Hair Fetishes and Gaslighting

Today I campaigned for a candidate for City Council.
I stood among a handful of fellow campaigners, including middle aged man who was already on City Council, running for a next term, and made it very clear to me that he was attracted to me from the moment I approached. Campaigning for a woman myself, I tried to do the best I could to not make the woman I supported, whose name was emblazoned across the sign I held above my head “look bad.” I laughed off his male gaze, his grossly disturbing curiousness on whether or not I was single (and of course, he also had a wife and children, mind you). I fake laughed and I fake laughed as I suppressed the hurt and even powerlessness I felt being objectified as I stood where I did in the name of politics.
And then I felt his grip as he yanked on my ponytail, harshly enough for me to recognize his maleness.
“That’s nice, that’s some real hair!! I got a fetish for real hair, a hair fetish (the opposition, as he was referencing, would be weaves).” He went on to talk about how he can’t run his fingers through his wife’s hair.
“Don’t say that, don’t touch my hair,” was about all I could muster. He simply told me to take it as a compliment. My feelings had gone from annoyance to counting down the hours and minutes I would get to escape his presence. I didn’t know how to tell someone not to put their hands on me, or not to put down other women to compliment me. Where is the script for that? What words could escape my mouth to enable change in the man harassing me? How could I even convince this man he was harassing me? 
 
I think these questions every time a man touches me, or calls out to me as he sexualizes me from his car, or my car, or across the street, or wherever. I have never been able to find an answer. How can the simplest and most powerful words gush out of my mouth like the bulge of built up hose water releasing? How can I say anything that will edge the slightest bit of power back into me?
He went on to sexualize the female voters that drove past, saying he’ll never miss the opportunity to talk to women. I finally told him he was being creepy, to which he replied “ME?!?! Sammi, I am the farthest thing from creepy!” 
 
And of course, it didn’t end there. No, now it was a woman’s turn to remind me what my place is.
“You’re obviously from India!”
“No,” I said sharply this time. “I’m from Cincinnati.”
“Yeah but you’re FROM India.”
“I was born in Kentucky. Why does this matter?”
“I can just tell you aren’t from here. Or your parents aren’t from here. I have a way of knowing these things.”
 
(Did my skin color give it away?)
 
“It doesn’t matter. I am American. I have adopted American culture (as a result of previously rejecting any form of Indian culture due to internalized racism). This is a form of othering.”
 
Her microaggressions quickly turned into gaslighting as soon as I called this woman out. Gaslighting in terms of convincing me that my lack of dignifying her series of racist badgering must be insight into my apparent fear of being labeled as brown, or anything associated with being brown.
 
“I never did that. That was never my intention. Oh, honey, your heritage is nothing to be ashamed of. You should feel proud to be Indian. Don’t be afraid of it. Be glad to be Indian. Say it proud.”
 
“I am. That doesn’t mean I need to respond to all of this.” She kept saying “say it proud” as she walked away.
 
To be completely honest, I’m not sure what my point of spilling my aggressions into the internet was. I’m very conflicted on how to handle it. My friend told me a quote once that went something along the lines of: “There are two types of people. There are people that see the world’s problems, and can only feel better about them by ignoring them. And then there are people who see the world’s problems, and can only feel better by taking action.” If you have never met me, I can promise it wouldn’t take long to notice that I am the latter. So here I am, after being reminded of my powerlessness, struggling to think of how I can grasp any sort of agency. I have taken note of the fact that every time I share my experiences like this, white people and/or men become flabbergasted that moments like these exist for women of color, depending on whether or not the interaction was racist or sexist (oh, the joys of receiving both ends). I forget that people don’t experience these things in their daily life, and I feel like white people and men should be informed of how things are for the rest of us. But then I always get this sort of feeling after posting about it that softly mimics self hatred. Am I whining? Am I complaining? Am I asking for attention? Was it that big of a deal to write a whole 2000 word essay over it? Am I asking for attention? Is this worth reacting over? Is this meant for a blog or a diary? Is this even worth writing? I speak to other women of color about their experiences, and they don’t share them publicly, so why am I? Is part of being an oppressed group simply acknowledging that it’s a part of life and our aggressions are ceaseless, so why speak of them ceaslessly? I have no answers, no ending conclusion. I have ripped a seam and hypercautiously let myself be exposed, and it probably won’t be the last time. 
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Racism and Transphobia Behind the Pink Pussy Hat Ban

When I first heard that the pinky pussy hats were starting to be viewed as racist, I laughed out loud. I figured these were the mindless thoughts of white liberal reddit threads… until I was informed that entire marches are beginning to ban the hats for promoting racism and transphobia. It began with the Pensacola “Women’s March (am I allowed to call it that?? Is my bigotry showing already because I used the word “woman” and not something more gender inclusive?),” and now third-wave feminists across America have joined Pensacola to bask in their inclusionary glory by banning the iconic pink, cat-eared hats scattered through every “Women’s March” last January. Despite that the hats were banned for their unbearable racism and transphobia, I’m left thinking that they are the ones who seem to be harboring racism and transphobia the most.

