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Category Archives: Cotemplations

Break Me Like a Promise

I.

break me like a promise

There is a girl.

There is a boy.

She has eyes that sparkle with optimism. He has a eyes that she could get lost in. She would move mountains for him.

He tells her that he loves her. He is the first boy to say those words to her. She believes he does love her. He probably believes it too.

She doesn’t know yet that loving anyone, for any reason, makes a person vulnerable in ways she never thought possible.

The boy and the girl talk for hours on end. His words cast a spell on her. She breathes them in like air to her lungs.

One day he tells her she is not good enough.

Those are not the words he uses, but they mean the same thing. The girl begins to learn that there are many ways to tell somebody they are not good enough without using those exact words.

You chase people away with your negative attitude.

You aren’t spiritual enough.

You’re clingy and needy.

You’d be happier if you lost weight.

You’d be prettier if you wore make up.

Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.

She believes him when he says she’s not good enough. Why wouldn’t she? She has always believed everything he says.

She spends hours convincing herself that it is fine. That she is fine.

The girl doesn’t even notice the cracks have begun to appear.

II.

crack

There is a girl.

She has never been good at fighting. Not at fighting for herself, anyway.

One day she works up the courage to ask the boy not to say the things that hurt her. He tells her to grow a spine.

This is a dance they repeat. Her begging him to understand, to stop breaking her. Him asking her why she isn’t stronger, why she isn’t better.

Over time, she does grow a spine, just not in the way the boy expects.

They are caught in the middle of their dance. Back and forth, back and forth. Until one day the girl stops dancing. The boy finds another partner. It doesn’t take him long.

The dance has made her feet strong. She runs. She soaks in the freedom. She feels unbreakable.

She runs and runs and runs. She cannot outrun her own mind. She cannot outrun the cracks that are already there.

She shatters.

III.

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The is a girl.

Or at least, what’s left of her. Most days it doesn’t feel like much.

Her mind resonates with the echoes of what she is not. She still hears all her inadequacies spoken in the boy’s voice.

It is too exhausting to try to be more than she is. She wishes she could fade to nothing.

Time slows to an agonizing pace. She is caught in her own head, suffocated by the ghosts of what she cannot outrun.

She leaves the pieces of herself scattered because she was never satisfied with what they were whole.

She feels nothing. No sadness. No anger. No happiness. She is nothing—her body a vessel carrying an empty soul.

One day she feels fear. It is a relief, almost. To feel something after having not for so long. She never knew she would be grateful for fear.

She fears herself. She fears what she has become.

The fear makes her stand. It makes her move. She cannot run the way she used to. But she can walk.

So she walks. One foot in front of the other. It’s something.

IV.

brave women

There is a girl.

She once thought she was unbreakable. She was wrong.

Once she thought she was not good enough, but she was wrong about that too.

Some nights, the ghosts still haunt her. Perhaps they always will. They no longer scare her, though. Not most days, anyway. They are simply a part of her.

The girl learns to look up, learns to love living again.

She takes deep breaths.

She tries to help other broken people. She finds them everywhere.

She finds her voice. She learns to fight for herself. She learns to fight for others.

She spends a lot of time trying to make sense of it all. She writes in third person, as if the distance could protect her.

She feels everything. Mostly, she feels hope. She is not the girl she was before in some ways. But they have a lot in common. They are both strong. They both have faith. They both believe things get better.

There is a girl.

She is not unbreakable. She is not invincible.

She is a survivor.

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Dear 2011 Kyra

Dear 2011 Kyra,

Take a deep breath. It’s going to be a big year for you.

You’ve just experienced your first real heartbreak. You’ve been blindsided by it. You’re not sure how you’ll trust the next boy who comes along, but you will. More easily than you’d expect.

Man, does it sting, though. It’s the first thing to break in a long line of things you thought were unbreakable.

You’re also about to fall super duper just-like-a-fairy-tale in love. It doesn’t work out.

Actually, most of the things you try to do over the next few years won’t work out for you. Except for school. You’ve got that one covered.

You’re about to lose your best friend. You’ll wait for her to come back, but she won’t.

You’ll have somebody you thought was your friend tell you’re not good enough. He won’t be the last one to do so.

You’re going to be angry. More angry than you knew was possible.

You’ll have your first brush with depression. You’ll call it “a serious funk.”

You’re going to feel like your friends are leaving you in the dust. You’re going to feel like something’s wrong with you because you’re not going on enough dates. You’ll feel so lonely.

You’re going to start feeling like your life is spiraling out of control. That feeling will stick around for awhile.

