outside the apartment lobby where the stone benches and worn grass and oak trees were, with acorns nestled in beds of waiting dandelions, where people went to take the air and watch the world pass them by.
i was wondering why you and your mom and brother were wearing good clothes stepping out of the wilson rocket, walking to the flimsy iron gate. didn’t realize at age six that you were coming from the mosque downtown, not the church across the street.
i was wondering why you looked up at a tiny human in stolen tank top and shorts, swatting at bugs and tossing acorns up at the sky, and stepped onto the grass yourself. i saw you from the corner of my eye, but i thought maybe you wanted to play catch or something. i didn’t look at your mother’s face, didn’t look at mine.
but maybe if we both did we would’ve seen that they agreed hijabs and butterfly sleeves were never meant to be.
i was wondering why, as you tugged on one of the dandelions, there was tension in the air, for one brief moment i was never able to experience while i was in it. but a dandelion lay in your hands, and then you came over and smiled.
i’m sorry i didn’t smile back, i can’t look at people in the eye very well, and definitely not at age six.
i was wondering why you pressed the decapitated flower to my grubby hands and giggled, but i waved back as you ran back to your mom and walked away, and i sat there, stupefied, with acorns scattered around me, and i stopped wondering, and i wanted.
i wanted to follow you into the lobby and up the elevator and maybe to whatever number your door was at, play cars and legos the way that kids usually do in 2011 in the complex, and tuck the flower into a straw and leave it forever and we could be good friends and maybe you could come to the park and then had someone to play with in my own floor.
i wondered why the mother gave me a face of stone and told me to drop the dandelion into the ground. her eyes darted from the street beyond the fence to the guest parking lot where the window washers were having lunch and she was in fear. she said to wash my hands with soap and tugged on my back, stomping the flower beyond recognition. we waited to take a different elevator, and we didn’t go out to the grass for a long time.
and i wondered why.
i tried looking for you, but i think you moved. that’s for the best, a couple years after there were alerts in the neighborhood for people who looked like you, and nobody was sorry about the older boys who stepped on grass and never came back, and i wondered and wondered and i haven’t stopped since.
i’m sorry i didn’t ask you for your name. i didn’t know that was something you could do.
i’m sorry i couldn’t form words to thank you. i’ve been grateful all this time.
i’m sorry i didn’t give you an acorn. they were my favorite thing because they were so prickly and i think maybe you would’ve liked how they spun as they plummeted toward earth.
if you gave me flowers now, i would keep them, all cultural clothing put aside. i would’ve given you a really cool rock. because flowers wither. but i bet you know that.
wherever you are now, kid, i hope you’re at peace. and i hope we step on the same grass soon.
there’s a caste system in everything. the philippines is only one of many countries that employ one.
it starts with what we associate with success and fame and the “It” goal: being white. sometimes this can be replaced with being american on a good day, sometimes it’s just anyone with unbelievably fairer skin. either way, this ingrained goal, despite not actually being stated, is why the skin whitening industry is so successful and why most representation of filipinos is unbelievably lightskinned. or, in nicer terms, “fair.”
then it breaks down into being mestizo, which is a fancy colonizer way to say having mixed blood. if your genes are good and you’re “fair” then you have a pretty secure grip on the societal ladder. if you don’t, at least you have a “fair” parent. having mixed families is, for some reason, romanticised and fetishized, which isn’t cool, but somehow nobody talks about that? anyway.
the more melanin you have, the less you’re seen as equal to the “It” goal, or seen as equal, or even seen in general, and it’s this weird horrible phenomenon of internalizing colonial thinking that’s led filipinos to either:
favoring the system
favoring the exact opposite, which spurns anyone who isn’t pure filipino.
enter the anomaly that is having both biological parents mixed themselves, growing up in a different country, absorbing three cultures without really knowing where they come from, and finally, going back to the place it all started, and being unnaturally, atypically, ungodly, different.
i don’t say all of this to the old guy sitting on the plastic chair by the street though. his confused reaction at my sudden spout of words would just confirm my point, and despite knowing it solidly for about all my life i’m not ready to hear it from another person. so i don’t say any of that when he says
“are you chinese?”
do i LooK like i want to scream, but i realize that i probably do.
