Schrödinger’s Dick Pic and My Quest for Legal Justice

One morning last August I woke up and checked my phone to find an email with a picture attached. It was a picture of a penis. Not how I wanted to start my Sunday. 

Infuriatingly, many women know this exact sensation. Some of you are even desensitized to it. Somehow I made it past 30 without getting an unsolicited dick pic. Until this one. I won’t describe the dick (it was nothing special) but I will describe how I felt 

First, disgusted. Second, confused and immediately after, sad. I tried to laugh it off as pathetic, but that quickly devolved into rage. Someone had the notion to text me a picture of their dick in the small hours of the morning and followed through on that impulse, and now because of this disgusting person, a dick is permanently burned into my memory. I couldn’t imagine the absolute audacity of someone feeling like they have a right to do this to me. I still can’t.

My husband was supportive. My friends were supportive. But I was still so sad and enraged about it that I could barely breathe. Even typing this, my pulse is climbing. So I called the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) and they put me in touch with someone local who volunteers to listen to whatever anyone dealing with any type of sexual assault might need to talk about.

In addition to telling me I didn’t cause this, and I had a right to be upset even though this incident was fairly minor, which I knew but appreciated hearing, she told me that this was actually a crime. Like, not just a moral injustice, but an actual, theoretically punishable, crime.

I am probably not the first person this guy ever sent a dick pic. I am, disappointingly, probably not the last. I thought maybe I could use my white privilege as a righteous weapon and make this disgusting, troubled individual face some consequences for this dick pic instead of just shouldering them all on my own. I am so tired of living in a world where women have to endure the cost of men’s actions, you know?

So I went to the police station. I had never been to a police station before. I’ve never even been pulled over. I nervously approached the counter like I was ordering at a new restaurant where I didn’t know the rules for building my sandwich, cleared my throat and said I would like to report a crime, please. 

The woman at the desk arched her eyebrow when I told her the crime. She was waiting for me to finish. Someone sent you a dick pic and…? This crime doesn’t get reported a lot, I guess. The two women behind the glass had a giggle about it while they entered it into the computer. You have to fill out a form. They asked for my social security number, which honestly just seems like a trap to catch undocumented immigrants, or at least discourage them further from reporting crimes. Although I felt gross and uncomfortable, I felt slightly buoyed by the idea that I was standing up for women more vulnerable than myself. Women with more to lose by walking into a police station. I didn’t want this person to ever do this again, so I slogged through my own humiliation to put justice in motion. 

A few days later a detective called me on the phone and told me this wasn’t actually a crime, and I fought back a nervous lump in my throat to read him the exact statute that had been violated. He hadn’t heard of it. If I hadn’t had this information I would have been rebuffed. 

I had to go back to the police station and give a statement. The detective has admittedly probably seen unspeakable horrors and was not at all phased by my little story, and he showed that plainly enough on his face. I felt a little stupid, like I was wasting everyone’s time, including my own. But I held tight to the knowledge that I was a victim of a crime. If they could just find this guy, I reasoned, I would press all of the charges. He would think about me and feel gross and sad, the way I do when I think about him. 

The picture landed in my email, but it was actually texted to my Google Voice account from another Google Voice account. I got one to make campaign calls because it’s an anonymous black hole you can make phone calls from without people knowing who you really are. Which also makes it a great way for people to anonymously send pictures of their genitals to unconsenting strangers. The detective said he would get a warrant but braced me for the fact that they probably wouldn’t find anything. I should be used to managing my expectations on things like this, and yet somehow I find myself constantly disappointed. 

Google came through with the warrant and they found him. Sort of. 

The detective said the phone number belonged to an older man who most likely texted me the picture by accident. The man, the detective continued, was a little senile. He had recently lost his wife and was possibly grief stricken. He sounded very sorry, I’m told, and the detective decided to leave it alone. I didn’t feel like that was his call to make. 

I know I said I wouldn’t describe the dick in the photo, but I think I do have to describe it a little, I’m sorry. It’s relevant, I swear. It wasn’t really an old person dick that landed in my inbox. I’m not a detective, but that seems like a clue. And if he was so senile that he sent me a dick in a fit of grief induced hysteria, how does he work a google voice account? Maybe someone who wasn’t the owner of the phone plan sent me a dick. He could have Nancy Drew-ed this a little. But he didn’t ask. 

I don’t care whether it was an accident or a regrettable mistake. This dude should be more careful with keeping his dick out of the wrong hands, so to speak. But if it was an accident, why the sob story about losing his wife? Another detail about the dick pic will make this clear: it was a white dick. Or at least a white passing one. He was granted the benefit of a doubt for not committing a crime, and simultaneously forgiven for the crime itself. Schrödinger’s Dick Pic.

I knew this but hoped it wouldn’t be true this time: White people can straight up just commit crimes and get away with it.  But I allowed myself to hope that with such a clear violation of a very specific law, with my evidence, and my willingness to come forward, that the owner of this dick would suffer a small fraction of the pain he had inflicted on me. But in a battle of white privilege vs white privilege, male privilege usually breaks the tie. It was apparently naive of me to expect law enforcement to, I don’t know, enforce their own laws. I appealed to a pro bono lawyer who said he would look into it, but it’s been almost a year and I don’t think anything is going to happen. 

So why am I dredging up this gross nonsense now? Tell me you’re starting to connect some of these dick dots. 

For one, with growing calls to defund the police, I’m getting a lot of whining and self righteous finger wagging from folks who say we need to think of rape victims. “Who are they supposed to call?” Google how many rape kits are rotting in storage lockers in your state. Here in South Carolina, as of February, there were “1,258 sexual assault kits in line for testing, the oldest of which was submitted in 2016.” These people don’t chime in with support for rape victims on any other topics. I felt humiliated just talking about a dick in my inbox. I can’t imagine the guts it would take to describe a rape in detail, over and over again, only to have it reach the same conclusion as my story. And statistically, that’s what would happen.

Cops aren’t doing a good job of preventing these crimes, and our criminal justice system does an appalling job at punishing them. I’m sure there are people out there who’ve had positive experiences with law enforcement in the wake of an assault, but that doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of perpetrators won’t see a day in jail, or the fact that reporting a crime like this was, in my and others’ experiences, almost as bad as the incident itself. I want to believe there is a better way to hold people responsible for crimes than the way we’re doing it now, and I don’t want conversations about defunding the police to be derailed in the name of people who are harmed by the status quo. 

Speaking of which. Do you ever get brave and read the comments on news articles about the murder of a Black person by the police? I try not to, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Inevitably, a white person will chime in and say that if the person in question had only followed the law, they would still be alive. In a “free” country, a lot of people take it as a given that, violating the law, any law, justifies murder. Except, obviously, for white people.

