Gender Policing Children

I’m writing this becuase I am sick of the constant gender policing my daughter goes through. She has an Avengers lunch box. She got it for her fourth birthday. It’s one of her favorite possessions, but every few days she comes home from school sad because people keep telling her she likes “boy things”. She gets the same type of comments when she wears her Batman jacket. The conversation usually goes like this:

TJ: I’m not going to take my lunch box to school anymore. Everybody tells me I like boy things.
Me: Do you like the Avengers? Are you a boy?
TJ: Yes. No, I’m not.
Me: Alright then. You’re just someone who likes those things.
TJ: They’re what makes me, me.

We have a similar conversation every few weeks. It gets exhausting.
TJ also loves a lot of feminine coded stuff, like Barbies and My Little Pony. Her favorite Disney movie is Frozen. She prefers dresses and skirts over pants. On days when she’s completely femme, there are people who are surprised becuase they’ve seen her with “boy things” in the past. These people seem to forget that children are actual people, and just like people have varied goddamned tastes.

I went with her on a field trip and the amount of gender policing that went on was mind boggling.Some girl classmates were playing and a little boy came by and asked if he could get a turn. One girl told him no because it wasn’t a boys’ game. I told him he could play. The game? Wizard of Oz match three.

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Screenshot of a board from The Wizard of Oz Match 3 game

 

Another boy said he didn’t like flowers because they’re for girls. At one point I was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of girl classmates and one another boy sat down with us. His mom came along, grabbed him while saying, “why are you here with all these girls. They’re all playing girl games. Go play with the boys”. The girls were telling me about school.

I’m constantly told not to judge parents who restrict their children’s play based on perceived gender. Frankly, I’m going to judge you. You’re raising your child to believe in harmful stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead to trans and gender non-conforming people getting harassed and killed. We have states trying to ban trans people from using public restrooms. All because we reduce people to their genitalia. Then your children spread these bigoted thoughts and make children like mine afraid to express who they are.

If gender is so innate why are cis people so afraid of a boy who plays with dolls? Of a girl who loves trucks?

I’ve seen a lot of cis parents claim that Target making their toy aisles gender neutral is silly because gender isn’t a big deal and the people asking for these things are overly sensitive babies.

You wanna know who are the overly sensitive ones?
Cis people who can’t handle their son wanting a Barbie. Cis people freaking out about which bathroom trans people use.

Apparently gender while being so innate is also very fucking fragile and anything could make children go into gender questioning chaos. And if that child tells their parents and the world they are trans, they can get killed for it. But yeah, keep making it sound like people asking to pee in peace and gender neutrality in media are the bullies in this.

Gender Policing Children
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Victim Double Standards

CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment

As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.

People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.

So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)

I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.

“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.

“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.

I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought. 

So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?

Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.

It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.

Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.

The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.

Victim Double Standards

Children and Boundaries

CN: brief mentions of SA, CSA, use of the word r*pe uncensored

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I recently saw the above image on Facebook. Long story short it’s talking about not forcing children to hug people that they don’t want to. To give children a choice and a say in how and when they interact and show affection to known adults. It explains that by teaching children they have a right to say no, that lesson could keep a child from being abused, or it gives them tools to be able to speak up about it.

While most of the comments were positive there was one commenter who balked at the notion of a child not hugging a grandparent, for example. They basically implied that teaching bodily autonomy in the form of hug refusal could lead to intimacy issues or emotional divides. They questioned what kind of family is it that would respect a child’s wishes to hug or not be hugged. They alleged that unless the child is Autistic or has some sort of other sensory issue then that child should always hug someone even if they don’t want to. Otherwise it is disrespectful.

Now please explain this to me: how is it respectful of me to force my child to hug someone she doesn’t want to? Is my child not worthy of respect?

The same person said that the idea of children having boundaries is silly because something about being potty-trained, so that obviously  children do not have the cognitive ability to make boundaries.

This person kept going on and on about respect. When I was little my family forced me to hug a certain family member. That didn’t teach me respect. It taught me I had no say, it taught me that anybody had a right to my body. I do not find it a coincidence that I’ve been raped and sexually assaulted. I was taught not to say no. Is that what we want to teach our children?

If I want to model good behavior to my child, if I want to teach them that they have bodily autonomy, if I want them to grow up to be people who respect others’ autonomy; then childhood is the perfect time to do so. It is in childhood when you set the foundation for who they will become as adults.

