Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ten Ways to Make your Teen Years Count.

1. Get a job, rather it be after-school, or something seasonal. Even if you are not in financial need, get one. It will probably be terrible. You will complain and fall in love with it at the same time. You may think you are smarter than everyone there, and there is a strong likelihood that your work environment will be completely corrupt and the most bogus thing ever. You will learn to support yourself, and acknowledge your privilege, rather it be financial, access to educational opportunities, intellect, able-bodiedness, etc. You will learn to work with a team in the hopes of achieving a common goal. If you work with the public you will see how your actions appear to other people and learn exactly whom you do not want to grow up to become. Additionally, if you plan to enter the professional work sphere someday, how do you expect to know how to have a successful interview and interact with coworkers if you've never even had a menial part-time job?

2. Make out with someone you would not normally make out with, rather that be someone of the same-sex, opposite sex, or outside of your usual "type." Do not be lame and do it in front of a group of people to prove how "edgy" or "free-spirited" you are. Do it privately, for your own purposes, and with someone who will not place you in a dangerous situation for kissing them.

3. Get punched in the face for a good cause. Stand up for someone getting bullied or tell some bigot jerk-oid that their parent's did a shitty job of instilling respectable values in them. Please do not put yourself in any real danger. Stay away from people who carry weapons or people who are so super insecure that they will do serious bodily harm to others just to prove a point. Teach yourself to not be afraid of the little things and to always stand up for what you believe in.

4. Do something you are forbid to do. Go on private property and share a joint with your best friend. Get caught up in the heat of the moment and cast aside your clothing. I am not encouraging you to set yourself up for chemical dependency or heartbreak, but you can not be afraid to make mistakes. Without them you will never grow as an individual. You must challenge where you place importance in order to fully comprehend your true values. Your moral code should be a reflection of your life experiences, not a regurgitation of what you have been preprogrammed to believe. Do not be stupid and run off with someone you've never met twice your age just because he promises you acid. Stay away from meth. There's a reason why calling someone a "tweaker" is an insult. Steer clear from heroin. You'll think you're really deep and misunderstood until you met someone who has fallen in love with the needle.

5. Experiment with your hair. Chop it like you've never chopped it before, bleach it and dip your locks in a thick dye. Hair grows back and it will teach you that your appearance is not important.

6. Take advantage of your privileged access to endless amounts of information, knowledge, entertainment, and perspective. Read. Give your history teachers hell by reading Karl Marx and Angela Davis. Give your friends something to playfully tease you about and read Tom Robbins. Be cliche and read Bukowski and Plath. Earn yourself some street cred and read Kathleen Hanna's zines and Kurt Cobain's journal entries. Read Bust Magazine so that you understand the importance of calling yourself a feminist. Read teeny-bopper magazines and Nicholas Spark novels so you can understand what the fuck is going on with our nation's youth.

7. Do well enough in school that you can afford to cut class every once in a while. Make your ditch days count though. Drive to the beach to create memories with a loved one, express pent-up emotions through horrible art, create a zine addressing a social justice cause you're passionate about. Whatever you do, do not sit at home and watch television. Your own life should be more exciting than the fictional depictions of television characters.

8. Teach yourself how to do something, rather how to play a musical instrument, how to make spoon jewelry, or how to knit mittens. The goal is to improve your skill set and stick with something. If possible, work together with a group of friends who are equally talentless (to start with anyways), or, if you know someone who is particularly skilled, ask them to tutor you. Write bad songs. Craft ramshackle knitwear. Play every show you possibly can. Give all your friends your shitty mittens for their birthdays. Have fun and laugh when you make mistakes.

9. Trust the kindness of strangers and be nice to everyone you meet until they give you a reason to act otherwise. If someone insults your physical appearance, you can dish them some sass back without necessarily stooping to their level of asshole-ness. You are hot, I swear. Remember you can find something "wrong" with anyone's physical self if you look hard enough. If someone insults your character, weigh their input and learn how to grow from their criticism, regardless of if their original intent was constructive or not. If you are attacked for your race, sex, gender expression, and/or sexual/romantic orientation, fight back when it is safe to do so, but remember that people are unpredictable when their biases are threatened. Remove yourself from hostile environments because you are irreplaceable.

 10.  Leave town upon turning eighteen, regardless of your financial situation. Do not limit your adventure because of your parent's or guardian's fears. It does not matter if a prestigious uber awesome college is located right smack in the middle of your town or if your hometown is Los Angeles or New York City. To grow is to explore and adventure. If you find your hometown is where your heart is, you can always return, but you will never know that for certain without trying life outside of its borders. Your place of residence should reflect your desires, not the choices of your family to reside within a particular city.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Appropriateness and Moral Condemnation: Why Sex Matters but Shouldn't.