Every time I read a comment like that, I flash back to the piece of paper in my little police report folder where I wrote the law that had been violated. I don’t want the owner of the dick to slowly suffocate face down on the pavement under a cop’s knee. But I didn’t even get so much as a weak apology. 

I don’t feel protected or served, and if you’re eager to assume someone murdered by police must have done something to deserve it, something tells me you don’t either. 

That dick is still in my inbox. I can’t bring myself to delete it, because part of me hopes that the sender may yet face consequences and I don’t want to get rid of the evidence. 

But then I remember that Brock Turner only served three months in jail for rape. That dick is probably here to stay. 

Jewish People and Black People Share Intergenerational Trauma, Which Makes Black Lives Matter a Jewish Issue, too.

When I was a kid, I accidentally wore my Jewish star necklace in a passport photo. My mom didn’t notice until after the photo was taken. That’s the first time I remember being told that some people hate Jews just for being Jews, and some countries would not let me in or out if they knew. Luckily, the passport photo was small enough that the necklace wasn’t visible.

MOTHER WITH BABIES, 1974, ROMAN HALTER

When I first started dating I asked my mom, “do I have to only date Jews?” Her response was that she’ll share what her mother told her: I didn’t have to only date Jews, but 6 million Jews died for being Jewish, which means Jewish family members were taken too soon. If I marry a Jewish person and have Jewish children, I would be doing a mitzvah (good deed.)

In High School, a classmate made a fake myspace profile of me named “Ingrid Jewburger” and talked about turning me into smoke. My family wasn’t surprised that someone could put that evil into the world and explained that this was a lesson about being cautious.

The Jews, collectively, have been in pain. In 2018, a gunman opened fire on the congregation at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jews while they were praying on Shabbos. The act of terror didn’t surprise me or start a new fear for me. Rather, it confirmed a fear that my ancestors had warned me about. It confirmed a fear that the Jewish people have always been training for. As anti semitism continues to rise in the US, many Jews have been asking themselves “will I know when it’s time to run?” and “Have I learned enough from my ancestors about what to look for?”

Just as my parents had explained to me, I find myself explaining to my convert husband to make sure our passports are always up to date and to do our best to have emergency money tucked away. This planning is a trauma response triggered by the intergenerational trauma that holocaust surviving grandparents passed on to their children, and which was then passed on to their grandchildren.

Two nights a year, we gather around a table with our family and read a story about when Jews were slaves in Egypt. We recline with comfort and cushions while taking stock of our privilege. There are so many stories that include “and they tried to kill the Jews.” That’s the knowledge that we carry with us wherever we go. Crises where Jews were enslaved or forced to flee their homes have been traced back for over 2000 years, and Jewish tradition influences us to continuously remember and reflect on the tragedies and oppression our people have survived. Our traditions frame our history as resilient.

Learning about the trauma we inherit from our parents and grandparents teaches values in anti-bigotry because it exposes us to the fact that even small acts of anti semitism can have dangerous systematic implications. There is a concept in Judaism called Tikkun Olam, which translates to “repair the world.” Tikkun Olam is the motivation behind much of Jewish giving and social activism, because responsibility is on both the Jewish individual and on the Jewish people as a unified community to do good for this world. Along that same logic, Jewish people can’t be separated from the bad behavior of individual Jews. There’s an understanding among Jewish communities that when one Jewish person acts badly, it creates risk for hatred of all Jews. Just look back at the scandal of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. His crimes served as a “lighting-rod for anti-semitism,” fueling harmful stereotypes that date back to biblical times, encouraging “acceptable” Jewish bias. Our actions speak on behalf of many and have lasting impact, so we must work to be good to the world so the world sees the Jewish people as good.

Image by Adam Garvey

16 year old, Adam Garvey, understands Tikkun Olam as a direct call to support Black Lives Matter because “standing up against injustice is a huge part of Jewish values.” Garvey understands that policy change and being vocal against bigotry is positive representation of Jewish core beliefs. He’s using his statement “Tikkun Olam means Black Lives Matter” to raise funds for the NAACP.

As protests soar across the US (and the world,) it’s undeniable that white consciousness of racial injustice is growing. The similarities between Black trauma and Jewish trauma are palpable. Black people demand we Say Their Names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade as they mourn over the same sentiment that Jews have expressed, that they’re not surprised but rather tired and rightfully angry.

In Jewish history, numbers hold symbolic value. Romans destroyed a Jewish temple and the oil menorah burnt miraculously for eight nights. Jews wandered the desert displaced for 40 years. Six million Jews were tortured and murdered during a holocaust, creating a need for the word “genocide.”

The history of racism against Black people has some astounding numbers, too. 246 years of slavery in America. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Black mothers are 3.2 times more likely to die during childbirth than white mothers. Jews can be racist against other Jews, too. In Israel, 90% of Ethiopian Jewish youth convicted by the court were sentenced to imprisonment, compared to one-third of other Jewish youth. Racial Trauma plagues a community when they have to gather statistical data about their race being systematically and lethally oppressed to prove theres is a national and system-wide problem, while simultaneously having to demand to be treated as a person and not a number. Monnica T. Williams, PhD, ABPP says racial trauma is the reason why people of color have a higher rate of PTSD than white Americans.

The fear Jews hold is internalized because our intergenerational trauma has trained us that we always need to exercise a degree of censorship on our Jewishness, to protect us from possible anti semitism. It’s as little as knowing I shouldn’t wear a star of David necklace in a passport photo and the thought that if the wrong person knew we were Jewish, they might come after us, too.

The keyword in knowing that Jews experience oppression differently than Black people is “too,” as we are reminded every day that Black lives are stolen at a disproportionate rate while white Jews benefit from our privilege. Our own internalized fear makes racial injustice feel so personal, especially if you’re a Black Jewish person who has to navigate the fear of anti semitism, racial injustice at a national scale, AND micro-aggressions from your own Jewish community. Addressing these differences are instrumental within activism for policy change because they afford white Jews privilege that can be used to uplift Black people, which includes Black Jews. We may all share similar fears about white supremacy, but we have unequal power in social agency.

Judaism could be considered a religion and a culture, with a geopolitical force. Diaspora (which Black people have also experienced in their history,) created a racially diverse Jewish people, which has made the Jewish community torn on whether anti semitism is racism. Intergenerational oppression has occurred differently for Jewish people than Black people and other people of color, as many of us are able to walk in public without being detected as Jews. At the same time the media was quick to blame Jewish people for the spread of Covid, someone explained to me, “I didn’t know you were Jewish! You don’t look Jewish!”

