United We Kneel

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“Back when I was growing up, football players just played the game and kept their mouths shut,” a family member said during our nice dinner. Picking up on the hint, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t point out the fact that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t actually saying anything but kneeling but anyway…

If I had spoken up, I would’ve brought to his attention the fact that he basically explained the reason why today Kaepernick feels the freedom to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest: change. It’s a thing!

In fact, it’s the only constant in life.

I think it’s a generational thing? My parents’ generation of white people tend to be reserved and polite (well, their definition of polite), not wanting to make a stir. Better to be silent than, goodness forbid, make anyone uncomfortable. Or maybe that’s just my family, which would explain so much…

ANYHOO

Fighting against this type of societal progress is like vehemently lobbying the movie industry to continue to churn out VHS tapes. Because you’re kind, and you prefer to rewind for Blockbuster (Google it, chillins).

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To be fair to my family member, he’s consistent. He also believes actors should shut up and act, too! But why shouldn’t an actor or athlete with a platform share their opinions or give light to injustices? Are they exempt from being citizens with full rights just because they’ve gained recognition in the public eye?

(Hint, hint: NO.)

Since our country has the First Amendment, any person in this country has a right to share their opinions, including those with a national platform.

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Those with that platform don’t gain national recognition with an asterisk and conditions inherently attached limiting their ability to use it in certain ways.

It’s theirs, they earned it, and they’ll have to deal with any negative as well as positive consequences that come with it. Either way, it’s still their choice and their right to use it, not anyone else’s. Much like how women should be able to decide what we want to do with our own bodies without the government telling us otherwise but let’s stay on topic here…

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Even if you don’t have a national platform, you have access to the Facebook and the Twitter and the YouTube. Like my friend’s 8 year old son, you, too, can share videos of, say, you playing hours of video games that, as she constantly reminds him, no one cares about.

So whether you’re Colin Kaepernick or some variety of a Kardashian or an 8 year old essentially talking to himself while playing video games, the American people still have a mind of their own to agree or disagree, speak out about it, or post vapid selfies.

That’s the beauty of America.

What is NOT American is cherry picking which individuals get to enjoy the rights allotted to all our citizens and which do not. Condemning an individual for utilizing free speech and “abusing” their platform to speak freely is wrong. So wrong, in fact, that our country has a history of fighting other countries that condemn or oppress or even kill people who dare speak ill of their country.

Y’all remember hitler, right?

And unfortunately, it’s not yet a thing of the past. There’s still that little man in North Korea who will move you and your family to a political prison camp for speaking out against the country. Likewise, there’s that other man in Russia instituting anti-protest laws.

So it’s one thing to disagree with Kaepernick for the message behind his kneeling, it’s another thing to disagree because he’s kneeling in the first place.

That’s not how the First Amendment works.

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Contrary those who prefer to apply it on an ad hoc basis, the First Amendment is nondiscriminatory.

You can’t allow those who glorify the message of an evil, murdering psychopath a stage for protest because they have the right to free speech but then turn around and condemn a football quarterback for peacefully protesting.

So what is the message behind Kaepernick’s kneeling? If this is the first time you’re asking yourself that, WELCOME! So happy to have you here and that you thought to ask. Here, I Googled it for you:

 

Please note: Kaepernick initially sat for the anthem. But after discussing it with friends, teammates, and a veteran, he decided to kneel because it was a more respectful gesture. It was purposeful and considerate, not flippant or done lightly.

And it actually makes a lot of sense. Anyone who has played a sport knows that when someone is injured on the field during a game, everyone takes a knee. Including players of the opposing team. It’s to show respect and human concern for the individual, no matter what side you’re on. I’m not speaking for Kaepernick but it’s like the country is hurting now, we’re very divided, and taking a knee for that seems appropriate for an athlete who is protesting.

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On Tuesday, I listened to a YouTube video with a law school friend of mine. It was posted by Brandon Tatum and here are some highlights of what he said:

A.   He asked, what does your perceived oppression have to do with the flag or our national anthem? Tatum’s opinion was that they have nothing to do with Kaepernick’s message of protest, and that the flag and anthem represent our nation.

Ironically enough, Tatum was sharing his opinion and exercising his right to free speech, and in doing so, was saying that someone else had no right to express their opinion or exercise their right to free speech. What a symbol or song stands for is subject to one’s own interpretation and opinion. An opinion, by it’s very nature, cannot be wrong.

It’s an opinion!

Your opinion might be to disagree with what a symbol stands for, but to condemn someone and call them a fool for expressing their opinion because it is tied to a nation’s symbols is contrary to American values (see oppressive countries referenced above).

B.   He claims that there is no positive aspect to his kneeling in terms of the flag or the anthem. And that kneeling is only highlighting negativity and slavery.

As stated above, Kaepernick initially sat down during the national anthem. He decided that kneeling was more respectful, as he didn’t want to discount the people who fought for the freedom to do exactly what he was doing: speaking freely and protesting injustice. So that in and of itself seems to hint that he does have respect for the flag and anthem, but also that he is disappointed in what is going on in our country.

As far as I’ve researched, Kaepernick doesn’t focus much on slavery but rather the current mistreatment of people of color in our country. And yes, that is negative, but basically all protests are. It’s… it’s in the nature of a protest… Ugh.

