Category Archives: Awareness

A Story Like Mine

We highly recommended watching Halsey’s incredible performance. If you are unable to listen, you can read the transcript full transcript below via Billboard.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian 
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won

Who the #MeToo Movement is Leaving Behind

by Anu Sawhney

This weekend, while watching the Golden Globes, one which left most awestruck by Oprah Winfrey’s fiery acceptance speech, it was another – some might say less glamorous – speech that left me overwhelmed by its importance and clarity. Sterling K. Brown, the star of the NBC series This is Us, made Golden Globe history in becoming the first-ever black actor to win the award in the Best Actor in a TV Drama category. In thanking the creator of the show, Dan Fogelman, he explained how Fogelman “wrote a role for a black man that can only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”

Herein, I believe, Brown was able to articulate the key to authentic representation on screen. At a time when the most powerful women in the industry wore black in solidarity with those who were silenced by their assailants, I cannot think of anything more important than ensuring that no one feels like their identity is something that can be dismissed. While we can sit here at the precipice of a what feels like a new era and view the MeToo movement as a product of important progress, intolerance, and recognition of the importance of reclaiming our bodies, I’d be one to argue that it is far too little for us to move forward as a society where no one – and I mean no one, is left behind.

As a disabled woman of color, with every “first-ever” moment I can feel my heart race at the ordeal, because somewhere in my mind this means that Hollywood – and, by extension, society – is normalizing diversity and change. And there are strides of progress that have been significant, not only for women but also for women of color. Somehow, though, almost every mainstream conversation in regard to diversity manages to leave out an important minority. 19% of Americans are people with disabilities, making us the largest minority group there is, yet somehow a latent issue outside of activist circles and sometimes, politics. On screen, disabled characters are almost always played by able-bodied actors who are awarded for portraying a disability as a costume that one can simply wear on screen or learn about through others who’ve lived with the disability for a long enough time – only to return to an able-bodied lifestyle. All of those things will remain true as long as roles aren’t given to actors in the way that, as Brown explained, doesn’t allow for the dismissal of the actor’s whole, intersectional identity.

What makes this dismissal harder to accept in the year of the MeToo movement is the findings of a recent NPR study, which shows that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be assaulted than people without a disability. Not only is this an epidemic, the victims are described as “easy targets” and it is largely underreported, especially among women who live in group homes. We cannot seriously be having a national discussion about changing mindsets or having a cultural reckoning if we’re not giving the group who have the most to win or lose a seat at the table. This would be a disservice to the victims who have been brave enough to come out, voice their stories to all those they have paved the way for, for whom the movement is created – including the most vulnerable. The harder we are to dismiss, the more important it will be for our voices to be heard.

How Gun Reform Will Help Women

By Kelsie Merrick

After every mass shooting, there is a heightened concern over gun laws and an increasing push for gun reform. But why does this conversation need to happen after a mass shooting? Yes, mass shootings are horrific; however, mass shootings do not even makeup half of the deaths by guns per year in the United States. One of our major issues in the gun industry is our lack of ability to guarantee background checks at every possible gun dealership, which creates a major risk for women against domestic violent threats. Compared to women in other high-income countries, women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns. What makes it worse is in 2011 an alarming 53 percent of women were killed by an intimate partner or family member.

A survey was conducted on women living in California’s domestic violence shelters. The results found that almost “two-thirds of the women who lived in households with guns reported that their partner had used the gun against them.” The most common ways were threatening to shoot or kill the woman. This study found that the addition of a gun in a domestic violence situation “increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.”

If a domestic abuser has been convicted of a felony, federal law prohibits them from buying or possessing guns. However, if a state does not include a similar ban, “state or local prosecutors cannot bring state gun charges against the abuser.” Federal law also prohibits domestic abusers from buying or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” or if they are “subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders.” In accordance with federal law, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have state laws in place preventing non-felony domestic violence offenders from having guns.

These laws may seem ridiculous to those who have never been affected by domestic violence, but, in my opinion, they are necessary. The FBI must agree since almost 16 percent of the total firearm transfer denials are based on domestic violence. On top of that, “convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check.” I’m not saying that women should be the sole reason for ensuring better gun control, but when women alone make up “13 percent of victims of gun homicide nationwide” and between 2009 and 2014 they were “51 percent of victims of mass shootings” I think their safety should be a major concern to our government.

Men Do It

By Madison Frilot

Center stage, there is a stool.
Beside it, Chelsea stands under a single fluorescent light bulb with a pull chain,
wearing all black:
a loose shirt that falls sloppily off her shoulder, black jeans,
and tall black stiletto heels.
On the other side of the stool there is a small table.
Lying on top the table is a pack of cigarettes and a crystal ashtray.
The stage is pitch black.
We hear a lighter strike and we watch a cigarette be lit, unable to see anything else.
She then pulls the bulb’s pull chain and stands under it for a moment,
scanning the audience.
She walks to the stool and takes a seat, legs crossed, takes a few short puffs and puts out the cigarette in the ashtray on the table. She returns to her position.

