the grass cannot be greener on the side it will not grow

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My daughter is wearing her "the future is female" t-shirt. It's stained but she doesn't care. She wears it every week and when people ask her what it says she tells them that WE NEED MORE GIRLS TO LEAD. 

A man stops her brother, who is by her side,  and asks him where his shirt is...

"What do you mean?" her brother answers.

"That's your sister, right? Shouldn't you be wearing a shirt that says the FUTURE IS MALE? Aren't you offended?" the man asks.


"Why would I be offended?" 


"Yeah? Well, I'm offended. IT SHOULD SAY THE FUTURE IS EQUAL," he explains. 


This isn't the first time someone has said this. To me. To him. To others. To anyone who dares to take a strong stance against the imbalance of patriarchy. 

And so  I MOMsplain.


"Do you remember being on a teeter when you were little? Do you remember being on a teeter totter with someone a lot heavier than you? An older sibling, maybe. A parent. Do you remember how hard you had to push your body down in order to move the damn thing? How there was no other way to get the teeter totter to move except to bear down with all of your might?  Equality doesn't happen with polite gestures. Throughout history, people have had to scream and push and pull in order be heard and seen and recognized. If the other side of the teeter totter is 10 times heavier than you are, you have to push 11 times as hard.  One cannot fight for equality in a lopsided world without PUSHING DOWN on the teeter totter. One cannot talk about fairness when status quo is unfair. The only way to CREATE a more EQUAL future is to strive for a more female one. And the only way to strive for a more female one is to DEMAND IT."

He doesn't want to hear me, which is fine. I used to care what "he" thought of me and I don't anymore. The man -- this stranger -- who I have crossed paths with a thousand times only knows how to be on top. 

How to look down. 

How to weigh the heaviest on his side of the teeter totter. 

"Don't you see? The ocean would never feel threatened by the stream."

But the man's levels are low and he feels exposed. He does not see himself as an ocean. 

There is a drought and he wants the water in his body. There is a drought and he demands long showers, says with his eyes that he deserves a green lawn for the neighbors to see.

I have worked very hard to raise my children in a household that upholds femininity as strong. And kind. Empathetic. Nourishing. Fiesty. Fierce. Flawed. Important. We would all be so lucky to live in a world that was more female.  

And yet, some men feel threatened by words that exclude patriarchy. As if it isn't our default setting. 

This is how I explain our interaction with my children in the car on the way home. 

Girl power is designed to elevate girls to the status of boys but men can’t help but wonder where they are supposed to go. Like standing on a ship that is filling up with people who SHOULD HAVE ALWAYS been allowed to board.

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It would make sense that these individuals would feel threatened. It would make sense that these individuals would lash out in ways even THEY couldn’t fully understand. EVERYWHERE they look they are told that THIS IS THEIR SHIP.

That EVE was God's gift to ADAM. 

Meanwhile, the ship captains try to put laws into place to put their safety first. Because NO ONE WANTS TO BE REPLACED.

"Jews will not replace us." 

"Blacks will not replace us." "ALL LIVES MATTER."

"Latinos will not replace us." "DOWN WITH DACA!"

"Humans who are not white and male and straight will not replace us." "MAGA!"  

***

"If my body is made of water, what happens in a drought?"

Those were her words, not mine. She is six years old and knows her body is made of water. She is six years old and knows her body is vulnerable. That water is not an endless resource and sometimes we feel dry inside. She mentions one day, in passing, that she is concerned her body will run out of water -- that it will become dry like grass. Because "what if there isn't enough water to go around?" She is worried that if she drinks too much, she will be taking from someone else.  I am worried by what she says -- I don't want her to ever think she is taking from someone else what is rightfully hers. I do not want her to be afraid to quench her thirst. I want her to drink all of the water she needs..

Her sister is different. She does not know her body is anything other than hers. She slams her face against walls and doesn't cry. She falls down and gets up without checking her knees for wounds. Sometimes she takes things from other people and doesn't give them back.  


Sometimes people take things from her and she body slams them.

I don't want her to ever think it's ok to take from someone else what is rightfully theirs. I want her to know when to share and when to give and when to listen. I want her to know to keep her hands to herself. I tell her these things, over and over. We sit down and hold hands and I tell her to look into my eyes and she does.  

***

"We don't talk about those kinds of things," says the father with his hands over his son's ears... a boy I once saw flip up the skirt of a friend's daughter while the parents pretended not to notice.

"We don't talk about those kinds of things."