From Dictionary.com:

in·ap·pro·pri·ate [in-uh-proh-pree-it]
not appropriate; not proper or suitable: an inappropriate dress for the occasion.
improper, unsuitable, inapt, unfitting.

Here's the difference between a scantily-clad woman and a scantily-clad man. The man will read as humorous and good-natured, people will laugh. However, people will interpret the woman's lack of "proper" attire with sexual aggression. Why? Simply speaking, women is not seen as equally human, thus she is instead interpreted as a desirable object for men to twist, churn, and fuck. If she were seen as human, rather than as a sexualized object, others would acknowledge the plethora of interpretations behind her partial or full nudity beyond those that are strictly sexual in nature. 

Whenever someone expresses their opinion that a woman is dressed "inappropriately" due to too much of her body being exposed, they're outwardly suggesting that a woman's body is inherently inappropriate. Now, why would a woman's body be inappropriate? Society largely limits female bodies sole purpose to that of a sexual nature. Juxtapose contemporary western society's mutual demonization of sex and objectification of female bodies, and the final result is confusing and contradictory. The idea that the female body is provocative by nature implies that a male's exposure to too much of the female form will "provoke" him to act out in a sexual way. This manifestation of reductionist sexist assessment of the reasons for which women exist continually promotes the notion that a woman's body exists solely for the sexual satisfaction of heterosexual men.

Women do not exist for the sexual satisfaction of men. They simply exist, and in their existence, their body will serve a multitude of functions. It is not our responsibility, as women, to shroud our bodies from men. Just as it is a woman's responsibility to understand the appropriate time and place to view a man as a sexual entity, so too is it a man's responsibility to treat women with the same regard. 

I do not shout sexual suggestions at men jogging shirtless down the street. I do not stare at men's crotches when they choose to wear body-hugging pants. I do not ogle at muscle-tee wearing men in the hopes of getting a glimpse of naked torso. We understand such actions as unwanted and inappropriate. So, why do all too many men feel entitled to stare at a girl's ass when she bends down to adjust her boot strap, or catcall women on their way to work, or wink at a woman in a sports bra at the gym? If I know when it is appropriate to sexualize a man's body and when it is not, I expect the same consideration from men.

The normalization of sexism complicates one's ability to effectively respond to it in the heat of the moment. How do you demonstrate the injustice behind one's comments when institutionalized tolerance has been so deeply ingrained in their minds that the speaker is both the victim and perpetrator? Here are some statements you could say when you are presented with a situation in which someone is morally condemning a woman due to her outfit choice:

"Why are you sexualizing her body? You're making me uncomfortable."
"Do you understand how your comments promote rape culture? You are suggesting that it is a woman's responsibility to not be sexualized without her consent, rather than the responsibility of men to not sexualize women against their will. This mentality leads society to think women who dress a particular way are 'asking for it' and invalidates their experiences of sexual misconduct.
To school administrators/fellow students:
"Do you think it's appropriate to humiliate female students and make them ashamed of their bodies?"
Or, just straight up:
"Stop creeping on that woman. What's inappropriate about the flesh, bone, and muscle that together make up her legs?"

The most effective responses aim to educate, rather than perpetuate feelings of shame and humiliation, the individual/group of individuals who are making such comments about the implications of their words. Yes, there are men who are elitist assholes who act as if they are God's gift to women, but unless you have reason to believe otherwise, as the patriarchy encourages men to behave in such a light and not recognize the consequences of their behavior, you can often assume the ignorance of the perpetrators. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mailboxes like staircases.

I try to fight it, but I'm simply not strong enough. The sadness seeps in, consuming me in its thick entirety. I am forced to acknowledge that I will never farm coffee in Peru. I'll probably never own a catering company or be a foster mom. I'll definitely never know what it's like to be an astronaut and see home from such a distance. Nor will I travel the globe, gun in my hand, defending my country. I will never fight loneliness for livelihood and I will never be a sculpter and go to sleep with once wet clay, now hardened and dry, caked beneath my fingernails. 

Their bodies, their minds, their actualities, all those people I will never be leave me completely overwhelmed. There is not enough time, I have to settle and trick myself into believing I am satisfied by just knowing them. Our interactions serving as a reminder that although I do not belong among them, they exist, they prosper, they expire. They speak their stories and I listen greedily wanting to fill my head with as much information before my childhood curiosity retreats and replaced with steadfast bitterness. 