Jewish people can be riddled with fear, planning for the next time we have to run from something, and yet so many of my friends have told me they’d like to be Jewish. I find myself repeatedly explaining to my convert husband that we need to have exit strategies, just in case. While Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song plays for laughs sandwiched between sets of a dozen Christmas jingles: “All Jewish people are funny and rich!” with no recognition that there’s lifelong planning to feel safe as a proud Jew in the world.

When I first saw white people sharing the compassionate quote, “I understand that I’ll never understand, but I stand with you,” I felt like I did have some understanding. After some self-reflection, I recognized that though I was taught to be alert for signs of anti semitism, it doesn’t compare to a black mother training her black child how to talk to those who protect and serve not to shoot you for existing.

I can acknowledge my privilege and that I benefit from racism as a white person, while also understanding that as a Jewish person, I experience forms of oppression.

Many well-meaning Pittsburghers shared a Pittsburgh Strong Jewish graphic after the Tree of Life shooting, yet I’m still meeting people who think I’m the first Jewish person they’ve ever met. It makes me wonder, is anti semitism less of a threat than racism or is the violence labeled less as a hate crime because who knows the face of a Jew? I’m still trying to understand this phenomena, but I think it speaks to a level of privilege that allows me to censor my Judaism to protect me from the dangers of anti semitism.

We have a reoccurring joke in my house: When examining the Torah or Jewish history, the Jews are always being hunted. “What a surprise!” one of us will exclaim. “Haman wanted all the Jews dead!” I can understand that there’s no humor in a sarcastic joke like that for Black people, when white Jewish people have a dark history of minstrel shows and blackface. Though Jewish and Black people have experienced similar crises and oppression, white Jews have to own up that we’ve used our privilege to keep Black people down in social equity.

At the height of my fear in 2018, I wrote “There are times where the world seems so small, but in these times of crisis it feels gigantic. It feels scary and unpredictable. Each time someone sings a song of peace or a Jew leaves their house even though they’re scared, the world gets smaller and more comfortable again.”

For Black people mourning lives that shouldn’t have been taken, there is no place proven to be safe for them. They’re pulled from their cars, held down and suffocated in the streets, and shot while they’re sleeping in bed.

For Jews, we call on our ancestors to teach us how to stay safe.
Molly S. Castelloe Ph.D. says, “Transgenerational transmissions take on life in our in dreams, in acting out, in ““life lessons”” given in turns of phrase and taught us by our family. Discovering transmission means coming to know and tell a larger narrative, one from the preceding generation.” We read the Torah or listen to our grandparents for experiences on how to protect ourselves when people come for us. Black crisis is happening right now, in front of our eyes, relentlessly for more than 400 years. While our plight has similar themes from diaspora to micro-aggression, it is not the same. They’re not holding life lessons from their parents and looking out for a possibly dangerous white person that they may encounter. Hundreds of years of consistent community crises at a universal, unconditional level means that there are no trustworthy white people.

Internalized and intergenerational trauma gives Jewish people the unique ability to transfer our learned coping to lift up Black folks. Since Jews have experienced similar community violence and oppression across generations, we have the tools to educate white people about racism so that Black people don’t have to carry that labor. We have an understanding of mourning the result of large-scale hatred, so we can hold space and take on some of the work. All the while, we must recognize that Black people who are also Jewish carry the weight of thousands of years of this trauma, without specific hashtag activism to support support them.

White Jews owe black people reparations because we’ve had a hand in racism and have benefited from it. White Jews should be a source of compassion and a proponent of social change in support of all Black people with direct donations, emotional energy, and sharing the intergenerational healing we’ve learned from our story-telling traditions. Tikkun Olam DOES mean that not only do Black Lives Matter, but that any other viewpoint is against Jewish ethics and therefore, a Jewish issue.

Xeitgeist

 

trust in authority has melted

into a bead of sweat that settles in the crevice of a brow

bruised blue and Black with brutality

and vanishes in the flash of a policeman’s baton

dripping in technicolor cartoon print and imagined heroism

armed with weapons, ego and

righteousness.

 

reptilian shape shifters slither less convincingly

along back rooms and podiums

but are more popular than ever

disguised as your perfect Mr. White

who just wants what he already knows is best for you

and slinks into bed with women

he believes should remain forever

right-less.

 

mutually assured destruction is an STD

of nations who hatefuck their enemies

and then make sweet, god fearing love

to their own citizens

leaving them screwed and silenced

spreading generations through nuclear seed

and squirting missiles as a money shot

on those who dared to feel

wronged.

Diversity in a Virtual Universe

There were two occasions in high school where I was received an invitation to a party – both being last minute pity offerings via Facebook Events. I appreciated the inclusion nonetheless, and also, the fact that they were costume parties. Although the idea of social shindigs themselves instilled me with a great deal of anxiety, the opportunity to dress absurdly ultimately won me over.

To the first of them, I dressed as the Joker, and received a number of comments about how I should’ve dressed Harley Quinn and been “hot-scary” rather than “just plain scary”. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes so far back in my head that I could see my brain cells dying. I got a lot of ocular exercise, if nothing else.

Not a great start, but I tried again.

On the other occasion, I dressed as Scooby Doo. A kid who was seemingly wearing casual clothes told me I would’ve been so much cuter as Daphne. This was frustrating. Everyone (who’ll listen) knows my Scooby Doo character preferences are ranked as follows: Scooby, Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, the Mystery Machine, Scrappy, Old Man Jenkins, and Fred (look, he’s a sweet goof, he just needs to find the words to describe a girl without being disrespectful). I am open to critique of my costumes, but this needs to be constructive, and I’d prefer it coming from someone who has made their own cosplay attempt too. With that in mind, I asked the kid what he was dressed as, and he told me he was Alan Wake. I bit my lip to stifle some ugly laughing. It made sense. Of course he was.

For those who don’t know, Alan Wake is the eponymous hero of a series of horror games. He is one of the most bland, archetypal video game protagonists ever – and he’s certainly not lacking in some stiff competition there. He is, just casually, a famous author. He wears jeans. He is white. He has brown hair and a short, scruffy beard. His wife, Alice, is a blonde photographer whose interests include her husband and his novels. Alan Wake is the imaginative equivalent to the experience of eating a giant hard-boiled egg, as its dry, black-tinged yolk clogs your throat with vague discomfort and an overwhelming, slow-moving blandness.

