Friday, 20 November 2015

If only I slowly start again...

09:03 Posted by Afro Latina No comments

Today I am feeling a bit sleepy, probably because of lack of sunlight. This is something that deeply affects me, although I adore my place of residency. Which comes to the strangeness of my identity. I never knew where I belong. I am slowly making peace with the fact that I will probably never figure that out. I probably just belong in the universe, with no particular affection to any given culture. 

I believe being feminist is what defines me the most. But even that doesn't come without a good dose of scrutiny (by myself) and self-doubt. As much as I love it and feel liberated by it, I do tend to think there's just too much out there that I cannot understand. The whole movement being suddenly gender acritical, for example. I think this ends up not protecting the very women they intend to defend. 

I think it's quite telling that most people who usually tell me they don't see why I 'complicate' or 'overthink' things are white males. There has been a few white women telling me that, too. It's funny, because they'd never get it. So I don't engage much. I will probably not be very well remembered after my death, but if I do, it will be as the woman who didn't engage much. With anything, or anyone. That can be quite liberating, I guess. 

I have a very heavy sweet tooth. I've tried to reduce sugar countless times, with no success. I am planning on starting a new diet soon, maybe tomorrow. I don't like cooking much. I've been eating too much chicken, too. To be honest, that's been the case since I quit being a vegetarian, some two years ago. I no longer believe vegetarianism is an option to me. That can be liberating, too. Unfortunately, not to the animals I insist on eating (which are chicken and fish). 

I am spiritual but not religious. I cannot stand religion. I think it is the easiest way to make you fearful, paranoid and disconnected from the rest of humanity. I don't want to connect to any so-called path to divinity at the expense of other people's dignity. The whole talk of a particular religion being the only way is what strips people of their self-worth. 

I have lost many friends and relatives because of my activism. Daring to say what I think on social networks has caused me many troubles related to my personal relations. I regret not. Life is too short to keep relating to bigoted people. I have no problem acknowledging that we had some good moments together but our life philosophies are just too opposite to continue engaging in any type of interaction. They choose religion, I choose life. It's that simple. 

I know what love is, looks and feels like. The other day I shared a song on my fb, the title is, I don't know what love is. In fact, I do know what love is, and I feel very grateful for that. I am blessed enough to love and be loved in return. For a long while, I wondered if the type of love I am living was fulfilling to me. Today I realize it is not that love should fill me with anything. I should be complete in my own way. Trying to be complete on my terms has freed both myself and my significant other. 

I think my biggest obstacle to achieving anything I want is my lack of discipline. I have a few health issues that are not really serious but they annoy me deeply and together, they have the power to really divert my attention from what I wish to be doing on a more permanent basis. I've been spending loads of time in bed these days, as I only feel tired and apathetic. But I am hopeful this will go and next week I will be able to engage on pursuing my dreams again. I do not dream of becoming big and famous. I just dream of having a consistent routine. I find that extremely hard to achieve. 

Some people feel really uncomfortable around me. Maybe because I am very socially awkward or something. I tend to lose my vitality when I am around people. I will never know why, but I can only interact to a certain extent, because I am soon to feel drained. And that is not a very nice feeling. So when I am on my own I try to get back into balance. Sometimes it takes me weeks to recover. I believe I am a good friend, but I could definitely be better if only I was able to keep the energy in my body. 

Meditation helps. It is not a panacea, but it definitely helps me stay grounded and a little balanced. My main difficulty, again, is discipline. I am naturally incapable of keeping a routine on anything I love and wish to do. That takes its toll on my health, but I am feeling hopeful. With all my intent, I wish to get back to blogging. And doing all the stuff I like to do. So this is where I am at the moment. This is a bit of who I am at present.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Racist jokes: a spiritual perspective

Today I felt like writing a few words regarding racist jokes. Since I've decided to be more consistent in my meditation practice a few months ago, I feel I am growing stronger and stronger by the day, and I think that is in part due to the fact that I no longer allow the racism and ignorance of others affect me. 

After a few years involved in some sort of activism, self-love and self-esteem started to settle within me, and I cannot say I'm in a superb place right now, but I've been learning to hold on to a good energy in ways I'd never imagined were possible. When you are sure about yourself, things start to affect you less and less. 

