sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
There's been a lot of talk going around (at least on my reading list) about sexual harassment and the "why didn't you do something about it" attitude that people tend to throw in there. Many people have said what I want to say a lot better than I could say it, so this is not an entry containing my own thoughts on the matter.

The posts have, however, made me relive my own brushes with sexual harassment. None of them were as horrifying as a lot of the incidents that I've read about lately, and for that, I'm extremely thankful.

But regardless of how minor it was, each incident stands out clearly in my mind, and each one has had its effects on me, whether that effect is a momentary flash of anger and disgust or a long-standing fear of men who look a certain way.

I'm going to talk about them now. People who don't like to hear of such things are free to skip it all, and I'll feel no offense. I will cut them for everyone's benefit, and I will warn that some of the incidents may be triggering for some.

The first incident. )

The second incident. )

The third incident. )

The fourth incident. )

My experiences were comparatively mild when you consider what other people have suffered through. But even I've learned the answers to the question, "Why didn't you tell somebody?" Nobody would believe me, people would blame me, I had no real proof, it might make things worse, maybe it was my fault all along, I should have known better, it wouldn't make a difference.

My father once told me that if somebody was trying to rape me, I shouldn't shout out for help and say that somebody was trying to rape me. I should instead shout, "Fire, fire!" People will help you if there's a fire, he said. Nobody wants to get involved in a rape scene, even if it's to stop it.

What disgusts me the most is that he's probably right.
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
I can't say that I ever waited anxiously for Mother's Day to get here so that I could give gifts to my mother, but I used to enjoy it when it did come because of how I chose to express my love for her. It started with sappy storebought cards, of course, and later on I made my own, writing in them little poems that talked about how much I appreciate everything she'd ever done for me, how much I loved her, how great a mother she was. She used to cry happy tears when she read those cards.

Then I stopped being able to do that. Not because creativity left me, no. Because my mother did.

Now, at this time of year, I pass by racks of cards proclaiming the very things I used to enjoy saying, and I feel uncomfortable and bitter. I can no longer say any of the things I used to with a clean conscience, because they would all be lies.

She wasn't always there for me. She would attempt to leave my father and come back to this city, then when holding down a job and taking care of finances became too much of a chore, she would leave to go back with him. Only she wouldn't tell me any of this. I would find out only when I became worried that she hadn't contacted me for weeks at a time. I would call my father's phone number three or four times to find out if he had heard anything from her, and usually then she would pick up the phone and in a subdued voice tell me that indeed she had left, and didn't bother to tell me because she didn't want to hear me get upset.

The first time she did this, she was living with me at the time and made sure to sneak away while I was at work. I came home to find all of her things removed and an email filled with lies as an explanation of why she left.

If this had happened only once, perhaps I could forgive her. But this happened three times, and I can't count the number of times she called me to say she was leaving him, and I only found out she had changed her mind because I asked what was taking her so long.

She is not a great mother. We had made plans, two Christmasses past, to get together and have a nice meal, just the two of us. She forgot about that and made plans to go to Christmas dinner with her new boyfriend's family instead. I had to remind her that she had thus broken our plans.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise. By the point in my life, I should have been used to coming second in every aspect of her life. When I was much younger, she would make plans to do fun things with me, like going to the museum or the park, and then break them at a moment's notice in order to go have a coffee with my father when he returned from one of his numerous trips. She never once tried to fit both things in the day. Even if she only ended up spending an hour with him and still had time to do with me the things she had promised, it didn't matter. I came second. I was the lowest of her priorities.

I can't bring myself to lie and give her a card filled with expressions of emotions I don't feel. I can't bring myself to make her cry happy tears again, letting her think she did the right thing all along and that I bear no grudges, no lasting scars over her negligent and hurtful behaviour. It hurts to see so many adults still loving their parents when I can't even begin to fathom what they feel. The dependent love of a child, yes, I can remember that, but nothing else. I feel especially alone on days like today, days that I am supposed to spend in celebration of my parents and all they did for me.