Video game diversity leaves a lot to be desired, which is somewhat odd considering the medium – after all, if a character can be an alien, a robot, a domestic dog, a square, a slice of bread or a metaphysical concept, is it so crazy that they could sometimes be a woman of colour? Dare I dream?

Gender diversity in the industry itself is improving, but still leaves much to be desired in becoming a safer and welcoming field for women to participate in. At least progress is being made here – unfortunately, game development has a long way to go in regards to racial inclusiveness. It is largely a Westernized and masculinized industry, but it shouldn’t have to be. Eventually, games should be as socially modern as they are technologically. Slowly, but surely… please, please, surely.

For those who adore video games, and those who may have shied away but are interested to dip their toes in, here are a couple of picks for games with interesting protagonists who exist far beyond the realm of Alan Wake’s cookie cutter nightmares:

Broken Age

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Broken Age is a story-driven adventure game, with two interlocking tales and separate protagonists to switch between. I enjoyed this unique feature, as sometimes point-and-click games can lose their novelty the first time you get stuck, so having two perspectives assisted with maintaining a sense of progression. The game is artistically delightful, and this is showcased by the variety of landscapes and fantasy elements of its universe. I particularly loved playing as Vella, a young woman of colour who is offered as a ritualistic sacrifice to the monster that has historically been calling the shots on her village. She, of course, resolves to destroy the beast instead. The premise itself is quite classic, but the game brings enough original twists and turns to make it worthwhile nonetheless. While Shay, her male protagonist counterpart, is a likeable character, I find that Vella specifically shines with her loving but strong-willed nature.

Undertale

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Undertale is a character-rich game with progressive sensibilities in the relationships and personalities depicted. Although the gameplay is a throwback to old RPGs, it is revitalised by the influence of player choices – the game differs based on whether it is played as a pacifist, anarchist, or a happy medium between the two. The dialogue is also sincerely funny: I’m talkin’ puns! While it does not overtly push a feminist agenda (unlike myself, let’s be honest), Undertale is refreshing in the way it normalises its own diversity: female characters are not tokenized, non-heteronormative romantic feelings are commonplace, and our protagonist, Frisk, is non-binary and/or androgynous. Simply by rejecting male or straight as the default way of existence, the social narrative of the game feels a little less prescribed. Undertale leaves space for the player to bring their own interpretation, and subverts the argument that representation is a form of pandering or politicising. Rather than the developers of this game asking, “why should we have female or non-binary characters?” it feels like they’ve simply asked “why not?”.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

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This is a game of dichotomies. Trash and treasure. Hope and hopelessness. Vibrant and plain. Busy and mundane. Alien and familiar. Individual and society. Haze and clarity. The Janitor, described as a girlbeast, is an enigmatic protagonist who reflects the unique but humble way we each play bystander to the worlds of others, while simply trying to survive our own. It is not climactic in any sense, but is nonetheless compelling to play with a focus on exploration, existence and emotion. It possesses enough intrigue and personal connection to feel invested in, and even touches on some of the complexities of depression and gender dysphoria.

Fran Bow

fran_bow_1

Fran is a girl with a mental illness. Just like me. But also, not. Not at all. She is institutionalised within the hellscape of reality and perception, an experience that entails both an uncomfortable familiarity and a chaotic terror about it. The game, and our hero, are equally unsettling. Despite this, Fran retains some of the endearing and youthful qualities which humanise her. In a game tackling themes of mental illness, it is crucial to establish depth of character and ensure Fran is not a reductive token of “insanity”, but is also engaging to play. The world around her is explicit, darkly humorous, and changes as she self-medicates. It is a point-and-click, but is full of puzzles and minigames which add extra depth to the gameplay.

Dex

dex-rainy-alleyDex is a woman of resistance in a futuristic world, where she is persecuted as a cyborg by a powerful network of governments and corporations. Sound familiar? No, it is not the political climate of 2017 so far, it is a humble video game! The setting holds all the elements to a classic cyberpunk tale – a city bleak but for neon fringing; a focus on advanced technologies, run-ins with hackers, and artificial intelligence; a downtrodden, low quality of life. The community is diverse and intriguing, and the gameplay incorporates elements of a platformer, an RPG, a side-scroller, and a beat ‘em up brawler.

Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)

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Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (I Am Not Alone) is an aesthetically beautiful game about a young Native American girl, Nuna, and her Fox, as they try to save their home from a powerful blizzard. The gameplay takes the style of a platformer with some puzzle elements, particularly in how both characters must be navigated in tandem. The collectibles in this game unlock educational insights into various aspects of Alaskan Inuit culture and folklore, which I find to be a creative way to utilize video gaming as an informative and connective tool. The premise of this game and its focus on Native peoples is a unique strength. It’s also near impossible not to adore Nuna and her gorgeous animal friend.

Gone Home

largeGone Home is a bit of an oldie but definitely a goodie. It was created by a group inclusive of female developers, features a female protagonist, and also incorporates Sapphic relationships. Lots of ticks there for social progressivity, but it is also genuinely fun to play! It’s got a rad 90s nostalgia feel, and a healthy dose of mystery. It plays as an unfolding story that is masquerading as a suspense game. While you begin by searching for a what, as is often the assumption, you eventually come to focus more on the why of your discoveries. This game also subverts the idea of who the protagonist is – I felt that I (the player) was not necessarily the main character, but rather felt more connected to the characters we never interact with, but delve intimately into the lives of. Gone Home reinforces gaming as an immersive and interactive means of telling stories regardless of genre.

Transistor

Our protagonist, Red, is a renowned but controversial singer, left voiceless and with no choice but to fight a corrupt world wielding the weapon that it intended to use to destroy her. The transistor is a unique article which absorbs the consciousness and knowledge of all it vanquishes. It also serves as Red’s ally and narrator to the game. Transistor is visually stunning, and like Supergiant’s previous popular title, Bastion, it offers a melodic soundtrack produced by Darren Korb and featuring vocals by Ashley Lynn Barrett. This ties in nicely with the tale of music as a form of social and political capital, and contributes to a highly-developed gameworld experience.

Sunset

Sunset, like Gone Home, is a game where storytelling is uncovered through exploration and context. We play as Angela, who has needed to take up a housekeeping job in 1970s Latin American during a time of political tumult. There is a civil war, and through Angela’s unique perspective we are immersed into the world of the bystander – of conflict, of wealth, and of class systems. The world outside suffers as Angela watches from the creature comforts of a high rise, albeit as a housekeeper and not a resident. She is between worlds, and this premise allows for greater depth in the developing the plot and the connection between she and her employer. The gameplay itself is simple, but I appreciate the unfolding of the story and how it is incorporated into everyday existence.

