Feminism Explained

OKAY. So this is me on a complete high (natural, non-herbal, non-narcotic kind). More like fired up because I just saw #FeministsAreUgly trending on Twitter. I’m literally giving you all my unfiltered, unedited thoughts on this because my emotions can’t take it. So, I apologize in advance for any horrendous grammar mistakes. Nevertheless, let’s get these thoughts out before my keyboard takes any further damage. But yes, this hashtag is causing my blood pressure to rise and some of the twatfaces who don’t know a single thing about feminism all of a sudden feel like they have the freakin’ presidential right to bash those who fight for equality.

First, let’s cool down a bit and define feminism.

Feminism is the advocacy of women’s economic, social, and political rights. It’s a movement to empower women and rid this Earth of its inherently misogynistic attitudes.  It is not an excuse for “man-hating,” it’s a conversation starter to a much bigger issue. Feminism is about EQUALITY.

I can’t believe the stuff that’s flooding my dashboard under this hashtag! Feminist are taking selfies and posting photos of Beyoncè and Emma Watson with captions like “if these are ugly feminist, then I don’t want to be beautiful.” I totally get it, let’s show the world how beautiful feminism can be in the most physical sense, because this hashtag is completely invalid in that argument. I agree! However, feminism is not about beauty.  The reason why Emma Watson is so successful in advocating for women’s rights is all thanks to her actions, NOT because she was the face of Burberry. This hashtag is (hopefully) satirical. Meaning, it’s used to actually deny the Western ideals of women’s beauty. If it’s to flip the switch, then it’s working. Feminism is used to uplift people, so I love that everyone is sharing their confidence and telling others they’re pretty. But lets not forget that feminism spreads a greater message: women are more than their physical features. This issue of women being sexualized and submissive is a tale as old as time. It’s a tale that sparked feminism in the  first place. It’s our way of giving misogyny the finger. We say screw the ideals placed upon us and show the world our power. If I have to fight crime in a little black dress, then I will. But just because I’m wearing a dress, doesn’t mean I won’t kick ass.

Then there are idiots who say, “there they go again, being a bunch of annoyingly angry feminists.” The amount of eye-rolling I’ve done while scrolling through the hashtag feed is insane. I feel like I’ve given myself a headache just by doing that. But then I realized it’s not the eye-rolling, it’s the ignorance that inflated these brain cells of mine. “Angry feminists” is such a common association to the movement. I’m not going to lie, I’ve witnessed a few “angry” feminists in my time but that’s because they are passionate. There is nothing wrong about being passionate! We need that kind of fuel to ignite conversations like this one. If Susan B. Anthony or Lucy Stone weren’t “angry” about the injustice being done to women, then our world would be a different place. There’s a fine line between complaining and informing. You must know the difference before you simply brush off what someone is saying or doing. Instead of calling out angry feminists, why don’t you search the web and give yourself a history lesson as to why what is being said is important. Think about it.

This bit is specifically to the men out there. You don’t have to be female to be a feminist! Like I said, this is about equal rights not “who gets what.” It’s a collaborative effort to put the rights of women in the forefront. Let’s face it, men have it better than women in this world. It’s proven. But let’s also compare the past to the present. We’ve come so far and things have changed. To pave the path to a more gender-equal society, men have to learn the art of sacrifice. Some of you need to let go of certain privileges, step alongside women, and realize that the throne you sit on isn’t perfect. I think that some men are great. But if anyone, was to abuse their power, know that I will call you out. Females argue better than men, remember that. 😉 Jokes aside, if you still believe women are less capable of doing a man’s task, I highly suggest you reevaluate your life. Have a conversation with your mother. Ask your sister how she feels. Maybe actually talking to a female would put things into perspective. To the men who have the balls to stand against injustice towards women and strongly believe in gender-equality, know I’m sending you a hug. We aren’t asking you to fight our battle, we are asking you to support us in it. I know that if men were being mistreated, I’d want to step in and show you that you are not alone.

