safe.

i’m not sure how to do this anymore.

i keep thinking about how absolutely unfair it all is.

do people ever remember the things they do if it didn’t viscerally impact them, but it altered someone else’s personhood?

i don’t ever want to give the past and people who have hurt me that much power. what does that say about me?

i’m so tired of going back to this, but what else can i do except write?

i can be happy and relaxed, but out of no where, i just feel so small and sad that men always take things without our permission.

i think the hardest part about it all is that i compartmentalize my life in ways that make it nearly impossible for me to be fully honest with the people i love.

i am so angry, so angry, so angry.
and then on some days, i am okay.
i am happy, even.
i wouldn’t be this person without that hurt.

this poem is dedicated to the men who have hurt me in big ways and small. i’m not happy with it yet, but like life, it’s a work-in-progress.

Safe.
4.30.19


i have never felt safe with a man–
not since you.
not since early morning, glazed eyes, limp arms, heavy heart,
soul-floating.
 

out of body experiences are not
always
euphoric.

i have not felt safe since
5 months of acting–
brave face,
plastered smiles,
heart-racing, fingers laced
l o v e,
we called it.
my performance was so convincing
i nearly believed it too.

i have not felt safe since
dark club nights,
white fingers, condescension,
alcohol and swaying and not enough time to say
no.

i have not felt safe since
hot hands, clocks ticking,
cars and traffic and too much noise,
shallow breaths,
followed by months of silence.

when i think about
the fear i feel,
i also think that
living in safety
does not mean we are
where we belong.

sometimes a poem
is a placeholder
for the next hurt,
because there is always
a next time.

sometimes it is shock absorption,
a place to lay your head,
a salve for throbbing hearts.

sometimes,
the poem becomes a swan song,
becomes a fight,
helps you route your way
to happy,
to closing doors,
to safety.

 

entitled.

i have choked
on questions–
felt lumps in my throat,
gasped for air and clawed at words

on mattresses,
in living rooms,
on doorsteps,
in bathrooms.

questioned my own
power,
will,
worth.

was made to think
that another’s
desire
trumped
my dignity.

thought that “no means no”
and “yes”
was “yes”, full stop.

and so,
i did not know how to
explain away
my discomfort;

reassured myself
that it was
timing,
temporary,
an instance in a sea of
options.

tried to give excuses
for why men
always
take
without
asking.

there is something
so soul-crushing, heartbreaking, stomach-turning
about living in this body.

i wonder
why we continue
hoping or loving or forgiving
at all.

maybe there is something to be said
about the strength
of a womxn.

but even that strength
men feel
entitled to.

for once
can’t we have something
that is just
ours?

solid(air)ity.

empty promises
coat the surface,
smoke at the top of my
newsfeed

proof for your social media
that you care enough
to walk in
our shoes

i don’t want you
to put yourself
here.

i don’t want you walking
with me,
or talking
for me.

align yourself
with some other
ally.

i don’t want your
solidairity,
made from
nothing–
angry faces
on facebook posts.

when i give my people,
my pain,
my sacrifice,

walking in my shoes
does nothing
but trample on me
more.

take your “walk in her shoes” heels,
your op-eds,
your yellow-fucking-fever.

you made me sick,

and i’m still
recovering.

#DailyResistance: A 2017 Challenge in Taking Action

I’m tired already and it’s only been 2 weeks into 2017. 

President Obama is on his way out. Vice President Biden’s bright eyes will no longer light up my laptop screen unless it’s when I go through all the hilarious memes of him and President Obama’s brolationship.

But in all seriousness, we’re facing some seemingly insurmountable challenges with the incoming administration. Speaking as a progressive feminist and as an Asian-American womxn, I’m fearful of what the next four or more years will hold for myself and my loved ones.  Honestly, there have been a lot of moments when I just wanted to hide under my blankets, laptop fully charged, and stream Broad City until the sun comes up in 2020.

