Making a New Home

For once, I’m not going to destroy something I’ve built. (If you know anything about me, that’s progress.)

I’m going to work through the process of buying and managing a site for 2013. I’ll still write about pop culture, civics, and social issues; but there will also be space for some hobbies and personal events. I have big ideas, and I will do a better job with social media integration.

There will be more announcements as I get everything together. Stay tuned.

I remember

I remember when I was afraid to start statements with “I feel” because someone once told me that was a womanly construction and it betrayed a weakness in the speaker’s ability to articulate their thoughts without preface.

I remember running across the internet and yelling at people.  A lot.

I remember having more articles open on my internet browser than I had attention span to read them.

I remember reading some articles horribly wrong because I couldn’t keep pace with all my reading.  I’d then say something completely wrong.  Later, when retracting, I’d feel a visceral pain in my stomach for being careless — but no urge to slow down.

I remember composing articles by starting from the end or the middle instead of the beginning.  Link farming.  Tying complex ideas together in my head, explaining them, and sounding like a complete lunatic.  Metaphysics and sociology/anthropology/postmodernist literary theory mish-mash.

I remember blaming Derrida, Spivak, Althusser, hooks, and Plato.

I remember near-manic composition about things and later having to go back and read what exactly my positions were on particular issues because I forgot as soon as I composed my posts.

I remember lots of fantastic fictional worlds that never made contact with a page or a pixel.

I remember lots of poetry and wordplay that (sometimes fortunately, sometimes unfortunately) did.

I remember physically shaking when my family members would tell me about writing anything on the internet and how it was risking losing everything.  Just convulsing, developing new nicknames, and writing.  More aliases and emails than I can manage, for writing.

I remember having to shake my head until I felt dizzy because understanding a position is not agreeing with a position.  And yet, everywhere I looked, people took them as one in the same.  Except the ones fighting.  And I would hear all sides as voices in my head.  Screaming voices.  And I can’t abide screaming, and I’d start to shake and ache and even cry sometimes.

I remember how it didn’t occur to me to find other ways to write.  How I bought (and still buy) countless notebooks and journals that I never used.  How I wrote briefs, papers, outlines, and notes in blog dialog boxes.  How other writing formats felt completely out of my control, and somehow, through habit or denial, positive release came with composing in the blog dialog box.

I remember doing guest writings and forcing myself to conform to the venue.  Like putting on second, third, fourth skins that wouldn’t slough off afterwards.

I remember all this now.  Fighting through reluctance and fear of being wrong to write.  And stopping because I lacked a course and a purpose to my composition that I could carry with me into and through my life.  I don’t want anything to take over my voice anymore; my feeling, thinking, and creative voice.

Lisa/Sudy once wrote that accountability is key to action, and it’s important to hold yourself accountable to someone.  I am slowly understanding what she means.  And I think there’s a corollary that one shouldn’t hold herself accountable to just anyone, either.  It’s easy to float on the wind and land where it takes you; it’s harder to fly and determine your own course.

I remember because to forget is to undo everything — the mistakes, the critical hits, the lessons, and the love.

we can share our endorphins

The phrase “blogging effort” is a perfect one. Blogging takes so much out of you and is a second job.

You can’t blog if you don’t care. You can’t blog if you don’t care enough. You can’t write if you don’t feel and let that feeling run through your fingers and spread. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t lying about writing being a hemorrhage of the soul.

My first job — the one that pays my bills, permits me to take care of myself, and allows me to care for my mom — takes a lot out of me. But right now, it is not giving me the positive energy that blogging used to give me. I feel disconnected and recycled right now, even though I know I am in a place where I am needed. But others’ needs aren’t enough.

A wise woman once wrote that the best gift you can give to yourself, as a principle of self-care, is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. Anyone else. Another way of saying it is your word is your bond. To thine own self be true. Same principle, different words.

Although I have no desire to succeed in this world because of how corrupt and plain ridiculous it is, I do care about the people it tramples and suppresses to continue its rampant inequality and debasement. And I write. If I can’t write about me, can’t write poetry, can’t write fiction, can’t write ANYTHING at given points, I have to look inside and hold myself accountable to those people by writing about them, to them, and with them.