I write narratives in my head, allowing my reality to blur together with the lives of others. The edges fade out into each other. I feel what they feel. For a moment, I know them, and I feel them knowing me. Each character builds a nest within my frame, forever sleeping in my spine. I rewrite, remake, and remodel particular characters daily, letting one bleed into another like a domino. My favorites come and go, the disc gets scratched, and the whole thing starts to skip, but in the end the actors did their best, and everything played out perfectly. Taking a bow, they finish their concluding scene unsteadily, and cascade into fragments. The next one stands up, only to remind that our creations can never fully escape us. I find bits and pieces of them recycled with each other. Another beautiful story created.

Perhaps I will become a sculpter after all. Perhaps I already am one. 

No more sleep walking dead.

A pretty frame to fondle and touch or a locked window to force open and enter, I was nothing but a thin crystal glass for you to pour yourself into. You never dust me off, so what could have been a trophy collects dust like a completed novella. In the process of molding and forming me like the wet virgin clay I was, you gave me a set of wings in which to leave you, this place, and this life.

Out from the confusion, a hazy abyss, grows a green spring, both leafless and bare. Do not pluck her, for her roots are too deep for a man of your strength. You’ve lost in admiration, so someone else came along, plucked her up from the ground, and made her a queen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why "Nice" Girls Don't Like Me & Why I Don't Like 'Em Back.

My worldview positions me front and center. Nice girls drift outwards, seeking comfort in the invisibility of such an abyss, their preferred positioning shielding them from getting close enough to conceptualize the peculiarities of life. From this stance, Nice Girls appreciate beauty at its surface level, unable to recognize the camouflaged blemishes (read: mistakes) or acknowledge the drafts (also known as failures) before its debut.

But, failure and me have matching best friend bracelets. Nice Girls put on their track shoes and run from failure. Having rather built a throne atop a ladder they do not honestly value than having to start at the bottom and work up a ladder in which they cherish, Nice Girls confuse patience with waiting, thus failing to realize the depth of such a virtue. Patience is not a glorification of the passivity in waiting, but the ability to maintain a positive attitude while working towards a nearly impossible goal or a project with an extensive timeline.

By aggressively avoiding mistakes, Nice Girls rob themselves of the best way to learn and without this, they never really mentally, emotionally, or psychologically develop into adults. Nice Girls naively accept mistakes as unchangeable failures. In reality, the only travesty in regards to mistakes is failure to learn from them. If one is too afraid of failure they can never do what is required to become successful, thus Nice Girls are left to find artificial success and an elevated sense of importance in their lack of mistakes. This fear of  failure forfeits life's greatest success: happiness. I have failed more times than Nice Girls dare to try. Ultimately, guilty of the worst mistake of them all, Nice Girls allow fear to dictate the courses of their lives. 

The unapologetic life I lead send Nice Girls into a deep shudder. Always the first to apologize, when asked to abandon their submissiveness and stop apologizing for things unworthy of forgiveness, "Sorry" all to often serves as a Nice Girl's sole response.

My sentences begin with a steady stream of fucks and conclude with a anthology that says fuck capitalism, fuck the patriarchy, fuck America for sticking it's dick in everyone else's desert, and fuck you if it is my language, rather than the surrounding system that has left me so angry, that offends you. Reserving particular subjects matters and conversations for defined relationships, planned appointments, and private places, I remember the reddening of various family members and friend’s cheeks upon my rehashing of how so and so's father was finally convicted after years of sexually abusing his children or my frank discussion of the heroin epidemic. “Hush,” they would say, “there’s children over there” or “people are trying to enjoy their meals.” I always thought and will forever continue to think, fuck that, people need to be exposed to reality in order to act upon it. Avoiding the discussion of difficult topics does not make them disappear from our realm. If these issues are not confined to certain people or places, why should our discussion of them be?

That’s where Nice Girls feel the burn and disagree. They possess no desire to discuss the lack of sympathy for reproductive loss after unplanned pregnancies or the cultural appropriation in Iggy Azalea’s new single. Why feel when one can numb themselves with Youtube videos of singing kittens and hangovers (only to judge other’s for swapping Melatonin supplements, yet completely ignoring the health consequences of binge drinking), Nice Girls possess no desire for reality. They want happy endings, brainwashed complacent children, and one of those no nonsense dogs that does not shed.

Which brings me to my next point: Nice Girls exchange productivity for busyness. Work conferences do not provide food for starving displaced families. Yoga lessons do make foreign adaptation more accessible for same-sex couples and spa appointments do not challenge color-blindness. Nice girls hate me for vocalizing such truths. All that busyness, all of that sleep deprivation, with absolutely nothing to show for it besides a yoga mat and manicured nails. Busyness is nothing more than illusionary obligation and thus, does not equate to a purposeful and productive life.