Ladies, you should be thanking feminists. How can you smack-talk other women for fighting YOUR fight? Why can’t we just unite for once? Females are competitive. GREAT! But sometimes, other females just want to bring a sister down. Know your roots and realize that this negative energy you’re giving off isn’t helping.  We owe a lot to the past women movements and should want to keep that tradition alive. In moaning about feminism, you disregard your ability to even have access to education, own any kind of property, or even buy a Starbucks latte in the morning. Our lives could have been different. You could have been born in a time period where you didn’t have any rights. There are other countries to this day, where women are treated even more brutally than in the one you live in now. I urge you to shed selfish behavior and think about those less fortunate. If you don’t want to have these rights, at least allow the message of equality to spread to the countries who desperately seek it. Think, if you were stripped of your rights, how would you feel?  Would you even have a right to complain?  How can you accept being silenced? You wouldn’t be able to have social media accounts or post selfies. The little things you enjoy now wouldn’t exist if you weren’t given the right.

I could care less about who started this hashtag. What I’m more interested about is the action it sparked. It’s so important to have this conversation. As much as we’ve progressed from the past, we have a long way to go. The fight isn’t over. There’s still work to be done. The load would be a lot lighter if people would come together instead of tear each other apart on the Internet. Educate yourselves. Support one another for the good of all. To talk about feminism, also opens the conversation regarding other social issues and movements.

The Uproar on Cat-calling Explained.

I thought I could just sit back and keep my opinions to myself… but when does that ever work?

After the swarm of comments and rage about the 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman video has simmered down a bit, now is the best time to really go in on this topic. Now, this won’t be a research paper. I’m not going to break down any statistics, analyze race ratios, or break down the places she went to. However if you must, please refer to this. I want to talk about the underlying reason to why this video has caused so much controversy.

In the video, an actress by the name of Shoshana B. Roberts walked around the streets of New York where she was “cat-called” and “harassed” by various men. Before even clicking play, I knew where it was going. I knew the video was going to include men trying to catch a woman’s attention. I knew it was meant to go viral. I knew the kind of comments the video was going to receive. Every woman; intentionally or unintentionally, from New York or not, has experienced something similar to what Shoshana went through. Even if it wasn’t as open as “cat-calling”, you see the looks they give you. And as annotated in the video, there were various instances in which it did happen. But one of the main reasons so many are fussed about this clip is because of the terms associated to the situation: “Cat-calling” and “Harassment.” It’s a problem, because some people don’t believe what was said and done are actual issues or fit the terms stated.  In a sense, they are right. There is no problem with men calling a woman beautiful. There is no problem telling someone “God bless” or “have a nice day.” There is no problem giving someone a smile. There is no problem trying to start a conversation with people.

But to say there is absolutely nothing wrong with what’s going on in the video disturbs me, because you missed the message.

It is the intention that determines the action. Whether it was Shoshana, a blond-hair blue-eyed goddess, a plus-size beauty, or an oompa-loompa, it proves that your intention is not stimulated by the subject itself.  Whether she is fully clothed or half-naked, you have an image of what you want to see. You react to it. I get it though, certain situations will call for different stimulations. One might be more responsive to Adriana Lima in a bra and underwear than when she is in an oversized sweater, baggy sweatpants, and shades that hide half of her face.

Guys get a bad rep all the time when it comes to complimenting women because there’s this misconception that 100% of the time, they are just sweet-talking her to hit “Third Base.” It’s never going to be because they actually think someone is beautiful. When you watch the video and read the men-bashing comments, you see where it all comes from. Because if you just hear the statements said by the guys in the video, take it out of context and place it on a blank sheet of paper, they are just a set of words and simple phrases. They are harmless, positive statements. But how do we read the sentences in a book? How do we understand what someone is saying if we don’t get the sense in which they are coming from? How do you differentiate terms that have more than one meaning without a context? The context is found in the intention. So simply saying “hi” in its formal context of greeting someone is fine. Add some intent in getting their number to potentially stir up a steamy rendezvous to that simple “hi” and you get a whole different story.

Still don’t understand? Let me give you another example, in the form of sarcasm:

Your neighbor says, “Your mom’s cakes are delicious.”

What it means (the simple meaning): her baking skills are on point and she should put up her own bakery because her cakes are that good.

