My Dad is NOT a Feminist

My dad is not a feminist. His sole use for a stove is to light his cigarettes.  He only uses our microwave to warm his coffee.  Other than that, unless it involves fixing them, he wants nothing to do with either.  He recently learned how to use the coffeemaker but regularly forgets to change the grounds when making a new pot.  He calls grown women “girl” in English but “señorita” in Spanish—it’s probably a translation thing, but the truth is my dad could care less about the difference because in his own words, he is not a feminist.  He once told me I wasn’t ready to get married because I made a pasta dish that tasted awful. He ate it anyway, but see, he’s not a feminist.  He won’t eat his meals unless it’s served for him, warm not hot, with a napkin, a drink, room for his toothpick and the necessary utensils. He won’t make himself a sandwich and doesn’t do laundry because, well, he is not a feminist.  When my mom and I went to Europe for two weeks he went to my Grandma’s house every evening for dinner and had my uncle order him lunch every day at work—he did make his own coffee—but don’t be confused, he’s still not a feminist.

My first job was as his assistant mechanic, handing him tools and letting the air out of tires. My wage was 2 dollars a day and lunch.  He taught me how to hold the flashlight at the perfect angle, the name of all the tools—in Spanish—and how to use them.  He let me get dirty at the shop and pretended I was helping instead of getting in the way.  All through my childhood he wouldn’t leave my brother and I home alone or with a baby sitter on Saturdays.  He made us go to work with him and my mom so we could at the very least be together in the same place for a full day.  But way back then even, he was never a feminist.

He pulled me out of ESL classes and made me bring my math book home on Fridays so he could teach me the lessons ahead of time. See according to him, math was important especially for a girl, but he wouldn’t say this kind of thinking was feminist. I hope he never sees me try to split a bill without a calculator though, he’d shake his head at all the house he spent with me at our kitchen table 😉 He never insisted I learned to clean the house with my mom and grandma’s attention to detail. He never made me stay in the kitchen and learn my mom’s secret to making the perfect rice and salsa. He never kicked me out of the living room when he was watching sports to help the ladies in the kitchen, but don’t be confused, this does not make him a feminist.

He pushed me to focus solely on school and to learn as much as possible from elementary through the bar exam.  He never suggested I trade my books for pans and a broom. Although after some failed dinner attempts and a college and law school diet made up of 75% pepperoni pizzas, he probably wishes he had—however, he would never call his failure to domesticate me, feminism.

He taught me how to change a tire, check my air pressure and never miss an oil change. He showed me how to find a stud, use a drill, patch drywall, build furniture without directions and how to go back and fix it when I failed without them…He taught me calluses from work are a good thing and I always feel a little proud whenever I get one on my hand. But…I still wouldn’t say he’s a feminist.

He made me watch the news every night at 9 p.m. to discuss politics and societal issues.  He could never understand how women–who make up half of this country’s population–couldn’t seem to unite and stop voting against their own interests since feminism exists.  He always said and still says, “how come women don’t realize how powerful they really are?” but he’d never call that kind of ideology feminist.

In high school we had one of many serious conversations telling me he’d rather take me himself to get an abortion than see me give up on my future aspirations.  He constantly reminded me how much bigger and better life could be compared to the life I was living then–which was pretty great on its own–and if I just gave myself an opportunity I could go anywhere.  He told me how birth control was necessary and effective, but how pregnancy was the least scariest risk of having unprotected sex.  He assured me that an abortion is not killing a baby or a sin against “God,” that my future and my life were the most important things to consider.  He made it clear, if I ever had to make that decision but didn’t want to tell him that that was ok too, but that he’d always support my, and every woman’s right to choose. He never could quite understand how men thought they could have any say in legislation over a woman’s body. He finds it laughable when lawmakers insist sex is only for procreation and insists that type of thinking might be part of their problem. But even with all of that, I still don’t think he’d call himself a feminist.

He taught me to treat everyone the same from a janitor to a celebrity regardless of race, gender or orientation, that alone though, doesn’t  make him a feminist. He explained to me that turning to crime may not always be right but there’s a disproportionate lack of opportunity that plagues black and brown communities, and how that was unfair.  So, I should never judge or feel superior because I didn’t have to take that path, but he has never considered himself a feminist or even an activist.

He showed me how to always be aware of your surroundings and keep a car length distance from the car in front of you in case something pops off you always have enough room to make a move. He drilled into my brother and I to keep our hands on the steering wheel if you get pulled over and don’t move without permission. See he always understood we aren’t perceived the same as other people who get pulled over.  But I think he would refer to this as survivalism as oppose to anything else.