I still do understand and connect to the feminist adage that the 'personal is political', and I can certainly affirm that I am very much engaged in using my own narrative to effect change in my surroundings and I do not at all state that from a perspective of ego. I believe my work as an activist is very subtle. I mean, I do not hold that I am changing the world. However, I do believe I am part of that change whenever I voice my concerns as a woman of color, a migrant, a feminist, a spiritualist. 

So I've been thinking a lot about all those elements that intersect and somehow define my very existence. I am well aware that I am nobody in the bread queue to be giving out about everything which is wrong and brings pain to people in this world. However, speaking my truth has always been part of my way to connect and make sense of this world, even when I'd regret badly what I'd just said. I take all that I've said that hurt others graciously, as I know nothing's in vain and there's always lessons to be learned about everything. 

And one lesson I've learned about myself: whenever I get angry and aggressive, I give out my power to others. In other words, whenever I lost it, the opponent automatically felt as if he had won the argument. On the other hand, if I do not let things give me to the nerves, I am better capable and equipped to voice my concerns, be heard and voilá! Help others. But for me, it took a lot of self-esteem to begin to realize that. As I now do believe I am a person who deserves to be here - in Ireland, in Europe, in this World, in this Galaxy, in the Universe - I am indeed in a better position to empathize with others and even laugh when people are being plain irrational and ridiculous. 

And that is precisely the deal with those jokes. I believe many Irish people are particularly keen on them. It's understandable, as I see lots of self-loathing and low self-esteem in Ireland. It's an interesting phenomena that is probably deeply connected to a long history of being colonized by England. When you divide and conquer, you basically play with people's feelings in order to make them feel so inferior that the only solution is to accept whatever it is they have to tell you. There's countless examples around the world. Whenever I see my fellow Brazilians complaining so much about our culture and praising the United States without reservation, I can feel that resentment that can only thrive in the hearts of those who have little to no self-love. 

As I've now been involved in reading and taking part in the so-called 'spiritual world', I've read many, many positive and nice things. Sadly, I must admit there's loads of ignorance and bigotry in such realms as well. We tend to see the main Abrahamic religions in a not so beautiful light, but there's not much of a difference when you start to get in touch with people who are 'spiritual but not religious'. I've come across a lot of slutshaming, and the most worrying part has been in regards to the oversimplification of the concept of karma. I've seen a video where a guy openly states that rape is karma. I've sat through a lecture where the guy was just fine with subscribing to the racist concept of varna (that basically implies that lighter skin means lesser karma). 

Despite all this, I'm still sticking to the spiritual world. Because something changed inside of me, and that is (oh, the irony) due to my meditation practice. I ceased to bother with such massive displays of ignorance. Because they are so baseless that I don't have to worry, really. However, not having to worry is very different from just accepting everything. I am not refraining from speaking my truth. But I do so from a position of love, not anger, neither resentment. 

The other day an important Brazilian brand released a commercial where gay couples exchange Valentine's gifts. I was able to be happy for the progressive ad, even though they simply ignored that black people are a massive part of the Brazilian population and therefore deserved to be portrayed as well. I know the commercial made a huge difference in the lives of many, many queer people around the country. I also know that many of my fellow black friends have felt left out and discriminated against. In other times, that would have been enough to make me feel depressed for days. When you are a sensitive person, even seemingly trivial things can be a massive trigger to you. 

This is why today I don't like racist (and for the matter, sexist, ableist, ageist) jokes. Because although I've grown to have a thick skin, many people do not. And they deserve respect. And inclusion. However, I do believe it is all about the intention. Pick a mantra - you can say the same mantra over and over again and nothing will happen, really. But if you put intention to it, if you calm your body and mind with the intention you put to a mantra, you are indeed able to manifest its peace in your life. The same reasoning can be applied to everything, including such jokes. I know many nice people (including black people) who see no problems in racist jokes. I do not demonize them. 

The main problem, in my opinion, is that both mantras and jokes were created with a certain mindset. In the past, you didn't really joke with rich and powerful people. Jokes were a means of status quo maintenance. Mantras were created with spiritual healing in mind. If you chant a mantra just because you like how it sounds - it will probably not heal you spiritually. If you say a joke just because you like how it sounds - you are probably not being racist. However, if you come across someone who is not keen on jokes and you go ahead and tell such jokes, you are incurring in disrespect. And here I play the karma card advertently: when you hurt others with your racist jokes, you are probably creating karma to yourself. 