Then I realize, my electricity bill would be out of control and I don’t know what I would do for food.

Really though, there’s a couple other things holding me back from falling into a deep and dark despair.  The main thing is the hope and tenacity I see in a lot of my peers, from those who work with undocumented youth to those who work in the healthcare field.  There exists an incredible amount of energy and almost limitless ways for people to roll up their sleeves and get the work done. 

But with so many opportunities and an onslaught of media coverage about what we can do or what we should do to uphold justice, it seems…daunting.  I mean these are some gut-wrenching questions around what the hell should or could we do because there are too many options and things we care about to even start.

So in 2017, I thought I would keep track of the ways I am doing one of three things:

  1. Resist
  2. Advance
  3. Support

Now these are super broad terms, but what this is getting at is how can we take tangible action that moves beyond ranting on social media.  Because while social media is incredibly useful for spreading information and getting our frustrations out, it often times becomes an echo chamber of our beliefs with like-minded individuals.  And there’s always a need for spaces where we feel like we can be heard and understood. This is not trying to demean the importance of that.  But, what my hope is for practicing #DailyResistance is to move beyond thinking and discussing—to get into the practice of using our voices to stand up for what we believe in.  

And at the end of the year, it will be nice to be able to see what things I’ve personally accomplished, so I can say, “yes, I did what I could to make my community more inclusive and more loving.”  So, it’s a little bit self-congratulatory, but I think I know myself enough to know that I legitimately won’t get anything done if I don’t have some sort of self-induced reward system.  It’s like when I reward myself with a snack for writing a paragraph of an essay. It just gets things done.

But instead of snacks, it’ll be a huge colorful jar where I write on paper the things I’ve done each day to resist, advance, or support justice (as broad of a term as that is).

So, if you’re interested in joining me on my journey of #DailyResistance in 2017, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

As I’ve said, I’m going to try and do something each day that falls into one of three categories.  I’ll try to flesh out these terms more fully below.

  1. Resist – Resist acts of oppression, both state-sanctioned and personally mediated. Get trained in civil disobedience and nonviolence.  Call out harmful language when you hear it in conversations with friends, family, at work, or in classes.  Attend sit-ins, teach-ins, and protests.  Write to your congress people.  Call for their attention. Boycott corporations that get into shady business dealings or support policies that are harmful.  Let things get uncomfortable and be okay with being the only voice in the room who speaks up because others will follow.
  2. Advance – Advance my own ideas about justice and work on using my voice & being more confident/taking ownership of my beliefs.  This can take the form of writing more blogs for my own site or submitting pieces for alternative media.  Become more aware of how to use my voice and not apologizing for taking up space or speaking out.  Speak on panels or in classes or at meetings and forums.  When possible, uplift others to use their own voice and help advance their ideas too.
  3. Support – Support existing movements and organizations that work to advance justice.  Write about the work they’re doing, donate money when possible, volunteer your time. Call your legislators when they’re doing work you believe in.  Write letters to people and organizations to express your support.  We all need affirmation, but we don’t always express it enough.

These are just some of the things we can do to resist, advance, and support one another in 2017.  Let me know if I’m missing any ideas!  

With all the negativity and very real threats to our civil liberties, doing this challenge will hopefully make me feel a little more in control of my life and my role in everything. 

I’ll be updating with my progress on #DailyResistance —maybe it’ll keep me more accountable if I write about it every week.  

——

My act of #DailyResistance for 1/12/17:

My act of #DailyResistance for 1/13/17:

Magic Mic: Why Do Womxn Never Have the Rights to Their Own Bodies?, or “What Happens in Vegas Definitely Does Not Stay In Vegas”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love being a womxn and I am lucky that I have strong role models who taught me that being a womxn of color is beautiful and uplifting.  But, that does not mean that I don’t hate some of the things that come with being a womxn in this society.  These are things that combat our own identities as full, self-sufficient human beings, and ultimately undermine any sort of fight for equity in public spaces.