“ah, my dad’s filipino, my mom’s chinese,” i answer.
i’m lying. my biological parents have so many different elements in both their dna, chinese included, that just transferred onto me. genetics people, genetics.
but i can’t bring out a punnet square and clarify to this interesting wrinkled person who eagerly waved at my camera just a few minutes ago, not to someone that probably doesn’t even know what genes are, not to someone who doesn’t know, period. easier for him and me.
that last bit’s a lie too. this sucks.
it’s a cruel world, one in which my skin isn’t dark enough to be oppressed and not light enough to be fetishized, in which i’ll still be asked if i have an accent or where i come from or applauded for having perfect english, in which i am a surprise because i’m not like “the others” but that just makes me an other. is that really much of an improvement?
being a token diverse person in the eyes of those who haven’t yet come face to face with the reality that a person can be so complex in every single sense of the word isn’t the worst thing ever, but it… isn’t fun. and it makes connecting with what little of this culture and of being a person of color i can call “mine”, because none of it seems to be, really.
like i can’t infringe on the specific opportunities for one people group despite not having those for mine either, or go to community centers created for priority neighborhood kids despite growing up one.
i don’t have any happy conclusion, but i imagine hermoine and all those other kids must’ve felt the same struggles in their weird fantasy world, somehow, in some strange way, must’ve related to not belonging. i don’t know much about fantasy worlds, so don’t kill me.
all i do know is we all have a bit of that magic in all of us, especially in the mixed and the barely there and the very much there that it makes no sense to divide ourselves by arbitrary lines that get blurred every single time.
and i wish i could answer this guy when he asks
“where do you come from”
and i wish i didn’t have to answer this question again.
~hey guys it’s me, the biggest disappointment you know, jo~
if i had my mind collected to answer your casual conversation about the news of the world and the news of the country neither of us have an official citzenship to (yet) but both consider home,
if i’d known how far into your experiences you’d lean, how proud you are of how far you’ve come, who’ve you brought and who you came back for,
if i realized that a person can so easily be shaped by what they consider right,
perhaps i wouldn’t have stayed silent as you explained why you believed systemic racism doesn’t exist.
perhaps, knowing that your mind would not be swayed from your belief that the plight of the people with the same skin as you and i was nothing more than an opportunity presented as a struggle,
that surely, because you came through your experiences successful, proud, and happy, that is every immigrant’s story, that is every person of color’s life if they would only put their minds to it,
that this couldn’t be true because it didn’t happen to you,
that it was merely a shift of blame from personal failure to the system’s,
that all you needed to cure this horrible plague called racism was to merely keep your head up and make friends of your enemies,
i would’ve been more factual, more precise, less sympathetic (because you in all your kind words are surprisingly not),
but that wouldn’t have changed anything, would it?
no, realistically, none of our talk affects what we were talking about,
it affects me.
you speak with pride of your past, of your thoughts, of your opinion. you came from soldier’s guts and the will of your last name. when old dad died in the states, everyone took the papers he didn’t sign and wrote them for themselves and they simply did. it was the family way. to stick together and to grab at any chance whatsoever together.
you were my age when old dad died. you were my age when old mom and your sister had chosen to move for themselves since there was nobody to move for them. you were the first of us to live in the projects, the first to fish around in the dumpsters, the first to try, the first to survive in this country. you helped bring most of the family here. you know this, you say, you know struggle, you have friends, they’ve struggled, that is how life is.
(and you call me the pessimist.)
“assimilation” you say, raising a glass of water, “is something everyone has to do. otherwise, why bother coming to the country?”
this from the person who fears losing the family history, always comments on the new kids being born with english names, insists on learning our native tongue, always prepares a mix of foreign dishes with a side of rice because otherwise that is not a meal, this is coming from a beautiful, kind, unknowing hypocrite. you have made yourself presentable to be treated regularly (and boom, who defines what’s regular? you just admitted it’s not us), but the culture that flows in you is the culture they do not want, and so you say assimilation is good.
i refrain from mentioning residential schools and the similar mentalities even now as you comment, “oh, and the docs said i was a monkey, but that’s just one bad doc, that’s all it is.”
see, you had me til “all” and “just”.
i’m quiet, but not by desire. i need to hear this, i need to know how you think, and it is… it is like every other human who has ever thought. they are strong thoughts, brave thoughts, misguided and sad thoughts, adaptable, survivalist, idealistic, and human thoughts. i have similar ones, and all of them just echo one repeating line:
beating the system doesn’t mean the system doesn’t exist. beating the system doesn’t mean the system doesn’t exist. you’re not supposed to push through an unforgiving system, that system is supposed to help you, not hold you back—
you deny this. at this point, it’s rather ironic. no, it’s just how you make the most of this opportunity, no, it’s what you choose to make of it. and you are right, of course you are. but you’re wrong when you say that it’s just. it’s not just. and it’s not just. both definitions.
are you so content with pushing to exist in this space that you find the cries of people just like you doing the same thing on a larger scale than you did meaningless? have you accepted that your experience has got to be every other immigrant, everyone other person of color, every other human’s experience, and therefore your outlook on life will be everyone else’s too; to just reach for the grapes that are enticingly dangled above you? to jump and jump and jump even as every time you get closer they’re whisked out of reach? that nobody can check to see who’s holding the grapes and can’t stop jumping and jumping and jumping?
perhaps you grew up to survive a life of striving. you and the hordes of older folk who think just like you, proud in their success, reluctant to see the struggles of others without giving them the same advice you gave yourself.
