STEM, Student Life

“Fucking Bitch”

A week ago in my Physics lab class, I was told by a classmate that “my tight ass would need a good fucking” and that somehow, he’d able to provide the service. I felt my hands go clammy, my breath stop as I held my position in place, my fingers rolling into a tight fist in my pockets as they grew damp with sweat. My head throbbed as I struggled to hold back the tears welling in my eyes; the memories of harassment as the only woman on a robotics team flashing images against my skull like a bad horror film. My voice shook as I scrambled to collect myself, the words spilling awkwardly into disjointed sentences and trembling vowels.

This wasn’t the first time he’d verbally abuse and harass me in class. Two weeks ago, we had first met, joining their group. Right from the start, I headed a game plan: let’s get this done, and leave an hour early. They all smiled in agreement.

It started with talking over me. Whenever I tried to keep our group on track with the instructions of the lab, he’s speak over me and challenge what I was saying. He’s rally with the other men in our group, showing goofy videos off his Facebook, laughing wildly. Then, he started to mock and demean me. Anything I said became a joke, as he mocked my pronunciation of words and undermine the work I was doing. Any calculation, experiment setup, or theory work would be questioned heavily to the point where I couldn’t answer his question and he’d copy my work anyways.

The microaggressions took a dangerous turn when they became actions. From the corner of my eye, as we were working through the calculations of our experiments, I could see him looking at me, up and down. I felt a chill up my spine, as words started to melt into one another. My body felt into a numbness, as my cheeks filled with hot blood, spilling through the entirety of my face. In that very second, I was on fire. As he tried to grab my notebook to copy my calculations, I questioned his understanding of the lab’s theory. I questioned if he knew anything at all, snapping back in a fit of rage. “That’s right,” I said, my voice booming in the seemingly empty room, “you don’t know, because you haven’t done shit. All you’ve done is dicked around, expecting to leech off everyone else’s work. Don’t expect any help from me.”

“Fucking bitch” he said, “don’t even talk to me.” The anger I felt in that moment swelled, filling my lungs with smoke, cheeks flushed. This anger, the same anger and numbness I felt a week ago, the same anger I felt being constantly harassed and verbally abused in robotics, the same I felt in the 1st grade when a boy in my class told me I couldn’t do math, fails to be anomaly. Women in STEM, black women significantly more, face constant harassment, through darting eyes and demeaning comments. Our boundaries are always crossed, our work stolen, and our bodies treated as entertainment instead of being seen as equal partners in the world of STEM.

But somehow, in all of this mess, I’ve found some kind of community within my classes. As we slave hours and hours over Physics homework, I’ve met a vast amount of people. Friends in both of my physics lecture and lab classes, friends during office hours, and now, just friends. Predominantly, they’re men of color. The same men of color who defended and comforted me when I hit my breaking point during lab. The same men who have a deep respect for the work I do, the person I am, and my many aspirations as an Astrophysicist. The same man of color who is my adviser, rooting me on to apply for internships. It is through the protection, care, and strength of the men of color within my classes that helped me through the hardest days. They are the reason I don’t live in constant paranoia, their company always something I look forward to every week.

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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.

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Mental Health, Student Life

The Vicious Tinder Cycle

I hate online dating. It’s dehumanizing, boring, and in the age of Tinder, pointless. Hundreds of faces litter the app, muscles flexing or double fisting two bottles of Hennessy,  and the intentions of those on it are unclear. Tinder is a cesspool of horny men and couples trying to engage in a threesome, yet I still use it. I still update my page with the best photos I can find, add whatever recent song I’m into, and make sure my words to emoji ratio is respectable. I still skim through the thousands of photos in hope that’ll meet someone.

When I do meet someone, it always ends up nowhere. I can never bring myself to actually meet them, filling their inbox with half-assed apologies about how busy my schedule is. I make countless excuses not to go out, and repeat this cycle over and over. It seems pointless to draw people out like this but I still do it. I still don’t think I entirely understand why.

I’ve realized a lot of my dating comes out of pressure. I worry a lot about being alone. I worry that I’m too bold or too ambitious for someone. I reduce myself a lot of others, and for once in my life, I’m not doing it anymore. I’m standing my ground and staying true to myself. At the same time, I’ve given up love in hopes of self preservation. I don’t try to date anymore, tired of the emotional acrobats it ensues upon my life. I don’t want to compromise, a key element in relationship, nor do I want to deal with issues outside of my own.

Maybe I’m just self-centered, a young, ambitious 19 year old trying to challenge everyone’s ideas about society, with zero time to invest into another person. That’s what this time is for, right? To somehow “find myself” as I wade through debt and the many mental breakdowns I have from schoolwork. Maybe there’s too much on my plate and I genuinely can’t emotionally connect with someone on a romantic level because I’m still trying to piece that together for myself.

But maybe, I’m challenging something bigger than some ego. My actions are a direct challenge towards a system that has always connected a woman’s worth to her husband, completely erasing the female autonomy and queer relationships that exist within the female community. My actions are bigger than being a self-centered 20 something year old, but challenging my piece of society that I exist in. I’m here to not only gain an education, but build and organize a community for a movement bigger than myself.

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