A Personal Sentiment On Being Gendered “she”, and a Healthy Reminder to Men Allies

Every now and then I find myself in an existential rut. A rut that I can only attribute to the toxicity of social norms and wrongful validation based on an individual’s genitalia, biology or gender expression. When the reoccurring subtle and blatant sexism of every single damn day seems to subconsciously build upon my heart, just faint enough to go indirectly noticed, but real and present enough to sink its claws into my gut.

It is a feeling that I often have trouble expressing and it is a feeling I believe to solely be empathized with and understood by women and femmes alone.

Silent and still, those daily interactions, the language, the moments that cling secretly to my sole pacify, they wait; until the moment when those slightly translucent walls between my subconscious and the forefront of my mind finally fade away. It is in the addressing of lingering emotions that leaves me momentarily feeling completely crushed by its cumulative weight.

Artist Unkown

 Experiencing such a life in the body of a girl and then in the body of a woman, is to experience existence in such a multitude of faceted roles. The ugliness and the shame juxtaposed against the strength and perseverance is perplexingly complicated. We are molded, sexualized, demoralized and then told that we only gain respect and worth when we combat those roles and myths with a sly smile upon a made up face.

Made up to either take back the power “to be” or to hide the ways that we unacceptably truly “are”.

So, a short reminder to all men who are unable (by their own socialization not because it is entirely significantly their individual fault)  to grasp the daily oppression of being less privileged  than you and the importance of equity as human beings:

 Men need to realize that when I talk about the ways society disadvantages women that I am NOT trying to take something away from you, only asking that the resources and opportunities be shared.

As a product of an inequitable society, I am willing to put forth the effort to understand all sides, all perspectives and all reasoning’s for our collective and group behavior. But that does not mean that it is women’s duty alone to understand, unlearn and reshape our collective culture. It has to be a group effort. Stop low key or blatantly defending your right to a platform and start putting forth an effort to understand how social norms and privileges affect us all. And how we all can share an equally leveled platform together.

Art by Frances Cannon

and ladies: don’t stop being who you truly are and dream to be.

Empathize and respect each other and the easier it will be to empathize and respect ourselves.

Double Fisting Dogs for the 4th? Here’s Why That’s a Rare Feat for the U.S. Prison Population

Ah, July 4th. Independence day. A weekend of grilling, corn husking and socially acceptable intoxication amongst the booming and banging of colors galore. What an illustrious day in America! One to celebrate your much-earned freedom amongst your equally liberated friends and family before you soon must fret about dealing with your post celebratory hangover on your drive to work the day after.

Yet through all these celebrations of our victorious freedoms, 2.4 million Americans remain so invisibly enslaved within the prison system. A prison system built upon greed, corruption, brutality and the viciousness of both power and the ability to take it away from so many.

As I reflect on the meaning of this national holiday I would be blinding myself to ignore the perspectives of the individuals who don’t have the choice to be with family; whose experiences are the precise opposite of why we idolize living in this country. While we sit back and soak our privileged feet in Walmart kiddie pools, other human beings living in this same country “built on freedom” will be beaten, antagonized against each other and distanced from the spaces needed to excel and rehabilitate.

I ask of you, to pause the festivities and reflect with me the nuances of this national holiday amongst what American culture truly perpetuates. I share with you two reads to help put this into perspective and I share with you in solidarity with the 2.4 million Americans who are currently incarcerated today.

First, I encourage you to weigh the words of Frederick Douglass in his 1852 speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. You can also listen to it being read to you by Danny Glover here. 

As it is a lengthy speech and knowing our lives are vastly busy and our attention spans are at times, far too small, here are some excerpts from the speech that particularly spoke to me:

“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. ” 

Artist Unknown

I also share with you the writings from prisoners when asked: “What to the Prisoner is Your Fourth of July”, by Revolution media.

A DAY TO FORGET” (NOT REMEMBER)_
A Celebration For A Country That Is Rooted In Violence,
The Truth About This Country Many Still Want To Hide It…
A Celebration For Some, A Nightmare For Others,
Memories Of What Was Done To Their Fathers And Mothers…
Never Before Recorded In The Pages Of History,
Kidnapped, Enslaved, And Beaten Is What Was Done To Me…
Segregated, Isolated, And Treated Unequal,
Locked Up For Minor Crimes, Over 2 Million People…
What To Me Is The 4th Of July?
When I Think Of All The Killings And All The Lost Lives…
Endless Wars, Drone Attacks, And Sexual Exploitation,
Poverty And Low Wages… Destroying A Generation…
What Is The 4th Of July To An American Prisoner?
A Day I Choose Not To Acknowledge Or Even Remember…
“Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death,” So Tired Of These Conditions,
Every Issue Of “REVOLUTION” Is Like My Declaration Of Independence.
The 4th Of July, A Day Of Sorrow And Regret,
A Day You Want To Remember, But For Me,
A DAY TO FORGET” (NOT REMEMBER)”

-Written by an unnamed inmate in 2013