Let’s Talk About that Sex Scene (or Lack Thereof) in Wonder Woman

wonderwoman

(Above: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman)

All thanks to the spectacular women who made and starred in this film.

Ae Padilla

It’s an amazing moment when a film passes the Bechdel test in the first few minutes of run-time. It reminds me that I am about to a view a movie that remembers women make up half of the population and should be represented as such. But when it happens in the superhero universe, a male-centric environment, it is even more fantastic.

Wonder Woman, the biggest block-buster of 2017 showcases actress Gal Gadot as the iconic Diana, Princess of Themyscira. Gadot, brings to light the impressive qualities that make up Wonder Woman, intelligence, strength, perseverance, independence, empathy, and of course beauty.

Make no mistake about it Gadot is gorgeous, distractingly beautiful even. Despite the troubling naysayers (or rather idiots) who have devoted time to online posts about Gadot’s “less than impressive cleavage,” Gadot is nothing but breathtaking, the type of human you just want to stare at. And Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman knows this. She is very much aware of the sex appeal that Gadot and Wonder Woman embody, the male attention and the male gaze that could easily erupt when the sexual appeal of a main character becomes overly sexualized – especially within the context of womanhood. There’s a reason why Jenkins didn’t get binding tape and try to reenact a Kiera Knightly Pirates of the Caribbean moment and also why the sexuality of Wonder Woman never dips into a “costumey” costume.

In Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman the costume serves a point, and that point is not to illicit sexual feelings but to showcase the strength and fluidity that Wonder Woman needs to fight. Similarly, every decision Jenkins makes tells us that our protagonist is in charge of her sexuality, and she is in charge of how the viewers see it too.

The most stunning example of this is Diana Prince’s and Steve Trevor’s first kiss and night together.

Although there are those critics and viewers alike who have spoken with distain about the need for a romantic plot at all, I stand with Jenkins. Wonder Woman should be able to live in a world in which she is able to save the world and get the guy (even if that be for only a short time.) Like any superhero film with a male as its lead, Diana is allowed the right to have sexual feelings for a ridiculously attractive secondary character.

Where Wonder Woman strays is in the organic development of the relationship between Diana and Steve, the compatibility addressed between two people who feel like outsiders, who hold firmly to justice and are equally brave. Attraction to each other is a small piece of the puzzle which seems almost inevitable with two insanely good-looking people.

What is so important is Wonder Woman takes account of her own sexuality early in the film. She needs no “saving” from any man, even for the “pleasures of the flesh.” She does not need a sexual rescuing, a male to make her climax. In a comical boat scene Diana and Steve speak about reproduction and Diana’s knowledge of men and physical gratification from men. Diana claims “I’ve read all 12 volumes of Clio’s treatises on bodily pleasure…you would not enjoy them…they came to the conclusion that men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary.” Plain and simple, leaving aside the unclear sexual relations of the other Amazons (all women on the island) Diana can reach an orgasm by herself, making the bedroom scene later in the film even more layered and complex.

After a tumultuous battle brought to an end by Diana, both Diana and Steve find themselves dancing underneath the falling snow. Diana looks up at it, calls it “magical” and has what can only be described as an utterly romantic moment with Steve. But with no kiss, Diana makes a decision. After the night comes to a close, Steve walks her up to her room and stops at the door ready to close it, leaving her alone. When he glances once more at Diana he hesitates. Diana stares at him seductively, almost with a “come hither” look. It is this gesture that serves as a catalyst for Steve to make his way to her where ultimately both of them embrace in a sensual kiss that cuts away gracefully but suddenly to the outside of their building, snow still falling down.

As a woman, you get the idea that from the time Diana asked Steve what a “normal” world looks like, amidst hearing the piano and watching others “sway”, she decides that she wants Steve both sexually and romantically and as a beautiful and fierce woman with someone who has possibly expressed as much interest in her as she has with him she is inclined to get what she wants.

It’s a strong and realistic testament to the power women have with sex that is repeatedly stripped away from them in films, especially superhero films in which the woman is often portrayed as the prize the man earns for saving the world. This presents itself in scene after scene where a woman is almost violently and passionately taken after a heated conversation that usually revolves around a man claiming how much he needs her in a moment but then also how he must leave her because he does not want to endanger her, thus exhibiting that power balance in which the man has the upper hand.

Diana in her kiss with Steve, and her un-coerced decision to allow him to stay with her in her room is both a mixture of vulnerability and power that most sex scenes fail to adequately portray with women. We know that Diana does not have the past experiences of sexually being with a man, so it’s a pivotal point in her personal narrative when she chooses him as the person she wants to have sex with, particularly given that the context we do know about Diana is that she is in charge of her own sexuality through presumed masturbation. Diana is a virgin, but not a stereotypical virginal character, and if the sex scene did continue for more than the few seconds we were given Diana would be knowledgeable and assertive about what to tell Steve in regards to pleasing her if he was not performing the way she wanted (although in my fictional world I am sure Steve is perfect in bed.)

However it’s important to discuss some of the reasons why the scene did not extend past that initial kiss. On one hand I believe Jenkins did everything in her power to stop the destructive male gaze. With groups of men upset about the political correctness of a woman superhero (never mind that the heroine has been around since the ‘40s) to men threatening to sue movie theaters for having women only screenings (while co-ed ones were available at the same time) the fragile ego of males has notably showcased itself. The ignorant persona of this man is a man who would love to objectify Gadot’s body, displaying that male gaze as something which does or does not satisfy what he wants to see on screen. An active sex scene also allows Wonder Woman to be demoralized by preconceived notions of promiscuity and purity in females, E.g. a woman who “puts out” is not as valuable any more and in some way weaker. Jenkins prevented clips uploaded to YouTube of the sex scene not because it arouses others and is a plot distraction but because it sexually commodifies Gadot as “the hot fuckable superhero.”

So the viewer does not get the whole sex scene; like a private moment we are not supposed to be watching we get ushered away. The director paints in broad strokes and it works, the romance of the previous scenes continue through.

In most sex scenes the scene does extend past the act itself. In the PG-13 version of the rendezvous the woman lazily has a sheet covering, just perfectly, her breasts the following morning. In the R version the woman is sprawled across the bed, chest exposed, as the man either kisses her or gets up to begin whatever pressing job he has to attend to. He however is rarely seen in any vulnerable state that the act of sex he just partook in demands.

In Wonder Woman this never happens. But believe me I waited for it. In the following scenes I waited for the knowing look that I am accustomed to watching in films, that moment where Steve looks at Diana and she smiles shyly thinking about what they did the night before. That time when they hold hands, initiated of course by the male, when they speak about how being intimate together changed or is about to change whatever they have.

It’s quite possible within the world of Wonder Woman that both Diana and Steve felt more emotionally bonded within their relationship, but since it’s something we can only assume the precedent is that the act of sex forming or not forming that bond does not matter. Instead in the final moments of the film Diana is again resilient, strong, brilliant and equal in every way if not superior to Steve as a sexually satisfied woman.

Her relationship, and her sexuality do not become a focus of the film even as the relationship reaches its most charged moment and as such Jenkins sets out to accomplish what she wanted, creating a character full of emotions, strengths, and flaws that recognizes love is a great and intricate revolutionary power in humans.

If Wonder Woman represents what an incredible woman hero should be in multiple aspects of the ordinary and extraordinary then she sets a perfect example of what powerful female sexuality is – making you not weaker but stronger, allowing you to find and explore another part of your being. It is Diana who unapologetically speaks about sex, and its bizarre way it is treated in the modern world, and it is her who saves the world, not the day, and it is her who gets the man on her own terms.

 

The Video I Will Show My Son

(And the talk I will have when I tell him not to rape anyone)

All respect goes out to the victim of this crime, Jane Doe. “Not all men” blah blah blah.

Ae Padilla

As of now I don’t want children. I want a marriage with lots of adventure, sex, and waking up at 3 pm on a Sunday because we both just can. But I have at some points thought about the “what if.” What if I wake up one day (early) and do want a child?