They raised me with scars and neglect. They raised me with ignorance, and rationalize it still. They did the best they could, they say, and will not apologize for mistakes that have caused lasting damage. Get over it, they tell me. It's been years.

Years of little changing but my age and my distance from them. Years of realizing that I haven't really had parents since I was 12. Caretakers, people who provided a place to live and food to eat, but not parents. Parents are interested in their children. Parents support their children. Parents do not view their child as a convenience or inconvenience, but instead as something to love and nurture and raise.

Parwnts do not, three days after a punishment for a very messy bedroom, interrupt their child's story of what happened that day in gym class by saying, "Don't talk to me. I'm still so angry at you, I don't even want to hear your voice."

Parents do not leave their pre-teen children unattended for hours until after midnight, telling them first that they'll be back "in half an hour," in order to pull childish pranks on a friend.

That is why I dislike this day. I feel toward it as a lot of bitter singles feel on Valentine's Day. This is a day built around the celebration of something I cannot relate to and that those around me feel in abundance. I feel more lonely on days like today than on any other day of the year.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
This post has been a long time in coming, especially since [personal profile] torachan's post a while ago regarding the view of poor people can't have nice things.

I am poor. There are no two ways about it. I've been steadily unemployed since last September, my EI gives me $36 a week, and Rei has been taking care of the rent and bills more often than I feel comfortable admitting. Even when I had a job and we were making ends meet with some money to spare, we weren't what people would call rich. Our combined income dictates that we live in a not-so-great area of the city in a not-so-great apartment, because we couldn't afford much else.

Recently, I had a bit more money in my bank account than I had anticipated, and since my financial obligations had been taken care of this month, I decided to give myself a little treat in the form of SMT: Strange Journey. I had debated whether or not to get it, using my mother as a sounding board. "I could buy it," I said, "since it isn't that expensive, and I really do want it, but part of me thinks that I should be more responsible and save it instead."

"Yeah," she countered jokingly, "but since when have you ever been responsible with your money?"

This was painful coming from a woman whose debt is over $20000 from a year's worth of personal spending, who stayed in hotels to avoid roommates who didn't wash dishes quickly enough, who would rather wear a t-shirt outside in midwinter in order to look "cool" and then get so sick she'd have to take time off work.

I may not be the most responsible with my money, but I can say with certainty that I'm doing better than she is.

The problem was that it sent me into a guilt spiral. I don't have much money, so any buying of nonessential items just made me seem frivolous and selfish. Why buy a video game when I could, for example, buy groceries instead? True, we didn't need any groceries, but shouldn't I have bought them anyway? It would be more responsible.

Or a chocolate bar. If I find enough loose change in my pocket, should I avoid buying a Twix because I don't have much income?

The answer? No, I shouldn't avoid it. If my obligations are met, then where is the harm in spending some coins on a treat after a bad day? Or a video game that you know will keep you amused for hours! (I wrote an article a few months ago on video games as a frugal form of entertainment, which breaks things down by cost of game and hours of gameplay as well as replay value, which sometimes works out to the cost of video game entertainment being only pennies per hour.)

There is a pervasive attitude that poor people can't have nice things, can't have a few luxuries, and if they do have such things then often others blame them for being poor. That family has luxuries, thus they probably went into debt buying them all and know they're suffering for it.

And sure, for some people, it does happen that way. But not for everyone. But just because a person is on a budget doesn't mean they can't enjoy some new and awesome things now and then. It doesn't mean that they don't deserve the reat of a meal out sometimes. More than people like it admit, it's mostly a matter of knowing how to budget.

Being poor doesn't mean that you have to eat crap. Two whole roasted chickens, some potatoes, carrots, and bread, made for a lot of meals. Chicken breast sandwiches for a few days, and then the bones and skin got boiled for stock, the leftover meat and vegetables added, and there's still soup left over. $30 of food has keep us fed for the better part of a week now. Sure, it's not the best variety, but it's fairly healthy, delicious, and frugal.

