Archive for Women

Children and community

I love children.  I love babies.  I love youth.

I’ve always been observant of the cultural differences in the value given to children and their place in community.

Where I come from children are part of the community and we are all responsible for loving them, protecting them, caring for them, educating them.  Where I come from (and I’m talking culture, not just geography) it’s okay to talk to a kid you don’t know or make funny faces at the baby in front of you at the checkout line.  You aren’t seen as a threat or a weirdo; just part of community.  And it’s so different from when I experience in Anglo culture.  I hate to resort to a problematic cliche like “it takes a village to raise a child,” but, well, it fits.  It’s okay to be affectionate with kids where I’m from: hugs and kisses are generously offered.  Kids are welcome at parties, no weird separation of adults and kids, no weird tiptoeing and hiding the beers, no perception of children as a burden.  Birthday parties for kids include the adults and are often loud in the best ways with music, drinking, dancing, dominoes, laughter.  And when the kids konk out the adults keep partying.  It’s normal to see a puppy pile of little ones on a designated bed or couch and anyone and everyone checks on them while festivities continue.  The idea of a party for children where adults aren’t welcome, or where they aren’t having a good time but are just hovering over the kids awkwardly is foreign.   Weddings, graduation parties, family bbqs, funerals, life events are all attended by community and community includes kids.  Kids are incorporated into activities and they are just another blessed fact of life.

Once a child enters into the mix the community shifts to welcome them, there are more eyes to watch them, more hands to guide them, more hearts to love them and keep them safe.  If a child is hurt, anyone of us will scoop him up.  If she is unsafe, any one of us will rush to rescue.  If he is bubbling with joy, every heart will smile.  As a member of the community, we all participate in their life.

Interactions with children has always been an area of culture shock for me, especially the walls put up around them that seem to say it’s not okay to love them if they aren’t yours.

I got to do some kitchen table organizing with friends recently and it warmed my heart to be there with three amazing, powerful, fierce women and two of their kids.  See, when women of color get together and there’s  kids in the mix there’s a dynamic that is usually different from anglo culture to me.  There’s a sense of community and freedom and an invitation to love.

As we plotted with a toddler and a three year old around, we were conscious of the kids and comfortable.  We were all at liberty to offer guidance, all entitled to a hug and a kiss, or a bop with a spiderman toy.  It gives me joy to work with a baby on my lap playing with my phone and chuckling his wizened toddler laugh.  It gives me joy to see the whirlwind of three year old energy playing with a butterfly net and a spderman figure around us, or belly laughing when Tita Thea ignores the fact that he’s pretending not to hear her goodbyes and scoops him up for a wiggly squishy hug.  All this while strategizing, planning, sharing dreams, anger, frustration, good food.  Kids weren’t a nuisance or a distraction.  They were part of the process.  They were part of the reason for doing the work.

I love the ways in which women of color so often come to community, how brown babies are passed around to be adored, and how we all care for them.  I love the easy ways in which we embrace their energy and the lack of apologies, no need to justify their presence.

I once taught an adult education course in Washington Heights.  The course was all Latinos and it was held on Saturdays for about 5 hours in a church.  The participants were motivated and invested.  When childcare was an issue I’d teach history with a baby on my lap drooling during our heated discussions.  There were older children who would come as well and they were always given a job, whether it be a five year old erasing the board, or a seven year old talking about something they had learned in school.  And in this learning community, everyone was valuable, the baby with his babas as much as the 60 year old woman sitting attentively in the front.

When I taught a Graduate course that was held on Saturdays I also had a child student, his parents were both there to learn English and the son would play in the halls, wander back in, hang out with me while the class worked, listen to their presentations, draw pictures on the board.  It was never a disruption, and we all accepted and welcomed him into our class.  Come to think of it, every class I’ve taught has been visited by little ones, some more than others, but always welcome.

One day soon(ish) I’ll have my own brown babies and I know they will have so many tios and tias to fuss over them; and primas and primos and to play with;  padrinos and madrinas to spoil them.  Comadres and compadres for me to turn to.  I know that my babies will have a place in community, a community to love them, see them, keep them safe because, well, that’s just how we roll.  And in the meantime, I feel fortunate to have beautiful babies who bless me.

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Converted to Pink

In my purse right now are the following:

A pink Razor phone

A new pink agenda

A pink pencil

My pink journal

And… let us not forget pink lipgloss.