but i grew up without the same pride of our story, our culture, our skin. because in pursuing the “It” you boast of, we lost what the significance of who we are, and no amount of your mourning for our generation will bring it back. that’s assimilation baby, when you win, you lose.
i grew up aware of the cultural gap among my people, i grew up aware of the cultural ignorance of my people, i grew up aware that i didn’t have a people. i grew up in similar housing, similar dumpsters, not so similar struggles. it’s easier to see what’s wrong when you’re not basking in the glow of your rightness.
it makes conversations like this more painful.
like how can i tell you that our success, the filipino growth, is largely thanks to the brave Black americans whose slurs, insults, and limitations we once shared, and to feel like you have an opinion on whether lives matter is to be ignorant? that even now we have this privilege known as the model minority that hurts everyone involved, us included? that you are proud of something that shouldn’t have been as hard as it was? that we shouldn’t– and we can’t– just push for a right to exist?
i can’t tell you that. that’s something that you need to learn in as much as you have said you know.
“i’m like a puppy” you said. “you can hate me and push me away all you want but i’ll make you love me and annoy you into caring for me, and that’s how we can end racism, by making our enemies love us.”
you grinned and launched into how you started providing for old mom at 17, and i merely looked at you.
that’s not how you treat fellow people, fellow humans, like pets. you treat them like people, worthy of care and attention and human decency by existing.
and that’s what your optimism fails to cover. people are not being treated like people, people are being treated like pawns in a game, and what we’re saying is the game isn’t fair.
for someone who insists on seeing the good in people, surely you should see the bad as well.
but i didn’t have words. perhaps i still don’t.
when i do though, i hope you give my words the same weight i have given yours, because your thoughts are important.
so here’s something you probably totally already know but i will say anyway for the sake of this… thing.
i’m a feminist.
or at least that’s what i’ve been told by any self-respecting grownup who’s heard me talk.
i don’t know if i agree with that. i agree with a lot of things feminism fights for, but with the entire movement? i don’t know. check back in six months to see if i’ve changed.
but anyway, i was chatting with one of my closest friends amie (also known as ames, also known as ughhh does she have to be that much taller than me) and an idea struck in her head that we should do a thing.
so this is the thing.
it’s a long thing. you should check her blog to see her part of the thing.
the thing is a rousing discussion on women, society, kit kats, and unrealistic expectation, by the way. 😀
we also mention crocs!
have fun 🙂
woodstock: soooooooo hmm let’s talk about what we see first. disney princesses, the channel, the whole of how girls are portrayed in media. What problems can you see and what things do you think should be changed?
Ames: When you go to most famous celebrities’ social media pages, the ones that have been famous because of disney channel, what do you see? Mostly selfies, perfectly straight and dyed hair, makeup slathered on. Not that it’s wrong to do your hair and makeup, or take selfies. But is that what our life is about? Nope. Nor is it about finding a prince, or surviving through highschool romance drama.
As women, we don’t need to be told over and over that our job is to search for a man. When the time comes, the right man will come to us. We need to be reminded that in our single years, we can change the world. The shame of being single needs to be removed from our society, because you’re only going to be single once (hopefully), and while you’re single, you should spend your time investing in others (not in just finding Mr. right), and in your interests and talents. (hopefully that makes sense. XD)
woodstock: *slow claps* and this is why you’re amazing. i will add that i find a number of celebrities and their socials inspirational, but like you said, the majority of what’s online just forces people to adhere to an absolutely perfect standard that nobody really can reach.
Ames: (I need to follow those inspirational celebrities, then. XD) So, what are some problems with the typical “strong” female character?
woodstock: i would like to take this moment to say that i am in love with girl heroes and fighters and everything big and tough and epic. i would also like to take this moment to say that in the attempt to write these kickbutt awesome girls, the creators strip away a sensitivity, a soft side to them, a lot of characteristics seen as female, and that’s basically saying that girls should not be allowed to have those characteristics if they want to be respected. and that’s not a good thing to portray at all. everyone’s human.
Ames: I would like to add that a lot of strong female characters are portrayed as Katniss Everdeen. Strong physically, without the common insecurities that girls face every day. And that’s just not realistic. Will there be some very strong, athletic girls? YES. Is it okay to be strong and athletic as a woman? YES. But not every man is a muscle man playing football, right? And so not every woman will be a Katniss Everdeen. I think we need more strong women portrayed as an artist, a musician, maybe more Jo Marches or Anne Shirleys in the entertainment world. *nods* And if there are more Katniss Everdeens, I would like to see one that struggles with insecurities about her body, because that seems to be one of the plagues of being a girl. *nods*
woodstock: *sniffling* you see this? this is ames. this is just beautiful *insert all the crying of joy gifs* okay. i’ve heard it said that women don’t face any struggles or problems that apply to us as a whole. is that true, and if so, what are those problems?
