Women Want Equality, Not Revenge. This Week, Anyway.

It probably seems irrational that, knowing that it is torture, that I would continue to look at coverage of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing.

I’ve mentioned it to the men in my life. They are, like all decent men, disgusted. But they keep advising me to just stop looking. I’ve looked up articles on how to stop. They say “filter out key hashtags,” but even if I filter out #KavanaughHearing, I can’t also filter out Lindsey Graham, We Believe You, Mark Judge…

It appears that I need to explore why I can’t stop looking.

I can’t stop looking at coverage of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing because knowing how the people I know respond to this is life-or-death information.

You see, I, like many (most) women in your life, have been a victim of sexual assault. I, like many (most) women you know, have never reported, have no plans of reporting it, and have even maintained civil relationships with our assaulters.

You see, I live in a world that is openly hostile to women. Men on the street have felt entitled to my body since I was a teenager. Even without recounting the two instances of assault I’ve experienced, I can recount all of the times I’ve experienced cringe-worthy not-quite-assault.

When I was 15, a 24-year-old man I worked with kissed me after work. When I was 16, my boss called me jailbait. When I was 17, a 40-something-year-old family friend I trusted got drunk and sent me text messages calling me “sexy” and “pure.” Right around this time, I was the child of a low-income single-parent household making decisions about my future, and I wanted nothing more than to start applying to music conservatories. This family friend was helping me through this decision, including introducing me to local producers and studio owners. My mother, without knowing what text messages I had received but knowing about the world women lived in, asked me to reconsider a career in music – at least for now. “I can’t protect you,” my mom said. “I don’t have the money or social standing to do anything if something goes terribly wrong.” And in the music industry, things go terribly wrong all the time. I entered university on a full scholarship as an economics major.

So yeah, #MeToo. We went over that last year.

But women – my mom, me, my friends, my work colleagues – don’t generally feel like helpless waifs in the face of a sea of abusive men. No, the women I know are strong, and the advice they give each other is proactive: carry mace. Walk with your keys in your hand, a sharp key between your fingers. Cover your drink. Own your own finances.

When my MBA came in the mail, I was living in a windowless shared room in Manhattan with 8 other girls. I texted a picture of it to my mom, and she said texted back, “now you can have a career in music.”

This is what women believe. We may live in a world that is openly hostile to women, but if we are proactive, walk in groups, get educations, earn our own money, and develop skills we can always fall back on, then we will be OK. That doesn’t mean we’ll be safe – anything can happen, whether you’re living in a fortress or in a 9-bedroom loft in Manhattan. We live in a world where people hurt other people, often in unknowing ways. If all of us sought to seek retribution for every injustice done upon us, we would not have enough time to pursue our happiness and passions. So we focus on the future and on the single, most productive thing we can do: we make sure we have the power to fight back if one day we must.

So.

When I see Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on the stand: an extremely educated, wealthy, white woman, I see a person who is living the most extreme example of the warning my mom gave me when I was 17. I see a woman who has cultivated every possible defense a woman could, in a position where she must fight back against the most powerful assaulter one could have.

And I see people laughing at her.

I can’t look away.

I have to know how this ends.

If Dr. Ford, with all of her cultivated strength, can’t fight back this aggressor, how can I believe I can? My generation’s mothers told us, daughters, that if we invested in ourselves then we would be able to fight back the monsters if we needed to. Today, we are more educated and more united than ever. If even in this strength, we cannot prevent an abuser with a fickle temperament from becoming a Supreme Court justice, was this advice wrong all along?

We were told that strength exists in education, unity, and incremental progress towards equality. We were told that these honorable factors make revenge unnecessary.

Was that wrong?

Here’s Why I’m Not OK With Your Praise of Last Night’s SOTU Address

State of the Union 2011, from Wikipedia Commons

This blog post was originally a tweetstorm, found here.

As a woman, an American immigrant, a mixed race Latina, and a newly minted American, allow me to explain to you why I’m going to react poorly when you talk to me about how inspirational the President’s speech was last night.

Among the special invitees sat a family whose child was murdered by members of a terrifying Latin American gang, and a Homeland Security agent.

The honored guests at SOTU, while I’m sure all lovely people, were specifically picked to illicit a single response from you: an unshakeable feeling of “us vs. them”

My entire life, due to all those “labels” I outlined in the first tweet, I have deeply and painfully craved a world in which I was seen as a human, and not as an “other.”

