Brainwashing My Kids

“Papa, you look like a girl,” laughed Cookie Monster.

“Why?” replied Hapa Papa. “Is it because I have Sasquatch in an Ergo*?”

“Yeah!”

I had to interject. “Remember, Cookie Monster, there are no boy clothes or girl clothes. Just clothes. Just like there are no boy things or girl things. Just things.”

“Oh, yeah!”

“Do you know what the only difference between girls and boys is?” I continue.

“What?”

“A boy has a penis and a girl has a vagina.” I pause, because technically, that is not always true. “Actually, sometimes, girls are born without penises but their brains feel like they are boys, so they don’t have penises but are still boys.”

“Some boys are born with penises but they are actually girls so they also are girls,” Hapa Papa continued, surprising me.

“How does that happen?” Cookie Monster giggled.

“Some people just change the way they dress for awhile, or they take special medicines to change their bodies,” I replied.

“People just want to be happy,” continued Hapa Papa.

And then I left to go write.

As I was driving, it occurred to me that if I were to post the interaction on Facebook, folks who disagreed with me would likely accuse me of brainwashing my children.

But you know what?

All parenting is brainwashing our children. ALL OF IT.

No matter what you do as a parent, you are brainwashing your children with how you think they should view, participate, and interact with the world.

Whether it is something as mundane as how to load the dishwasher or something more “radical” (but hopefully, just as mundane in the future) as normalizing transgendered people, we brainwash our kids by imprinting our values upon them.

That’s our job as parents.

Whether or not our kids choose to continue with these beliefs in the future, that is up to them as people.

And thus, Hapa Papa and I try to normalize things that we ourselves did not grow up learning. We don’t make a big deal out of it. We just point things out consistently and gently remind our kids every time they state something that is the current norm (eg: dancing is for girls or trains are for boys).

This is how Glow Worm dresses up as Elsa or a mermaid or wears heels and sparkly shoes and necklaces. Cookie Monster went through this phase as well and grew out of it. If Glow Worm never does, that is perfectly fine, too.

Or this is why, when Cookie Monster once asked me if two men could have a baby, I said something to the effect of a baby could have two daddies, but making a baby required a sperm and an egg. (Hey, biological fact is also important.) I’m not really sure what the conversation entailed due to the vagaries of time, but that was the gist.

After all, we offer them unfettered access to YouTube which reflects mainstream views about what is supposed to interest boys or girls. I know it is impossible for us to catch and “correct” them all. And even if we did, they exist in this world and this reality and they are not stupid.

My kids are bound to absorb the unconscious messages they receive from media, family, and friends.

But hopefully, with years of repetition, my children will grow up thinking that people and families come in all shapes and sizes, abilities, colors, talents, loves, and desires. Some families have two fathers. Some have more. Some have only one mother. Some have none. Some have brothers and sisters. Some do not.

It is really that simple.

And mostly, people just want to live, love, and be without explanation and fear. That people want to just be who they are, when and where they are.

Yes, yes. Of course not every body can be who they are, when and where they are, because pedophiles and bad people.

TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE ARE NOT PEDOPHILES.

Neither are gays, lesbians, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

If I were really worried about pedophiles and bad people, I would tell them to avoid middle-aged white men who are religious leaders. (Don’t get mad at me for stating facts. Get mad at the white men doing bad things.)

At any rate, I am hopeful, in the era of 45 (I refuse to call him President because it hurts my brain and I am still unwilling to acknowledge reality), that the more of us who teach our children that all peoples are deserving of the freedom to live and love how they choose, the less likely another 45 will come into being.

Incidentally, that’s also why I wanted more kids. The super conservatives are outbreeding us liberals. (Kidding!! Kidding! I wanted lots of kids because of other reasons – but this doesn’t hurt!)

How are you brainwashing your kids?

 


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Where’s My “Women’s Work” Medal?

women's workThere should be a special kind of swagger after you complete a shit ton of housework. Or a badge of honor. Whatever it is, it should be obvious, huge, and awesome.