Ames: Mm. This is a hard question, but I’ll give you my thoughts, and you can take them or leave them. I do believe that there are struggles and problems that apply to women as a whole. Women were once seen as child-bearers, and the ones to keep house and raise the kids. Is that bad? Not necessarily. Children need to be raised, and God chose women to be the ones to bear children. But in the past fifty years, there was been a huge shift in expectations for women. There’s still the old expectations, but now as a girl, you’re also expected to be a business woman. Will you be the first woman president? What are your ambitions in life? It’s not acceptable to either be a stay-at-home, or a business woman, depending what circle you spend time in. We’re stuck between two expectations, and two worlds. The one world that often sees women as an object, and the other that sees her as a tool for world advancement. But which is right?
woodstock: you are RIGHT and you SHOULD SAY IT. also, women are often targeted the most for unfair treatment, harassment, sexual, physical, emotional, and so many other kinds of abuse, not to mention getting paid less, being seen as less, and overall just competing in a world dominated by guys. it is not easy to be anything but a man, honestly.
Ames: I agree, though even being a man has its challenges. We’re humans, and we’re all fallen. So yeah. XD With the feminist movement, we’ve seen that some people push being better than men, or being like them and abandoning girly things. Is that okay? Should we try to be like men? Should we be better than them?
woodstock: so i totally stand with equal treatment? like we need to up our payment, opportunity, and treatment game? there are no questions to the fact that we are equal with men. that’s not even a question. but to say that we can do everything they can do and be everything they can be and try to be like them or better than them.. no. first off, (and totally feel free to ignore this) we’re both capable of achieving the same things. the way we are designed and work is different, and we need to respect that instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. also, WHO DECIDED MEN WERE THE STANDARD? by trying to be better than men you inadvertently imply that men are the standard by which you should base your life on, which defeats the whole point of this thing. we should aim for the best in whatever we are and do, but to feel like we have to compare ourselves to the opposite gender… no. just. no. ignore the men. live your life.
Ames: Mm. Men aren’t the standard by which we should live our lives.
The Bible alone is the standard that we should be comparing our lives to, and so by using men as a standard, in a way, we make them our idol. I 100% agree with Jo…
check out amie’s blog to see the rest. 🙂
~so men say that i’m intense or i’m insane, woodstock & ames~
we live in a world where something like world war three could be trending and banded colors that randomly appear when light shines through a prism exist and nobody talks about that. like, nobody.
i ask myself this. it must appear to be a crazed scene when a five feet flat girl wanders a roof waving a textbook the size of apple’s biggest ipad, questioning her species for nothing at all.
it probably is, but oh well.
i had to youtube my homework for any clue and i haven’t even gotten a single thing finished. which is stressful when all the assignments from lit class come piling in just when you’re supposed to take the unit test the next day but then you also have tutoring and weren’t you gonna send some submissions in and oh yeah, you need to edit like 200 pictures for a gig you are never going to see cash for and send it in before next week and oh yeah, we should prepare for a nuclear bomb attack and there is legit a country on fire that probably could’ve been avoided if someone listened but no and fire can’t travel over water, can it, because people are very very sizzling angry and stressed and listen buddy i came here for water not a whole debate on who’s going to win the election so how about you carefully sit yourself back in a chair and just wait for your order to come in just like anyone else and i’m mixing up my tenses and cases and everything is lovely and mixed up and i have discovered, to my dismay, that i don’t hate pineapple anymore.
but i am going to close my textbook and the twitter tabs and the “how to teach beginner violin” window and exist because all this… *waves vaguely* these things existing are far too much to acknowledge at the same time, so goodbye.
does anyone want some pineapple?
i get the fear. i mean, i live with it, so it’s not like i have much choice anyway. i get the dismay that this entire generation and quite possibly a few other ones too must have, looking at the world wondering what’s happening and when did everything start going up in smoke? it’s gotta be dreadful. we seriously need to talk, life. you’re becoming a royal pain in everyone’s necks. just chill for 2 minutes. 2 minutes. 2. thank you.
but it doesn’t work that way, does it? it never does.
is it too much to wish we were all living in the 1950s, back when everything was vintage and swell and nice and easy? probably. dangit.
but then if it was the 1950s i wouldn’t have a laptop or be allowed to have one and i’m pretty sure there would be zero mental help whatsoever and someone would probably accuse me of missing a few nuts and bolts in my head for even saying any of this. which hasn’t changed, but. no time is perfect. i mean, maybe some kid is moping on their internet platform a millennia into the future wishing everything could be like it was in the 2020’s, when baby yoda was something everyone collectively adored and people were fighting for change and because nerds gasped whenever they ran across each other. maybe they’re groaning at the world of their time too and wishing life was the way it was.
i see you kid.
it’s not. spoiler alert.
life can never be the way it was because it no longer becomes life, it becomes history and that’s another thing entirely.