And in that fantasy, the fantasy of wanting a screaming little tiny creature, it is always a boy. Not that girls aren’t amazing in their own right, sorry. But I picture a beautiful little boy. Dressing him up in baseball uniforms (or theatre ones if he takes after me more than his fictitious dad.) I picture us, him and me, inseparable mom and son, watching whatever Star Wars film is out then, eating greasy burgers, and being crazy close.

I never had a brother, so I blame all my need for male bonding partly on that.

I picture me finally understanding why people brag so much about their children it makes me want to pull their eyes out. And of course I picture the not so fun stuff. Spending more money on groceries than I would if I had daughters, smelling farts that are supposed to be “funny”, and having “the talk.” And no, I don’t mean the sex one where I turn my chair around with my hands on my chin and try to act like a sitcom-dad. I mean the talk where I tell him not to rape anyone.

Bet you didn’t think I was going to go there did you?

I know the internet and our culture has spoken greatly, but never enough, about sexual assault. We live in a time where more people are discussing the crime that statistically men mostly impose on women. There are think pieces after think pieces about the ramifications of rape, from those who have been raped to even those who have been a bystander to a rape. There’s a dialogue about what is happening at parties, college campuses, in relationships, and with random people who exert their power to commit one of the most significant crimes one can commit. And this is good, this dialogue, I never doubt that for a second.

I even have read one very brief article which is similar to this one, but still it needs to be said.

The biggest part out being a parent is instilling values and a sense of morality and responsibility in your children. I wish it was sarcasm and good taste and a thirst for news, but at the end of the day if my kid never has a subscription to the New York Times I need to remember that what is really important is that he is a good human being, that morality can indeed be taught the way we teach manners, and that he as a man is responsible for the well-being of women when he is not only alone with them but in the company of them with other men.

He is responsible for not raping women and he is responsible for not letting men rape and talk casually about rape, which in itself can be a harder thing than not participating in the act.

That is because no parent I know ever thinks their son will grow up to be a rapist just as no parents live their lives believing that their sons will commit grand theft auto, battery, or even murder. The conversation of parents even allowing themselves to say the words to their (otherwise responsible smart funny and charming middle/upper middle class) sons “don’t murder anyone” is such an insane and frankly ridiculous idea no one would think twice about it.

Rape is not the same. Rape is not the same as the above mentioned crimes, because rape is grey where rape should not be. Rape is coercion. Rape is when your son is very drunk and he wants to “get it in”, and he decides that if he persists enough with the drunker girl that she will go back to bed with him and then he will have earned his sex the way his parents and teachers would be proud of him earning his grades. Enough dedication and a hell of a lot of wanting.

Except sex involves someone else, and as said before it lives in that area that is too often murky when it need not be. But who are the men raping women? I’ll tell you this, it’s not the same five men who hang out in dark corners waiting for women to come home so they can overpower them with a knife. Yet again, statistically, it is the sons of all the people commenting on Brock Turner’s early prison release with “I hope he rots in hell one day.” “He didn’t get enough time for this crime.” “What a shitty human.” I guarantee you that these people are fueled (justifiably) with their anger, and are expressing it in the most sincere ways. I never doubt this for a second. I do doubt however that if they themselves have a son of Brock’s age that they have ever uttered the words: Don’t rape a woman. Don’t take advantage of a woman. Don’t let a woman be raped and do nothing about it.

Because it goes against the core being of a parent that a child of theirs could do something they themselves would never do while simultaneously feeding the false idea that if a parent loves their kid enough than that kid would never do anything that would ruin themselves, their family, or another family.

But once we start believing and implementing the idea that children can learn that assault, rape, is something bad that they can do themselves than we can eliminate the idea of a rapist as “another” and not one of our own, as rapists are brothers, friends, and relatives. In turn this will allow us to treat assault and rape as something that is yes, damaging, but also something that can be discussed the way that stealing from a candy store is. It is of course in no way the same severity of a crime but it is a learning lesson that does not make the parent’s feel as if they are having a conversation that does not need to be had because “their kid would never do that.”

Which is why I will show the infamous video of the Steubenville rape case to my son, as there is not a single piece of “appropriate” video which so perfectly encapsulates what exactly rape culture is while also highlighting how men who feel uncomfortable with a reported rape still fall victim to a toxic culture. And this toxic culture is of men who dismiss their concern with laughs, disgruntled looks, and removal from something they know is wrong but feel they can do nothing about.

For those unaware, the Steubenville rape case occurred in Steubenville, Ohio on the night of August 11th, 2012. Making national headlines, the case involved a high school girl who had become unconscious after attending a party where alcohol was present. She was repeatedly sexually assaulted by fellow high school men that she knew who took to documenting the event via photographs posted on Twitter and Instagram. These shared photos and videos included the offenders digitally penetrating the victim and attempting to get her to perform oral sex on them without her consent. When she woke up the next morning she was completely unware of what had transpired the night before, and it was not until she discovered her own body being dragged around like a doll on social media that she realized the severity of the crime inflicted upon her.

The men involved were sixteen year olds Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays who were found guilty and sentenced to one/two years behind bars in juvenile detention (they have since been released.)

The video I mentioned that was posted by group Anonymous online does not include the perpetrators. And that is the most important part of this piece.

The video instead includes Michael Nodianos as the star of the twelve minute buzzed tangent his friend records on his phone at a house in the early morning hours of that same day.

In a video that is so disturbing I watched it the way one watches a disgusting horror film (one hand covering my eyes unsuccessfully, me grimacing), I still attempted to power through. I was in the first few minutes curious about Nodianos and his involvement in the crime, as there are those who have said that he was responsible for a sexual assault the year before (although there is nothing to definitively prove this.) After minute two I changed my tune. I was hoping for Nodianos to recognize just how horrifying his words sounded. I ended with hoping that someone, anyone, would tell him to stop whatever he decided was a funny comedy sketch. Because it was not funny. And it was not drunk talk. It was a promotion of rape that started before the video itself.

By all accounts Nodianos was present at the party where the assault occurred. Posting one of the photos of victim Jane Doe, he captioned his Instagram with “some people deserve to be peed on.” He, concernedly, received many re-tweets within the next few hours of that photo. After he left Doe, or the party she was incapacitated at, he sat down and vented to his filming friend about what he had witnessed.

As the twelve minute video stretches on he makes comments about how “raped” the victim is.

“”She is so raped,” he says. “Her puss is about as dry as the sun right now” and then “they raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.” He continues speaking, fully believing that she might be dead. “She’s so dead, she’s so raped” he proclaims almost with glee, never once feeling any remorse for his, at very least, callous remarks as he sits comfortably in a chair looking at the camera like he is auditioning for a reality TV show.

And he might as well be, because as much sincerity he does possess he is also performing. It’s not an “out” or excuse to what he said but it is evident. You can see it when he asks his friend if he is still filming. And that same person affirming him, recording his monologue, asks for more. He begs for it with his giggle every time Nodianos makes a new statement about how much she was raped that night, laughing hysterically after as if he is the over-enthusiastic audience member of an improve group.

Is this your son? Is this my son one day? Is Noadianos with his generic pale skin, brown hair, and sports t-shirt my son? I sure to hell hope not. I hope that more than anything I have ever hoped.

But Nadianos never went to trial. Nadianos never actually did anything illegal, or at least nothing he was charged for. He might have been there and displayed tasteful photos and vulgar language but he was never in a court of law defending his video, and to this day the court of public opinion might hate him but as far as the records show Ohio State did accept him into their school on an academic scholarship in 2013, although he did leave after a semester (but whether or not it was of his own accord is still not known).

Nadianos does however represent the relative we could all one day have, a relative who lives in a world (further implemented by his closer circle) that understand the concept of human dignity enough to not rape but not enough to not joke about it. And this is troubling because it belittles the assault in every which way, blames the victim for drinking too much, contributing to her own “dead” and wiping away any agency that the women has in life because she had no physical agency at that moment. It’s shocking and revolting and a thought further drilled into your brain that people will find any common interest and unify around it the more you watch the unfortunate video.