After all, I just spent two entire days doing several loads of laundry, folding it, and actually putting it away. (We all know that it’s the folding and then the putting away that is the most difficult. And for some, remembering to move from the washer to the dryer without having to run the cycle again because you forgot and the wet laundry got mildewy. I confess: this has only happened to me once. I consider myself lucky and fortunate. We are in a drought.)

That alone took awhile, but the bulk of these past two days has been finally stripping beds of long overdue sheets, as well as washing the months worth of sheets that have been piled up in my upstairs hallway for who knows how long? We have a lot of beds. And I hadn’t washed my sheets or blankets or sheet protectors for at least two seasons and cycles (this is where having multiple sets of sheets and sheet protectors is handy for procrastinating).

I am not kidding when I say there were close to ten loads run just these last two days. There goes that drought thing.

And sheesh. Have you ever folded sheets and duvets and fitted sheets? Especially for queens and king sized beds? EXHAUSTING.

This past weekend, I deep cleaned my bathtub and shower. (Last time I did this, I was pregnant with Glow Worm.) I even cleaned the jets/pipes for our tub. That wasted a lot of water. I also cleaned our sink area and the bathroom.

I was sore for days. I’ve only recently been able to sit down without holding onto a wall. Scrubbing a bathtub is a really good butt workout, apparently. No wonder I avoid it.

Did I mention that I also vacuumed most of the upstairs?

Have I just spent approximately three hundred words telling you about how I cleaned my house and did laundry and did the stuff that millions of women and caretakers do every fucking day?

Yes. Yes, I have.

I don’t care that this is the stuff that doesn’t seem important and amazing. It IS important and amazing.

I know. I wrote about this already and often refer back to the book that changed my life: The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” by Kathleen Norris (Amazon affiliate link).

But truly, it bears repeating.

Why shouldn’t we celebrate doing “women’s work”? The menial tasks of life that are looked down upon but make a life of meaning possible.

Yes, I did just say that.

The shit work we do makes a life of meaning possible for ourselves, our partners, and our children.

It is a noble task whether I am like some of my friends who are always cleaning their homes or like me, slovenly and meh about it.

So, I know this post is shorter than my norm by about 65%, but I’m exhausted from all that laundering I did these past two days (as well as purging the house, taking the kids to their camps, and prepping for our trips).

Anyhow, today’s post is to give you, my dear friends, a place to brag about the shit you got done today (or recently). I don’t care if it’s as simple as making lunch for your kids or doing the dishes. There are few things I hate as much as providing three meals a day for my children. It sucks. I hate it. But for some reason, they get hungry and stuff.

Ok. Have at it. Tell me how awesome you have been! No task too small. Be shamelessly braggy. I look forward to reading and celebrating how fucking fantastic you are.

If You REALLY Wanted to Protect Your Daughters

img_8149Around the end of May, I was seeing a lot of hysteria on my FB feed from my religious friends (not all of them, mind you – nor even the majority of them – but ENOUGH of them) going out of their proverbial minds because OMG WE MUST PROTECT OUR DAUGHTERS FROM MEN WHO WILL PRETEND TO DRESS UP LIKE WOMEN JUST TO RAPE OUR DAUGHTERS OH NOEZ!

And really, I want to just go off on these normally nice people because FFS, you fucking hypocrites.

You say you want to “protect” our daughters? So you choose this ridiculous straw man to oppress people who just want to be left alone and pee and shit in peace without fear of assault? Because guess who has actual reason to fear assault in a bathroom (or really, ANYWHERE)?

That’s right. LGBT folks.

Not your daughter. (Unless, of course, your daughter is LGBT.)

To date, ZERO people have been raped or assaulted in a public restroom by a transgendered person. As for all the other people who have assaulted folks in a public restroom, THAT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL.

