Category: society

I can be problematic.

These words aren’t easy to get out. They’re a string of words I have to drag out slowly past my teeth, but it’s true: I can be problematic.

I often excuse my emotions with the misogynistic idea that my emotions are just a result of that time of the month during which I’m shark bait. 

I’m talking about during my period, if that wasn’t clear. 

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a fairly emotional being, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I’m sensitive to people’s tone of voice and the way they phrase their words. While it’s something I understand about myself, it’s not something I ever like people to witness. 

I prefer, like any mature adult, to cry in the shower.

It’s inevitable, though, that sometimes the waterworks come at inconvenient and public moments, and this is when my problematic behavior arises.

The first time I can recall it happening was in seventh grade. I was at a leadership seminar for middle school students working on a group project when one student and I got into a heated argument and exchanged not-so-kind words. Me, with my sensitive nature, immediately began to feel tears forming. I tried to contain them, but the girl next to me noticed how tense I was and asked the fatal question: “Are you okay?”

The dams opened wide, and I sat against the wall and cried. People tried to ask me what exactly made me cry, but I didn’t want to tell them. I was ashamed of myself and my reaction. I thought that I should’ve been more reasonable and that I was just overreacting. Embarrassed, I didn’t want to have to explain myself, so I dug through my mind for an excuse and grasped at the first one I found: my period.

Not a single person questioned me. They simply let me be, which was exactly what I wanted. And so, it became a habit. When my eighth-grade math teacher reprimanded me in class for talking to a friend about a question, I was on my period. When my mother yelled at me for not answering my phone, I was on my period. When I got back less-than-ideal test grades in pre-calculus, I was on my period. 

I perpetuated the stereotype that women are emotional and irrational, especially when they’re shark bait. 

Granted if we were actually shark bait and were constantly threatened with being devoured, perhaps it would be understandable if we were a bit irrational. 

But we’re not. We’re just on our menstrual cycles.

The problem with blaming women’s emotions on periods is that it is a harmful generalization that’s used as a way to deem women irrational and unfit for certain professions. It’s used as a way for people to dismiss the thoughts and actions of women they disagree with, and it’s used as a way to invalidate what a woman is feeling as a real emotion, no matter what time of the month it is.

Hillary Clinton had to face this in her campaign, and I’m ashamed to say it’s a generalization I’ve taken advantage of, especially as someone who identifies as a feminist. 

All of this shame over a stereotype I took advantage of made me wonder where the shame that lead to me perpetuating this stereotype came from.

The answer I arrived at, surprisingly, was misogyny.

As a child, I can remember numerous occasions where adults told me to stop crying, to stop trying to attract attention, to stop freaking out over nothing.

There was this expectation, even when I was young, to always be happy. To be flexible and let problems roll off my back. To not be hysterical, because that’s what unintelligent girls are, and I was to be intelligent and reasonable, happy and accommodating.

These are the words society want and expect us, as women, to be. These are the traits of the ideal woman of today: she is always smiling, never lets gender inequality make her angry or upset, and goes with the flow because she is reasonable and charming.

I was taught to smile because it is only with a smile people will truly hear me out. I was taught to keep my voice level and be prepared to concede because it is the only way to even partially get what I want. I was taught how to be a woman in a world where men can yell and react viscerally without being labeled as delusional. I was told how to be a woman in a world where men can be firm and commended for standing for what they believe in, but a woman is just being stubborn when she does the same. I was taught how to be a woman in the context of patriarchal gender roles.

For too long I’ve followed these rules, buying into the myth that my period made me weaker due to the emotions that came with it, believing I needed to behave in a certain way to make up for it, and using this myth as an excuse for myself when I failed to live up to the pleasant standard of behavior expected of me as a woman.

Well, no more.

My feelings and reactions, whether they happen when I am on my period or not, are valid. I’m not being over sensitive; I am just reacting like any other human does, like the men in our society are allowed to do to a certain extent. I am not crazy, and my voice does count, even when it’s heard through tears. 

I am a woman, and when I cry it’s not just because of my period. I’m attuned to the way people speak and phrase their words, leading me to sometimes see meanings the speaker may or may not intend to convey. But that’s okay because I’m no longer shark bait whenever my tears fall. Instead I’m a girl who does not fear expressing her emotions. 

Photo Courtesy of The Onion

 

Since my last post was less fun, we’re going to start this week’s column off with a game! It’s like a “pick your own adventure” game from way back when we were kids, with equally disappointing results and a little more abrasive language.