“Othering” is the crux of what is so deeply painful to me about a Trump presidency. I’m not screaming bloody murder about half-true perceived constitutional violations or alternative facts. I am screaming because this political moment’s success is based on taking us away from the unified world I’ve desperately craved my entire life. The #SOTU looked like a “celebration of othering we can all agree with.”

I am frustrated with all sides of the political discussion in the United States. Because whether you’re talking about Russia collusion or Making America Great Again, you’re telling me you’re buying into the idea that some humans are more evil, and less worthy, than others. That’s shit.

But most importantly, your tacit approval of othering terrifies me. Because I know that the definitions of the ingroup and the outgroup are loose, and that one day I can belong, and the next day I could not.

I thought I found a unified world when I bought into the American Dream, when I moved to New York City, when I found the open-source community, etc etc etc etc, and then Donald Trump became President by selling the exact opposite.

Donald Trump’s political success is, by his own doing, contingent on convincing you that certain people are dangerous to you and therefore less human, and to eliminate them, certain other people – people like me – are acceptable casualties for the greater good.

So forgive me if I struggle to respond with calmness, rationality, and openness about how you were “pleasantly surprised” by the SOTU. Because nothing about it was pleasant or surprising to me. It was more of the same “us vs. them.”

What I hear is that your dislike of crime, your disdain for misinformation, your (insert other concerns here) supersedes your desire for a world in which we move past socially constructed differences and borders. I’m hearing “means to an end” arguments for temporarily suspending the one thing I have found to be nonnegotiable in a world of subjective opinion: to do unto others as we would want done unto us.

I was 14 the first time that somebody told me that I’m hard to talk to, and that it’s just easier to stay away from political discussions with me. I was completely heartbroken. I thought there was something wrong with me. I have spent so much energy apologizing, and acquiescing, for that.

I’ve learned that avoidance is a powerful self-defense mechanism – there’s few things more painful than the suggestion that you’ve behaved like a bad person. For so long, I’ve decided pushing further wasn’t worth it.

But I just can’t continue apologizing for making people uncomfortable with the most important thing in the world to me.

Feel free to discuss in the comments or in the original tweetstorm

This 2018, Social Media Will Change The World

Now that Christmas is over, I’m using the space between Christmas and New Year’s Day to come up with, and share, my New Year’s resolutions.*

Yesterday’s resolution was to make more music in 2018. I had a couple of instances this past year where I reconnected the music I used to create, and I really loved that feeling. I’m hoping to bring more of it back into my life.

My next resolution is to be bolder on social media.

This is probably borderline ridiculous to my friends and family. I’m already pretty bold on social media.

However, I think I quieted down in 2017. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first one was very practical: my naturalization application last year. I’m not silly enough to believe that social media isn’t part of the review, and while the United States does protect free speech, I doubt that loud, professional anti-government digital content published by the applicant would help. However, now that’s over.

The others were more emotional. For example, backlash from internet trolls. I would include screenshots from some of the messages I’ve gotten throughout the years, but I don’t want to go searching for them because they make me uncomfortable.

There’s also discomfort from family and friends. It’s easy to learn a lot about me via a quick Google search, this worries my mother a lot.

But the biggest thing was criticism from the people I love.

“You will never change someone’s mind over social media.”

Stop getting into internet fights, they said. You’re convinced they’re right, and they’re convinced they’re right, and nothing will ever change.

In 2018, I’m challenging that.

Can An Internet Argument Be Won?

Are internet arguments a waste of time? Maybe. Let’s ask a different question.

How much of a dense, unthinking person does one have to be to have free and unlimited access to all of their friends’ opinions, thoughts and emotions, presented in a completely non-threatening way (on the internet, you don’t have to respond immediately!), and not even, for one second, respond to it?

I just can’t imagine that our opinion of each other is so low that we think that being exposed to our friends’ and loved ones’ pains and struggles will have no effect on how we think.

Honest conversation among friends isn't just a little way to boost social change, it's the only thing that has ever produced it. Click To Tweet Proponents of “you can’t change anyone’s mind over social media” will tell you to engage in more fruitful pursuits, like political activism and donating to charity. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important, but I am saying that we know that massive social change always follows cultural change.

Maybe our reluctance to admit that social media could be the catalyst for massive social change comes from a reluctance to admit we changed. We like to think we are right, and we especially hate admitting we were wrong. Add to that the special stigma about being wrong on cultural viewpoints, and it’s easier to not change. Those who do change keep quiet about it. So, we think social media activism doesn’t work.

Change The World By Learning To Admit You’re Wrong

Can I start this trend? Let me tell you all the awful things social media worked out of my system.