Let’s start with the transphobia. I’m normally not one to talk about transphobia much, seeing as I’m gender critical. But I couldn’t help but notice which group within the gender spectrum is being silenced every single chance SJWs get: trans men. In the midst of everyone constantly going out of their way to make room, make space, change language, etc. for the inclusion of transwomen, transmen are left forgotten and muted. Talking from a non-gender critical perspective, both transmen and women have pussies. Both transmen and women have historically and systemically been oppressed solely for having such genitalia, and odds are both groups have experienced firsthand violence as a result. For example, the pussy hats were made in response to a crude and violent comment made by our President: “Grab ’em by the pussy!” He didn’t say “Grab ’em by the womanhood!” Gender critical women are continuously slandered for being transexclsionary, but it is clear that we are the only ones willing to listen to and lift up the voices of transmen, because we know their oppression doesn’t go away after testosterone treatments or surgery. The pussyhat ban is transexclusionary because it is excluding, as always, trans men. It is silencing and ignoring the violence they receive, as well as the violence we receive, for being born with pussies. It does “exclude” transwomen, yes, but does every bit of speech on female oppression have to speak of transwomen’s violence? Are no statements just allowed to talk about violence “women-born-women” and transmen receive because talking about the violence we receive solely on behalf of our vagina is bigotry now? It seems that silencing and ignoring the violence of anyone born in a female body is the main liberal agenda, and it is leftist misogyny as its peak.

Now let’s get to the part white liberals shout about on an endless loop through their white SJW echo chambers despite clearly not giving two shits: racism. Leaders of “Women’s Marches” are claiming the hats are racist because only white women’s vaginas are pink and that isn’t very inclusionary… Was there a biology class I missed? I always strived to be white when I was a kid, ashamed of my desi heritage. I got over it, but now?! How am I supposed to get over the fact that white women have magenta genitalia?! I mistakenly thought they were different shades of peach and tan… Do they grow teal pubic hair, too? Thank goodness for liberals informing us uneducated women of color. I know now that pink is the new color of racism. Nevermind the fact that the co-creator of the pussy hat is a woman of color herself, and attributing them to white women is erasing the work of a woman of color on what became a global symbol of female solidarity across the globe.

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It quickly became very obvious that women of color were not on board with this decision, never even on board to make the decision. Women of color, myself included, began filling comment threads of the Penascola “Women’s March.” We addressed that no woman of color is on record saying the hats are racist, stating that they are not racist and we do not need men or white folks to speak for us (see screenshots below). Were any of our comments, the comments of the same women of color that white liberals and men gave themselves credit for liberating, even met with a discussion? Nope! But we got something that truly exemplified how liberals feel about listening to women of color instead: we all got blocked. As soon as I got blocked, my inbox filled with fellow woman of color, all with a similar story. As soon as we have beliefs regarding our oppression that don’t meet the standard white liberal narrative, such as being gender critical, we are silenced. Didn’t Crenshaw coin “intersectionality” to promote listening to women of color in the first place? As a fellow woman of color said to me, “they claim they must center our voices but it seems to me they are just using us as pawns for the trans agenda.”

The Pensacola “Women’s March” claimed to ban the hats partially on behalf of white feminism. I can’t think of a way to make feminism anymore white feminist or white supremacist than only allowing the the voices and thoughts of white folks and men to be heard.

“I wrote this statement based off of years of research I have been working on and contributing to,” commented Devin Cole, the white male who figured it was necessary to ban the hats, on the Pensacola “Women’s March” Facebook page. “If the petty bourgeoisie, white supremacist ‘feminists’ in Pensacola shitting their pants on this thread can’t realize that, then please feel free to stay the hell home.” Though, I will give credit where credit is due. Staying home from someone who self-identifies as a “gender terrorist” sounds like a great idea. Especially if their highest form of activism is banning pink hats and silencing women of color, who experience enough oppression to not need years of research to understand oppression itself, and to understand that we have bigger problems than pink hats with cat ears. If the goal of the “Women’s Marches” banning the pink pussy hats was to achieve intersectionality, it is clear that they severely have ways to go.