I’m pissed off because if you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would care about equal rights, reproductive rights, consent, and dismantling patriarchy.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would be very careful about who your children (because let’s face it, our sons are also potential victims) hang around – especially since 93% of juvenile victims knew their perpetrator – of which 34% were family members.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would be terrified of white men over 30 (instead of any black male) because 57% of perpetrators are white and 50% are older than 30.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would teach your sons about consent and not give them a “pass” because boys are just being boys.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would not find it cute or tell the lie that if a boy hits a girl or annoys her or in anyway refuses to acknowledge her “No” on the playground that it’s because he likes her or he must find her pretty.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would demand that victims of rape are not asked about what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or any aspect of their sexuality or character during a rape trial. Because THEY ARE NOT THE PERSON ON TRIAL. The RAPIST is.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would tell the fashion police at school to STFU because your daughter is not responsible for how your son thinks.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would teach your boys and girls not to slut shame.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would support Planned Parenthood for being one of the nation’s leading providers of low cost health care (reproductive or otherwise) and information to millions of women and men.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would believe your daughters when they tell you they were raped or sexually abused or assaulted. You would believe them even if their abusers were famous, rich, powerful, in politics, or in their faith community (particularly a leader).

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would believe Amber Heard, Ke$ha, Dylan Farrow, and the 57 women who came forward after decades.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would support sex education and none of this abstinence only shit. Girls and boys deserve to know how their bodies work and function.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would arrest the johns and not the sex workers.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would make sure that entitled white athletes convicted of rape and sexual assault didn’t get 6 months for their convicted crime because they no longer can eat steak.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would do a lot more to defend and provide for the poor in terms of welfare and SNAP because the majority of people they provide for are children – and many of them are daughters.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would fight for equal pay for equal work.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would fight to end the “Second Shift.”

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would value traditionally “women’s work” such as child-rearing, care-giving, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would stop it with the body shaming and allow your daughters to have the body that they have because it’s beautiful.

If you REALLY wanted to “protect” our daughters, you would do all these things and more.

But what you wouldn’t ever need to do, is worry about whether a transgendered person was using the “right” bathroom.

 

Being Invisible

“So, what do you ladies do?” The hairy, overly tanned middle-aged white man asked.

My friend, Laney, and I had been busy chatting in the hot tub on our last day together when Bob*, with the self-importance only a middle-aged white man can project, interjected and proceeded to monologue for the next 45 minutes wherein our sole purpose was to murmur sweet, appreciative assents while we seethed yet somehow were trapped in societal expectations and did not extricate ourselves. After all, we were there first! Why should we be forced to move? And yet, who was the big loser in this encounter? Us.

I am still pissed about this.

Anyhow, Bob had now moved on from what he thought about himself and was now, however briefly, willing to share the spotlight with one of us.

“What do you do?” he asked again as Laney and I hesitated. Do we engage more? Do we reply in a way to seem interesting? Or do we reply in such a way as to shut down conversation?

I knew what I would do.

“I’m a stay at home mom,” I said.

I watched as the interest in his eyes died before I even finished speaking the words. He turned immediately to Laney

I was uncertain whether I was relieved or furious that he did exactly as I had ensured. Hadn’t I answered in this way so that he would dismiss me and my life? So that I could deflect and not have to endure him any more than I had to?

And yet. And yet.

Every now and then when I think about my life, I think how it is the perfect NOC (non-official cover for those of you not in the know) for spies, cons, and surveillance personnel. After all, there is nothing more nondescript than a mother with her children. No one expects them to be anything but what they are – which is innocuous background noise (at least, until one of those kids has a very public meltdown).

We blend. We are scenery. We disappear.

Today, I walked into a cafe without my usual coterie of babies and for a brief second, I made eye contact with a man sitting at the counter. My mind wandered to where it normally wanders in a split second. I wondered, what would I be like now if I were single? Would I still be attractive? Desirable?

When I meet men now, do they even see me? Or do they only see my SAHM uniform of sweats, unwashed face and hair, long sleeve tee, thick ugly socks, and double-wrapped scarf?

And why does it matter?

Every time I ask Hapa Papa if he is ever worried I will have an affair, he always laughs. Not unkindly, mind you. But still. He laughs.

Nothing is as flattering as your husband laughing at the idea of you having an affair because who would want to have an illicit affair with someone encumbered with three small, young children?

Hapa Papa sure knows how to make a woman feel desirable. Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.

Incidentally, this is not a post to elicit reassurances from my lovely and dear friends.

Lately, I wonder if I ever felt as if I were visible or if it is solely a consequence of my current identity. Did I ever feel as if I owned a place? Secure with my place in the world? My role? My identity?