Compassion is a good skill to have; but it takes practice and constant vigilance.

think twice.

this post is going to be a little didactic.

think twice before you laugh at antoine dodson. i know everything is supposed to take a backseat to short-lived fame and exposure. but how would you feel if your sister was attacked by a rapist and people did nothing about it? officials laughed at you, police took their time coming to investigate, media crews didn’t arrive until you called them, and then your time on the news gets spoofed to entertain others instead of warn them. antoine’s taking his time in the spotlight in stride, and i think he’s doing it for kelly’s sake. i hope all the people laughing and singing “hide your kids, hide your wife” are writing all of the people in kelly’s community and state to do something about catching the rapist.

i planned to write about this at feministe, fast on the heels of the gang rape of a 12-year-old at a nearby skatepark. what does it mean when you read about attack after attack after attack, and one of the thoughts in your head is “i hope no one auto-tunes something like this” or “how can this story garner more attention than it’s gotten,” when these stories should be enough to knock ten people on their asses with grief.

there aren’t psychic holes deep enough to hide away from all the violence and deception this culture heaps on us every day. so if we must sit desensitized and wading through day after day, trying to survive amidst the chaos, let’s use our strong stomachs and weary eyes to bear witness. reinforce our hearts by opening them and letting the scar tissue thicken around them. occasionally be sick with grief instead of overeating, overexertion. let a raw nerve throb for something more than too much sex, too much self-indulgence.

“opinions, we all have them. i try to keep mine to myself, especially in social media forums.”

sometimes keeping things to yourself can kill other people. can get other people attacked. can allow evil ideas to conquer the marketplace and argue why they should go unchallenged. because of the importance of keeping dissent mum. because no one wants to be told that maybe what they’re feeling and thinking is wrong. maybe they ought to think twice before inflicting their will on the world.

maybe everyone should speak loudly. all at once. without looking for a cheap laugh. hide your kids. hide your wife. hide your husband because they’re raping everybody up in here. say it three times with a straight face and wonder how hard you’d laugh if it were your reality. think of how hard you laugh if it is your reality.

how loudly would you scream if you realized no one is truly safe?

Pardon my dust

I found a preserved feed of all my old posts at The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum! I’ll be spending the next few weeks slowly moving everything to this site. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!

After I find a better paying job and can afford such luxuries, I will investigate buying a domain and figuring out the design aspects. Until then, WordPress.com is my home.

Oh, one more thing! For those who read via RSS, you may see alerts for new posts as I put up the old posts. I’m sending apologies in advance.

Reflections and Introductions

I always feel like I’m walking into a trap when I start any type of self-improvement.  Despite my good intentions for doing it and the fact I WANT to do it, the moment other people get wind of what I’m doing they start projecting these expectations on my motives.  Eventually I join in until I don’t recognize why I started anymore, and the constant external plugging of Instant-Great-Life makes me quit.

I am physically healthy for a 5’7″, 237 pound African-American woman, haven’t had anything remotely close to high blood pressure or high cholesterol, haven’t tested anywhere close to having diabetes, and have a slight tendency towards anemia (my white blood cell count has been on the low side since I was a kid).  Yet whenever I go to the doctor’s office or whenever I tell someone I want to lose weight (mostly to become fitter and for my mental/emotional health since I can’t afford therapy, not even on a sliding scale), my doctor insists DESPITE MY DAMNED MEDICAL CHART we have reviewed together, that I need to ward off these specters of disease because BMI says I’m obese, and people presume that clearly I have been written a death ticket because I’m a fat black woman who wants to lose weight.

Reading this Bitch article on the links between privilege and a larger anti-feminist empowerment structure put it into perspective for me, because while I’m trying to make lifestyle adjustments and visualizing goals, I inevitably start wanting unrelated things.  I start wanting things that, for whatever reason, I’ve assumed that I can’t have now while I’m fat.  An excellent career.  A healthy romantic relationship.  Lots of money so I can join a gym, do a class, buy cute outfits.  Driving lessons and a car, so I can get my license.  Dancing lessons, so I can learn to dance.

