Barf, Barf, Barf Everwhere

Sorry for the small break in posting. Our household got hit with a stomach bug and I’ve been neck deep in barf, diarrhea, and laundry (because of the barf and diarrhea). Delightful.

I don’t think our house has EVER been hit with so much illness (thank goodness!!) and several of us got hit twice. And by several of us, I mean me. Ok, fine. Cookie Monster, too.

It got so bad that last Wednesday, I barely took Gamera to school before being unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. I begged my mom to pick her up and I just let Cookie Monster and Glow Worm fend for themselves all day. And by fend for themselves, I mean they iPadded and iPhoned and Haloed to their hearts’ content. Then, my mom showed up with Gamera and lunch and they got semi-fed. Unfortunately, she had to leave so again, all three children under six were running amok in the house as I lay in bed in semicoherence.

This is how mommies are wonderful: after a long day of meeting with clients, my mom came back to my house around 7:30pm, fed and bathed all three children, and then had them clean up the entire downstairs (which seriously, looked liked several natural disasters swept through). Then, she finally left for her home to take care of herself. (And my poor mother caught the stomach bug over the weekend.)

Where was Hapa Papa during this time, you might ask? On “vacation” in Texas. We didn’t leave him out, though. He joined our dubious club on the weekend, too. But before that, he was a big help while I malingered.

Anyhow, that is the current update of our peoples. Thank goodness I homeschool – we basically didn’t do any formal learning for about two weeks. But now, we are slowly getting back into the swing of things (including blogging).

Have a healthy and non-barfy Wednesday!

 

Just Another Reminder That I Don’t Belong

Honestly, I should have seen it coming.

I was at a homeschooling seminar last night and had mentioned I was homeschooling Cookie Monster in Chinese. People were impressed and then afterwards, the super nice, informative, lovely speaker (who I really liked) said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

And before she even finished her sentence, I already knew what she was going to ask.

“… how come you don’t have an accent?”

“It’s because I was born here,” I reply politely.

She then proceeded to expound on how awesome it was that my kids are learning another language, blah blah blah. I tried to take my leave as quickly as possible and since then, the comment has gnawed at the back of my mind.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think this woman was a bad person or had any malicious intentions. I don’t even think she is stupid. (Although her comment was.) So, let’s not pile abuse on this woman. I did like her and I’m sure if we were better acquainted, I would continue to like her.

That may be surprising to some of you since from my blog, I seem all ragey and like I’m spoiling for a fight. Don’t get me wrong. I can be. But most of the time, I really just want to go through life as pleasantly as possible. I want to like people and have them like me and we’re all happy and laughing and then get back to our lives.

But it bothers me. And I’m a little mad about it. And not for the reason you may think.

Well, a LOT for the reason you think – but that’s not the only reason.

Of course, it’s just one more comment in a long line of comments that pointedly remind me that people (especially white people) don’t think I belong in America even if I was born and raised here and am likely more “American” (whatever that means) than they are. After all, it isn’t the actual comment itself. It’s the piling up of 37 years of these types of comments. It’s the constant reminder that no matter how nice or kind or well-meaning, people really aren’t that safe. That really, I should stick to my own “kind.”

I mean, FFS, people. I live in the Bay Area, in an area that is flooded with Asians. It’s not like we’re somewhere that I’m a tiny minority and I’m some type of unicorn.

So, what does it say about this woman that she has so little exposure to Asians that she thinks everyone is foreign born? And doesn’t see anything wrong with that assumption?

Here’s a thought: maybe the reason I don’t have an accent when I speak English IS BECAUSE I WAS BORN HERE.

Then I thought, maybe it was the fact that I was homeschooling my kid in Chinese that threw her off.

But then I thought, being fluent in another language doesn’t preclude speaking English without an accent. I mean, come on people. That’s just sloppy reasoning.

So here’s the part that really makes me mad: why do people have to ruin being otherwise nice and lovely people by lazy thinking?

I mean, what was I supposed to do? Be mean? Come back with what I wish I could say in these situations with, “How come your  English is so good?” and then act super surprised that she was born in the US?