CHELSEA: I have a prophecy. A motto. A golden rule I’d call it. Everyone has one. Or maybe a few. It’s something you live by- values, morals, what have you. Maybe it’s religious, maybe it’s not. Ha. Mine sure isn’t. (beat) But I’ll get to that.

{She takes out another cigarette, lights it, takes a luxurious drag,
dramatically puts it out, and continues.}

Charles? Charles was a stunner- at least top 12 in the looks category, I’d say. A total stunner. He had the lightest blue eyes, they sparked. I swear I could even see my own reflection in them. Muscular, tan skin, and golden locks. I even called him Goldilocks once. (beat) He didn’t like that. He came and went.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag, puts it out.}

Steve wasn’t as… charismatic. But he was cute, and he was there. He was there a couple times actually. Longer than most… But he had this horrible anxious vibe and grew out a weird mustache so I stopped returning his calls.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag,
changes her seating position to something more casual, knees apart,
puts out the cigarette.}

Oh, don’t forget about Jonathan. First black man I’d ever been with.

{She stands up, lights another cigarette, takes a drag and puts it out.
Then she walks across the stage.}

Charlie. He was older. Much older. He moved slower and constantly nagged me- (mocking) “Honey can you hand me my Rogaine?” and I had to repeat myself over and over. I felt as though I was constantly startling him too, and God knows I can’t possibly tone this down so I blocked his number.

{She turns to the table, hastily walks to it,
quickly lights a cigarette, takes a quick drag, puts it out.}

Nicolas had this… this hardness about him. I was attracted to his decisiveness and agency. But then he hit me.

{After a moment of silence
she picks up the pack and takes out a cigarette for every name she mentions,
dropping it to the floor and moving on to the next.}

Tom. Zander. Marcus. Another Tom. Thor. Jenna… I was curious ok? Cameron. Jack- or was it Zack? Billy. Sebastian. Claire- (defensive) Look, I’m no lesbo I just had to make sure. Wyatt. Asian John. White John.

{She holds up the last cigarette left in the pack and walks downstage with it.}

I’ve been called things, sure. Many things. Some men stay longer than others. I prefer a weekend fling to a one-night-stand after all. But that’s only so I can have the time to figure out something wrong with them to avoid wondering. But I’m not looking for love, not me. Men do it. So why can’t I? Are they given shit? Tom #2 told me I was his seventh girl of the week. Because of that, I don’t ask many questions, nor do I answer them. Would you? (rest) They’re like puppies- the more attached you get, the harder it is to ignore their calls.

{Chelsea then walks to the light bulb and swivels back towards the audience.}

I’ll quit smoking the moment I meet a decent fucking man.

{Standing under the bulb, Chelsea lights the last cigarette.
She then pulls the pull chain and lights go out.
She takes a puff and we watch the warm light intensify,
then she walks offstage with the lit cigarette, heels clacking.}

Sexual Assault: A Global Issue Part 2

By Kelsie Merrick

In this election, sexual assault has grown to become a controversial topic with allegations coming from all sides. Whether it’s women saying Donald Trump has sexually assaulted them or Hillary Clinton has covered up rape cases. We’ve heard them all, and people and parties from both sides agree with these women or disagree with these women. However, it does not matter if you agree or disagree with any of these allegations because what we should all agree on is that this is an issue that needs to be fixed, not just in the United States but worldwide. The United Nations has been an avid supporter of reducing the violence against women for years. In 1993, the UN General Assembly created the “Declaration for the Elimination of Violence against Women” to provide a framework on how to act against this crisis. However, it’s been over 20 years since that declaration and “1 in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence.” If that statistic doesn’t sicken you, just know “around 120 million girls worldwide, that’s 1 in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts” during their lives. The most common perpetrators of these sexual assaults are former husbands, partners or boyfriends.

We can talk about sexual assault all we want, but that won’t change anything. We need action.

 

What Can We Do To End This Violence?

Stand together in protest against our government until they implement better laws like in Argentina. Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) is a movement of women’s rights advocates that began in June of last year. They are fighting against femicide, a crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of a woman, because, in Argentina, a woman is killed every 30 hours. On Wednesday, October 19th there was a mass demonstration held for every woman that has been killed in the past five years, but mainly for a 16-year-old girl by the name of Lucia Perez who was abducted then drugged, raped repeatedly, and sodomized with an ‘unspecified object’ so violently that she eventually bled out from her internal injuries. The United States needs to join the Ni Una Menos movement, and hopefully, together change will occur. In the US, every 109 seconds an American becomes a victim of sexual assault. Every 8 minutes, a child becomes a victim of sexual assault. Think about those numbers for a second. Think about your mother, sister, brother, father, niece, or nephew. In 109 seconds, they could be a victim. Sexual assault happens too frequently for us to not do anything about it.