I used to hate pink with a passion.  I attribute my conversion to pink to a number of bois/boys in my life, most of whom love/wear pink themselves.  I don’t know if it’s an embracing of my babygrrl side, if it’s part irony and part flair, or if it’s simply the inevitable influence of social conditioning but I’m wearing a pink sweater while I type this and my skin isn’t crawling out of it.  I also have a pink backpack (a gift from a boi) which I use on a regular basis, yes, in public.  And really it’s quite remarkable.  I realized the conversion had been complete when shopping with someone for planners for the next year.  I had seen a pretty pink one but then told myself, naw, I can’t get a pink planner!  Sure enough I slept on it and talked to her the next day to share the news: I must have the pink planner.  Yay! 

I hate assumptions about femininity.  Perhaps that might be part of what draws me to bloodred rather than pink a lot of the time.  Pink implies soft and fragile.  Yes, sometimes I am both.  Maybe my conversion has something to do with owning that as well as the hardass side of me.  Maybe I’m finally at a point in my life where it’s safe to be soft.  It’s safe enough to have pink. 

Whatever it is, it sure is pretty.

Pizza Hut

Someday I am going to be one of those women who has time to get her nails done and doesn’t care that she can’t feel her fingertips (which was disturbing after a while the one time I had acrylics done) or that doing dishes or wringing a mop will fade or chip the color. It won’t matter that they are too long to type with.

I will be one of those women who has her hair done, which since my hair is below my waist is a significant investment of both time and money. I will be a woman who never walks out of the house without brushing my hair and meticulously ensuring it is just so. I will be one of those women who don’t need to have a friend’s gentle reminder ‘m’ija, pluck your eyebrows mamita, you are scaring me’

I will be one of those women who does not plan her wardrobe based on whether she has had time to shave her legs in the last month. Screw shaving, I’ll wax. I will have clean and ironed clothes. (don’t ask how, it will be so) I will match my purse and my shoes and my earrings and my toerings. Yeah and I’ll have french manicured toes and not a callus in sight (although have to say, I do have sexy feet). I’ll have matching underwear so that I can color coordinate with any outfit. And, I’ll have time for the gym and I’ll have time for meditation and yoga. And for long cellphone talks in public restaurants with my similarly coiffed girl-friends. In the meanwhile…

I sat at Pizza hut enjoying the lunch buffet (the salad was really good today! Yum!) and watching women. Yes, it’s something to do while your brain fizzles and short circuits. I don’t know if what I lack is time, dedication or money but I just don’t got it.

Ah well. There is something to be said for the aesthetics of an untamed Goddess Woman.

A lot to be said actually. 😉

Maltrato a menores y Maltrato a lectores

Bueno, hoy leí el periódico. Advertencia de descarga. No entrar a este blog sin casco protector. **For my monolingual English readers, I considered making this a bilingual post but this is long enough already!**

Primero me encuentro con la portada de uno de los principales periódicos de la isla: El Nuevo Día. Si no viste el periódico hoy, imagínate que noticia merece estar en portada. Quizás la muerte de Jorge Farinacci quien sucumbió al tumor cerebral que batalló por ocho meses. No, pero quizás uno de los casos de los niños maltratados merezca portada, o la amenaza de huelga de la utier. No digo que el despelote del PNP porque ya eso ni lo registro hace años. El desempleo, el abuso fiscal sistemático del gobierno de Puerto Rico al bolsillo de los peleaos que somos la mayoría. No.

En portada hoy: “El difícil mundo de los ‘petites'” y en la portada par de tipos bajitos. No te hablo de condición clínica de salud sino pues, tipos que miden 4’11 o unos 5’2. Esa es la portada. Ya sé que me espera un banquete.

Llegué a la revista, usualmente es una de mis secciones preferidas. Busco la columna de Mayra Montero, escritora que generalmente disfruto. Hoy en realidad quedé más que decepcionada ofendida en tantos niveles que ya mismito explico.

Hoy su intervención llevaba por título “Gloria” y lleva por acápite lo siguiente:
“Hasta que los enseñen a leer, o sea, hasta que los enseñen a ser personas, creo que a estos brutos habría que disuadirlos de otro modo, con otras imágenes y en el lenguaje que ellos de verdad comprenden”

Hay que examinar esto poco a poco. Doña Mayra se refiere a dos sujetos, al hombre quien le disparó a su hijo de dos años, y a un hombre de Mayagüez, que dizque inspirado por ver al primer sujeto en la televisión. Estos y los demás maltratantes son los ‘brutos.’