This goes back to an older post I wrote in which I said that as a culture we do not respect children. We don’t see them as fully fledged people with ideas and dreams and hopes of their own. We don’t think of them as people who can have opinions, wants, dislikes and likes. We see them as carbon copies of ourselves but they’re not.

If we want this current generation of children to grow into compassionate, emphatic adults then we need to teach them that they have value; they have worth. That they have bodily autonomy and that they have to respect others’ right to space and privacy.

We cannot tell them (whether through words or actions) that they are not worthy of respect. As parents, educators, as elders we owe it to our children to show them respect because otherwise,  why should we expect them to respect us?

Children and Boundaries

Se Llevaron La Luz!: Blackout 2003 and Reflections

It’s been 13 years since I left Puerto Rico with my mom and brother. It’s also been 13 years since the Blackout of 2003.

We were out shopping when all the stores went dark. At first people thought it was just on that block. Then we found out all of Southern Boulevard had lost power. We kept walking and found the train station, that’s when we found out there was a blackout so we could not get on the train. A few people were worried it was an act of terror. After all , 9/11 had happened less than two years prior.

Honestly though, my brother and I did not understand the problem. The light was constantly being “taken away” in Puerto Rico. The blackout was sorta welcomed to us because it made us feel at home. Growing up, it was a very common thing to yell, “se llevaron la luz!” out the window to alert the other neighbors that the power had been cut off the in the neighborhood for a while. We did the same when they’d cut the water supply.”They” being the Autoridad de Energia Electrica de PR and  Acueductos y Alcantarillados.  We’d go days without both so we had no problem dealing with the blackout.

Recently I’ve been thinking how much things change. When we moved to NYC I thought I’d never get used to all the noise and people. I’d never get used to swaying of the trains or the bumpy rides on buses. Everything was bright, loud and steel.

A childhood friend is visitng. They’ve never been to NYC. The bus and train ride home was hilarious. It reminded me so much of when I get here. My friend was looking at everything with such wide-eyed amazement. And I was telling them about the City and the “rules”, how New Yorkers  are. I told them they must have a NYC pizza because we are the best at it. They were asking so many questions and I was able to answer them.

I miss the coqui’s song. I miss how starry the sky is at night in El Campo. I miss the beaches.

I’ve never really felt at home in the States. Visiting Puerto Rico is always great but then I’m reminded of all the religious motivated bigotry on the Island; all the machismo etc. So, I feel too Latina for the States and too Americana for Puerto Rico.

But I’m starting to realize I have the best of both worlds.

I get to have New York City’s big slices of pizza and my friend brought me Puerto Rican candy. So, it’s a win-win.

Se Llevaron La Luz!: Blackout 2003 and Reflections

Dad Jokes

So there’s this new thing that fathers are doing called the Cheerio Challenge and it’s about who can prove who’s the biggest tool  funniest dad.

Ever wonder why there is such a thing as “dad jokes” but not the mom equivalent? Because dads are allowed to be silly. Dads are allowed to do this type of shit and not have people question their parenting ability. It’s why we have goddamn parades for weekend dads but condemn single moms. Seriously, look at any story about a single dad and you’ll get bombarded with comments on how “selfless” and “wonderful” the dad is. Look at stories about single moms and you’ll find comments questioning her ability to parent. They’ll wonder why she’s single. Single dads (or dads in general really) get praised. Single moms get scorned.

It’s why people went gaga over Chris Hemsworth baking a cake for his daughter. Seriously? He baked a cake. Clearly, he’s wasting his talents on acting. Get that man in culinary school!

It’s why we say dads are babysitting their children while mom is away.

Google “dad jokes” and you get this:

dad

Google “mom jokes” and you get this:

mom

So, do we see a difference?
Dad gets to be silly and fun; we wink at each other over how ridiculous dad is but we never say, “hey fattie, stop the jokes and get in the kitchen and feed your kids. Look pretty while you do it, toots”

The mom results are all a bunch of racist, ableist, sexist jokes at the expense of mom.

Getting back to the Cheerio Challenge: Yes, it’s cute and it’s silly, but as a single mom I really wonder what the response would be if this had been started by moms.

I also have to wonder why the fuck you’d risk waking your baby! Parents know that when baby sleeps, we can try to relax. Emphasis on try. This just seems like an incredibly inconsiderate thing to do. Because we also know how labor is usually divided in households with both parents, we can then extrapolate that mom ends up doing most of the emotional and physical labor while dad gets to waste cereal on a challenge to prove how big his dick is  how funny he is.