 

So, there you have it, for now. Some games to play for when you’re not in the mood to play as some dead-eyed white dude with a bland romantic subtext involving his female equivalent. I hope you enjoy them – they are all available on Steam, which frequently offers sales and discounts. Get gaming!

I am not sorry for the comments I made about Alan Wake.

An Open Life

I had been foolish, once again, to let my heart be torn open by men.

My mother had warned me about this once. Strict, autocratic, with a tinge of neuroticism dyed into her every nerve, she had ruled over my household with an iron fist. No wonder – she had escaped communist China with her family, shattered but alive. She had seen the horrors of war. There was no room for romanticism in a world that required survival. She had always talked about marriage in a practical way – marry rich, ensure a caretaker for your children and keep your bank accounts separate in case he ends up betraying you, as men are wont to do.

This was and still is the antithesis of my very nature. As a child, I started to rebel against the narrow guidelines of an Asian-American culture that my fellow first-generation children know quite well, in search of freedom where I felt there was none. Instead of math, I relished art and literature, consuming books by the dozen. In high school, when I was supposed to be studying economics and business, I worked for our theater department by day, then wrote short stories and plays by night.

Predictably, my mother and I clashed over my freewheeling approach to life. This included my relationships with other people. “Don’t give your trust so easily,” she advised, “and keep your heart not on your sleeve but firmly in your chest. Always smile. Keep a check on your temper. Never, never let people know how you really feel.” (And men – men, they will always hurt you.)

In all my loyalty to my truest of selves, I always balked at her advice. I hated wearing false masks, shunning duty for passion. People were something I felt unduly passionate about. As a writer, I understood that everyone possessed good and evil, that everyone was capable of hurting and being hurt. What was the point of human relationships if you couldn’t open yourselves to others and let everything good or bad in?

Of course, this approach has hurt me, time and time again. One may think I am masochistic for opening up my heart only to have its fragile contents trampled. I myself have wondered if it was foolish of me not to heed my mother’s warnings.

But I remind myself that life hurts. Life includes pain. I should feel so lucky, perhaps, to feel pain and be alive or to feel anger and fight for the things I believe in. It isn’t easy to concede that point, not after a good thing has started to crumble, and especially not after having to unstitch and unwind two lives that were deeply connected for two years, but here it is – I’m alive despite the pain.

And to be honest, pain and heartbreak has helped inform my writing and my art. I wouldn’t ever support the notion that artists must be emotionally tortured or clinically depressed to be successful but to know the depths of pain is just as important as knowing the depths of happiness in order to taste all the multitudinous colors of experience that we’re granted. It has allowed me to humanize others, to widen my understanding of humanity, and to search for solutions that benefit people I’ve never met. It reminds me that life is never a simple, straight line, but instead a road full of twists and tumbles. That to truly live fully, we must embrace all of its curves.

When I went to film school for college, my mother and I again fought viciously over my choices. Of course, she had wanted me to follow my sister into the world of finance, where the paychecks would be large and I would have no want for money, namely an easy and happy life. Art would afford me no comfortable life. In her mind, if I followed my sister, I could retire by age fifty and make art then, travel then, be happy then. It’s a sentiment that I would imagine is oft repeated to children of immigrants: toil now, reap the rewards later.

While that’s an honorable way to live, the more she suggested it to me, the more I resisted. No, I can’t make art later, when I’m fifty. I have to make it now, to save the parts of me that nothing else can save. Financial struggle is something I’m familiar with. It’s life without art that sounds inconsolable to me.

Of course I understood why she had been so insistent on my finding a financially lucrative career – after having a home and a life ripped away from her at age nine, then leaving everything for a new country where she didn’t speak the language, she had experienced poverty on the harshest of levels and didn’t want me to have to do the same. My mother didn’t want all of her sacrifices to be in vain.

“You”, she said, “you have had it easy here in America. You don’t know how much life really hurts.”

I thought of all the moments that had caused me pain in my life. Of all the friends who left me behind, all the lovers who said, “No” and thought me unworthy of love. Of all the mental illness caused by being raised by a mother who bordered on it herself. Anxiety, emotional dysfunction, neuroses caused by a war –  who could name them all?

“Yes”, I said, “I do.”

 

Transition

God, I hate change. There is just something inside of me that clenches whenever the word is mentioned. I get this mental image of myself as a small child throwing myself face down on the carpet, beating my fists and screaming. And yet, there is an equal part of myself that firmly believes that change is good for me, that it is life-affirming and somehow some mystical change will propel my life forward, making it all so much better.

A New Year, in this respect, always sort of tickles me. We talk so much about change: throughout the year we seek to change policies, politics, societal attitudes, educational curriculums, equality laws, fantastical big advancements that could make huge strides for humanity around us, and yet, come January 1st, we all keep saying the same old things. Cliches about gym memberships, new diets, old diets, new ways to save money are often resolutions we made many years ago and yet still haven’t found a way to actually include in our regular lives. Because we really don’t change too much, in either our actions or our words. And that’s okay. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and some people thrive on change – living through one new adventure to the next, trying one craze after another, that is what works best. Perhaps in this circumstance, their change would be to just do one thing and not change. Patterns, no matter how they are shaped, are comfortable. Change is not.

The only thing I find comfort in is the cliche of change. I find hope in the changes we all keep striving for on a daily basis and I find camaraderie in the fresh turn of a New Year, a calendar we have constructed to make sense of our world, a return or sorts to a new beginning of yet another spin around the sun. There is something truly special in a universal recognition of the one day of the year signaling a change for the whole world, on a date that itself never changes. We may change how we look, how we act, how we speak and how we smell, but we shall consistently be a sum of our parts. We can change, but never too much.

However, I worry that our desire and drive for change can leave us feeling uninspired and dissatisfied with the lives we currently lead. That we may be holding ourselves back by not letting go of past selves, past loves, past habits that were as comfortable as your grandmother’s old armchair. That when we focus on what we don’t have yet (equal pay), or what we could lose (LGBTQ rights), we lose sight of the great gains we have made (same-sex marriage) and we don’t necessarily recognize the great achievements we have accomplished. The ideal would be to do both, to celebrate our accomplishments as stepping stones towards our almighty goals. But I wonder if that feels a little too farfetched at the moment because as a society, the journey ahead of us is told to be so treacherous, so full of land mines and probable calamity that it can make our great achievements seem small. Those landmark historical arguments we won, that at the time felt like we’d surmounted Everest, can feel like molehills in comparison. And that feeling of dissatisfaction, of reviewing something you were so proud of and realizing you’ve got to keep doing it every day, all day, can push you to the point of despair. If we’re dissatisfied personally, we’re often dissatisfied politically; but it’s very hard to fight either when you’re holding this hurt deep within your person. How do we fight every day, all day, if we don’t feel that our fight has been good enough? And we’re wrong; our fight has been fantastic, but it’s hard and that light at the end of the tunnel keeps dancing just a little bit further on.

