Guest Post: "Women's Work"

This is a guest post from Sunflower Punk of Social Justice, posted with permission.

People would always tell my mom she was lucky she had at least one daughter. They would tell her I would help her when her parents were elderly and needed taking care of. No one ever mentioned my brothers. It was always like that; the girls in my family were expected to take care of their parents even after marrying and making lives of their own. The men were never expected to though. In fact when a man was taking care of a parent, I’d hear how selfless and wonderful that man was. My grandma ended up taking care of her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law. My grandma is the best example of a woman dropping everything to take care of someone else, often at the expense of her own health.

Now, it’s on me and my daughter to take care of my mother and grandma. I’ve heard it plenty of times. “It’s so great you had a girl. If you’d had a boy you’d be alone”. They don’t expect TJ to have a life of her own when she’s grown. If I had a boy, they would expect him to leave me as soon as he was able.

I’m the one in charge of mami’s affairs when she dies. I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions should she ever end up in the hospital. Grandma is sick and may need surgery. Who does the responsibility fall on? Mami. But since she isn’t well, it’s my job. My 6-year-old daughter is expected to help out too. I have two brothers. One of them lives with grandma. But I’m the “girl” so it’s my job to take care of everybody.

My brothers are able bodied. I am not. But I had the bad luck of being assigned female at birth. I can’t leave grandma and mami to fend for themselves without someone accusing me of being selfish. Even if I protested and mentioned my brothers, I’d be told that it isn’t proper for sons to take care of their mothers. This was made clear to me when I was nine years old and my mother had a hysterectomy. It was my job to help her wash up and get dressed. One day I couldn’t help her because I was sick. So my younger brother volunteered. My grandmother started yelling at me. She told me I was lazy and that it was wrong for a son to see his mother naked. I questioned what mami was supposed to do if she hadn’t had a daughter. I was slapped and told to stop talking back.

I wouldn’t leave mami and grandma to fend for themselves. I’m not that cruel. I wasn’t conditioned to be selfish. I was conditioned to never think of myself. It’s taken me a while to get out of that thinking. It’s taken me a while to learn to say no and to take care of my needs.

When the time comes to take care of either mami or grandma, I’ll do it. I’ll know it’s because it’s expected of me but also because no matter how hard I try I will never be callous like my brothers. I know I’ll hear all about how selfless I am and what a good daughter I am, and don’t I hope TJ will take care of me in my old age.

And I will know that if I ever need TJ to take care of me, it’s because I earned her love and respect, not because it her “womanly” duty or because she owes me.

 

Guest Post: "Women's Work"
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Speaking Ill of the Dead

Growing up I was told it was rude to speak ill of the dead. I was told no matter how horrible the person was in life, we should respect them in death. I never questioned this until one of my grandma’s sisters died.

I got the news about my aunt and I felt like dancing. I thought I was being rude but then I thought, this aunt made my life miserable. Any chance she got, she reminded me how ugly and fat I was. She would tell me I would end up “jamona” (a spinster) because of how unattractive I was. I was 12. My grandma would tell her sister about my “bad behavior” and this aunt would say that what i needed was “un buen puño a la cara” (a good punch to the face). I was 7. She would make my school uniforms and I dreaded being measured. She always had something to say. “Oh, you’re so fat. You’re fatter than I am. It’s a miracle you fit through the door.”

She died when I was in my teens. I remember calling my grandma to offer my condolences. But I lied them. When I went to Puerto Rico, I visited my grandpa’s and another aunt’s grave. I left flowers for both of them. I didn’t ask to see that one aunt’s grave and grandma didn’t push me. I told my mother I was happy tia was dead. I would never say this to my grandmother. Not out of respect for that dead aunt, but for respect to grandma. That aunt never showed any respect to me, so I don’t see why I should respect her because she finally dropped dead.

I firmly believe it is OK and even cathartic to be happy someone died. If that person made your life miserable? Pop open a bottle. That person abused you? Merengue on that grave all you want.

