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
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Street Harassment and Me

CN: street harassment, catcalls, sexualization of young girls

 

 

I was 11 years old when I was first cat called. I remember it vividly. I was on my way to school when two men in a red sports car started yelling at me and honking the horn. I ignored them, they drove up to me and slowed down. They were commenting on my body and asking my name. I kept ignoring them. I was about 10 minutes away from school. I had my uniform on, I think at that time I was carrying my Rugrats backpack. I knew if I stopped walking they might have gotten out of the car. But if I kept walking they would know where I enter school. I was afraid they’d be waiting for me. I wanted to cry. These were grown men and I was just a little girl. I screamed that I was eleven. The guy driving said, “damn!” and then they sped off. They only left me alone once they realized they could go to jail.

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Clearly, a preadolescent girl in a school uniform carrying this bag was the ideal target for cat calls.(image is of a black, maroon and plaid backbag with three cartoon characters from the kids’ TV show Rugrats.)

I told mami and grandma later that day. They told me the usual; not to get in cars with strangers but to also not worry. I should worry once men stopped looking at me. That day I learned men’s pleasure was above my safety.

I stopped telling anybody about the street harassment I got when I walked to and from school.

Up until I was fifteen, the harassment was just verbal. Then it became physical. It was Halloween and I was out with a friend. We walked past some men and one of them grabbed my arm and asked “trick or treat”. Ever since, I never walk past a large group of men. I usually cross the street or wait until the group has dispersed.

I would tell my friends and the girls would commiserate with me, but also tell me I was being overly sensitive. There was nothing we could do, so we might as well endure it. The boys would tell me they wished they got cat called by girls. I wondered if they really meant that? Did they want to spend extra time on an outfit to determine whether or not that particular pant or shirt would get them more harassment than usual?

As a result of the daily street harassment, I started hating my body. The men who cat called me would comment on my thick thighs, my big butt and wide hips. Once, a man told me “tanta carne y yo sin arroz” (literally “so much meat and I don’t have rice”). That man literally said I was a piece of meat. That’s how I felt too.
People told me that I shouldn’t worry about street harassment since nothing would happen to me becuase I was “jailbait”.

I wanted to believe that was true. When I turned 17 the big joke was that now I couldn’t cry “jailbait” at cat callers. I was on the train once when I noticed this guy staring at me. He got off at the same stop I did. He walked alongside me. He was asking me where I lived, what I did, if I had a boyfriend. I figured I would lie about my age and he’d leave me alone. I told him I had just turned 16. He said it didn’t matter, that we could still be friends. I told him I was too young. He said, “with that body it doesn’t matter. You could kill with that body”. I held on tighter to my messenger bag. I needed to get on the bus and was afraid he’d follow me. I lied and said I was on my way to my boyfriend’s house. He eventually gave up and walked away. I stayed on the station platform for about 30 minutes just to make sure he wasn’t waiting for me.

And again when I told anyone, they’d tell me to be flattered.

The harassment has only gotten worse as I age. I may have a “baby face” but my body’s shape gives me away. It took me a long time not to hate my body. It was those men and the rape culture I should hate.

Walking with my mom or grandma doesn’t stop the harassment. In fact, the men think if they’re nice to mami or grandma they have an “in”. Walking with TJ also gets me harassed. I’m asked if I’m looking for a daddy for her. Once a man commented on my dimples and said he was sure we’d make “beautiful light ‘skinned babies together”.
The only time I’m left alone is when I’m with other men. It pisses me off that I’m only respected as some other man’s property and not as someone autonomous. As stated above I’ve been taught the only feelings which matter are men’s.
“Be flattered!”
“Don’t be rude!”
“Say thank you! It’s a compliment!”

I’m not safe from any age group. When I was 14 some boys, no older than 10 passed by me and said something about my ass. When I was in college, some teens hollered at me about how slutty my dress was. Another time, a man old enough to be my grandfather, told me I had a “great rack”. And yet another time, an elderly man actually used TJ to get to me. TJ was three years old at the time. It was a hot summer day. I was wearing shorts. The old man was walking towards us and said TJ was very pretty. I said thank you and kept walking. Then he said “she gonna be tall”, looks at me “just like her momma, she got legs for miles, hmmm”. I picked up TJ and ran away. I was disgusted and it got me thinking, how old will TJ be when she first experiences street harassment directed towards her?

Thinking about it fills me with dread. I don’t know what I will do, but what I do know is that she will know street harassment is unacceptable. She will most definitely know that her safety is paramount. She’ll know she can come to me and I won’t dismiss her fears.

Street Harassment and Me

Living with Domestic Violence

Trigger Warning: mentions of physical abuse, extreme violations of personal space/invasions of privacy, threats of violence, gendered slurs. This is a pretty heavy post.

