Thursday, August 6, 2015

Virginity As A Social Construct

The population I interact with on a daily basis has an overwhelming amount of trauma. These children have overcome odds that I never thought possible and the majority will turn into capable and functioning adults. 

One of my favorite quotes I have discovered while working in the social services sector is, "We All Have A Story To Tell."



This couldn't be more true each day. I learn about individuals, their past lives, their families, their hopes and dreams, their fears. Unfortunately, there are an extreme amount of horror stories that come through that most privileged individuals don't think of on a daily basis. Poverty, drug addicition, neglect, abuse, molestation and rape... the list is extensive. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking just how easy some people have it, and just how much these youth have managed to rise above. 

Tonight, I was unfortunate enough to get a call stating that an eight-year-old girl was coming forward with stories of how she had been molested by her own father. Sadly, these stories are not shocking anymore. The amount of rape, incest, molestation, and abuse that happens is incredibly depressing and all too real. Imagine the amount of courage it must take to speak of what happened? To have to relive those thoughts and feelings over and over and over again. All I can think is that this child will never be able to have the first choice to love someone in the most intimate of ways. 

To think that we live in a society that values one's virginity as highly as it does and then pair it with the fact that so many youth are survivors of sexual misconduct seems contradictory. "Save yourself for your husband or wife"....... but what happens when you are eight years old and that sanctity of love-making is taken away from you? You aren't even allowed a choice. You are tarnished in the eyes of religion. Do those who think women ask for rape also think that eight-year-olds are asking for it, too? Was it because her Frozen pajamas were too revealing and she should have known not to wear them? 

Due to our society's focus on religion, on virginity, and the sanctity of marriage, the one who is punished life-long is the survivor, not the rapist. "Your body is your temple." But what happens when it has been invaded so many times that you feel like it is not your own? That you'd rather not even have that aspect of yourself, and then society shoves the sexuality of women down your throat so you are even more hyper-conscious of it than ever before. 

Yet we don't change our society's ways of viewing these topics. We let it be. We close our eyes and our minds to the "scary bad things" that happen to "only a select few" in our culture. We forget that the majority of the kids in foster care aren't here because they are bad kids, they are here because parents have failed at parenting, which means us as a society have failed at teaching the correct values.

-Instead of "Don't get raped" it should be, "Don't rape." Period.
-Masculinity should not be based on violence or sexual prowess. 
-Virginity is a social construct. You are just as valuable if you aren't a "virgin."
-Trauma surrounds us, be aware of triggers.
-Abstinence-only education is ignorant. Some people haven't been afforded the ability to make sexual choices like certain privileged populations. Do not alienate the youth who may have experienced sexual trauma. Teach youth how to be safe during sexual interactions to reduce unintended pregnancies (which may help reduce the number of youth in the foster system) and the transmission of STIs.



 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Foster Mom?

Tonight, I had a strange thought about one of my kids that has been in one of my group homes for the past two years. This kid is tough. She always has a wall up and doesn't like to show emotion. She is "too cool" for others and frequently falls into bullying her peers. However, throughout these past two years, we have bonded. She respects me, and I call her out on her crap. She messes up and I help her realize she can make better choices. She does well and I praise her, although she will for sure minimize it or refuse the compliment. (We are working on that.)

She came home from a pass with her mentor having bought a vivid coral prom dress she had told me she wanted. She spent $50 on some adorable nude Guess heels that "will kill her feet but were such a good investment," I told her while smiling. It made me feel happy she was going to experience a sense of normalcy getting to go to prom. She worked for that dress and those heels, and I saw a little bit of my teenage self in her.  The drive, ambition, desire to be self-sufficient. I'm so very proud of where she is in her life and who she has become. 