My friends, over social media, slowly educated me to my own blindness about LGBT issues. While I’ve been described as “winning the underprivileged lottery,” (which is ridiculous on its own, but that’s out of scope for this blog post) I was privileged enough to be born a heterosexual, cisgender female. That means that I was ignorant to many of the struggles facing the LGBT community and I was hurtful without knowing.

It was my friends over social media, sharing content they loved, that shed light on my own transphobia, and my own lack of understanding of asexuality. And no, I never reached out to the people whose posts made me see that “being cool with gay people” wasn’t enough. But I looked at the content they shared, I absorbed it, I learned, and I adjusted.

I’m also going to admit that looking at my friends’ social media posts brought to light my own anti-blackness. Anti-blackness in Latin American and Asian communities is well-known, but I, like many others, engaged in “but I’m not deliberately hostile, so I’m not racist” behavior. This is wrong. I learned this via silent reading of my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I felt sad because it was brought to my attention that I was actually pretty racist. But instead of resisting, I decided to be an adult, deal with those feelings, and adjust my behavior.

The biggest slacktivists in the world are the people who use the word slacktivism. Oh, you even have a word for how hard you refuse to be better? Congratulations! Click To Tweet

I became more compassionate through social media. If that happened several million more times, we would live in a different world.

Social Media Activism Is Real

As someone who uses social media for business, I would suggest that we’re letting our own human senses of pride and righteousness get in the way of admitting that social media activism is real, and even makes more sense than traditional activism in 2018.

Organizing via social media has the same benefits that we tout of social media advertising in the business world: it’s cheap per customer. It reaches wide audiences. And it contains a trust factor that traditional advertising (your so-called “real activism” of political organizations and charities) do not, because the content comes from friends.

There is no difference. The only difference is our resistance to it.

This is an ongoing trend in our quickly changing age of technology, by the way. It’s part of a broader, collective gasp at the advancements of technology. We say “overreach!” and “this is making us dumber!” but what we actually fear is change.

A person’s biggest fear is to become irrelevant. We’re afraid of artificial intelligence because if it’s smarter than us, we will become irrelevant. We’re afraid of social media activism because if our society’s values change, the structures we’ve built upon them will become irrelevant.

But, the structures that currently exist are shit. So in 2018, I am done being afraid: let’s keep posting to social media, especially about issues you care about. It’s not pointless, people are listening, and you are making a difference. Persevere: social media will change the world.


*I don’t actually believe in New Year’s Resolutions, and neither should you.

Continue the trend: what are some embarrassing confessions of personal growth via social media that you have? Share in the comments, or tweet about it.

How has social media changed you? #SocialMedia2018 Click To Tweet

 

Could your company’s social media strategy use some improvement? I’ve been promoting causes and products via social media since Xanga. Reach out. Don’t even know what Xanga is? Even more reason to reach out.

Let’s Face It: You’re Against Net Neutrality Because You’re Too Stupid To Understand The Internet

It’s Thanksgiving evening 2017 and I’m idly browsing social media as the house that took me in this year winds down. Then, I see this:
 

I’m not going to link to it because I’ve done enough of giving clicks to fuckery. You can look it up if you’d like. But let’s just say, unfortunately, it wrapped me in. I was like,

which sucked, because I was having a really great, mostly unplugged day up until that point. But I couldn’t stay away because this article made something apparent to me that I hadn’t previously realized:

People are against net neutrality because they think the internet is a consumer good. 

 

This explained everything. I thought everyone had heard the “internet access is a fundamental human right like water and heat” argument, but that was wrong. Many people see the internet like they see their cable service: a source of entertainment, news, and occasionally education. I had never actually realized that the public utility concept was a fringe idea, and not a commonly accepted principle.

That had to be addressed.

Let’s Get This Straight

When it comes to net neutrality advocates, consumer choice is not the point because it is not the discussion.

Allow me to start with a story. I grew up in a household where a single mother of two brought in $18,000 one year. These are the kind of United States households that you hear about that make decisions like groceries vs. gas for the week. Naturally, a decision that came to the chopping block was internet access. “Well, we have cellphones, so perhaps we can do without internet for our computers” was a discussion that came about the year after I moved out.

I absolutely lost my shit.

I now find myself paying for my family’s cellphones and internet access. Let’s explore why.