When my long-term relationship began to fall apart he mostly kept silent.  Then one dark night, he held my face and said “this is not love and ending it is not failure, it’s a small price to pay in the long run you’ll see.” And with those words I called off my engagement for good, and he never said a negative thing about it.  He probably wouldn’t say he’s a feminist because of that though. He and my mom helped me and Chopper move and furnish the solo apartments that followed and assured me that my new life would be just as happy as the one I left behind, even when it didn’t always look that way.  That was no surprise because my mom is indeed a feminist.  But, he told me time and time again, that my value wasn’t dictated by a relationship or finding “the one,” but I bet he doesn’t consider that sort of thinking feminist.

He reminded me that anyone can get married but not everyone can finish college and law school and pass the bar and find a job…and raise a 75+ pound pitbull with a bad-itude.  He repeated to me that my value is calculated by who I am not who I’m with.  He never let me forget that my happiness was dependent on me alone.   He never urged me to marry young (or at all), have children or become more domestic.  He always encouraged me to take some time to enjoy my life.  He always reminded me that time will pass no matter what we do, but enjoying it is what’s important.  And see, here is the thing, he taught my brother all those same exact things too.

So yes, my old school, Mexican-accent, toothpick having, atheist believing, refusing to learn how to cook or wash clothes Dad is absolutely without a doubt, not a feminist, and truthfully, at times, he doesn’t even fully grasp racism or sexism.  But somewhere in his upbringing he decided to not be a misogynist or a sexist either and because of that he and his wifey/my mom made ME A FEMINIST.  

I guess that just goes to show, you don’t have to be a part of the movement to respect it and you certainly don’t have to commit to oppose it simply because you don’t understand it. You can fall sweetly in the middle and still support its cause and goals simply by committing to be a good person.

Note: I wrote letters to my mom and dad as a kid when I felt like I couldn’t express what I wanted to say in person, as I got older when my dad could tell I couldn’t get my words out, he’d ask me to write it to him. It’s been a while since I wrote to him, but I let him read this piece before I posted it–I’ve had some issues in the past in posting things (my thoughts or experiences) without getting the other person(s)’ involved permission–so, I asked if it was OK for me to share. His response was a simple string of texts from my mom’s phone, “of course you can post it, it’s your truth and you always write beautiful words to me, you don’t have to ask for my permission to write about what you feel, by the way this is ur dad.”

I am the Sun

Every year I get the Birthday Blues.  It never fails.  I know some people get so hype and litty every year when their birthdays roll around, but me I get the birthday blues.  It’s a combination of anxiety and nervousness of having everyone LOOKING at me and engaging with me that gives me a dread that I can only describe as such, the ol’ Birthday Blues.

Over the years I think I narrowed the reason why birthdays get me down: a new year for me always marks looking back on the year before and constantly comparing myself to, myself.  What did I do? What did I accomplish?  Am I where I wanted to be? Did I achieve the goals I set out for myself last year?  Normally, the answer is no or not quite.  And every year, like clock work, I have to re-set those goals, re-evaluate why I didn’t get to where I wanted to be and come face to face with some failures–eesh even writing that sentence gave me anxiety…  Then, just like I always do, I set some new goals, re-set some old ones and try to remind myself I’m not a complete waste of space for having to re-set the old ones I didn’t accomplish.  A constant comparison with myself and everyone else who has ever turned my age before me.  So yeah, I guess it’s safe to say I get the Birthday Blues.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays, my best friends’, my family members’, my partner’s-I love to celebrate them.  Even preparing for mine is fun it’s just THAT day, the day of reckoning or celebration (as some may call it), the day of the party, the actual day when all the attention is on me, is overwhelming.  But, this year I didn’t quite get the same feelings of dread.  Maybe because I was too busy doing 1 million other things, but I didn’t feel that same “oh god I have to sit down and look at all my failures again,” feeling and for once the only thing that gave me anxiety was that I was going to be 31 and how I hoped that no one would make the restaurant staff sing to me at dinner this week…

I realized that all these years I’ve been constantly competing with myself.  Every year I set the bar higher, do more, do better, be more efficient, work, volunteer, write, research, find my passion, pay off my debts, let go of the weights in my past, love harder, be kinder but remain steadfast.  It’s like me and my goals are flying around in space rotating around the perfect “BGT” trying to get sucked into her gravitational pull to find some kind of order…  So, naturally every year, I let myself down when I don’t achieve all of these crazy benchmarks, and me and my crazy goals are spiraling out of control in space, but not this year.