Then when I look at all these little fantasies I’ve erected, I wonder, “How the hell did I get to wanting these things when I just want to get rid of these two asymmetrical rolls on my back?  Why is this my laundry list when I only want to get to the point that I can run and not feel like I’m going to collapse after an 1/8 of a mile?  If someone doesn’t think I’m attractive now, rolls and all, what does it say about me that I assume they’ll come running once I’m fit and slimmer?  Even more, what does it say about them that they felt no need to approach me until I conformed to their aesthetic?”

***

Weight Watchers is simultaneously improving and ruining my life.  Let me explain.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve lost 25 pounds.  I lost the first 17 pounds using a free tool online called My Fitness Pal for calorie counting and estimating my activity.  I’ve lost the 8 pounds through my enrollment on Weight Watchers through my job.  I’ve been on the program since April, and I like the POINTS system as much as I like calorie counting; but of course, the POINTS calculator makes tracking more convenient, and you don’t have to rely upon people’s inaccurate assessments of nutritional facts as often.

But I am swiftly realizing it may have been a mistake to enroll in the Weight Watchers program through my job and to let it garnish my wages.  That choice has switched me from eking out a living with an administrative job to existing from paycheck to paycheck.  I cannot afford to go out with anyone.  I cannot afford to buy anything I need.  Instead, my money funnels towards home, student loans, and paying for the times when my fantasies of having enough, having it all, and continuing to have more blinded me to the reality of being a poor black woman with a relative to care for and the constant need to weave her own blessings from dust and dreams.

If I had that Weight Watchers money every two weeks, it would make a WORLD of difference.  But on the to-do list for a girl playing at privilege she doesn’t have — to eat, to pray, to spend — praying is the only thing I can afford!  So I do it regularly to instill some heaven into the hell I’ve created.

***

Credit is now the bane of my existence.  I relied mostly on credit to fuel my fantasies of having it all.  I could subscribe to magazines I liked.  I could buy my friends thoughtful gifts.  I could donate money to people and charities.  I could go out to eat.

And I LOVED going out to eat.

I ran up my credit card in college feeding myself and my friends.  Although we were granted the privilege of being served unappetizing food, sometimes undercooked food, often not very healthy food through our college diet plan, we opted not to take it.  We would either go to other places or buy groceries and cook ourselves.  We would choose our own unhealthy adventures, thank you very much, and we did it until we couldn’t anymore.  My little baby credit card, given to me at 17-18 (with parental supervision, initially) has grown from an $800 limit to approaching $10k while I’m the ripe old age of 24.  Guess how much your girl owes after 5 more years of higher learning, 5 years of running after security in shopping bags, and 5 years of wanting to feel responsibility through spending instead of through… well, taking responsibility.

I’m coming down from an addiction, and I’ve had mini-meltdowns in recovering from my need to show that I’m magnanimous and generous through spending.  Spending money helped to curb my social anxiety in a big way and helped me feel engaged in a non-profit model that gets by with constant solicitations for money and signatures instead of time-consuming interaction with issues, instead of recognizing the patterns of how these issues affect my life even if I’m not immediately proximate to the causes.  And it’s telling that lately in activism, saying the phrase do something translates often to give money to starting/stopping something.

***

I learned earlier this year that I cannot afford to write for free.  The second I felt the impulse to sit down and write here, on my space, I would follow it up with a question: “Can I make this longer and pitch it somewhere?”  Writing is something I enjoy; it’s something I do to sort out the thoughts that don’t belong anywhere else.  But it takes time, and time is money.  I’m foregoing a trip to work for time and a half to write this.  This is the best self-care I have.

I’ve slowly tried to phase out using Sylvia Peay as my writing name.  I have a body of work here and other places writing under that name.  I’ve made great friends and occasional enemies writing under that name.  But for a woman who constantly writes things like “this is who I am” to keep using a name that is not the one she was given — it grew tedious.

Some writers do well pseudonymously.  But I like my name.  I want to write for free and write for money (multitasking!), and I want to do it under my name.  I found an archive of posts from The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum by chance a month ago (proving nothing ever truly dies in cyberspace), and I will slowly integrate them here and bulk up my archives.  Eventually I will learn how to get my own domain space, buy said space, and see if I can pretty things up beyond what WordPress has given me.