In fact I could not get that hypothesis and this video out my head for hours after I stopped watching it, an appalling truth for someone who watches true crime murder documentaries like their favorite sitcom before going to their bed alone.

It’s important to mention Nadianos is a waiting predator. You get the feeling that he would have done something to if he had the time and opportunity and ironically maybe not a camera filming him. You get the idea that as much as he liked documenting the assault he might also like to be one of the “stars” of it.

But somewhere close to the 4:15 mark of the infamous video someone we recognize enters the narrative. A voice from outside the film (we never see him/them.) He’s all of us, and he’s the son that everyone wants if he, for any unfortunate reason, had to be one of the characters occupying this terrible night.

The male voice off camera states, as Nadianos is still laughing, “”That’s not cool bro” and “That’s like rape. It is rape. They raped her.”

Nadianos has a moment to understand what exactly he has been joking about for the past four minutes, a moment where he could recant and turn a new leaf. Instead he turns it into a joke. “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!”

The “voice of reason” (unseen) tries again. “”What if that was your daughter?”

“But it isn’t,” Nodianos replies “shutting him down” for good.

And just like that you hear with half-hearted sighs the distaste in the other men’s demeanor off screen. They are the ones who realize how sickening these statements are, but who have “done enough.”

They mentioned how it was “not cool” and then tried to appeal to a more realistic side of how men in our culture view rape, the familiar but misguided idea: what if that was someone who was close to you. They mention the daughter he does not have, even his sister. But Nodianos ignores them all because he has a person behind the camera (phone) validating him in every way he wants. He continues filming and continues laughing and Nadianos is unaware that what he is doing is wrong because those reprimanding him are not standing up any more than if he had cheated in a game of beer pong. In all honesty, they might be more upset about an unfair game of beer pong. Their anger about the assault, warranted, was most likely forgotten in conversation as they ate whatever they could to soak up their alcohol.

But those teenagers off camera, the ones who objected and went on to live their lives never once in the following months hunted by media, those boys are my son. They are probably most people’s sons. They know something is wrong, they understand a crime has been committed that goes beyond something as trivial as property damage, they feel it within the depths of the person that they are. Whether they have realized the legal ramifications of what has occurred or whether or not they believe anyone will be held to that crime is insignificant. Yes it might be possible they are “saving skin” so to speak, because being witness to someone saying something so irresponsible they were fearful it might come back to bight them in the ass, but in reality they felt that incredible uncomfortable feeling that boils down to knowing they are witness to something wrong but they feel completely lost as to what to do next.

Everyone has been there in life. I have to. But I haven’t been there for a case like this because as a woman my chances of being in this situation dramatically decrease based solely on my sex. That being said, the real person who we have to worry about to make the greatest change in this case might be the one capable of the greatest change at this point. The off-screen anonymous teenager who does not want to get involved and be perceived as “sell-out” if he calls the police and tells them he believes a rape occurred.

This is our son who will do nothing wrong but not do anything right either. Is it good that he stuck up to the Nadianos (whoever that might be in the future)? Yes. But it is not enough. And it’s our fault that rape continues to be an unsolvable problem because we believe that our children are not a part of it, even the ones who “just” hear about it.

We must give them the tools to talk about rape and expose rape to those who have the power associated with their employment to legally stop it and charge those responsible. We must form a union of those who speak to their sons so that rape and assault is “uncool.” So that people like Nadianos find no joy in making videos because they will have no audience that finds disappointing fulfillment in it. More importantly, we must tell our sons that their voice is capable of reaching further if it continues to speak, speak, speak against.

The alternate video would be our sons off screen who take it further, who confront Nadianos on-screen (unable to confront the convicted rapists themselves) and who ask him straight to his face the questions that they asked before. It’s not that the questions themselves do not have merit, rather that they are dismissively thrown around without true conviction because “keeping the peace” is still a background priority (whether they realize it or not.)

Once we change the narrative in “the talk” that rapists can possibly be our son’s very good friends and that the responsibility of stopping that falls to friends then the narrative of preventing rape changes from “others” being accountable to young men being accountable. Because if young men can rape then young men can stop rape. All of this would stop the casual conversation and humor around rape that contributes to a rape culture.

And so I will never be that person who thinks to myself “my son would never rape someone” if I do not tell him that having sex with a girl while she is conscious and not saying no but not saying yes is rape. If I do not tell him that if he is in a relationship he is not owed sex. If I do not tell him that alerting someone to rape is absolutely required.

Too often parent’s worry about what a talk like this would say to their world, how it would show that their sons are full of aggression and debauchery and that this is in their genetic makeup or inevitable life plan to assault someone. But in ignoring the problem we contribute to it.

The Steubenville rape case is a story about how football players in a small town are favored, women are chastised for drinking too much and sadly called sluts because of it, but it is also a strong story of the bystanders that mocked but also those that tried and who, because of us, did not try enough.

I challenge you to make it through the entire fourteen minute video without once attempting to turn it off because you want to believe it does not exist. The wonderful thing is that we can fix it. Slowly. It will start with some talks. It’s going to be awkward for sure, but we will get through it. I will get through it. The birds and the bees talk will seem like a piece of cake.

Millennials, Sincerity, & Titanic

titanicc

(“Jack, are you periscoping this?”)

NOT ALL Millennials are incapable of forming relationships that would make their own B list screenplay. Or something like that. When a Baby Boomer calls me entitled and lazy, I’ll fight back for us.

Ae Padilla 

I was hanging out with a guy friend I hadn’t seen in months. There was no reason for us losing touch, but when you don’t go to the same college anymore it just happens. I don’t make these rules up.

When we finally had a moment alone, over some drinks, I looked at him and said what I had been thinking about for the past couple of hours. “I miss you kid.” With a half eye roll he got flustered and laughed it off, like my comment was some dumb quote from a movie I didn’t quite nail and he was sparing me the embarrassment of lingering on it. Oh well, I contemplated, gulping down the last of my margarita. I tried.

To give a bit of context though, I didn’t say this statement because I missed him romantically or because something bad had happened between us and I needed to patch up an argument. My miss you, not laced in one hint of sarcasm (a mind-blowing feat for me!) was genuine. I missed my friend. Our conversations. Our hang outs. Simple.

But the sincerity behind that simple statement made him feel uncomfortable. And I venture to say that is the case for most Millennials, who struggle with the truest forms of sincerity that fostering an authentic relationship, both romantic and platonic, need.

In our desire as Millennials to make everything ironic, as well as our obsession with a stimulating, exciting (but also fleeting) culture, we are left craving more of a connection than we might have ever wanted. We jeopardize our emotional happiness. And I’m not taking the easy way out by saying that we do this because we are glued to our screens and do not know how to have face to face interaction anymore. I say we do this for a multitude of reasons, the first being that we are conditioned to think that emotions are the currency of some type of weakness; caring for someone can only be expressed verbally if our partner or friend does it equally. Intimacy is only applicable to one person in our life. We were sold the idea that everyone cares less than us about feelings, and we should aspire to be that same way – if we are smart enough

Millennials, in both the friendship and dating vacuum, weaken every tie they have because they are subconsciously afraid of being true to any feelings, as they have been told they are not going to help in our world. These feelings are a distraction at worst, or at best a potential manipulative tactic one can use to “get ahead.”

But so what if we can’t achieve that same sincerity that relationships had before us? Long romantic kisses, grand romantic gestures, talks between friends that last hours which are not riddled with talks about how they last hours. Does it really affect us? Does it matter, that the only truly “moments” in our lives are few and far between.

Yes. Yes, I think it does, as the lack of moments is not a lack of closeness, love, or inclination for romance, it is instead an inability to express it, stifling a part of us which desperately wants to reach out in whatever way we would if our anxiety was not preventing us from doing so. Be that a flower, a romantic kiss, or touching our friend’s hand.

This can easily translate to wholesome feelings being misconceived as stupid or a hindrance to our daily lives. I.E. I do not like the physical reactions that I am feeling right now so it must be a result of what I am thinking, which of course in relation to our psyches can be concerning.