See this year, I realized I’m the Sun.  Me, this BGT is the Sun, and I’m not waiting to join anyone’s imaginary gravitational pull, because it turns out, I am the pull.  This year I am praising myself for every single accomplishment and failure and I’m equally proud of them all.  I am happy to be in love with someone who only expects love in return.  I am lucky to have dog that’s 11 but is confused for 5.  I am privileged to have a family that loves and supports me despite my flaws.  This year, I am walking into 31 leaving behind a past that I thought would have it’s grasp on me forever.  I feel lighter than any goal weight I’ve ever set for myself.  I found my voice and wasn’t embarrassed to share it with anyone and everyone who was willing (or not) to listen or read it.  I am working everyday to find my passion and enjoying some laughs along the way.  I am using new found time at home to write and research more and I’ve never felt more invigorated to work towards change of all kinds.  Every day, I’m trying really, really hard to be kinder while maintaining my passion and steadfastness and hey I have a little less debt than last year too…  I guess that’s what happens when you turn 31 and realize you are the Sun. 🙂

I’M HERE

Sometimes when I’m really angry I get on social media and I wait… I wait to see the racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and all of the other “issms” and phobias to rear their heads. I simply wait. I wait for the comments to pop up on my feed and read what the kid-now adult-I went to high school with, and his sister, and their Dad’s cousin’s to comment on a news article that the white guy who killed his pregnant wife and two kids is not as abhorrent of a crime because he was born here. Going on about how unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about that situation, but how THAT is very different from the undocumented immigrant who confessed to killing the white girl in Iowa. It’s SO DIFFERENT because he was here “illegally” and IF he hadn’t been here “ILLEGALLY” then that murder would not have happened.  Because for some reason after statistics and logic tell us that white men are over-represented as perpetrators of violent crime, when a brown, black or undocumented person commits it, well then it could have been avoided and so they shouldn’t be here and we should get back to building that wall or passing that ban… So, sometimes I get on social media when I’m angry…and I wait.  (spoiler alert: yes guys the white guy did it…again).

On other days, I don’t.  On these days when the posts are too much and there are too many crying kids in prison-like facilities, confused at the language they’re hearing and the strangers they’re around, and the dirt that’s building on their bodies-on those days, I make myself stay off social media.  Because sometimes seeing the capsized, makeshift rafts that refugees used as boats to cross oceans with their children risking drowning to escape their horrors is too much. Because sometimes, seeing babies drowned on white beaches and then seeing Tim from Indiana’s comment underneath, “they believed in sharia law, is that what you want in your country?!” “They should blame their parents for making that decision,” “We need to take care of our country first!” is just too much. So I stay off social media and, if I stayed off the entire day, I gift myself a bowl of flaming hots (and lemon), and I do it in the name of self-care. My red stained fingers a badge of honor known only to me.  A secret “Good Job, Melody!” to myself.  In all sincerity, I eat flaming hots after I lose my shit on a person like Tim too–it’s still self-care.

But then there are days. Days where all of the posts push me into a daydream of being on CNN and having the producers afraid to take their fingers off the censor button because regardless of how smart and articulate I can be, I’m still this brown girl and I can best express myself when I don’t have to “watch my French” or keep my neck from snaking around. I imagine being split screen alongside ANY conservative commentator and reminding them exactly why what I come from made America great way before it was an acronym on a poorly made hat. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really racy I imagine it’s Tami “that’s not my name” Lahren.  Those are the days I fight with the devil on my shoulder until I shut my eyes for the night to stay the fuck off social media.

Then there are those days, those days when my friend’s lists decrease and my family one too because you decided to comment that “racism isn’t real” and “they should just listen to the police!” and “If women want to be safe then they need to be smarter and not drink or run or walk to their cars alone.” Those are the days where you might catch me on my social media tip and you might flip positions too.

You might decide it was too much and block the thread. You might block my posts. You might even click the unfriend or unfollow button, maybe even the one in real life too. But I’ll still be on my social media tip. I’ll still be in restaurants hoping someone’s friend doesn’t make a racist comment at dinner and I have to spend my two free hours before bed reminding him that I am THAT kind of Mexican and that Black Lives do in fact Matter.

I’ll still be here denouncing people and ideas when I see or hear ignorance in real life or on social media.  I’ll still be challenging, reading, learning, and trying to be a better version of who I was before. I’ll still be pushing, donating, volunteering, and supporting men, women and non-binaries that are under-represented because I AM HERE.