C.   He says Kaepernick’s not acknowledging the very flag or anthem that gave one man the opportunity to go from cornfields and picking cotton to becoming president of the US, or, in Kaepernick’s case, being paid millions to play football.

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Oh shit… Seriously, dude?! Ok, three things IMMEDIATELY come to mind. First off, when that flag was first made in 1777 and the national anthem written in 1814, slavery was definitely a thing in the US and going strong. So neither of those things have anything to do with freeing the slaves from cornfields and picking cotton. HOWEVER, Tatum is entitled to the opinion that that is what he thinks they represent. Still not a fact though.

Second, the only reason black slaves were given that “opportunity” was because they were first taken from their own country to be slaves in ours, THEN well over 200 years later President Lincoln finally had the balls to recognize that slaves were human beings and slavery is wrong (at least in part, there were economic incentives too because #murica). And nowhere in history does it show that Lincoln was like,

“Shit man, that flag and anthem, though. Gotta end slavery.”

Finally, the anthem was written during the War of 1812, which was fought against the United Kingdom. However, it wasn’t for our freedom, that had already become a thing by the 1800s. Instead, it was to break free of the oppression the UK was imposing on the US by way of trade restriction, forcing Americans into the UK’s Royal Navy, and limiting the US’s ability to expand its territory.

Soooo… we were fighting a force that was trying to keep us down and oppressed when Frances Scott Key became inspired to write a song about our country’s bravery and valor in fighting that oppression, which later became our national anthem. Sound familiar?

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D.   He claims people are kneeling to be trendy and that it has nothing to do with the flag.

This one’s easy: you can’t speak for others. Much like assuming that Kaepernick is kneeling to be negative and to purposefully disrespect those who’ve fought for our country, you can’t assume that others are simply doing it to be trendy.

Also, our nation’s racism crisis has been dialed up to eleven. It’s not a “trend,” it’s a poignant issue that keeps getting worse. So who can blame a people who feel cheated and abused by a country for using every possible platform they can to get their message across? Specifically a people who have literally dealt with this shit their entire lives.

E.   He says Kaepernick and other kneelers should do it at another venue, go out and do something, and vote to pass laws that will change things.

There’s no universal rule that only sports can happen during sporting events. Yes, it’s intuitive, but there’s no law, nature or human-created, prohibiting non-sport things from happening at sporting events. And it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

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What is intuitive though is the fact that a lot of professional sports (ok, not hockey much) make billions every year on the backs of people of color, leaving them with little else once they leave the sport. In that light, it seems natural that they would use this type of platform to make a stand.

And I don’t know about other kneelers, but I know that Kaepernick has raised awareness and money for various charities that are in line with his message. As for legislation, that’s a great point and those charities that Kaepernick has pledged and given to also fight for that too. So, yeah, great idea, Tatum…

F.   He claims it does nothing and that nothing has changed because of it.

How can he say nothing has changed? What is he basing that on? At the very least it’s raising awareness and forcing the much-needed conversation about police brutality against, and the general topic of mistreatment of, people of color in our country. And, again in point E, clearly things have been done.

What’s more is that Tatum is a police officer in Tucson, AZ. That city is in the 8th percentile of city safety. That means Tucson is only safer than 8% of all the cities in the US. And guess what?

It’s gotten worse.

So clearly the police efforts in Tucson aren’t really changing the city and making it safer. Perhaps Tatum should halt his efforts because obviously it’s not doing much, nothing has changed. And that is how his flawed logic operates.

G.   Finally, Tatum calls Kaepernick and other kneelers names, tells him to stop whining like a baby, and just play the game.

Again, keep in mind this dude is a police officer. They take an oath when they become officers, and reaffirm it throughout their career. Here is it in full:

I (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and defend them against enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge, the duties of a peace officer, to the best of my ability, so help me God.

(emphasis added)

This comment speaks more to Tatum’s character and inability to have an adult conversation with those he disagrees with more than any commentary on the character of Kaepernick or his message. Anyone whose argument becomes reduced to name calling and petty comebacks clearly has no argument. And has little to no control over their emotions. But enough about our president.

***

After watching the video with my law school friend, I told him I disagreed for all the reasons I just stated above. He said he was just sick of hearing about it because it’s coming from everywhere and he just wanted to watch football.

I’ll give you one guess as to what he looks like.

I pointed out that he couldn’t relate because he is a white male. True to form, he didn’t like this and went off on how sick he was of hearing that, too, especially from people in California (where we live, he’s from Texas).

He eventually did admit that he couldn’t relate, however, his reaction showed that he wasn’t going to try to relate either (in law school, we call this willful ignorance and it doesn’t absolve you from being or doing wrong). Had he attempted to empathize and hear these people who are kneeling out, he might be ok with the first few minutes of his football game showing players kneeling, absent from the field, or unifying by locking arms.

Because the message is worth listening to.

On that note, I’ll end with a white man eloquently explaining (and doing what more white people need to do) why the act of kneeling isn’t disrespectful:

Why March?

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(That’s a sign a complete stranger gave to me on the way to the March when she saw I didn’t have one. That’s my friend Shon. I asked him to come with me because I didn’t want to go alone. He was already planning on going and happily walked with me.)

About a week ago, I attended an event at my law school where four women spoke about the impending hurdles women in our country will face under the new administration.

