Tag Archives: protests

My Bathroom is Being Painted and, Unrelatedly, Some People are Assholes

20 Dec

So it’s Saturday morning and I woke up at 7:30am — you read that correctly — to let Armando in to paint the bathroom walls. Here is the entirely uninteresting story of what led us to this point:

Sometime last week (Wednesday I think?) when it was something like 50 degrees outside I decided to have some adventures. Other people might call the things I did “errands” but I really like to take the path more exciting. Anyway, I went and bought 2lbs of coffee for the house — 1lb ground, the other whole bean because that seemed smart until I realized that I don’t have a coffee grinder — almonds for almond butter, dates for snacking, and then a bunch of more or less necessary household things from Trader Joe’s. Before I left the house to commence adventuring, there was a buzz at the door which, to be entirely honest, is always a terrible way for me to start the day regardless of the time because the buzzer always scares the shit out of me. I am not someone who likes unexpected, or even semi-expected, loud noises. When people come to the house I tell them to call me rather than ring the buzzer and when they ring the buzzer anyway I get mad at them. Legit angry. Usually by the time they make it up to the third floor I have talked myself back into behaving like a reasonable human being but it is always a little hairy. Anyway, so the buzzer went off


and I jumped about three feet in the air. Once I recovered enough I talked into the thing to see who was there. Exterminators! But no one told me they were coming! Cue ill fantasy about scary robbers, murderers or rapists masquerading as exterminators trying to scam their way into my house in order to rob, murder, or rape. I called my landlord. They were, in fact, exterminators. They came in and drilled some holes in the ceiling because there were termites maybe and apparently drilling holes in the ceiling helps with that? I don’t know. I am certain there must have been more to it. In the process of drilling the holes I pointed out all the mold that was happening in the bathroom in an effort to explain to these guys who really did not give a shit that we were actually quite clean and that what appeared to be dirt was actually mold that we couldn’t get rid of and also that the chipping paint on the ceiling was the unfortunate consequence of my old roommate and best friend attempting to kill the mold by painting over it in green paint. The funny thing about it was that she was trying to repaint the whole bathroom green but used some of the paint on the ceiling to try and suffocate the mold (?) and then ran out of paint and so we had three walls painted green, one wall painted mold, and one ceiling that had green under white paint but the mold was using its powers to push through the white paint and it was all flakey and fucked up and the green was peeking out from under there like some sort of disease. It was something to behold. So when my landlord, Nelson (who is awesome, by the way) was there with the exterminators¬†he noticed all the mold and called me the next day to let me know that Armando would be coming over on Saturday morning at 9am to repaint the bathroom. Hooray!

I got really excited. I had been planning on repainting the bathroom myself in a nice shade of lavender but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Here it was! My chance! I could just go out and buy the lavender paint and then Armando could use it to paint over the unsightly white mold resistant paint he was going to use to try and handle our mold problem. But then Nelson dashed all my dreams by telling me the mold paint only comes in white and that if I, or Armando more realistically, were to paint another color on top of it then it would no longer have mold fighting powers. (He didn’t actually say “mold fighting powers” but I am fairly certain he was thinking it.) I think he might be lying to me about that but whatever. I bet Google would know. Or one of you readers who also happens to be an expert in all manner of paint and/or mold. (Hint, hint.)

So now Armando is in the bathroom repainting it and I am sitting at the kitchen table writing about it when what I had originally planned on doing was telling you about this quote I just read that pissed me off but for whatever reason I decided to explain to you all why it is that I woke up at 7:30am on a Saturday when I have to bartend tonight until all hours. It’s all because this sequence of events:

mold —> weird paint job —> diseased looking ceiling —> exterminators maybe or maybe not shaming my landlord into noticing how nasty the bathrooms looked —> new paint! —> awake ūüė¶

Anyway, Armando is painting the walls as I type and all our bathroom things are in bags in the living room and I read the following quote in the New Yorker article about Samantha Power which was said by a “senior Administration official” (run-on sentence POWER!):

“It’s easy in some ways to dismiss someone like Samantha Power. Oh, she cares about the marginal, vulnerable, and oppressed! But what she’s managed to do is link the marginal, vulnerable, and oppressed to core national-security interests of the United States.”