Hago pausa para aspectos biográficos pues son relevantes. Primero debo confesarme adicta a la lectura y educadora apasionada. Luego debo añadir que como trabajadora social en el estado de Idaho tenía a mi cargo trabajar con casos de maltrato y negligencia de menores, educación familiar y reintegración (o sea cuando devuelven al hogar a niños que han sido removidos por problemas de maltrato y/o negligencia). Además estudio los medios de comunicación, y añado que soy pacifista. Ten en mente estos datos al seguir leyendo pues muestra cuantos niveles ha logrado ofender este articulo.

El que una persona no sepa leer, no lo hace menos persona. Ni lo hace intelectualmente o moralmente inferior. Hace su vida mucho mas difícil en muchos aspectos (no puede leer una receta, no puede leer los rótulos de las calles cuando existen, no pueden anotar una fecha en un calendario…) pero no los haces animales coño. Mi bisabuela (la mamá de crianza de mi madre) era analfabeta funcional. Apenas si leía pero tenía una habilidad legendaria en la familia para los números. En algunas sociedades aun hoy en día, no se practica la escritura. No son ni personas ni culturas inferiores, se trata de una destreza aislada.

Aparte de eso, los maltratantes son tan humanos como tú y como yo. Cualquiera que tenga niños propios o que haya cuidado los ajenos recuerda, si es sincero, en algún momento haber sentido que se le aprieta el puño por voluntad propia y que desea, por un instante, zamparle la bofetá al muchacho. Pero, nos controlamos. Respiramos profundo. Usamos las herramientas a nuestra disposición para recordar que la violencia no es buena.

Si se ha crecido en un ambiente en el cual la violencia ha sido normalizada, porque papi le pegaba a mami, o mami te pegaba a ti; porque tío y papi no se llevaban y en las fiestas de familia se fajaban, porque en el apartamento del lado le pegaron un tiro al que vendía droga, ya la violencia se ve como solución aceptable al problema.

Quede claro que no excuso al maltratante. No existe excusa para quien dispara a un niño (o cualquier ser humano a mi entender). Pero me preocupa lo cómodo que resulta distanciarnos de los hechos al quitarle su humanidad al tipo. Era un cabrón. Si. Pero un cabrón muy humano y muy persona. Si ha leído a Cervantes, a TeVe Guia, o los artículos de una Hustler importa poco. Muchos de los padres y madres maltratantes no saben otra manera de criar. Muchos de los padres y madres maltratantes aman a sus hijos, aunque los maltraten a la vez.

Lo otro que nos distancia de estos sujetos es cuando asumimos que solo los de clase baja maltratan. Eso es en las barriadas na’ más. En los caseríos. En mi urbanización con acceso controlado eso no pasa. Nadie esta inmune. Llegué a intervenir con maltratantes que eran diáconos en su iglesia, con médicos y abogados. Leían muy bien. Pero igual abusaban. No podemos hacerlo ver como solo un problema de la gente de grupo x. Es problema de todos. Y es problema de todos preocuparnos de que existan los recursos y los servicios para ayudar a esos niños sobrevivientes del maltrato, abuso sexual y negligencia. Ayudar a proveer recursos de ayuda para los maltratantes. Ayudar a proveer recursos para las mujeres en situaciones de violencia doméstica.

Si, porque aunque Mayra se pregunta que le vieron las mujeres a esos hombres, de nuevo asumimos mal. Ella declara que “le miraba la cara al tipo que cogió al hijo por el pañal y lo lanzó al suelo, y me preguntaba cómo puede una mujer embarazarse voluntariamente de semejante larva.” Luego dice “Que nadie venga a decirme que eran caballeros y luego cambiaron.” Pues sí Mayra. Hasta cierto punto, si. Ella lo mira en un acto de violencia y con toda la información a la mano. Los maltratantes lucen muy normales si te los encuentras en la calle. El tipo no anda siempre con el cañón afuera. En el trabajo se comporta como cualquier otro tipo. No tiene un tatuaje que lo distinga de los demás hombres. Y muchos de los hombres que maltratan niños también tienden a tener comportamiento violento en sus relaciones de pareja. O sea, violencia doméstica, que no es otra cosa que violencia en el hogar. La violencia conlleva toda una serie de comportamientos y patrones que resultan en la manipulación de la mujer. Es un fenómeno demasiado complejo para reducirlo a un enculpamiento de las madres.