I still struggle with change. I might charge into battle tomorrow morning demanding that men’s mental health needs to be championed, that consent from all parties irrespective of gender needs to be respected and that I consider it my basic human right to be able to walk home without feeling afraid – gigantic changes I want to happen in society and the way we educate ourselves, as well as others . Yet, the thought of replacing my car from one that’s currently hemorrhaging money to one that isn’t  – a clear change that makes life better for me – makes me want to vomit. I like my routine, and I like what I know. I like my comfort zone, and whilst I want something better and bigger for society at large, the change required to make my comfort zone more comfortable in the long-run feels too big. I think it’s because it’s so personal, and it’s on me; changing my car isn’t a decision I can ask a focus group to make for me. I wonder too where this fits with self-care, and the aversions we can feel to self-care that are often based on self-worth, only we don’t wish to acknowledge it. At this point in my life, driving a very nice ‘old banger’ fits my identity. It’s my first car, the one I’ve driven down windy country lanes, since I was eighteen, from high school to university to postgrad. It’s carried me through three different cities and three different eras of my life. While everything else around me has changed, my car hasn’t. I wonder if I feel that maybe I don’t deserve that change yet; if I swap it for a younger, sportier model, something that feels slightly more grown-up and dependable, do I think I can also make that leap in my feelings of self-worth? Do I deserve this change? Have I earned it? Can I live up to it?

Change is a wonderful equalizer, if not for the strong feelings it seems to stir and the decisions it seems to enforce upon us. We must either stand against the tide or bow to it. Personally and politically, 2017 signifies a great deal of tension and shift. Personally, I will finally finish my seven-year university career in May. Politically, the UK should be exiting the EU this year and with the uncertainties of Scottish Parliament being willing to move with this, my Scottish home could feel compromised. My passport will become something of a museum relic, with the title of ‘European Union’ no longer valid. I can’t even begin to contemplate America’s next hundred days. The changes that will applied due to democracy at home and in my second home (my treasured academic home) will bring personal and political changes to everyone. All identities (and self-worth) may feel shifted, altered or even unhinged by this change.

When I first began working on this theme of change, it was December and, trying to convince myself that upgrading my car would be a good thing, I began to believe that change was the thing that would save the world – that a Trump Presidency and Brexit would be horrific, but that their “change” could be the catalyst to make us shout louder, to reassess what it is that we want and what exactly we’re fighting for. That the change could be the making of us. As I struggle to remember how the buttons differ in my new car, and consistently stall the start/stop transmission, I’m also aware of how much of a fight one has to make to transition. How it’s a constant, daily thought pattern that must be almost reprogrammed. And I think of the Women’s Marches all over the world and hope that we can fly our flags and wave our banners daily, no matter how tiring and frustrating it may feel.

As we enter 2017, uncertain of just how much the world could change in the next hundred minutes, never mind the next hundred days, I wonder how we might transition next.

 

One Message, Many Voices: The Women’s March

By RACHEL BOLTON

Everyone has seen the photos and videos. Thousands of people in cities all over the world, standing up for what they believe in. The sheer number who participated is overwhelming. Even weeks after it happened, the Women’s March is still being talked about.

Maybe you were one of the protesters, or you knew someone who went. I went to my local march in downtown Boston. I’m proud that I went, sending the message that women aren’t going to give the current president an easy time. The stories of that day are just as varied as the people who attended. My story is entirely my own and doesn’t represent everyone’s experiences.

My choice to go was last minute. I followed the Facebook page for the march in Boston, and two days before the start, I made the decision to go. I felt unspeakably dissatisfied with the results of the election. (Don’t worry, I did vote.) I am still amazed that the American people didn’t elect Hillary Clinton.  While I didn’t agree with all of Secretary Clinton’s actions and views, I believe she would have been a capable and intelligent president. She spent her life working for the government in ways that made her, in my opinion, one of the most qualified candidates in history. Instead, America elected a man who has never held a government job and has a verifiable history of outright racism and sexism.

Going to the march would allow me to put my frustration and anger to good use. I didn’t want to be one of those people who merely complains and does nothing about it. Since all good protesters need a sign, my roommate and I cut up a cardboard box for a canvas. My sign was foldable, something that would come in handy the next day.

I put a quote from one of my favorite sci-fi shows, Babylon 5, on my sign:“No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom.” I thought it fitting for everything that has happened since November 8th. 

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Holding my sign at the march. Photo courtesy Rachel Bolton.

I live in Salem, a place known for its history with the infamous Witchcraft Trials. Up in the North Shore of Massachusetts, Salem is about a half hour train ride from Boston. There was no way I was going to try to drive there when I knew the city going to be busy. Since I was taught by my dad to never be late for things, I aimed to leave for Boston two hours before the march started.

When I got to the train station that morning, I expected it would be a little more crowded than usual. It was packed, I could barely find a place to stand. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said they would have more trains available that day, but I overheard two women talking that the trains had been full since several stops ago.

My stomach sank. I didn’t want to miss out on what I knew would be a historic moment. However, the commuter rail did stop and I got onboard when a woman opened the door.

The train car was like a proverbial can of sardines. Luckily, my unwieldy sign folded up, and I tucked it under my arm.  I don’t think anyone else could have fit after the stop in Salem. Despite my claustrophobia, I was impressed to see that so many people wanted to be a part of the march, even piling into an overcrowded train so they would be able to participate.

The most interesting conversation I had that day was with an older woman I stood next to. After apologizing for having to be in her personal bubble, she told me about her and her family’s history of activism. Her mother had marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, and she herself had protested the Vietnam War in Washington D.C. She planned to meet up with her son at the march, joking that she wanted to bring her grandson too, but he was three and she thought he was too little to appreciate it.

The starting point of the march in Boston would be Boston Common, a large park in the middle of the city. After I got off the commuter rail, it was just a short subway ride to the park. Luckily this wasn’t as packed but most of the people on the subway with me were also attending the march. The driver of the train guessed where we were going and announced he was rooting for us. Everyone cheered him on for his support.

As soon as I took the elevator out of the station, I immediately felt the energy in the air. I participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in college, but that was much smaller in size. That march had around two hundred people in it, but I could tell that the Women’s March was far beyond that number. I would later find out that 175,000 people attended the Women’s March in Boston.

