there. Luckily he was lucid enough that he didn’t require CPR.

It seems interesting this story, because it was the closest I came to death but I also remember it clearly for everyone was waiting for someone else to save him.