My tia didn’t have any influence over legislation. Her opinions and ideas didn’t have the power to sway a population. Scalia on the other had opinions which hurt a lot of marginalized people. I will not judge anyone who is glad he’s gone. I’m sure no one is going to his family and saying they’re happy he’s dead, and I would never advocate that. But I don’t care for the for the posts I’ve seen chastising the people who are happy he’s dead.

“No hables mal de los muertos, que no pueden responder”. Don’t speak ill of the dead because they can’t defend themselves. Well, when she was alive I tried defending myself from her verbal abuse and I was told I was disrespectful.

Death doesn’t mean that person’s bad deeds are forgotten. Death doesn’t magically erase the pain that person caused. But death does guarantee that I’ll never have to listen to her opinions ever again.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice

A lot of people can’t really parse the difference between being pro-choice and supporting eugenics. If choice is choice, what does it matter if people choose to abort children with disabilities specifically? Doesn’t it make sense that not everyone is capable and able to care for a child with a disability? Aren’t we taking away a person’s right to choose by saying that making that decision on the basis of disability is wrong?

It can be confusing and difficult to deconstruct, until we realize that when we are discussing eugenics and why it is dangerous, we are not discussing whether or not a person has a right to choose to end a pregnancy, but discussing the bigoted ideas that may be the reason for the decision.

Pro-choice activists can instinctively understand for example why abortion on the basis of sex or race would be wrong, while not seeing that assertion as invalidating a person’s right to choose. So why do we have this difficulty with disability?

Because socially we see disability as a bad thing, so much so that we have a tendency to see disabled people as not being fully human. This may seem like an extreme representation of the opinion until you realize that there are still arguments over whether people with certain disabilities have consciousness, are able to experience pain, etc. That treatments considered torture against abled people such as ABA and conversion therapy (not to mention bleach enemas) are not only still allowed for treatment of certain disabilities, but outright fucking encouraged by charities that claim to speak for these disabilities. That the murder of disabled children is often excused and almost never results in jail time.

Continue reading “What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice”

What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice

The Horror Is Mine

My social circle has been remarkably supportive of the traumas and challenges I’ve faced over the past year.  A few of its members, however, haven’t yet grasped the nature of the rift that has emerged between me and my parents.  They keep telling me to watch how viscerally I criticize them and to intersperse my rage with acknowledgement that the people who raised me are doing “the best they can” to wrap their heads around my situation.  At their worst, they tell me not to “air the family’s dirty laundry,” failing to grasp that one of the foremost weapons against their particular secrecy-based abuse dynamic is the cleansing light of day.

Every time I hear those phrases, my mind flits back to the worst nightmare I ever had, in June 2015.  This was around when my parents first started losing their minds over seeing my long hair and painted nails over webcam, and sent the first of an onslaught of Emails that stabbed directly at what I was going through.  I was terrified that, in their bigotry, they would do something extreme.  They threatened to cut off my financial support if I breathed too loudly in their direction; what “punishment” would they impose for joining what my culture regards as its most outré abomination?  What would I face if I ever again put myself at their mercy by sleeping under their roof, as I did for two weeks every year?

Those are the fears they tell me to put aside when they plead for reconciliation.

Those are the fears I dreamed about that night.

Those are the fears I wept about that morning.

Content note for oneiric horror, kidnapping, and emotional trauma.

Continue reading “The Horror Is Mine”

The Horror Is Mine

We Don’t Respect Children

I came across this meme on Facebook today. I was going to repost with some commentary but the commentary turned into this blog post.
CN: abusive parenting

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(image description: black text against white background reads: My 8-year-old just talked back to me. While she’s at school I’m logging into Minecraft and destroying her fucking village)

 

Look, I don’t care how annoying your kid’s behavior may be. I get it, I really do. But you DO NOT under any circumstances, destroy their things. Destruction of property is a sign of abuse. And yeah, I would count this as destruction of property. The kid spent who knows how long building the village and you’re going to destroy it because you can’t handle your kid standing up for themselves? There are ways to correct behavior that doesn’t involve hurting your child. Think of it this way, if I disagreed with my spouse, would that give my spouse the right to destroy something of mine?