Sarcasm (with the intention of lying): your mom’s baking is complete trash and I want to barf up what I just ate. But we are friends and your home is literally right beside mine, so telling your mother the truth can potentially mean the end of our friendship… and death threats plastered on my door.

Sarcasm (with malicious, humorous intent): I don’t mean your mother’s baking skills. I’m not even talking about actual baked goods. I’m talking about her goods. Basically, your mom is really hot and I’d like a piece of her [body part].

Three different meanings, but the same phrase.

There are genuine men out there, but they are obviously not any of those in this video. A real man would know how to approach a female with respect. That one guy who says, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful. You should say thank you more” did not respect her. He followed up with, “for real?” as if the woman owed him something and he deserved to be responded to. The next man says, “God bless you mami” and checks out her butt like she was a piece of meat. Even with his face blurred out, we all know he was checking her out. May he find the true meaning of a blessing and I hope he knows the God he mentions. Oh, and let’s not forget the man in purple! “Hey look it there! I just saw a thousand dollars.” Really? How dare you. He not only deserves a major slap to the face, but a whole entire lecture of how wrong it is to put a price on a woman (or any person for that matter).

You better believe that I was pretty upset with the men in this video. I felt bad for the guys who are put into the same category as these idiots, just because they share the same anatomy! Some of you guys still give us hope. We know how it is to be generalized and ridiculed because of these horrible stereotypes. For the handful of us who still believe in things like chivalry and a good guy, we are cheering you on. And I urge you, on behalf of humanity, to teach these boys how to act like real men. As a female, I feel for Shoshana. Although she is an actress, she represents the women who are put in such situations (no matter one’s ethnicity, body size, or clothing choice). To be looked at or talked to in a particular way because you are a woman, is a problem that has been ongoing since before we were born. It is relevant and will always exist, because although the human mind has contributed to so many advances in our modern-day society, we cannot control the things that it creates. We don’t control someone’s mind. There is no flipping of the switch, but if there was, that person is responsible to exert any effort in making the light bulb work. As consumers, we are the decision makers. You have the freedom of choice in buying into a product (that is also the idea of its use and how you value it). Often times, we buy into the things we know isn’t particularly good. So, knowing that hollering at a woman is not a necessary good, but doing it anyway because of whatever reason, is a similar concept.

Now, let’s address the notion that “calling someone beautiful is not harassment.” You social media butterflies are right. But when you make someone uncomfortable, it is. Harassment Laws say that first degree harassment is “engaging in a course of conduct which places another person in reasonable fear of physical injury.” So, following a lady and trying to talk to her when she clearly doesn’t want to, is harassment. Since we can’t read each other’s mind, how the hell will you know that she isn’t in fear of physical injury? Exactly. To be seen as a threat is a close call to harassment. It’s best to just back off. Now, you can say it’s a kind of paranoia. We don’t know what you’re going to do, which is exactly why it is fear. If a woman engages you, and gives you the time of day, go for it. Maybe she is interested. But please ladies, make sure a ‘no’ means NO and don’t put these guys in a trap. If he violates you in any way, make it known that it is wrong; don’t wait until it escalates into something much bigger. Speak up and make sure that voice doesn’t go silent. Guys, respect a woman’s “NO” and don’t let it hurt your ego. If you were being a jerk, then you probably deserve it! But if she was being really weird, then it’s beneficial to you anyways. You’ll find someone better. Just give them the courtesy you would give the women in your family, because if a guy was to ever disrespect your mother or sister wouldn’t you be upset?  Let’s all practice what we preach.

Harassment is a major claim. It is not to be taken lightly, which is why others look at this video and roll their eyes. However, I think that the bigger message is to see the reality of harassment. It comes in so many forms and although it is not as serious as people think it is in this video, it expresses the gravity of much larger cases out there in the world. What about the cases where women are being pulled aside or groped? What about those who aren’t women, yet go through this? What about those who do go through severe cases of harassment? People can get ugly and most of the time a camera doesn’t capture it. A camera can’t reflect the actual fear a person feels. And here’s some food for thought: a camera shows you a certain thing it wants to reveal, where the person recording it has a choice of angle and subject. It’s a projection of already happened events, pre-recorded, edited, and uploaded for you to view. It is only one story, one point of view. Still, it allows you to question “what more?”