I learned that the stricter drug laws will affect females more than men. I learned that those seeking sanctuary will have a harder time of reaching safety, and most of those are women and children who need the protection. And I learned that basic healthcare will be harder (perhaps outright excluded in some instances) to obtain for women, especially transgender women.

While they commended us for marching and attending the event, they also said that the next step is to tell our story of why we marched in the first place. Stating statistics and blanket statements about the general repercussions of the current administration turning back the clock on our laws will not have an impact on those who cannot relate personally. But putting a familiar face on those statistics will. So here’s my story about why I marched:

When I was 16, and a very sexually-naive virgin, I was raped. After, I was lost and confused on many levels because I didn’t know what to do and felt I had no one to turn to.

The shame kept me from telling my friends. I, like many survivors, was too afraid to confide in others about what happened because in recounting the event to anyone, the bad decisions I made along the way would inevitably be revealed.

(This was later confirmed when I opened up about it to an ex-boyfriend. He said it was astounding how naive girls could be. This might have been a sentence or two into his response after I’d finished telling my story and was still wiping away my tears.)

The fear of someone telling me all the things I did wrong, and how those decisions led to a terrible situation, kept me from asking anyone for help.

(A.k.a., I wanted to avoid victim blaming)

The lack of communication that was the norm in my family kept me from telling my parents and other family members. I was afraid they’d look down on me, especially since we were a Catholic family and I was very involved in the church. Also, I never had a sex, or drug, talk with my parents. Any semblance of a talk amounted to, “No.” So that door wasn’t just closed, it’d never been opened.

My fear of getting in trouble overshadowed my need for help.

Granted, at that point, my self-worth and self-respect had been torn to pieces. So it’s not surprising that I thought I would be condemned instead of taken care of by family.

The one place I felt I could go and be safe and not judged was Planned Parenthood. And I found out I was right…

even though they should’ve turned me away.

The day after my rape, I went to work as usual and decided to visit Planned Parenthood during my lunch break to get checked out.

I showed up wearing business casual but told them I didn’t have insurance. I know now I most certainly did have insurance through my parents. At the time, though, I didn’t really know what it was or how it worked, and I was not about to go to my usual doctor in case it ever got back to my parents that I went to see a doctor for apparently no reason.

Plus, my doctor at the time was a parent of one of the girls I had attended grade school with. My very Catholic grade school in my very small town.

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They should’ve turned me away but they didn’t. The doctor checking me out recognized the signs of rape and asked if I wanted him to call the authorities. I immediately panicked and played it off as nothing really, it was just my first time was all,

I’m fine…

He made sure I knew I could come back any time if I changed my mind, that they keep a record of all their patients, and gave me Plan B (the morning after pill) just in case.

I never went back for anything else but I don’t know what I would’ve done had Planned Parenthood not been there. At the very least, I felt taken care of by someone. I’d been having suicidal thoughts even before this happened, so without Planned Parenthood I’m not sure what state my mental health would’ve been in.

Mine is not a unique story, unfortunately, but it’s also not the only type. There are so many stories out there about women who could not receive critical medical treatment for one reason or another but Planned Parenthood stepped in and took care of them.

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Yet Planned Parenthood is still seen as only one thing to many people: a baby killer. This is wrong, wildly inaccurate, and seriously concerning for the modern woman. But on that note (since our administration seems to think it’s the main focus of Planned Parenthood services), an abortion is not an easy thing to get. It takes a lot of discernment and consideration for the woman making the decision.

And it’s one that will stick with her for the rest of her life.

And to all those protestors who harass patients as they walk into Planned Parenthood clinics but claim to be pro-life, they’re hypocrites.

If they were pro-life, they would be more empathetic to the life staring back at them as they walk into the clinic trying to shield themselves from the onslaught of harassing picketers. And they can do that because that woman HAS eyes.

Fully developed ones!

She’s not a recently fertilized egg that still has a few months or so until it’s safe to even announce to Facebook that she’s pregnant.

The shame that those protestors and others like them place on women seeking help from places like Planned Parenthood for an abortion comes from a place of ignorance. Likewise, I realize now that the shame stemming from my rape is due to the rape culture in our country. We seem far too quick to judge and blame the victim instead of focusing on the perpetrator of the crime.

That’s like blaming the victim of a B&E for not having an alarm system.

Oh, your house got broken into, huh? Well did you have an alarm system? Did you put locks on your door? How many locks? What about bars on your windows? You know, windows without bars could send the wrong message to potential intruders…

The lack of empathy for those who have survived rape is poignantly astounding. The same is true for those going to Planned Parenthood.

And for those who come to our great country seeking asylum, refuge, and opportunity.

And for those who were born in the wrong body and need to take hormones and receive medical treatment and procedures to feel more themselves.

And for those who are not white.

And for those who are not male.

And for those who are deaf, blind, or have some sort of disability, whether physical or mental.

And for those who identify as anything other than heterosexual.

And for those native to our country, whose land they love and care for has slowly been taken away while they watch others destroy and pollute it.

And for those whose greatest worries are financial but have no way of ever relieving that worry, whether due to lack of education, resources, or access to our political system.

So that’s why I march. I may not understand what it’s like to be anything but myself (a white, cis, heterosexual female and rape survivor), but I do understand not being understood, and judged and condemned because of it.