And then I compared my age to hers. 11 years her senior. Heck, I could be a cool older sister right? I practically already have mentored this kid for the past two years. What if I decided to foster a teenager? How bad could it be? They can practically take care of themselves, right? Oh, but the responsibility of following up on another human being... no more "happy hours" or partners over whenever one feels like it. No more random vacations... or accessible alcohol. Responsiblity over another human being's life is such a hard decision to make. 

While I would love to give this teen a stable home life where she could just "be normal," I know that I am not ready to foster a kid. However, I seriously think that it would be an option later in life. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Woman Problems"

Two people from my past have reached out to me via social media lately. Those two people sent terrors through me.

They brought up terrible feelings that I work so hard to shove down, deep inside me. It is so much easier to deny that these things have happened, that I let them happen because I was too scared to address them. Because I was immobile in my own thoughts. In denial.

My first experience of this kind was in college. My Freshman roommate was quite promiscuous despite that everyone knew she had a long-distance boyfriend. One weekend afternoon, she rolled in. I thought she had just stayed out late and slept over at some guy's house. I commented, "Must've been a good night!" to which she responded that she had been attacked in the alleyway on her route to her cousin's apartment. Sexually assaulted to be exact. She was a mess, had been up all night at the police station, and all I could think was, "well, she probably asked for it." She moved to the southern US after that semester.

That was the ignorant me before I had become feminist and knew about women's rights, statistics, and all that. A year later, I realized that I had victim-blamed rather than supported in a most crucial time.

Then it happened to me. Just like the statistics. 
  • Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
Twice, in the same scenario. Go home with someone after drinking, engage with consent, sleep over, wake up to them doing whatever they want to my passed out, unconsenting body. That is the scariest feeling ever. Laying motionless, not sure what to do, can't call out, pain, afraid that if you say 'no' they will hurt you even more.

I haven't even ever told my mom it happened. I didn't realize it until I was on the phone with her telling her that "Jerkface" had contacted me via social media after three years, and "how dare he reach out like that, the asshole." But he had never realized it was "wrong".... that's why he reached out. My mother had no idea it happened. And like that, those moments of fear when I sat listening to the victims at the Slut-Walk talk about their experiences of sexual assault. That was me... even after all the social justice and women's rights education I had, I didn't identify that I had been a victim until I heard other people telling my same exact story. That is why I had anger, guilt, and sadness inside me. I get it now... and the worst part is, that I will never address them because my pride is too much. I will never allow them to know how much it affected(s) me. I will continue to be courteous because they aren't worth it. 

And this is just the quote that sums up that exact feeling:

"What I want is for you to write “fuck me” on your chest. Write it! Do it! And then I want you to walk out that door and I want you to walk down the street, and anybody that wants to fuck you, say, “Sure! Sure! No problem!” And when they do, you have to say, “Thank you very, very much.” And make sure that you have a smile on your face. And then, you stupid fucking coward, you’re gonna know what it feels like to be a woman!" (Jenny from the L Word- Season 2 Episode 11).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oh, Baby!!

Sometimes you have that awkward dream where you have a baby and you wake up and either feel totally sad or extremely grateful. Usually I am extremely grateful for being baby-less. 

However, last night's dream was super weird. I woke up being a little bit sad and felt disconnected, like I was missing something. Let me tell you why. (I know I have weirdly vivid dreams- if someone can tell me why and how I remember them in great detail that would be great)

First- In my dream my sister had already had a baby, so in the family it was old news. Nobody made a fuss about it.

Second- the pregnancy was like 0.2 seconds and I didn't even really grow a baby bump. No nausea or vomiting involved. Also, I didn't have to give up sushi or alcohol for what seems like a lifetime in real pregnancy terms. (Win)

Third- the birthing was super quick, painless, and in my own bed. Baby daddy was there (some hot guy with dark hair) and delivered it. After walking around a while, I panicked that I had never had the afterbirth but ended up finding it on my bed in the form of a crocheted item the size of a balloon. No mess, thanks baby!