To be honest, rereading the journal entries you write in 2011 is making me cry.

Buckle up, girl. It’s going to be a rough road.

Years later, when you look back and try to decide when your life started to unravel, you’ll think maybe it was 2011. But you’ll also look back on it as the year your life really started.

Here’s the thing about you. You’re an enteral optimist. You believe in magic and heroes and love and all manner of impossible things. The one thing you don’t believe in is yourself. But that will change.

Because as you’re realizing that so often the world is less than you think it should be, you’ll also start realizing you’re more than you thought you could be.

The truth is that you are simply remarkable.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and warn you about everything that’s going to happen. But you’ve done pretty okay for yourself anyway.

You’re Girl Wonder, and you’ve got this.

Love,

2017 Kyra

super kyra

Why defending “white culture” is a garbage concept

Once, as a child I asked my mom why there was no such holiday as Kid’s Day, given that there were such holidays as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. My mom told me that everyday of the year was kid’s day. I had one day a year that I celebrated my mom. She dedicated every day of the year to me.

I didn’t need a special day devoted to me. Our household already revolved around me and my siblings.

The same logic can be applied for why we don’t need special “white pride” privileges. White normativity is everywhere. It’s EVERYWHERE.

Think about the media you consume. When was the last time you watched a movie with a person of color in the lead role? How many books in the past year have you read that were written by people of color? Do the television shows you watch cast people of color based on stereotypes?

Only 19% of television programs in 2015 had casts that reflected the racial diversity of America. A mere 7% of films accurately depicted racial diversity. Only 22% of children’s books featured people of color as main characters, and only 12.5% of children’s books were written by people of color.

Our study of the humanities is also dominated by whiteness. Most Americans can recognize white creators and historical figures such as Mark Twain, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, and William the Conqueror. Most have never heard of Wu Cheng’en, Wole Soyinka, Hokusai, Ravi Shankar, or Shah Jahan (all of whom were incredibly influential in their respective cultures).

So forgive me for thinking that any fears of “white culture” dying are baseless.

Our screens are filled with whiteness. Our literature is filled with whiteness. Our museums are filled with whiteness. Our history is filled with whiteness. We don’t need to celebrate whiteness. It’s state of predominance is more than enough celebration.

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And for the record, don’t expect me to believe any claims that promoting “white culture” is about honoring your heritage and not about race. If you think being white is the most important part of your cultural identity, then you’re not appreciating the real depth that a culture has to offer.

If you, as a white person, want to honor your heritage, find out where your ancestors came from. Research their life stories. Maybe learn the language of their homeland. Try some of the recipes they may have eaten. Visit the countries your family immigrated from. Study the history of those countries. Learn about the holidays and traditions your ancestors would have participated in.

I promise, time spent on these activities will be far more effective in preserving cultural heritage than waving a flag and telling the world how great white people are.

Resist the urge to feel threatened by other racial groups taking their turns at center stage. Take it as an opportunity to expand your worldview and grow more empathetic.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but you don’t have to make everything about you. And when you say things like “If we have a Black History Month we should have a White History Month!” you’re a) seriously misunderstanding the reason for Black History Month b) probably not making an effort to understand the reason for it and c) detracting from the voices of people of color.

Don’t silence people of color because every now and again something is about them and not you.

The world is a big place. We can afford to share it.

Wonder Woman matters

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I’ve liked superheroes as long as I could remember. As a child I watched the ultra campy 1970s Super Friends tv show. By the time I hit high school, I had run out of super hero cartoons to watch and since I didn’t have access to the comic books, I spent hours on Wikipedia reading about characters and plot lines, just trying to satisfy my craving for capes. In college I wrote about superheroes in my persuasive writing course and got the paper published in a campus journal.

But despite my devotion, I always felt sort of like an outsider in the fandom. Sure, I loved superheroes, but they weren’t for me. I was always felt myself outside the target audience. Like superheroes were made for the boys and I should feel lucky that I got to tag along.

There were a lot of things that made me feel this way. Male fans who felt the need to quiz me and make sure I was a real fan. Comments about how I probably only wanted to watch the Marvel movies to see the abs of some Chris. But more than anything it was that the stories were not women’s stories.

There were female characters. But there weren’t as many and they weren’t as important to the plot and they usually didn’t have fleshed out personalities and they were often wearing ridiculous outfits and they frequently were fridged and pretty much always they were over sexualized.

In short, they were stories with women. But they were rarely stories about women and never stories for women.

Then there was Wonder Woman.

wonder woman

I finally saw a woman on the big screen saving the world. She is strong, brave, powerful, and loving. She isn’t there to be a sex object. She is there to be a hero.