and there has to be a reason or something that we aren’t in history (yet). there has to be an explanation of some kind why we exist in the here and now and the house hasn’t exploded yet. there has to be a reason why there i s light even in the midst of growing darkness. and there definitely should be a reason why my voice is hopelessly high pitched during colds. it’s an utter travesty.
and this whole post is pointless because i don’t know what that reason is.
are we ever meant to know?
who said we had to?
what if in the search for answers we create more questions that lead to things so amazing nobody’s ever dreamt of? what if in the fight to end the war we can find peace? what if in searching for the purpose of life we find more than just one?
what if this ends up good after all?
that’s… hopelessly naive. i’m aware.
but to acknowledge the potential for bad while forgetting what is good isn’t fair. hence this discourse.
because yes, creation is groaning. the world is hurting. somehow everyone that breathes is getting walloped with something hard and heavy and it looks bleak. and it is bleak. everyone has issues. i have issues. you have issue. that person in room 103 eating a kit kat without breaking it first has issues.
but time goes by. light shines. you eventually remember that email password. and people live regardless.
is living the point of life? maybe? i dunno.
but i hope that somehow, existing in itself would be an easier process. for all of us. maybe even for the guy eating kit kats incorrectly.
did this even have a point yeesh jo–
~sometimes the only pay off, for having any faith, is when it’s tested again and again every day, jo~
p.s enni and i did a think and it’s pretty cool but i forgot that time zones are mindtrippy so go ask her about it, ty
listen, i’ve written 30 something k this nano and that’s a win and i think that deserves a good ole snarky post because i have no filter whatsoever.
also, i feel like awaeseason3!mrs. barry would kill me for this kinda behavior, but i mean.. she asked for it. (it’s rather a bit of regression to her change of heart in season to but PROPRIETY, y’know.)
and yes, my dudes. i actually researched finishing schools for this because i. am extra. 🙂
THE ENTIRE BLOGSPHERE IS BEING SHIPPED TO FINISHING SCHOOL. yes, that’s right, you heard me. we have far too many uncouth, progressive bloggers in the world and NOBODY is doing what they’re supposed to do! go find spouses, you bunch of bibliophiles! it’s time we shipped them all out to turn them into proper people. boys, you get sent off to boarding school. have fun being bored (though honestly, you get to learn french, german, somehow understand algebra, box, fence, and debate, which is kinda cool, so i have no clue what you’re crying about.) girls, they’re finishing us off.
prepare to die.
you young ladies, sadly, cannot make the treacherous journey alone, it is most unbecoming and unthinkable to travel without a chaperone, which, in your case, is your twice-bored older sister’s friend who doesn’t get my blog. wave goodbye to your books and music because it’s not very attractive to enjoy a good piece of work, i’m afraid.
NOW. we are all arranged into our societal class, which of course, is the paid domains and the wordpress.com users, (you’re on blogger? erhm. go to a charm school. work your way to the top.) because heaven forbid someone save enough to switch to wordpress.org. ya need your husband for that sweetie. SPEAKING OF, shouldn’t you be balancing a book on your head and curtesying like, right now? for shame. go stick your pinkie in the air and spill tea. but tea tea, because it is not good to show that you are capable of thinking deeply. guys would just stay away.
what you will learn here? first off, we don’t ask questions, and second off, you should enjoy your education of good ole dead languages, occasional french and german (gotta get them lads), penmanship (because all that typing makes your hands utterly useless) and dancing. (instantly, the ballet, gymnastic, and skater bloggers sigh in relief. the theater kids look both excited and nervous. enni quits.) these are all things you must learn to enjoy a domestic life following as many rules as possible and achieving nothing of significance (because who would want a cure for cancer when you could have a hUsBaNd?)
no, pants are not allowed– what are you, a worker? here, we dress with grace and charming, which is something you all lack. i see you, “fan girls” or whatever you call yourselves. control your tempers, it is UNBECOMING to vex yourselves into such hysterics! shouldn’t you leave well enough alone to the menfolk? here, sit quietly and learn embroidery. and stop reading! we are not bluestockings, we wear them.
don’t run after a carriage in the street. yes, i am aware that might be your uber, but had you taken uber-care to properly make it in time, we wouldn’t be here, now would we? and where on EARTH is your chaperone? take care with your dress, and how dare you wear converse underneath all those unneeded layers? we are not here to be “fly”, if anything flies it would be most indecent! goodness, i’m not paid enough for this.
when we’ve deemed that you can successfully make small talk, cease chattering about things like “diversity” and “representation”, properly flirt with and hold on to a guy (preferably in his 20s, after all, you’re far too young and naive and need someone to assume superiority over you– what’s this about “equals?”), then we will debut you to the world and announce that your forever life goal is for men to woo you into marriage, whereupon you will get married, have kids, and sip tea for the rest of your life. then, and only then, can you occasionally learn to box (in private gardens and such), do scientific experiments (hold beakers for your husband and such like) and become the finest porcelain possible and watch as history paints your life (which, surprisingly, can be full, beautiful, and richer than anyone thinks) into the background for time to forget. OF COURSE blogging is forbidden! no, we do not publish our thoughts for the world to see! who will listen to you?
what do you MEAN, you have at least 100 followers? we are to allure people with our charm, not with who we really are! i can’t believe this generation sometimes.
excuse me? you make puns? you don’t want a man? you want to pursue engineering? you think men and women should receive equal pay? saying “like” shows consideration, and not sloppiness? you believe that everyone should READ!?
that’s it! i give up. if each of you ends up causing a scene, don’t say i didn’t try.
at the very least, add cream in your tea, you ungenteel people.