 I expected it to be both an act of unity after the election and a good starting point for further activism post-inauguration. It was. Already, there were groups of people holding signs and chanting. I met up with my friend, Riley, soon after I arrived. I wanted to have a buddy for safety’s sake, although I’m privileged to say I never felt nervous or concerned for our wellbeing during the march. 

Riley saw my sign, and being a resourceful art student, quickly made her own sign out of markers and a notebook. Holding on to each other so we didn’t get separated, we began to move further into the park.

I thought that the protest would be mostly young white women, but I was happily surprised to see it was not the case. The crowds were diverse in age, race, and gender. Whole families were there – even little kids holding signs of their own. Pink pussy hats were as far as the eye could see. It’s amazing to me that the president’s dreadful comment has been turned into a symbol of solidarity.

One of the most fascinating parts of the day was seeing what people put on their signs. Besides seeing plenty of angry anthropomorphized uteri, the Star Wars theme was a popular choice. Since her death, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia has become a face for women stepping up and leading social justice movements. I also spotted several of Rogue One’s heroine Jyn Erso’s quote, “Rebellions are built on hope.”

According to the woman who organized the march, the organizers expected that twenty-five thousand people would attend. Boston ended up being one of the largest sister marches with a hundred and seventy-five thousand people in the park at Boston Common. I told Riley that if more people showed up, we would need a bigger city to contain the volume.

My spot was too far back to let me see them, but the march had decent microphones for their speakers. The Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, was there to endorse the goals of the marches. Walsh’s speech made me proud to be a resident of Massachusetts. He reminded the crowd that our state has a legacy of being the start of or supporting numerous social movements, from the American Revolution, to abolitionism, and being the first state to legalize gay marriage.

Mayor Walsh hyped up the crowd with his message, readying us for the appearance of Senator Elizabeth Warren. The moment she said hello, all of us marchers started chanting her name. It took a minute or two before it got quiet enough for her to talk.

Senator Warren greeted the women and friends of women of Massachusetts, thanking us for giving her the opportunity to speak. She went on to talk about her disagreements with the policies of the current administration and about how they are not the ideas that will benefit the United States. She said, “We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!” The crowd enthusiastically agreed. I knew she was a great speaker, but I was truly impressed with what she said. I sincerely hope that she will run for president in 2020. 

After the speakers finished, Riley and I continued to stand, waiting for the actual marching to begin. Unfortunately, we ended up waiting a long time to move. I stand on my feet all day for my job, so I was used to it. But after nearly three hours in one area I was ready to start walking.

Since the organizers weren’t expecting so many attendees, the marchers moved slowly. In order to get out from the park to the street, everyone had to funnel through one tiny gate. Linking arms, Riley and I started moving forward. Knowing that people were starting to get frustrated with the pace, the organizers asked us to introduce ourselves to the person next to us. We ended up speaking to a Quaker Church group who all came together.

Finally, Riley and I were able to slip through a hole in the gate to get to out of the park and into the march. Residents of the apartment buildings waved rainbow flags overhead. Once we got to the path, things started move faster. It felt nice to stretch my legs. I held my sign up in the air, glad my voice was one of many.

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A small section of attendees. Photo courtesy Riley Cady.

My first exposure to female protesters was the character Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. I remember thinking as a kid that if I was alive back then, I would have been a suffragette too. It is with  a strange mix of annoyance and pride that I can look back and tell my younger self, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to protest inequality too.”  Like the movements of the past, the world listened. The Women’s March was an undeniable presence in the cites that held it, the news, and on social media.

I was grateful to experience this day, but only thing that I’d do differently would be to bring a water bottle and a snack. After a while, my stomach started to growl.

Besides my superficial problems, the march brought up a lot of intersectional issues that need reflection. Although the uteri signs were humorous, it is important to remember that not all women have uteri and there are also men and gender nonconforming people who do have one. As a cis gender woman, it is easy for me to relate to the imagery, but there are people who are uncomfortable with the portrayal of uteri as an explicitly female trait. 

Then again, women’s reproductive organs have been historically seen as inappropriate or things to be ashamed of. Putting them on a poster shows that uterus-havers aren’t going to let the government dictate what happens to them.

While the crowds were diverse to a degree, there were not as many people of color in attendance relative to the representatively diverse city that is Boston. White women have a history of ignoring or shutting out women of other races in their activism. We also can’t forget that the majority of white women did vote for the republican candidate. My fellow privileged white women and I need to acknowledge that history and make sure we are making space for and supporting the women of color around us.

Because the majority of marchers were white, and because I was in a liberal part of the U.S. there wasn’t a fear of being harassed for protesting. This will not always be the case for other marches or other minority marchers, especially if they are about more controversial issues or have a majority of non-white protesters.  The protests at Standing Rock are an example of this. 

It’s incredibly inspiring that the Women’s March globally was a success, all of us have to remember that this is just the beginning. We can’t sit back now and congratulate ourselves for participating. With regards to myself, going to the march inspired me to not be a passive activist. I have to be out here, visibly supporting the causes I believe in. I can’t just sit back and share articles on Facebook and think I’ve done enough.

As the new administration continues, we all have to take care of each other, no matter what our age, race, sexual or gender identity, or national origin. Like the march, and like Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, we are stronger together.

 

 

We See Right Through You, Betsy

In a move that shocked literally no one, The U.S. Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. For the first time in U.S. history, the vote was split 50/50, and our ever-so-loving Vice President Pence, in an unprecedented vote, leaned in favor of DeVos to break the tie. Even with every Democrat in Senate against her, DeVos managed to squeak by her confirmation. In what is sure to be the grossest failure of the American education system, all but two Senate Republicans voted “yes” for DeVos.

As an adult who went through the public school system, my heart aches at the decision. I’m disappointed that the next generation’s future was sold for such a low price. I’m angry that another wealthy white person can be blatantly unqualified for a position and still be appointed anyway. But mostly, I’m terrified for parents nationwide who have to navigate their children through a world that doesn’t care about their education.

From kindergarten through my senior year, I always had new textbooks, fine literature and informative health classes. We had a free lunch program and decent food. Our teams always had fairly new uniforms and the gym classes had enough equipment for every student. My high school covered the cost for the students to take Advanced Placement tests. Our International Baccalaureate program sent students to Denmark. It was always evident that we were some of the lucky ones.

