Social Justice & Organizing Work, STEM, Student Life

The Importance, Power, and Warmth of Femme Spaces in Academia

There is no way to repay women of color for the burdens we’ve carried on behalf of men. Historically, we’ve always been pushed into some kind of mold that caters to men, leaving only the shell of a woman, not driven by her own passions, militancy, or happiness but by marriage, the coddling of grown men, and the further reinforcement and upholding of the nuclear home.

In junction with all of this, I think about my own struggles as a woman of color. Within my respective field, I am consistently surrounded by men and masculine energy that chips away at me. These spaces are unsafe for a brown woman like myself, in which I become vulnerable to disrespect and sexual harassment. I am undermined, questioned, and my work, stolen. I get side comments about being on my period, being a bitch, and taking everything too seriously. Never am I seen as an equal in these spaces, consistently talked down to, having to work ten times harder to prove my ability and worth.

This constant abuse comes home with me. The constant guard I use to shield myself through these classes trickles back down into my safe spaces in which I often find myself stepping on toes. I become the very person I resent, forgetting to reach out towards my collective and the support of women of color. More so now, its become even harder to surround myself with feminine energy due to the amount of masculine spaces I spend large amounts of time in: at home, in class, with my partner, etc. I find myself re prioritizing now, shifting time where I can to make sure there is a balance of energy present in my life, with enough space to reflect, breathe, and re energize.

My career is only one portion of a bigger picture that every woman of color I know experiences. Each and every one of us carries the unique experience of race and gender in junction with one another. We don’t experience these two facets of ourselves as independent of one another, but occurring simultaneously, in ways that white women and men of color will never understand and experience. These experiences are so unique to the point of there being a variety of women of color feminist theories and ideologies, specific the the conditions of different races. The way in which a pinay would experience her race and gender is vividly different from the way in which a black woman experiences these facets, but rooted in the same issues of class stratification in junction with gender and race.

More and more, it becomes clear that the need to surround myself with feminine people and energy is vital to combat the detriment and overall toll that masculinity takes on me. Whether that be investing time with the women of color within my STEM class, time within the women’s sector of my collective, or simply studying around other brown femmes, the balance of energy is vital towards keeping everything I feel emotionally and mentally stable, even when faced with the many facets of oppression that are present in my chosen career.

And now, as I type alongside one of my closest queer pinay friends, as I feel the warmth and reaffirmation of bell hooks’ talk on campus, as she and I giggle in between my dancing and vent our frustrations with identity politics, I feel more whole than I have in the past two weeks. I feel ready to tackle my daunting load of Calculus homework, I feel at peace with my current conditions and state in classes. My complex femme identity not only is reaffirmed around the presence of other femme folks, but a space has been created, claimed, and full of our energy without worry of misogyny and racism to enter. My defenses are dropped, and I find solace between the eggshell, concrete walls that border the library.

Social Justice & Organizing Work

Navigating Harsh Spaces

This week, I came back to school from break. Sitting back in a generic couch on the third floor of my university’s library, I feel at peace as I tap away at my laptop, trying to wrap my head around being back to reality. My housemate and I have the same Race and Resistance Studies class together every Tuesday night and got released early, so the two of us are cooped up in a half empty building killing time as he waits for his next class and I take refugee between concrete walls.

Being back to school feels odd. It’s less of matter of wanting to lounge about, but immersing myself on a campus that feels both warm and foreign. My classes are filled with men, primarily computer science and engineering majors, that hold cold expressions. My classrooms aren’t small anymore, but filled with up to a hundred people. In rooms that feel as if they’re constantly expanding, I feel very alone.

After living so collectively with my group of friends for the past 2-3 weeks over break, school is a stark contrast; back in creaking seats and cold rooms full of people who don’t even want to be here. Sitting in classes full of men overwhelms me, as my trauma that I hold closely spikes up my anxiety about the guy to my left who has too smug of a smile. I find myself retreating back to my collectives for warmth and strength, since the cold steel that runs through our buildings fail to hold and comfort me the way my partners do.

Within times like these, I have to remind myself that my way of living is a revolutionary concept. Being part of multiple collectives and allowing myself to love polyamorously isn’t something that is easily accepted within our society. Communication crumbles in our society as our emotions suffocate. The concept of love becomes toxic and skewed under systematic oppression as people like myself seek a love rooted in our liberation and further growth as humans.