Instead, of course, I just swallow all of the snark because if I didn’t, I’d be immediately shunted into “angry minority” status and who wants to be that? Who wants to always be so angry? Or have people be worried that they have to “watch what they say” around me?

But seriously. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE WATCH WHAT THEY SAY AROUND ME?

I mean, I watch what I say around white people all the time (unless I know that they are a safe space or ally). In fact, many minorities do this type of code-switching all the time. But think about it, it’s not just minorities. It’s everyone. You change your language and adapt your behaviors depending on what group you are with.

So why is it so hard to think a little more carefully about what you have to say?

I realize this post is all over the place. Mostly, because I am all over the place about it. I’m annoyed at this person, and then annoyed at myself for being annoyed.

I’m annoyed at society for being conducive to this type of racist stupidity – and for general stupidity. (Talk about being mad at the ocean for being wet or salty or huge.)

And I’m annoyed because I know I am guilty of this same lazy thinking all the time. We can’t help it. It’s ingrained.

And yet, I would like to think that when confronted, I attempt to change.

So though you are not that lady, please consider this a polite reminder to really think about the stuff you say. Whether it is some glib comment about body types, or values, or poor people, or black people, or Republicans, or whatever.

Really think.

And not just because of some possible threat to your personal safety or personal concept of who you are as a person.

Think things through because faulty reasoning is bad for everybody. And what does it hurt us to change our way of speaking if it spares someone pain and harm?

Alright. As usual, I’m having difficulty ending this piece. So, I’ll just leave it at this: Have a lovely Monday.

How to Gauge Chinese Fluency

**This piece was originally part of a series of posts. You can find the updated version, along with exclusive new chapters, in the ebook, (affiliate link) So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese

Before I continue, I recommend you read my post about setting realistic expectations to get the most out of this week’s article. This is not because I want to whore out my previous posts (ok, that, too), but more to properly frame this week’s post about gauging Chinese fluency in your children. (You know, so you can have realistic expectations about what I’m about to write.)

Also, I just want to say upfront that many people will likely take umbrage at my remarks. I totally understand. I might be skewering one of your sacred cows. No one likes their cows skewered unless they are the ones skewering – and even then, only if they also get to eat the skewers. So, I get it. But that doesn’t mean the cows weren’t in need of a good skewering in the first place.

Anyhow, enough with the belabored metaphors and on with the post. Whooo!

So, tl;dr version of my Realistic Expectations post (because I know you didn’t go read it): Chinese fluency requires intention. Your goals may differ from mine, but your kid isn’t going to be magically fluent just because that would be a nice thing to have. It takes work. And depending on your expectations and goals, more work than the minimum of showing up to Mandarin Immersion school every week day or a weekly three hour Chinese School session. (Of course, there is a lot more nuance to the post, but why would we care about that?)

Oh, your kid is from a non-speaking family and is fluent from going to a few years of MI?

Oh, your kid is from a non-speaking family and is “fluent” from going to a few years of MI school?

For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume you want something similar to what I want, which is for my kids to have a native level of speaking and understanding Mandarin as well as functional literacy. (If your idea of fluency is for your kid to know a few phrases and perhaps order some food or ask for the restroom, we need to have a discussion about the correct usage of the word “fluent.” Words have meaning and it behooves us to use them precisely.)

At the risk of being a clichéd college application essay, a quick Google of the word, “fluent,” brings up the following definitions:

  • (of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately.
  • (of a person) able to speak or write a particular foreign language easily and accurately.
  • (of a foreign language) spoken accurately and with facility.

Of course, I know that not everyone has the same expectations of their children as me – nor do I think that is necessary. In general, I think the above definitions will suffice for most people in terms of fluency; we want our children to be able to understand and express themselves in Chinese with ease, accuracy, and facility.

In our pursuit of this fluency, many of us enroll our children in Mandarin Immersion schools, weekly Chinese schools, after school programs, or tutors. We want to believe the claims of “complete fluency” or “native grade level fluency” from the principals and teachers. However, let’s be real: these folks have a slight conflict of interest and unless they have quantifiable results to back up their claims, what you’re really buying is hype.