I once heard someone say that nobody lives within their means anymore. I disagree. I think that thanks to credit cards, most people live somewhat outside their means, but there are people that know how to make a lot out of a little, and live well for it.

Rei and I now have about 7 new books each thanks to the library's book sale uptown, and 10 more back issues of National Geographic. The grand total for this haul? $16.25. And 1/3 of those books are hardcovers in excellent condition, too. Should we have not bothered getting ourselves good entertainment, despite the fact that everything we bought was a bargain and we had the spare money?

We can have nice things. We can enjoy life. We can be poor and have fun without having a lot of money! And I resent the implication that just because we're poor we should be mopey and drab about it.

As I sit here, Rei is playing Persona 3, and when I'm done messing around online, I'll probably play more of Strange Journey or read one of the books I got yesterday. I may not have much money, and I may desperately need a job in order to take the financial burden from Rei's shoulders, but since losing my job, my lifestyle has not changed much. I'm a little more careful with the food budget and more likely to consider whether or not I reall need some new craft supplies (the answer is no, because I already have an impressive stash of pattern books, fabric, and yarn), but I still read as much, I still play video games as much, and I go out for walks more often. I still enjoy life, and I enjoy my luxuries, and I like to think that perhaps I appreciate my luxuries a bit more than the rich do because I know more of what it's like to go without them. I have lived in "poor guilt" for a while. It sucked. I became a lot happier when I understood that life didn't end just because the cash flow trickled off, and I still had as much happiness as I ever did.

So no more poor guilt. No more spending guilt. No more implications that because I'm poor I clearly must have no idea how to handle my money. I don't deserve it. Nobody does. I'm getting by because I'm learning how to make ends meet on a tight budget. I'm learning to cook, and to cook frugally. I'm learning to appreciate more of the free things in life. I do not need to feel guilty over being happy while still being broke.

Thank you, and good night
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Or: Why You Should Stop and Think Before Complimenting a Person's Appearance

Losing weight is something that's frequently on my mind, since I weigh far more than I ought to. I weigh enough that it is negatively affecting my health in ways that I can clearly see.

But I started wondering if a lot of the compliments that people get upon having lost wieght are somewhat backhanded, in a way. By complimenting, are they actually insulting?

My train of thought was thus: if I lost weight and somebody who knew me before having lost said weight walked up to me and said, "Hey, you lost weight! You look great now!" are they insulting me, albeit unintentionally? To me, it isn't hard to see how this could be insulting. By saying that I look good now that I've lost weight, there's the implication there that I didn't look good when I was larger.

That I'm attractive now that I'm smaller, and wasn't attractive at all previously, all because of my body's fat stores.

That I'm better and worth complimenting now, but wasn't worth it before.

The person complimenting may not be thinking any of these things, at least consciously, and they probably mean to be encouraging and congratulating. But it's that lack of thought that bothers me. They don't stop to think that complimenting a person's appearance now, when they may never have previously, might be construed as insulting, as reinforcing the all too common opinion that a person is only worth paying attention to if they're thin, or at least thinner than they used to be.

In my mind, that would be something akin to going up to a transgendered person and saying, "You know, you looked better when you were [previous gender identity]." Being fat isn't quite the same personal definition as gender is, but there's still something of the same attitude there. It's like social consciousness is talking rather than an actual person. For gender, it's saying, "You used to be normal, and now you've changed and are strange and not quite socially acceptable." For weight issues, it's saying, "You're worth paying attention to now that you look more socially acceptable."

Imagine if you complimented somebody on how great they look now that they've lost weight, and they reply, "Yeah, the chemotherapy really took a lot out of me, but I'm thankful that the cancer's finally gone."