But the result of that anxiety might actually have to do with the internet, (sorry, sorry, sorry) the constant flow of information we both seek and do not seek out, a place where our feelings are taught to us so excessively they become our own. It is here where we are instructed that emotions are unfortunately currency we barter with, they are not anything pure. The less chips you have in your bag the better.You can care about people but care fucking less than you do now. I mean, really thinking about it, how many countless articles are there directed to Millennials that say the person who cares less in a relationship always has the upper hand; be like that person.

Whether we realize it or not, despite even telling ourselves that those articles are stupid, they sink into the way we look at our friendships and partners. Idiotic memes, “this could be us but you playing”, reinforce that the ideal couple is not attainable because someone else is always not being authentic enough to their wants or needs. And if they are not being authentic, then being authentic alone is simply humiliating.

Feelings into action, wanting someone or wanting something with someone, is embarrassing. Unless it happens to be with one specific person in a secluded moment, vulnerability is something we get embarrassed for for other people. He or she is too much. He or she is “extra” and there is nothing worse than being “extra.”

Even in the safe space of a romantic relationship that has been established for some time, a desire to never show all of your cards becomes synonymous with never having to worry about experiencing that fuzzy romantic moment (or if you are like me, being more upset that this will not take place). This is because true romantic moments, special times not filled with sarcastic self-deprecation or apologizes, only come when people are candidly vulnerable. It is because during that occasion that there are no more cards to hold onto, taking a leap of faith for something you want becomes a lot easier when you cannot run backwards in anyway.( Or if you are trying to spin a more positive outlook to this idea, giving something your all with your partner becomes extraordinarily easier when you let go of personal judgment.)

And we Millennials are afraid of the judgment of those who surround us. It practically suffocates us. I can again point to the internet (sorry, sorry, sorry), not because the internet is filled with grade A critics of politics, religion, or celebrities but because large groups of people gathering together in one common space (no matter that the space be both expansive and virtual) know how to rip apart the cheesiness, embarrassing, cringe-worthy event or person impeccably. Hating something, especially hating anything corny, has brought people closer together than loving something. That rise of “hater” culture is a bond that is almost so unbreakable in our generation that it’s a wonder people bond over anything they do like.

Which brings us to the film Titanic, and a peice which explores the growth of hater culture due to the movie’s 1999 release. Owen Glieberman wrote an article for Entertainment entitled, appropriately enough, ‘Titanic is a great film. It’s also the movie that gave rise to hater culture.’ in which he speaks about how successful the film was, from performing well at the box office and the Academy Awards to how the film quickly faced a backlash. The claims from those less eager about the film were that Titanic was an audacious soap opera written by a man who had no idea how “real people” spoke. But most of all people who despised it enough to flock to online boards and express that emotion, were upset by its cheesiness and its attractive leads tangled in some bit of spectacular romantic fate. Glieberman concluded the article by writing about how the haters of the film Titanic claiming that only a teenager could love both the plot and dialogue are living in a weird delusional reality they created. In short, they are foolish

And yet it makes so much sense with the rise of Millennials, internet, and haters. If movies are a showcase to how people live their lives, then our reactions to them dictate whether or not we approve. In the case of Titanic, sincerity is questioned at every moment by a modern audience. Yes, I can understand some of the backlash, there are some lines I wish would rather have not made it to the final cut including “something Picasso, he won’t amount to a thing.” But the moments that irk people are arguably the most iconic ones. “Draw me like one of your French girls,” “I’m the king of the world,” and the unforgettable “I’m flying Jack.” It is these moments, the most “cheesy” ones in the film that people have no problem claiming as “cheesy” – the result of this stamp is that Titanic is beneath their movie watching taste and above their embarrassment threshold.

But not me. I love it. As one of the most sarcastic cynical people I know, I find the moment in Titanic where Rose and Jack are stretching their arms out at the bow of the ship to be one of the most iconic and breathtaking scenes in cinematic history. My God it’s beautiful. And it’s not beautiful because of the cinematography or the score, or because two beautiful people are in it. It’s captivating because it is the most authentic moment you can possibly have privilege to spy in on.

Just imagine if someone who had never seen this film tried doing that today with their significant other on a cruise. How quickly would we die of secondhand embarrassment? How quickly would we take out our phones to record this and post it online? How much would we snicker about how someone desperately wants to get laid? How easily would sincerity be wiped away from a moment that’s not even ours?

For those who hate on Titanic, the irony is delicious. The hatred on a film for being appalling inauthentic comes up short when you realize that Titanic was perhaps the first movie to ever use, what would become later, very famous tropes. We hate Titanic because it unashamedly highlights what we have been told, or told ourselves,we do not like. Over the top vulnerability, tender lines we scoff at because we believe no one would ever say that in “real life” (when perhaps people actually would).

Because in the history of humanity feelings and love continue to live on. This will never change. Ever. How much we allow ourselves to be able to express what resides in us does though. And when you suppress it long enough, it makes it almost shameful.

Titanic is so in your face with all of what it is because it does not apologize. Jack does not take Rose’s hand and says “this is cheesy but do you trust me?” He does not say “well, you don’t look like any of my other French girls” (insert laugh here) when he draws her portrait in arguably their most erotic moment together. He is the best, most genuine version of himself, which even if it makes for a whole lot of heartache makes for so much more earned happiness.

This openness, this transparency, does happen nowadays but it seems to be that it is the property of others as opposed to the people involved. “Is this too much? What would other people think if they heard this? Am I being pathetic?” are questions dancing too close to the perception from people who do not matter to the relationship that the person cares about. But when sincerity, black and white make out sessions, and lines reserved for Cary Grant were dubbed as “a thing of the past that no self-aware person partakes in” then people had to listen to this narrative and follow it.

Sex is a loophole, or on the opposite end maybe, the most honest time for communication that produces “realness” in our modern environment. This makes sense because what other time can you exclaim the genuine passion you have for someone in your life then when you are inside of them? If you didn’t, and it was more than just casual sex, you wouldn’t probably be able to do that again. Sex, being a physical act, is an easier way to showcase emotions.

But I worry that if authenticity only follows sex then this resistance to express one’s self will trickle down to every other person that they are not having sex with, like friends, who become not as close as they could be because again dependable exposure is a rare commodity. (And our friends don’t have orgasms in the back of steamy cars with us.)

Then again maybe some personalities don’t call for over the top movie moments, although I argue that our lives do call for some moments we should most certainly not deny ourselves of. The most amazing times in my life, the lines that make it to books, are the ones I embrace not shy away from. The times when I am not afraid as most people are. When I realize that we have such little time in life that to not be as genuine as possible at every second is a waste.

What this really comes down to, the lesson of this all however, is if Leonardo DiCaprio (or anyone for that matter) wants to take your hand and help you to fly over a magnificent sunset, don’t fight it. And tell them to take off their shirt while they do it.

Stop Making Martyrs Out of Mass Shooting Victims

How filling the void of heartache with religion is detrimental

masey-mclain

Above: Masy McLain as Rachel Scott in I’m Not Ashamed

All respect to those who have dealt with that heartache and those who feel as if some part of their faith is being attacked.

Ae Padilla

When I watched the trailer for I’m not Ashamed, I cringed.

And that’s not because it was another God’s Not Dead in the making, some religious propaganda film filled with terrible actors, a cheesy script, and a high dose of jabs at those who are not religious.

I cringed because I realized the weight of religion, conversion therapy, was being handed down to a girl who died when she was seventeen and has been dead for almost twenty years.

For those unaware I’m Not Ashamed is a film about the late Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School Shooting which took place in Littleton Colorado, in 1999. The film follows Rachel’s life a year and a half before the shooting takes place, where her faith in God is examined, tested, and ultimately strengthened as a result of the high school woes that she encounters. The film also follows Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, caricatures of the real perpetrators who rant more heavily than they ever truly did about the perils of religion and how much they hate Christians.

But Klebold and Harris mean nothing in this film, it is Scott, portrayed by newcomer Masy McLain, who is the main character. She is the one seen interacting with Klebold, speaking to him passively about the strength of compassion that can come from Christianity. She is the one seen dismissing drugs or alcohol of any sort from her peers because of her religion. And she is portrayed as so unbelievably sweet and nice that the sparking personality of the real Rachel Scott is hidden beneath the veneer of a smiling girl whose only trait is that she follows Christ.