Or is this merely another manifestation of feeling as if amazing and I are mutually exclusive states of being?

Whatever the reason, I’m done. 2016, you’ve been warned. And you’ll see me coming.

 

*Not his real name. Or it could be. I have no idea. I’m still pissed off about it but I forgot his name in its entirety.

We Are Not Things

A few weekends ago, my friend and I went to go see Mad Max: Fury Road and my brain exploded from the sheer spectacle, non-stop thrill, and unspoken weight of the movie. I admit, I only went because I was so intrigued from all the hype about it being a “feminist” movie. I hadn’t seen the original trilogy and I don’t plan to because I’m lazy and because seriously, how can any of them compete?

I have not been able to get the movie out of my head. (Mild Spoilers ahead.)

Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic world where water and gasoline are scarce commodities. Immortan Joe is a cult-leader/warlord who rules over his “people” with an iron fist by severely rationing out water. He has an army of Warboys, young men who believe dying in battle is the key to entering Valhalla. He also has a harem of sex slaves he uses for breeding and future milk producers.

The movie is centered around the flight of these women, aided in their escape by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). In one of the rare semi-still moments of the movie, Immortan Joe runs to the women’s quarters/prison, only to find graffiti reading, “We are not things” and “Who killed the world?”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head.

We are not things.

I can’t even remember if anyone ever says that outright, but throughout the movie, you get the point. Not only in reference to the self-liberated, pregnant women who are valuable commodities, vital for their wombs and milk, but the Warboys as well who are disposable cannon fodder. Even Max is a thing – a living blood bag.

We are not things.

I heard it as a battle cry. A desperate plea. A demand. A fact. A declaration.

We are not things.

Yesterday, I ran across a vile article, 8 Steps to Confront Your Wife’s Sexual Refusal (h/t Pastor Ken Fong) from an anonymous white man who calls himself a Christian.

Here’s the tl;dr version: The guy equates a wife’s refusal to have sex with sexual immorality. Furthermore, continued refusal on the wife’s part is tantamount to religious apostasy. The way to “confront” her is to stop being “nice” to her and no longer take her out on dates and treat her with basic human decency because she’s probably really mad at him now. And finally, he recommends changing bank account passwords and ATM codes and cutting off all money if she continues to refuse.

This is classic abusive behavior and incredibly dangerous.

Women, if a man does this to you – if anyone does this to you – RUN. This person does not care about you as a person, with your own wants and desires and thoughts and personhood. This person only treats you as a possession; an entitlement.

I just. How is this real? How can someone believe this load of shit and call it Christian?

And yet, we get milder versions of this nonsense everyday from churches that tell us women aren’t fit to be leaders (except over other women and children). Most definitely, this is part and parcel to all body policing of our daughters, telling them what to wear and how to wear it. (I wrote a post about this last week.)

Or if you want to be more extreme, the folks of the Modesty Culture and Quiverfull Movement. Really, if you follow the “benign” misogynistic teaching to its logical conclusion, you end up with the entitlement of Rape Culture and the idiot who wrote the above article.

In fact, I see pornography and Modesty Culture as two sides of the same coin. After all, in both viewpoints, we women are just things.

We are just holes (although, perhaps the Christians only allow women to be the one hole).

We are just vessels.

We are just a means to slake a man’s lust and desires. (Oh, those poor, poor, uncontrollable men with their lusts and desires!)

Where are the Christians decrying this type of dangerous teaching? I find it highly hypocritical when Christians call upon Muslims to denounce a few extremists who want to destroy America/Christianity/Women when they brush off the extremism in our own midst. Or even worse, when Christians boost that insidious evil and vomit it out of their own pulpits.

No wonder Christians are hemorrhaging members. Short of a few vocal pastors (again, I credit Pastor Ken Fong and author, Rachel Held Evans), I mostly only see silence or a few minor protestations followed by lots of nonsense about God’s mercy and forgiveness and other blather reinforcing and justifying bad behavior.

No wonder we are seen as hypocrites; immoral.

Why does it even need to be said?

Women are not things.

We are not things.

We Are Not Things.