-Unsilenced Brown Girl

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Where is Harvey Weinstein?

For months now, Harvey Weinstein’s victims have been bleeding themselves dry in order to expose the prominence of Weinstein’s violence against women in Hollywood, but where is he now?

I sought out the answer through a quick google search. As far as the web revealed to me, Weinstein was last seen in November, enjoying the company of his five children in the blissful Los Angeles sunshine. This is, of course, after leaving all concern for his victims in Arizona, where he was “seeking help” that he, for some reason, simply just was not able to follow through with. I can only imagine what kind of urgent, life deterring events could keep a man from learning how to not be a serial rapist (just like any and every other powerful white man who was once forced to pretend to take responsibility for their actions). And let me just remind you all that Weinstein was not limited to a few, or even a dozen victims. Over 50 women have come out with claims of Weinstein’s sexual assault, with more and more women sharing their horrors of his abuse every day.  Not to mention, none of the victims who have made claims against Weinstein describe the average, every day woman. These women are some of the most powerful, beautiful, wealthiest women in America.

So why is it that the rapist everyone’s talking about, who has been making headlines across news stations for months, is currently walking freely as he pleases?  How is it that 50+ women can speak of a single man’s violence, and he has absolutely no repercussions? These courageous women continue to publicly rehash their trauma to billions of people around the world, yet what punishment did Weinstein receive as a result? Men and women alike have asked “Well, if this Weinstein stuff really happened, why is it that these women didn’t come out sooner?” Well, judging by Harvey Weinstein’s absence of consequence alone, I think they have their answer.

I think everyone wants to believe it’s that easy. The thought of rape being that simple is so naive, it is nearly comforting. The bad guys go to jail, the good guys will put them there, the women will live happily ever after… Right? Isn’t that the dream? Say in this dream world, where publicly acknowledging your rape is as easy as stating what you had for dinner last night, that all 50+ of these women did come out when their assault had happened: what would have come of it that is not happening now? Why isn’t Harvey Weinstein in jail, and why is no major news source asking that same question? His victims all knew the answer. They knew he, just like all other white men with rape allegations, would receive no repercussions. Why? Because rich, powerful white men don’t get repercussions.

Time and time again, we see white men violating women and people of color, only to  walk scot-free aside from the anger and hostility of Facebook and Reddit threads. Rape a girl behind a dumpster? How does a 3 month slap on the wrist sound? Apologize to a girl for raping her via text? We’ll just keep an eye out for you with two years of probation. Kill a pregnant black mother who called the cops in hopes for safety, or shoot an innocent black man with a broken brake light to death? Great, just like we trained you! Why don’t you take a little break from work? But not without your weekly pay, of course. Multiple little girls claim you molested them? Aw, just a few votes away from joining the U.S Senate! A lifetime of recordings and victims claiming you sexually assault women? Here, have a seat in the Oval Office, you deserve it. Immunity from consequence has become the white man’s birth right.

The trust the legal system assigns to white men is a result of the maintained racist and sexist institutions birthed out of the historic violence against oppressed groups. Such institutions have painted women and people of color to be untrustworthy, hysterical, irrational, uncivilized, and requiring the white man’s authority. This image provides justification for white men to twist our attempts to speak out into questionable mistruths. The social justice system maintains their institutional power, while their existing institutional power grants them credibility to be trusted. But even with these institutions in place, aren’t the people waking up? Aren’t racism and sexism dying plagues?

Beyond institutional problems within the American justice system, the immunity of white men is a community effort. The white male judges, the white male politicians, the white male cops, the white male civilians all work to keep each other at the same top tier of the hierarchy. Weinstein, for example, stayed backed by a circle of other powerful white men willing to cover his tracks for years, all for the greater good of the power of the white man.

The American justice system exists to protect… The white man. It exists to protect the white man’s ego, the white man’s future, the white man’s safety from consequences of his own actions. It protects the white man’s ability to live his life fearlessly after taking life from those who are not of the same status in the hierarchy. It protects the white man when they are gifted positions of authority in order to maintain safety for civilians, only to use their authority as an excuse to perpetuate harm against them. The American justice system is and has been nowhere to be found when it comes to the groups that experience the most violence in America.