We need to encourage victims to speak out against the violence done to them and with this, we need to encourage society to not shame them. According to a study by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 20% of victims do not report sexual assault out of fear of retaliation and 13% don’t report because they believe the police wouldn’t do anything to help. Often when a victim speaks out about assault we hear the excuses of “you were drinking too much” or “you shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothing.” What we should be hearing is “we are here to help you” or “they will not get away with this.”

On top of that, we need to start holding offenders accountable. Out of every 1,000 rapists, only 344 are reported to police. However, from that 344 only six rapists will be incarcerated. Six. Imagine being a victim and knowing these statistics. It’s understandable for them to think nothing will happen. Combine the lack of punishment and victims not reporting, 994 perpetrators walk free. 944 people have gotten away with a disgusting crime. 994 people are able to assault another innocent person.

I was raised learning that we should respect each other and to live by the “golden rule” that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Especially being taught from an older generation that believed men were supposed to treat women respectfully and protect them. Many women from the Feminist Movement will take offense to that statement now because we as women can take care of ourselves and protect ourselves, but honestly, only to a certain extent. When you’re a young girl or are intoxicated, willingly or unwillingly, you are not able to protect yourself against a man that is two or three times your size. Together, every country, every nation, every man and women and innocent child needs to come together so that people don’t get away with these vile and torturous crimes and that they serve the correct sentences.

Sexual Assault Around the World

By Kelsie Merrick

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted. I, along with many other people, heard about this and was quite disgusted. It was uncertain as to what would happen to these women and if, when the perpetrators were identified, what would the punishment be. Unfortunately, for them, no one will be held accountable for these actions. When I found this out, I was completely shocked because I know in the United States, for the most part, people are reprimanded for their sexual assault actions. I chose to look more into this topic and here is what I found.

Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, one of Germany’s oldest feminist magazines, says, “the German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly.” In the logic of German law, if touching of a woman’s breasts or vagina happens quickly, the law will not punish the perpetrator because the victim did not have enough time to resist the action. As far as the law is concerned, the issue is not verbal consent. The law requires that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” That is, if a woman, or any person for that matter, cannot prove with their body (with bruises or other injuries) that they fought back, then the assault is not a crime. In Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a male German defense lawyer reported, “a woman must carry her ‘no’ through. We [men] can hardly know with a simple ‘no,’ whether she really means it.” According to national statistics, “between 7,000 and 8,000 rapes are reported every year.” BFF, a national association of women’s help groups based in Berlin, believes these numbers only represent 5% of the real number of cases. BFF also states, “only 13% of rape cases result in convictions.” One possible explanation for this is the law’s limitations.

Interestingly enough, in German workplace it is clear that “it’s not OK for someone to touch you, to try to kiss you, to lay a hand on your back.” This is called “sexual harassment at the workplace” and every women and man knows it is unacceptable. Heike Lütgart, a criminologist and career police officer with decades of experience investigating gender-based violence, says that not having a law outside of the workforce is a tremendous problem for women because they do not realize that they do not have this protection.

After reading about the laws in Germany surrounding sexual assault, I became curious about how the three most populated countries handled sexual assault. In China, they recently overturned a law that “mandated a more lenient punishment for men who had sex with girls under the age of 14 if they could ‘prove’ that they paid the girl for sex.” There is now a heavy mandatory penalty for this crime with the highest punishment being the death penalty. India passed a new Anti-Rape bill in April of 2013. This bill includes crimes such as acid violence, stalking, and voyeurism. Attackers can be charged anywhere between 14 years in prison to the death sentence for extreme cases. The bill states that even if the victim does not physically struggle, that does not constitute as consent. Unfortunately, marital rape is still legal, but the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18.

I then looked at the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience some kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. The Model Penal code, the go-to documents for lawmakers rewriting their criminal laws, still allows for men to rape their wives, but this “marital exemption” has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s. It was not until about the middle of the 20th century that victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously. In the United States, forty-three states and the District of Columbia specify that unwanted sexual contact is prohibited. Five states have laws prohibiting battery, public indecency or “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Mississippi and Idaho, on the other hand, do not have “criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.” In 2013, Mississippi’s Democratic state Republic Kimberly Campbell proposed a bill to create a misdemeanor crime called “indecent assault.” This bill would handle adult fondling cases, which could prevent future crimes by stopping the act early. The bill died due to the fact the bill was too vague with the explanation of intent and opponents feared that the bill could “criminalize accidental touching or bumping.” On the other hand, there has been an indecent assault law in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary says that she takes several dozen of these cases a year. Her office has used this law to prosecute cases involving supervisors who have sexually harassed their workers in a physical way.