So now the question isn’t ‘Why march?’ Rather, it’s ‘What now?’ What can we do now? The key is empathy over apathy but how do we convey that message? Well, if you’ve stuck with me this far I’d be willing to bet you’ve got a story too, so share it! We need to be heard and seen so people understand that we exist and we deserve equal rights, protections, and opportunities no matter how our first impression might affect the eyes of the observer.

Then get involved.

One of the panelists suggested being a mentor to or volunteering to help homeless youth. Their stories are tragic because a lot of them have the same ending: they had nowhere to go. They’ve been kicked out by parents who don’t agree with their ‘lifestyle choices’ or went through the foster care system only to be alone at age 18. There is an astounding number of transgender youth who need our help, love, and support.

Another panelist encouraged us to run for office. This is especially important for people who are not well represented in our political system and feel the calling to run for office. The more representation minority groups obtain in political office, the faster we can progress as a society.

While I understand the need to have more representation of minorities in office, I will encourage  and support others but not participate myself. That’s because I’m no politician, but I am a future-CEO of a Benefit Corporation, and I believe representation in any of the more influential positions in our society is a step forward.

So what are your strengths? And how can you apply them to support others who will feel left out, forgotten, and less-than under our current administration?

I obviously cannot possibly know your story or what your main concern is socially and politically, but this is one place you might want to start: Women’s March Resources page.

I joined the American Civil Liberties Union on campus and the national page has a ton of information on current concerns and how anyone can help: ACLU.

If those don’t work for you, the Google knows all.

Finally, as frustrating as it is, keep yourself informed. It’s so easy to turn a blind eye to the ugliness happening because it is so depressing. Personally, I cannot read the newspaper first thing in the morning. However, I force myself to eventually read it because we need to stay abreast of what’s happening and stay angry.

Because at this point anger is better than apathy.

It’s not cheap but the quality of the Wall Street Journal is worth it, in my opinion.

Since this post started with a (not-so-happy) story, I’d like to leave you with an uplifting one. Because no matter what action you take, any action forward helps.

I think most people have heard of the Starfish Story but I read a similar version the other day that I liked (because, dogs):

An old man was going for a walk on the beach when he noticed a little boy feeding a thin, shaggy looking stray dog with bits of bread. He went up to the boy and asked him why he was sharing his bread with the dogs.

The little boy answered, “Because they have nothing. No home, no family, and if I don’t feed them they will die.”

“But there are homeless dogs everywhere,” the old man replied. “So your efforts don’t really make a difference.”

The boy looked at the dog and stroked him. “But for him, for this little dog, it makes all the difference in the world.”

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Supergirl

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Given the content of this blog, one might think I was drawn to Supergirl because the show revolves around a badass, crime-fighting female. While being very true, it isn’t the full story.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too interested in watching a female-version of Superman. I mean, I wasn’t all that into Superman or the vigilante scene to begin with.

I actually started watching because I really like Melissa Benoist and enjoyed her in Glee. Hers is the voice I wish I had. While a good amount of the characters on Glee came from Broadway and have perfectly polished voices, hers is my favorite. Her tone is so pure and clear, and her voice has a depth and earthiness that makes it so unique. And her petite size belies the power of her voice!

Also, it’s like her time on Glee was foreshadowing for this show: Dynamic Duets anyone? She sang “I Need A Hero” while in superhero gear. So… the detour is justified!

 

SIDENOTE: Mechad Brooks (James Olsen), Grant Gustin (The Flash), Jeremy Jordan (Winn) and Blake Jenner (Adam Foster) also have stellar voices. Quite the talented cast! And so many Glee alums (another empowering show for so many without a voice). I wonder if there’s any hope of them spontaneously breaking out into song next season…

Anyway, after I watched the first episode I was hooked.  So besides the obvious, here are a few more reasons why I’ve come to love Supergirl:

  1. She’s Supergirl, not Superwoman

While I actually think it’s a bit of a misnomer, I’m still happy with it. The show addresses this very issue head-on in the first episode: why Supergirl instead of Superwoman?

Kudos to the writers for acknowledging a question that most viewers probably had, however, I’d be pandering if I said I agreed.

Despite Cat proclaiming she’s a girl but also a boss and empowered and rich, I didn’t buy it. Cat is beyond the point of being able to claim girlhood and I think the same about Kara. I’m now twenty-nine and feel a very real need to correct anyone who calls me a girl.

I’ve touched upon the unique power and struggle our girls face today, and Kara and Cat are out of the woods on that one. However, even though Kara is more woman than girl, I’m happy girls have a Superhero just for themselves.

Especially since Supergirl is basically covered from head to toe in a practical supersuit and not bearing midriff in shiny black leather and chains.

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  1. Female Leads: 90% of CatCo is owned by women, The President’s a woman, God’s referred to as female, co-head of the DEO is a woman

Supergirl has a bunch of female leads in top positions: a media mogul, superhero, lead undercover agent who occasionally tells her boss/alien what to do, and, for a time, Cat’s in-house council.

While there are also excellent male leads, the stacking of women at the forefront is so refreshing and promising to see. Growing up, I aspired to be like my dad: President and CEO of his own company.