 

For every parent who is unwilling to talk about those kinds of things, another teenage girl is raped. I know for a fact that my first experience with sexual assault was by a boy whose parents DIDN'T TALK ABOUT THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, and I often wonder what he would and wouldn't have done to me in my "sleep" if they were willing to talk openly and candidly about respect and consent and the importance of NOT putting your hands on the body of a sleeping girl.

***

I'm reading through the comments on a post about Black Lives Matter. The very first comment calls the article racist against white people. She claims that being black is no different from being white. She claims that all lives matter -- that no one's life matters more than anyone else's. She tells the author she is creating a division where there isn't one. She is telling a black mother that her story is invalid, that her perspective is wrong, that her fears are unwarranted.

Her comment has the most likes. 

Don't you see? The ocean would never feel threatened by the stream."

But she does not see herself as an ocean. How could she with such unwillingness to realize her depth? There is a drought and she wants the water in her body. There is a drought and she demands long showers. She deserves a green lawn for the neighbors to see.

"White lives matter, too," she says again in the comment section. 

And again. And again. And again.

"All lives matter," says the ocean to the stream.

Says the river to the creek.

***


"I don't talk to my children about politics. I want to keep them out of it as long as possible. I want to keep them innocent. Let them be young. And wild. And free."

Meanwhile, a third grader, just like mine, went to school today, afraid that she will be taken from class and deported. 

(Another river bed dry.)

"Let them be young and wild and free."

(Like the ocean.)
*** 

When last year LA was in a drought, there were signs all over LA saying, "We are so sorry for our appearance." We are so sorry we aren't beautiful and green -- growing unnaturally. We are so sorry we cannot thrive in an environment we were never supposed to thrive in in the first place. We are so sorry. 

Grass.

 The signs were apologizing for grass.

 Grass that grows unnaturally.

 Like the palm trees California wants you to believe were here first.

 They were not here first. And now they are dying. They are dying because they are old and didn't come from here. Neither did we.

I often wonder what it would have been like had we been taught that they were here first. That America was kidnapped and painted white.

White House.

White Monuments.

White picket fences.

In high school, all of the Mexican kids were on one side of the school and the rest of us were on the other. We had PE class together but that was it. We would laugh at Jesus' name because it was Jesus.

Hey, Jesus, we would say, mispronouncing it on purpose. We were cruel without meaning to be. We were cruel because we believed we were better. We were taught every time we turned on a TV, walked out the door, rolled up our windows at the sight of brown-skinned people on the corner looking for work, that we were better.

We are guilty.
That is why we feel guilty.
That is why Trump makes us sick.

He is us. He is all of the things we pretend we are not. We hate him because we recognize the worst of our humanity in his words. He is the monster we pretend we don't have in our closet. He is the ego we think no one can see when we post for likes and retweets. He is the part of every human being that wants power without having earned it -- who wants to win first.

He is the monster we deny we constructed out of years of assignments drawing him at the helm of the Santa Maria. Or was it the Nina. Or eating turkey in a pilgrim hat.

Or when we stand for the pledge of allegiance without knowing what the fuck we're even saying when the teacher says, "repeat after me."

He is the god we have been told to worship in the pockets of the designer bags we saved for when  we pretended we didn't see the homeless teenager asking for a dollar. When we bought houses behind hedges to ensure our safety. When we pulled our kids from public schools that weren't good enough.  

And he will reappear in a new skin if we don't recognize that we all have come of age in the same garden, our stamen from the same seed.
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That what we hate in him is what we see in ourselves. We are guilty. 

Guilt will not absolve us of our crimes, of course. We must work together to change the narrative. We must fight against our own implicit bias. We must recognize our shadows and face them head on. We must be willing to break our children of their innocence so that across town, children in REAL DANGER can be safe. 
We must be willing to call ourselves out... 

*** 

At back-to-school night everyone seems to ask the same questions.

"How do we raise them...?" we ask. 

...Except we aren't asking about how to raise better, more empathetic, outspoken, interesting, engaged children. We are talking about grades.

The world is on fire and we are talking about how to improve test scores.

I raise my hand and ask about current events. I want to know whether they are being addressed, discussed... and how.

"This is a public school. You can't talk about politics here."

Since when did "politics" become the word we use for DECENCY? 

What happens when all that matters is grades and how to get good ones?
How to excel in spite of traumatized classmates?

Can we switch out politics with "ethics?" How do we teach history without acknowledging that it is happening all around us? How do we send our children to school and expect GRADES without LESSONS?

