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.

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.

Real Magic in October..

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A few weekends ago, (10/18/13) I had the pleasure to once again enjoy a free concert performance at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on our CSULA campus, and I have to say, if you’ve never experienced a show here, please do! This time around I saw the sister soul act from France, Les Nubians. The show was phenomenal! The energy these women displayed reached out and swallowed up the audience transporting us to a dreamland of the feminine eternal where love reigned supreme and critical analysis trumped shallow vanity. I bobbed in my seat, playing a game of translation in my head to decipher not only the words they sang, but also their meanings. Since I speak more Franglish than I do French, I had my work cut out for me.

I understood probably 65% of what was being said in French the entire night, but the moment both women in Les Nubians raised their clenched fists overhead to salute the family of Trayvon Martin, everyone got the message. They continued to urge the audience not to forget the struggle for social justice and the need for a revolution. At that moment I felt a rush of emotions; pride, renewed rage…solidarity. These mother, art-ducaters** were on stage once again raising awareness around the same issues they addressed 15 years ago on their debut album Les Nubiennes Princesses. They were drawing parallels on the social and political climates of America to that of a quickly regressing France. All of this in between every two to three music sets performed, and how they did perform!  A few songs resonated with me in the way we all know music can, touching gently and leaving an impression on you that will last far after the song ends. When the poem/song “Je Suis Une Femme**,” was delivered, I am certain every self identified woman in the room felt a sense of pride and power as Les Nubians sang of women as the only separation between man and God; the perpetuators of humanity.

They shook our senses and awakened our emotions with music, then planted seeds in the subconscious mind surrounding women’s rights, racism, female majesty, food and social justice, immigration reform and humanity’s need for love. By the latter half of the show the artists were barefoot, dancing their way through dancehall reggae and (masaka) rhythms with the audience, myself included, taking part. Even with a language barrier between over half of the audience and themselves, Les Nubians transcended through their music and delivered a truly magical show

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.

Are you sure you should be eating that?

Tell me if this sounds at all familiar.

You’re walking around the mall with your non-social justice friend in the middle of the day. You see a person wearing short shorts and a midriff shirt. Your friend whispers in your ear: “Oh, she should NOT be wearing that out in public.” And then as your friend starts to go on about the appropriate attire for a person’s body size, you start to drown out that voice, and reevaluate why you’re keeping this person as your friend.

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Body shaming is highly prevalent in our culture, which is depicted as a person overtly or covertly being socially examined or scrutinized due to that person’s body image/size. Women are most commonly the victims of body shaming, particularly women of color. Women have a long history of being under a social microscope, and often times their value is determined based on their bodily appeal, when considering a heterosexist situation. Women of color’s cultures commonly value or casually accept curvaceous women, but living in this culture brings means clashing the ideal acceptance of one culture, for the socially constructed goal of “thin is good” within the other.

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I also have to point out that body shaming is gender blind. Don’t tell me men don’t judge other men based on their bodies. The desire in this instance is to be big and rough, marked by the accusation: “do you even lift, bro?!” Men feel the pain of others’ judgment, but being men, they are taught to internalize and reject any notion that this is troublesome.

But why do people body shame at all in the first place? I might now know the answer to this, but I have a hypothesis. When a person is discontent with his own body, he rejects the pain of focusing inward, and instead will focus outwards, and project his own bodily dissatisfaction onto others. This malicious domino effect has been occurring long before the first bikini was revealed, and can only be thwarted when a person realizes this is being done and takes the responsibility to stop. Having a stomach that isn’t rock-hard tight stomach is a totally acceptable thing. It’s silly to assume that individual worth is as easily readable as one reads the numbers on a bathroom scale. In my own experience, I have hated my bodily perception so much that I was willing to eat little and do 1000 calorie workouts to punish my body just so I can pass in society. But now, I challenge the notion that I need another person’s acceptance to accept my own body. Furthermore, it’s been weeks since I’ve weighed myself, because I don’t believe that number makes me any more or less significant. I can excel in school, work, and life just as well as the person with a six pack, and I bet you could too.

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