Rei lost a lot of weight due to his health problems, and admittedly nobody said that he looked better for having lost the extra pounds he was carrying. Some people commented that he looked worse, but that had less to do with weight and more to do with the fact that he had huge dark circles around his eyes from fatigue and was frequently in pain. He did, however, get comments from coworkers that they'd "love to have her condition for a few days" so that they could lose as much weight.

Comments born of ignorance, and intending to be somewhat complimentary in nature ("Your condition has made you lose weight, which is desirable"), but what they're saying is that losing weight and "looking good" is important enough to want to go through pain and discomfort and weakness and a lack of understanding from those around you.

They may as well have said, "Gee, I wish I was anorexic!"

Comments of encouragement such as, "It's great that you achieved your goals," or slightly different compliments like, "You look really energetic," are far more acceptable than saying that a person looks good now that they're thinner. The fact that they're more appealing to you eyes doesn't mean much to someone who's struggled with weight issues for their entire life. They may be the very same person inside that they ever were, and all the complimenter is doing is sending them a message that now they're someone worth complimenting. Now and only now is when you notice them.

You may think you're just making a comment that they look healthier and happier now. But that compliment might be subconsciously backhanded, and have some far-reaching implications. If the person you're complimenting gains weight again, are you going to tell them that they look good with more weight, or are you going to tell them that they looked better before. Social niceties dictate that you're not going to do either, because both of those options are insulting. Even if, "You looked better before," is meant as encouragement, it still means, "You don't look good now."

No, more likely you're not going to comment at all. You're going to look awkward and go quiet if weight issues come up in conversation, because you don't want to inadvertantly insult the person who just put back on 40 pounds. And your silence is telling them that now they're not worth commenting on. It says that you're too polite to say something obviously insulting, although you're probably thinking it. Or it tells them that now they're not thin anymore, you just don't think about their appearance one way or the other.

It seems like this is a situation where nobody wins. Everyone's damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Rei commented that sometimes people just have to learn to accept an intended compliment for the intended compliment it's meant to be. His parents used to make comments about what a nice young lady he'd grow into, and it bothered him until he just decided to take the compliment for how it was, since his parents couldn't see into his head and understand how uncomfortable that gender definition was. And while I can appreciate that sentiment and how much trouble it saves, the "sit back and take it" attitude is why things don't change. Though it would be an awkward and uncomfortable situation, wouldn't it be better to explain to parents why that comment is a bit insulting? Then maybe they'd stop doing it, and everyone would be better off.

Would it be wrong of me, when confront by the comment of, "You look great now that you've lost weight," to ask in return, "Does that mean I didn't look great before?" Yes, it would make the commenter feel uncomfortable and perhaps even guilty, but it might get them to also stop and think, think about how they ought to consider more than their or society-at-large's idea of what "looking good" is.

Or even selfishly, why should I be the one to be uncomfortable by backhanded compliments like that? Why does it have to be me? Why can't it be them? If somebody has to be uncomfortable, why must it be me? Why do I have to stay silent and keep perpetuating society's slanted views?

Sure, it makes social interactions less complicated and less trouble free... But in the same way that it would if homosexuals pretended they were straight, and if ftm folk would just wear dresses.

Nothing changes by being silent.

Nobody thinks unless they're made to.

I hear that a lot of people who lost weight and are met with the comment of, "You look great now," often reply, "I feel great now," as a subtle way of trying to convince the other party that looks aren't the be-all and end-all of weight loss. Things like that mean that I'm not alone in my opinion that such appearance-based comments carry a touch of insult with them.

Frankly, I think I'd like to watch a few people squirm when I ask them if I didn't look good before. I want to know what they'd say. Would they break social norms too and say that I didn't? Would they backpedal and try to salvage their comment? Would they stop and think and admit that I had a good point?

Would they learn?
sarasvati: Greyscale image of Sae, from Hidamari Sketch (happy)
[personal profile] miss_haitch has an interesting idea, inspired by the Fuck Yeah, She's Awesome meme. "Why Yes, I am Awesome."