And honestly, without additional supplementation, either from heritage parents speaking Chinese at home, or hiring additional tutors, native level fluency is most likely improbable from just being enrolled in an MI school or Chinese school.

Alright, I hear you saying. Where’s my proof? Where are my studies? Why am I such a snob?

I’m going to cheat and say, sorry. That’s not the type of post I’m writing today. (Or ever, actually.) I fully admit that I’m just a regular person with no fancy degrees in Mandarin Immersion or secondary language acquisition. However, I really would offer you as proof the millions of ABCs (American Born Chinese) and BOBAs (Brought Over By Airplane) who have come before you with varying levels of success in Chinese fluency. If it were really that easy, there would be far more fully fluent ABCs and BOBAs in existence and this topic wouldn’t be such a sore point for so many of us.

Anyway, even if you don’t believe me, given all the time, effort, and money you are investing in this pursuit, wouldn’t it be nice to know if your investment is giving you the appropriate returns? In short, how do you know your kid is as fluent in Chinese as you think they are?

As I am wont to do, I will split the families up into two categories: Speaking and Non-Speaking Families.

1) Speaking Families (Wherein at least one of the parents speaks, understands, reads, or writes Chinese. Depending on the degree of fluency, however, you may also need to refer to the Non-Speaking Families section.)

Clearly, the higher degree of fluency, the easier it will be for you to determine how fluent your own children are in Chinese. Just like a native English speaker doesn’t need much help with figuring out if their kid is fluent in English, you will have that same ability.

In cases of mixed-fluency/ability, I will refer you to the next section. In my own particular case, I am pretty fluent in speaking and understanding so I have no problem ascertaining how fluent my children are at speaking and understanding. However, my reading and writing are sorely lacking. I can read perhaps about 500 characters if we are being considerably generous – but if there is pinyin or zhuyin, I can read everything and comprehend most of it. In the case of reading and writing, I will obviously be less able to judge accurately.

2) Non-Speaking Families (Neither parent speaks, understands, reads, or writes Chinese.)

Now, as a non-speaking family, you don’t have the built-in advantage of being a native speaker to determine how fluent your children are in Chinese. You can only hope that the people to whom you’ve entrusted your children’s Chinese education will be honest and ethical in their assessments and not just tell you what you want to hear.

In other words: Trust, but verify.

This is where adhering to certain standards and testing becomes useful.

Now, I’m not a huge proponent of standardized testing, (I am, after all, homeschooling), but I’m not opposed to them, either. I understand the need to have a way to semi-objectively measure what children are learning in school and to make sure that they enter college with a base standard of knowledge.

What I don’t like about all the standardized testing is our children’s education being reduced to how well they do on these tests, and that if they don’t “pass” them with a sufficient margin, that they are somehow failures.

At any rate, I think it is totally legitimate for parents (both from speaking and non-speaking families) to demand accountability in the form of standardized testing from their Mandarin Immersion and Chinese School administrators. However, it is also important to understand what the tests measure and what they do NOT. Please do not equate passing a test with being fluent.

At any rate, the tests are still useful for what they do measure. Some of the possible Chinese assessment tests are:

a) SOPA/ELLOPA – Interactive, listening and speaking assessments designed for children who are learning a foreign language in a school setting. They include hands-on activities and are conducted entirely in the foreign language. Students are assessed in pairs by two trained test administrators and, during the activities or tasks, are encouraged to interact with each other as well as with the interviewers. The focus of the interview is to determine what the students can do with the language. (PreK-8)

b) Linguafolio – A three-fold portfolio assessment that takes into account the child’s language/cultural background; samples of the child’s work over time; and formal qualifications, certificates or diplomas, achievements, and self-assessments.

c) STAMP – Web-based, computer-adaptive assessments that measure proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking for middle school through university students.

d) HSK – China’s only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese.

e) AP Chinese Test – The exam assesses students’ interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication skills in Mandarin Chinese, as well as knowledge of Chinese culture. The exam is administered on a computer. The student reads on the screen, listens through headphones, types using the keyboard, and speaks into a microphone. Students may choose between traditional or simplified Chinese characters for reading and writing in Chinese.