The film concludes with what is arguably the most controversial story to arise out of the massacre. Harris shoots Scott in the back along with her friend Richard Castaldo. As she struggles to catch her breath and move, the filmmakers and many people alike, claim that Harris reportedly asked her if she believed in God. When she answered in the affirmative with the words “you know I do,” Harris reportedly shot her again, killing her, thus making a martyr.

The problem with this story is that while Castaldo (who lived but is now parlayed) has wavered about whether or not this interaction took place, the FBI and Jefferson County have concluded that this exchange never happened. The timeline simply does not add up.

But Rachel Scott became a martyr anyway, along with Cassie Bernall another student who is believed to have been asked whether she believed in God, and when answering yes was killed again by Harris in the library. However this too was proven to be unreliable from witnesses. Instead this exchange actually occurred with Valeen Schnurr who was spared by Klebold because she answered that her reason for believing in God was because her family did.

But facts mean nothing. And to this day Scott and Bernall are seen as modern day martyrs, the definition of what teenagers (teenagers who are of course viewed as rowdy and lacking morals) should aspire to be.

Religious propagation is nothing new but with mass shootings becoming more prevalent since Columbine occurred, religious heroes from mass shootings have arisen, threatening how we speak about victims and ultimately ruining their legacy with a tarnished view of their persona.

Rachel Scott was, by all definitions, brilliant. She was a talented student and artist. She was an actress who had recently chopped of all of her hair and dyed it red to play a character in her school play who harbored a more grunge/alternative style. And she did write extensively about her love of God, and even her thoughts about his existence. She journaled frequently and left behind her amazing ideas about the chain reaction that can occur from love.

By all accounts Scott was a Christian. As was Bernall. As were some of the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting and the Red Lake massacre who were actually asked about their faith and murdered. But those victims were not murdered because they were Christians, they were murdered because someone had access (easy access most likely) to a firearm. They were simply a number, a person who happened to be eating their lunch on a school lawn or taking an English class at their local college. They were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, not because they wore a cross or followed any certain religion.

I say this not to be insensitive, I say it because it is the truth. To tell people how to mourn the death of their own children or their friends is not something anyone can do lightly, if at all. But when the families of these people, and by extension the media, paint these young victims as being killed for the greater good, a higher power thereby making more people believe in God, they denounce the entire act of violence.

In their effort to give it a purpose for themselves, to make sense of a senseless situation, they paint their own caricature of their loved ones, even unknowingly. And then they dismiss, whether they mean to or not, every other victim who they do not deem as a martyr.

This is because in placing their loved one on a pedestal, as a religious figure, they state that their life was inherently more valuable because it was given up to God. But in the situation of their death, which is most likely eerily similar to that of someone else who died in the same shooting, those other unpopular victims are not given that same recognition. What this boils down to is: one victim was killed by God for the sole reason of reaching more people, to become a pillar in the community of worshipers, and one victim was killed for absolutely no reason, a less prophetic kill.

Fate, what is attributed to these killings and then these makeshift saints, ruins the possibility of us being able to help stop these mass shootings from continuing. When you have the people who are supposed to be the most upset, the families of those killed, accepting these deaths as nothing more than divine intervention then the real issues that form this problem in our country do not get fixed. Gun control, mental health, even fragile masculinity take a back seat to the fact that the killers who go on these rampages are deemed not as a threat because they are mentally unstable, instead their anger to the world is a direct result of not having prayer in school or not being as accepting of the Lord as some of the selected victims were. If you do not believe me just look at the reactions of Darrell Scott, Rachel Scott’s father who speaks adamantly at schools across America and in the days after Columbine gave a statement before a house committee on crime referring to not only Rachel but his son Craig Scott who pretended to play dead in the library amidst the massacre. “As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes — He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!”

But the worst thing about the martyrdom of these victims is, as stated before, the effect that it has on the legacy of said victim and not politicians or news viewers. I can’t speak for the people who have died, but I am pretty certain that those who did would not want their entire lives condensed into a single byline about their affirmation to God. And if they did want their devotion publicized, I argue that they would want both the good and the bad that comes along with being a religious figure. Doubt is as important as faith. Making mistakes is as important as correcting them and asking for forgiveness.

Rachel Joy Scott’s life is a tale that she will never unfortunately be able to tell herself, but the story I want to see depicted on the screen is not the lie given to the world that she was murdered for faith in Jesus but rather that her faith made her a more giving and loving individual, perhaps the type of person who might forgive her killer. Some see it this way too, including friends of Scott who boycotted I’m Not Ashamed because they felt it was an inaccurate portrayal to the way that she lived her life. She struggled like everyone else did. She was not a saint but she was a believer and it is that which would make a movie I want to view.

Religion, like always, is not the problem. But the way it is used, especially in this instance, does not bring people together but rather divides. When a lack of actual truth is at the basis for a film or story then anything that is added to that narrative cannot be trusted, and therefor the religious message lacks validity.

Speaking about mass shooting victims as people who lost their life for no good reason is the saddest but most truthful thing we can do, because it allows us to work for that not to happen again. It’s not inspiring, romantic, or sensational in any way. But maybe the lives of the victims by themselves, the daily struggles of going to class or the fact that they liked to watch certain movies or hang out with their dog should be inspirational enough.

Let’s stop making up stories for these people. Martyrdom aside, maybe those who died didn’t hold open the door for others to run before them. Maybe they didn’t save the person next to them. Maybe they said they didn’t believe in something they did to get spared. Maybe they fled instead of fighting. Are we to blame them, someone who was put in the most frightening situation of their life for doing that? Are we to tell others they are better for doing that? We must stop saying these things as our own non-religious martyr stamps. It’s not comforting, it’s cruel.

And we would do well, like Scott said, to be a little nicer in this world.

Don’t let your character change color with your environment. Find out who you are and let it stay it’s true color.

-Rachel Scott

Guera, Morenita, Pretty For a Dark Girl

How Colorism Hurts Us and Enables a Racist Society

barbies

The following piece has personal elements that dive into my own history. With this blog I am not trying to dismiss people from the Rio Grande Valley or minorities who talk and act in a certain way, I am trying to give this problem some attention.

Ae Padilla

Whenever I hear a new baby’s looks being discussed in the Rio Grande Valley I wait for it. I look at the child in question, the person examining the infant, and I hold my breath in anticipation of the compliment to come that shouldn’t be a compliment. I sit there on stand by for the moment until the adult takes the child’s face into his or her hands (usually without permission) and smiles.

“She’s so guera.”

In between my embarrassment and shame I feel for the person saying this, I manage to be proud of myself for calling it.

There it is. What I have been waiting for. She’s so white. She’s so guera.

Except guera, a Mexican-Spanish slang word whose origins cannot fully be found, is not just a description of an infant. And it’s not similar to the way a parent would say their newborn has a full set of hair and a cheeky grin, or even the way people would point out facts about a person to distinguish them in a large group: the black man with the grey shirt, the red head at the table in the back of the restaurant.

No, guera means more than white. Guera means acceptable, good, “thank god” status.

But most importantly guera means not dark.

***

I grew up in Brownsville, the southernmost city of the Rio Grande Valley, which is located in the state of Texas. Hispanics make up almost ninety percent of the population in this area, so as a result of this I never considered myself, a Mexican female, entirely out of place in my environment. The cause for separation, if any at all, came more from my slightly argumentative, charming (?), sarcastic personality.  As a newborn, I entered the world bald, white, and looking nothing like I do today. Sometime around the age of five, unbeknownst to me, I developed more of the features I now have. Long brown hair, darker brown eyes, and dark brown skin, capable of turning almost borderline black during the summer, when long days in the sun made me tan.

And there were a lot of those active days in my childhood, with the kiddie pool and swing set as my company. During July, away from school, playing outside in upwards of 100 degree weather, sunblock became a necessity for all of us. I was encouraged to put it on to protect my skin, something I will not argue with. With days that reached triple digits, no one can. But I was also urged to apply it because it would prevent me from getting “too dark.”