People don't often get much of a chance to talk about what they're good at without being seen as bragging about it. In journal entries, it's a little different, because even when you're writing with the intent of other people reading it, it's still, in a sense, talking to yourself. It's sometimes easier to be honest with yourself than it is to be honest with others, especially when it comes to positive traits. You don't have to worry that you'll be jealous of your own abilities, or wish you could do what you already can do.

People tend to downplay their abilities and strengths to others, and in one sense, I can see why. I don't want to appear as though I'm bragging. I don't want to make others feel uncomfortable. I could say, "Yes, I knit this shawl, and the pattern was pretty easy, so it only took a week," and then later find out that the person I said this to is still learning to purl and master stockinette. In being honest, that person may now see me as a braggart, and I don't want to be seen that way.

On the other hand, why downplay my achievements? If I achieved something, shouldn't I be proud of it? Whether it's because of innate talent or because I worked my ass off, there's no reason for m proud moments to become a source of shame.

So here it is. The post where I talk about my strengths, my proud achievements, the things I am good at. More importantly, I talk about why I'm good at them or proud of them.

1. Knitting lace. I'm a decent knitter in terms of speed. I won't win any awards for fast knitting, but I'm comfortable enough that I can knit garter stitch without looking at my needles, which is why I knit leprosy bandages while watching subtitled anime. And I can knit lace. I have knit scaves and shawls. I have even done a bit of pattern design.

But I didn't just suddenly wake up with the magical ability to knit lace. I started off knitting (and that was hard enough at first, as most new skills are), and then during the course of reading knitting blogs for inspiration, I came across somebody who knit a lot of fine lace shawls. I was stunned. I was envious. I figured I'd never be able to make something so beautiful myself, and would just have to sit back and jealously admire all the beautiful things that others were making.

Then I got off my butt and tried a simple lace pattern. And screwed it up a lot. But I practiced, and I worked at it, and I got better. Now I look at those same lace shawls that impressed me so in the beginning, and I think, "Hmm, I think I could replicate the pattern just from seeing the finished object, and it doesn't look too difficult either. I wonder if I have any good yarn left." It took work, and perseverence, and there will always be people more skilled than me, but I can do it now, and I'm getting better with every stitch.

2. Reading. I'm proud of the amount that I read. I see people reading 100+ books in a year and wonder how the heck they do it, because 60-80 is usually what I can handle, but then I reflect that compared to the general population, 60-80 books in a year is still pretty damn good! Some middle-aged people brag that they haven't read a book since high school, and I flinch and wonder how on earth they could be bragging about that. I take books on 10-minute bus rides, for crying out loud! I can't be without my books.

I'm an avid reader. And I'm damn proud of that fact.

3. Writing. I consider myself a decent writer. Some people would consider me good. Some would say I need a lot of polishing. I consider myself in between. I need more practice, more work, and I do actually have the goal of having a book published someday.

I take spelling and grammar and punctuation seriously. Oh sure, I'll make typos and not catch them sometimes, but i wont rite liek tihs unless I'm being ironic.

I look back on things that I wrote in high school and see how much I've improved. I look back on the first short story I wrote for class (which was still longer than most others) and I see that I had talent even at a young age. I remember the first story I ever wrote, when I was 5 years old, about a dog and a wolf in the zoo, arguing over a bone. The first "chapter" was half a page long, and had a childish illustration of two animals in a cage. I remember taking a writing class in high school, and being only one of two people there who actually liked to write and could do so at a level that impressed the teacher, because she wasn't used to people taking the class seriously. (Most people took it for an easy mark, since some of the lessons involved how to address an envelope, and the structure of correspondence.)

4. I can sing. In high school, I was in two exclusive choirs more than once, and I was a first soprano in all of them, which means my range is rather impressively high. I'm out of practice now, so my range has dropped some, but if I practice again I could get that skill back. But even now, out of practice, I can still sing well, on key, and with good volume.

