Ignorant & Unafraid

Dreamers Adrift > Undocublog

By Tina V

When I was in elementary school my best friend lived across the street. Ashley was beautiful and blonde and had big, blue eyes. She wore perfect little outfits that showed off her skinny, tan legs and her mom lovingly braided her hair each day. Despite having a mom with skin like a porcelain doll, it seemed my dad’s traits had taken over. I was chubby and brown. I had wild, long hair down to my ass that covered golf ball-sized knots at the nape of my neck. I was also poor, which meant I was often wearing hand-me-down clothes from my brothers or some bizarre outfit I got from the thrift store. My best friend and I didn’t really notice each other’s differences. We played house, we played Power Rangers, and we spent entire summers eating sour cream and onion Pringles and lusting over the cute Chicano boy who played Benny in The Sandlot.

When Ashley’s mom approached me requesting that I join Ashley’s Orange County cheerleading squad, I stalled, making every excuse in the book, until she finally just signed me up and paid all the fees. On the first day of cheer practice I noticed that all of the girls looked like Ashley and almost immediately, I hated every moment of it. I was purposely excluded, laughed at, and repeatedly made to feel horrible. When a cheer mom who was given the task of French braiding my hair told other moms that I had lice (a blatant lie), the sting of that was nothing in comparison to the day that my #1 football player boy crush called me a “stupid Mexican” as I innocently tried to flirt with him.

It gave me pause and it confused the hell out of me. Didn’t he know that my mom looked like all of the girls that had been making me feel like shit for weeks, with her long blonde hair and big blue eyes? Didn’t he know that I was at least half of what he seemed to prefer? What he said made my face burn with shame and anger. It blasted my feelings to pieces in a way that at the age of 27, I can still feel if I close my eyes and think back to that day at the pizza parlor.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever said that was totally full of shit.

I can vividly recall every cruel thing a person has ever said to me- and it’s not because I’m sensitive, it’s because I’m human. It’s because words hurt in this really exceptional way; a way that physical violence can never compete with. I have been in an abusive relationship and while the physicality of it is now mostly a blur all of these years later, the things he said to me still ring in my ears, still make me cringe, still make me so sad for the girl I was.

I’m what can only be described as hyper passive-aggressive. You can physically provoke me, and chances are I won’t bite. I won’t fight. I’ll walk on with no problem, completely ok with you thinking that you’ve achieved some sort of victory over my wimpy ass. I respond to words in a very visceral way, however. If you talk shit about my mama or call me or any woman a “bitch” in that very specific, sneering way that men do when trying to cut to the bone, there’s going to be a problem.

Undocumented immigrants have a firm understanding of the power of words. The ways they can bring you together and the ways they can tear you apart. The speeches given at rallies that bring people to tears and the flash of anger felt upon seeing the phrase “illegal aliens” printed on the front page of the newspaper. Words alone can incite entire movements. When Geraldo Rivera’s ignorant ass suggested that it was Trayvon Martin’s hoodie that got him shot, hoodie marches took place across the nation. When an ignorant ass representative of the Toronto Police said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”, it sparked the SlutWalk movement. And when DREAMers got sick of hiding in the shadows and hearing ignorant ass media outlets refer to them as “illegals”, “undocumented and unafraid” became their rallying cry.

Words carry weight. No one in this movement can dispute this. Imagine my surprise, then, when a couple of weeks ago I encountered a maddening status update from a noted ally in the movement. The gist of it: he called Anne Coulter an “ignorant slut.” This is the same man, who months prior, referred to Cecilia Muñoz as a “fucking bitch.” Do I understand his horribly misdirected anger? Sure. Both women oppress others in their own, equally horrendous ways, but with so much to complain about each of them, why rely on misogynistic language that degrades and demeans not just these two people as women, but all women? Thankfully, a woman named Carolyn Quetzal Vera responded to his rant, saying:

“Why do you have to call her a slut? You cannot build a movement for liberation by degrading women. That is an insult against any woman with a strong opinion and you crossed the line. This means that the only women who aren’t ‘sluts’ to you are the ones you agree with. You need to check yourself, bad. I don’t agree with her either, but I recognize sexist misogynistic comments when I see them.”

The esteemed ally, family man, and activist does not apologize. Does not check his male privilege. Does not shut the fuck up. He says Anne Coulter does not play nicely, implying that he doesn’t have to either. He says he’s not going to stay inside his “line” because “it’s been a line drawn by them.” But really, if a woman is sincerely telling you that you’ve crossed a line and offended her, don’t you think you should rethink what transpired and perhaps apologize? A few awkward and angry exchanges later, he writes, “No, I’m agreeing with you, I’m VERY misogynistic. No apologizes here, and no stopping.”

When I step into the conversation, echoing what Vera has said, he responds by saying I’m the only feminist that has “earned the right” to check him and that he now considers himself “checked.”

1. I don’t have to earn shit and neither does any woman who steps up to you over your misogyny.
2. You should have checked yourself the moment a woman from your movement told you your language was degrading and offensive.
3. This is just one example that illustrates a much larger problem.

Do you remember that Dreamers Adrift video where Jesús Iñiguez’s character uses the word “faggots” and when Julio Salgado’s character calls him out on it, they get into an uncomfortable back and forth with Jesús actually defending his ignorance rather than apologizing for it? That’s not a good look, but it’s one that so many cultivate. Julio essentially tells Jesús that if you’re for social justice issues, your support should be across the board.

Immigrant rights, LGBT rights, and women’s rights are all under the human rights umbrella and if you’re fighting for one, you may choose not to actively fight for the others, but you do have to be mindful, respectful, and understanding of others. You have to understand how these movements intersect. You have to be respectful of the diverse population you are working with and you better believe that when someone calls you out on an issue they perceive to be problematic and damaging, you have to be willing to suck it up, be humble, apologize, draw parallels between your own behavior and the behavior of those you’re fighting against, and work to understand why what you did was hurtful, insensitive and simply put, really uncool. In other words, make the connection. Be introspective. Be a goddamn human being about it.

If you aren’t willing to do the work, to make the connections, to be humble – well, in my humble opinion, you should get the fuck out of whatever movement you’ve attached yourself to because it’s obvious you don’t have a clear enough understanding of the fact that what you’re fighting for is bigger than what you’re fighting for. What you’re fighting for is broader than your narrow focus and frankly, those you’re fighting with probably don’t want you on their team.

Tina Vasquez is a freelance writer from the Los Angeles area. She often writes about queers, sustainable food, feminists, and other progressive issues.

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Comments

5 Responses to “Ignorant & Unafraid”
  1. Well said. Thank you Tina.

  2. Bupendra says:

    I love you! Your words are porn for my brain. Braingasim.

  3. Graciela says:

    Perfectly executed 🙂
    Great work !

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