Las imágenes no son un sistema inferior de comunicación como implica Mayra Montero al declarar que como no leen ni razonan “Lo poco que les llega, bastante fragmentado por cierto, les llega a través de las imágenes de la televisión.” Luego pasa a decir que “lo único que interiorizan es que un tipo en la televisión se ha hecho famoso porque acabó con el niño que no era suyo.” En realidad encuentro esa declaración cínica y no creo que ayude en nada al análisis o consideración del serio problema que semejante comportamiento representa. Son vidas humanas.

Finalmente, cierra el articulo con la sugerencia de que “los reciban en la cárcel a la manera tradicional, y que saboreen, por fin, la verdadera gloria.” ¡Por Dios! La violencia que implica esta sugerencia no hace mas que resaltar la culturas en la cual vivimos la cual normaliza e institucionaliza la violencia (¡no voy a hablar del PNP!)

La violencia contra cualquier ser humano es perniciosa. La violencia contra los niños es el síntoma más horrible de la crisis en la cual se encuentra nuestra sociedad. Los periodos de alto estrés son periodos de alto riesgo para los niños. Miren nada mas el estado de nuestra economía, la falta de recursos, la falta de servicios para las familias, la falta de ayuda para personas con problemas de salud mental y/o adicción, la falta de guarderías para emergencias, de hogares de crianza, de apoyo sistemático todo influye en el maltrato a menores.

Yay Miss Universe????

Regularly scheduled programmes were interrupted today in order to go live to an important press conference in the Choliseo coliseum. The important press conference which somehow justified interrupting my soap opera about a priest who is friends with his first girlfriend and is going to marry her and her hubby who is also his friend but then suddenly her sister interrupts the wedding and tells everyone she is having sissie’s hubby to be’s baby! I know, how could you interrupt that! MAYBE for a natural disaster…

I actually wasn’t watching my soap because, don’t tell anyone but I was busy reading and I failed to do my junk tv duty on time. So, when I realize I’m missing my cutie priest soap I encounter a countdown till Zuleyka Rivera (current Miss Universe) comes back to the island. Because really, I give a fuck.

The first thing I hear as I watch this nefarious newscast is a promoter and Very Important Person earnestly stating that he feels that the planned reception and “Fiesta de Pueblo” is important to help restore the image of Puerto Rico. Because, recently we have been represented by horrible images. Having had the experience in his travels of seeing that we were being represented internationally by the images of people marching on the streets and breaking things in the capitol building he feels we need to erase those images from public view. The new images of receiving an emaciated and surgically enhanced beauty queen will help to restore the image of Puerto Rico. We will be seen proudly receiving a successful Puerto Rican and will be seen partying and happy again. No more restless natives. No more angry brown people. We will be happy because a Puerto Rican woman was declared officially Pretty in a purportedly international forum. Go us!

Then, some woman from the Department of Tourism went on to second the first guy’s words and declare that as part of the tourism industry and as a woman she felt complete pride in Zuleyka’s accomplishments. Yes, I too think that walking on a stage in Very High Heels reflects well on the struggle of women for equality, to be recognized as more than sexual objects, to have equal pay for equal positions, employment, health insurance and housing rights. Yup. Very High Heels. They are the key. Oh and mascara and the strength required to tolerate Vaseline on your teeth for that sparkly (chemically whitened) smile.

I am offended by these declarations. I am ashamed. I would rather be represented by people in acts of civil disobedience and protest for a disastrous and irresponsible budgetary crisis that left thousands without pay. I would rather be represented by strikes and by huge crowds defending our rights as a people than by a skinny teenager in Very High Heels. I would much prefer that we been seen by other nations as a politically involved people who fight for justice and not as the nation who has produced more Pretty Girls who can walk in Very High Heels (and wear heavy metal dresses although not without falling over and fainting on stage and denying eating discorders despite not having been suggested to have one). And our ability to party in the streets is cool but not something I am particularly invested in.

As a woman, I feel pained that we are still selling the beauty myth so aggressively and persistently. Never mind social justice, just make sure you are skinny and you can smile pretty.

I think Mayra Montero put it best when she wrote about her shock seeing the Lebanese representative on stage while her country was being ravaged by war: “Su país muriéndose y ella meneándose en tarima. Eso son los valores del Universo: el vacío, el egoísmo y la banalidad” (El Nuevo Día, La Revista 20 Julio 2006).

Scribbling Women

Self promotion time:

I will be reading at the Estación Literaria next week.

The theme is “Scribbling Women” featuring women from the faculty who will be reading unpublished work. I am very much looking forward to hearing everyone’s work as well as reading a lil sumpin.