5. I'm intelligent. I know I'm intelligent enough to get a university degree if I can ever save up enough money, and I know that if I try I could graduate with at least a 4.0 average. I love to learn. I'll read textbooks for fun. My biggest problem is that I'm naturally lazy and inclined to take shortcuts that ruin things later on, but if I can get past that trait, I know I can shine.

This intelligence isn't one that I particularly had to work to get, only to maintain, and that maintenance usually depends on my environment. I was determined to be too far advanced for the first grade after being there for only 4 days, and so was skipped ahead to grade 2. And from there until clinical depression hit (around puberty), the work was always easy and I was always at the head of my class. I could potentially have skipped ahead another grade, though that would have made life even more socially awkward for them than it already was. Depression hit, though, and I lost motivation to just anything and everything, my grades started to drop. And since my parents had routinely demonstrated that grades were a measure of worth, I became pretty well convinced for a while that I sucked and wasn't worth much of anything.

Depression has happily faded into the background now, and I know that if it hadn't taken over my life when I was young, I could have graduated high school with honours and gotten scholarships for university right there and then. I know I'm capable. I love to learn.

6. I seem to have a knack for learning languages, which I wish I'd found out about when I was younger. I could be multilingual by now! It's another thing that I have to work at, of course, but with that effort, I know I can learn a few more lgnauages, and perhaps even be a translator or something some day. I'm definitely interested in Japanese, and if I hadn't let laziness rule my life for so long and had actually put the effort in, I know I could be fluent by now.

I also have an interest in German and Russian, which I plan to get some skill in later. French is one I ought to know, but thanks to assy teachers in high school, I now have a wonderful mental block with that one. I can still read and comprehend decently, but talking's difficult.

Of course, that could apply somewhat with English, too.

I suppose I should have seen the talent for languages earlier. In high school French class, I'd often know the right answer, even for things as annoying as complicated verb conjugations. The biggest problem was that the teachers would always question how I arrived at the answer, to make sure I properly understood it, and to make sure I didn't cheat somehow. I could rarely tell them why. I just knew what sounded right, it felt right in my head, and more often than not it was right, even though I didn't always know why.

But give me some random verb conjugation in English, my native language, and I probably couldn't tell you what the tense it is either. I didn't learn in the standard way, and therefore could only answer half the question, and sometimes the questions were "all or nothing" answers. Don't say what the tense is, don't get a point even if the verb's right.

My skills, I have shown you them. I'm not without talent. Even innate talents took work to hone. I'm not just naturally awesome.

But as I read more and more of the DW entries where people talk about their talents, saying things like, "Knitting lace is easy," doesn't seem so much like bragging anymore. There's somebody out there struggling with garter stitch, sure, but they probably have a skill or talent that I envy. I'm awesome, they're awesome, and there really isn't any reason to be shamed of good things.
sarasvati: A silhouette of a man riding a dolphin, with the words "Part of everything" underneath (inexplicable)
I have never been pulled over by the police for the "terrible crime" of being dark-skinned. I have never been referred to by derogatory racial epithets. My skin happens to be paler than that of most Caucasians I run into, actually.

And yet I am still an Other here.

I don't claim to know all the pain and discrimination that people have gone through because they have darker skin that the majority in their area. But I do know the pain and isolation that comes from being different from those around me.

I was born in England, and my parents and I moved to Canada when I was five years old. It may sound like a trifling thing, especially when you consider the amount of racial discrimination that occurs still, but regardless it was still the beginning of a buttload of pain, the kind that a child is hard-pressed to understand and cope with, the kind that leaves lasting scars. In spite of the fact that I have lived in this country for over 20 years now, I cannot relate fully to Canadian culture, and I still consider myself, at the core, British.

