Addressing My Place As Someone Who Is Part Of The Problem

Addressing My Place As Someone Who Is Part Of The Problem

It's easy to talk about ignorance and privilege, it's much harder realizing you have it.
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As a white female, born and raised in middle-class America, I can say I am plenty aware of my privilege, but many times I catch myself realizing what I have and all of my opportunities (which I've unknowingly taken for granted) go beyond my current comprehension.

It is sometimes difficult for me, as a person who is deeply afraid of doing something wrong or mean, to accept that I have many more advantages as a white person than my fellow non-white women friends have. The structural barriers and the mix of blatant and hidden racism enmeshed within the very fibers of our country have only recently been targeted on a large scale. I grew up in a small town that had little to no diversity. In school, we barely touched on culture and differing beliefs. I never had to acknowledge my whiteness until I went to college and we actually learned about racial and gender issues that are current and not just a part of history.

One of the first articles I wrote for Odyssey was about feminism and why I didn’t consider myself a feminist. It was one of the few articles I have ever written that made me feel deeply anxious. Feminism to me at the time was more of a fad, something I thought people did to be cool or be proud of. I think I had written something like, “I have feminist values and want the same things feminists want, but it’s about being a decent human being, not a feminist, which is an unnecessary label” (totally paraphrasing, but that was the general idea). The feedback was not what I wanted. It took a lot of courage writing that article and posting it, because I knew it would be controversial to many of my college friends and peers. However, the comments on the article targeted my ignorance and the people assumed I had no knowledge on gender studies. That being said, in many ways I didn’t and still don’t. I was insulted because I had done actually quite a bit of research on gender issues and devoted a lot of my time to gender studies. I took a whole semester of classes specifically about gender. In my mind, I knew all I needed to know about the topic. That article is the one article I think about the most. Why did I write it? What was I thinking? While I pride myself on thinking critically and deeply about most things, there are many things I’m just plain black and white about. I'm a naive, romantic person. I romanticize issues and how I think they should get solved (by love only). My naivete simplifies issues that really shouldn't be simplified. This is a super black and white way of thinking and only recently have I realized how I think and what I believe isn't applicable to all issues and in a lot of ways blinds me, makes me ignorant to real complexities.

My issue wasn’t about feminism, not really. My issue was with labeling. I hate labels. But with a lot of thinking and some difficult conversations, I have concluded that sometimes labels are necessary. People need them and I get that. My other issue was that I’m not extroverted. I’m highly individualistic and I rarely see myself as part of a community. I’m generally a private person. Part of that stems from my fear of rejection or judgment. Only recently have I opened up about things I’m passionate about to people and social media. I spend a lot of time thinking and not enough time doing. And I hate when people tell me what I should believe in and who I should be. Feminism in my mind was a lot like a dictator telling me who I have to be and how I have to act. I felt like I needed to be outspoken and aggressive. Should I cut my hair short? Should I say “fuck gender roles!” anytime I cleaned the kitchen or made dinner? What were the rules? And what if I became part of a mob mentality and blind to errors in belief or ideology? I try so hard to seek out the truth of things, but many times I find there isn’t ever only one truth. And mistakes are supposed to be made sometimes in order for growth to happen. All of these fears and anxieties essentially blinded me to the deeper basis and gut of what feminism really is: equality for all, regardless of gender, race, ability, class, sexuality, etc. And while I still believe that this value is still just part of what makes a person decent and moral, there are so many people who don’t believe this to be true. And that is the crux of why feminism and Black Lives Matter and many other groups need to exist.

Another reason, which I sort of explained earlier, why I am not super involved in these movements is because I am not someone who speaks loudly and confidently. I am often quiet and spend a lot of time thinking and watching and observing. I felt like I needed to be strong and confident and aggressive. I felt like I had to be all of these things that I wasn’t, even though I held the same beliefs. Recently I came to the realization that people like me are also important and need to be involved in these issues. I don’t identify as a “fighter” or a “warrior”. I’m not the kind of person that could put myself out there and challenge the issue every day. But the people like me play an important role too. It’s not an either/or scenario. I’m the person that starts up conversations with people and discusses these issues and attempt to get to the deepest parts of them. I’m a supporter and an observer, but much of my support is composed of the little things. Realizing my privileges wasn’t something that just happened overnight or when someone pointed them out to me. It took time, it is a process and it’s ongoing. But I can use my privilege to help these causes.