We, the citizens of the United States, need to work together to first, create a universal law across all 50 states to protect unwanted sexual touching/assaults against women and men. Second, eventually, spread this idea to other countries so that no human being has to live through such an uncomfortable situation.

Why Mother’s Day is a Bullshit Exercise in Appreciating Women

By Alice Elbakian

Let me begin by explaining, as best as I can, an eye-opening, world-changing phrase that I learned about only too recently: emotional labor. It’s difficult to pinpoint it in our lives because it includes a myriad of daily tasks that are easily ignored. But broadly construed, emotional labor means caring; it means taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of, or attending to our daily human and social responsibilities. It encompasses actions and tasks that are necessary for living an independent, functional human life. Typical chores of a housewife come to mind: cooking, cleaning, tending to children. But more importantly, emotional labor applies to the concealed logistics of these tasks: it’s not just cooking, it’s discerning what and when to feed everyone that you cook for according to their dietary and nutritional needs. It’s not just cleaning, it’s being able to tell what needs to be cleaned, or fixed, or replaced, and then doing the needful. It isn’t just driving your children to school, it’s helping them to get ready in the morning, and then listening and speaking with them about their day once they’ve come home.

Emotional labor goes beyond the common strife of housewives in ways that are probably more relevant to the lives of all you people reading. It’s is advising your guy friend for the millionth time about a girl who just does not, and will probably never like him back. It’s being the one roommate who changes the toilet paper and replaces the garbage bag when it’s full. It’s being the one in your partnership who plans social events and actually entertains and interacts with the guests who are kind enough to attend. It’s being the one who chooses, buys, and wraps all the presents, and writes the heartfelt cards to match for special occasions. Emotional labor even includes reminding others of their obligations, like telling your forgetful dad when your mother’s birthday is, or worse yet, the date of their anniversary. If it feels like work and you’re not getting paid for it, it’s probably emotional labor.

Why did I bring this up? Emotional labor is gendered: women are overwhelmingly the ones who are burdened with the stress of emotional labor. Given the large scope of daily tasks and responsibilities that constitute emotional labor, the fact that it’s gendered is a huge problem. Well, for half of the population anyway.

If you’re not on board with me so far, you may be tempted to say that women should just shut up and stop their whining. Sending out a reminder to your partner about their next doctor’s appointment is a task the size of a text message, certainly not a “burden.” Sure, maybe the one visible part of this one example from a whole day’s worth of work takes the form of a single text message. But this ignores the fact that it takes effort, focus, and attention to willingly and extemporaneously consider your partner, and their health, and their next doctor’s appointment, and it takes even more effort, focus, and attention to remember their appointment for them, to know that we will have to remind them, and finally to actually do the task of reminding them. How can women have their own full lives if they’re spending all of this mental and emotional energy on people who can’t do basic tasks for themselves?

Emotional labor is for the most part invisible because it focuses a lot on planning and taking others into consideration, which all goes on in our minds. We all know how taxing it is to keep track of all of our obligations and daily tasks at once, and most of us only do these things for ourselves, without the added burden of performing emotional labor for other people. People are a lot to be responsible for. And it’s true that in most cases, nobody is holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to do things like send out reminders. But women are expected to do so nonetheless. And if we don’t, you’ll probably forget your appointment, and then blame us for not reminding you.

So emotional labor is work that needs to get done but that nobody wants to do, and women are primarily the ones who end up buckling down and getting it done. We hardly notice or even count what women do as actual work. For these reasons, being a woman also means being taken for granted, daily. Don’t believe me? Go ask your mom. Women are the ass-wipers and tooth-brushers of the world. We’ve convinced ourselves, and have therefore grown comfortable with telling ourselves, that women just are the ones to do these things.

We might believe this for any number of reasons. Some people believe women perform emotional labor because they’re supposed to, or they’re just naturally better at it. Either one of those reasonings makes you a sexist prick. If you act as though you are entitled to women’s time, energy, focus, and attention, this is likely the problematic line of thought from which you operate. Work is work for everyone. Being “better” at something doesn’t mean we actually want to do it, or that we should do it more than anyone else does. And, surprise-surprise, getting good at something is a direct consequence of repeated practice. It has nothing to do with natural ability, and certainly not when the task in question is basic caring and taking on responsibility.