I started school with a foreign accent, which was the perfect invitation for classmates to make my life a living hell. They excluded me from games because I was different. Different not in any way that should have counted, but I was different enough to provide them a wonderful excuse. I spent years listening to them make fun of my accent, and eventually adopted a Canadian accent to give them one less reason to pick on me.

I want to point out that while lots of children adapt to the accent around them, often flawlessly, my case was somewhat different. Even now, I have a British accent that comes out when I am speaking to my parents, or when I am on holiday in England. My Canadian accent comes out whenever I speak to anybody else. I have actively tried to speak in my British accent to Canadians. It took too much effort, I stammered terribly, and in the end felt so much shame over it that I just reverted to the easier method of pretending I was just like them in order to not be stared at. In spite of my pride in being of British origin, the way I was treated when I was young made me feel such ingrained shame at that characteristic that it's easier now to hide it than to bring it out.

I have spoken to my parents in my British accent when close friends are around. It isn't like they don't know I'm British. But I cannot bring myself to speak to them that way. I can switch back and forth in a conversation involving, for example, my mother and Rei. But shame has become habit, and speaking with my British accent to a Canadian sounds forced now, fake, and uncomfortable.

All this treatment just opened the door to 8 years of being made fun of, and then 3 more years of me being ignored in high school because I'd learned to keep my head down and not to trust anyone. This treatment led to people stealing from me, sexually harassing me, threatening me, and actively hurting me. I was different, therefore it was okay.

I'm sure that by the end, people had forgotten why it was okay to hurt me. It had just become habit for them in the same way that hiding my accent and heritage had become habit for me.

I do not know the shame of being called words that are societally unacceptable because of their racial connotations. I do, however, know the pain of being called an "English muffin" by people who probably thought they were being clever. Just another reference to my heritage, and just another thing to make me ashamed of it. If I wasn't from England, they wouldn't be able to tease me like that.

And if anybody dares to say that such stupid words shouldn't have affected me... You're right. They shouldn't have. And they are stupid. But people overlook the fact that words do hurt, especially when they are intended to do so. Or even when they're merely intended to make you separate from everybody else, to call attention to your differences.

If words didn't hurt, we could all use the N-word with impunity.

Again, I want to stress that I am not saying that my pain is equal to the pain of those who have also suffered. Sometimes they have suffered much more than I have. I can't say what it's like to be East Asian, or Middle Eastern, or anything of the sort, because I am none of those things.

But I do know what it's like to be the Other. I know what it's like to feel shame over something I can't help, over my heritage, over something I shouldn't feel shame over.

This is something that tends to get overlooked in a lot of "Other" discussions. The Other in question is always different by skin colour, by language, by gender definition. There's no attention paid to the fact that a person can be made an outsider in spite of sharing skin colour, in spite of being in a 50/50 gender split, in spite of speaking the same language. I lived in a slightly different society for a while, and had an accent, and I was cast out before I even thought of trying to get in. I was Other.

In some ways, I still am, though most people wouldn't guess it. In order to fit in, even as marginally as I tend to, I have to hide a lot and rely on habits of self-protection. People find out that I was born in England, and suddenly I become special for it, either suddenly becoming more interesting or more avoidable because of the fact that I spent the first five years of my life in another country.

I'm reminded of an American I once spoke to through my call centre work. Upon finding out that I was in Canada, he suddenly affected a terribly fake Canadian accent and said, "You're in Canada, eh? You guys watch a lot of hockey, eh?" He reduced me to a stereotype, a false one at that, and one that pretty much existed as a joke to him.

That's what it was like. That's how people still treat me when they find out I'm from England. I cease to be a person, and instead become a cultural stereotype, a fascination, and what they think of as flattery is really just another way of pushing me aside, making me different from them.

I'm no more nor less different than I was before they knew. But hiding my differences is the only way they'll understand that, and it's an understanding of ignorance rather than an actual understanding.