I’m a person who can come up with major come-backs. I’d like for everyone to know that if you catch me during the wrong time, my response could potentially hurt your feelings. So, let’s dive deeper to this notion of “silent” walking, because I definitely would have given some of these men a piece of my mind. Why couldn’t she have said something or the video be more responsive? Well, thanks to my analytical skills, I’ve come to a conclusion: Harassment is often put to the side. Not many report harassment, nor do people actually know they are victims of it. Harassment is silenced by our society. We don’t know what to do when it happens to us and we don’t know what it looks like when we are faced with it. It is tuned out, because “it’s not that bad” or is seen as a minor issue. There is simply not enough action being put forth to solving it. This video shows how insensitive people can be to an issue that is sensitive. I want to point out that I am not only talking about those in the video, but everyone commenting on it. It shows a wide array of people using words and action to target an individual who isn’t doing anything wrong. It makes you question how much longer until someone doesn’t have to feel like they are walking in silence? How much longer doesn’t it take for people to realize it is not just about women or the individual in this video, but those who are actually “cat-calling” or harassing them? Yes, Hollaback created a viral clip; but it isn’t just something you watch for entertainment… it’s to educate you. It is to provoke thought on the larger issue. It’s to help you realize that something is wrong. It makes you question everything else that the lens didn’t capture.

“No one is ever completely happy, or free, or safe” Explained.

If there is one quote from Nella Larsen’s Passing, that can easily touch on all the themes from the novel it would be:

“I’m beginning to believe,” she murmured, “that no one is ever completely happy, or free, or safe” (Larsen 121).

Take a minute and let that settle. Not much of an optimistic motivator, huh? I know. Humans are a unique species that’s able to take free will and run with it. But of course with all our decisions bring forth consequences: good and bad ones. Funny, when you think of it. If free will gives us no boundaries, then why are there consequences we must face afterwards? It should be a stream of actions and no limitations. Won’t our “free-will” or decision to do whatever we want to, be influenced one way or another? That’s why what we do, I would like to think, is for happiness. Because a bad consequence is something no one really aims for.

In Larsen’s novel, Clare and Irene marry for some kind of happiness. Though Clare’s situation can be seen as her marrying to reserve her “white identity,” I can still see it as her choice to be happy. Or in the least, be content with her choice. As for Irene, it is pretty evident that she loves her family and will do just about anything to satisfy and keep them whole. However, in both cases, the women in the novel aren’t truly happy. The initial sense of happiness is just a front, a mask to distract whoever is looking outward in, that they are complete. Internally, they are broken. Clare has to suffer her husband’s racist comments and Irene is paranoid that she isn’t enough for her spouse. Which brings me to the next point: freedom. Because they are confined in a marriage, Clare and Irene cannot really escape their husbands’ highly opinionated personalities and must abide by certain rules. The notion of freedom is also closely related to identity. Both women are a mixed race of white and black, so the stereotype as well as their physical appearance hinder them from being self-expressive. They are looked at as what they are supposed to be, opposed to respected as who they want to be. Their identities are inescapable.

Trying to answer how one can be “safe” is very interesting in Larsen’s novel. There are many secrets, suspicions, and taboos explored in Passing, that the question of safety becomes relevant in the major scenes. Because Clare sneaks off to Harlem to be amongst her fellow black community, her secret to her husband is at risk. Mr. Bellew is oblivious to the fact that Clare is half black and if he finds out, he will be furious. The consequences of Clare’s other identity coming out will call for a very hostile response. Aside from identity and secrets, worldly issues become a problem in the Redfield household. Irene’s husband wants his little boy to know the issues and topics discussed in the real world, and not only what he learns in school. He wants to prepare his son to know the ins and outs of reality and ensure that this fantasy life of childhood is not the only world he knows. But as a mother, Irene’s instincts kick in, and shelter her boy from the harsh realities of the grown up world. Though, no matter how much a mother tries, her children will see the world they try so much to shelter them from. It is no longer “safe” because information reaches young ones unfiltered and their minds tend to wander into the unknown. A parent can only do so much in guiding their children, but they can never really control what is handed to them.

