Archive for the ‘resistance’ Category

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Arriving in Tunisia as a not-so-proud American

November 2, 2018

 

American passport on desktop

I arrive at night, not sure what to expect. All I know is that someone will meet me—I’m sure of it. Still, my nerves zap with unsettled energy. How will it feel to be back in this place, remembering pieces of my former self? Neither Tunisia or I am the same as we were 35 years ago, and these are unsettled times. Wars and bombs and tremendous upheaval have plagued our countries. Since my last return, Tunisia has had a revolution, and America has put into place a corrupt president. I wonder, with trepidation, how Tunisians will react to me. I’m ashamed of our country and no longer proud to be American.

I search for my suitcase as others, speaking Arabic and French, sweep their bags away. I wait and wait and wait; my anxiety increasing. Finally, the last load emerges on the conveyer belt, and although I spot my suitcase, the woman searching bags pulls it aside. She raises her eyebrows and clucks. The hair on the back of my neck prickles as she calls for another customs officer to join her. They rifle through the gifts I’ve brought for my family, and when they spot my toy drone, I know I’m in trouble.

More officers surround me, and they take my toy. Then, when my passport is confiscated, something inside of me drops. My identity to the United States; the only legal link to my homeland is gone. My bones shift, cracking with concern. In spite of my shame for our current government, the United States is still a great democracy built on the backs of strong women and determined men. In America, I have the freedom to speak my mind and the choice to resist.

The customs officers whisk me away and ask more questions, but I don’t speak French well and know even less Arabic. They shout and wave their hands as my own shake the tiniest bit. It sinks in. I am alone in North Africa.

With my passport gone and the drone appropriated, I cross my fingers and sing silent prayers. Maybe they think I’m a spy. Perhaps they think I’m a scout. Maybe they think I like Donald Trump. I bite my lip and plan my defense. As I do, my host sister, Sonia, and her husband, Sami, burst through the door. I jump toward them grinning. It’s been eight years since my last visit. Between hugs and kisses and many tears, they ask what has delayed me. They’ve been waiting two hours, but because Sami works at the airport, he’s been allowed to come find me. He speaks with the officers, clarifying that he knows me and that I’ve been to Tunisia many times. Sami argues hard, and the officers reluctantly agree to let me go—minus the drone. I’m instructed to return 20 hours before my departing flight to sign more papers. Fine, I say. I’ll do anything to get my passport back.

When the woman hands me the little blue book with the United States emblem printed on the front, relief washes across my face. We hurry away before they change their minds.

The night air assaults me with petrol and jasmine. Sonia has prepared a feast for my arrival, and their two adult children join us in celebration. I devour couscous and spicy fish as we review the past few years. We laugh and cry, and as we talk late into the night, the conversation drifts toward politics. The Tunisians, at least the ones in my family, are incredibly knowledgeable about global issues. They are fiercely proud of their country, and as we talk, I realize I’m proud of mine, too. I don’t like our current government and say so many times. But I am proud to be American. I have the freedom to vote, the freedom to travel, and the freedom to rant and rave and protest our president. I whisper thanks, aishik. I’m grateful for my family in the States. I’m grateful for my Tunisian clan. I’m grateful to have my passport back. And I know without a doubt; America is a country worth fighting for—she makes me proud.

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An Epidemic: 15 Personal Stories of Assault

October 2, 2018

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First published on Medium.

As a writer, I’m keenly interested in definitions and stories people tell. But sometimes, we need to be on the same page, especially in the age of #MeToo.

What qualifies as assault? Rape, of course. Physical abuse, yes again. But it goes deeper, broader, regardless of how it’s defined in a court. For me, an assault has occurred when a person uses power and control to instill fear and discomfort toward another.

I asked a few women, and included myself, to share experiences about an assault—a time when a man or a boy exerted control over their world, causing them pain, shame, and fear. The recollections are disturbing. They are also common. Without knowing, a few told the same story, but at the time it happened; none of us spoke up.

Why?

A host of reasons. There was no one to tell. There was confusion. Who would believe it, and what would they do? There could be a consequence for telling. We might be mocked, told to take a joke, shamed further. Without a clear definition of assault, maybe it wasn’t assault. Maybe the story wasn’t worth telling. Above all, we wanted it erased.

But the memory of assault never goes away. And moving forward isn’t the same. There remains a hitch, an indelible mark which can cause further confusion.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators carry on; almost always hurting more people.

For women and girls living in a patriarchal world, we are warned about assault. We are told to wear proper clothing. We are told to cross the street when a man walks toward us. We are told to carry mace or whistles or phones set to 911. Above all, we are told to be careful, careful, careful. The world is a scary place.

But more often than not, dark alleys aren’t the primary places for assault. They happen at school, at work, and in homes—like in the 15 accounts below. The list is real, disturbing, and painful. Each event created a dark and permeant stain. Read them. See yourself in them. Consider them assault, or certainly, a close cousin. They are.