Beyond these tests, there really is no better way to check fluency than to speak with native speakers. Of course, you are also depending on the kindness of friends and strangers and their willingness to be completely honest with you for fear of hurting your feelings or their being amazed at your child’s novelty.

Sometimes, that really is the best you can do.

Here then, is the official end to my post.

However, I do have a few things that are related to gauging Chinese fluency that I wanted to speak to. Of course, I don’t speak for all Chinese/Taiwanese Americans, but I can say that I am not alone in my opinions.

So before I continue, I want to give fair warning that some of you will find much of what I say next offensive and perhaps unnecessarily harsh. I would apologize but quite frankly, I don’t care.

I want to address a few common pitfalls when it comes to gauging Chinese fluency that occur most often in non-speaking families: False Sense of Fluency (FSOF) and White Mandarin Fluency Standards (WMFS) (terms courtesy of Fleur).

False Sense of Fluency is pretty self-explanatory. Often, non-speakers with children in Mandarin Immersion are under the misunderstanding (often due to purposeful misrepresentation or unrealistic hype from teachers and administrators) that their children are more fluent in Chinese than they actually are. There’s no way you, as a non-speaker, would know because obviously, you trust what the teachers tell you!

White Mandarin Fluency Standards, however, is another beast entirely. This refers to the extremely low standards Chinese people have for white people to be considered “fluent” in Mandarin/Chinese – in essence, because they are white. Because there is literally little to no expectation that white people (specifically in the US) would ever learn another language – let alone Chinese, when they (and their children) speak any Chinese at all, no matter how poorly intonated or basic, they get fluency points just for trying. (Thereby leading to FSOF. It is all interconnected.)

If an ABC spoke the same poorly intonated/basic Chinese, they would be excoriated mercilessly. Furthermore, if a Chinese person spoke the English equivalent of this poor Chinese, the response would often be vicious and cruel with comments of “You’re in America, speak American!” or “Go back to your country!” There would be no WMFS equivalent. The contempt would be palpable.

I know, I know. I sound like a really shitty person when I talk about this stuff. But you know what? That’s because I am done coddling white fragility. You might think that we’re only supposed to be talking about Chinese fluency but there is all this subtext that you’re missing.

Here’s the thing: Chinese is not a “white” language and is integrally tied to a specific ethnic people. An ethnic people who, I might add, have had a long and complicated history with the US and white people. (What ethnic minority hasn’t? Also, I am aware that the US is not to be conflated with white people.)

And due to this long and complicated (and by complicated, I mean racist) history, many Chinese folks (who were mocked for their accents or “Ching Chang Chonged” in school) are rightfully annoyed and suspicious when white folks all of a sudden decide that Chinese is now the latest cool thing to acquire for their children. (And yes, of course, there are many legitimate reasons to learn Chinese, and of course, not only white people are wanting their kids to learn Chinese, and yes, of course, not all white people ad nauseam, – people, please! Stay on task here.)

willy wonka chinese

Furthermore, there are few things as aggravating as non-native speakers popping in on forums (or in real life) and loudly exclaiming how their darling child, after X number of years in a Mandarin Immersion school is now totally fluent in reading and writing Chinese and aren’t they fantastic?

I find these types of comments well-meaning but laughable.

To quote Irish Twins, “That must be one amazing school if they never speak [Chinese] at home and [their child] is magically fluent.”

Look. Someone has to tell you the truth.

That’s like my friend, Not Another DB MBA, saying, “My kid took math for 8 years. Sure, they know calculus!” Or me telling you that just because I can run a mile, I can now run a marathon.

Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn. Not only is it a tonal language (which is notoriously difficult for non-native speakers to even distinguish), it also has over 20,000 characters – of which, only 10,000 are currently in common use. The Chinese government considers a person to be functionally literate (can read a newspaper) if you recognize around 2,000 characters. If you recognize 4-6,000 characters, they consider you highly educated.

Did you catch that?

The Chinese government expects its own people, people who already know how to speak Chinese and are literally immersed in Chinese culture, to be functionally literate if they can recognize 10% of Chinese characters. How can a person possibly think that their child, when only “immersed” in school for on average 6.6 hours a day, without any additional supplementation or support from a Chinese speaking household, be “completely fluent”?

And yes, I am overly petty when I snipe to my friends (I have never claimed to be anything other than petty and prickish). After all, what’s it to me if non-heritage and/or non-speaking families want their kids to learn Chinese? And what’s it to me if they are completely deluded in thinking their children are fluent? Who are they to me? And who am I to correct them?

This is where things get tricky.

It’s TOTALLY TRUE that it’s none of my business and certainly doesn’t merit reading the riot act on my part. Additionally, I concede that truly, your child really could be fluent. (And if so, I do find that to be incredible and wonderful.) HOWEVER, I consider this type of behavior just one of a legion of microaggressions that I, and minorities in general, have to deal with. It is merely one more reminder of the near constant cultural appropriation that happens to us.

I don’t want to retread my older posts, so if you’re interested in what I’ve written previously, I do go into more detail herehere, here, and here. (I will say that if you do not read these posts and then comment and complain about something I addressed there, I will respond with only a link. You have been warned.)

Look. I know no one chooses to be born white or Chinese or whatever. That is just a cosmic crapshoot. I don’t blame white folks and I don’t think being white automatically makes a person have a FSOF or WMFS. I really am pleased that so many people want to learn Chinese because I love the Chinese language and if only for purely selfish reasons, this helps me get more resources for my own children.

So, why did I have to go and ruin a perfectly civil and hopefully useful post by dragging it into the morass that is race and its incumbent squick factor?

As I said in a previous post, “Because it’s true and it happens and it’s real.  If you can’t handle that and don’t really want to navigate the murky and occasionally choppy waters of race and identity and whiteness or ‘otherness,’ perhaps Chinese is not the best language to choose.”

All I ask is that white folks be cognizant of the subtext and all the underlying issues something as seemingly innocuous as learning Chinese can bring up. Nothing exists in a vacuum. And if one of the reasons you want your children to learn Chinese is to become global citizens, it behooves everyone to not only have a deeper understanding of Chinese/Taiwanese culture and history, but Chinese/Taiwanese American culture and history as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read this never-ending post. I know it likely made many folks uncomfortable so I thank you for wading through the discomfort. Have a wonderful weekend.

Untethered

The other day, I was flipping through my journal and ran across an old entry from almost seven years ago. (Hey, this journal has been neglected. What can I say?) Reading through it made me somewhat wistful, but nowhere near as sad as it used to. I think, quite possibly, it is because I finally have closure. My father is no longer in my life due to my choosing and I am glad of it.

I no longer have to live this particular lie of pretending our family is fine nor force my children into that lie’s bondage. We are free and all the better for it. It takes an entry like this one to remind me of the hold and sway he used to have over me.

Good riddance.

September 22, 2008

I avoid thinking about Dad. He’s coming home for a few days on Saturday.

Truthfully, I forget he exists. It’s easier that way. Otherwise, the tacit acknowledgment of his absence is too painful. And even though I know it has everything to do with him, it cannot help but feel as if it is about us.

Every time he comes home, I feel such intense pressure. I feel as if I have to make his time here spectacular or make him feel like a king – otherwise, he may never come home again. I always feel as if I have to make him miss us. And if I stop playing to his ego, he’ll forget us.

After all, isn’t that what’s already happened? He used to call/IM me much more. But ever since I confronted him about the kids in the background, he’s stopped. And ever since then, I’ve cut the “Poor Daddy” act. Because quite frankly, I’m mad and I cannot force myself to be sweet and cute anymore. I want to smack him and be confrontational. I am angry at him. I am terribly disappointed in him. How time after time, he chooses himself.