Being in an abusive relationship is exhausting. You find yourself walking on eggshells, constantly trying to gauge your abuser’s moods and act accordingly; anticipating a bad day so you can prepare yourself for the impending damage, both mental and physical.

Once, I  came home after dark and he, claiming he was worried, didn’t let me go out alone after that. I could go to the library but I needed to be back home at my curfew which was before it became dark. If I wasn’t I was subject to beatings and “panty checks”. He was convinced I was unfaithful and so would inspect me to find any evidence of “another man”.

I was only allowed to use the phone to call my mother but he dialed and held the phone to my ear.

The bathroom didn’t have a lock, so I didn’t have any privacy there either. If I took too long in the bathroom, he’d come in and check on me. He was worried I was “washing (myself) thoroughly to get rid of any signs of infidelity”

When we’d go to bed, he’d wrapped his arms and legs around me. If I needed to get up in the middle of the night, I would have to wake him. He wouldn’t go back to sleep until I came back to bed. Cuddling was a trigger for a long time after leaving him.

He said I couldn’t love my friends because I had him.

At first, I wasn’t allowed a cell phone. He eventually gave me a prepaid cellphone but I could only use it for him.

I thought that once I went to live with my mom, I’d have a bit more freedom. I was wrong. He’d call constantly, or show up unannounced. When he wasn’t at my mother’s house, I was able to use the phone and check my social media accounts. As soon as I heard him at the door, I logged off. I learned to do this after he became angry that I was messaging with friends. I stopped using my mother’s phone when he was around because he’d monitor the conversation.

I thought that once he started working I’d be free to come and go as I wanted. He’d be too busy to call my mother’s house to check if I was there. I was wrong. Although he lived in another borough, he managed to get a job 10 minutes away from where I lived. He worked full-time but still checked up on me every chance he could.

I wasn’t allowed to have a baby shower because it hurt his male pride. He said he would pay for everything the baby and I needed, and that I didn’t need anybody else buying me anything.

When we went out, I wasn’t allowed to make eye contact with people. I used to walk with my eyes downcast. I didn’t realize I did until after I left him and my brother and mom pointed it out. If I smiled at anyone, especially a man, I was accused of being unfaithful.

While I was pregnant, I slept a lot, of course. He’d come over and want me awake but I was so exhausted. He would  accuse me cheating. Why was I so tired? Never mind that he continually kept tabs on me so even if I wanted to cheat I couldn’t have.

He threatened to burn down a friend’s house so I couldn’t go visit anymore. He said he didn’t care who he hurt. No one was going to keep him away from me.

Since I was no longer living with him, and I now had a baby, I became bolder. He never hit me when I lived with my mom. I was too afraid to leave him, so I started doing things I thought would make him want to leave me. I would go to my best friend’s house with my daughter, TJ and not come back at the expected time. He hated this particular friend. He even thought I was cheating on him with her. I told my mom not to answer his phone calls. Eventually he did start threatening to leave me and I acted nonchalant about it. I didn’t care. I wanted him to leave.

My best friend was disappointed about not being able to throw me a baby shower, so she decided to have a welcome home party for TJ when we were discharged from the hospital. TJ got the presents and he had to deal with it. He hated that my friends would hold TJ.

Then he became jealous of TJ. He didn’t like that I breastfed her. He said TJ was just borrowing my breasts, that they were really his. He hated that my attention was hers and not his.

I slept when TJ slept. It was the only sleep I could get. He became angry that I didn’t stay awake to talk to him.

He was at my mother’s house all the time and as soon as he left, he would call me. He’d become angry that I didn’t want to talk. I told him that he had just left after spending the whole day with me. He said it didn’t matter.

He once made me call another best friend because he had became jealous of my relationship with him. I grew up with this guy. We’ve been friends for almost 20 years. Jekyll was convinced that this friend was in love with me. So I called my friend and apologized for bothering him but Jekyll “needed to talk” to him. Jekyll asked my friend what he felt for me. My friend said, “Well, I love her. We’ve been friends for a very long time. I’d do anything for her”. Jekyll’s whole face changed. I knew I was in trouble.

That night I got one of the worst beatings he ever gave me. I was a lying whore. I was cheating on him with my best friend who lives an ocean away who I barely even talked to, because of Jekyll.

Jekyll even scrutinized the music I listened to for hidden meaning. The Killers’ All the Pretty Faces was clearly a message for him. When Brandon Flowers sang “I don’t feel like loving you no more,” it meant that I wanted to leave Jekyll. The lyric “you’re not going anywhere without me” was used to threaten me. Jekyll told me not to forget that I was his, that I indeed could not go anywhere without him.