Fathers, doesn’t the fact that you get praised for doing the bare minimum bother you? Think about it: society is basically saying your mediocrity is just fine. You don’t need to improve; to strive to be a better parent. Doesn’t that offend you? Society doesn’t expect the best from you. It’s much like how rape culture dictates that all men can’t control themselves. We know that isn’t true. So why not do better; be better? Disrupt the narrative that fathers merely babysit their kids. Make people let go of the notion that we shouldn’t expect fathers to be fully involved in their children’s lives.

 

Dad Jokes

Body Mod Revolution 

My lovely friend Alyssa recently wrote a post about body mods and how they’re helping her take control over her body. Her post inspired this one.

I grew up thinking tattoos were worn by “bad” people. These people didn’t obey the law, they cursed, they were probably atheist. Good ladies also didn’t have tattoos. Outwardly I thought those people were outrageous. Inwardly, I envied them.

I wasn’t allowed any creativity with my body or features. I had lots of curls but my mother constantly shaved my head because my “hair was too much deal with”. Once I became old enough to say I didn’t want the haircuts, she’d take me to beauty salons to have my hair relaxed. I remember crying because those creams burned my scalp. I was told to suck it up because ‘beauty is pain’.
In the past year and a half I’ve stopped straightening my hair. I realized why I hated my curls and have learned to love them. I cut my hair on my own terms and dyed it purple.

I was always fat and told I should be skinny. I wasn’t allowed, and I’m still not, to feel comfortable in my skin. I am fat but don’t I know I’m beautiful? I’m not fat, just chubby, thick, curvy, voluptuous, full-figured. Anything but fat. But, I am fat and I own that.

I didn’t bother doing my hair or my make up when I was younger because I didn’t believe those thing were for me. Those things were for pretty girls. “Don’t you want to have a boyfriend?”. “No”, I said lying. “Any dude who wants to be with me will have to deal with me without all the prep”. I didn’t think I’d ever have a boyfriend since I was convinced I was uglier than sin.

At 17 I got my tongue pierced. Kids in school said I didn’t look like the type to have piercings other than my ears. I got made fun of and accused of being a “poser”. I was much too meek to have a tongue ring. What they didn’t know is that under the insecure little girl who thought she was ugly was a BAMF who didn’t give a fuck what they said. I’m currently stretching my earlobes.The next piercings I’d like are a vertical labret, tragus and daith.

At 19 I got my first tattoos. They’re tiny wrist tattoos and they’re pretty cliche; one’s the peace symbol and the other the equality symbol. I do plan on covering the equality symbol. I’ve grown past wanting equality. I demand justice.

I’m currently not able to afford tattoos so in the meantime I’ve come up with ideas and designs for them. I want the ink I get to have meaning to me.

Thanks to Alyssa and another friend, I’ve started embracing my Taíno heritage. I want to get the sun petroglyph because that’s one of the things I miss most about Puerto Rico. The sun just doesn’t feel the same in the States.

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I want the Flor de Maga (Thespesia grandiflora) because it’s Puerto Rico’s official flower. I want them on the right side of my torso.
PR 2011 (262)
At right, the flor de maga in the garden of my grandma’s house.
I want sunflowers because they’re my favorite (obviously). They’re big and bright and provide edible seeds. I’m big and bright and hope my writing helps “plant” a more just world. Sappy? I’m aware. Meaningful to me? Yup. Those are going on the left side of my torso.

I want the words Paz and Justicia on each arm. I want them in Spanish. While Spanish is the conquistadors language, it is also the language I grew up speaking. It’s the one I’m handing down to my daughter. The Spanish I speak is peppered with indigenous and African influences. It’s the language el Yankí has had to learn how to speak. It’s the language that makes people upset they have to press 1 for English. Es complicado y es mio.

I want the feminist symbol either on my back or on my legs. Feminism has saved me time and again. I would not be who I am without it.

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I want my and my daughter’s birth flowers to form a heart-shaped wreath.

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Lastly, I want the lyrics “my heart is broke but I have some glue“. Nirvana is one of my favorite bands and that particular line has always spoken to me. I have different problems but I have a way to solve them or cope.

It’s taken me a while to like the body and features I was born with. My hairy body defies gender norms and conventional beauty standards.
My current and future body mods defy abusive exes, close minded family, and transmisogynistic beauty ideals.
The tattoos honoring Puerto Rico and my embracing my natural hair defy racist and Eurocentric beauty standards. My fat body is taking up space and I unashamedly call attention to it with body mods. I’m taking femininity and making it my own.
I’m slowly looking how I want to look, and that is a revelation and a revolution.

Body Mod Revolution