  1. The boss at my restaurant only hired pretty high school girls. The ones who gave him blow jobs got perks and better schedules.
  2. The guys in my high school kept a tally of who they screwed. If you weren’t on the list, they made life hell for you.
  3. A bartender told me he’d give me all the money in the cash register if I got on top of the bar and danced for him.
  4. A lot of the boys in high school ‘date’ raped multiple friends of mine. The same guys asked why I had an exclusive relationship with a guy from a different school and told me I was no fun.
  5. My boss in my first “real” job demeaned me for wearing red lipstick—then asked if I wore it other times. He wiggled his eyebrows and offered me a lollypop.
  6. In high school, I remember sitting in a kitchen with two “friends.” When they poked and prodded me in sexual ways, I told them to stop. They didn’t stop. Fortunately, the mom came home, and I ran out.
  7. My elementary school gym teacher, who we nicknamed a male chauvinist pig, told us when it came to most sports, the place for girls was on the sidelines. He always let the boys choose teams and called anyone who cried a sissy.
  8. My boss told me I should wear high heels and shorter skirts like my co-worker. He said, I’d get more accounts.
  9. The president of the company at my second job had an affair with my manager. We all knew it, which made the work environment uncomfortable. When his wife found out, my manager was fired, and he remained president.
  10. In elementary school, an older boy told me he was going to get me. He made sexual signs. When I stopped taking the bus, he followed me. If I hadn’t been such a fast runner, who knows? For years, I ran.
  11. My Brownie Troop leader who told me I needed to lose some weight if I wanted the boys to like me in a few years.
  12. My manager pressed so close to me; his penis jabbed into my back.
  13. When I was a freshman in college, two fraternity boys invited me and a couple of girls over for hot chocolate. Within minutes, ten more fraternity guys surrounded us.One squirted whipped cream in places that made me block out my memory. Somehow, we escaped and ran into town.
  14. Everyone knew to stay away from the supply closet if our manager was doing inventory. Things happened in there.
  15. One of my teachers, about age 50, kissed me in the closet and then did a bit more. We didn’t talk about stuff like that when it was happening. It was wrong. It was scary. It was too big to talk about. My parents would have freaked out on me.

If you see yourself in one of these scenarios or have a different story to tell, do. Step up and speak. Write them down. These stories continue to happen—Every. Single. Day.

It’s time to take to the streets, share our experiences, and halt the assaults. The events that are happening in DC should be of no surprise. We live in a patriarchal world, and the men in charge want to keep it that way. But this can change. Certainly, women need to protest, to vote, and to demand to be heard. But it’s bigger than that. If we create an environment with women leading, sharing, and working together, I believe, we will be able to build a healthy environment for all. At the very least, let’s change the conversation about assault. Any abuse of power is unacceptable.

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March #RESIST

January 4, 2017

 

 

I plan to march. On January 21, 2017, millions of women across the country will be marching to express their voice and taking part in the Women’s March on Washington, while other will march in sister cities around the world. Some people criticize us for being anti-democratic, sore losers, and pinheads, but none of those tags are true. I won’t be marching to protest the vote. I will be marching because women matter. I will be marching because I’m half the planet’s population, and I’m not going away. I choose to march because…

I march because I matter.

I march because I believe in freedom.

I march because I have a voice.

I march because I love my country.

I march because I have daughters.

I march because I have a son.

I march because I have a mother.

I march because I have sisters, a brother, a husband, nieces and nephews and cousins.

I march for my grandmothers and great grandmothers who marched before me.

I march for my father, brothers, grandfathers and ancestors who’ve past and can’t march.

I march because I represent marginalized voices.

I march because we matter.

I march because I love pure democracy.

I march because I choose to march.

I march because I believe choice matters.

I march because I am tired of people telling me how to feel and how to act.

I march because women should not be called fat, or ugly, or pussies.

I march because assault is not okay.

I march because women are more than contestants in a beauty pageant.

I march because I don’t want to be ranked by my looks or my f!#*$@ability.

I march because women have brains.

I march because I believe in good and right and equality.

I march because we need to heal.

I march because women should not be marginalized or minimalized to objects.

I march because women are not lesser human beings.

I march because women should not be afraid to be women.

I march because I love.

I march because I care.

I march because I am not afraid.

I march because I want others to know women matter.

I march because women should be able to choose what they do with their bodies.

I march because when the environment is ignored, women suffer first.

I march because women should not die in backroom, coat hanger abortions.

I march because I care about early childcare initiatives that help women.

I march because locker room talk hurts women.

I march because I have a right to feel safe.

I march because women should not be thrown into poverty because men got them pregnant.

I march because I have a vagina and am not embarrassed or ashamed to say it.

I march because women should be paid what men are paid.

I march because it is time to move forward, move beyond sexism.

I march because I need to feel hopeful about my future.

I march because I don’t want to feel terrified alone.

I march because women working together can transform the planet.

I march because I love and stand with my LGBTQIA, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Black, Brown, indigenous, disabled, ethnic, hurt, abused, and all of my sisters.

I march because we won’t move backward.

I march because we matter.

I march because I matter.

Join me. The organizers for the Women’s March on Washington posted this statement; “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

If you can’t get to Washington DC, go local! There are over 30 states planning sister marches, including in Colorado. The event in Denver will be 9 am- 3 pm on January 21, 2017 at Denver’s Civic Center Park. For more information and other marches, check out: https://www.womensmarch.com/colorado/