Regardless of the side eyes, I will continue to practice revolutionary love even though its looked down upon. I will take deep breaths when my anxiety tightens my chest and demand my boundaries be respected. As I go into the school year, I hope to seek some kind of balance between my day to day and collective living, not letting the two be alien to one another but work hand in hand. I will continue to curl up on generic library couches when I write and claim space for myself.

And most importantly, I will never reduce myself. Not for myself, not for anyone.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Redefining Love and Community

Blogging has kept me sane. The entirety of the past 3-4 months, pouring my heart out to complete strangers, has helped me carve out the voice and person I hope to be and grow as in ways I would’ve never imagined. I’ve been unearthing so much of my pain and trauma for the world to see that I’ve finally reached a point where the majority of stones have been turned. I’ve cried my trauma out, written 500-600 word blog posts, and let myself just embrace pain. Now I want to talk about love.

I’ve reached a point in my adulthood where everything hangs delicately in a hazy balance, the scales tipping ever so slightly and shifting back into place. For once, existence isn’t difficult, but floating with ease. I laugh brightly and let my voice boom and control a room. The past week, I’ve poured my entire self into complete strangers and have felt so bonded by our love for each other, ourselves, and our crafts. At 2am, we belted Hotel California as I hit notes I haven’t bothered to reach since I was 11. I revisited my love of music and let it fill me like a dive into a saltwater pool. I’ve fallen in love with people for being people and let kindness fill my heart. My chest is light, my eyes bright and wide open.

My life is in a point of transition, as doors continue to open. In finding love within my craft and the people around me, I’ve found a deep love within myself. I’ve fallen in love with the way my voice cracks when I push a note too hard, because I’m just feeling it. I’ve fallen in love with the way I fill space, the way I love those around me. I’ve fallen in love with the mind that continues to be critical and a heart that nurtures. I’ve let myself create and take space, opening a level of self love and love for my community I’ve never felt before.

I’m excited to continue to write. I’m so very humbled to have a community that loves and supports me in ways I’ve never felt; a community that in my darkest of days knew and believed in my potential and abilities and never gave up in me. And so today, I’m thankful for the way I love and the way I’ve created love not only within myself, but with those who have never stopped loving me.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Being a Half Adult & The Power Dynamics of Age

In many ways, I feel like a half adult. I take out loans, manage bills, and have even looked at marriage as a potential tax break, but don’t feel completely like an adult. I’m young, entering my 20’s this year, and find myself between preparing for adulthood and embracing my youth. A constant back and forth, I’m exhausted with the amount of energy I expend puffing my chest around a bunch of assholes who will continue to see me as young, naive, and stupid regardless of the level of emotional and mental development I achieve.

A lot of these kind of toxic relationships have dissolved in my life, or are in the process of being removed and pushed away. They’re a feudal, based on the power dynamics that exist in misogyny. Very often, a young, feminine person like myself gets used, sexualized, and tossed away at the end, leaving crippling scars and bad dating habits in the dust.

And for someone like myself, they’re exhausting. These games of power and control have hurt my own ability to form relationships with others. I don’t trust men; I’ve become so detached from my romantic and sexual aspects of my life that dating isn’t part of my life anymore. Recently, I’ve kept to myself and to higher standards. I’ve been cultivating self worth and confidence through those around me and everything I do for myself. I’ve become keenly focused on my career and everything around me I have yet to experience.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Fuck December

I haven’t really let myself feel for the entirety of December. The month has been weighed down by the stress of school, compounded by financial insecurity and issues within my romantic life. I haven’t been myself for a while, haven’t written the same way I would the last two months I’ve had this blog. I’ve been heavy, unable to face my personal issues head on, and unable to true connect to my writing. In many ways, I’ve been emotionally vacant and unresponsive, causing me to act out and take things too personally.

School within itself this semester was a shit show. Almost every class was traumatic. Calculus was full of egotistical frat boys and aspiring entrepreneurs, our professor spewing his apolitical rhetoric every now and then. The women and fem people of the class experienced a trauma well known within STEM, forced to deal with the bull-headed misogyny that resonated in the classroom.  My Earth Science class reeked of whiteness, within not only the professor but the students. Even in my most radical, critical thinking class was I met with trans-exclusionary, hyper masculine rhetoric and found myself scrambling to defend myself as an organizer in a space that I should feel free to share my radical politics in. One by one, my spaces became more and more violent and I found myself dependent on marijuana, scraping the last bits of each bowl.