Here is the scenario:

You’re in a lovely dive bar near your campus, just hanging around and enjoying your Saturday with a few beers. Suddenly, a gentleman approaches you. You’ll allow it, as you are well aware that you are looking damn fine. Small talk ensues, and he asks what you do. For purposes of this game, you reply, “Oh, I study political science, focusing on security,” and suddenly, your response opens a floodgate. Vocabulary from basic international relations theory loosely related to current events are thrown into a cocktail of attempts at explanation. It’s like your very own salmon shorts clad Jervis! The explanations and buzzwords keep flowing and picking up pace, and you seem to be trapped! Do you:

a.)   Look desperately at the bartender to see if she can rescue you from your own personal hell with another round

b.)   Politely try and change the conversation to something slightly more engaging

c.)   Attempt to interject your own well-informed opinion

d.)   Get up and leave

Well, as I’m sure you’ve all deduced by now, I found myself in this very scenario! And I’m sure you’re all dying to know which ending I picked.

In reality, I applied all available tactics. First, I gave the “save me eyes” to no avail (side note: gentlemen, you should really learn to recognize this look). When that didn’t work out, I asked him about his internship at a law firm (gag, I know), but not even that could deter him from his professorial path. Finally, I outright said, “Yeah, I actually study this a lot, and I think it’s super fun to apply theory to everyday situations!” I then briefly explained my column to which–I SHIT YOU NOT–he responded, “Doesn’t that kind of delegitimize your knowledge of the subject?” At this point, I opted for Option D from above.

So sir, whom I desperately hope is now reading this, I have two things to say–which is more than I said throughout the entire duration of our brief encounter. First, doesn’t saying something so obnoxiously stupid and crass delegitimize your penis size? Second, fuck you.

Now that I have sufficiently publicly shamed this poor boy, I can get to the actual point of this piece: mansplaining. This scenario expertly depicts what exactly mansplaining is. I’m sure this is a term you’ve come across recently, especially if you’re more inclined to read liberal newsfeeds. But essentially, it is when men attempt to simplify or explain a subject to women because they, for some reason, don’t think the woman initially understood. Now, I’m a pretty passive feminist, but this is something that has increasingly started to bother me more and more. Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman in a predominantly male-oriented field, but it never feels good to be “taught” something you have literally dedicated hours of studying to, by means of slightly condescending words. This is not to be conflated with actual new information, or perspectives, which I welcome regardless of gender.

Still confused on what exactly mansplaining is? Let me Jamie-splain it to you!

Mansplaining is like America telling literally any EU member state how international institutions and organizations work. If America were to childishly lie about what an international organization is and how it could possibly function, without recognizing that international organizations and institutions dominate the majority of EU member states’ political dialogue, that would be equivalent to mansplaining.

Or, even more rudimentary: America explaining to Greece (also known as the founders of democracy) how democracy itself works. Greece, however, could take some notes on basic economic principles, but that is beside the point.

In summary, mansplaining is so very stupid, and in the words of my good friend from that bar, it delegitimizes any point or position you take afterwards. Instead, I recommend that you simply clarify where you are each at in terms of understanding, and then go forth and have exciting and engaging conversations.

Currently, I am far too deep in NPR archives than I care to admit with the taste of stale coffee lingering on my lips, and surprisingly this procrastination trip has yielded fruitful insight that I want share with you.

So, NPR does this super dope project wherein it brings up-and-coming performing artists in to do an acoustic set in a tiny desk space, appropriately entitled the “Tiny Desk” series. In large part due to my avoidant behavior, and a smaller part of me that was looking for a potential reprise from the constant trap music that usually floats around in my head (fun side-note: your boss will in fact call you out if you sing about Percocet at work… just a heads up), I stumbled across a soulful rap artist named Noname. Her melodic, thoughtful words over soft jazz tones were just what I needed after what can appropriately be deemed a “rough week.”

Deeper into the performance, Noname herself elaborates more about why she chose to put these words together in this particular order (i.e. what her motivation was), a highlight of any concert in my opinion, but this particular articulation of her emotions really slapped me in the face. She said, “Thank you for appreciating my vulnerability. We should save the world with vulnerability.”

Noname has hit upon something so simplistically novel with this brief interlude. Maybe it was because I was sitting, staring at the blank research paper in front of me, pitying myself for the stupid decisions I’ve recently made (not just in terms of my biannual midterm crisis, but my personal life as well) but this statement kept lingering with me, begging for me to explore it just a bit deeper.

I think I can best describe her genius by emphasizing my own hesitancy at writing this piece. It’s hard to be witty, and careful, and protected behind trivial sexy words, when talking about a subject such as vulnerability. And saying that “I have recently made stupid decisions” is not something easy to burn explicitly into paper. Anxiety gnaws at the back of my head as I write this, whispering, “Just make sure he knows it’s not about him,” and begging me to not validate said illusive “him” with continued thought and emotion, but perhaps that is why discussing it is so important, so revolutionary.