~get it right, jo~
p.s. i regret nothing. yet.
p.p. s. i’d also like to say that i’m bashing societal expectations, not society positions. because guess what? not everyone goes off to save the world and discover unknown elements. some people want the domestic life. the smile, quiet, easy, happy, basic. and who here can say that’s a bad thing?
p.p.s. i’d also also like to say that i’m not poking fun at etiquette. etiquette’s intent is to serve others through your actions, which is something we all should take more care to do. i’m poking fun at the outdated emphasis and the stiff rules people held important in their world.
p.p.p.s. let’s just say 2019 and 1919 are drastically different and i’m grateful for that.
this post is spun out of 1. the fact that it was memorial/remembrance day this month, 2. i recently fell in love with the series anne with an e, and 3. it just should be said. even if i stink at saying it. here goes.
so, first off, anne with an e. it’s this canadian (REPRESENT) tv show based on anne of green gables BUT not following the series exactly. it’s a little darker, a little realer, with themes that aren’t comfortable at all (growing up, freedom of speech, racism, sexism, harassment, i could go on).
and you know what?
that’s really. really. really good.
it’s well known for causing angst in the fandom for its anne and gilbert ship (which i really appreciate), but while i’m currently dying waiting for the good people of tumblr to post the next clips of episode ten, i truly got sold the minute i saw this scene, which is about neither of them. it features an oc (original character) ka’ kwet, a mi’kmaq girl who befriends anne and is in something we today would call residential school.
if we were taught anything right in history, residential school is probably one of the worst evils in canada’s timeline.
that part hurt me.
and left me shocked. and raw.
as it should.
this is ka ‘kwet before the residential school, by the way.
the worst part about these scenes is that it’s real. it happened. for a period in my birth country’s timeline, kids were being taken away and stripped away of their cultural identity, their humanity, and themselves, just for being– what? different? not white? themselves?
there is no way of looking at it that makes it right. it’s not right.
and yet, the only way that we can truly experience even a little part of how that must’ve felt for someone who went through it all is through a tv show that isn’t afraid to show how broken the world is.
i think that’s the tragic beauty of storytelling.
and awae isn’t the only one, thank God.
again, i have talked about jojo rabbit a bit too much on this blog, and i can’t say i’m sorry. (i can’t say that i’ve seen it either, bwah.) a movie about a kid enraptured with hitler and the nazis, finding out his mom is hiding a jew? uh? yes?
even though the scene here is humorous (and i mean, they’re all humorous, it’s a comedy and it’s taika watiti), the dialogue gets me. jojo doesn’t hide his hate for the allies, or anyone against germany/hitler/the nazis, which is a sentiment not just echoed in his tiny ten year old heart, but by kids everywhere in germany. and their parents. and their parents’ dogs.
and that was real. jojo might be a fictional character, but his beliefs were shared, and spread, and poisoned a whole country.
people died because of that. people died because of the residential schools. people have been hurt, people have been abused, and their history seems to be all but forgotten. we’ve learned to take a day to respect it and move on.
it hurts for so many reasons. it hurts because human lives were spurned. it hurts knowing that if i was in canada 2, 3 something centuries ago, as a girl of color, i would never have gotten the freedom to use my voice. or the right to be treated humanely. it hurts that so many people of the past were forced to quietly suffer, and so many people now are quietly suffering, and we must be shocked by a horrible scene to realize something that’s lost in our history textbooks.
we’re so broken.
and yet, in a horrible way, it’s beautiful. it’s beautiful that we can weave reality in with stories and truly portray life. don’t let anyone say stories aren’t powerful– stories can make a huge impact. if we let it. if we never forget.
cause, yes, there was good with the bad. truly amazing things did happen, wonderful things. and those things helped lead us to where we are today. it isn’t fair to bring up injustice after injustice without showing how beautiful the world was, not making either lesser, but showing both as real life. and life seems to have kept the pattern anyway.
but maybe, through every controversial story, every harsh reality we come to through uncovering our histories, maybe through the content we create and how we respond to people totally different from ourselves, when we fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves, when we take a stand with those who have nobody, when we show God’s unwavering, absolutely nondiscriminatory love to e v e r y o n e, through our art, through our words, through ourselves, maybe that’s how we never forget.
what a story it’d take to make us do that. i believe it’s called life, but not sure if anyone still listens to it, or the one who writes it. here’s hoping we do.
anyway, i’m still anxiously hoping ka ‘kwet’s story gets a happy ending, even though history has proven otherwise, just to see what could have been. and what could be now. and i hope that orpheus doesn’t turn around, and i hope a million little things get happy endings that i know won’t be.
but maybe they could.
maybe they could.