I think it is plain to see that we as womxn are often subconsciously, and sometimes very consciously, seen as objects or prizes to be won in chauvinistic expressions of dominance.  And let me say, it is exhausting to be both a human person with human emotions and an object at the same time.  It is a paradox I no longer want anything to do with.

Part of such a paradox is the age old male pastime of catcalling.  Can you just imagine how catcalling worked in the Shakespearean period? “Oh, wench, behold at thy forks!”** I don’t know if I’d laugh or just stare in confusion.   However, there are numerous, much more serious and well-written articles and videos about womxn getting catcalled.  I don’t think I have to write something else explaining how shitty it is.  A popular video campaign illustrated just some of the reactions men have when they see their mothers being catcalled on the street.  It’s shocking to me because you can see the discomfort for the men at watching their mothers objectified.  And yet, these men will never fully understand what it means to be living in a body coded as womxn.  Catcalling is just one awful side effect of such a truth.  And while catcalling is serious, disturbing, and oftentimes, fear-inducing, what happens when people go beyond verbal abuse and seep into the physical?

In Las Vegas, the “City of Sin”, the lines between catcalling and physical violations blur quite quickly.  The city’s motto of “what happens here, stays here” is an atrocious ploy to convince people of all genders that you can be on your absolute worst behavior and get away with it.  Now, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, as I’m sure not all of Vegas is that terrible, but the essence of such an environment negates any real semblance of control a womxn has over her own space.  A person’s body, whether you identify as a womxn or not, should belong to you; you, and no other party, should get to decide what happens to your body.

Let me clarify for Las Vegas’s sake.  I do not think it’s wrong to go to a club, to want to dance provocatively or sexually.  Hell, I’ll admit that dancing around in sparkly outfits to R&B tunes is one of my favorite pastimes, minus the sparkly outfits, because glitter always gets on your face.

It is not wrong or unusual to dance with other people, if that is what you choose to do.  The key here is the choice.  Some womxn choose to grind up on other people or be grinded upon (I don’t really know the terminology), and they shouldn’t feel bad or feel the need to justify that choice.  When the dancing is a consensual act between people, it’s fun, albeit maybe a bit awkward if you’re not a great dancer.  But, when a person, usually a man, grabs your ass as you walk by or refuses to remove himself from your person, a part of your humanity as a womxn withers away.  You’re humiliated.  You think that this should have been anticipated in such a situation.  You lose the expectation of respect for yourself that you know you deserve.  And you’re reminded again that you are object, then womxn.  Never womxn by itself, period, end of story, human.

I will reiterate this as a reminder for myself and for womxn everywhere.  The location you are in has no bearing on whether it is okay or not for someone else to infringe on your space and your body.  Whether you’re in a club or in a pub eating burgers with your friends, it is never an okay thing for someone (read: a man) to implant himself, take up space, and prove his male dominance at your expense.  Being in Las Vegas or in any party-setting is not an excuse for them to “cut loose”.  If you’re a person who thinks it is okay to violate another’s space, to infringe on a womxn’s body in certain contexts, I don’t want you in my life in any context.

Because although I wish that what happens in Vegas would actually stay in Vegas, the dehumanizing, physically visceral experiences faced by womxn happens in rooms and on streets of every city in every part of the world.  We can no longer chalk it up to situational occurrences of bad judgement or issues of self-control.  Your body is yours and as a womxn, I will fight for our collective right to be safe and protected in our bodies, regardless of place.