Ironically, vulnerability has no name. Vulnerability is not that boy who “broke your heart” what seems like ages ago, or the friendship wherein amiability has become hyperextended. No, vulnerability is about you. Vulnerability is something only you can posses. As Noname states, “it is my vulnerability.”  The inherent problem in our society then is that our vulnerability is so deeply ingrained into our persona that when revealed to a wrong “other,” it becomes our own downfall. That’s where Noname’s revelation becomes extremely more complex.

Admitting vulnerability is antithetical to survival. This is a fact serving as the foundation of inter-state reactions: revealing vulnerability allows for the other state to use said vulnerability to its own likely aggressively-backed advantage, no matter what the original intentions of the “other” state may be. Tactically, if I am in a battle and I trumpet out, “Ay yo, I have left City Y unguarded,” my opponent would directly advantage by attacking City Y. Although in this situation showing your hand so bluntly initially comes off as stupid, it may actually be self-advantageous. If you put it out there that you understand this particular facet is weak, the other side cannot take advantage of your weakness with their own aggressiveness in a surprise attack. Moreover, you have made it clear that you are not so enchanted by your own strength to think that City Y could stand against the opponent on its own. You have already self-identified your own weakness, and manipulated it to your advantage, making it harder for the opponent to use it against you.

This is the tactic of vulnerability appreciation that Noname thinks can “save the world,” perhaps just one individual at a time. By recognizing that I cannot do something, while it makes me feel fucking stupid, and humiliated, and embarrassed at first, explicitly stating so will eventually inevitably put me back in control of the situation. No matter the person, if I lay out my weakness, they can no longer harm me by discovering it for themselves. I am not allowing for them to take my vulnerability from me, I keep it, along with whatever power over the situation I initially had. Vulnerability then can only harm me if I become disillusioned by it, if I refuse to listen to it, to engage with the possibilities its unavoidable presence inherently brings.

People are not wars. If I leave you with nothing else then this week, remember that, and go into this weekend with that mindset. Be fucking nice to someone. Appreciate their vulnerabilities. Appreciate your vulnerabilities. And I’ll be damned; maybe we’ll eventually be stronger for it.

 

I think I read on the Core Curriculum website that it is, in fact, a requirement to self-identify as a nihilist in order to graduate. So, being the ever so proud CU student that I am, I am going to put on my Nietzsche thinking cap and use nihilist inspiration to poetically write about a relatively unimportant topic–yet another step towards my transformation into a hybrid of a “Columbia Sad Boy” and Carrie Bradshaw.

Note: if you’re reading this and do not go to Columbia, what I’m really saying is, “I am going to use a type of philosophy that rejects morals in order to justify trivial everyday occurrences”. But I promise to try and make it (ironically?) enjoyable!

“There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena,” I tell myself as I eat my 11th Oreo cookie of the night, wondering if the same goes for calories. If I were in a movie, there would be a freeze frame, and the narrator would ask, “I bet you’re all wondering how she got here.” (Yes, I stole that from a old meme, and no, I have no qualms about doing so.) Anyway, the answer is midterms. Can you picture it now? Me, sitting without pants on, surrounded by a haphazard pile of highlighted notes, a feral look plastered across my naked eyes. I bet you can almost smell my annoyance and unquenchable desire to say “fuck” after every other word.

Now let’s analyze the events that got me here. I passively surrendered my elliptical to an old man today, WHICH I HAD DEFINITELY RESERVED DESPITE HIS INSISTENCE, texted yet another “no worries” to the most fuck-iest of boys, literally fake smiling through my disappointment at my own goddamn cell phone. *Turn on Carrie Bradshaw voice here* “When did I become this nice girl?”

All right, you can turn the voice off now.  But seriously, when did this stigma of “nice girl” get attached to me? I’m sure some of you are reading this, asking, “This petty bitch thinks she’s nice?” Believe it or not, I am often qualified as the “nice girl”. Sure, I try and hide it behind what is basically a satirical sex column and an edgy nose ring, but somehow this nice stigma keeps rearing its ugly head. That bastard. In reality, I don’t think I have a higher dosage of niceness than any other person. Sure I have that Midwest “charm,” which comes off differently here in the bustling city, but that doesn’t correlate to a legitimate higher level of niceness.

So Nietzsche, I turn to you. Maybe, as you have suggested, niceness doesn’t exist at all. Maybe all this niceness is just Midwestern ignorance caped in hopefulness, an identity concocted up by other people. A label which I, like my frequent meme use, embraced without reservations.

Guess what…. This happens in international politics, too! (Yes… this is where I relate my existential crisis to nukes, or more specifically unconventional weapons and warfare). You see, conventional weapons share this similar perceived niceness as me, whereas unconventional ones have this perception of immorality, or “not-niceness”.