So be annoyed, be an unfriend but I’m still here. I’m the gnat you can’t kill screaming, “Women get paid at most 75% of what men get paid and women have to pay more for things they need like tampons!” So the next time you see “click here to see 274 comments” with my name all over it, don’t scroll past it. Read it. Don’t hit me with the “I didn’t post this to argue,” because as long as I’m here, I’m doing my due diligence the best way I know how and a lot of the times that’ll be right here or on all different types of social media

So, appreciate the fire and challenge yourself to understand the movement. In the meantime I’LL BE RIGHT HERE. 

Immigrants as…Humans?

I sit in court a lot, most mornings that’s where you’ll find me, sitting in a courtroom.  While I wait, I online shop, check the news, Facebook stalk people who were mean to me growing up–realize they were actually all terrible even at 8 years old because as adults they all voted for trump.  It’s all a distraction.  It distracts me from focusing on the fact I have to get up there and be better.  Just in general I have to be better.  Better prepared than the other attorney, know more facts than the other attorney, write down the new deadlines faster than the other attorney, etc.  Why?  Because sometimes judges think I’m an interpreter and ask me to interpret for pro se parties in a courtroom full of my colleagues.  I do it willingly, every time  The people I interpret for remind me of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and my friends’ parents.  The ones that know more English than they think but get really nervous when they’re put on the spot.  The ones who want to make sure they don’t miss one word in a legal proceeding because it could mean the difference between OK and oh fuck.  They trust me, I’m brown like them, my Mexican accent is comforting and they see their kids in me, they see what the kid of an immigrant can be.

My parents are immigrants, they came here undocumented and remained so for a really long time.  So long so, that I remember going to their citizenship ceremony and reciting the pledge of allegiance with a picture of Bill Clinton hanging on the wall.  I had to miss school that day and I went back thinking I too had become an American Citizen at that ceremony.  I proceeded to tell all my 2nd grade classmates how cool it was.  Some of them started to call me an illegal alien.  At parent-teacher conferences my teachers asked my mom if she was lying about my social security number when she enrolled me.  My mom had to explain to them that I was a citizen, but the ceremony was so important to them that they brought us with to witness it–also they couldn’t be sure they would be home before we got home from school.  As an adult I know now that schools are not allowed to ask a child’s immigration status.  My parents, although now documented, are still immigrants.  But they’re parents and they’re people and they’re human.

They aren’t doctors or biochemical engineers who are working on the most forefront research on the cure for pediatric cancer, they’re just humans.  They’re two people who have run a small business for over 30 years.  But they still deserve to be treated as humans.  We all do.  Not every immigrant, documented or undocumented, is going to be a doctor or a the next Harriet Tubman but they still deserve human rights.    My parents are luckier than most, they get to point to my brother and me, and our accomplishments to bolster the undocumented immigrant narrative, like, “look at what we can contribute to society if you let us in!”  But they shouldn’t have to,  sometimes just existing in this country as an immigrant is hard enough.

A lot of people think that immigrants come to this country to take advantage of what the US has to offer.  To that I say, “TRUE TRUE.”  BUT there are two things you’re missing: 1. people wouldn’t leave their countries if the US didn’t go in and colonize the fuck out of places, 2. these people leave EVERYTHING behind, EVERYTHING.  My parents told me, like most other undocumented immigrants I know, that when they came here they left with the clothes on their back….THAT’S IT.  The clothes on their backs.  They left family, homes, jobs, security, etc., because there was more opportunity here.  Or at least the prospect for more opportunities.  Whatever it was, the idea that they could improve themselves was worth leaving behind their entire lives.  Not because they wanted to but because they HAD to.  I don’t think I have to go into the extensive history of the United States and its colonization of  Mexico–Hi Texas!–or the entire maquiladora systems they set up in countries all around the world but long story short, the opportunities aren’t there.  And NO it’s not all the US’s fault, these countries’ governments have played a role, but when your fighting for survival, everyone is fighting for survival and there wouldn’t be a fight for survival if there wasn’t a trigger, *cough cough* US colonization.

But immigrants come here and for the most part they just try to exist.  They work, they pay taxes, they are friends, neighbors, property owners, fathers, mothers, children AND SOMETIMES they produce children or they themselves are impeccably, outstandingly smart and accomplished and are about to change the world.  But mostly, they just try to exist, like you and me.  And I think it’s time to stop seeing immigrants as worthy because they are doctors or engineers or overly accomplished in any other area.  Immigrants are worthy just because they exist here.  Period.