 

**I literally typed “Oh girl, look at your legs” into a Shakespearean translator.  I’ll admit I spent a lot of time on it afterwards.
* Magic Mic background image from Make & Tell

Magic Mic: When [Immigrant] Womxn Are Loud and Unapologetic

I’m transfixed by a line I’ve seen drawn multiple times, in varied angles and tones, for girls and young womxn.  On one side, I have experienced countless examples of strong, multi-dimensional womxn who were and are vocal leaders.  But sometimes, those womxn also veer into the other side.  And why shouldn’t they?  They are human, after all.  But, it is troubling that the side that often wins out in times that matter is the one that tells us that our voice may matter, but it doesn’t matter quite as much as someone else’s [read: a man’s].  We are told more times than not to be strong, vocal, and fearless only to an extent–to not let our bravery and strong-will frighten or emasculate a man.  Because if our voices are too loud, they’ll be unappealing.  This has been reinforced in both subtle and very overt ways. It would be naïve of me to conclude that my cultural upbringing has no bearing on how such a paradox exists.  I feel like if I want to understand this constant struggle on a broader level, I then need to look internally and at my immediate surroundings.

As a child, I don’t recall a time when I was ever told by my parents that I couldn’t do something because of my gender.  They never said I couldn’t wear a certain color or do a certain activity or play with a certain toy because I was a girl.  And while they never sat me down and said outright, “Christina, you should be able to do or say whatever comes to mind because you are a smart, capable girl,”  they told me in little ways that what I thought and what I had to say mattered, even if I didn’t think it might.

This nurtured me into a pretty confident womxn.  Not to say I was or am fearless, because fear is a wonderful motivator.  But, I became motivated despite fear.  The womxn in my family taught me to be that way.  Not because they are self-proclaimed feminists, but because I think their very survival depended on their confidence and motivation.  Womxn, especially immigrant womxn, are taxed with an incredibly difficult responsibility to nurture, cultivate, and defend.  And they do all of this while instilling a strange sense of traditional patriarchy.  It is a constant source of confusion for me.

My maternal grandmother raised her children nearly on her own, coming to the US without her husband to raise my mother and her siblings.  She worked odd jobs, isolated and unable to speak English.  Her determination and tremendous sacrifices taught us all how important it is to value yourself, your family, and your education.  My mother was raised, essentially, in a very matriarchal household dominated by womxn.  And yet, despite such an upbringing and sense of strength, I believe that culturally, we were still taught that for womxn, speaking up too much or talking too loudly shouldn’t be done often, if at all.

When I visit home and see my grandmother, we can’t exactly understand each other due to language differences, but we understand our tone and we understand the past.  We talk about expectations, or rather she tells my mother about her expectations of me as a womxn and as a granddaughter.  In one instance, my mother translated that my grandmother said my voice was too loud–like thunder.  It would, in essence, detract the right kind of company.

And it’s funny to me, because here is this womxn who had to be thunderous and loud and prove to everyone that she could raise her children on her own and protect them from the perils of the world.  Several months ago, I would have taken much more offense to her remark.  But I think I get it.  She had to fight to be heard, to support our lives here, to just be.  She had to be this way in order for us to survive–why would she want that kind of fight for me?

But, what I think she and many other immigrant mothers and grandmothers fail to understand is that having a voice like thunder has helped us more than hindered, and it can continue to help us. We should never apologize for being loud, for protecting our right to be heard.  And although they fought and yelled to be heard, it doesn’t mean we have to stop there.  I don’t think womxn should just be heard.  We should be validated and consulted and included in everything having to do with us.  And maybe my grandmother is tired, as any womxn who has gone through her struggles might be.  But, her being tired motivates me even more to speak more loudly, more clearly, with more conviction.

So instead of thinking my thunderous voice is a weakness or a criticism, I will say thank you.  I will smile and tell my grandmother in broken Cantonese or via my mother that my loud voice is a tribute to her and the sacrifices she never wanted to make, but knew she had to.  And if she ever saw thunder* strike the sand, like in that scene from Sweet Home Alabama, she would know that womxn like us create beauty out of our strength and through our voice.  And that is not something I will ever want to change nor would I ever apologize for.

*technically in Sweet Home Alabama, it was lightning, but who’s really keeping track?