Stories: Part 6

  • When I was ten years old I met the most important woman in my life- My Mom. She wasn’t my mom by blood, but by action. I came to this woman unable to think for myself or about myself, feel love, be a child, or even talk in public. I was especially scared of adults. All the product of what I thought was a “mom,” because my biological one put my siblings and I through years of abuse. My mom got us not having any actual reason to care for us. No owing us anything and having her own child, my stepbrother who will be the best man at my wedding. She empowered us with knowledge and love and the attitude of instilling success in us. This woman made me the man I am today.

 

  • The most influential woman in my life is my mom of course. There are still types of clothes that I won’t wear because I know what face she’ll make at me when I wear them. There are experiences that I shy away from because I don’t ever want her to think less of me.

Stories: Part 5

  • The following explains why I hate shopping at Home Depot: I was in the paint section and an older guy walked down the aisle. He saw what was in my cart and said, “You got Bondo in there.  You must know what you’re doing.  That, or your husband does.”  I curtly replied “I know what I’m doing.” I loathe the assumption that just because I am a woman, it’s unlikely that I know how to do certain things, and that if I don’t know how to do it, than my husband does.  And it was the way he said it too, like there was virtually no possibility that I knew how to work with the material.  It’s instances like these that make me want to do the things perceived as “guy things,” just to show that I, and women in general for that matter, can be bad-ass, DIY, wonder women.
  • I was 11 when I heard a boy in my class call a girl in my class the “C” word. I had heard that word being discussed on Oprah and I asked my mom what the word meant and she told that the word was a dirty word for the vagina. She didn’t say it in a condescending manner, she said it in a stern tone and told me that a man who uses that word doesn’t have respect for you and for his own mother. The boy who said it didn’t get reprimanded by our teacher, because he didn’t hear him, but I did. I had tried to befriend the boy before then. He wasn’t very popular or well liked, but when he said that word I stopped talking to him. I never forgot the look of contempt he had for the girl. I remember thinking “We’re kids. Who uses that word in your home that you think that’s okay to say?”

Stories: Part 4

  • A compliment I have given another woman has usually been centered on appearance/clothes. “That dress really brings out your eyes.” I only go in depth and give power talks if I know that there is something wrong and they need to be built-up

 

  • As a black woman I found that it was difficult to revel in my beauty and include my race into my sense of self. 29 Palms has a diverse community, but normally I was the only black girl (who looked black) who was in an advanced class, was recognized for their talents and whose mom didn’t allow certain behavior in her home or in public. The other black girls in my school thought I was stuck up and said things like “You’re not really black.” and “You talk white.” I figured I just didn’t fit in with the black community all together, because girls in my family said similar things. It didn’t matter that I could trace my lineage back to slave ships, or that I knew about the Harlem Renaissance or that I was knowledgeable about black historical figures; I was not black enough. It made me feel like if I was seen as a black woman I was seen as an ignorant woman. I started telling myself that I don’t see myself as black I see myself as a person. Now I know how wrong this is, but at the time and for a long time in my life I thought that being black was equal to being limited. The status of a white person was still something that I saw as admirable. My dreams, beauty, womanhood, and humanity all felt limited compared to what seemed normal for my white friends. Therefore when I do something big or small, I feel like I’m not only representing my family, but the entire race. If I do well then that’s one more good example for my race. If I screw up, then I’m helping the ignorant stereotypes. I search daily for a community that accepts me and looks like me. A group that doesn’t force me to conform to low standards of living because of the roots of my race.

Stories: Part 3

  • There is one thing I think about every day.  It is so ingrained in my way of thinking that most of the time I don’t even notice it.  It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I became aware of the fact that I think about this all the time.  Up until that point it was buried.  It was subconscious.  Or maybe I always knew about it, but I finally got to the point where I acknowledged it.  This thing I am talking about is the male gaze.  I would say I spend the majority of my day thinking about how I am viewed.  It is not an ego thing, nor does it have to do with being conceited.  Rather, it has to do with being subjected.  I don’t feel I can do anything without the possibility of being looked at by a male.  Every time a guy walks by I wonder if he notices me, and if he does, what is he thinking about?  This has led me to put on a mask.  A mask that I am capable and do not need their gaze.  I try to look as if I am always on a mission, and it is a mission that is not contingent upon a male’s gaze.  I walk as if I do not notice another’s gaze, or if I do, that I do not care.  It is a shield to get me through the day.  It is protection.