We’ll be at Borders from 7:30-10:00 on Thursday the 20th of April.

Ode to Stretch Marks

Okay, so we all know that the media priviledges a certain image of women, mainly skinny and flawless. That’s bad enough. But I’m sick and fucking tired of reading about how stretch marks are ugly and evil and seeing all the pseudo articles and products meant to “minimize the appearance of ugly stretch marks.”

Stretch marks are a fact of life.

I have had them since I was about 12 because I grew busty then and voilá, stretch marks. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been fat/voluptuous/chubby/full bodied (pick one) in varying degrees my whole life. Most women who have been pregnant have them.

I have heard people exclaim about how stretch marks are “gross,” and no wonder when ads in magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Newsweek all talk about “unsightly” stretchmarks, “ugly” stretchmarks, and “undesirable” stretchmarks.

I was thinking about this because a friend of mine who is beautiful, inside and out remarked in passing about how she is self-conscious about her stretch marks. She’s had a kid, she’s lost and gained weight, she’s a normal woman. Why should she be made to feel ugly for what is normal?

I long for the day when instead of trying to get rid of stretch marks we learn to embrace them as part of what is womanly, powerful and even sexy.

Instead of seeing pictures of celebrities where a red pen highlights their stretchmarks as “flaws” we will see a new trend: skinny women who don’t have any natural stretch marks will be having a new special plastic surgery to create them.

Instead of the advice to cover up faint stretch marks with self tanning lotion to “minimize” their appearance, women will be applying body makeup to create them.

Hip huggers will be unacceptable unless seductive stretch marks are visible on the hips.

Women who get breast augmentation will ask for the extra stretch marks, to make them look sexy and real. Women who have breast reduction surgeries will make sure the skin isn’t unnecessarily smoothed out to “minimize” the natural attributes.

There will be a new fettish out there. People will be turned on by stretch marks. There will be websites devoted to stretch mark worshippers (are there any already? hmmmm… I’ve missed my niche if there are!). Men and women will live to make love to stretch marks. To rub yummy lotions into them to enhance their womanly appearance. To lick and love them for hours. Personal ads will provide measurements and estimated amount of stretch marks.

No longer will women have to hide their skin for fear of being ugly, for having a woman’s body.

No longer will women have to worry about them while pregnant. Of all the things to worry about when expecting a child, stretch marks shouldn’t even be making it on the radar, and WOULDN’T if weren’t for all the pressure to be perfect, and smooth and radiant.

My stretch marks are perfect and smooth and radiant. And I’m not buying any minimizing creams! In fact, I’m working on creating more stretch marks as I lose weight. So there!

They exemplify all that is me:
womanly
flexible
changing
adapting
voluptuous
powerful
elastic
growing

Our bodies were meant to grow, to shift, to hold, to move, to love, to stretch. We were not meant to be mere statues with smooth contours and flawless finish. We are beautiful in many colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Stretchmarks and all.

Abortion

The signing of the abortion ban in South Dakota is so upsetting and angering to me that I am rendered virtually inarticulate. Not quite though.

My views on abortion as a proceedure are mixed. I have never been in a position where that would be an issue for me. I have friends who have been through abortions and I know a lot of them have conflicted feelings about it. I recently had someone close to me have an abortion. She and her husband were married because she was pregnant to begin with. She never especially wanted children: now she has one and she’s sure she doesn’t want any more. So, she got pregnant and they decided to have an abortion. I wept when I heard she’d gone through with it. I wished I were in a position to adopt the child. I wished circumstances were different in many ways. I wish we all had more choices.

On a personal level, I find abortion to be painful and complex and potentially traumatic but also potentially empowering.

Which is why legally I think the state has no fucking business anywhere near my cunt or Any of its desires, emissions, byproducts, or dreams. Unless Gov. Mike Rounds had the distinct privilege of bedding me, or any of the thousands of women who might be affected by this law, he should not be concerned with whether or not we have abortions.

Morals are subjective and are relative.

Is abortion immoral?

That should matter personally.

Spiritually.

Legally it should make no difference.

Most forms of lying are legal. I think lying is immoral.

I think having Georgie for prez is immoral.

I think war is immoral and education is sacred.

Where is money from the national budget going?

And, I do believe life is sacred.

But I think the life of the mother is just as sacred as the innocent fetus we romanticize so.

If you haven’t read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or Orwell’s 1984 get thee to the bookstore cause that’s where we’re headed.