Internet Is The Greatest Equalizer

A true net neutrality advocate sees the internet as a colossal equalizing force. It is a never-ending library and a publishing house of low barrier to entry. Net neutrality advocates do not see the internet like much of the world sees it – a tool for consumption of games, social media, etc. That’s what it primarily is presently, but we think that’s highly unlikely to be its function in 10 years. That’s what rattled me about the article that started this whole thing: it divided internet use into social media, video streaming, gaming, and email. Wait, what?

Hold on hold on hold on, screamed my brain. That’s not the benefit of the internet. The real benefit comes from someone browsing social media then hopping onto a website of high-quality journalism. They read a long-form article and learn a new word. They look up the word, and land on an online encyclopedia. They contribute to the encyclopedia and learn the name of an area of study previously unknown to them. They purchase a course online for that area of study. Then, they start a blog about it. Then… you get the idea. You have probably done this. And in a world where education is becoming more and more crucial, and more and more expensive, we need this effect more than ever.

Now let’s draw back to the story. My family’s situation was brought up to me because I have been loud about my conviction that internet access was a single, massively influencing factor in my ability to progress economically. I could never forget being 16, mom barely speaking English, and seeking the help I needed from the internet. Blogs helped me figure out how to apply for jobs, college, and more. YouTube taught me to do my makeup for interviews. Google searches taught me about safe sex. As much as I love public libraries, the hours and privacy required for this kind of information access is not available at a public library. I couldn’t let my brother attend high school in a household where internet access wasn’t a laptop-flip away, so I ended up with the bill.

But most low-income United States households don’t have a Christie. So, if the regulations that currently exist which prevent “tiered packages of internet service” from being available go away, lower income households will inevitably choose packages that limit the internet experience, which, unbeknownst to them, will effectively limit the amount of learning, exploration, and ultimately, economic opportunities available to that household. 

This is not a statement intended to insult the poor. The poor are not dumb, the poor are, just like everyone else, actors with incomplete information making decisions at the margin.

I recently spoke to a room of 40 New York City city officials and I told them a story from when I was 14. I launched my first website, carolspianolessons dot com, to promote piano lessons to neighborhood kids because we were poor and I wanted to make money. My mom’s reaction really amuses me, saddens me, and inspires a lot of my work today. She didn’t say “oh my god, you just made a lead generation website on your own?” No, she said, “honey, you’re never going to make a good living teaching music.”

My mother is not stupid. My mother is tough as nails. My mother makes rational purchasing decisions. She just didn’t know.

Net Neutrality Is Protecting A Morphing Information Age

So why do we care?

It starts with this: there’s this troubling pattern that already exists where low-income households are disproportionate consumers vs. creators of online content. We’re worried about this because it’s no secret that the ability to produce using technology is becoming more and more crucial to being employable, productive, etc. Naturally, kids with richer parents are encouraged to create simply because parents know about the value of creating digital content, while low income kids’ families do not.

This is why there’s, give or take, 300,000 nonprofits currently trying to teach kids coding.

Where does net neutrality come in? Simple: this “harsh regulation” ensures that when I volunteer with nonprofit #293 or whatever to teach young people coding that every single one of them will either have a computer with internet access at home, or they will have unrestricted internet access somewhere else. I will not have to explain to a parent why the internet they pay for is not the internet they need for this class. You’ll know, if you’ve ever been in a similar situation, that that conversation will quickly turn into “sorry, we don’t have the right things to let our kid take this class.”

It’s a much more economically approachable problem to have more expensive, consistent internet service, that we can figure out other more reasonable technological limitations to (ex. speeds), than the hurdles we’d have to jump over if these strict regulations were lifted. Because, to draw it back to the original point, the internet is currently erroneously being seen as a form of information consumption. It is not. In the long run, it will come to be understood as an ultimate equalizer of information, transaction (blockchain, anyone?), etc.

But we have to get it through this stage first, and we must protect it to do so. And we’ll never get there if we deliberately prevent a large percentage of people from using it and learning it as a creation tool, which is the only way in which this medium continues to progress.

Tl,dr; (a term brought to you by unrestricted internet access)

The benefit to society (plus the lowering of costs associated with an educated population, too) highly outweigh the costs of this regulation, and people who don’t understand this are, to put it bluntly, too technologically illiterate to think long-term about the technology they’re using everyday. 

Stop being illiterate.


Reconsidering your stance against net neutrality due to this post? Dope, it’d be cool if you left a comment. It’s nice to know one isn’t screaming into the void sometimes.

Take a sec to call your reps using this handy guide

And oh, yes, all subscriptions on CalderaForms.com are 20% off for Black Friday. Unlike internet access, those are goods to be consumed.