Someone the other day said it perfectly. This is bigger than gun control. This is bigger than mental health. While both of those things are important, but the much larger issue at hand is that someone felt devalued in his masculinity because we as a society had created this notion that in order to feel worthy, a man needed to have gotten laid multiple times by beautiful women. That for this individual, he believed that his worth came from the attention only beautiful women could give him and that in itself is a tragedy. That other “non-beautiful” women were not worthy of his time either and that his idea of “beautiful” pertained to the “hot blondes” he was surrounded by.

We, as a society, created a place in which many believe that a female refusing advances from a male is her fault and in order for her to defend herself, she needs to pull the “I have a boyfriend” card because only then will those males leave her alone out of the respect of that “other male.”

We, as a society, teach our children to be safe from predators, but not to teach them to not be predators themselves. Should they fail to be careful, that is their fault for any crimes committed upon them.

We, as a society, created a world in which the males who do not treat their female counterparts in misogynistic ways do not feel comfortable to teach their male peers the same and will often chuckle when the “jackass” of the group continues on his merry way.

I don’t want to say that all men are bad and evil, etc. I don’t think even rapists are inherently terrible themselves because they have been taught that they way they go about treating women is okay and that someone who is “promiscuous” deserves it or because she is asking for it with the skimpy clothing. The female race should not tempt the heterosexual males unless they want it themselves. That is the message. And even then, many feel a sense of power and entitlement to do what they please to the females.

One of my biggest irks is when men argue that being whistled at is a compliment and that women should be flattered by it. I, at the age of 14/15, was leered at – mind you, in jeans a t-shirt – by men as they were driving by. It is not flattering. It’s disturbing. It’s degrading. I am a person, not an object.

So many times, I have given into these societal teachings. Giving men at the club a fake number. Dancing with them for fear of retribution. Having to dance with a purse behind my or a friend’s ass to prevent random guys from grinding up on us. That I would feel so much freer dancing at a gay club than at any other club because the possibility that someone will grind up on me in a sexual way is way, way lower. That I have to always watch my surroundings when I’m walking at night. That I couldn’t say no to a partner for fear of what he would do.

Even now, I find myself falling to some of these traps. It’s hard to forget because I still don’t feel safe. That should not be the world we live in. That should not be the world anybody, male or female or trans, should live in. But to be honest, I don’t even know where we can begin to change the views of this society. I see what it does to the ethnic minorities and unless you live in a special enclave where this ideological thinking is pervasive in everything that you do, I cannot see it making it very far, which is really unfortunate.

So we will continue to blame the lack of gun control. We will continue to blame the lack of mental health services. Blame the parents who didn’t provide enough for their children, whatever else we want to blame.

But ourselves.


Further reading:

Lost Identity

I should go to bed, it’s late, but I also want to get this out before I forget.

Yesterday was April 30, the anniversary of what is commonly known as the Fall of Saigon among the Vietnamese diaspora. I don’t know how to fully interpret it. I could bandwagon and say that this day is important as it marks the beginning of the large refugee migration within Southeast Asia and many of our lives would not exist had our families decided to stay instead of leave their countries. I could do that, but then I don’t feel like it’s genuine to me.

I have lived a sheltered life. While I may have had a “party” life a while ago, at the same time, it has been pretty sweet. Growing up, I never knew what it meant to be poor. I just knew what it meant to be happy. And also that mother just liked to save lots of money, but I couldn’t figure out why and never questioned it. It took me years to realize the lengths my parents went through to do this for me. Sometimes they would tell me the stories of their journey, but it wasn’t very in depth and just about how they had to travel by this tiny boat and my sister was so good and well-behaved despite being so young.

But my parents provided for me. They kept me safe, they provided food, clothing, and shelter and it didn’t seem very difficult. All of it seemed normal that both parents worked, that my dad would come home around 7 or later and despite his lack of physical presence in the house, he still had a strong hold on what was and wasn’t acceptable in the home. He still taught me values that I hold dear today without all the hardship.

I used to, and sometimes do, wish that I would have suffered. I don’t know how to say this that doesn’t offend others who have gone through a lot of struggles and I don’t want to trivialize all of that, but in a way, I envy all of those who did. It’s not to say that people who don’t struggle can’t learn the values that come from sacrifice, etc, but for me, I just feel as if I didn’t have that deeper understanding of what it means to be poor, what it means to fear for your life, what it means to really be hungry and to not know when your next meal will be. I have always had a sense of comfort and safety and rarely have I been in positions of that level of vulnerability.

I watched the movie, Journey From the Fall, that shares the story of a family who was in the boat people movement, except the father, who was taken to “re-education camps” (which, by the way, American history books totally gloss over like it’s nothing wrong, when in fact, South Vietnamese soldiers were tortured, beaten and starved). I watched it and felt this deep lack of understanding of what my parents went through. The movie is sad, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a terrible movie to watch if you want to feel good afterward, but it reminded me of all my parents had to go through and how hard they worked before I was born to get to where they are today.

And I wish I was able to do that. I feel so lazy and unambitious and all these other terrible things. I haven’t found what truly motivates me and I just don’t know how to get there. But my parents – they knew. They had a family to provide for, a life to make for themselves. They had goals and dreams and they worked hard to get there.

So Black April isn’t just about what happened when the Northern Vietnamese overtook the Southern capital of Vietnam, but what it represented. It represented a migration and displacement of people. It represented that people are willing to fight one another instead of support each other. It showed me that my father was most likely very traumatized and because of that, has refused to return since he got here about 30 years ago. But I am still uncertain of what Black April means for me and I don’t know how long it will take me to find that meaning.

PSA: Carpal Tunnel

I kid you not, I was scared last week that I would get carpal tunnel and have to wear a brace like a coworker of mine. So I evaluated my work space and realized that I was too low for the table, grabbed a set of pillows (eventually bought a better one) so I could prop myself up. Since then, I haven’t felt any strain on my wrists and it’s almost back to 100% functioning.

This has been a public service announcement.

Courtesy of ergonomics.

Warm Fuzzies

Today I had a client who told me a lot about her life and I was in awe of everything that she had gone through, everything that she had survived. I was doing really well in session when she started crying (I tend to cry when people cry). It didn’t hit me until I got home and started thinking more about what I could do for her and I realized how much counter-transference I was holding on to. And I want to cry. I want to cry for her pain, for her losses, but most of all, I want to cry for the strength that she has been carrying all her life. Of the few people I’ve been given the opportunity to work with this year, she is one of the ones who’s really moved me. I know as a clinician, I shouldn’t let this get to me, but I am more than a clinician. I am a social worker. I can’t just separate the feelings aside from the work that I do so easily. I feel and I care and to be honest, I think that’s why I chose the profession I chose. If I wanted to do therapy only, there are other programs, but this one, this one is near and dear to my heart.

I’ve been feeling a little disconnected lately from the work that I’ve been doing, mostly because I haven’t seen some of my clients in a while. But today, today was a really good reminder about why I chose to do what I do.