I don’t know one person who has or had the courage to get up and leave their entire life behind to take a chance in a country that has a force whose sole purpose is to remove them from it.  I lied.  I do know people like that, they’re all immigrants, they all came here undocumented and they’re all here EXISTING.  And they are just as worthy of a reason to reform this broken system as Malala, Justino Mora of Undocumedia , and every immigrant engineer and doctor whose story  I see on my Facebook feed.

So I’m done.  I’m done with having to push the stories of the top 1% of undocumented immigrants to convince people that fixing this system is necessary.  From now on, I’m pushing the majority.  The men and women, or however they identify, that are working in the back of the restaurant, cleaning our homes, fixing our shit, working tirelessly to put their kids through school all while not having seen their parents since they left their home countries.  Those are the stories I’m pushing, because that is worthy that is necessary.

I never asked my parents what their dreams were when they were kids but they always told me the only thing they ever wanted was for me to have more than them, to have it easier than them.  I’ll always remember my dad telling me, when he grew up all he wanted was a house with walls and a real floor.  His favorite thing about our house is our hardwood floors, he always told me he dreamed to have the house he lives in now, to him that is a mansion compared to where he came from.  He just hoped that he was able to put me in a position where one day I could have better, that I could have more.  And every immigrant parent I’ve ever met, from doctors to service workers, their goals are the same: to give their children more opportunity than they had.  And that, that makes them worthy.

So the next time you’re thinking about whether the Democrats should let the government shut down because the Republicans refuse to pass a clean DREAM Act or reform this broken immigration system, think of these immigrants.  They have the same goals as you.  The have the same aspirations for the future as you.  They are just as worthy, as you.

 

Brown Girl Talks Meets Bourbon N Browntown

I spend a lot of time on social media sometimes silently but mostly vocally judging people’s opinions on certain human rights topics.  Sometimes though, my social media stalking leads me to discovering new forms of resistance that are happening right in front of me.  This time in particular, my gym life stalking lead me to Caullen Hudson’s Instagram and podcast Bourbon N Browntown that he hosts with his roommate and friend, David Moran.

I causally and creepily slid into Caullen’s DM’s and shot my shot and asked him and David to come have a Brown Girl talk. Luckily for me, they didn’t think I was a major creep and said yes!  Below is what transpired after 5 people of different shades of Brown and religious affiliations chatted over a bottle of tequila and homemade guacamole.

Obviously David and Caullen are doing great things and I am so grateful to have been able to pick their brains a little.  Check out SoapBox PO here!  You can also catch their podcast on iTunes or their website!

Tweet Caullen here!   Caullen’s Instagram!

Tweet David here!     David’s Instagram!

SoapBoxPO Instagram!

In a Sea of Attorneys I Present to you: Sharon Fairley

As you may have heard by now, Lisa Madigan, current Illinois Attorney General, will NOT be running for her fifth term.  What does this mean?  Well to a lot of people it means a lot of different things but to me, it means that there’s going to be seat open come November 2018 that MUST be filed with a competent, educated and experienced attorney….AND if that person just so happens to be a strong, independent woman of color?!  Well that’s just icing on the cake.

I ran into Sharon (we’re cool like that now) at the American Constitutional Society panel on Race and Bigotry I was on about a month ago.  She introduced herself to me and showed genuine interest in why I was there–as a blogger not an attorney.  She asked me for a card (which I didn’t have because I am NOBODY) and said she was interested in doing something together.  My BGBF, who was there with me standing in for my mom, and I just laughed because we seriously thought she was just campaigning.  How sweet but ya right.  Low and behold I sent her an email a few days later–shot my shot if you will–and she responded!  She had her campaign manager, David, set up a meeting and on a late Wednesday night after being at events all day she came to MY house.  We sat down and had a chat and this podcast (click play down there!) is what transpired.

There’s not much more to add to what Sharon shared with me that night.  She’s smart, hard-working and tenacious it’s how she’s been since she started her education and has taken that into her professional life as well.  As of December 5th, 2017, she’s OFFICIALLY ON THE BALLOT as a Democratic nominee for Illinois Attorney General.  Not to mention she is the most educated and experienced candidate in the running, period…AND the fact that she’s a strong, independent, mother and woman of color…well that’s just icing on the cake.

Check Sharon out on Twitter FairleyforAG or on her site at Sharon Fairley