So what now? Is there anything to be done about the violent white men walking our streets in mockery of their victims, smugly reminding us of their immunity? I can see, potentially, how this might sound like a helpless plea. Despite that white, male supremacy is the historic backbone of the American justice system, I have found a sense of agency. As the cliche goes, “The first step is realizing you have a problem.” Once we can recognize and address the problem of white men slipping through the cracks of the American justice system, then the dismantling can begin.

 

 

Help or Harassment?

Today probably went as typically as a day in the life of any other college girl. Turned in a paper, took a final exam, and ran out of gas on my way to get beer to aid studying for my final tomorrow. I bought a couple bottles and managed to fit them snugly in my pockets (yet another reason to buy pants from the men’s section), as well as a big box of kale I shoved in my backpack.

I lived walking distance from the grocery store parking lot my car ran out of gas in, but still was hesitant to walk home with my purse and laptop in my backpack and bottles of beer poking out of my pockets. The fear, obviously, was male harassment. But I decided it was just a little bit away. I wouldn’t talk to anyone, I could make it a block away without being bothered, right?

I forgot, though, that harassment is not up to me. It is up to men. I walked to the crosswalk, only mere feet away from where my car was parked. As I saw the walking signal, I took a single step closer to the street, still on the sidewalk, when I felt someone clutch my stomach.

“Careful sweetie, you’re gonna get hit,” the stranger cooed with a wide grin.

Within microseconds I had an internal debate on whether or not to say something. Was it worth it? Within the microseconds, I had determined if I were a six foot tall white male then that would have been a totally different interaction.

“Don’t touch me.” I barked.

The other men on the sidewalk howled as the man I initially engaged with muttered something under his breath. We all split paths when we crossed the road, besides one man who I shot a glance to, as if to say “Don’t you dare speak one word to me.”

Despite that we had split paths, it turns out the man who engaged with me initially actually lives in the apartment above me. By the time I had reached the back door to the complex, he was already getting into his room. I had just moved into the apartment less than a month ago, and it was my first time using the back door. While I had trouble getting in, he stood from his balcony and laughed at my struggle.

“If you don’t know the code, you won’t get in.” How polite of him to inform me. I really couldn’t have guessed that.

“I know the code. It’s ####.”

“Nah, that’s the building number. I would help but, “Don’t touch me!” remember?” I flicked him off before he slammed his door shut. After a seemingly endless stream of attempts, I realized it was the right code, I only was turning the knob the wrong way.

I’m aware that this probably comes off as an overdramatic telling of a pointless story, but this interaction encouraged me to ask the question, what is the point of men offering their help? This is not the first time a man has offered me his “help” only to have some sort of expectation involved. Two years ago a man offered to help teach me techniques for my art to develop, only to become extremely predatory. Back in high school when I was a fitness nut, men would ask if I needed help at the gym despite showing no signs of struggle. At what point is male “help” just an excuse to treat women like children, or to prey on our vulnerable bodies? If our bodies were replaced with a white man’s, would they dare touch us? Would they dare clutch our stomachs so we don’t get hit by a car despite that we are still on the sidewalk? Would the man who initially engaged with me, who lives in the apartment above me, give a shit at all if I got ran over after telling him not to touch me? I don’t have the answers to these questions, of course. But I could assume that almost every answer would be “no.” How are women supposed to claim our autonomy when asserting such defines you as the impolite bitch? Women deserve to feel agency, freedom, autonomy, etc. But what world are we in to where I am reminded that I cannot feel that simply walking less than a block home?

Can Boys and Girls Just Be Friends?

I used to hear the question “Can boys and girls just be friends?” from boys growing up, always with a resonating tone as if to say “Of course not, silly girl.” I quickly branded them as misogynists and carried on. Because I thought of course they could. Of course boys and girls could be just friends and nothing more, because if men think otherwise, it is clear they solely think of women as sexual prey.

But as I’m growing older, I realize I was half right and half wrong. No, boys and girls can’t just be friends. Yes, I was right in branding men as misogynists. Yes, they think of us as their sexual prey. I have been trying to convince myself otherwise for 6 years. I have been trying to give men the benefit of the doubt for 6 years. I waited tirelessly and eagerly, only to realize it is time to stop waiting. I know the answer now.