WE ARE NOT THINGS.

courtesy of unwinnable.com

courtesy of unwinnable.com

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies

img_8142Author’s Note: This topic is highly sensitive and there may be some Trigger Warnings of rape, sexual assault, and incest. There are no graphic descriptions, merely the mentioning of such occurrences. My commenting policy will be highly enforced both on this site and on Facebook. Also, if you are a long time reader, I’m sure this is not necessary in the slightest, but there is liberal application of the swears in this post. For reasons which will prove obvious.

I remember we were in our church’s bathroom, talking about our week. My friend casually mentioned how she had snuck out of her house to meet a boy at the park where he proceeded to rape her. We couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time.

I remember another friend, telling me how over the weekend, she was with a fellow student and they were making out and next thing you know, he was having sex with her and she was frozen and couldn’t move. She just couldn’t move to stop him and though her mind was screaming, her body just passively went along with it. I think we were maybe nineteen or twenty.

I remember at a sleepover in junior high, asking a friend who I vaguely understood was having problems with her dad if she had ever had sex, knowing full well that the odds of her having sex were slim to none. Only to find out later (again, in a vague sort of way) that she had been sexually abused by her father for years.

I remember how hard it was for another friend to tell me that a family member had repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a child. How she felt so dirty and used and that she must have asked for it.

I remember how one day, I did a quick mental count of all the women and men I knew who had been raped and sexually abused and I realized that in less than five seconds, I could rattle off at least ten people.

And yet, consider this: When I found out my friends had been raped, in some cases repeatedly abused, my immediate concern was that they were no longer “virgins” and not the fact that they had been raped. In fact, I was so disappointed at their loss of “virgin” status that immediately after their telling me, it never occurred to me to inquire of my friends’ health, emotional state, or encourage them to go to the police.

That, my friends, is SERIOUSLY fucked up.

Even now, when I hear of people moving in together or of celebrities having babies out of wedlock, my immediate reaction is disappointment in their sexual choices. As if that is all of who these people are.

Of course, I now dismiss my gut reactions as ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst, but years of indoctrination from the Cult of Sexual Purity and Virginity is hard to silence entirely.

I consign myself to living with this unfortunate side effect of a mostly Christian upbringing. You know, where sex before marriage is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person.

I remember my first year in college, after having several of my first sexual experiences with guys who happened to be best friends (not at the same time), I felt like I could no longer even answer to my name – which means “virgin” or “maiden.” I felt as if I were no longer “pure.”

I remember when the second guy found out I had fooled around with his best friend, his first reaction was, “Damn! He got there first!” I was never a person to them. Just a walking vagina in which they could potentially stick their penises.

I remember feeling “convicted” that I had to ask my father (you know, the man who committed adultery multiple times and is a serial liar and cheat) for forgiveness because of my “scandalous” ways. I felt convinced that if he knew the truth about my sexual history, he wouldn’t love me anymore. When he found out, he said he was relieved and had been worried I was frigid. To this day, part of me still believes that he used my confession as justification for his later infidelities.

I remember in high school, my mother holding me and rocking me in the dark, weeping, praying, begging me to stay pure for myself and my future husband. Even though in retrospect, I know she wanted to protect me and was reacting to my father’s behavior, this feeling that I was failing my mother followed my sexual experiences.

I remember lying to my parents for years when I was living with Hapa Papa in “sin.” It didn’t matter that I was a grown woman. I did not want my mother to think less of me.

I remember when Cookie Monster was born, and ever after, that people would constantly comment on how attractive he was. That he would “clean up” in high school. As if it was a good thing that my son would just casually fuck his way through all his female classmates.

I remember the distinctly different tenor a few years later when people would comment on Gamera’s beauty, telling us, “You better tell Hapa Papa to get a shotgun.” “You’ll need to lock her up.”

I remember a talk the leader of our chapter of InterVarsity (an on-campus Christian ministry) gave to only the women about wearing bikinis and clothing that caused our “brothers” to “stumble.” I am pretty sure the leader only had the best of intentions, but in retrospect, that was an incredibly sexist and offensive talk. I seriously doubt there was a similar conversation going on for the men, telling them not to take off their shirts or not to wear tailored three piece suits or other nonsense in case they should happen to cause their “sisters” to “stumble.”

