How come, when I refuse to kowtow to society's expectations of femininity, people accuse me of being ashamed, of not taking pride in my womanhood? If I decide I'd like to ask a boy out, rather than wait, it's a sign of denying my womanhood. Having ambivalence about parenthood (as I am young, have many dreams about my life and little interest in a romantic relationship) makes me unnatural (though I understand my opinions can change). Wanting to pursue a career and more education makes me intimidating to men. Not caring about traditional feminine beauty makes me unfeminine. Why?
I am not ashamed of my biological sex. However, I do not define my identity by what society expects of me as a female. I am diligent, intelligent, stubborn, caring, passionate, and dedicated to what I do. I enjoy making music and furthering my talents in that area. I love to cook, especially Italian, Spanish and increasingly Kenyan foods. I consider spirituality important and I do make the time to pray, attend Mass, and I work to improve my character. I believe service to others is crucial and devote time to volunteer work and activism. I place a high priority on relationships with other people. I am not perfect and certainly have my flaws. At the same time, these are the qualities I am proud of.
I don't believe people should be ashamed of themselves, irrespective of gender. Rather, I believe that we should do all we can to become more of who we are, to further our best qualities. That is what we should be proud of and that matters to me more rather than if someone acts traditionally masculine or feminine. I am not ashamed of my racial background, yet I find no need to act stereotypically "white".
Why should my womanhood be any different?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
If you are unsure about my religious leanings, you either do not know me or have not read my blog. I will admit, subtlety is not my best quality. In any case, I am a Roman Catholic, having grown up in a very Catholic area and officially choosing it as my faith as a teenager. Yet my views are not as cut and dry. While I identify with Catholicism on many levels (emotional, cultural, intellectual), I cannot identify on an organizational level. As attached to this faith as I am, I still have other issues. It is difficult for me, as I cannot embrace another faith for many complex reasons. At the same time, I do believe God is too big for just one faith.
I joined the Church for many reasons. One, I was drawn to Christianity in general (my family being a mix of mostly Catholics and Protestants, with some Jews and Mormons). It was familiar to me, the teachings of Jesus resonated with me, and I knew I could never be anything else. Catholicism became clear to me as the oldest Christian church, one that has held faithful through generations and preserved something timeless. In addition, I also was educated in a Catholic environment and elements of Catholic doctrine and practice (Eucharistic adoration, Mass, the Sacraments, the prayers, role of Mary and the saints) appealed to me in ways elements of Protestant practice could not. Cultural elements existed for me, as I have always sought identity with my Italian roots. Finally, Catholic social teaching: consistent life ethics, poverty eradication, and life's dignity echoed back what I had believed about the Gospel.
After seven years, I can find no separation possible. Missing Mass, whether intentionally or not, leaves me missing something. Praying the Rosary fills me with peace and clarity. I find service mandatory and am committed to making my world a better place and myself a better person. One of the first things people learn about me is about my faith. This is before my education, job, age, family or even my love of food.
At the same time, I have my issues with the institutional Church. I believe in leadership, I do not believe the Bible alone suffices in deriving God's will and authority. However, I find myself questioning why God would enlighten someone more, simply because they were chosen by an established hierarchy. If God is above gender and made man and woman in His image, why is it so heretical to also refer to God as Her? Or for a woman to consecrate the Blessed Sacrament? While Jesus was fully human, why would a physical sex determine the worthiness for generations of women?
If sin is between man and God and a priest is bound by the seal of Confession to never tell, why does the Church derive power to excommunicate someone? If we can condemn sin without condemning the person, what use is this power to us? Further, if God is all powerful, why would we impose something only man could lift?
These are only a few of the many questions I have. Yes, I have prayed, yes, I've read the Catechism, Theology of the Body and a variety of texts. I have no easy answers. As much as I believe God resides with all who seek them, seeking another faith is difficult when your identity rests in one.
Trying to figure this out............
I've been finding lately that I have an inner Sonny. If you haven't seen The Godfather, Sonny is the hot-headed eldest brother who gets himself killed by acting on impulse. While I haven't lectured my younger siblings on how to knock someone off or thrown a guy in a trashcan for mistreating my sister (though I probably would do the latter), I do take things personally. After reading my last post and looking back over my life, I've realized this. I take things personally, particularly when no one intended any slight, and I react as if someone were invading my country. Not only is this unhealthy and revealing a significant lack of people skills, it could put me in danger.
I cannot control how other people treat me. Some people are ruthless, deceiving, cunning, lecherous, wrathful (cough:yours truly:cough), unforgiving, or overly controlling. I have as much power to change their hearts as I do to move mountains with a tooth brush. I can, however, control how I react. I do have the power to bring something positive, enlightening or peaceful to the table. None of this will come if I refuse to control my fire.
If you take things too personally, you will never be able to build truly healthy relationships. People will just anticipate your reaction like one does a ticking time bomb. They will never be able to make jokes, call you on serious issues, or show you affection. In the workplace, people will either purposefully piss you off (if they dislike you and want you gone) or will never trust you with anything because you can't keep a cool head. If you're ever in true danger, few people will come to your aid because you'll interpret every slight as a sign of impending doom. Finally, you'll never be able to enjoy life because you'll keep misinterpreting everything.
After realizing this, it made the streets more approachable for me. I no longer feel intense anger at people who really otherwise have nothing to do. I feel more in control of myself and my temper. I feel alert, yet relaxed. I feel I can also enjoy people more.
It's a start. After nearly twenty-one years, it's about time I changed some things.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Whenever someone catcalls me, I find it annoying. But when someone gropes me, I don't take it lying down. My parents taught me from a young age that, while violence for its own sake was wrong, it's never wrong to defend yourself. In addition, throughout my upbringing, people put emphasis on self defense, carrying my keys in my hands, ready to strike, all they believed a young woman should know. Girls especially needed to know how to defend themselves.
So, how come, when I go to a foreign country (specifically Kenya), people start acting as if none of that mattered? As if YOU'RE at fault for being "culturally insensitive", should you dare to fight back? As if these guys are so conditioned by their culture, they just can't help themselves? I mean, isn't that another way of saying these guys are incapable of respect?
Here's the thing. If a guy dares to grope me, I don't know if he's going to stop at that. Men have tried to grab me, tried to pull me into cars and matatus, all manner of things, in public. In broad daylight. How do I know if he's going to stop at that one feel? He dared to touch something he KNOWS he shouldn't have. Who am I to risk my personal safety? Thus, I will push the guy away, maybe punch him in the arm to show I'm not going down without a fight, and yell and cuss as loud as possible. I don't do it to hurt him as much as to call attention, as to show that this WILL NOT be tolerated. If I had to get even more physical, I would. It's not that I look for trouble, it's more that I won't accept my own violation. Not from an American, not from a Kenyan. I like to believe human beings are capable of both respect and restraint.
Sadly, not very many here seem to share this attitude. All I hear are how I'm too rude, too confrontational and too insensitive. But what? Should I accept it if a man tries to put me in a car, take me far away from a safe place and do God knows what with me? Should I accept it if a guy (or girl, women aren't intrinsically non-violent) anywhere assaults me and gives me a disease I have to live with for the rest of my life? Should I accept it if someone tries to kill me and no one knows what happened to me?
I'm sorry, but I find myself surrounded by little girls who look up to me, no matter where I go. While I don't want them becoming bullies, I do want them to realize that they are not objects. They are people and they should NEVER accept it if someone tries to hurt them or otherwise cause harm. Same goes for the younger boys. If people would just learn to not act like animals, we would not be forced to react as such in the name of survival.