How do we reshape what is systemically wrong with text books and TIME'S UP. PUT DOWN YOUR PENCIL. STOP WHAT IT IS YOU ARE WORKING ON. STOP THINKING. STOP. ????

If our children are forced to stand for the pledge of allegiance, shouldn't they understand what they are pledging TO and FOR and AGAINST?

***

Last month, an "anti-feminist" Instagram account got ahold of one of my photos of my daughter and turned it into a meme. This particular photo went viral during the election last year and is of my daughter, at four years old, wearing the same Future is Female shirt her sisters have. In the photo she's flexing and growling and looking strong as hell. Because that's what she is.

Because that's what we have to be -- what we've always been, yes, but now we have to OWN it -- and because of the women who have come before us WE CAN.

The meme of my then four-year-old was tagged with the word #rape below it. My daughter. FOUR YEARS OLD. It was also hashtagged #feminismiscancer. I reported it (and it was taken down) but not before calling out the couple who thought it okay to manipulate and post what they did of my child. From there it was a pile on. 

"It's your fault for posting photos online." 

"I have every right to post this photo of your daughter." 

"It's your fault."

It's your fault. It's your fault. 

Over the years, I've heard this a lot: when you put yourself and your family out there publicly you DESERVE to be attacked. You deserve to be reposted with despicable hashtags. You deserve threats. Violent memes depicting your daughters. You were asking for it.

Rape culture and writing personally in a public forum, go hand in hand. And it isn't just perpetuated by men, either. Women, in my experience, are just as ruthless -- if not worse. The meme of Revi was made by a couple. A man and a woman. More white women voted for Trump. In the words of the late, great Kate Millett, "Many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against: no better truth could be found in the totality of their conditioning."

All of this to say that I WASN'T ASKING FOR IT and NEITHER WERE YOU.

By sharing what I share, I am not asking to be assaulted. With words. And with memes. I didn't DO anything wrong by speaking openly and honestly and telling stories that I felt were and are worthwhile to tell. Vulnerable. Human. Real. 

Personal blogging is dead, they say. And they're probably right. 

But it didn't die innocuously. We politely stood by as it was executed. We lurked in comment sections when we could have been calling out abuse. We felt guilty for blocking people. We gave our trolls the keys to our houses until we couldn't take it anymore and moved away. Brought our truths with us. Stood back as they were replaced by lies. 

Because we didn’t engage the trolls.

Instead we let them win. 

We didn’t fight back.

We didn't do anything. 

Kind of like with Hillary and the election and how everyone was SO AFRAID to publicly support her they created private Facebook groups as not to be hated or threatened or unfollowed. When I was writing pro-Hillary posts on Mom.me, I was called EVERY AWFUL thing that existed. And when I write about her now? People still attack me. 

It is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE EASY to speak up. To hold our heads up high after they've been bitten off...
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I tell my children to prepare to be disliked for being themselves. For having ideas that are different. For having the willpower to speak their truths. To defend what is right. 

"Kindness only matters if you're brave enough to fight for it."

Protagonists exist in spite of antagonists, not because of them.

But a protagonist can only take so much before she learns to fight back. Before she hits her breaking point and finds her fists. 
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We have to fight back.

***
Every day I try to balance my desire to fight back and keep walking. Can one do both at once? Every day I try. 

I want to LOVE and I want to FIGHT. I want to push forward and I want to pull this fucking car over and do something about all of the ways we are backward. And I know I'm not alone because more and more cars are gathering on the shoulder.

Does it help to scream against the windshields of parked cars?

I don't know.

And maybe that's the point. I'm not supposed to know. I'm supposed to do. To use less water. To give what I can to relieve the flood. To teach my children that in order to prevent forest fires, they must recognize that they exist and why. 

The grass cannot be greener on the side it will not grow. 

I must find ways to fight all of the systems that uphold my privilege while simultaneously standing up for myself when I am pushed down. I'm supposed to empower my children when necessary while also asking them to question the power they demand.

How do we become our BEST without depriving others? How do we satiate our thirst without siphoning from an almost empty glass?

There will always be enough water to go around, they say.

But that only is true if we're willing to share -- to part with what we have more of -- to sacrifice our own reserves sometimes -- to turn off our sprinklers and let the grass go brown in certain places...to help our daughters draw swords on their paper. Give our wives the space to be angry. Teach our sons that A FEMALE FUTURE MEANS A MORE EQUAL ONE. That BLACK LIVES MATTERing is a plea for those who refuse to see beyond their own white fences to turn around and take a look outside.

That WE (the white people) WERE NOT HERE FIRST. 

And neither was Adam. 
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