So my point in all of this is 1) to apologize for my ignorance. By all means, I am a supporter and I realize that I need to speak out more on injustices and utilize my privilege more in a way that is constructive and loving. I need to deal with my own issues and start working toward the greater issues that have been hurting my community and the people of the United States and beyond. And 2) I still value my individuality and I still struggle with labels, but I am a feminist and I can be an “I” and “me” and also be a “we”. I can be both. So I pledge to support and reach for a fair, equal, open country and be another voice for my community. I pledge to address my privileges and biases. I’m not perfect. Every day I learn something new and it isn’t always easy, but I need to realize that my own uncomfortable-ness and internal struggles don’t justify my absence in the fight for equality and love and fair opportunities for all. These are things I want too, but I need to stop watching everyone else do the work and actually get involved. Love is action.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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A Feminist Critique Of The #MeToo Movement's Blindspot

I'm a feminist, but here is my problem with #MeToo.

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The recent discussion of sexual violence in American society has sparked a fiery debate over how to create change for women everywhere. A topic which was once a whisper in the back of the room has become a national discussion of women's rights. But what about the rampant sexual violence towards Native American women? There is no #MeToo conversation inclusive of the atrocities which Native American women are facing.

Society has been so focused on a relatable narrative when creating #MeToo, that America has completely sidelined and consequently exacerbated the issues of the Native American community. Just because the poverty which Natives face is not relatable in the way the middle and upper-middle class stories of #MeToo are, does not mean that the stories of the more powerful are the only ones worth listening to.

According to Amnesty International, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence, yet there seems to be no hashtag or mass movement inclusive of them. These high rates of sexual violence, mixed with low rates of prosecution, have created a vicious and shocking cycle of violence on reservations. The severe sexual violence being experienced by Native American women is a widespread and pressing issue that is lacking proper attention and legislative action and it's truly appalling.

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 94% of the nearly 300 Native American women surveyed reported being raped in their lives. This figure is absolutely terrifying. To put this into a more local context, the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona has had "more rapes [between 2008-2014] reported than in San Diego, Detroit or Denver," according to FBI's reports. This issue has plagued Natives for generations but remains overlooked and undiscussed by the majority of Americans. The #MeToo discussion revolves the idea of a relatable platform, but just because poverty isn't relatable does not entail that those in poverty should not receive justice. It's baffling how an issue can be this salient to one group of people yet go completely unnoticed by another.

To break the issue down, tribal courts have several large obstacles preventing them from acting as an effective means of justice. The main difficulty is the inability to prosecute non-Natives. Even though in "86% of the reported cases of rape against American Indian women, survivors report non-Native perpetrators,” justice cannot be served because tribes don't have the jurisdiction to prosecute. One can only imagine the frustration of a minority group which cannot receive justice in the face of a more socioeconomically powerful perpetrator.

Most recently, the Violence Against Women's Act of 1994 created an amendment in 2013 to give tribal courts the right to prosecute non-Natives who committ domestic and dating violence. This amendment fails to take into consideration however, that most rape cases against Native women are not domestic or dating violence. It seems inconceivable how such injustice is occurring but the media and movements like #MeToo simply aren't aware of it. In order to affect change for women everywhere, everyone's issues must be accounted for, even if issue of those in poverty aren't "relatable."

In the search for justice, tribes often send cases they do have jurisdiction over to U.S. Justice Department. In his New York Times Article, Timothy Williams cites that the Justice Department however did not pursue 65% of rape charges on reservations and 61% of cases involving the sexual abuse of Native children in 2012. So, while Native American women are two and a half times more likely to be raped, only one-third of them have a chance at receiving the justice they deserve. It almost feels as though it comes from a place of elitism that there are very few cases in which Natives can receive justice because they don't have jurisdiction over a seemingly untouchable group of richer people.

Sexual violence and the lack of prosecution to address it in the Native American community is a crisis which will never improve if continued to be left alone. Nothing will change until tribal courts have the power to fully enact law and order in their communities. It's been shown that the U.S. Justice Department ignores the issue and the U.S. public is unaware that this is even happening. With the current efforts which are being made to empower and protect women, American society has gotten lost in framing the issue to be relatable to the point where they have forgotten an entire group of people.

Until the public has been made aware of the severity of this issue, no legislation will be passed to help these women and the elitist injustice will continue. #MeToo is meant to give a voice to victims of sexual violence, but this mission will never be successful until the plight of Native American women has been heard.

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