I’m Monchel Pridget.  I’m a Christian (non-denominational), lawyer, writer, poet, radical woman of color, online activist, armchair revolutionary, and big mouth.  Honesty is one of my most precious commodities, second only to love.  My words, opinions, and occasional fits of hubris belong to me and not to anyone employing me at any given time.

Nice to meet you.

Don’t hate; reappropriate.

I would like to share a full-length article with you, outside of the traditional mechanisms where I’ve shared works and articles. Normally, I list the work’s name and its creator in the title; then the body of the entry shares the video/essay/poem/story, etc. I try to make sure I offer proper accreditation, and I tend not to make any modifications of the original work.

In an effort to demonstrate the need of doing exactly what Jenn’s blog title suggests — to reappropriate — I will take a different tactic with this article. I will not alter the original text; I’ll only redirect its emphasis. For my sister, Brownfemipower.

Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusive Immigration Language
By X, RH Reality Check. Posted April 7, 2008.

Describing immigrants in dehumanizing terms like “illegals” turns immigrant women into targets for sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers to rapists.

In all the furor over rising immigration rates in the U.S. often disguised as concern over “illegal” immigrationone story in particular demonstrates that contrary to scare stories about the effect of immigration on this country, the reality is that this country is often a scary and oppressive place for immigrants. And immigrant women, having drawn the double whammy card, are especially vulnerable. A 22-year-old immigrant from Colombia exposed her immigration agent using the threat of deportation to rape her, using her cell phone to tape the assault. Unfortunately, as is all too common with these sorts of stories, most reports describe the event as sex, even while making it clear that the sex is question was coerced, and should be more accurately described as rape.

The story has hooks most likely because it’s about how a common crime — sexual blackmail against immigrants and other women marginalized in society — became more difficult to hide and ignore because of new technologies. But despite the dubious reasons why this story hit the mainstream news, the activist community can still seize this opportunity to make two very important points: 1) Immigration is a feminist issue and 2) The distinctions between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants is red herring to distract from the fact that it’s immigrants, full stop, who face oppression under a tidal wave of anti-immigration sentiment.

This woman’s story demonstrates the way that the cut-and-dry distinctions between illegal and legal immigrants touted by the Lou Dobbses of the world tend to turn shades of gray when examined closely. Or actually, shades of paperwork. The rape victim entered the U.S. legally on a tourist visa and overstayed, but managed to enter the system to get her green card by marrying a citizen, which all but the worst mouth-breathers accept as a legitimate way to get a green card. Her story shows why it’s front-loaded and racist to describe a human being as “illegal,” especially when her illegal actions were misdemeanors such that they didn’t even raise the ire of the law when she got her paperwork in order. I’ve managed to drive a car before after letting my inspection lapse, and then got the ticket straightened out by renewing my inspection sticker, an equivalent crime. No one describes my very being as illegal, though. Though rape, on the other hand, is not a minor crime and is earth-shattering enough that it’s acceptable to describe the people who commit that crimes as “rapists,” I suspect that rapists get called by that moniker less often than immigrants without their paperwork in order get called “illegals.”

Words like “illegals” dehumanize immigrants, whether or not they have their paperwork in order, and that dehumanization makes immigrant women juicy targets for assorted sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers to wife beaters to rapists, as this woman’s story shows. One Honduran immigrant faced charges after trying to self-abort with an ulcer medication, an attempt that failed to induce abortion, but was linked to her giving birth to a premature infant who passed away. The same article notes that a 22-year-old Mexican immigrant living in South Carolina was put in jail for inducing her own abortion with the medication at home. That immigrant women often resort to self-abortion should surprise no one. Not only is safe, legal abortion financially daunting for a number of women, the atmosphere of dehumanization of immigrants makes many women understandably eager to reduce their encounters with authority figures of any type, including doctors.

Green card manipulation isn’t just a trick practiced by immigration officials wanting to control and dominate women, either. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (PDF), many domestic abusers use threats about immigration status to keep women in relationships with them. Whether married to citizens or non-citizens, the quasi-legal status assigned to immigrants means that many victims of domestic violence fear seeking help; consequently, the rates of domestic violence are significantly higher for immigrant women than women at large. Congress stepped in to create the International Marriage Brokers Regulation Act, which gives immigrant women the right to leave abusive marriages without being deported. It also requires that men who go through “marriage broker” services to disclose their domestic violence histories to potential brides.