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But I never had the female equivalent of him to identify with. And being female in the business world is a very different experience than being male. Cat has discussed this a few times throughout the show and it’s very validating.

So cheers to Supergirl for placing so many women in positions of power and addressing the issue straight on about what it’s like to be a female at the top. It gives girls watching the show an opportunity to pictures their future selves as powerful and confident women as well.

3. “Let’s settle this like women. What? There’s more of you here than me.” – Flash.

I damn near broke out into applause when the Flash said this. For many reasons:

-he acknowledged he was outnumbered and framed his statement appropriately

-he said to act like women, and he meant come together to efficiently settle a matter (as opposed to acting ‘crazy’)

-he included himself in that, showing that acting like a woman doesn’t mean being weak or fragile but rather being a strong and even-headed person

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Beyond that, it sometimes irks me when I’m referred to as a male (notwithstanding someone calling me “Dude.” I’m from CA, I totally understand). I almost wrote a post about using words like, “Hey, you guys” to a group of people that includes women, but lost momentum with it. It still bothers me though.

Just the other day, the only dude in a group chat of women said something like, “Ok, I’ll be a bit late but I’ll see you guys at the Echo tonight.” (Emo night LA. So much fun!)

I wanted to respond with *LADIES but bowed out. There are many female-centric fights worth fighting but that’s not one of them.

4. “I don’t normally inhale” when Supergirl saved agents and that guy from some fumes… funny!

In the realm of good versus evil, it’s expected of the good guys to stay on the straight and narrow. While I completely understand this, it gets boring and predictable after a while.

Hearing Kara make a joke about not inhaling smoke was like the equivalent of my Type-A nana banging her knee and saying, “SHIT!” It’s unexpected for something not so sweet and nice to come from someone so pure and good. Or in the case of nana, a curse word coming from someone so tightly strung.

It also makes the lead character a bit more relatable and realistic. We can all be good human beings constantly trying to be better, but we are bound to fuck up every once in a while.

C’est la vie.

5. Good wins out.

There are plenty of shows dramatizing unfortunate things that happen all over the world:

-The Wire: narcotics and law enforcement in Baltimore

-Homeland: terrorism

-Law and Order SVU: really messed up, sick, and disturbing crimes

-House of Cards: vengeful politicians cheating the law

-Breaking Bad: teacher turned BAMF meth dealer

-The vast majority of reality TV: junk food for the brain

Now I know I’ve listed a few holy grails there but please don’t hate me just yet. A lot of these very popular and successful shows depict the darker side of our world but also highlight the humanity in it.

And that’s nice.

But sometimes I just want good to win. Period. Those shows exist because messed up stuff like that actually does happen. The last thing we need is even more of it streaming through our various devices and glamorizing an awful reality.

I know Supergirl and Once Upon A Time and Vampire Diaries are all fantasy but I appreciate how much the good triumphs over evil. It’s not real but at the end of the day, after reading cases on rape or assault for law school, I want nothing more than a fantastical show where the good guys win.

We have enough depressing reality. We need more shows that promote positivity and truth and love. In my humble opinion, of course.

6. It’s passes the Bechdel Test!

And it occasionally turns the test on its head.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Bechdel Test is as follows:

  1. The movie/show has at least two women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man

One of the first things I noticed was that Supergirl knocked the Bechdel test out of the park. The show has a ton of women in it who speak to each other occasionally about men but also about work, life in general, and flying around National City without being seen.

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But later I also noticed that the show turned would have violated the test had it been between men and not women! For a while in the beginning, the dudes didn’t have much to talk about besides Kara. Obviously that didn’t last long but it was interesting to see that turned around.

7. Despite being an alien, she’s very human

Supergirl isn’t unattainable in terms of being like her. Well, minus her super powers of course. Desipte her impeccable timing and saving many lives, she’s not completely perfect or invincible.

She is obviously vulnerable to kryptonite, especially the red kind that makes her into an evil person. But even on a human level, she messes up occasionally. She has no idea how to speak to men she’s interested in, and she feels real pain when she and her sister are not getting along.

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Occasionally she needs to ask friends to help her, which shows that it’s perfectly fine to ask for help. Our society seems to place a lot of pressure on the individual to do everything themselves since needing help is a sign of weakness. But that’s bullshit and Supergirl knows it.

8. New spin on old story

This is a favorite theme of mine: expanding on tried and true stories. I loved the sequel to Alice in Wonderland because it continues, but doesn’t really change, the story. And I sincerely hope Once Upon A Time goes on forever expanding on stories from my childhood.

Perhaps it’s just me but I appreciate the creativity and thought put into continuing a story that generations for years have loved. And Supergirl seems markedly different from all the superhero movies being put out, that seem to be on some necessary rotation where they MUST come out with another one in 2-5 years (I’m sure it’s legal in nature…)

Supergirl isn’t just another remake but a continuation of the legend that is Superman. She allows us to continue to enjoy the morals and messages Superman started years ago. And most importantly, we get to see this timeless story in the eyes of a female.

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I’m really glad Supergirl got approved for a second season because I can’t wait to see what she does next! In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy by binging on the domino effect this show has had on me: Dare Devil, Jessica Jones, The Flash, Arrow 🙂

Added after season 2:

9. The introduction of non-heterosexual characters

While I identify as straight, I really appreciated watching Alex’s self-discovery. I clearly have no idea what it’s like trying to be straight all my life and then finally finding out I’m not. But I think this plot line might help those who don’t understand what it’s like living in a society that assumes you’re straight and taking that assumption as a self-truth.