Nice girls define themselves by their plans, what they say they will do, rather than actually going out and doing anything. They remain content in their daydreams and collection of beliefs, without having to be bold, struggle with resistance, and fight. Wasting their college educations, Nice Girls are the prime example of how knowledge is useless without action. I on the other hand, understand that I am what I do, not what I say I’ll do. See, Nice Girls do not start until they feel one hundred percent ready. When nothing is ever begun nothing meaningful can be achieved. Good things do not come to those who wait; they come to those who make things happen for themselves and others by working towards goals. Nice Girls would rather talk about their success, than achieve it, because obtaining success means taking a series of risks. It means taking a leap without seeing where you will land. Me? I make multi-orgasmic love to the dangerous unknown.

The fear of death prevents nice girls from truly living, while my fear of a life I never lived because I was too afraid to take action frees me to act upon my natural curiosity and fervor. I know that the ultimate loss in life is what dies inside oneself while they are still alive, but to nice girls, death is the ultimate tragedy. I refuse to call anything that's a normal and healthy part of the natural life cycle a tragedy. It's like girls who are disgusted by talk of menstruation and childbirth. Ugh, nice girls.

All in all, it's the manner in which my heavily pigmented make-up juxtaposes next to my extensive volunteer experience or how my flirtation with violence has earned me the respect of the same men who once catcalled me, that proves so bothersome to Nice Girls; I leave them confounded. 
How did a recovering heroin addict who once ripped a hoop straight out of a gal’s nose manage to earn a brilliant academic scholarship to her first choice college? How did a girl with a visible controversial tattooed and dip-dyed blue hair snag a job working alongside the Deans? How does a girl prescribed pills to help her brain behave have such stable relationships and the internship of her dreams waiting for her? Because before every success is a tired string of failures. Accepting both her past and death as certainties rather than catastrophes, she is not burdened with an ever present fear of failure. Never equating a constantly buzzing Smartphone with productiveness or a pretty thought with action, she does not wait for things to happen; she makes them happen. 

Nice is an image, never a truth.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Her agency is not synonymous with moral condemnation.

Following Creepshots and/or watching objectifying pornography are quintessential to-be-expected aspects of the male coming-of-age experience. However, when a female celebrity's nudes are leaked and revealed to the public, she is viewed as a victim to the claws of Hollywood and stamped with an unerasable "slut" label. A woman who decides to film herself having sex? Fucking freak. Countless numbers of men perpetuate street harassment, catcall women on the daily, yet when a woman approaches him, she's audacious and arrogant. Hoards of men collectively drool over women out of their league, yet become disgusted when women they deem unattractive voice interest in them.

Why is a woman demonstrating agency over her own body worthy of moral condemnation? Female bodies are treated like public property, thus men feel the right to grow offended when women take ownership of what it rightfully theirs, using their bodies in ways they themselves find pleasurable. This is precisely why a painting depicting an image of a naked woman is beautiful, but when a mirror is placed within the figure's grasp, such beauty becomes understood as vanity.

The female body does not exist for the satisfaction of the male gaze, yet as a physical embodiment of the mind that resides within.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dirty Laundry: Keeping Women within “Good Taste” instead of Fashion-Forward.

Most style rules are simply sets of guidelines addressing the connotations of femaleness. The shorter the hemline, the lower the heel; the bolder the lipstick, the more natural the eyes; the tighter the pants, the baggier the top; the more eccentric the dress, the more conventional the accessories; counter statement necklaces with minimalist earrings; daring nail polishes beg for short nails. All of these “rules “ presented in fashion magazines and style articles without explanation, because womanhood expects you to inherently understand why one should not pair a miniskirt with stilettos or a heavy smoky eye with plum lipstick. A few of these rules make visual sense; a statement necklace and a gorgeous pair of dangling earrings will compete with each for attention. However, other guidelines make visual sense only because our society has adopted a collective understanding that codes particular combinations and rates their level of acceptableness. A woman with wild colored streaks, exposed tattoos, and a tattered leather jacket reads as "troubled." Drop crotch jeans and a baggy hoodie equals "dyke."A micro-mini with five-inch heels synonymous with slut. Regardless of if the wearer’s intention is to lengthen her legs, her best friend who dons an equally short skirt with a pair of ballet flats will not collect a percentage, if any at all, of her pal's sneers. The first woman failed to properly maintain the stigma of womanhood and ignored the ever-present determinant of so-called “good taste”: balance. For of all the stigma attached to womanhood, nothing is so heavily regulated, conflicted, and perpetually on the edge of inequity as female sexuality.

For your enjoyment I've attached this magnificent picture of one of my personal favorite sources of stylistic inspiration. Photograph courtesy of JustJared.

I don't think Taylor Momsen has ever followed a fashion rule in her life. She just rocks the edgy punk sea monster that is herself.