I remember one time, I had an orgasm with my Christian boyfriend and he was immediately angry and accused me of trying to use and corrupt him. And when I asked him why he never got angry when he had an orgasm, he then turned it around on me and asked me why I wasn’t angry when he did. That if I loved and cared about him, I would be more upset when he came.

In the years that we were together, I’ve lost count how many times he came in our relationship. (We never had full on “sex,” but had sexual experiences.) I only had that one. And yet, I was the one made to feel filthy.

I have been sitting on this piece for a long time, never quite knowing exactly what I wanted to say nor how to say it. And then, the shitstorm of the Duggars and Josh Duggar came out last Friday and I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I titled this piece, Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies, because so much of our culture, and I would daresay Christian culture in particular, is about women’s bodies. What are they wearing? Is it too revealing? Or not sexy enough? What’s with her hair? Is it feminine? Too masculine? What type of shoes? Are they CFM shoes? Ruining her feet? She’s running for president, but let’s talk about her pantsuits. She was sexually assaulted, well what was she wearing? Was she drunk? Did she scream? Did she say, “No”?

Originally, I wanted this post to be a logical take down of The Cult of Purity and Modesty Culture, but quite frankly, that is not what my post turned out to be. Instead, for an amazing and step by step take down of the insidiousness of Modesty Culture, I refer you instead to the blogger Diary of an Autodidact’s excellent post on The Duggars as well as his series on Modesty Culture. (H/T Pastor Ken Fong and SF.) Much of what he writes is horrifying – especially how the proponents of Modesty Culture blame survivors of sexual abuse (even if they are only babies).

And now, I’m not exactly sure what I want this post to be.

Only that I will do everything in my power so that Cookie MonsterGameraGlow Worm, and any future children, will never have to have memories similar to mine.

I want my children to know that they are not commodities; they are human. With the full spectrum of human desires, feelings, and emotions.

I want my daughter and my sons to know that sex is neither the pinnacle of the human experience where they have to grab or steal or trick their partners into having it nor the worst “sin” they could possibly commit (unless they are married, of course).

I want to be the type of mother who, if some shit of a person snapped my daughter’s bra, I would respond in similar fashion. Always supporting Gamera, and never ever asking her what she was wearing to possibly deserve that type of behavior. Shoot, I want to be that type of my mom for my sons, too.

I want to be the type of mother who teaches her sons to see women (and men) as people and not just possible penis receptacles. And that just because their hormones may be raging or a woman might be wearing something attractive, or revealing, or nothing at all, that they are people who can exercise self-control and self-respect and are more than their base desires. I suppose this applies to my daughter as well.

I want all my children to know that it is normal and fine to have desires. Yes, even sexual ones.

I want my children to have fantastic as well as boring, comforting, and all-sorts-of-adjectives sex. I don’t care as long as they and their partner(s) can and do consent.

I want my children to have healthy, full, and fulfilling sexual lives. Shoot, lives in general.

I want my kids to be confident in the knowledge that should they ever be sexually assaulted or violated that it is not their fault; they are precious, perfect, and not despoiled or dirty chewing gum.

Actually, I want them to know that regardless.

I want my children to understand reality, and then know that they can and deserve better.

I confess. I am terribly dissatisfied with this post. It is nowhere near what I want to say, yet I cannot find the right words. Only, I am afraid if I keep postponing, I will never get it out.

And truly, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a mother of daughters, a mother of sons, and most importantly, a human – a person, I want to convey that policing our daughter’s bodies, as protecting as it seems, just reinforces the lie that the problem is with our daughter’s bodies and not the men and women who choose to violate them.

And that yes, I would prefer my children always and only make wise choices. However, even if they make foolish choices (be it drinking alcohol, wearing the “wrong” type of clothing, whatever), that they still aren’t asking for it.

And with that, I leave you with this iconic image:

Still-Not-Asking-for-it

*All stories used with permission. Names and details have been withheld or changed due to privacy.

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Why I Stayed

(Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional violence.)

I stayed because I was too young to leave. Because I didn’t want to cause my mother any more pain than she was already suffering. Because someone had to protect my younger brother. I stayed because I loved him. I still do. I stayed because he was my father.