If you ever want to despair of the human condition, Google the term “IMBRA” — the vast majority of the results returned are authored by men outraged at these entirely reasonable measures that keep men from beating their immigrant wives and using green cards as leverage to perpetuate the violence. Strangely, few of these websites argue that men should be given the direct right to beat women, but it’s hard to imagine what other worldview they could be operating under, when they think that it should be perfectly legal for a man to threaten his wife with deportation if she leaves him after a round of beating. If you are under the incorrect impression that sexism is dead and feminism isn’t needed anymore, I recommend listening to the howls of men who think the government owes them the right to treat immigrant women like a population available for their punching bag and sexual assault needs. That goes double for you if you’ve ever sneered at the term “intersections of oppression,” because I can’t think of a better example myself.

All original ideas in this entry remain unlinked.

So, X of Pandagon

and of RH Reality Check:

Link, love.

M.

P.S. If I’ve given you too many examples, start with this one link. That’s probably the best point. Know that people say women of color are sometimes dark as night, not born last night.

edited by request.

addendum

Another thing this debate conjures for me is when people have been caught for writing fictionalized memoirs, race, and the question of authenticity. I’m sure people have heard about the Margaret B. Jones debacle, for example. I think in situations like Jones’s, the clear line where appropriation diverges from attribution begins to rise and become clear.

Stereotypically, the situations and narratives Jones identifies in her work are experiences linked with a certain class and race in America. But Jones, through her whiteness, gained more popularity and eventual notoriety because she came to the situation 1) writing with a distinct claim to authority on that experience (one that was later determined she didn’t have) and 2) writing with knowledge of what people with no authority on the subject would like to read and see. Which is where the privilege of her white lens became a boon for her and a new opportunity to ignore similar narratives from people of color living the same and similar realities. Like the autobiography of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, from the overhyped but under-acclaimed series The Wire, for example: Pearson could likely claim authenticity for her work, but because of the stereotypical nature of our system and the fact that she is writing with no conscious head nodding to the white lens, the lens of distance and cultural observation, her work is undervalued in this discourse.

That’s the same as what’s happened in this situation. No one backpedaled on the accusation of appropriation. My post, which I was careful to compose, does not link point for point where Amanda “stole” things word-for-word from BFP. Rather, it makes BFP’s work — who is just one of the bloggers who have been tying feminism with immigration before the article Amanda quoted hit the “zeitgeist” — visible. And it questions why Amanda took upon her shoulders the claim of authenticity on critical issues on immigration and feminism, immigration and dehumanizing language, and immigration and sexual abuse without giving some indication of the longstanding body of work from multiple people of color who have identified more heinous crimes, who have pointed out more causal links, and whose work undoubtedly could lead to honest and critical engagement with the situation and possible broader activism in coalition with people who don’t want to touch the situation.

Because without that reference, it invisibilizes people who do have that authenticity and experience, who live those experiences, because they cannot impose a lens of detached whiteness that they did not have into their narratives. They cannot pretend that they’re horrified witnesses without a dog in the fight who have sympathetic and probing viewpoints in the matter. And as a result of not being able to claim that detachment, you get the phenomenon Belle quotes from BFP, as well as a continuing dependence on people carrying the white lens to ferret ideas from people of color for publicizing and spreading awareness. The peddling of brown people without last names who get mundane yet detailed narratives of their every move because it’s so different. Who get their horrific moments sensationalized and their tragic and common moments ignored.

THAT’S the sinister nature of appropriation. And in this instance, by not linking to anyone that inspired her viewpoint — forget BFP, even — Amanda tapped into this narrative that has been tapped into by countless folks online and offline. And each leaking into this scheme hurts and makes the victims of invisibility less than charitable once someone white sees us and says, “Hey, what’s wrong? Please write us a book report with cross checks and proper cites, perfect spelling and grammar, and completely objective — that means don’t interpose your oversensitivity into it — yes, please write us a great screed telling us everything very clearly about what’s wrong. One ‘t’ uncrossed, and you lose your argument. And please, make sure you note everyone involved; if you fail to do so, that’s intellectually dishonest and we’ll refuse to engage with you!”

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