My aunt and uncle still don’t believe my cousin is pan because she’s had boyfriends in the past. What’s more, her mom ‘has a lot of experience working with lesbians’ and ‘cousin just doesn’t come off like they do.’

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As with most issues, I think it boils down to communication and empathy and letting go of unfounded fear. Having more shows that include characters who are not straight is important because it opens a world to people who have a very narrow, biased opinion of non-heterosexual people.

(And for anyone who’s scared of the non-heteros due to the threat it poses to their person beliefs, don’t tell them Glee exists, SHHHHHH!)

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Boys Will Be Boys

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For those who might have noticed, I apologize for my silence and absence. I’ve been dark for a while since I started law school.

If you aren’t familiar with law school, it completely takes over your life. I seriously struggle to be engaged in conversations that don’t have to do with law school since it’s now so out of my norm to be talking or thinking about anything else.

Until today.

I was particularly inspired by a dear friend and fellow student/sufferer of mine. She asked, jokingly, how anyone could really expect a guy to stop (sexually) with a girl when things were heating up.

Let me put it into more perspective…

One of the classes we’re required to take is criminal law. We cover a handful of crimes, one of which is rape. We were discussing the requirement of consent in regards to a Mike Tyson case we’d briefly covered in class. Tyson and a woman were flirting and kissing, which he took to be consent for just about everything else sexual and ended up raping her. Obviously that argument didn’t stand up in court as the jurisdiction called for affirmative consent for sex, not merely foreplay, and he was convicted.

This is where the offhand comment comes into play. Her commentary went something like this:

How can we seriously expect boys to stop when we’re allowing them to do other things? Yes, you can do this and that but not sex! How is that realistic? What a buzzkill!

Now I’m not immune to the ignorant comment here and there. I’ll be the first to admit, I say stupid shit occasionally. Alas, I, too, am human. However, I appreciate when people bring my ignorance to my attention. And like the good friend that I am, I called her out. But the comment stuck with me because I know she’s not alone.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to understand, and develop a love-hate relationship with in law school, it’s policy. Policy is the underlying reason that justifies why all of our laws are in place.

And the “boys will be boys” policy is absolute bullshit.

Allow me to demonstrate. Imagine you were out with someone, flirting and kissing and enjoying yourself, and your only intention was just that, you weren’t ready to go any further. But the person you’re with wouldn’t accept that. They take your actions as an indication that it’s acceptable to go further and decide to have sex with you based on that premise.

Without your consent and despite your refusal.

Now imagine later down the line that you are one of the brave few to take that asshole to court to try to get some recompense for the injustice that you most naturally feel you deserve.

You relive the encounter by telling your lawyer, your opponents lawyer during his heartless deposition, and, possibly, a room full of strangers to prove how and why you didn’t consent. And after all that, the judge tells you he’s not guilty because

Boys will be boys

Because you indicated through flirting and kissing and heavy petting, and perhaps even what you were wearing, that you in fact actually wanted more and got just that. That, dear reader, is the policy behind that notion.

We can’t accept this idea. It cannot be the norm. Sure, it must suck to have hormones racing at the speed of light only to be forced to come to a full (cold) stop. But that has to be acceptable compared to the alternative of giving license to anyone who’s getting ramped up and can’t stop.

The implications of such an acceptance would speak of a society that is out of control. Literally. That’s like saying,

“Well I got the notion that I hated him and was so wrapped up in my emotions that I stabbed him repeatedly until he stopped moving. It was his fault, he angered me!”

and then totally getting away with murder.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why provocation is not exculpatory!

Beyond a sexual context, it’s damaging to boys themselves, and a bit insulting. When a boy throws dirt in another child’s face or tries to lift a girls skirt or beats the shit out of another boy for not being manly enough – we’re essentially saying they’re perverted assholes and that’s just their nature,

Oh well!

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Much like any generalization applied to an individual based on a superficial identifier (skin color, socioeconomic status, age), assuming a person is going to be a heartless asshole since they were born male does them a disservice. Gender is just another way we identify ourselves but it does not control who we are. That remains up to us.

Unfortunately, I know a good amount of boys who give in to this idea. One friend of mine asserts he’s an asshole who lacks feeling. It breaks my heart when he says that because not only does he internalize it over time but it gives him an out anytime he actually IS being an asshole. He doesn’t feel guilty because he’s consigned to the fact that that’s just what he is.

And that makes me sad.

The gender movement is more alive today than I think it has been in all of history. Organizations like HeForShe and Happy Hippie Foundation are blazing the way in getting rid of gender biases. I can only hope that these notions catch on like wildfire so instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying boys will be boys, we’ll say

Boys will be held accountable for their actions.

Finding Balance in a World Askew

The video above can be misleading in light of the rest of this post so let me just clarify that somethings you don’t have to try to do, while others you should constantly try to strive for.

We live in an time of quickness, our world is rapidly spinning faster and faster. Ok, the earth isn’t spinning faster. At least I don’t think… but maybe it is? The universe is expanding in size but I don’t know if that necessitates faster… whatever I’m not talking about the earth’s rotation, I’m talking about our pace of life. It’s whirling by us and we’re grabbing at whatever we can before it leaves us in the dust.