Holy mother fucking shit, you guys. So this obviously sent me into a rage and not because I am naive and don’t think that people in government think this way. It sent me into a rage because this is obviously a widely enough held opinion that someone, albeit anonymously, felt good saying it to a reporter. This person looked someone else in the face and actually talked about how easy it is to dismiss someone for caring about the “marginal, vulnerable, and oppressed.” And what that says to me is not only that he dismisses those who care about the marginal, vulnerable, and oppressed but they he clearly takes it one step farther and dismisses the marginal, vulnerable, and oppressed themselves. And this is how we get to the point that we’re at right now. This is how we get to the point where…

…people only care about¬†the hundreds of missing African school girls for as long as they are moved¬†by the hash tag…

…we only talk about Ebola for as long as it impacts us here in the United States…

…we have police officers killing unarmed black men and we cannot seem to get indictments ever, ever, ever…

…it takes the release of a video of a woman getting knocked unconscious in an elevator months after it actually happened for us to have a real, although too short and unnuanced, conversation about domestic violence…

…we have an intelligence agency that tortures detainees so severely that, before beginning the torture regimen actually sought assurances that a detainee would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life” (from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s interrogation-and-detention program).

It’s like, fuck. These are people in our government, people who have things to do with foreign affairs and international engagement, who simply look through the people who they think don’t count because they think that no one hears them. And maybe a lot of people don’t hear them because the system is fucked but that doesn’t mean that we should simply dismiss them and be like “well, we know this is jacked buuuuut no one really cares because those people have no political clout or money so we will just go over here and focus on something else that likely makes the situation worse.” They look through them and dehumanize them and then they are surprised when some of those people get angry and seek revenge. I know I have talked about this before at some point or another but the fact that pretty much every single decision made by our government is economically motivated makes me sick. You want to know something? We made up money. Made it up!¬†We made up economics pretty much all together. You know what we didn’t make up, though? People. Didn’t invent those! And yet we constantly value this thing that we created over the actual lives of real people that we share the world with. And then on top of that people in power, and lots of people not in power also, completely dismiss those among us who give a shit about the people no one else sees as “bleeding hearts” and “liberals” and “humanitarians” and whatever else.

So a few weeks ago I went to one of the protests here in New York. It started at like 5:30pm and continued on into the night and one of the guys who got stopped by the protests yelled out his car window “GET A JOB!” and it’s like, dude, it’s like 7 in the evening. Most of us¬†have jobs. Most of us¬†pay taxes. We just want our taxes to go towards everyone equally and we want accountability in the power structure and acknowledgement if a highly racist system and for everyone to be seen so I am sorry if you are feeling inconvenienced by the tens of thousands of people who felt compelled to take to the streets but you know what? You have managed to not see a good percentage of the world’s population for your entire goddamn life so one night of being stuck in a protest-caused traffic jam is really not that big of a fucking deal in the grand scheme. Maybe it will even cause you to see people for once. Or, if you are that goddamn daft, then just turn up your radio because¬†you can’t simply wish away the marginalized, the vulnerable and the oppressed. It does reach a critical mass at some point and right now information is free and available and people are angry.¬†Your money and your job and your penis and your white skin doesn’t make you better. It just makes your voice necessarily heard. But hopefully all that will be changing and you might just get stuck in a lot more (proverbial) stand still traffic jams. Welcome to life for the rest of the world, asshole.

And now my bathroom is blindingly white. Happy Saturday, all.

A Reflection Post-Delhi

3 Jan

A little over a week ago when I was at work and before any customers came in, I was listening to the news while I set up the bar.¬† CNN was covering the protests that had swept through India after the brutal gang rape of a female student in Delhi, a city that is known for having high instances of sexual attacks.¬† The station had set up an interview with someone they considered important and knowledgeable — a man in his mid-to-late 40s — in order to get some local input on the attack itself as well as the protests that had erupted in its aftermath.¬† He said the normal things.¬† You know, how horrible the attack was, how he hoped the young woman would pull through, how surprised he was by the size of the protests when so many similar attacks (although I would imagine the majority of them far less brutal) had elicited nothing to that degree.¬† And then he said something (which I will paraphrase), by way of explanation of the rape itself, that has been clanging in my head for the past 8 days:

The reason these attacks have been happening is because of the percentage of males to females in the overall population.¬† These men don’t have women to settle down with.¬† There aren’t enough of them.¬† So they are frustrated and this is what happens.

And then there was clattering and screeching noises inside my head and I had to sit down.

Okay, so, it is true.¬† There are more men than women in Delhi.¬† According to the Delhi Census of 2011, the city itself has an overall population of 16,753,235.¬† Of that 16.7 million people, 8,976,410 are men and 7,776,825 are women.¬† So that you don’t have to do the math, that means that, in 2011 at least, there were 1,199,585 more men than women living in Delhi.¬† Sure, that’s a lot of people.¬† And sure, I imagine it is very frustrating for men who want to get married and have sex…or have sex and get married…or just have sex.¬† Being frustrated, as legitimate as it may be, is no excuse to get together with your friends, pretend to drive a shuttle bus, and pick up a girl off the street who is simply trying to get home and literally rape her to death.¬† No amount of frustration can ever justify that.¬† Ever.