Fourth- it was a boy- thanks for asking. Apparently I did not name the child, but he was attached to me like crazy. Also, the baby's neck was like rubber. So when I accidentally tilted it too far nothing  broke. Perfect!!! I remembered thinking that I needed to buy one of those baby slings so I didn't have to keep holding his neck up. This neck holding was the main goal. Don't mind feeding or diapering, that didn't happen- just hold the neck and the baby lives!!!

Fifth- he grew up super fast. He was already talking as I was walking to the Irish bar for a birthday party with my friends. Hey, they say to have kids around noisy stuff so that they can fall asleep around anything. And I ordered a soda thanks, that came with a $5 bill floating in it for some reason. So essentially it was free. I also sat outside on the patio so it wasn't *as* noisy for baby's sake. Amber and Jaclyn joined me and we began chatting about Jaclyn's mom's new gold-chained sandals that made her feet look extra long. Then we switched to Katniss Everdeen's archery skills. Baby happily joined in the convo with one-word comments.

And then I woke up (strange ending I know).

Dang, my dreams are telling me I would be a freaking awesome mom... If only pregnancy and babies were really like the dream I would maybe think about jumpin' on that mom bandwagon. Until now, at least the dream gave me a good laugh.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dearest Boston

Dear Boston, 

I woke up this morning and you were not there. My three day affair was much too short. I miss the early morning bite of cold air, the angled and uneven streets, the brownstones, the history, the open air markets, the T, the restaurants, the ocean, the refined essence. Unfortunately, this return home makes me yearn for something more. I feel as if I am not in the right place. 

I want to be in a cultured city, near all the adventure, taking the metro places to meet with friends for a late night chat over some wine and tapas. In Phoenix, or Peoria rather... that is not the case. We drive everywhere, which means responsibility when going out on the town. It takes over 30 minutes driving to get places, you cannot walk or take a metro. It is overwhelmingly huge and modern. The positives seem to lay around the city, various superb restaurants or cute winery destinations, but the valley is missing charm.

The trip to Boston was short and sweet; however, it leaves a lingering feeling that reminds me that I still have yet to find the place I want to be long term. Or maybe I will always be a nomad, staying two to three years in a place and moving on. This brings up many questions.... Should I start applying to jobs elsewhere? What about the house I just purchased with my significant other last year? I love that I can always walk outsite. Would my partner move with? How would I pay for the cost of living in a much more expensive urban-vintage center. How would I move my belongings? But I love my job and my coworkers here, would I be able to find that company culture elsewhere? If I stay with my job long-term would it pay out despite the fact that there is no 401k or possibility to grow within the company because I am at the highest position I could possibly be at already? Would Giles and I be able to hack it in the snow?!

One thing I do know for sure is that Home is where Giles is. He certainly would look adorable anywhere we live. For now, I will just ponder.

Best, 
Marissa

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tiny Rewards

Today was a long, emotionally exhausting, multi-tasking without a break kind of day. Many loose ends did not get tied and I know I will have to get them done sometime tomorrow despite the fact that it is already a packed day. However, there were two phone conversations that brightened my day. So, I've decided to share them.

1. My mom- she sent me a hasty text the other day stating that after her beloved pooch passes (he has a brain tumor) that she will most likely be job hunting and moving. Now, this is unlike my mother. Of course we all like to dream that family will move close and whatnot, but I really thought she might be serious! So, we talked about life, love, and dogs. Joked about her moving in with my siblings in Milwaukee for the summer and then coming down to Phoenix for the winters. Hey, it would be an adventure!!! FInally the conversation ended with essentially slimming down on unneccessary expenses. Something that I kind of love- being thrifty. She mentioned ditching cable TV, her home phone, and living a little more frugal. Now, I am super lazy in the fact that I am 26 years old and my mom still has me on her family plan... and I usually forget to pay her because, hey, she has been paying for it for 10 years. I just found out she has been paying for a life insurance policy for me and my siblings that I didn't even know existed.... which I could definitely afford to pay, but have been just livin' the life of a kid who's mom has always taken care of her. 