This was compounded by my own financial stress. Too many bills and too many surprises came by way nearing the end, where I had to reach out to my parents for help after being independent financially from them since the Summer. It became increasingly harder to talk about anything financial and was especially traumatizing because of all the financial insecurities I held in my youth being brought to my attention for the first time. I had to deal with myself when I couldn’t, since somehow surviving was a blurry picture. I started to starve myself to bring down costs, feeding into my existing eating disorder. Everything took a sharp turn when I almost passed out studying in the library, and the instincts of survival kicked in.

This weight that I’ve been carrying with me for the entirety of the year is still very much so on my shoulders, but I’d be lying if I said it was the only thing I carried with me. Somehow in all this mess, between the booze and polarizing classes, I found a new love that opened up an unknown world to me. I found solace in my writing, each piece lightening my load. I was able to be mentored by an amazing professor, the same professor who ignited my fire for writing and gave me the confidence to demand my voice be heard. I found a new, revolutionary love within my collective. The kasamas and lifelong friends who only a phone call away, ready to be by my side through the hardships. I found a home, after feeling lost for so long.

Social Justice & Organizing Work

Brother, We’re Here For You

As my coffee brewed this morning, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I’m very lucky to have a circle like I do on social media, full of organizers and critical people who post articles, thought pieces, and artistic projects they’re working on. I ran across a post in particular that erked me: a short video of an Asian man singing a country song, titled, “When an Asian man is trying to get a white girl”. My skin crawled reading this, so many assumptions on that video piled into one basket.

There’s so many narratives about the love lives of Asian men, so many that there’s a Facebook page called “Love Life of an Asian Guy”, that I can’t help but ask- why? Some of the narratives are similar in tone as the video mentioned, praising the white woman. I saw the same crap with Eddie Huang, holding a book that detailed how Asian men can get white women. Why is it, in both of these instances, that the white woman is praised? Besides the generalization of white women, why is whiteness constantly a few tiers above women of color?

This comes from a deeper issue of being Asian in a white world: the women are fetishized and the men desexualized. Many Asian men I know are very stern in their struggles of navigating masculinity, feeling as if they can never fall in love with these standards nailed on to their forehead. The problem with the way this struggle is dealt with isn’t in reducing their desexualization, but aligning their struggles with the overall struggle for women’s liberation.

Under patriarchy, things like the desexualization of Asian manifest. Because Asian women are seen as fragile and docile, in turn, the men are reduced. Asian men, in fighting their desexualization, cause even more problems for not only Asian women, but women of color. Why must these men align themselves with masculinity? What does it matter if a man is feminine? When these men align themselves with masculinity, they often turn to misogyny to be accepted, very similar to the issues of the poor, working class white folks who align themselves with whiteness; Asian women and women of color are more in common with Asian men opposed to the typical white male. In failing to align their struggles with women of color, they continue to repeat the cycle of violence to not only women, but themselves.

I’d like to challenge more men, not just Asian men, to understand their roles under misogyny and the need to align themselves with masculinity. In hearing out and supporting women of color towards our liberation, not only will the constraints men of color face be broken, but women and non-men folks alike will.

Social Justice & Organizing Work

Not Your Martyr, Not Your Idealization

I once was told that being an organizer is a hopeful act. “Trying to change the world we live in just seems so impossible” he told me, “so when you dedicate your life to it you seem like a person who believes in the future.” This idea of organizing being hopeful, although I understand why someone could perceive this work as such, just seems to me like such a privileged statement. “Hopeful,” coming out of the mouth of a cynical asshole, is riddled with so much condescending implications, as if I’m simply a naive college student who’s trying to save everyone.

But I’m not. I don’t organize to add a few bullet points to my resume, I organize to survive. I organize because living under this system is unbearable. I organize to protect my family, friends, and myself. I organize because the weight of my peoples’ suppression is something I refuse to comply to. Most people haven’t sat in on any kind of organizing meeting before, nor studied theory in a collective setting. Organizing is not glamorous, it’s painstaking and slow. It requires a deep understanding of self, and your political beliefs, while still understanding that many folks at the table are unorganized and haven’t picked up Marx in their entire lives. It takes a level of resilience and endurance that is driven by the love for the masses.

On a difference face of the same coin, organizers themselves shouldn’t be idealized. I found this hurdle in my own dating life, which is put on a very long pause as I work through my own shit, where cis men in particular put me on some kind of pedestal for doing this work. I’m a multifaceted human being. I’m strong in many ways, from my militancy to my vulnerability. I fall apart, I cry. I like to drink and party, but I also like to stay cooped up in the library and work on my writing. I’m not anyone’s martyr, I’m myself. I am bigger than my organizing and my identities.