~give those kids and me the brand new century, jo~
*oh wow i watch one pop culture detective video i’m such a social activist*
*no i just have questions*
so i have questionable writing choices. this stems all the way from my fascination with war. don’t ask me why. and don’t ask about that “how to cover a murder” search on my google history. murder is wrong. i don’t support or approve or do murder. it’s just on my tabs.
totally not creepy.
my recent writing endeavor involves a girl. and a guy. and while it remains to be seen whether they fall in love, they do carry the rest of the story.
but to pull any of this off, i actually need to, uh, study guys.
i need to get a job.
so, like one does, i study how people wrote male characters. i study their dialogue and their actions and their description and their reason for existing in stories and–
okay, something really, really, really gives me problems.
what in the name of thor and poptarts is up with toxic masculinity?
let’s start with something basic. if you’ve ever read/watched/heard/ experienced a scene where a guy and a girl are fighting and the guy says some pretty terrible things and the girl retorts and in the name of romantic tension they make out? usually, the guy is presented as the strong, right person and the girl is a ditzy airhead who’s just being stubborn (i.e, not listening to the guy)
no? okay, how about a scene where the guy kisses the girl without her asking?
oh. uhm. so you haven’t read any scene where the girl does something and the guy’s like “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT YOU TERRIBLE PERSON AND I CAN SHOUT AT YOU AND BE MEAN BECAUSE I LOVE YOU”
goodness, either everyone here is sheltered or i come from like, pluto.
you really haven’t seen some macho dude take a machine gun and kill people in one fell swoop? or slam someone’s head down on a table and somehow still be the good guy?
or overall be an arrogant demanding egotistical person that does bad things that are seen as good or like???
or have their character developments portray them as controlling and basically the mannest man that ever manned (i’m looking at you hopper and tony stark)
cause it’s there.
and it is downright wrong.
bickering for romantic buildup isn’t a good way to start a romance okay. and i hate romance. casual murder isn’t cool, it’s murder. being the alpha over a girl in a story simply because you are a male is uhm (oh no i’m gonna say the s word) sexist. and kissing someone right after slapping them isn’t funny. it’s abuse.
i truly don’t believe that real life guys would do any of this? (well, there are some and that’s an example of how our world is broken) so why are they being portrayed as good role models?
“but jo” you wonder in confusion, as well you ought i make no sense whatsoever “where’s your evidence?”
tony stark. YES OKAY I KNOW I KNOW HE DIED IN ENDGAME but uhm i’m sorry he uh kinda almost killed the world with an evil robot and when the accords came for that he blamed everyone but himself and then he broke those accords anyway when he realized he was wrong and NEARLY KILLED SOMEONE FOR SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED YEARS AGO AND THAT THAT PERSON DIDN’T HAVE ANY CONTROL OF AND NEVER APOLOGZED FOR IT?
“ah,” you say. “a bucky stan wrote this”.
uh. yes. a bucky stan did write this, but i’m talking from the perspective of someone who knows was manipulation and blame shifting is like.
yeah not good marvel. not good.
oh wait i’m not done he called wanda a weapon of mass destruction 😀 😀 just like agent ross (nope not bilbo my sweet hobbit nope) did with thor and bruce. if you don’t remember, he basically compared them to, uh, explosives. people are people my marvel frens.
oh, yeah, uh, thorin? mr. moody wants to go home? there is legit no need to be all yelly and salty. you’re a dwarf, yes, but you’re still responsible for decency and respect (BUT YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO KILL HIM TO RESOLVE THAT MR. DIRECTOR WHY)
basically, search up any big harrison ford, arnold what’shisname, or chuck norris movie. or like, anything from back then. these guys are not toxic in and of themselves, BUT they do show patterns and actions that can be toxic, and this is the problem i have beef with. especially in romance. you come into a relationship of equals. nobody’s higher than the other. and as such you shouldn’t be controlling and verbally abusive in the name of love because for real?
you’re not a good guy character. you’re not even a good human being character.
and while we’re at it, you know the whole bad boi trend? can we all collectively agree that bad bois aren’t cute? they’re bad. there is nothing attractive about being a bad person. just. stop.
what am i saying? i think i’ve blurred so many topics under this big umbrella of men being written as “smash smash smash ooh look i have muscles and martial arts skills”, but what i’m trying to say is guys are more than muscles and being macho to the point of toxicness.
like, guys can cry. guys can fight and be strong and still cry! that’s not being gay, that’s being human. gay people cry, non gay people cry, EVERYONE INCLUDING GUYS CRY.