Others believe women perform the bulk of emotional labor because “they’re just nice enough to do it.” No. It’s not an issue of kindness, it’s doing what needs to be done and that means staying calm enough to put up with your bullshit. For example, do I want to be the one in my relationship who changes the sheets for the twelfth time in a row? No. Will I? Yes, but not because I’m being nice, rather because these sheets that my partner and I both sleep on are clearly dirty and need to be laundered, and in order for that to happen, they need to be taken off the bed, and when that happens, new sheets need to go on for sleeping.

“Why can’t you just ask your partner to change the sheets for once?” I could, but that doesn’t actually do much to address the problems for women like me or problems of emotional labor in general. Ironically, it would be a further expenditure of my emotional labor to teach my partner about bedding and sheet hygiene, for instance. Shouldn’t an adult know that by now? Do you want to know the secret to adulting? Performing emotional labor. Being responsible for things that you don’t want to be responsible for, but doing them anyway because they need to be done; because you owe it to yourself and the people around you to meet the basic requirements expected of you as a human being so that someone else doesn’t have to pick up your sack of slack, because it is a very heavy and unnecessary sack at that. The point of emotional labor is that you find it within yourself to care, and you take initiative. It is unfair that I should be burdened with even more emotional labor for trying to get someone else, my “partner”, to do the bare minimum.

Second of all, knowing if and when the sheets need to be changed is half of the emotional labor of changing sheets. If I’m going to tell him every time it’s time to change the sheets, I may as well save myself the headache and aggravation and hire a scheduled maid, or just do it myself, since I can’t afford a maid. There’s a pattern to heterosexual relationships: it starts with man-children who never learned to perform emotional labor on their own, probably because their mothers did it for them and they never bothered to learn because they didn’t acknowledge their mother’s work as work in the first place. Then – best case scenario – the man-child conveniently puts in just enough emotional labor in the beginning stages of courtship to reel women into this unbalanced relationship dynamic. Ah, so you do know what’s expected of you, you just stop doing it once you’ve won your prize. Then, the women in the relationship are tasked with raising their own adopted man-child to reach the basic standards of human functioning so that they may now apparently be considered worth their time and effort in the first place. I’m exhausted just imagining that. No wonder so many women simply prefer to be single.

It seems like there are a few options to get away from this kind of pattern, whether in a romantic relationship or not. The one that I suspect is on most peoples’ minds is to get the heck out of that relationship. Friend, boyfriend, family member, doesn’t matter. Just end it. There are some cases where women do have the opportunity to end their role as the free-ride-providing camels of life. We hear and read a lot about ending toxic relationships, cutting ties with people who demand too much of our valuable time and attention without reciprocating much, if anything, of their own. Maybe in some relationships it is possible to walk away like this. Ladies, if you’re his mother more than his girlfriend, friend, or whoever you actually are, if he’s not showing any signs of growth, if you have to pull teeth to get him to do for you what you do for him, dump his ass. Let it be a lesson to yourself in self-respect.

But of course things aren’t so easy and there are complications with this fix. What about women who don’t want to be alone but are sick of investing the necessary emotional labor to keep their relationships afloat, only to finally learn once more what they’ve already learned from all the men before? How much longer should we pretend that the problem is women’s standards instead of men’s behavior? [1]

So walking away from a relationship still has problems attached. It will only succeed in lucky cases, which are mainly romantic relationships and perhaps friendships. For a lot of women – and this is especially true for working, lower, and lower-middle class, colored, and/or multicultural women – the option of leaving the relationship really isn’t there. For example, cutting ties with family members who need you isn’t a “suck it up and do it” kind of thing. Families rely heavily on mothers and daughters to complete tasks ranging everywhere from filing taxes and balancing the checkbook, to picking up and caring for younger siblings after school, to the strenuous task of planning meals for a diabetic in the family. Most of these families would fall apart without the women there to do what they do.

Indeed, statistics show that widowers are 30 % more likely to die than widows (Ferness, 2012). This is likely because without women to care for them, widowers suffer in both their emotional and physical health, and without anyone to maintain their social lives for them, they suffer with no support system. This also explains why widowers are three times more likely than widows to remarry after losing their spouse. (Isaacs, 2015) Men literally die without us there to care for them, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves.

A few things should be relatively clear by now: emotional labor is work that is necessary for maintaining human relationships and a functional life, it is work that is primarily performed by women for both themselves and others around them, and it is work that, if performed by women, is not acknowledged as work at all. [2] I’ve offered a handful of examples and a couple of statistics that show the extent to which men and families are reliant on women and on the emotional labor that they perform. If there were any doubts about it until now, it should be an easy, albeit unpleasant pill to swallow that we are aware of all of the daily labor that women perform, but we seldom acknowledge or consider it as work.