When DeVos was asked if she would pressure our public schools to privatize or if she would cut funding to public schools, she replied, “I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students.” It sounded like a vague answer from someone who is being appointed to a position she has no idea about, likely because she paid her way to get there. This is a pivot, to distract from her lack of knowledge and make the public feel confident that she’s working with us, not against us, even though she doesn’t know how to do the work itself.betsy3

DeVos’ lack of experience in public school systems directly affects how efficiently she can help the majority of our country’s education.  She never went to public school and would rather see private schools prosper (with taxpayer money) – schools that do not have to abide by state regulations. Schools that can teach inaccuracies, using fear mongering and hatred. With her push for “school choice,” her attempt to strengthen the public school system is a thinly veiled ploy to indoctrinate religion into classrooms with taxpayer money. What was once a school will now become a profit center for America’s children.

I will not let this happen.

I’m a Sunday Hebrew school teacher and a child care provider. I’ve made lunches, helped with homework, crafted lesson plans, sat through hours of parent-teacher conferences, and hoped to God every day that my kids didn’t have to experience gun violence while trying to learn. I’ve loved and nurtured children who are protected by the IDEA legislation, which allows children with disabilities to receive a proper education. During DeVos’ confirmation hearing, she admitted that she may have been confused, indicating that she didn’t seem to know that IDEA was a federal law.

When it comes to gun control, DeVos also made a strong reach during that same hearing, citing an example of a school in Wyoming, where she “would imagine there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.” Trump has signaled that he thinks that some teachers can be trained to carry guns in school. DeVos supports Trump’s stance, while also exclaiming, “My heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.” In the time since this hearing, the US House of Representatives has voted to scrap a regulation intended to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, said the BBC. This decision makes gun safety less possible by adding leniency to the vetting process for gun owners.

As we’ve seen in many shootings, mental illness has become a strong defense for the perpetrators. Relaxing the laws to protect the mentally ill from harming themselves won’t help trained gun people better protect children from school shootings. This is a false dichotomy. It has the potential to cause more gun violence, and allows more access to guns, by people who are unsafe and untrained. DeVos has not taken a clear stance on whether she will stand for or against gun control in an effort to put an end to gun violence in schools.

As a former college student, I have seen schools fail young women who have reported sexual assault on their campuses. I have watched rapists graduate with zero marks on their record. I went to college during Title IX and still never felt safe. When DeVos was approached with this topic, she wasn’t even able to formulate a coherent answer. There should be no discussion over the safety of college students, but she couldn’t even confirm her support towards it. She did acknowledge that rape of any kind is wrong, but wouldn’t take a strong stance on further work to prevent rapists from assaulting people.

So, I will be watching you, Ms. DeVos. We’ve seen the buyout money, we’ve seen you make a fool of yourself in front of your peers. Your mission to “advance God’s kingdom” will end in ruining sex education and miseducating youth by being unsafe with their bodies. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped significantly in the last two decades, but does that matter to you? The vouchers you so fully support will further segregate our schools, leaving children of color and poor children at a severe disadvantage.

We know you aren’t even remotely qualified to hold this position.

This is not over. We are watching.

And to the citizens of the United States: Now is the time to make sure you vote “yes” for your school district’s budget. Attend public board meetings and find out what is going on districtwide. Invest in our future, since our government clearly has no intentions of doing so.

Stay Warm – Free Digital Wallpaper

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Happy November! It’s getting chilly, remember to wrap up warm and take care of yourself and the people around you!

The phrase ‘stay woke’ was popularized by the Black Lives Matter movement and I’m using it here in support of that cause. BLM campaigns against institutionalized violence and racial profiling towards black people, and aims to bring accountability to members of the US police force who unjustly incarcerate, injure and kill black people. You can help keep Black Lives Matter going by donating here.

As always we’ve made this available for you in a range of wallpaper sizes below, and you can also purchase it as a print in our Society6 store!

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Why It’s Not Your Job To Label Me

An open letter to those who have come before me, who question my ability to learn how to practice psychotherapy while suffering from a chronic illness. 

There aren’t many ways I could write a response to this without sounding aggressive. But the truth is, I need to be aggressive. If I’m not aggressive – if I don’t fight you on this – I risk being left behind. I sound aggressive because I’m female. Because my voice gets high pitched when I’m cross and tears often leak out when I’m frustrated – which I am.  I’m beyond frustrated because it’s not your job to tell me whether or not I’m capable, depending on my health, depending on my experience, depending on my personal journey.

It might be your job to critique my practice, to question me on my actions or to ask me to defend why I behaved a certain way in a specific situation when you most certainly wouldn’t have acted the same way. But when I answer those questions, you’re not in a position to critique the way I experienced those situations – if I acted as best I could with the information I had on hand, then I gave it my all. That’s my experience. That’s my point of reference from which to work. That isn’t up for discussion.

When you label me, when you tell me that I was wrong to hear words a different way you then you intended them to be heard, when you insinuate that my experience is unacceptable, you’re refusing to accept me. I despise the need to explain my every thought process and begrudge your lack of faith that I don’t know my own limits; whether of my body, my health or my ability.

When you criticize my ability to be “proactive”, you’re criticizing my fundamental beliefs that to get anywhere in this world, you have to go and get it. You’re ignoring all my previous experiences that have cemented this, as well as my previous schemas which dictate that, as a woman in her twenties, I have to fight harder to be noticed, to be listened to, and taken seriously. You’re criticizing my open-mindedness, my desire to learn from the world at large, and my ability to find lessons beyond the schoolyard wall. How can one be too proactive in this world in their twenties? The media describes people my age as lazy, yet you decide to stunt my drive. You’re caging my very existence within your patriarchal system, when you’re supposed to be my teacher and my guiding light. You are the adults who came before me, the ones I look to for pastoral or medical care, the ones I’m asking for guidance.
You’re ignoring my fears – that I may have to start a family early if I wish to be able to conceive and carry my own children naturally, that this may be to the detriment of my own career – the very career I’m fighting to begin now. A career that I picked because it allows me to work from home, move around the world, set my day around children and family life, or even set around my partner’s career if need be. When you label me, you make me question the backbends I’m already doing, you help me confirm that I’m not good enough. You make me question what on earth I could possibly doing better. This brings me to the worst possible realization  – I can’t win this fight.

The minute you label me, I’ve lost the war. When you label me, I lose independence in your eyes and those of your peers. I’m no longer the young woman fighting for success, but the young woman on the verge of something far more sinister; a young woman who is willing to carve her own pathway, listen to her own gut and develop her own rules, her own understanding of the level of greyness one must work within in the field of psychotherapy. You halt me, you trap me within a blade of glass.

To fight your label, I have to devise strategies, I waste valuable energy playing your game. Or I refuse to engage and you squash me anyway. No matter how I play it, once I’m labelled, I have little control in your world. And I am in your world. But I won’t get out alive.