I actually cried. Kind of a lot.

I thought I knew how much it would mean to me to see a woman front and center and kicking trash. I had no idea. I didn’t realize how much I needed a female lead hero until I was sitting in the theater seeing a superhero movie that was actually made for me, one where I wasn’t an outsider. It was like I was finally part of a family I’d been attending reunions for for years.

And apparently I wasn’t alone*. A lot of my friends said the same. It means something to us to see a woman starring in a superhero movie.

One thing is certain. Wonder Woman can’t be the token female film in a genre of male-lead titles. We need more of this.

 

*This is a really great article. Don’t read the comments unless you need more proof that insecure men have a compulsive need to attack anything that women enjoy.

It’s not about me

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My friend is being harassed online. Earlier, as I was going through the routine of blocking and reporting the harassers (and unfortunately this happens often enough that it is a routine), my science brain kicked on.

I got to thinking that it might be interesting to study the language of online harassers. I’ve already been reading up on online insults in gendered discourse for another paper I’m writing. Heck, maybe I can make a career out of studying this.

I caught myself. What was I thinking? I didn’t decide to get a PhD so that I could read a bunch of comments from internet trolls and say “Yep, they sure are sexist (and racist and homophobic and abelist and anti-Semitic)!” But that’s exactly what I did last semester. I spent hours and hour and hours analyzing sexist YouTube comments.

How did I end up neck deep in this line or research? I didn’t want this. I wanted to study literacy and reading acquisition. I wanted to help create programs that would close education gaps between privileged and underprivileged demographics.

So how in the world did I end up studying feminist language theories?

When I started my study on YouTube comments, a lot of people said they could pretty well guess what I was going to find (though I don’t think anybody, myself included, fully comprehended the extent of the toxicity and awfulness). Sure enough, I now have a lot of numbers to back up what most people already knew; the internet is really super sexist.

Not only am I wading through a field of study I never expected to find myself in, I’m getting results that are really just confirming what people already know.

What’s really sad about this is that the results are still relevant. Because while most people I talked to are aware that the internet is sexist, there are still some people who feel the need to argue why it isn’t sexist or why it isn’t that bad or that actually, men have it bad too. Beyond that, there are a lot of people who are really content to ignore it.

Basically, I’m spending lots of time and energy developing research that demonstrates the existence and prevalence of internet sexism. And I’m doing this because PEOPLE CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO LISTEN WHEN WOMEN SAY THIS IS A PROBLEM. Because the problem isn’t serious enough if we just say it’s an issue; some grad student has to go actually verify what women have already said is a problem. Just to make sure we aren’t overreacting. And I’m the person doing this at the expense of studying what I really want to study.

I guess this is why it baffles me when people say that feminists are out for attention or that we’re looking for reasons to be triggered.

I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I don’t want to write papers about the horrible things people say to women on the Internet when I could be writing about promoting vocabulary growth instead. I don’t want to get angry over things people post on FaceBook when I could be focusing on my ThrowbackThursdays. I don’t want to write blog posts about feminism when I could be writing about funny dating stories instead.

Every minute I devote to feminism is a minute I could be devoting to something else that I would probably enjoy more.

I don’t want to spend my time doing these things. But more importantly, I don’t want the women in my life to be belittled or harassed. I don’t want the next generation to have to put up with the stuff me and my generation have put up with. I don’t want the little girls I know to be taught to hate themselves. Because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I went a full week without one of my friend’s telling me that they had been harassed.

I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing this because I need attention.  I’m not doing this because I like to argue. I’m not doing this because I need a hobby. It’s not about me.

I’m doing this for them.

In fact, I’m not even doing this because I think it’s effective. I’m not convinced I’ve ever managed to change anybody’s mind with the things I’ve written. Regardless, I hope when women read what I write they know I’m fighting for them. They know that in a world that’s eager to tear them down, I’ve got their back.

I’ve got YOUR back.

You’re worth the time I spend. You’re worth the energy I spend. You’re worth all of it and more. You’re worth so much more than I could ever give to you.

And I will keep screaming until you can no longer hear those who would hurt you. Because I care about you more than I care about the criticism I receive for taking a stand.

You are worth every bit of it. And I will never let you forget it.

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Slowing Down, Being Vulnerable

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This morning I woke up to about a foot of snow. As I was trying to dig my car out, I started feeling nauseated and dizzy. I kept shoveling.

When I got to the last patch of snow I needed to clear away, stopped to catch my breath. I started wondering what I was doing. My head hurt so badly that I felt I might pass out if I kept going.