This, and I will carry it with me always, was the beginning of “too dark” being bad. Something you didn’t want to be. Sunlight, direct sunlight, was regulated because being too dark was not equated with being too burnt, drastically in no way the same thing. It was regulated because it would make me not as attractive.

***

But I am not saying anything new am I? The idea of “too dark” being seen as bad by one person, one group, or the world. Racism exists and is widely believed to be unacceptable. Colorism though is so tricky, it sneaks by unnoticed by most.

Whiteness, being white, has always held, unfortunately, the top spot on the totem pole in society. To be white is to have privilege. To be white is to be the default perfect person. To be white is to have power. But in a society, like Mexicans in the valley located in the United States, being white is unattainable. It is however, an identity one can try to claim, try to attain to no avail, which ironically polarizes us as minorities even more.

In the context of Mexicans, to be whiter is to achieve that power and that beauty spoken about. The darker you are the more you have to strive to be the most beautiful, in spite of your skin color.

And I witnessed this time and time again growing up in this environment, so much that it became an intricate part of what I myself defined as beauty. Never did I believe one person was prettier because they had lighter skin, but I understood at least the treatment of a person could entirely be based on their skin color, even if two people both identified as Mexican. If a light skin chicana was standing next to a dark skinned chicana (both seen as desirable) the lighter skinned one was more desirable. It did not matter if I did not think that was the case. I recognized that the light skinned person was more beautiful in relation to society so society would treat them better. And that was all that mattered.

In the valley it happened more times than I could count. Colorism. I saw it every day. From my family to my friends, across conversations at schools and in restaurants with complete strangers. It was not out of the ordinary for a person to stop by our table or the table next to us, see a whiter kid than most of us were used to seeing by the border and comment on how white that child was. It was not uncommon for people to call other people “brown” if they were trying to insult someone. It was not uncommon even for people to compliment the grandkids of a friend for being so pretty and pale as if the skin color of that child was an amazing personality trait or a set of manners instilled by a parent or person close to the child.

In the valley, and I know it happens in other communities across other races, it is frighteningly normal.

What is so interesting about Brownsville and colorism, what sets it apart, is that there are varying different degree of Hispanics in the lower valley that had different color and skin tones who were not American. Funnily enough, it was the children who came across from Mexico every day to attend private school in the United States that had lighter skin and lighter blonder hair. See being American was not being whiter. Being whiter, another revelation to me, really was just based purely on pigment. In the valley, how white you are was how close you were to a white standard of attractiveness, a scale set up somewhere that people latched onto without thinking about it. If I was white, it was because I have and always will identify with white culture very much more than anyone did in my friend group or family.

Being white in this area (Brownsville) meant you were more desirable, more coveted, and that you had it easier. Getting singled out for being dark, too dark, was a funny cheap joke that people often used. Morenita. Negrita. Families that had one darker member usually made fun of that member. Such was the case with people I knew, where separation came swiftly from a group I much mention again was already separated against. The irony kills me, but it’s not at all surprising.

***

This social construct, colorism in communities, has been explored before. As stated before, I am not re-inventing the wheel.

An astoundingly in depth documentary called “Dark Girls,” directed by Bill Duke, D. and Channsin Berry was produced highlighting how Black women are often given their worth of beauty by how light their skin is. In this documentary the paper bag test is discussed. The paper bag test is the notion that if you hold a paper bag up to your face and you are darker than that bag you have failed the test. This “test” was used before as a way for people to rightly discriminate others from entering certain establishments but also from being let into parties and social gatherings.

But it was not white people doing this, it was black people doing this to their own people. White people, of course, were the one to perpetuate this with their influence of slavery, the division of lighter slaves being allowed to work indoors as opposed to picking the fields, but this seclusion of skin color still happens to this day. The invisible paper bag test is in effect. When you are lighter than the average of your race, whatever that race may be, you are more worthy. What that worth is comes down to a number of things: status within your own family, more attention and more praise, both indications of the self-esteem that a child will develop which will eventually mold them into how they view and act in the world.

So many stories I have heard from those close to me represent the dangers of colorism’s effects in this relation. Stories about boys or girls (who are part Hispanic, Black, etc.) that grow up in environments where they are teased for being too “white” in their own community (they rightly have deserved to be a part of), but then are equally criticized for some feature or distinguishing mark that shows that they are still “dark” to white people.

Or, contrastingly, even stories about white people complimenting the dark skin of their peers to a person who has never been complimented by his or her own race because the older minority community, those giving praise and attention to other children, believe that only those who are white are special.

See saying that a whiter child is special is saying is that being white is superior, because in addition to beauty opportunity is given to those who are white.

When you are whiter as a child, who is not by definition actually white, you will have it easier. You are able to go anywhere in this world and fit in, free to avoid most discrimination that come with racism. Therefor when you say a child born into a dark community is pretty or special because he or she is white what you are actually stating is your ability to relinquish your power of being a minority to the cultural script that white people are prettier, more well equipped, and the dominant race not in terms of population but of all cultural influence. And that being dark is only good when white people think that being dark is good. Therefor when you do this you reinforce racism.

It is this allowance that allows white people to appropriate other cultures, in everything from hairstyles to even, you guessed it…skin color.

Let’s put it this way, I never laughed more in amusement, displeasure, and gratification than when I went to college and saw not only white girls desperate for tans but also people from my own community in the valley update their Facebook pictures with their fake tans, spread across the beach as if they had acquired that color from the sun or, dare I say it, their genes. Here they were eager to look like what they now deemed beautiful because white women everywhere wanted to look this appealing. It was now socially acceptable to them, despite the fact that they went their entire childhood teasing their classmates about their skin colors. It was good, but it was bad, it was everything to feel validated.

But elsewhere in the rest of the world, colorism continues to happen in a much more accepting and dramatic ways, such as in the horrifying process of skin whitening, which is technically practiced in the Americas but more prevalent, commonplace, in southeast Asian countries.  South Korea, Philippines, India, and Taiwan have predominantly more people using dangerous beauty products, meant to bleach their skin in an attempt to hopefully make the person look more “beautiful”. Marketers of these creams have no problems with advertising their product as something close to life changing. “Lighter skin, better skin.” “Brighter skin, healthier skin, younger skin.” These logos, these creams, become not only a way to look more attractive but also a way to make yourself healthier. But these products are not helping skin discoloration or any medical situation. It’s a lie. All these products are doing is telling people, entire countries, that to be black is not only to be ugly but also to have your health in jeopardy.

***

Going forward, fighting colorism, is fighting within your own community. Calling out comments as I have done, but failed to do often enough. Challenging how we classify people by their color. Remembering that our colorism, racism, is something we do to ourselves. It originally was brought to us by others but we chose to keep it in our home. So it is as much as our problem as it is white people’s problem. And in no way do I mean that as an attack on white people, nor do I view them as the onset of all problems.

But it is always important to find the sources beyond the source.

Away from my childhood, growing into adulthood I keep an ear open in communities I have been a part of and ones I have recently joined. I recognize that when people tell me I am “pretty for a dark girl” those people are reducing me to plain exoticism, even when it comes to mundane issues such as dating. Sure colorism exists as a way to suppress people on a grand scale but it effects my everyday life, down to the moment when I am a bar hanging out with a guy I might be really starting to take to.

I’ve had it said before in a few ways but I remember one instance in particular which really highlighted both colorism and probably fetishism. Over a few drinks the attractive man I was talking to for more than an hour looked at me, grabbed my hand and said “You’re gorgeous. I am so over dating blond haired blue eyed girls. They do nothing for me anymore.” And then he kissed me, after which I got up and left the bar, heart pounding in my chest.

Being looked at as less desirable because I am dark is never good. But neither is being more desirable because I am dark. I can’t know every single way I have been discriminated, that is the ugly truth of discrimination, but having it thrown so casually in my face to this day still shocks me.

And the casualness of it is everywhere.

It is is there in instances when people say “I hope my kid comes out lighter than me.” (And let’s not pretend this is because people all the time are focusing on the discrimination their offspring will face.)