But am I not guilty as well of committing the female gaze?  To notice if others are gazing, I must be gazing as well.  I do feel like I am constantly on the lookout.  But why do I care?  What would life be like without the gaze?  Are we all not actors and actresses on a stage, trying to get people to see us as we want to be seen?  To live in this world with other people is to always potentially be subjected by others.  Whenever I think about this, I come to the consensus that we are all just people trying to make it through this life, hopefully as happily as we can.  But there is so much left unsaid.

Why is looking at people and talking to people so difficult?  Have you ever tried to look in a person’s eyes for more than a few milliseconds?  That shit is hard.  Have you ever been tortured by the things you want to say to someone, but somehow cannot rack up the nerve to say it?  This must be why most conversation is superficial and surface-level; it is a way to connect without actually being vulnerable.  Looking in someone’s eyes is reciprocal, for they have the opportunity to look in your eyes as well.  Talking to someone means you are putting yourself in a position to be judged and criticized.  The fact we cannot control the way others view us is what makes conversation and the gaze uncomfortable.  We each have our own sphere, but the moment people’s spheres intersect, the lines of control become ambiguous.  If I notice the male gaze, am I in control of that gaze, or is he in control of that gaze?  The former makes me feel powerful; the latter makes me feel powerless.  Do males feel the same way about the female gaze?

Someone once told me “people don’t think about you as much as you think they do.”  Perhaps this is true; it probably is.  Out of all the people I have encountered, there probably have been people who have wondered what I thought of them, when in reality I don’t think about them at all.  Although this sounds terrible, it is the truth.  We cannot possibly think of every person all the time.  We prioritize.  We categorize.  This is a difficult reality to accept, because there will come a point where you have put someone as Number 1, and you realize they do not see you as Number 1, let alone give any damns about you at all.  It would be easier to bear if it was all straightforward, if we all communicated from the get-go.  That way no time would be lost, no unnecessary investment would be made.  But isn’t it the spontaneity, the chance, the game, the unknown which makes it all fun and worthwhile?  If it were as easy as being truthfully honest and direct, then would not the gaze and the idea of love be superfluous?  Perhaps that is what the gaze is for: to keep feelings and love from being prescribed.

Stories: Part 2

  • Regarding myself, I was sexually assaulted by a close friend my freshmen year at college last March. I was devastated, confused, and shocked. I did not know how to confront the situation or what to do. I started to have anxiety attacks later in the fall, and I would not allow my wonderful boyfriend that I am now dating to touch me. It brought back too many memories. I had a low self-esteem, thought that I was not good enough, and forced a smile on my face every time I saw the “friend” that had done this terrible thing to me. With my boyfriend’s constant support, help, and counseling, I was finally able to report the assault in early March 2016. This was almost a year after it had originally occurred. Not many people in my life knew what I was going through except 3 close friends.

After reporting the assault and feeling relieved, I told one of my close male friends, (who originally knew of the assault) my decision of reporting. I was hoping to receive comfort and support from him. Instead, he said, “You should have reported it as soon as it had happened, but only if it had occurred multiple times. You should have been stronger and told the school a long time ago if it had affected you that much.”
I was heart-broken from his response, but I knew that I did the right thing for reporting the sexual assault that was committed towards me during my freshmen year. I was disappointed to see that my male friend thought that I was a “weak” girl. I was shocked to see that he had called sexual assault “It.”

Of course sexual assault does not happen only towards women, but men included. I do believe that the conversation of sexual assault is avoided in our society and that many people do not know how to talk about it, regardless of gender. Women do have a higher percentage of being sexually assaulted than men, and every day this infuriates me. With sexual assault awareness month right around the corner, I hope that one day our culture realizes the effect that sexual assault can create on a woman, (and man) and how it is something that one has to deal with every day. I see the “friend” that assaulted me every day around campus, and it makes me livid to see that I have to live with his actions when I did not consent. I still have a long way to go in my recovery from my sexual assault, but I know that I only get stronger and braver every day.