Nobody should have to feel shame or guilt or discomfort because of their origin, their preferences, the million and one little things that make them awesome.

I'm tired of being told I couldn't possibly know what being an Other is like simply because I'm Caucasian in a predominantly Caucasian setting. I do know it. It is possible. And I personally think that those who refuse to accept it as a possibility are doing an injustice to those who must therefore suffer silently because nobody will take them seriously.

To me, that feels like the equivalent of telling somebody with chronic fatigue syndrome that they they couldn't possibly feel like an outsider in society, because their difference isn't obvious enough. The only way they could be "disabled enough" to be treated differently is if they were in a wheelchair or artificial limbs or something. Otherwise they're just complaining about nothing and should shut up, because they can't possibly know what it's like.

Sure, they may not know the trouble of getting into a building without ramps, but they know what it's like to not be taken seriously, to have to hide things or else risk scorn, to go through a problem silently.

I am both proud and ashamed of being who I am. Proud, because my heritage is awesome and has an interesting history and because I love the country I came from. Ashamed, because it's caused me such pain over the years thanks to ignorant fuckwads, and because I have to hide so much of it if I want a chance at getting by without suddenly becoming "special" in some way.

I am Caucasian. I live in the western world. I come from a middle-class upbringing.

And I am still Other.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Stealing [personal profile] jumpuphigh's idea and participating in a music meme. Give me a theme, a word, a feeling, and I'll give you some music. I love memes like this, since they often expose me to really interesting new artists, and I get to inflict my musical tastes upon others.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
I guess I'm participating in [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw more than I first thought I was going to. Even aside from the drabbles I'll be writing, it looks like there's some interesting discussion inspiring me to throw in my two cents.

I suppose that was the point all along.

Anyway, this is the "Fuck Yeah, She's Awesome!" challenge, created by [personal profile] such_heights.

When I think, "Fuck yeah, she's awesome," my first thought is of Amber Benson's portrayal of Tara McClay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Why Tara? Because in every way that I care about, she's awesome. Her very existance is an inspiration to me.

Point 1 - She isn't stick-thin, doesn't dress in the latest and most fashionable styles, and yet is still beautiful. Frankly, I think she's even more beautiful for having a little more roundness to her and for having her own style rather than being a fashion troll. Shes beautiful without wearing skin-tight clothing. She's beautiful while being comfortable, and most of all, she's beautiful by being comfortable.

Point 2 - She's intelligent. She is's fairly level-headed. When her character really starts to shine on the show, she's something of a magic advisor, she knows what's needed and is practical about it. She's not super-powered, but she's competant.

Point 3 - Hurrah for positive portrayals of lesbians on mainstream TV! I have some issues with how Willow's later romantic relationship was handled, but not her relationship with Tara. Tara was interested in women without making her entire life about being interested in women, and frankly, I think that's commendable. From some media portrayals of homosexuality, you'd think that all homosexual people made their entire lives revolve around everything gay, like the biggest defining word in their life was "gay." Not so for Tara. As a matter of fact, her actual sexuality wasn't really discussed at any point in time. The closest thing to it was when she and Willow got in an argument and Willow mentioned that Tara's been out longer and dating women longer.

Point 4 - She overcame a family that believed the place of women was to serve and take care of the menfolk. She overcame serious social anxiety. She thus is one of the very few female characters that I can really relate to. I like strong females in fiction and reality, but they all seem to be strong in ways I can't relate to, to have personalities or pasts that don't leave me much to connect to. Tara, initially, could have been me. Keeping her head down, keeping her mouth shut, scared of not obeying her father, afraid to connect while still craving social interaction. And over a few years, we get to see her grow stronger and overcome a lot of those issues, gain self-confidence and social strength, and I think that's more inspirational that a lot of people give it credit for.

Point 5 - Wow, that woman can sing! The way she sings makes me break out in delightful goosebumps, and I could listen to her voice all day!

In short, fuck yeah, she's awesome!


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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