It is there in instances when celebrities are photo-shopped on magazines with lighter skin to appeal to a larger demographic.

Hell it is there even when the “flesh colored” band aid I pick up looks nothing like my skin tone.

In the future I will face more of these instances, big and small. It’s a given. I can be certain of that. But I hope the messiness of colorism, the culture of the valley, does not affect the future, my niece or nephew in this way.

Both of them little hyper kids, both pale, have a lot of great qualities I can already see in their young years. And yes one of these qualities is that they are both attractive kids and will probably continue to evolve into pretty attractive adults. And that attractiveness, in itself a privilege, is placed on their small pale faces.

And so I hope that the comments on their looks (although I wish the comments were more about character, but you can’t ask too much can you?) come not from a place of being more powerful because of their pigment.

To the rest of us, the little dark girls who thought we were ugly both inside and out. RISE.

He Has the Hate NOT the Strength

…Allow yourself to hate Trump winning the election, then do something about it.

trump-cartoon

(To be fair I am sure there are some nice KKK members)

If anyone, in all seriousness, needs to talk about the election please reach out to me.

Ae Padilla

After he won Ohio, I knew it was over. Hope is great and everything, but when CNN anchors look more and more nervous as the election night comes to a close, it’s time to let the crying commence. And it did, along with the drinking and cursing. Donald Trump is the president – elect of the United States and yes of course I am upset about this.

I have in multiple conversations, never held back my distain for Trump. From the way he has belittled handicap people, minorities and LGBT people, to the way he has bragged about his own sexual assaults of women, as well as that small little promise to ban Muslims from our country…he disgusts me in every which way. He’s a narcissist. A liar. A sexual predator. A bully. A borderline sociopath. And soon to be leader of one of the most influential countries on Earth.

So I cried in anger on Tuesday night well into Wednesday morning. I cried because I couldn’t yell. I cried because at the time I could not protest. There was not one person in particular I could send a nasty text to, I had to hate half of the American public – or half of the half that voted.

The next morning I had to hate everyone who made jokes about him being elected. I had to be okay with racists and sexists claiming their part in my country as a majority and not a minority. I had to deal with the fact that even a few hundred people voted for a dead gorilla, Harambe, as the leader of America. I’m sorry but that’s not funny. Memes are funny. Knowing that “educated” adults went out to polls and made a mockery of their vote is fucking infuriating. These people aren’t writing in “Bernie Sanders,” these people are a shooting a middle finger at democracy for the chance of a good Twitter post.

So am I angry? Of course I am angry. I am angry at anyone who isn’t angry. I am rationally angry at people (including even friends who I am very close to) who choose not to be political because it may seem “annoying to followers and threatening to their likes.” I am angry at some white entitled men, republicans and democrats alike who look the other way because they know that those comments that Trump said weren’t directed at them, but they were directed at people they love. I am angry that women are nervous about wearing their Hijabs in public. I am angry that some Americans will lose their healthcare and as a result their lives. I am angry that my niece and possibly maybe even one day my daughter will live in a country where a reality star misfit can say ‘I grab women by the pussy’ and be the 45th President of the US. I am angry that experience counts for nothing. That you don’t have to play by the rules. Hell, you don’t even have to know what the rules are.

Am I worried about foreign affairs, the fact that Trump has Putin on speed dial? All the meetings to take place in the Oval? Of course yes, also. But this is a family matter. This stays close right now. I carry it in my heart; I don’t have the luxury to carry it anywhere else. Because guess what? I am also scared.

What does this mean for the rights of me as a Hispanic woman in this country? But also what does it mean to everyone else…that family I spoke of, who do not look like the first 43 presidents, who walk with purpose for a better tomorrow promised to them these past eight years but who now are terrified of where they go from here. Who feel like a path of comfort suddenly disappeared from under their feet. Excuse me if foreign policy is not on the forefront of my mind. I am trying to hug my family.

So the past few days I’ve mourned. Death of someone close to me type of mourn. And I have been lucky enough to be able to do that in a place that is safe. In my room and at my work, an environment with women and men who understand, who hugged me when I walked in on Wednesday and started crying with me too.

And we’re not all Hillary supporters to the core. Not even democrats. It’s just that we don’t support hate.

In the past three days and in the next weeks, months, years we will hear people telling us how to react to the news of Trump as our president. Stop being dramatic. Get over it. And my personal favorite: let’s all just love each other.

Be careful of people saying this. I know that most of it comes from a good place. But I know some of it unfortunately comes from people who don’t understand what it’s like to live in a country that hasn’t always loved them. Who don’t have to be as angry. Who don’t have to understand our pain. Who don’t know what it’s like to see the country you love fall apart on top of the people who were oppressed in building it. It’s not part of their ancestry.

What I would give to not care as they do. To be so oblivious. To follow a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And so I’ve reached the point where it has become socially unacceptable to stay in bed and cry over an orange faced cheeto in the White House come January. I have to get up and do things. I have to, as I have done before, stay angry. We have to stay angry at those who voted for him, at him, and even at us.

We have to channel that anger into some damn work, knowing that voting, in particular for me, was not enough. The change comes from small work first and foremost. Phone calls. Canvassing. Volunteering. Donating. It sucks that there is no other way around it right now and that big influential change looks a lot like 2018 but in a way it is also unbelievably a good thing. Complacency feeds itself. And we have done enough of that the past year as democrats, young people, and progressives.

Trump won because Trump lured in the uneducated, the weak, the bigots, but the voters. The type of men who don’t let their sons play with dolls. The type of women who think catcalling is a compliment. The type of people who say they believe in the work of Jesus but hold onto their money a little too tightly. Who condemn transgender people. Who say minorities are lazy. Who roll their eyes when they see a Black Lives Matter sign. Who joke about Mexicans hopping the wall. Who don’t use the term “Mexicans.” Who call me a wetback. Who casually rape women. Who casually rape me.

Despise them but change them. Despise them but don’t hurt them. Despise them and get motivated. Do not become the enemy. And allow yourself, as I have, to hate a man who has never respected you. See I got taught to respect your elders and authority as a kid, but I am not buying it. I say respect anyone who respects you in return. Trump, the president – elect but not MY president – elect has never respected me. I am merely a piece of ass to him. His words not mine. So no, I do not support or respect him.

What happens when you blindly respect a leader looks a lot like 1940’s Germany.

I know the Hitler comparisons have been there before, and now I am sure they are here to stay. But listen when I say this. Because I’ve gone back and forth on something and I think I now understand.

Trump has the hate, but he does not have the strength.

He will love the power. Get off on it. He will appoint people to his cabinet which will make us all want to run for the hills (or in this case Canada.) He will continue to be disrespectful. He will continue to elicit people to feel like their xenophobia is acceptable. But he will get bored. He will crack. He will stumble across the floors of better people who came before him because he was never taught to properly walk with grace. And when he does fall, and he will, it will be up to us to rise up and help blind followers and take back a nation that is accepting of all people who do not go out with the intention to physically, emotionally, or mentally hurt other human beings.

I’ve been seeing a lot of amazing hopeful posts following the election about the genuine love and kindness being displayed in the midst of the country’s shell-shocked demeanor. I’ve heard a lot of opinions particularly regarding the fact that we are the only ones who can make sure that this power imbalance never happens again.

The people saying this are right. Let’s stop looking around waiting for someone else to stand up. Let’s stop twiddling our thumbs. Let’s stop squinting our eyes for the white knight on a horse to make his appearance. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

But we have to take care of ourselves first. We have to do us. And then we have to do a lot more. And we will get him out of the White House. And we will get love back. And we will fight with words not guns. And we will wear safety pins. And we will march. And we will be okay.