You know what that is?¬† That sounds to me like you are trying to take the weight of responsibility off of these mens’ shoulders and blame it on sheer numbers.¬† They simply couldn’t help themselves.¬† Their desires to stick their penis in something was simply too great.¬† They were powerless to resist.¬† You know what I think?¬† I think that what happened to that woman, what those men did to her, was generations in the making and not just in India but everywhere.¬† All over the world.¬† (This analysis does not take the onus of responsibility off the individuals who perpetrated this attack, but simply is an attempt to put it into a greater context of inequality and violence.)¬† We are all guilty.¬† Sure, female infanticide is a part of it.¬† But the fact that there are less females than males is not what makes female infanticide a crucial part of this story.¬† The mindset that allows the killing, the neglect, the abandonment of female children is what makes this important.¬† The mindset that many people have that females are worth less than males is what allows people to justify killing their own babies and is part of the society in which these men are raised.¬† It is what allows them to see women as less human than they are.¬† As simply a hole in which to stick their penises.

But it goes beyond India.¬† And it goes beyond infanticide.¬† That is just one small part of it.¬† We, unfortunately, live in a world where, as I have said before, the female body is a battle ground.¬† Where the word of a female does not count for as much as the word of a male.¬† I read today in the newspaper that the Indian government, in response to this attack, has fast tracked the investigation and the trial of these men in order to show that this is not acceptable behavior.¬† But what about all the other rapes that were never investigated in India?¬† What about all the unopened rape kits that sit on shelves in cities and town across the United States, their statutes of limitations running out?¬† It’s a lot of work, it takes a lot of resources, to go through all those kits and we simply can’t keep up with the rate of sexual assaults.¬† But shouldn’t that be the biggest sign that something is wrong?¬† That we are dealing not with a few isolated incidents but instead with an epidemic?¬† Women are raped every single day.¬† Every single one.¬† Every day a man, or a group of men, decide to force open the legs of a women and violate her.¬† Insert himself inside of her.¬† And every day a man, or a group of men, all over the world gets away with it and the woman is left to pick up the pieces.¬† Often it is she is who vilified.¬† At what point are people in the mainstream, not people in a corner of the internet, but people with power and sway going to admit that we have a worldwide problem with the way we think about women.

We need to stop making excuses.  We need to stop trying to blame specific policies or cultural norms or religious laws.  We need to realize that we have a serious worldwide, cross-cultural, cross-societal, cross-religious deficit in the way we view women.  We can change laws.  We can have protests.  We can even hang a few people.*  But until we look inwards and understand that this view of women is engrained in us, all of us, nothing is actually going to change.  We will have another horrific gang rape in Delhi, or a small town in Texas.  We will have another woman assaulted by a powerful man, be it the French leader of an international organization or the president of the United States, and then dragged through the media, her reputation completely destroyed while, for the most part, the man continues in his pursuit of power and sex relatively unscathed.

Honestly, I just don’t think it should be that hard.¬† Part of being a human being, in my estimation, is to keep your eyes and ears open and constantly take things in, learn and adjust your behavior.¬† Maybe you were raised somewhere where everyone told you the Holocaust never happened and that Jews were born with horns.¬† But then you read Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” and you realize what you were told simply isn’t true and you set off to learn and understand and adjust yourself to your new understanding of history and the world.¬†¬† Women and men are physically different, sure, but in terms of our worth in the world we are equal.¬† It’s simple, just start there.¬† Without women, there would be no men and without men, no women.¬† We need each other for the species to survive.¬† So it’s not just that we need to respond to specific instances of infanticide, of rape, of abuse, of victim blaming. We need to acknowledge, and respond to, the environment that allows these things to continue happening.¬† We all, barring perhaps the sociopathic, think that murder is wrong, evil.¬† So why not rape?¬† Why not date rape?¬† Why not violence against women overall?¬† Let’s start there.¬† Raping a woman should mean the end of a political career.¬† It should be a sign that something is severely wrong with the perpetrator.¬† Rape is far too commonplace because people get away with it.¬† Because, for so many, the woman played a crucial role in her own assault simply by existing.¬† Because, in some places and to some people, a woman is tarnished by her rape, is considered dirty, undesirable.¬† The woman feels embarrassed, ashamed.¬† But it is us, all of us, that should feel ashamed that this keeps happening, again and again, and we don’t really, seriously, try changing the scope of the conversation.¬† So let’s try.

*For the record I am never in favor of capital punishment.  Let them rot in jail, I say.  And Indian prison, or so I have read, is not a fun place to live out your days.