It’s hard for me to classify my father’s behavior as abuse because hey, who doesn’t have a story about their parents beating them when they were younger? And shoot, we turned out fine, right? Wasn’t it just a different time? An Asian thing? A Christian thing?

But then, I look back on some of the things that happened and there really is no justification for what my father did to me.

I remember refusing to eat celery at dinner and my father just erupting into a rage, pushing my plate into my lap. I distinctly remember empty shrimp shells falling to the floor. I remember screaming at him and fleeing to my room, my father chasing after me. I locked the door to my room but he just kept slamming his body against the door that I was afraid he’d break down the door. I recall being more worried that the door would be broken. I was resigned to getting beaten and opened the door and scrambled into a corner of my room. My father grabbed the broken post of my four-poster bed and would have bludgeoned me repeatedly had my grandmother (his mother) not inserted herself between us. I remember being forced to apologize for making my father so angry.

Even thinking about this event over twenty years later, my stomach clenches, my heart races, my fingers tremble, and I want to huddle in a corner and weep.

This is why I recognize the defeated look on Cookie Monster’s face when I yell. It is like going back in time.

It’s hard to admit and really remember versus just reciting past infractions in a detached sort of nonchalance. It’s hard because who wants to be a victim? And maybe I was blowing it out of proportion? Maybe I was just super melodramatic and wanted attention? And if it was so bad, how come my mother didn’t know my father hit me when she wasn’t around (she maintains to this day that she didn’t – and I believe her, as incredulous as I still find it). How come my brother seemed to escape the worst of it?

I used to starve myself. Punch myself repeatedly in the stomach. Cut myself. Tear up my pictures. Destroy gifts my father gave me. I tried to slash my wrists but did it the wrong direction and too hesitantly. I tried to swallow a bunch of pills but was too afraid to die and of hell or purgatory or wherever it is that suicides allegedly go so I only took a few over the recommended daily dosage of Advil and then fearfully, prayerfully went to sleep.

I couldn’t even kill myself properly.

I still don’t understand why I would hurt myself as a way to say, “Fuck you” to my father. I’m not clear on how injuring myself would have done a damn thing to him, but that was my thinking at the time. I was only in junior high and high school.

But coping mechanisms are hard to shake. I starved myself when I was upset or did various forms of self-harm well into young adulthood.

And yet, despite living through what my father did to me, I still don’t understand why my mother stayed. My father smothered my mother with a pillow in some anonymous Chinese hotel until she almost blacked out. My father held a butcher knife to my mother’s throat while I called the police on a very memorable Father’s Day. Even when my mother finally was divorcing him last year, I feared for her safety.

But when I force myself to consider her situation, it makes a little more sense and I have more compassion. Likely, she stayed because she had two children. She had a mortgage. She grew up in a society that valued men over women, where violence against women was acceptable. She didn’t want her parents to be right (they didn’t approve the match). She was in a foreign country, away from all her family and support. She belonged to a church and a culture that considered divorce anathema and against God’s will. She was the age that I am now, afraid, alone, and so desperately sad.

I used to judge her so harshly. I still do, in my moments of frustration and anger.

The irony is that the main lesson I learned from my father was thus: Never be the victim. I refused to become like my mother, tread upon and used up by a horrible man. And so, I am become my father. (I hear this in my mother’s voice when we argue. I see it in her disappointment and despair. I hear this as a punishment in my depressed moments, when my brain only spews lies.)

But I fight the lies because I love my children. I fight my darkness so that my children will have less of this shit in their beautiful souls. I fight and fail but get back up because the same ferocity with which I used to protect myself and trammel over others in my selfishness has been transmuted to defend my children from my own worst moments.

I left my father three years ago around this time. My brother left a few months later. My mother finally left after that and the divorce finalized last March.

I don’t know how to end this post. It seems a bit artificial and contrived to take advantage of headlines and trending hashtags. I assure you, it is not. But since my last post, I have been thinking a lot and although I feel ill and trembly at the thought of pressing “Publish,” I also feel ill and trembly at the thought of not.

So, we’ll just leave it at that.