Or at least that’s what it feels like.

Instant gratification in regards to things is okay on a few levels. Food when we haven’t eaten in hours, water when we’re dehydrated, clothes and shelter when we’re cold and need a fire to warm us. Even less viatally essential things, like how we NEED that song we just heard on the radio

RIGHT NOW!

I get that. But it’s not an absolute truth of our humanness that we are entitled to get everything we’re due immediately. In fact, in some cases, it’s the opposite. Not the entitlement part, we are all most certainly entitled to that which we already possess. Rather, the more ethereally essential stuff. We have so much potential, it’s there within us, but we need to tap into it to get it. This is what takes time and energy and concentration, all of which is counter to the way the majority of our world functions.

I’d be willing to bet that if I stood on a busy street for an hour and asked people what they wanted most in life in one word, a good majority of the answers would be love or happiness. However, in our daily lives we act in opposition of the desire to have those two precious aspects of life. Achieving these isn’t like ordering a book on Amazon and getting it delivered directly to your Kindle (or Apple store and iPad if you swing that way). They take time and concerted effort, such as looking seriously from all angles at the things that aren’t making you happy and finding out why. Or meditation. Where you have to sit still and be quiet and not think….

how do people do this!?

I can’t last more than 10 minutes.

In previous posts I’ve detailed how I felt when I was in a place of unfortunate confusion which caused me distress in my life for about 10 years. The first glimmer of coming out of that was a book my Dad got me for Christmas: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. It basically told me what I knew to be true in my heart. All of what I was reading was very new and different but, in a way, I felt like these were things I already believed, I just hadn’t put them into words. After that I felt I’d figured it out.

I’m so enlightened now, I got the messages, thanks! Ready for enlightenment, any minute now!

Of course it didn’t come. And what was worse was that while I felt renewed and changed, the fact that everyone else around me and the rest of the world hadn’t changed too made me frustrated and angry. I only felt peace when I’d read the book before I went to bed. So I started reading more books on various topics: NDEs, Gnostic and synoptic Gospels, biocentrism, psychology, history. These might seem scattered and distant from the book that sparked this exploration but they were really all related.

One topic led to another.

I wanted to soak it all up and what I found was that it’s all connected. Based on what I was reading and what I took for my own beliefs, there was no opposition between science and my beliefs. In fact, they complimented each other very nicely.

I learned to live two lives: one in the material world, chugging away at a desk job, and one lost in a book, blowing my own mind with all the new things I was learning. Once I quit that desk job, I seriously considered taking a solid break from the world and absconding to a remote Native American village to soul search for a few months. The Type A side of me wouldn’t allow that so we met in the middle and I went to music school for a year. In essence though, I think it had the same affect. I got taken out of my droll 9 to 5 and was able to simply live life with very few cares.

I know, I’m very blessed and very thankful.

I have a point, I swear. It’s this: 100% in the material world or 100% in the spiritual world doesn’t work for the vast majority of people here. I’m no different. I had to learn how to balance myself between the material and the spiritual aspects of myself. Because we are both, at the moment, and ignoring one and indulging in the other will only make our time here harder.

One big take away for me was that it needs to be a consistent practice. I know many people who have the ability to incorporate a life change as easily as flipping a switch. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. It takes me a long time to change, but once I made the effort, it was like,

how come I wasn’t here all along?

Because it’s usually so much better than where I was before. However, in order to avoid mistaking the next step for reaching my spiritual apex, I need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. I know nothing: while I do celebrate achieving the next enlightened step, it’s merely a step.
  2. There will always be more to learn: there is no possible way for the vast majority of us to figure it all out.
  3. Keep going: once I’ve reached that next ah-ha moment, don’t dwell because there will always be more to explore.
  4. I’m in control: everything I decide to put in my face is my decision, so if I become angry at some inane Instagram post, it’s my own damn fault and I should’ve unfollowed that person a long time ago.

Number 4 is really important. It doesn’t only apply to social media but to places we decide to go and people we decide to be around. We can’t control other people but we can control ourselves. Choosing to be around certain people and doing certain activities to our own liking will ultimately make us happier and really set the foundation to allow us to grow in the direction we sincerely desire.

While I’ve demonstrated the various ways I’ve struggled with and somewhat found balance, I also understand that everyone is different. We all need to take a moment, a deep breath, and ask ourselves how we might find our own happy, spiritual equilibrium in our ever changing world.

Again, this takes time and patience. Which is why I tattooed the ancient Celtic symbol for balance on my wrist where I can get a daily reminder:

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So we all have our process and tricks… what’s yours?

Sh#t Your Ego Says

Red Lips Lie

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Your ego tends to blame others instead of understanding. Blaming is easier than opening up true emotions. Taking responsibility will not only break down this barrier from your true self it will make you and your relationships better. Do not let your ego point fingers for your own actions – to improve your life take accountability and reflect on your actions.