Stories: Part 1

  • Some of my boyfriend’s friends were over one night and they were all drinking. I was in the other room and one of his friends started showing pictures that he received from girls. All of the pictures showed girls topless or naked. They were giggling and passing the phone around, as if they were ten-year-olds showing each other Pokemon cards. Some of them commented negatively saying, “she’s not pretty” and “she’s too fat.” These girls had no idea who these guys were and they were being exposed to complete strangers. Most of the guys themselves weren’t even attractive to begin with, so watching them tear apart these girls was extremely uncomfortable….

 

  • I’m not surprised by statistics about women anymore. However, I am surprised by how close certain things are to me. My friend was date raped and when she tried to report it the officer told her not to, because they didn’t think she had a case. A few weeks ago I found out that a coworker of mine was raped years ago. She said it casually in conversation.

 

  • A song that goes through my head is “Lonely Woman” by Sarah Vaughan. There’s a line in it that she sings “What trick and fate have done me that men must spurn and shun me. My only crime is I’m alone.” This line sticks with me because she calls being alone a crime

 

  • I was at Wondercon the other day holding a monster energy drink and walking through the crowd trying to open the flip on top of the can (it usually takes me a few tries because I don’t have nails for leverage). A middle-aged dude saw me and instantly said, “hey do you need me to open that?” And I said, “no I’m fine.” He said “Oh ok, I just wouldn’t want you to break a nail.” I found this response surprising because I wasn’t wearing anything particularly feminine that would fit the stereotype of “oh no I broke my nail” girls, and don’t even have long nails that would get broken. Maybe to him all women need help with the most simple tasks.

 

  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I want to apologize to all the women I have called beautiful
before I’ve called them intelligent or brave
I am sorry I made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on I will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because I don’t think you’re beautiful
but because I need you to know
you are more than that

 

 

The Boob Project

 

boobnecklaceblog2

In the spring of 2016 I cast hundreds of porcelain breasts as part of a sculpture project entitled Visual Titillation. The concept behind the piece echoes the sentiments of the “Free the Nipple” movement that has garnered quite a bit of attention recently: Does inundating my audience with visuals of breasts make them refrain from sexualizing this body part? Needless to say, the boobs attracted quite a bit of attention, and I received a lot of requests from people asking if they could have/buy one. The demand for these boobs kept increasing, so I decided to cast more boobs and have them for sale at my senior solo show , which will open on October 22nd. However, the sale of female body parts for no higher purpose is not really my style (the media does this enough as it is, am I right?), and I figured I could use people’s desire for a breast to my advantage. Not only does it further fulfill breast inundation, but it will bring awareness to this blog project that you are now reading about. The project: attached to each boob is a QR code that links to this blog. This blog is filled with stories that have come to embody what I like to call the 21st Century Female Experience.

Over the past year I have been collecting contributions from people under the broad theme of “anything that even remotely pertains to women.” At first I was bombarded with clarification questions: What are you looking for?  How short does it have to be? Can I contribute something even if I’m a guy?  Does it have to be something negative?  Turns out, the less guidelines you give, the more people tend to freak out. But once I assured people that I was literally accepting anything pertaining to women from anyone, they began to get creative.  The contributions encompass various mediums, from poems and personal accounts to self-reflections and written homages. Though the mediums may differ, one theme is consistent: being a woman in the 21st Century is a dynamic experience.

No one project can encapsulate the many facets of female identity, and my own experiences are not enough to fill the expanse of what it means to be a woman in 21st Century America. Thus, I sought assistance. I truly believe that diversifying our lens is imperative to understanding many of the contemporary issues related to womanhood. This is why I have reached out to others; this project is the frame, and the various stories are the lens. When you read these stories, poems, and trains-of-thought, I want you to gain insights into perspectives that are rarely tapped into: how women view themselves as women, daughters, mothers, and wives; and how women are viewed by the others in their lives, whether it be significant others, children, or friends.

In reading these stories, I want readers to expand the way in which they view female identity. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this project, and I will be forever thankful for your openness and willingness to share your experiences.

*If you would like to be a part of the Boob Project, please click here.