As for me, gone are the days when I took offense on racist jokes. But not taking offense is very different from not finding them offensive. I still find them offensive, and I don't care how many people of color you know who fancy such jokes because they do not feel affected by them. I want to laugh at intelligent sarcasm, not stuff that do not make sense and are, in essence, very stupid. So no jokes for me, thank you. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

I blocked my stalker! (Internet Harassment and Street Harassment: two sides of rape culture)

About a month ago I met this guy on a stall where I was volunteering. We started talking and I could see we had a lot in common: migrants, activists, idealists. As the conversation evolved, we added each other on facebook. I thought he was a little OTT while narrating his roles and achievements in Ireland, but nothing to be worried about. Besides, I usually like to self-reflect whenever I think someone is making me uncomfortable, because that might just stem from something I find nasty about my own personality. You know. People = Mirrors. 

But then, I invited him and the whole bunch to join me in another activists' assembly. A different cause, but also related to human rights. Nobody could make it in the end, but he did. In the meeting, he began with the whole showing off stunt again, and I was definitely annoyed by them. My friend noticed that he was, indeed, strange and OTT. Meeting over, he decided to walk me home, since that was also the way to his address. As we stopped in front of my house, he appeared to be willing to get in, and I soon dismissed him saying that my place was a mess, that I'd invite him for coffee some other time, you know, NOT NOW. He was standing there trying to continue the conversation and I was massively disturbed, so I just got in and literally banged the door on his face. 

Next morning, early morning, he called me. I felt a gelid wind go up and down my spine, and decided not to pick up the phone. Then, he texted me on facebook. I replied, don't know what exactly, but always trying to keep friendliness in mind. I thought he was just being plain annoying, and that maybe he was only excited to have a new friend. I honestly relate to that feeling. You know, being a migrant, one of the first things you realize when you're away from your home country is how hard it is to make and keep new friends. As we apparently come from similar backgrounds (we are both non-white people from the Global South), I thought it could be just a natural reaction of enthusiasm. 

So I tried my best to bear with him. Like, he kept on calling for days, and I would never pick up the phone. I would, if I honestly thought he was worthy of a conversation. The anticipation of that guy going on about his achievements as an activist in Ireland made me cringe every time my phone rang. So I never picked it. I thought he would just get the message across and leave me alone. Now, there is definitely that part of me that sees myself in his actions. And I hate it. Like, I acknowledge that I too am annoying. I realize the cultural dimension of the whole "let's be friends" thing. I'm slowly learning the "Western" way, which means: keep some distance. I think I made many people cringe whenever I came across them. But you know, I realize things soon enough. And I leave people alone. I feel ashamed that I disturbed them, even though I don't think I am that level of 'too much'. After all, I've been socialized into being self-conscious at all times, and even if my culture allows for more openness, I do get back to my state of feeling inconvenient and that is good for my survival here, as I end up getting in the shell again.

Although his calls became sparse, he never really got it completely. We would chat sometimes on fb. I mean, often times I ignored him completely, but other times I just made an effort to be nice and diplomatic. Like the other day when he invited me for some seminary. I replied that I was occupied with something else, and thanked for the invitation. Never really said 'hey, but let's meet some other time'. So the other day he tried to start a conversation and I was totally not in mood for it. I couldn't, even. So I just left his "hi, how are you" hanging there, without response. 

Inside my mind, however, I always tried to be compassionate and understanding. Because I saw myself reflected in his actions. Even though I eyed the worst part of me, I did try to acknowledge and just forgive and be understanding. Sometimes we just don't realize we are being annoying. Sometimes we just don't realize we are being nosy, invasive. Sometimes we get a little attention and we are used to getting so little that we think we can overindulge in that tiny gap people give us to express whatever it is that we wish to say. It happened to me, countless times. I was lucky enough to get a few friends who sort of get it, and they set their boundaries and I am fine with that because I realize that I TOO AM IRRITATING. Some people "can't even" with me, and I took their "can't even" as an opportunity to learn and grow as a human being.