I put down the shovel, went back inside, called in sick, and went back to bed. This is kind of a big deal for me. I don’t think I’ve missed class or work on account of feeling unwell in over five years.

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I’m not good at relaxing. Like really not good at it. When I try to relax, I usually end up thinking of more productive ways I could spend my time which usually results in me feeling more stressed than before. It’s sort of a problem.

If you read my New Years post, you might remember that my resolution for 2017 was to try and slow down a little. How is that going? Eh. Not great. I’m making a little progress. Sometimes I leave ungraded work at my office so I can’t work on it after hours.

Part of solving a problem is identifying the cause of it, and I had a recent breakthrough about why I have such a hard time slowing down.

A few years ago I was in a toxic relationship with somebody who made me feel inadequate every time I talked to him. After I got out of that relationship, I began focusing a lot on improving my sense of self worth. I made good progress by learning not to judge myself on my appearance or how many boys did (or didn’t) like me. The downside was that I started judging myself by my accomplishments.

When I finally realized just how toxic that relationship was, I ran. I ran as far as I could. I haven’t been able to stop running since. At the time, that was what I needed. Overcoming that meant getting as far away from it as possible.

But the next stage of moving on is learning how to stop running. I’m trying to learn not to base my self worth on a list of achievements. I’m trying to remember that my value is not a factor of what I’ve done, but inherent in my status as a human being and a Daughter of God.

It’s a work in progress. But I’m getting there. I was supposed to have a 13 hour work day today. Instead I worked for about five. The world still seems to be spinning.

The world is spinning pretty quickly, in fact. And sometimes it’s good to stop trying to keep up with it and just watch it turn.

Yes, We Do Still Need Feminism

As a child, I liked to make up fake countries and pretend to rule them. Once my uncle walked in on me playing this game and I proudly declared that I was the king of my imaginary country. He told me that I was a girl and therefore a queen. I told him it was my country and I was the king, thank-you-very-much.

He then spent some time trying to convince me that I was a queen instead of a king. However, he never once asked why I thought I wanted to be a king instead of a queen. Even in elementary school I had realized that masculinity received more respect than femininity. So I decided I would be more masculine and garner more respect. In retrospect, it’s sad that I thought I had to be like a man to be fully valued.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of social media posts saying things to the effect of “Women have the right to vote. Women can do everything men can do. What more do they want?”

Perhaps it’s this mindset that leads people to (erroneously) believe that feminist women believe they are better than men or that they want more privilege than men. But it is a valid question. What more do women want?

We want respect. We want safety. And we want to be treated like people and not bodies.

I have no doubt that women can do everything men do. Women have been doing incredible things for thousands of years, often regardless of whether society permitted or approved of it. But these achievements are hard-earned and undervalued.

Case in point: a woman does something amazing and the media chooses to focus on a sexualized aspect of her body.

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Yes, the feminism of the past has won some important battles. But the feminism of the present recognizes there’s still work to be done.

Because we’re taught from a young age to hate our bodies.

sexist-onesies

Our bodies are objectified, compared to food.

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kim

No, the fact that she’s Kim Kardashian doesn’t give you an excuse to make this kind of commentary on her body.

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Pole dancing is actually super difficult, by the way.

And when you treat women like objects, men start to think that they can talk to women like this (NSFW language):

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Interesting how these men think they can completely devalue a woman by attacking her appearance.

Clearly, there’s still work to do.

I’m trying to be patient with non-feminist friends. Though I would very kindly suggest that before you slam on feminism, you make sure you really understand what it’s all about. Many of the arguments I see address a dated brand of feminism, serve only as straw man arguments, and stall useful discussion. At any rate, I try to be patient. I try to explain why we DO need feminism. I used to decry feminism as well because I didn’t see how these issues affected me personally and because I didn’t want to feel like a victim.

I see the need now.

For my friends who are not feminists, I try to be grateful that they’ve never experienced anything that made them see a need for feminism. Feminism isn’t a perfect movement; it never has been. But with feminism, I see progress. I see no progress without it.

Do you know what to say to your friend when she tells you she’s been raped?

Probably not. Because there are no right words for that. There is nothing you can say that will make that right. About the only thing you can do is tell her that you will fight for her. And then you do fight for her. In any way you know how.

I hope you’re starting to see the need for feminism. But whether you do or not, you will not prevent me from seeing it. Nor will you prevent me from fighting. For my friend. For my sisters. For women I don’t even know, because they deserve it.

Because feminism isn’t about fighting against men. It’s about fighting for women.

And in the words of Rachel Platten, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

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