I am incredibly angry. How dare he come back, waltz into our lives and expect that we should fawn all over him? How dare he come home, acting like the martyr, this suffering servant. As if we’re just ingrates, treating him like shit. Poor Daddy. So misunderstood. Bullshit.

What a selfish bastard.

I am also incredibly afraid. Afraid that he won’t come back. That I will never see him again. That I may not want to. That sometimes, I wish he were dead – so that things could be simpler. That we could have closure and just move on with our lives. That we could be free.

Because we are tethered to him. It may be a tether that is halfway across the world, but we are still tied. Even if they divorced, it’d still be there. But if he died? Perhaps that pull would disappear. We could start over.

Does this make me a bad person?

He makes me so terribly sad. Fine. He can’t make me do anything. But I feel so terribly sad. So, so sad. Sad seems too weak a word. My heart is broken.

Every time he leaves, he re-breaks my heart.

I feel the ache of uncried sobs in the back of my throat, the prick of unwet tears in my eyes. I tamp it down – for what good would it bring to weep?

I do not have enough imagination to think of – to hope for – something different. It hurts too much.

Sometimes, I think I have no father. And though I hope prayer works, clearly, I don’t believe it. For if I did, I’d be praying for him every day.

Instead, I am resigned. Why stir up false hope? God will not force his hand. And he doesn’t want to change.

What a fucking shame.

When The One You Love Is The One Who Hurts You

Today is my father’s birthday. (Well, I suppose technically it was yesterday.)

Honestly, I thought it would hit me more – the grief, I mean. I’m not sure why since I’ve never felt particularly sad on his birthday before. I guess I just thought that maybe since I’m going to counseling, I would be more vulnerable to the date. Instead, I thought about him sporadically throughout the day, but nothing really heavy hitting or weep inducing (for which I am grateful).

It’s been almost four years. Four years since I kicked my father out of my life for being a Grade A Asshole. 

Yet today, as I drive around in my car, I find myself thinking of all the things he brought into my life that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. Not bad things, either. Good things. Happy things. Things I still enjoy. 

I think of him while listening to Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov or Pavarotti and remember listening to this symphony and many others like it in the van while on road trips. 

I think of him when I play mah jong with friends late into the night. I remember him teaching me, my brother, and family friends how to play mag jong and Napoleon and Hearts and poker. He was a lot of fun. 

I think of him when I take the kids cherry picking and remember all the times he took my family cherry, apricot, and peach picking as we all piled into our old Family Wagon van. 

I think of him when I rush to Glow Worm’s side after he gets a nasty cut and remember the time I cut my finger while chopping okra and he ran to my side as soon as he saw blood. 

I hear him when I make non-committal grunts at the children or make joking noises and pull silly faces at them. 

The memories are soft and half-focused. Almost like a forgotten time. 

I wonder if I should tell my kids more about my father than “He was a bad man.” Because truthfully, He wasn’t always bad. He could be kind and sweet and loving. He could be the life of the party and so much fun. He taught me to enjoy games and family traditions. A lot of the traditions I want to pass down are things he did with us.

I wonder why it is that neither Hapa Papa or I tell stories about when we were little. Stories about ourselves or our parents. We should start doing that more. The kids love stories about us or themselves or their grandparents. They make it part of their stories. 

I wonder if I am betraying my mother by telling the kids some nice things about my father. Or if I will need to always append the good stories with “but he was a bad man.” 

But he was a pretty good guy some of the time. Just not enough. Not good enough. And not what we deserved. 

I want my kids to know that people who are bad for them can be good, too. That good and bad can exist all in one person. And that the people who are sometimes the worst for you happen to be people you love – and love deeply. 

And that sometimes, out of love for yourself and other people you love, you have to cut off and out the people who are terrible to and for you. 

I wonder if my remembering my father in some fond memories is a good, bad, or a neutral thing. 

I decide it is just a thing. 

Happy Birthday, Dad. I don’t know if you are happy or even if I want you to be happy. But there you go. 

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.