One of my professors told me that we need to have a sense that we are free. We are told we have freedom and can achieve anything we put our minds to. But it’s a system. We are told this because once we figure out that it isn’t true, there will be and uproar. People will just go insane. And it’s true. No matter what our decision are, they are never completely ours. Rational beings have to think, sometimes over-think, their actions. The simple fact that we think before we act proves that this freedom holds a kind of responsibility. And responsibility is binding. So how can we ever be truly happy, free, and safe, if we know we have to pay for it at the end? We won’t know, is the answer. But we can’t let that question bother us too much. So live like there’s no tomorrow? NO. Live like there is tomorrow, because you shouldn’t restrict yourself to just today.

Falling in Between a Hyphen Explained.

I am American by citizenship/birthright, but Filipino by blood. I was born and raised in the wonderful city of New York, but my upbringing didn’t shy away from the traditions of a Filipino household. I speak my language pretty well, know a bit of my homeland’s history, and current events. I probably know more about the celebrities in the Philippines than those in American television. I’ve visited the Philippines countless times and constantly yearn to be swimming in its transparent waters or immersed with locals in the market. I am so proud to call it home and to be a part of such a deep culture. We are known to be proud people, always raving about our culture, but I like to think there is a good reason for it. I mean, have you been to a Filipino party? We won’t just feed you, we will let you take home some of the food. Not only that, but we will entertain you with some uncles who can’t dance and mothers who will sing some of the music industry’s greatest hits… as if they were the originals. Overall, we are a fun, happy, loving bunch of people.

And even though there’s a great side of being Filipino-American, there’s a dark side to it side as well.

I have to accept that I fall in between a hyphen. Because I wasn’t born Filipino, I am not truly Filipino. Because I live in America and mingled with a whole diversity of people, experienced “American things,” and haven’t eaten Balut, I am not entirely Filipino. “My education is American.” I haven’t “lived” the harsh realities of the Philippines, so I can’t identify with its struggle. I’m not part white, so I can’t be “American.” Some Filipinos don’t consider Fil-Ams as Filipinos at all. Other Fil-Ams don’t think of themselves as Asian because we are specifically “Pacific-Islanders.” Filipinos tend to be prejudice to others because of the hyphen. Because I am also American, I can’t just be Filipino.  In other words, as much as I identify with being Filipino, I can’t escape the fact that I am also an American. Trust me when I say, people have reminded me of this fact time and time again.  And before anyone thinks that I am not proud to be an American, I want to clarify that I am very proud to be. See, that’s where the struggle with the hyphen comes in. How can I give an explanation for being proud to be both, without sounding too prideful or alienating to the other? Is it that negative to actually be prideful? No. But once you start mixing things up and interlocking different cultures, suddenly it’s like your stepping on someone’s toes. There’s this need to identify, but oh wait, you must be very careful on how you word things. Don’t make one side sound worse than the other. Make sure your facts are right. Don’t sound like an “ugly American” or “another bandwagoning Filipino.” Really? Does it ever end?

In Nella Larsen’s Passing, Clare struggles with the same issue. She comes from both white and black parents, however, she “passes” as looking more caucasian. Since her appearance hides her “black identity” she embraces it and doesn’t even tell her husband she is mixed. When she runs into Irene, who is also mixed and a childhood companion of hers, she instantly connects. Clare is seen as a traitor of the black race because she is ashamed of it, putting it all behind her, and claiming to be only a white woman. But as her highly racist husband expresses his indifference with black people, Clare becomes just as uncomfortable as Irene. The reason why Clare is so happy to see Irene is because she has this need to be with someone like her. She has confined herself to only one side of her identity, that her latter side is seeking for attention. In another sense, Larsen expresses that no matter how much one tries to escape their dual identity, it will always find its way back. It will always have this need to be expressed. Clare struggles with balancing who she really is and who she is trying to be. Because she identifies with being white, she cannot escape the fact that she is also black.  Both sides of her just want to blend together, but she cannot let it. A lot of this is because of what I said earlier: there’s a caution when expressing who you are. We see that with the perspective of Mr. Bellew (Clare’s husband) and Irene. Mr. Bellew represents Clare’s white half and Irene represents her black half. Either way, if Clare picks a side, the latter would look at her in disgust. Making it a difficult decision for her to openly be who she is.