Plus, behavior deemed “bad” is usually caused by some distress to the child. Figure out what it is and work through it. Talk to your kids. Don’t fucking do this. It disturbs me the amount of people sharing this on Facebook and commenting that this is something they’d do. We, as a culture, don’t see children as autonomous beings with fears and dreams like any adult. Why do we think treating children like this is OK and then act surprised when those children grow up to be maladjusted adults? Lots of parents think they own their children and treat them like property. Then when those children are adults who want nothing to do with their parents, those same parents act hurt. I see it every Mothers’ and Fathers’ day. I see children who feel pressure to talk with their parents. I see people shaming those children because we refuse to see parents as people who make mistakes. Some of those mistakes are too awful to forgive.

I get that that this is supposed to be humorous but honestly, where is the humor? Is it funny that I’m threatening my child with violence? (yes, violence, see above), is the humor in the fact that my child is supposed to be afraid of me? If I want my child to not talk back to me, how is doing this going to change that behavior? I’d like my child to respect me, but that won’t happen if I don’t respect her. And you know what? Sometimes kids will do things that will annoy you and down right anger you. It’s your job as the adult to set the example and regulate your emotions. If you feel you can’t handle the behavior at that moment, excuse yourself if possible. Take a breather and go back when you’ve calmed down. You can’t expect your child to exhibit certain behavior if you don’t model it for them.

This meme may seem innocuous on the surface but the people commenting how they’d do this reveal a deeper societal pattern. We just don’t respect kids. If we did, no one would find this funny.

We Don’t Respect Children

The Little Sewing-box Star

little plastic red star
When I was a little girl, I was playing with my mother’s sewing box looking for something pretty. I found this little button or piece of a pendant or something in the shape of a small five pointed red star. At the time I loved the colour red, and I loved star shapes, so I took some thread and turned it into a necklace.

When my father saw it he froze solid. For a few moments he just stared at me, then told me with excessive calm to take it off. Shocked at seeing my father like that, the way his face paled, the way his eyes looked like someone had just stuck their hands directly into his chest and squeezed his heart, made me take it off and put the thing back in the box.

Later my mom told me that the star was a symbol of bad things that had happened to them in Poland before they came to Canada. That it brought back bad memories for them.

It was innocence only, and my father knew that. He didn’t scream, he didn’t curse or yell or threaten. He didn’t even explain. But that star disappeared.

Years later, I learned about Stalin and Soviet Russia and the Communist takeover of Poland. Over the years I learned about solidarity and bit by bit my father’s involvement with it. I learned that my father was blacklisted. I learned that my parents as newlyweds, were separated for 6 months while my father got out of the country and they worked to bring my mother down as well. Continue reading “The Little Sewing-box Star”

The Little Sewing-box Star

Notes from the Fashion Lab

I find it strange and a little funny when people comment on my fashion sense.  I have no doubt that it’s genuinely praiseworthy, but some of the compliments I’ve received come with a little extra subtext I’d like to put to rest.

This fashion sense is the work of years, not months.

I’ve been paying vastly outsized attention to women’s clothing for my entire life.  I’ve been able to render informed opinions on clothing styles and makeup hues since high school, if not earlier.  I had weirdly specific ideas about what I wanted the women in my life to wear.  I fantasized about and utterly failed to seduce partners who approximated that style in my misguided quest to surround myself with the precise sort of femininity that it turned out I actually wanted, not to be around, but to be.  I did not face my more authentic clothing with the anxious confusion of an empty cistern.  I turned that spigot and enough fashion came out to dress ten svelte Hispanic ladies.  I was not intimidated by no longer being able to dejectedly match any T-shirt with one or another set of jeans and call it a day; I was liberated.

And because I came into this battle well-armed and, after an outpouring of support, well-provisioned, I’m sharing here what wisdom I have about how I look good in women’s clothing.

Continue reading “Notes from the Fashion Lab”

Notes from the Fashion Lab