But then, there is this guy. What is it exactly that made him not realize that I wasn't keen on interacting? I mean, I gave clear signals that I did not want to deepen our friendship (never picked up the phone, sparse and short replies on fb, can't we all agree those are signs that someone is not really that interested?). Well, it really puzzles me, and I cannot fathom of any explanation other than male entitlement. Am I saying he was trying to flirt me? Not really. I don't know his intentions. I honestly believe he was just excited to have a new friend, and as I explained above, I do understand and relate to that feeling. However, when I think of his actions and compare them to mine, I do feel it boils down to our socialization into gender roles. 

Again, as I explained, I too have overwhelmed people in the past. Talking to my therapist, I came to learn that I'm not alone in this. However, what I find really disturbing in this story is the fact that I usually realize soon enough (for instance, if someone doesn't reply to my messages I just leave it there) whereas he didn't. Considering his background, which I don't think it's appropriate to expose here (hint: it involves religion), I think it is fair enough to conclude that he only did that out of a feeling that he had the absolute right to do so. I do not think it is a mere coincidence that men account for the majority of stalkers. I believe gender does play a role in that, but it appears to me that society is reluctant to point to that factor. 

So I think this is it: I felt stalked. Trust me, for me to say that I felt stalked, things were really getting out of hand. I think I'm extremely cool in that respect. I am generally unassuming and my level of tolerance is way higher than most of my friends'. I think there is a cultural element to that, as well. Now that I live in the West, I realize the stereotype that Latinos are very passionate is not altogether wrong. That can convert in the way we see relationships, and I'm well aware that what is little to me may be too much to most of my (Western, usually white) friends. So yes, even with all the societal constructs in mind, I felt stalked. And intimidated. And unsafe. 

Last evening, the last straw finally hit me. I went online and saw there was a message. When I looked at it, I couldn't really believe what he was saying: "Your cover photo is hilarious one… reminds me about you :D". I took a moment staring at that word. Hilarious. I looked at my cover picture and saw absolutely nothing hilarious about it. In fact, I only decided to go for it because to me it is beautiful, artistic and serious. Not even in my wildest dreams could I ever have conceived of the image I paste below as hilarious. 

So I just asked him: "Hilarious?" 

And he gave me the answer: "Bitch in the shower - lol! ;)" "Funny picture :D" 

Driven by a sense of complete disbelief and powerlessness, I went ahead and blocked him. I managed to take a screenshot of the interaction, but now I regret that I did not capture all conversations. I mean, they weren't that many, but there was that one when he came to my inbox to give me feedback on a video I'd shared. It is basically a contemporary dance video I love. I feel it is about the struggles involved in relationships. He saw it as explicit sex. I thought it was down to his own worldview, and tried not to bother much, then. Now I realize I should have blocked him straight away, instead of just waiting for things to escalate this way. 

But yeah, that's what happened. After I blocked him, he came up with a second profile (????) to give me an 'explanation', which reads "The picture was sexy. But I was joking as a friend. I was not flirting. I think there is a misunderstanding. Good night friend :)". To which I replied "you are not my friend. Please don't talk to me again". And then I blocked this second profile as well. But at that point, I was feeling intimidated and unsafe again. So I decided to deactivate my account. I didn't do that with a detox in mind. I did that because I was afraid he would pop again and be inconvenient again. Isn't this terrible? Isn't this exactly what men are used to doing while harassing women on the streets?

Now, I understand he was telling the truth: this is not about flirting. Who on Earth would think this is flirting, anyhow? It is clearly about making the other person uncomfortable. It is clearly about power. I would easily place his actions on the same category as street harassment, which is something that has nothing to do with flirting and courtship. It is about power, about putting women in their place. When he made a comment about my cover picture, he wasn't really being my "friend". He probably thought that since I posted something 'sexy', I'm out there to take shit. That puts me automatically in the category of the 'whore', because if I expose myself that way, then I should obviously acquiesce to his nasty remarks. 

Well. I don't really know what else to say and this text is long enough, so let me leave you with my questions: Why can't we just move beyond hierarchy and treat everyone, I mean EVERYONE, with kindness and respect? Why is it that he saw me as not respectable enough in order to go ahead with his sick comments? Why do we still insist on hierarchizing women this way, deeming them as deserving respect or not according to their capacity to keep silent and hide themselves? How does the public/private divide normalizes rape culture? What does the 'perfect victim' narrative tell about our whole culture, a culture where disrespect towards those outside the norm is, unfortunately, a given? 

Was I 'asking for it' when I posted that picture?