Mother’s Day, then, seems like the perfect holiday for someone like me. How could a feminist oppose a holiday devoted to celebrating some of the hardest working women on the planet? Without saying so, Mother’s Day seems to exclusively focus on the emotional labor of being a mother. Some Mother’s Day celebrations involve performing emotional labor for our mothers while we give them a break, such as preparing breakfast in bed. Other activities serve to finally acknowledge her labor, like writing her a heartfelt card confessing how much we appreciate her and all the little things that she does for us. Still, other activities relieve her of the emotional labor that otherwise would have been expected of her on this day, such as when we gift her a “day off” with something like a mani-pedi or a movie marathon.

I like Mother’s Day in that it focuses on women and honors the impossible task of being a mother. I don’t have a problem with any of these activities. Do treat your mom however she likes to be treated, because she probably deserves it. Do not, however, delude yourself into thinking that this one day of appreciation sufficiently makes up for an entire year (and lifetime) of invisible, unacknowledged, and likely unreciprocated labor.

I certainly have a problem with people who treat Mother’s Day as a one-off holiday. This is on some level a personal decision, and therefore the people making it are at fault and are to blame more so than the name of a particular day. But my problem with Mother’s Day first of all, is that in virtue of being one of the only holidays that acknowledges emotional labor, it attributes all of this kind of labor to mothers only, when in fact most women in general perform emotional labor. Where is their holiday? Moreover, since emotional labor is the responsibility of everyone, let’s stop gendering celebrations of it. Even if the U.S. officially recognized International Women’s Day, we would still end up celebrating emotional labor as part of being a woman. Wrong message. We love that you want to thank us for doing this stuff for you. But if you really want to show appreciation, start doing this stuff for yourself.

My second problem with Mother’s Day is that is allows us to believe that the appreciation that our mothers and other women deserve can be squeezed into one day. We think that because we have this designated day, then on other days it’s not important that we show any (or much) appreciation; we don’t need to help them or lessen their burden on any other day. In assigning ourselves this one day out of 365 to acknowledge, appreciate, and most importantly, reciprocate our mothers’ work, we tacitly absolve ourselves of what is actually a daily responsibility to not only our mothers, but likely all the women in our lives.

If you’re thinking, “This isn’t me, I appreciate my mom on a daily basis”, I’m not doubting that you do. I am doubting however that you even realized how much she does for you and others, and therefore I’m doubting that you’ve shown her the adequate level of appreciation and reciprocation that she deserves, since you probably didn’t have the full story beforehand. I’m also doubting that you realized that women who aren’t mothers perform similarly large and stressful amounts of emotional labor for friends and partners who stay silent about their appreciation, assuming that they aren’t an entitled asshole. Emotional labor deserves daily recognition in virtue of being performed daily. And sheer acknowledgement is only one step up the hill. An important one, but still only one step.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s convenient to hold Mother’s Day annually is because it takes effort, and is perhaps difficult, to show someone that you care about them. It takes more effort to show how much you care when you have more reasons to care and more love to give, because you have so much to thank her for, and so many ways of doing so. But if this emotional labor is so hard, and if our mothers and other women don’t get to take a break the other 364 days a year, then neither should we. Mother’s Day is the only day of the year that we can finally put some name or understanding to what exactly our mothers and other women do for us, daily. But now with the phrase “emotional labor”, we can identify and reciprocate this work year round—for any and all women who deserve it, not just our mothers.

So the next time you celebrate Mother’s Day and feel proud of yourself for sending your mom a fragrant bouquet of roses with a spa voucher strategically slipped in, do your mom one better and actually make a difference in her daily life: if there’s something you can and should be doing for yourself instead of having her do it for you – and there probably is – then don’t wait for Mother’s Day, own up and accept your own responsibility. The same goes for any girlfriend or partner. Educate your lazy little brother (or father!) about what emotional labor is, and tell him to get his act together because your mom (or you) deserves better. Heck, maybe it’s your sisters who managed to escape the load of emotional labor, in which case they could learn a thing or two also. Tell your mom that you appreciate it when she does your laundry for you. And then learn how to do your laundry yourself because you are a grown ass adult. Your mom is not a personal laundry-doer. If your girlfriend does any of this for you, you owe her a paycheck and also probably much better sex.

Perform more emotional labor for yourself so that your mother and the other women in your life can have their own lives. No, scratch that, perform emotional labor for yourself because that is what is expected of you as a human. But also, don’t disrespect your mom and the other women in your life by making your problems and your daily tasks their responsibility. Women have their own lives, too. If you find yourself performing copious amounts of emotional labor with no reward, I urge you to demand the acknowledgement and reciprocation that you deserve. Take note of who stays and who goes.

 

[1] There are of course women who do not perform emotional labor, and this would cause similar problems in homosexual relationships, but since women generally do perform emotional labor, as we are socialized to learn it and perform it, it’s more likely that this is an issue that applies to heterosexual couples and possibly homosexual male couples.