In “A Genealogy of the Chemical Weapons Taboo,” Richard Price analyzes just exactly how this dichotomy of “conventional” vs. “unconventional” came to be in war. It is a thirty-page article, but in a reductionist summary, basically he traces this idea throughout history analyzing the strategic, tactical, and moral implications of these weapons, and why society developed a taboo against using “unconventional” weapons. 10/10 would recommend reading the article if any of these things sound remotely interesting to you. When you really think about it, there is but a slight difference between the output of these types of weapons. Each “type” has the same dosage of deadliness, so to speak, nukes just are perceived to be more deadly.

Oddly enough, Price goes to conclude his article with a lovely quote by Foucault.

“The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them.”

Maybe it’s the one too many Redbulls, or a delusional sugar induced coma (I’m on my 15th Oreo now), but I found this approach oddly inspiring and applicable to my current situation. I want to exalt these nihilist findings with a solid white-girl confirmation: “YAS bitch”.

When it comes down to it, I am not nice, I just appear to be so. That being said, I am no longer going to adhere to this perceived identity. No more taking my goddamn elliptical. No more playing it cool with the douches lurking in the back of my political science class. Damn straight I am going to adhere to Foucault’s wise-words: invert my niceness and use it against those who see me as such.

Anyway, if nothing else goes well this midterm season, at least this mid-semester breakdown has taught me one thing (yes, in true Bradshaw form, I plan on concluding with a cliche…): maybe I just have to learn to “kill ‘em with kindness.

 

Privilege is not something that everyone in our society receives, and recognizing this imbalance is essential to correcting the injustice in our nation. It’s not an action that deserves reward or recognition. It’s a process that one, including myself, has to go through in order to work towards being a decent human being.

By society’s standards, I am privileged. That is a fact. I am half white and half Hispanic; I grew up in a middle class family and never had to worry about my skin color or accent or last name or culture defining who am I because I was primarily raised white. I grew up with the advantages that being white in our society gives you and that means I have to work to keep my privilege in check, to keep in mind that just because an issue does not affect me does not mean that it does not others. This action is not something that deserves any form of praise whatsoever; it is simply part of being a decent human being. I have to reevaluate my perspective on issues to factor into concerns I personally never had to face, to remember that not everyone had the privileges of which I often took advantage. I have to work to remember that while I was not blatantly raised with racist thoughts in mind, I was raised in a society that ingrains racism into our minds from a young age because it maximizes the benefits of privilege.

What does this maximization mean? It means that as someone who is privileged in a system with racist foundations, I benefit from the system. Living in a society founded on the tenets of capitalism means that I’m also taught to take advantage of any opportunity or benefit I can, including this system. If I can make it far in this system, why look to change it? That’s the root of the problem. It is then beneficial for me to be ignorant since our society is a game based on the survival of the fittest, the ones with the most privilege.

This ingrained ignorance does not necessarily mean I’m inherently a bad person, and it does not mean I am a victim who was slighted by society. It means I can unintentionally be an ignorant person. I can be ignorant of my actions and thoughts and how they affect the people around me who do have to deal with these issues. I can be ignorant of the downfalls and problems with our society. I can be ignorant of someone’s situation and say something that causes them to snap. Not being ignorant is a learning and unlearning process that takes time. It doesn’t excuse my ignorance in any way, shape, or form; it just means I have to work harder. I have to step out of the bubble my privilege forms around me and see how the view looks from outside my bubble. I have to work to not become defensive when someone points out my privilege in anger. Because not being in the bubble of privilege and seeing how it excludes you can be angering and stressful. And so when I do unintentionally offend someone and cause a reaction, I have to work to remember that that person’s anger isn’t directly aimed at me per say: it’s at the society that led me to be ignorant. That person is justified in their reaction because this ignorance directly affects them. That’s not to say I’m unjustified in going on the defensive: it’s a natural response to have when someone is angry at you. No one likes to be called ignorant when it has such negative connotations, when it is often synonymous with being a bad person. But being ignorant does not mean I am a bad person  as long as I am willing to learn, to step out of the bubble of privilege and realize that while it might benefit me, it can be harmful to others. And so instead of becoming defensive I have to work to recognize my privilege, realize my ignorance does not absolve me of the harm it can cause, and realize how this privilege affects my perspective.

I think this issue of ignorance caused by privilege is important for everyone to recognize and work on in order to help correct the inequality that plagues our society, to poke a hole in the bubble of privilege so that hopefully one day it will pop. Because each and every person is a human being who deserves to have the same potential for opportunities, no matter their skin color or accent or last name or culture.

The Lion is Columbia’s only open-submissions publication. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com