From the day I kissed a boy for the first time until today, I have never been just friends with a male. There are no men I have developed a friendship with where it was not more than a friendship, or I wasn’t coerced to make it more than a friendship. I kept meeting awful heterosexual single men and thinking “This one’s the outlier!” I never did meet a man who was not the outlier, in that frame of mind. I would think “Alright, cool, this is good, this is safe, he talks to me about feminism, he gets it, we’re gonna be friends!” And then they would touch me. Not in ways harmful enough to be blamed for sexual assault, but in ways that made my body lesser than. In ways that reminded me of what I was there for, what they were using me for, what they wanted out of me. They reminded me of their entitlement to my body. They reminded me that they could drive fear in me as easily as they made me feel safe.

“So how about all that Harvey Weinstein stuff, huh? Isn’t that crazy?” I couldn’t help but feel like they ask these types of questions to boast that they are the good guys, rather than asking because they generally gave a shit about my opinion or what I had to say regarding the topic. I could only respond to their vague questions with vague answers, only allowing myself to drown myself in thought of the horrors of rape as much as I could tell they were doing themselves. They all talk to me with the same mindless, careless air of male feminism. Waiting before savaging their prey. Then the touching would start.

And I don’t want to make that sound like more than it is, it was just touching. These self-proclaimed feminist men would not dare to touch a sexualized part of my body, like my boobs or my butt or my pussy. That would put them in hot water. No, instead they go for easier targets. They graze their fingers over my knee, slide their hands over my thighs, lift up my shirt the tiniest bit before they hug me goodbye so they can squeeze the bare skin of my hips with their greedy, selfish hands. They tickle us so they have an excuse to touch us. They would pour what was left of their plastic water bottles onto me when I wore white clothing, and apologize afterwards when they began seeing blood on my white shorts because I was on my period. The good guys are the ones who won’t shut up about feminism on Facebook, or at concerts. They’re high up in the activist communities, or the local music scene. Then when a woman is in their room, they make their moves. I say moves because it starts out slow and builds like a forest fire. They try to hold your hand, you pull your hand away confused. They begin stroking your knee, and you move your leg in shock, but slowly enough for them not to feel bad for trying, despite that this is your third time denying them. And that’s when they finally decide to pull out the big guns. I wonder if they think “alright, she hasn’t given in yet, but I bet if I try to kiss her, she won’t resist me.” And they do. They go in for the kiss. And that is when I realize they never cared about women to begin with. That is when I realize he was yet another “outlier,” just like all the other men. And of course this is all after “the talk” I have with them from the get-go.

“Not to be weird but like, this isn’t to hook up right? I just know hanging out kinda late unfortunately comes with implications sometimes.”
“Lmao. No. Not a hook up.”
“Okay, good lol. I just have to be cautious”
“Yeah. I understand. It’s cool.”

Or maybe it’s after they asked me out and I denied them, and I thought it would be implied that sexual advances were out of the question already. And then of course, there’s the follow up talk where I call out their sexual harassment, only to hear the classic “Well I would have thought if it bothered you, you would have said something.” As if to say women have been socialized to have enough agency with sex to immediately break grip as soon as men reach up our shirts to grip the surface of our flesh. That agency is something I have worked hard for, also for six years, and still isn’t even where it needs to be. Yet for some reason, I as a woman have never felt the need to randomly start touching men the same way men randomly start touching me. I don’t go up to men I find attractive and start squeezing their thighs. I’ve never even had the urge. Are women abnormal saints for that?

Of course, I have had a slim number of male friends. A couple gay, a couple I had previously been intimate with, a couple who are my friends boyfriends. And of course, I have male acquaintances. But are there men who are willing to be friends with women in the same way women can be friends with women? The kind where we can go to each other’s houses, or simply even have dinner, and have no expectation of sex? Do heterosexual, single men have the ability to be just friends with females? I think it’s easy to say it’s rare. Girls and boys, and men and women can just be friends I’m sure. I’m sure the outlier exists. But I have been on that hunt for years and have come out fruitless.

Intro

My name is Samantha Mathew, Sammi for short. I am an outspoken Indian, vegan, raging feminist slowly awakening to the truths of the world. I decided to start this blog both to help spread awareness, as well as to gain mental clarity on the views that I have. I have watched my thoughts grow and develop as I begin writing them, and felt like why not share them if I already make essays of facebook statuses regardless, am I right? I’m 21 years old and live in Louisville, Kentucky as of right now. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave comments with your thoughts.

Much love,

-Unsilenced Brown Girl