Even after I finally left him, Jekyll still felt entitled to me. Someone told him I had become friendly with the local shop keep. He threaten the shopkeeper for “touching (his) merchandise”. He said it didn’t matter that we were no longer together. I was his forever.

I ended up getting an order of protection.

I decided to write this because a lot of people believe domestic violence is just that, violence, plain and simple. They aren’t aware that although many times physical and sexual violence is part of domestic violence, it isn’t the only type of abuse to exist. Financial abuse, reproductive coercion and emotional/psychological abuse are ones that very rarely get talked about.

Even when speaking to other survivors, some are surprised at the severity of Jekyll’s abuse.

This isn’t even a full account of what he did. There some things I feel are too gruesome to talk about. There are other things I don’t talk about for privacy issues.

Music, social media, phones and even a goddamn bathroom break are simple things that most people take for granted. These things remind me that I’m lucky to be alive because Jekyll monitored them heavily when we were together.

Being with him was suffocating, in every sense of the word.

Living with Domestic Violence

Four Generations of Feminism

CN: mentions of child abuse, none graphic

Grandma was born in Puerto Rico. She moved to NYC in the early 50’s as a teen. She worked at a factory. Although she was a devoted housewife, she also smoked and worked the bar at the bar and grill she ran with my grandfather. My mother tells me Grandma wasn’t the most loving parent. She was strict. My grandparents had separate incomes, so my grandmother took care of the household and child care expenses. This was the setup until they retired and moved back to PR. Except Grandma never stopped working; she ran her house and kept it in tip-top shape.

My mother grew up in sixties NYC. She was an average student, had boyfriends, worked every summer, went to clubs on school nights. She would tell me of the times that she’d return home at around 3AM, only to wash up, rest for a bit and then head to school. She calls herself a latch-key kid. My grandparents were never home. They were busy working. My mom wore the typical fashions of the era. She had children but never married. Like her mother, she also smoked. As she raised me she would tell me that I could do anything I set my mind to, that I wasn’t limited because I was a girl. I was just as important as my brothers.

As a child, I saw the strength in these two women. But I also noticed that Grandpa never did anything around the house. He would watch TV while Grandma went from one chore to the next with seldom a break in between, and my Grandpa had the audacity to ask her for a drink of water. I wondered why he couldn’t just get up and get it himself. I asked mami once. She told me she had wondered the same when she was a child. She even went as far as telling him to get it himself, but she was scolded and given a “tapa boca” (colloquial speak for a smack to the mouth) for being disrespectful.

My brothers could do what they wanted. They didn’t have to do chores. They would eat and leave their plates in the sink. I attempted that once. Grandma scolded me and told to not only wash my dish but my brothers’ as well. I protested, but again I was scolded and then spanked for disrespect.

I began being street harassed and catcalled at age 11. I complained to Mami and Grandma but all they said was that I should be flattered. I should only worry once men stopped looking.

Mami would tell me I didn’t need to impress anyone, but then say she needed makeup to make herself look good. I’d ask for who and she would say men. But she was single the entire time she raised us.

Although I didn’t know these words as a child, I now recognize the casual sexism and slut-shaming I was raised with. At the same time, there were constant affirmations that I could do anything I set my mind to, at least from mami. From my grandmother all I’d get was chastisement for dreaming of having a career. I don’t remember how old I was exactly when she told me that all my hopes for a career would go down the drain once “a man dominated me”.

My relationship with my grandmother was not a very healthy one when I was a kid. It has become better now that I’m an adult. I can talk to her about certain things, like birth control. She’s OK with that, but I would never talk to her about abortion. Now, Grandma tells me that I’m right not to want to marry, because “marriage is just a piece of paper”. My relationship with Mami is pretty close. I can talk to her about pretty much anything. Through my feminism I’ve been able to unpack a lot of the messages I received as a kid. I’ve been able to talk to my mom about the harm a lot of those ideas did and still do. I have a daughter, so I’m very careful about what I say. Mami and Grandma weren’t aware of the mixed messages they were sending me.

I’ve asked my mother about some of those messages and she told me she wasn’t very sure she believed them herself, but she had been conditioned to think that way and she had never stopped to think about those messages critically.

In many ways Grandma and Mami were, for their times, modern women. But they were also conditioned to believe a lot of the sexist ideals of their time. We all are. I was.

I think that by listening to me, they feel comfortable being able to tell me what they really feel about sexism. They’re feminists in their own way. It may sound a little conceited but I do think I’ve been able to help them, at least in some small way to rethink some things.

I’m sure my daughter will do the same for me.

Four Generations of Feminism