Race is such a major identifier. Not in the sense that it keeps you in a box, but it helps in explaining who you are as a person. There is history that influences your choices, morals that drive your thought, and language that help your articulation. For those who are mixed or know what it is like to live in between a hyphen, you understand the hardship in trying to explain who you are. There is a push and  pull notion when you talk about a particular side of you. It’s hard to choose sides. Often times you are told you are, when you aren’t. Stereotypes are thrown at you from both ends. You then start to question why it all has to come down to this. Why is it so hard for others (and often times, yourself) to just accept that you are you? I wish I could give you an answer. But I will tell you this, be happy with who you are. You don’t have to choose a side. Society will push ideas down your throat, cultures will clash, but honey… go ahead and spit out all that glitter and rainbows. You are more than what the hyphen says. Take it and run because even if you are Latino-American, Asian-American, Orange-Green, an Alien Bunny rabbit, or whatever… I trust that you know yourself. And if you are still trying to find who you are, don’t worry. You aren’t the only one.

The Power of Hair Explained.

Picture Day has got to be one of the most hectic times of a child’s life. You have to choose a background (blue, grey, or the classic bookshelf. But if your school hired a fancy company, you had the option for an outdoor backdrop), pick out nice clothes, practice your smile, and most importantly… your hair has to be fabulous. Things worked out well for me, except for 2nd grade. Oh how I hated my hair during that time!

A couple of days before Picture Day, my mom brought me to the salon to get a haircut. I remember specifically telling my mom to let the hair stylist know I just wanted a trim. NOTHING DRASTIC. Now, I know that lady understood English because she agreed. But she was also Asian, so she was going to whatever she wanted (Relax, I’m Asian too. And I know how we get all sensitive about jokes on our people. So if that offended you, I’m kinda sorry.) So as the length of my hair got shorter and shorter, my eyes only got wider. Then, she whipped out the razor. I swear to you, the buzzing sound still rings in my ears. My soul was shaking. Slowly, I feel it hit closer to my neck and cut higher to my head. After the damage was done she told me, “See, it’s even better than you asked for.” I got into the car and cried my eyes out. I looked like Dora the Explorer, un-casted edition. It was mortifying.

But I was not the only one who experienced this pain. In Zitkala-sa’s novel American Indian Stories, she recalls the day the “paleface woman” cut her hair and how much it affected her.

I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit. Since the day I was taken from my mother I had suffered extreme indignities. People had stared at me. I had been tossed about in the air like a wooden puppet. And now my long hair was shingled like a coward’s! In my anguish I moaned for my mother, but no one came to comfort me. Not a soul reasoned quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.

(School Days of An Indian Girl, Section II)

After leaving her homeland and moving East with the missionaries for school, she realized her expectations of what life would be were different. She was a foreigner. But this particular scene is so important to discuss in Zitkala-sa’s story. She says, “Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy. Among our people, short hair was worn by mourners, and shingled hair by cowards!” Her long hair is a symbol of strength. It was part of her identity and a direct connection to her roots. As the “paleface woman” cut off her hair, she felt that she had also “lost [her] spirit,” her sole reason of being. The woman did not only change the girl’s physical appearance, but altered her inner self as well. AGAINST HER WILL.

Hair will always grow back. We know this. But it is part of our body, and no one should control our body but ourselves. Whether you want to shave it all off or grow it long, it is your choice. That was why I was so angered by the lady who had cut my hair when I was younger. I chose the kind of way I wanted my hair to look, I trusted that she would respect that, but instead she did what she thought was good for me. No one gave her that right. Not her certificate, not her employer, not my mother, and definitely not me. As a girl, I am attached to my hair. It sounds so silly to say hair gives someone some kind of identity, but it does. Because (on good hair days) I control it and I style it the way I am comfortable with.

Zitkala-sa shows that after all the struggles she went through up to the time she had arrived at the school, her hair being cut off was the final straw. Expectations, rules, and culture was pushed onto her like she had no choice. She was being made into someone who she is not, but didn’t know how to escape it because “[she] was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.”  She ended up being one of the warriors captured by the enemy and had their hair shingled. She was made into a “coward.” They broke her.

I cried, just like her. I knew I became different. But I knew it wasn’t natural. To be stripped of choice, especially at a young age, makes you feel so powerless. For someone to take away something you hold so close to your being, makes you feel robbed. As I pass by the little salon and see it now made into a shop, I feel a bit better. It’s like I got my revenge. I might make my experience sound so dramatic, but my emotions were as real as I recall it. That lady left me with a bad hair cut and a picture to always remember it by. But it will still be a memory that is instilled in my mind forever, no matter now much my hair grows now.

Girls and Education Explained.

I sit here and think about how different my life would be if I hadn’t gone to school. Let’s face it, school is like that boyfriend that you love and hate at the same time. At one moment, he has your attention, the next, he just babbles about something you could care less about. Still, you, as the amazingly loving girlfriend, must put up with… everything. This boyfriend is a part of you. He pushes you to be better, teaches you things you’ve never known, and provides perspective on ideas that are other than your own. Education is the boyfriend any father wouldn’t mind you taking home (primarily because it really isn’t something you can make out with and most importantly, he wouldn’t need to worry about his little girl being with something useless). In Zitkala-sa’s American Indian Stories, we get a glimpse of a young American-Indian girl’s life. She sets out to do chores with her mother, spends time with her playmates, and learns the ways of her people. The one thing absent, is access to a proper education. She is obviously a curious child.  She likes to hear the stories about Legends and tries to figure out its meaning. She questions the role of the “palefaces” and their relationship to her people. When the missionaries came, she wanted to learn more of what they are saying. All this curiosity comes from a fire within her to want to be more than what she is. When she was given the opportunity to go East with the missionaries, her mother was hesitant. Letting her go will mean that her beloved daughter would have to face hardships on her own. But the mother knows how valuable education is.

“She will need an education when she is grown, for then there will be fewer real Dakotas, and many more palefaces. This tearing her away, so young, from her mother is necessary, if I would have her an educated woman. The palefaces, who owe us a large debt for stolen lands, have begun to pay a tardy justice in offering some education to our children. But I know my daughter must suffer keenly in this experiment. For her sake, I dread to tell you my reply to the missionaries. Go, tell them that they may take my little daughter, and that the Great Spirit shall not fail to reward them according to their hearts.”

Education provides us with a foundation. It gives us information that is connected to just about all corners of the Earth. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned, is that everything in the world is always changing. It’s proven in history books and reality. That is why the mother sends her daughter off because there will be “fewer real Dakotas, and many more palefaces.” Education will provide her with the knowledge and strength to both adapt to the changing world we live in, as well as allow her to trace back to the land that birthed her. Education is empowering. Girls were expected to follow the footsteps of their mother. They are taught domestic duties and are expected to abide by these “womanly roles.” As we see in the beginning of Zitkala-sa’s novel, women are seen as the home-bodies. But when education becomes accessible it shows that women are able to rise above this stereotype and prove they are capable to be so much better. Education is a human right. It should be provided for, no matter the gender or status of a person. And a woman’s education should go beyond the home setting. Let the world be her classroom.

The thought of not having the education I am so thankfully provided with, hits pretty hard. I was always eager to learn. I was the bookworm. I was the one who looked forward to journal entries. I’m part of the few who actually really like school. But liking school was not the first thing that came to my mind. I went for my friends and the whole social aspect of it. Had I not been taught to sit in a chair and actually pay attention, I wouldn’t have done so. If my teachers never introduced me to certain books, I wouldn’t have picked them up to read. Education goes far beyond textbooks and lectures. It really does prepare you for life. However, the lessons outside of a classroom is what tests you on how strong you use your education. Let this Education Boyfriend be your companion in life, but never forget to follow your own voice. Use his lessons about basketball stats and playbook rules, and apply them to your own situation. Also, be brave enough to create rules of your own.

Slavery and Childhood Explained.

When I think back on my childhood, I remember putting a quarter into the little horse ride in front of our local shoe shop; begging for another turn. I remember Arts & Crafts and Story-time in Mrs. Frances’ class. I remember my brother and I running around in our backyard and falling off my bike. I remember holiday parties with family and receiving more gifts than my little arms could hold.  I remember the first time ever crushing on a boy, all because he made me a card using green construction paper and lots of glitter. I’d like to think he knew me pretty well. But the most invigorating thing about childhood was my freedom and belief that I was truly free… because I was.

And that’s what childhood should look like: a picture of freedom and happiness. But the sad reality is some are not as fortunate as I was growing up.

In Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, we can see how slavery strips one of their childhood. Linda Brent was cared for and sheltered by her parents since the age of six, able to live a pretty normal life, free of being identified as a slave. However, when they died, the shadow of her slave identity creeped in faster than she could blink. Under Dr. Flint’s household, Linda was subjected to the same mistreatment we read about in previous novels. She was ordered, abused, and deprived of her basic human rights. Let us remember, she is still a young girl. Can you imagine? Growing up feeling privileged and having some sense of self-worth because you had parents that nurtured you, then being forced under such brutality by Dr. Flint?

This caused Linda to grow up quicker than most. She needed to learn her duties, express respect for those who hurt her, and endure the pain and agony of slavery. Linda was not seen as a child by her owners. She was a slave, a piece of property, and nothing else. Jacobs’ novel show readers that in slavery, a child’s innocence is taken from them. That at their young age, their life is predetermined to be subjected to their masters, unable to dream or live as they pleased without suffering consequences. Linda’s story of two young sisters captured the effects of slavery on children and their childhood:

I once saw two beautiful children playing together. One was a fair white child; the other was her slave, and also her sister. When I saw them embracing each other, and heard their joyous laughter, I turned sadly away from the lovely sight. I foresaw the inevitable blight that would fall on the little slave’s heart. I knew how soon her laughter would be changed to sighs. The fair child grew up to be a still fairer woman. From childhood to womanhood her pathway was blooming with flowers, and overarched by a sunny sky. Scarcely one day of her life had been clouded when the sun rose on her happy bridal morning.

How had those years dealt with her slave sister, the little playmate of her childhood? She, also, was very beautiful; but the flowers and sunshine of love were not for her. She drank the cup of sin, and shame, and misery, whereof her persecuted race are compelled to drink. (Chapter 5)

Both children are seen as innocent, full of laughter and happiness. They are oblivious to the fact that they come from different worlds and one of them will suffer. However, as readers, and like Linda, we know that this happiness will not last forever. The white sister will have a better fate than that of her slave sister because their skin-tone is different. The white child will be privileged and continue to experience the joys of her childhood; whereas the slave girl will be deprived of such happiness. As well as in adulthood, their fates are on opposite ends. Even though both girls are of kin and beautiful, their potential is pushed in two different directions because of slavery. And the fate of the slave girl is not full of sunshine and flowers. There is no sign of love. There is only “sin and shame, and misery.”

After reading that, how can we believe in happy endings? As a child, I’ve lived off of fairy-tales. I’ve been told stories of princesses, happy families, and adventures. My parents told me that the world was mine for the taking and with hard work and determination anything was possible. Even in my adulthood, I believe in all of that… just in different contexts. But those stories, the endless possibilities they hold, were what got me by. I saw love in my parents, loyalty in my friends, and empowerment in my education. For Linda it was the complete opposite. She saw the world differently because the convention of slavery taught her to see it that way. Growing up, my view on the world and how things work are definitely different. But to imagine myself stripped of possibilities, forced into labor, separated from family, abused, and reminded I am nothing but property every day of my life? I don’t know if I could ever live. And as Linda expressed, she didn’t want to either.

Every child should have the right to dream. They have a right to happiness. They have a right to exercise what it means to be free. However slavery deflates the air of that happy balloon and one just watches it spin-off to a far away place. Children should roam wild and free, and if they want to fly, then they should be told it’s possible. If they want to be happy, show them its real.