At this point, I thought I really knew just the extent that she cared for us kids. But, dang, she has really got this mom thing down by even taking care of her adult children... who probably make more money than she does... and never even asks for a penny. How self-less? This just shows me one more thing that I need to live up to in order to be just as humble and loving of a person she is. Mom, you're one patient and dedicated person- thanks for taking care of me for the past 26 years... and probably some more in the future!

2. A past-client called me tonight. First, I thought it was a politician or something calling me from a weird number so I silenced it, hoping they would leave a voicemail if it was important. Nope. No voicemail, must not have been dire. Then I got another call from the same number... "Damn, what caseworker is calling me this late? Leave me alone while I roam the internet and veg out!" I admit I answered it a bit grumpily. But, it happened to be little Nia* who they wanted to transfer me to. "Sure!" We chatted about her new life and transitioning, missing people, and getting in the groove of the new structured environment. She brightened my day, because, you know, it is pretty important when a kid remembers you. Over the hundreds of people these kids meet in the "system" at least I stuck out, in a good way. Although Nia had her troubles- and let me tell you she has been one of the naughtiest- I still care about how she is doing. I still appreciate her reaching out to keep me updated, and hope that she knows she can use me as a reference, or just a mentor to talk to in tough times. Hopefully, she will continue to see the use in our relationship, but maybe someday she will use those wings I have helped her grow and not need me anymore. For now, it's nice to know that someone cares, and admires me for what I do and say. So thank you Nia for remembering and reassuring me in an unintentional way that I have touched someone's life. 

*Name changed for confidentiality

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Women Against Feminism (?!): A (hopefully educational) response

Unfortunately, I just viewed this page about Feminism on Buzzfeed and cannot get the images out of my mind. 


Please read this essay in a calm, professional voice (for those out there who may think I am "bitching" about feminism) as that is the way I intend it to be read.

Of course, as a feminist, it boggles my mind how people can be so uneducated when it comes to understanding women's rights. It seems so natural that everyone would want equality. I have purposely surrounded myself with social media that supports feminism and equality; however, in the real world, there are many people out there thinking that feminism is "the devil." Therefore, this post is to educate you on feminism:

First, please read this definition. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/women's%2520movement Focus on the word EQUALITY.... not supremacy which is what many of these people are mistakening feminism for. Women are currently socially and politically unequal due to our country's patriarchal values. Therefore, feminists are trying to gain equality though political and social justice movements.

The purpose of this piece is to explain to anti-feminists why feminists are passionate about making sure everyone is educated with facts on this subject. Backlash is not a new thing, but hopefully by reading up on the subject, the complicated world of feminism can be simplified for those who it may seem confusing for.



Secondly, you must understand that there are many different "types" of feminism. You see, there is lesbian feminism, chicano feminism, radical feminism, separatist feminism, black feminism, the list goes on (http://sparkcharts.sparknotes.com/womens/womens/section4.phpTherefore, please be understood that you may be referring to a certain type of feminism (most likely radical) which may have a completely different lens and motivation than a broader range of "feminism." OR the media and misogynists have skewed the definition of these types of feminisms which make them seem bad or scary in order to ward off the fight for equal power. (IE: patriarchal society values male power... would not want females to gain power... see?)
It makes me so sad to see these young women taking for granted all that feminism has earned for them. Yes, they can vote- Hooray! Question: Who in the world do you think earned them that right? Answer: Feminists. Voting wasn't always so, friends. For example, in 1870, black men were (finally) allowed to vote. 50, yes, fifty, years later in 1920, women secured the same right to vote. Ladies in the US haven't even been able to vote for 100 years. How can people forget that? The worst thing that one can do is to forget the past and take it all for granted. We are doomed to repeat it if we have forgotten. All these "rights" that women have nowadays weren't just magically given to us like they were granted to white men by default. Women had to rally, fight, and picket their way through a patriarchal world that systematically disadvantages both men and women.  