It Took Me Years to Realize My Ex-boyfriend Sexually Assaulted Me

college

(This photo was taken during my senior year of college at The University of Texas at Austin)

This blog, oh boy where do I start? I should first state TRIGGER WARNING for discussions of rape, sexual assault, and shitty humans. The following peice was written in 2014 and edited (only slightly) for a national magazine and online website earlier in 2016. After finally finding the strength to not only write but approve publication of this article, I received word from my editors that while they wanted to go through with officially putting the peice into print they could not. Unless I was to write under a pseudonym or find a way to make my ex boyfriend not as recognizable in my description of him, they would not be allowed to run the article because the person I spoke about has never been charged or found guilty in a court of law in the United States. It could be slander. And he could press charges on me for my claim of rape. I was upset, sad, and perplexed. It’s taken me years to feel like this secret is not my fault. And I don’t care. If I never pressed charges on him, then he can’t on me. More importantly, I hope this can help someone.

Ae Padilla

I had heard it more than enough times. 1 in 3 women will get sexually assaulted.

I knew the statistics – what to look out for, how alcohol contributes to men taking advantage of women, that assaults often happen at the hands of someone the woman might know, and that being in college I was prone to more violence.

So I took protecting myself into my own hands. I put my keys through my fingers when I found myself walking alone late at night. I tried to lessen the times I would go over to a random guy’s apartment. I never picked up a drink I didn’t make myself. I did this all to prevent myself from being the victim of my own personal crime show.

But I was never concerned about my boyfriend.

Not him. Oh no. He was wonderful. He was the one who I went to when I was having a bad day. He was the one who kissed me, listened to me, and took me on spontaneous trips for the weekend. Sure, he had his problems, probably more than I would care to admit, but he was never going to do anything to me. And if he was it was going to be breaking my heart, not sexually assaulting me.

My boyfriend (we will call him Shawn), during my junior year of college, knew I was still a virgin at twenty-one. Despite a previous relationship and random night hook-ups there was always a part of me that held onto the idea of waiting until marriage to have sex. Sure it was old-school, but I liked the idea of it. It wasn’t about religion. To me it was about having the comfort and acceptance of one person that I could grow sexually with indefinitely. But like many people, I let that decision go. I was in love and one thing led to another and somehow I found myself lying underneath him one night after he made me dinner having sex.

It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, it’s just that I didn’t want to do it right then and there. Still, I really didn’t go out of my way to stop it before it happened. Don’t ask me why I didn’t because I ask myself that all the time. And really there aren’t many concrete answers. None the less, around ten seconds into the act, when I felt him push further, I did tell him to stop. He could sense my uncomfortableness, and mistaking it for me being hurt immediately got off me and asked if I was ok. After a beat I said “I’m fine, I just don’t trust you.”

Call it women’s intuition, call it whatever you like, but it was the truth. I didn’t trust him and as a result something was telling me to stop having sex with him. If you think that he tried to force himself back on me you are wrong. He was actually as a nice as anyone can be in a moment like that. He said I did not have to do anything I did not want to. He went and grabbed me a glass of water and then we watched sports in bed together. And over some awkwardness, a lot of it, I told him that I did not want to have sex again until it was the right time for him and I, and that I would tell him when that would be. I told him that despite me being on the pill he would need to wear a condom next time. I told him that while he was very experienced and used to this, I was not. I also told him I wanted to feel like we had more of a connection despite how in love we were with each other. He said he completely understood. He would wait for me.

Two days later he assaulted me.

I had gone out downtown with my friends that weekend and was at least six to seven drinks in. He had gone out on a “guy’s night” and said that he would pick me up from the bar and take us back to my apartment. By the time I got into his car sometime around 2:30 in the morning I was pretty wasted.

I remember bits and pieces of the rest of that night. I remember him parking, me stumbling as he caught me, slapping my butt playfully as we snacked on whatever leftovers I had in my fridge. I remember me making out with him. And then suddenly I remember me staring down at him, me muttering “what are you doing? Stop real quick.” and him just repeating “God this feels so good. This feels good.” I remember moving up and down and feeling a little dizzy. And yes it felt good but also wrong at the same time. Scary. He was controlling everything – and not in a hot exciting way. When I got off of him, after he got off, I went to my living room and cried openly on the couch.

He then proceeded to walk up to me, boxers back on, and say “I am not going to keep having sex with you if you keep crying when I have sex with you Alyssa. It’s not fair to me.”

Looking back on this I cringe thinking about his words. But at the state I was in that night I wasn’t ready to put up a verbal fight. I was a vulnerable mess. I caught myself saying sorry to him and we went to bed. Just like that, I let it all go.

I’ve been able to think a good amount about that night in the roughly three and a half years since it has happened because I come back often to that week. Three days after he took advantage of me while I was drunk I found out that he had been cheating on me for months with a secret girlfriend from his hometown and various other girls for one-night-stands in between the two of us.

There aren’t good words for what happens when you find out something like that. I was pissed. I was heartbroken. I was even unnaturally apathetic. And the rest of the story goes like this: I broke up with him and told him to never speak to me again. I called him a sociopath, a cheater, and a “virginity stealer.”

His response? “Don’t act like I raped you,” he said with that ridiculous half smirk, half fleeting anger on his annoyingly attractive face.

I wasn’t worried about another insensitive comment from him. I was too busy taking care of my other problems. I was too busy scheduling STD tests, going to summer school, and distracting myself from keying his Jeep.

It was not until a year later that I realized I should have said to him in that moment “but you did rape me.”

He did technically rape me.

I know that people will think that I am trying to pawn something on someone who did me wrong. That is not how it is at all. I am in no way seeking revenge on him because of him cheating on me. That is in the past and something else entirely to get over.

This declaration of his sexual assault is to remind people, maybe even to remind myself, that the line between consent is often unnecessarily blurry. Sometimes that just happens with two equally drunk people. But most of the times, someone, even someone in a relationship, finds themselves getting assaulted.

Shawn knew I didn’t want to have sex that night. Shawn knew I didn’t want to have sex again without a condom. He did it with me anyway unprotected. He knew I was drunk. And even though, looking back, I am sure he was driving buzzed, he was nowhere near as drunk as I was. Nowhere. He used me as a convenience. And he didn’t care.

But the thing is that even though he has been the worst person ever to me he might not have known that he was assaulting me. To him it was not a big deal. I was, at least, one of his girlfriends. He didn’t look at it maliciously. He just looked at is as something normal to him. He could have sex with me half-conscious because in the morning he would cuddle with me and have sober sex.

This is a huge problem because whichever way you look at it, it is still rape. It is just disguised rape. And it has happened to countless of people I know.

I am lucky enough that while I endured a pretty traumatizing mental experience I was not taken forcefully and left with internal bruises, scars, or an ER room. As horrible as it sounds I find some solace in that and I find solace in what I have learned.

I do not ever owe someone sex no matter how many months or years I have been with that person. It is not my responsibly to worry about how much he wants it or how drunk he is or how flirtatious I am. And I will not defend or excuse people who act in this way even if they are my boyfriend. Rapists, assaulters, even those who just take advantage do not wear signs saying they do this. But sometimes they still do it and it is assault

I never talked much about my assault because I did not want to admit that I was one of those girls that had found herself in that situation. I always thought I was smart and confident with the ability to firmly say “no” when I did not want to do something. There was shame, guilt, and a heavy dose of discomfort knowing I was a statistic. Knowing that as much as I spoke about rape prevention, helping survivors of assault as well as leading The Vagina Monologues…I could not recognize what happened to me.

But all of it is not my fault, it was always his. And I am not overplaying or downplaying the situation recounting it, I am calling it exactly as is. Because the truth is he left me with the pain of feeling like he took me without my consent. He left me thinking that people do this to other people all the time. He left me scared and nervous about sex, unable to have it, and wondering about what that might mean for my romantic future.

I ran into him, Shawn, about a year or so ago. He was holding the hand of his new fiancé – now his wife. I was a lot of different feelings again. Angry. Fearful. Sad. Jealous even that he looked like he was having a great time while I still occasionally got emotional about us. I didn’t know what to do. I finally decided to keep on standing at the bar trying to make eye contact with him. Ten feet away, I kept my intense stare, thinking he would look back. I told people later I just wanted to see if he had the balls to glance in my direction but really I wanted to ask him something through that look. Do you feel bad for taking advantage of me? For any of it? But we never did make eye contact.