[2] What I mean by this, is that people will jump at the opportunity to acknowledge and praise men for doing the bare minimum, but offer nothing to women. This is because the task is expected of women but not of men, despite the task’s status as ordinary and non-gendered. For example, a father who braids his child’s hair or cleans his home is likely to be acknowledged and admired. A woman who does the same is a prop that fades into its rightful surrounding.

The Joke That’s No Laughing Matter

By Sabrina Huston

There’s been a joke going around social media lately. “I have PTSD-President Trump Stress Disorder. Impeachment is the cure.” The joke has become popular enough that there is now a t-shirt for sale on websites from sunfrog to amazon including Prime shipping. Articles about “President Trump Stress Disorder” have appeared in numerous publications, including USA Today, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and the International Business Times, often in a mocking light. To use an acronym such as PTSD, which has significant meaning, for this political joke and reality is despicable and inhuman.

Political anxiety is real. Many people are concerned about losing health care or family members and Republicans in Washington continue to ignore the calls of the people. Politically caused anxiety, while it can often be debilitating, is not the same as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and conflating the two is helping no one.

People seeking therapy for anxiety caused by the possibility of their parents or siblings being deported an increasing occurrence should not be mislead into believing they have PTSD. That misbelief can hurt chances of therapy being successful or helpful at all.

But the main problem here is not the serious discussion taking place on some media sites and within the psychological community over how to best assist those who fear family separation through ICE. The problem is that mental illness, especially PTSD, has increasingly become a punchline.

Triggers are a real thing for many people. Some people with depression are triggered by graphic descriptions of violence, as it can remind them of episodes of self-harm. Many veterans with PTSD are triggered by loud explosions, such as fireworks, which can send them into traumatic memories. Memories of my suicide attempts are often triggered by classical music. Not all triggers make sense, but they are all legitimate and should be recognized as such. Despite this, a popular meme has been making fun of people who object to racism or graphic imagery with the phrase “triggered” overlaid on an often blurred picture. The mocking of a serious mental health concern has caused many college classes to stop giving trigger warnings due to a lack of understanding by the administration and professors as to what triggers and trigger warnings are. A trigger warning, or content warning, is a brief blurb of what may cause or trigger someone’s mental illness symptoms. For example, someone with PTSD will often relive a traumatic memory, including emotions, compulsions, and feelings of anxiety or panic. To not give someone a warning and the opportunity to avoid or mentally prepare themselves for whatever is coming is indeed inhuman and uncaring.

Mental health is a serious issue, especially in the US. In 2014 42,826 people committed suicide in the United States, and 383,000 visited emergency rooms from self-inflicted wounds. The number of suicides is still rising, with an estimated 44,193 committing suicide in 2016. Despite this epidemic, we still treat mental health as a joke, on both the right and the left, as can be seen by the “triggered” memes and the “Impeachment is the cure” t-shirt. Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all races, genders, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, and ages. It is not a joke, it is not something that can be used as a scapegoat for gun violence, nor something to be turned into a horror trope. It is a serious issue far too many people are afraid to deal with properly, often for fear of being mocked or harassed. So, the next time you think of reposting a “triggered” meme, or saying you have “President Trump Stress Disorder,” remember this: you’re making it harder for people to take care of themselves.

“Daddy Issues”

As a “daughter of a father” I sometimes think it would be hard to understand men, what they want, and why they behave the way they do, if I didn’t have one. I can understand when the daughters of gay parents (moms) — or in the seriously unfortunate cases where dads end up in jail, leave, or die — find it hard to make sense of them. I get that it can be hard to imagine they would have wants, needs, and boundaries similar to those women have, but you know, they’re people too.

Tati, tata, baba, papa, daddy, dad, father, whatever you call him, it is personal. The devolution of “daddy” to a taboo can attest to this. Over the summer, I was talking to my dad while we made the drive to and from my sister’s college in New York City. The trip was long, and I’m sure it made him more aware than ever that he was losing the women in his life that allowed him to function at an unhealthy intensity at work. You will later see why without us it would not only have been unnecessary, but impossible. We talked about a lot, though most of it was redundant and distressing because it clearly lacked any release. Slowly, I began to realize that his incessant criticism about the way people act was dictated by the priorities society encouraged him to accept. Socializing for what seemed to be the sake of talking was reserved for women, or my mom in particular, and his only job was to work in order to take care of his family (parents, wife, and kids — brothers when he feels like being generous.) Speaking to anyone needed good reasons: sharing political ideas, health, information, business, connections, formalities. Of course, these weren’t invariable missions he set out on as he initiated any conversation, but they were definitely reverberating in the back of his mind.