Look at where we are over one hundred years later, still earning 70-80 cents per a (white) man's dollar. When you say, "I get equal pay so I don't need feminism," you are being extremely egocentric. That is fantastically wonderful that you have procured a job that pays you equally. What about the other 99% of women who may not have that benefit, especially ones who have the added weight of our country's racism on their plate? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/09/30/a-closer-look-at-the-pay-gap-in-charts/ 

Please note that the gap is within the same occupations, not just because women have "chosen" to take lower paying jobs. Think about the role of women and their paid and unpaid work. Women's work has historically been isolated into the private sphere which means unpaid work. Their skills have developed around domestic work. Isn't it funny how domestic work is one of the lowest paid jobs? This is due to historical disadvantages. Today, our society does not encourage women to participate in male-dominated careers like engineering or science, but rather capitalizes on women continuing to take lower-paying "gendered" jobs. Feminism works to encourage girls to feel comfortable when choosing their career path whatever it may be, engineering or the culinary arts. This also means encouraging women who want to be stay-at-home moms, but also identifying that the role of mother is an unpaid necessity in our culture. Feminism works towards valuing women's experiences no matter what they may be.

I am an unmarried woman and own a house. I am "allowed to have that right" because of a bunch of "married women's property rights laws" that happened in the late 1800's that eventually developed into women being able to own property. Did white men ever have to go through these laws to be able to own property, no. They were simply given this ability to do so. Please don't be ignorant and say, "I am super equal to everyone because I have these same rights now, so I don't need feminism anymore" because that is narrow-minded and negates all of the historical hardships that has brought you these freedoms. You may be privileged enough (please research the definition of privilege if you do not understand it) to have those rights, but others may not. White, educated, American women may think they don't need feminism because they have a certain amount of privilege granted to them in our racist-based "modern" society, but do not let that fool you, ladies. In case you would like a refresher course on women's rights earned by feminism and women's liberation movements, please review the about.com and wikipedia (don't judge, they are extremely concise and quick for the purpose of this blog) pages.


Note how in some places women have just earned the right to vote in The 2000s!!!

I am quite unsure how some of the comments from the "anti-feminist" page are equating feminism with being a victim.... a victim (or survivor rather) of patriarchal powers maybe? Yes, and men are targets as well.  The patriarchy disadvantages both sexes. Men must be the all-mighty singular masculine breadwinners forever and ever- this is the thought process behind patriarchy. Households who have dual-income earners might be thought of as feminists. Women who choose to follow a career or education are breaking the chain of patriarchal reign. 

I have a boyfriend, male friends and coworkers, brothers, and a dad. I know lots of other feminists who do as well. I am unsure what kind of anti-feminist propaganda these people are reading that say feminists hate men. Feminists hate the sexist-values of the patriarchy, not men. Get it right.

Society objectifies us all whether you (choose to) feel the objectification or not. Sometimes it really is about education. You can be blissfully happy watching media until you take a theory course on communications and advertising and understand that men, women, trans-individuals, homosexuals, heterosexuals, Black, White, Native, etc are objectified and exploited for monetary purposes.... the media use our "identities" to sell us objects, desires. This is essentially the way our modern, capitalist society works. Feminists don't want others, including men, to be objectified and reduced to mere objects because the media portrays us as less than human. Period.



Finally, if you must separate yourself from feminist values yet still spout off about equality, you may want to identify as "humanitiarian" (not humanist) rather than "anti-feminist" in order to save yourself social media backlash. (Although, many argue that humanitarianism or equalism cannot be achieved until the direct misogyny of our society is addressed through feminism. One of my favorite articles: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/05/why-not-say-everyday-humanism-instead-of-everyday-feminism/)

Moral of the story: educate yourself. I leave you with one last nugget of advice: