Teen Momma Drama

I’ve been a fan of hair-cut chit chat; I always find that my stylist asks questions that are a little too personal. Take last week’s haircut for instance. I dragged my brother into the salon, started my own haircut while my stylist began poking into my personal life, and asks me: “So you doing anything with your wife this Valentine’s Day?” Trying to recover from the heterosexist question, I managed to blurt “no,” to which she responded with “that’s your son over there, right?” Looking over at my 11 year old brother I saw where her train of assumption was coming from. After explaining that he’s just my brother and that I didn’t have any kids, she let out a loud “OH! Phew, that’s a relief.”

Let’s get real now. I’m 22 years old, and I don’t look anything over 26 (and that’s with exaggeration). Where is this “relief” coming from? For if I had a child at a young age would that make me a horrible person, or am I making the world a more horrible place if I had a child while young?

There’s nifty word that explains my stylist’s uneasy feelings. Chrononormativity, it’s a long word that suggests that there is a socially acceptable timeline of our life events that we must follow. Life events occur in a “normal” manner, and when a person breaks these norms the social outlook on this person is negative. That’s why there is much stigma towards:

  • People who go to college at an older age (instead of being at college from ages 18-24)
  • People who date outside of an “acceptable” age range (a 19 year old dating a 30 year old)
  • People who have children at a young age (instead of the desired 28-38 age range)

And being real again, yes there are a lot of health concerns connected to having children at this age, but if two people at a young age are physically healthy, knowledgeable about pregnancy, or if they had an accident and want to go through this together, then why vilify them for having a child?

A lot of this is socially reinforced through shows like Teen Mom that capitalize on the stories of teenagers who are clearly not prepared for parentfuturama-fry-and-teen-mom_o_590154hood. Realize that these instances are not the norm, and are produced by television companies that feed the fame-hungry teens (because who really wants their life documented on MTV?), and the chrononormativeaudience that we are. Also important to point out, most of these pregnancies are accidental, and could have EASILY been avoided with sex-education and contraception availability, but that’s a whole other blog.

When my hairstylist was relieved that I didn’t have a child at my age, she didn’t know if I was actually qualified to be a parent or not; she only judged my age. She didn’t know that I took a very active part in raising my little brother because of our neglectful parents, or that I’m extremely knowledgeable within the areas of Child Development and Family Studies,  or that my parents, who did have children at an “acceptable age” were horribly unfit parents. Even if I did have a child right now, it’ll be stressful, it’ll be straining, but I think I would make an excellent parent.

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How the Grinch Really Stole Christmas

We’ve all read the book or seen the story on T.V. before. A grouchy green-furred man has an irrational dislike of Christmas, and decides to take out his anger by completely stripping a population of ‘Whos’ from their holiday.

And why do the ‘Whos’ hate the Grinch? Because he hates Christmas. And why does the Grinch hate Christmas?

“The Grinch hated Christmas – the whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all… may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Dr. Seuss books are known to hold underlying messages in their storylines: environmental awareness in The Lorax, combating racism in The Sneetches and Other Stories, and acknowledging isolationism in Horton Hears a Who. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a story that helps us think of Christmas season differently.

The message is that the holiday cannot exist without the material. Seuss (the writer) is Grinch Truesaying that if we object to buy-buy-buy mentality of the holiday, there is something “off” about us.

Perhaps something is off about Christmas. The holiday now comes with a Black Friday Death Count App, and we leave our family and friends on Thanksgiving to toil away in the quarry of consumerism. And so is The Grinch really so far off?

Grinch gives in to the Christmas effects at the end. As we tend to do. He realizes that Christmas doesn’t have to revolve around materialistic gift-exchanging, but finally sees the spirituality and community engagement the ‘Whos’ demonstrate.

The reasoning for Grinch’s behavior is justified as tight shoes or biological reasons (born with a small heart/born with a loose head). The Grinch really didn’t steal Christmas. He helped us to know that some things are just uncomfortable, sometimes our hearts and heads need to grow a bit and learn that it’s about the people, the stuff is just extra. And really… do we need all that extra?

Film Focus: Catching Fire

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, as Twitter, Facebook, and T.V. commercials have been telling you for the past week, but Catching Fire is out! If you haven’t seen it, it’s ok, because I won’t be spilling any spoilers. If you have seen it or, as most people like to claim, have read the book, feel free to offer your insight!

So we know the basic premise, which mirrors and extends the first story’s plot. A futuristic land with a capitol that controls 99% of the money and power over the 12 districts sends young adults into gladiator-style battles to the death for enjoyment and as a reminder that the districts are at the capitol’s mercy.

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What I’m interested in is a single line that is retold throughout this and the past movie. After a single person survives the Hunger Games, s/he is awarded by living in comfort back in their poverty-stricken district. That person is then forced to say towards the capitol numerous times: “Thank you, for the forgiveness and generosity of capitol.” Now what this makes me think about is when survivors of hurricane Katrina went on air via news channels and said, similarly: “thank you, America, for your compassion and generosity.” Or let’s take this transnationally, when America became the shining beacon of support for the earthquake survivors in Haiti, or the views America had towards the Tsunami survivors in the Philippines.

In these examples and in the Hunger Games storyline, there is depiction that the area with the power and resources graciously extend acts of compassion and mercy towards the otherwise victimized land already troubled with hardship. What is untold, however is that these areas are experiencing hardship largely due to neglect from said merciful lands. Centuries of history show that Louisiana and the surrounding area have been at risk for floods and hurricanes, and coincidentally this unsafe area is where there is much poverty. Is this a surprise, or have these underprivileged people (mostly of color) been forced to live where the rich care not to? When the earthquake struck in 2011 Haiti was known as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and relief efforts from the United Nations only perpetuate the mainstream idea: “oh those poor people! Oh but we’re here now, we’re such good people, we’ll save you,” when if we really wanted to make a difference, we would not have waited for an earthquake to motivate us. This nationalistic ego stroke was completely rejected by the Philippines earlier this year following the tsunami. President Obama tried to define the culture with a westernized concept: resilient. Numerous authors identified as Filipina/o resented the notation of bending but not breaking, as it within their culture that breaking occurs, but transformation follows.

Bringing this back to the topic of the Hunger Games, I find the storyline to be way ahead of its time (considering the books were written before the Occupy movements). There are many other social justice movements in the series, including: anti-war, feminism, economic inequality, disability, and anti-racism. If you have the chance to see it, read the book first, and then go! I give 4 out of 5 Snowcaps!

You Want me to Thank Who, Now?

thanksgiving-mealI’m pretty sure at this point in our lives we’ve encountered a news site, blog post, or chatty person telling us not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because it perpetuates the myth of friendly colonists that made nice with the indigenous people of North America. We know this isn’t true. Enslavement, rape, disease-ridden blankets, and the robbing of their native language are only among the few of the tortures Native Americans faced upon the arrival of the colonists. Yet America finds it totally o.k. to acknowledge a day for families and friends to come together, to indulge in a feast of food, to close banks, schools, and many businesses for the day, and worst of all, encourage us all to be “thankful” for what we have. Many people choose to blindly consume until lethargy on this day, marking the importance on a feathered bird and disregard how this day even came about.

But to be completely fair, most of these articles/posts/soap box speeches have been from people who are not of Native American descent. I wouldn’t imagine any Native American individual would argue that the seizure of their land was a good thing, but there’s light to shed on the truth to Thanksgiving. Did pilgrim and native sit down after a collaborative harvest season to enjoy their splendor? No, but there is history of civility amongst the two communities (at least at the beginning) where the English relied on the natives for survival, and the natives aided in their survival.

Many Native American communities acknowledge Thanksgiving in a similar manner to the Euro-American holiday, but the idea of thanks is conceptualized differently. There’s a Christian back force behind Thanksgiving, which isn’t present in Indigenous celebration. The latter gives thanks to where we came from and we they are, namely in mother and mother earth.  Rather than celebrating a Thanksgiving, there is a state of thanksgiving in a spiritual sense that does bring together communities and families (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com). However, this is not to say that every person of Native American descent it pro-Thanksgiving. There are many whtumblr_mdwao0B9Hj1qj171uo1_500o refuse to celebrate the day, and instead use the time as a Day of Mourning.

Now I’ll pose a few questions for you. What do you make of the day? Do you have a family get-together that’s unrelated to the American Thanksgiving? Do you refuse to recognize the American holiday and take the side of anti-Thanksgiving? Do you acknowledge the fact that this country was built on the aid and eventual abuse of the Indigenous populations? How do you define the day now? A day of mourning? A day of commemoration? A day of honor? A day of condolence?

With the acknowledgment that this country was built from the spilled blood of the indigenous, we breathe life into their descendants. We give them back a stolen story, and although nothing could ever make right the horrible wrongs that occurred, we can give them the respect they deserve.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

There are so many indicators that remind me that winter is coming: The evening sky dims darker much quicker, the leaves tone down to browns and yellows, the Starbucks cups turn into a glowing red… And with this transition comes “cuddle weather.” So maybe it’s the weather letting me know I’m single, or maybe it’s the pictures on Instagram with my friends and their significant others, or my family asking me yet again “So have you found your future Mrs. yet?”

Anyway, yes, relationships are on the mind.

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And what I’ve been commonly hearing recently, probably due to those dreaded get-together family holiday parties coming up, is the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” And I don’t mean because some people have quite literally forgotten how to formally introduce someone. I’m talking about how you introduce your partner who is of another culture to a family that is less than accepting.

It would be a lie if I said racism, prejudice, and cultural judgment are dead. Even though families aren’t as traditionally oriented as they were 10 or 20 years ago, there’s still a value placed among families to date within “our own.” We see this in the interaction of parent to toddler with remarks like “oh what a cute little toddler, you’re going to find a beautiful Latina for a bride one day!” “I can’t wait to see you married in a big beautiful Christian church one day!”

It’s in this multicultural, socially evolving world we live in where we experience people completely different from ourselves. There’s this clash between personal and family life where I hesitate to link together. In this sense, my question has often been: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” When you’re a queer Latino brought up in a traditional Catholic household that’s bringing home someone completely different, there’s a little embarrassment to say “yea… all those racist, heterosexist remarks… that’s where I come from.”

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And to be fair, yes, families of color that were oppressed had to learn that it was only safe to date amongst the same color. There are valid reasons that some families reinforce these ideals, also seen in religious pedagogy of finding the ideal partner that understands what values we’re supposed to follow. And it’s unfortunate that we often use the excuse: “well it’ll just be easier to date someone Christian/Asian/the opposite gender (if you’re sexually fluid and not strictly interested in only one gender) because it’ll ‘fit’ better.”

Realize that an intimate partner isn’t a piece that’s supposed to fit into your puzzle. They’re someone who will offer romantic companionship and be a person you can connect to in ways you can’t with your family. When my sister brought home a Japanese young man, my parents were initially surprised, and let down when they asked “is he at least Catholic?” They went through a phase where they partook in some offensive comments while he was in the other room. But after a while when it was clear that he made my sister genuinely happy, they realized he was part of the family already and they could not reject him without rejecting my sister. THEN I politely taught them why the language they used is not acceptable.

So to answer the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” Tell your family about your partner before-hand, and do the same with your partner. Wear something nice, ask your partner to do the same, and then ask your family to do the same. Know that each person in that room loves you (or at least really likes you and it might turn into something even more serious later on) and bring together your family and personal lives.

I’m Coming Out… I Want the World to Know… Got to Let it Show….

October 11th marks National Coming Out Day! Woohoo! It’s time for the Queer community to celebrate their identity in the loudest way possible! Cal State L.A. played host to a National Coming Out Day event yesterday, where we decorated our Union plaza with rainbows, stationed resource tents, invited colleges to show their support, gave away free ice cream floats, and listened to some rocking beats from DJ Gingee.  

Everything went smoothly and the day was filled with good vibes, until people started to approach me with a troubling question: “Why is this day even important?” To people that have never had to defend their sexuality and celebrate their sexuality everyday with social acceptance, it seems logical that they would be oblivious to the fact that some people are threatened with shame, humiliation, and even death for declaring that their sexuality is queer.

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Queer, by definition, is being not of the “norm.” This theory is extended into sexuality, where a person is deemed queer when a person is not of the “sexuality norm.” In a social world that stresses relationships to be composed of one man and one woman, we see Queerness is a variety of ways. A man kissing another man; that’s queer. A woman in love with a Trans* individual; so queer! An open heterosexual couple that are swingers and invite different people into their bedroom; so queer I can’t even.

And the thing about the label Queer is that it was once a derogatory term, but is now reclaimed as a proud identity. Queer has been used as an accusation and a taunt, but those who have been insulted for being queer now say “Yea, I AM queer, amazing, and I’m not hiding it!”

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Today is not a day to pressure everyone to come out. It is a day to celebrate the instances where people choose to come out, and revel in the communities of people that have come out. It’s also a day where we show support to those that are in the process of coming out. For the entire year is full of heterosexism, we have one day where the focus is on us, and our journey. That is why this day is important.

It’s Time to Look for a Costume!

Happy October everyone! With its horror movie marathons and creepy decorations, October stands as my favorite month of the year and I always get over excited when it comes (I mean come on, I wrote a zombie blog for crying out loud https://cccspeaks.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/lets-talk-zombies/)!

And I, like most of you, am already planning what costume I’m going to put on to go Halloween parties, trick-or-treating (hey, it’s free candy!), and when I visit the Hollywood Halloween parade. And even though I try to change up my costume idea every year, all the other costumes seem to stay the same.

An overly colorful blanket and sombrero combo with the person holding two bottles of tequila.

A tiny inaccurate Native American dress with an over-the-top feathered head piece.

A loose representation of a kimono with a person wearing white face paint.

Someone wearing robes with a wrapped up towel over his head with fake bombs strapped to his chest.

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Cultures are supposed to be celebrated and marveled, not adorned for cheap giggles. When we put on a costume that mocks a cultural heritage, we rob that culture of its worth, because we are disregarding that there are people identified within the culture and we are now using their identity as a physical mask.

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There are PLENTY of other choices of costumes besides the one in the offensive aisle. If you really can’t think of anything else then I recommend you go Charlie Brown style and wear a bed sheet over your head. Yea, you might get rocks instead of candy, but if I see you out there with an offensive costume I’ll give you a long uncomfortable disappointed look, and that’s much worse.