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witholdShutting the world out and not being open is a huge part of your ego. Most people do not want to show weakness, yet feel so weak. In order to tackle a hardship you have to stop hiding from your problems and express yourself. If you are not being honest with others you are not being honest with yourself. The ego is a huge wall blocking you from a connection with yourself and others, “I’m okay” just seems easier than facing the truth. Connecting with your soul and letting out a good cry…

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headphonegrrl plugged in: Girl Crush

I’ve written this post a few different ways but was never really comfortable with it… Until a dear friend of mine brought up how her daughter was internalizing messages about females from popular songs. Her daughter said that in the song, the singer was saying how much she needed her love interest. My friend immediately corrected her and told her that she and her husband wanted their union but they most certainly did not need each other. Given that, below is the version of the post I like the most.

What is it about music that makes it have such a power over us? We can feel betrayed, angry, vindicated, stronger, and changed in a span of four minutes. Or maybe elated and inspired to tears. Perhaps even feel immense love simply by the power of song. But why?

In my humble opinion, I think it’s because it’s part of who we are at our very core. I see music not only as a gift but as a part of us that has always been. It’s like an itty bitty part of the universe tucked inside our DNA that blossoms when it’s exposed to humans feeling great emotion, and music is its way of showing itself through our natural born talents.

This is why I see music as something sacred,

my personal sanctuary.

So I can’t help but feel that it’s being tarnished when a song like Girl Crush comes out. Since I’m an active member of the lyric police I found out fairly quickly that I didn’t like the message of this song. But what really irks me is that I love the composition and melody! I can’t help but sing along.

However, I vividly remember not that long ago that I also really liked what the Weeknd was producing. Partly because of the musical genius behind it, but mostly because it reinforced my preferred method of self-medicating to compensate for the shitty life situation I was in. Well, some of it. He’s into some pretty heavy stuff…

Artists have a power because of the impact their music can have on people. The downside to this is that a song can reinforce an internal insecurity of a person and ultimately perpetuate it. So along those lines, let’s examine this song, shall we?

GIRL CRUSH

I got a girl crush
Hate to admit it but,
I got a hard rush
It’s slowing down
I got it real bad
Want everything she has
That smile and that midnight laugh
She’s giving you now

The song’s instrumental is solid and draws you in nicely. The melody is simple, appropriately somber, and the vocals are crisp and stripped down. All that, for me, makes for the beginnings of a good song. And the first few lyrics aren’t bad. I initially thought it might be a song about a lesbian outing herself and was about to give HUGE props to the country music world, but that didn’t last long…

I want to taste her lips
Yeah, ’cause they taste like you
I want to drown myself
In a bottle of her perfume
I want her long blonde hair
I want her magic touch
Yeah, ’cause maybe then
You’d want me just as much
I got a girl crush
I got a girl crush
 

Anyone else a little disturbed? Just a bit uncomfortable? Songs about jealousy are nothing new and to be expected. Love, hate, jealously, happiness, feelings of all kind are sung about. Even insanity! But this song is the type of insane that makes you wonder if you should call for help for this poor, twisted girl. Drown herself in her perfume?

…it’s a bit much.

This isn’t jealousy, it’s obsessive insanity.

We’ve seen how that story ends. We really don’t need songs about it. Unfortunately, it’s not done yet…

I don’t get no sleep
I don’t get no peace
Thinking about her
Under your bed sheets
The way that she’s whispering
The way that she’s pulling you in
Lord knows I’ve tried,
I can’t get her off my mind

Besides the fact that it’s jealously to the degree of insanity for one girl to think this way about her ex’s current girlfriend, it’s also just plain sad. I pity this girl. She clearly has no self-esteem if she’s pinning over her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend and totally straight. She wants to be like the new girlfriend so badly that it’s keeping her up at nights. All so the dude who dumped her will want her again.

Dear goodness that’s pathetic!

What an awful place to be in. This song is depressing. And I feel it’s a violation of the blessing that is music because I don’t think we should be putting this out there as something we need to reinforce. This is the type of crazy shit you write in private, on paper , which you intend to burn immediately after you’re done writing it. Then you pick yourself up and keep moving on.

This song is the exact opposite of self-love.

Country music has enough issues when it comes to women. The last thing female country fans need is more songs about wishing they were something else. I was really happy when Girl In A Country Song came out.

We need more songs like that.

Look, I’m not against looking damn hot and feeling myself in doing so. We can’t and shouldn’t completely irradiate all lyrics relating to physical beauty. We are physical beings after all! However, I don’t think the degree of saturation our songs have containing that superficial image is an accurate representation of women today. Nor is the crazy, jealous type. That’s few and far between and has no business being so representative as to take up an entire song and a damn good melody.

Why musics gods, WHY?!

I’m not against expression of feelings, or even concentrating on jealousy. Every emotion can be and should be expressed in the way one sees most fit for oneself. I even support the crazy in Girl Crush, I only wish they’d taken it full circle and had some self-love in the bridge and an altered chorus to end on a more positive note. Or how about just a song about jealousy that isn’t so damn self-loathing. For example:

If you’re still with me, dear reader, I love you. This could have very well droned on about how the image of women in media and society is damaged enough but I shall not (but if you feel the need please do rant in the comments section, rant on to your hearts content). I trust you get the picture.

So what do we do?

I know there are artists out there who consistently push out positive messages in every song they produce. We can only support those we believe in in the hopes that their songs will be blasted louder than all the rest. So turn up the volume and tune out the haters and

SING ON!