and also guys can hug other guys. and kiss them on the forehead and little fluffy things. if you’re getting squeamish, you’re probably never read narnia or lord of the rings or the bible.
guys can be nervous too. and soft. and good.
guys don’t have to storm into places and kill people. and guys don’t have to be controlling and big strut stuff over girls. and guys don’t have to be abusive disguised as caring.
like, good writers, i already see this stuff in real life as it is. i don’t need to read about it in a book and then be told it’s good characterization.
good guy characters are like, say, aragorn of lotr. or hiccup of httyd! (OMW YES) or newt scamander or thor. or neighbor rosicky (yooo you need to read that) or legolas or gimli or bilbo or pippin or caspian (not the movie) or that dad in the penderwicks or mr. bhaer and mr. march (no not you laurie) from little women or pa from the little house on the prarie books or nick from zootopia and he’s a fox for crying out loud. there is so much opportunity to write guy characters that are good and strong and not toxic and overbearing.
and i really hope they remember to write more of that. because stories don’t just reflect life, they shape it too. that’s from wooton. he’s a very positive guy character. and you know what? positive, not toxic guy characters are amazing when written.
basically, go watch a pop culture detective video. because if you haven’t already figured out, i make no sense when i try to be meaningful.
i am five years old when i notice that the other kids are lighter than i am.
i am six years old when i feel alienated at church and school and every other public place.
i am seven years old when i learn what the word “immigrant” means.
i am eight years old when i try to change my accent to fit in.
i am nine years old when i start crying because i don’t want to cross the border back to canada.
i learn to cringe at thick accents, learn to hide at bad english, avoid watching filipino things, avoid being “too filipino”. i learn that at white people’s houses, they don’t eat rice, they don’t take their shoes off, and they don’t say “ate” and “kuya”. i learn that white people write all the books and make all the headlines and take all the awards. white people are best. but not us. not the flips. we’re the jokes of the world. we’re so many things we don’t even know what we are.
i wander into a small town american diner and instantly feel like i don’t belong. i desperately look at comics for someone who looks like me, but the only people who do are horrible and i decide that i am alone.
i learn that asians can be geniuses. asians can be talk show hosts (of stereotypical asian shows), asians can be engineers, asians can run the local chinese store or wok of fame. that’s asian. that’s okay. but only that is okay.
i learn that asians can only be chinese or japanese or korean. asians must be fair and beautiful and thin, but they can’t be too brown. too filipino. even though filipinos naturally have their own shades of light to dark brown, but we only ever see the fair ones.
i learn that i don’t belong here even though i was born here and i need to remember my culture, but then i learn that i shouldn’t learn from my culture because it’s too “backward”.
i learn that my skin isn’t accepted and i will always be that “asian kid”.
all of the above is terrible. it might not be true for everyone, but it was true for me and it is true for a good many other people. and, yeah, it’s still a problem but i wanted to ramble about because guess what?
we’re changing homie. we’re changing.
in the past year alone, i’ve gotten to talk and listen from people of all walks and cultures and everything and i think that’s amazing. i can understand a few signs in montreal and talk about matzo competitions with jews and accidentally be too curious about the hijab (sorry bay i truly mean well tho!!) and sing o canada and play hockey and sympathize with mexicans because we’re so similar, like what– and groan at the asian genius filipinos AND chinese people have to be typed into.
and here’s the even crazier thing.
i’ve learned to love my own culture. i’ve learned to enjoy the people and foods and customs, the dances and the music and the language and to be a proud filipino and to see everything that comes with this weird, messy, halo halo culture that comes when you’re a second gen.
why now though? why all of this color now?
because i’ve grown up colorblind.
all of this beauty was held back by people who were, honestly, scared of the world they now lived in, who grabbed their kids and said “anak, you remember our cultures” but that was it.
colorblindedness is the worst okay. it’s the worst.
yes, we have issues. every culture has issues. dangnabbit, everyBODY has issues, but that doesn’t make them less valid. hey, maybe it makes us more valid, because in this collective agreement that we are messed up we can let go of the things that held us back from really getting to know each other.
so all of this who knows how many words is my response to something i heard once.
“we haven’t learnt to be colorblind yet.”
i don’t want the world to be colorbind. that would be absolutely terrible. I WANT THE WORLD TO SEE COLOR AND I AM WRITING THIS IN CAPS BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT and because honestly, life is so much more beautiful when you don’t just care for your own. i want the world to realize its own beauty in its individual uniqueness and own it. i want people to be accepted and not worry about not speaking good english or having a thick accent or being too dark or not dark enough. i want to make gOoD culture jokes and enjoy my friends being curious about where i came from and hearing the same from them. see? color? *chef’s kiss*
there’s too many “i” in this post. there always is. i tried hard for there not to be.
but i kinda like thinking about the day a scrawny weirdo in the future will look at something like this and say “wow. we’ve come so far.”