To him, my mom helping her brother by letting him live with us and finding him a job didn’t make any sense, and wasn’t worth it because her brother was ungrateful. But, my dad knows how women work. Even though he’d constantly remind her that giving anything without foresight wasn’t right, he expected her to “act out.” It didn’t stop there. His degree in economics couldn’t be wasted, so he would analyze each relationship to measure how much they’d cost. In this case he owed my uncle nothing except resentment. He would never communicate to someone who “wronged” him because he was sure they were aware of how they were impacting and insulting him. Additionally, they were easily discarded, because they weren’t part of the work/family deal he signed up for. This would happen with people in and out of the family, and he would act as though it didn’t affect his mental health. I was slightly infuriated by his inability to see the intrinsic value of relationships — that can’t be quantified by ideas or knowledge or money or power, but as a woman I was taught to be tactful in these circumstances. I turned to look at him, and I think I was the first to ever ask him sincerely, “Are you happy?” Seconds ago a flaming rage filled the car, but now I was answered with the chill of silence.

The more distance I have from home, the more objectively I can see these situations. My dad’s personal views about how my mom generally handled things shaped the way I view what is considered “feminine.” Because he was both an expert at assuming the dominant and more knowledgeable role, and because she survived on submission, my views were shaped in such a way that I equated femininity with weakness, passivity, lower intelligence, and being overly nurturing (to the point of neglecting yourself.) More importantly, I saw that he deplored of every one of those qualities. I never hated women, especially not my mom, but I did hate what it meant to be feminine.

I wasn’t the only one. As an adolescent, everyone around me seemed to suddenly start hating pink, admiring heartless “Sherlock” characters, judging based on intelligence and aggression (throwback to king of the hill,) and acting as if they were ok with the fleeting relationships they felt they had with people. Yes, the “I hate pink” phase has faded, yes, we have begun to tell men to “embrace their emotional side,” and yes, some have begun to realize how unrealistic and destructive it is to glorify Sherlock characters. Yet, I fear we are still holding on to the tainted ideas that we should welcome feminism by embracing masculinity and rejecting femininity.

I don’t know about you, but “fierce” and “black woman” have nearly become synonyms in my mind for reasons I’m pretty upset about. Among them is that it’s a reminder that they’re too vocal, that it’s surprising they have shit to say, and that whatever they’re doing is abnormal. I don’t know about you, but I still have problems figuring out how to dress, and rarely consider putting on makeup. This is not for fear of promiscuity, because lucky for me that’s not something I’ve internalized (is it because I haven’t been harassed enough or my weight issues? you tell me,) but for looking too “girly” to be taken seriously. I don’t know about you, but I still feel pride knowing I’ve worked myself too hard today or didn’t sleep yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure anyone else is more anxious when talking about their feelings than our own generation. In this instance I’m comparing my current experience with my experience in an isolated region of the Balkans, in addition to what I’ve heard coaches say about the 80’s and 90’s. Both tend to be behind in the social scene, but in neither case would people feel awkward saying “I love you” or showing affection in any way. Note: talking about feelings is not the same as sharing personal information, which we tend to do instead. People here and now are more guarded, and superficial things like social media and “hook-up culture” endures, despite everyone being aware of the caveats. Wouldn’t you rather scroll mindlessly through twitter than even attempt to make plans that likely require ridiculous coordination, time spent away from work you should be doing, anxiety about whether you’re worth spending time with, and probably more money than you’d prefer to spend? We are desperately searching for ways to be ok with the deterioration of long-term relationships, and mostly what we have right now is detachment.

What I didn’t realize while marinating in my indignation in the car with my dad, was that women adapted to be exactly what men needed them to be while they were setting out to meet society’s demands of them. For one thing, wives are the single person they are bound to. The single relationship they are obligated to maintain  which should, according to game theory, indicate an optimization of social welfare. Both parties seeking to maximize each other’s outcome to ensure the relationship remains perpetual. Women are not weak, passive, stupid, emotional, or nurturing by nature, but when the only priorities your partner has in life are to work and support the family, the things holding them together are the perceptions that they are strong, aggressive, smart, emotionless, and don’t need support. The same dynamic that may occur in gay relationships leads ignorant people to ask “who is the ‘man’ of the house?” Under the right conditions, these role fulfillment expectations perpetuate themselves. The delicate illusion that gender is related at all to intrinsic qualities continues to wear thin as feminism rises. No gender can be happy with these fundamentally flawed molds they’re expected to adapt to, and moving past them shouldn’t be questioned. But, listen to teachers when they tell you the movement began when women joined the workforce. The implications are significant, because right now we are all facing these ridiculous expectations and have no one to properly fill the shoes of the feminine role — with only a partial exception of pets (insert Rick and Morty reference here.) We can’t forget to analyze what was effective, what wasn’t, and why this discrimination emerged the way it did. Otherwise, we can easily fall into patterns of the past.