Identity of Our Names

February 9, 2015 - Leave a Response

So far into the month of February, and I haven’t written about black history yet. But the history of our blackness, and of our names, is not only rooted in Africa and the slave trade, but rooted in every place around the world. Our name defines our family, origin, culture, race and legacy. I am grateful to know that my surname, Nofi, comes from Nigeria. I also know that thousands of people in the United States do not know their true surnames, and likely never will.

There is a profound connection between Native Americans, Africans, and the slave trade. Not just because both groups of people were enslaved, but because both groups have lost their identities, place names, and cultures at the hands of European settlers. For example, an African brought to North America, who’s name originally was Kwame, would be beaten and tortured until he accepted his new “name”, John. Areas with place names given by the tribe living in that area were changed by European settlers, or destroyed altogether. For both Africans and Native Americans, they were ripped away from their communities, thus ripping them away from their culture.

The most frightening thing of all, is that this still happens in 2015. It may surprise you to know that it happens on Facebook.

Facebook has a policy (that is binding because we agree to it) that “unauthentic” names cannot be used on our profiles. I understand this may be in place to deter folks from creating a fake Facebook identity. However, this policy effects people who have real names that fall under the definition of “unauthentic”. I did a test with a Yomechas Federation name, “Running Deer”, to see if Facebook would let me make a new account with that name. It did, but it could be because that name is so widely recognized. So, I tried using Little Shark as a first and last name. It would not go through. The site presented an ‘error’, stating that I was trying to create a profile for a business. Who are you, Facebook, to tell me Little Shark is a name of a business, and not a human being? Who are you to decide what names are real, and what names are fake?

In regard to Yomechas Federation, Running Deer is a name, not first and last, simply a name. So what do people trying to use Facebook do if they come from a culture that does not use surnames? Make up a name? Doesn’t that also violate the fake name policy? It sounds more like Facebook is filtering the types of people who use the site, rather than ‘catfish’.

That brings me to my next point about parents who name their daughters Gift, Lady, Future, etc. Unique and unconventional names have become increasingly popular. Facebook does not let these names go through as first names either. If the name on my birth certificate is Lady, what name do I use alternatively? A fake one?

In Sudan, the Dinka people have an identical first and last name. Believe it or not, Facebook will lock you out of your account for this. In the case of 7Song, who was using the name Sevensong Sevensong, because the number wouldn’t go through, recently was locked out for having an “unauthentic” name. This is just one more example of the extreme unfairness of this policy.

This business of picking and choosing who exists and who doesn’t, defeats the purpose of an internet community. It replicates the mentality of segregation, and robs us of our humanity. Some may argue that we do not have to use Facebook, or other social media. Some may argue that this is a silly thing to be upset about. My civil rights exist on the internet just as much as they do anywhere else.

Don’t Call Geisha Prostitutes

February 1, 2015 - Leave a Response

The word geisha most likely comes from a Japanese dialect that isn’t used anymore. Nowadays, if you look up the word for art in standard Japanese, you will get びじゅつ、 (bijutsu; but it really means fine art). For person, you will get ひと. I’m going to operate under the assumption that geisha was from the “Old Tokyo dialect”, and it literally translates to “art person”, not “prostitute”. There are many things that are considered art forms, from classical music to calligraphy to poetry and even conversation. The most important aspect of the geisha is that they are entertainers. Even sex in it’s own way can be considered an art form, in the correct context.

I often refer to Japan as the art capital of the world. Art is so deeply rooted in Japan’s history that it pretty much is Japan’s history. All of my experiences with Japanese culture while growing up, were artistic. From studying Kenpo to the stories from Shintoism to the incredible souvenirs my god-mother brought back for me when I was little.

I won’t sit here and say that geisha were not, at times, exploited, because women have been exploited in every corner of the globe. But I won’t sit here and act like geisha are somehow worse-off than American women, or any other woman in any other part of the world. It’s been my experience that if a cultural behavior is different than what we’ve grown up with, we label it as wrong. Well it’s not wrong for a woman to be a geisha, who lives, eats, breathes and performs art. By your logic, the starving artist down the street would also be a prostitute because he sells his paintings. If you think selling your body and selling your paintings are not the same thing, there are thousands of artists lined up around the block to tell you otherwise. Art is, and always will be, an extension of the human form.

The original purpose of the geisha was to entertain men. A woman entertaining men for far too long has been associated with exploitation. It is automatically assumed that any sort of entertainment performed by a woman, for a man, is sexual. But if I sing to a man, or play an instrument for him, am I really being exploited? The disturbing part about this is that if a man were to do the exact same type of entertaining, we’d see it as courting, romantic, and call him a really nice man. But a woman has to be forced to be nice to other people, making her a beast… I’d say you were fighting the wrong fight, but, this isn’t a fight.

Unfortunately, Americans are obsessed with Japan’s culture, which they define as ramen noodles, manga and anime. In my Japanese 100 course last semester, a classmate admitted that she was taking the class so that she could understand what characters say in the anime porn she watches. There is much more to Japan than that.

Memoirs of a Geisha was a huge hit because of this obsession with Japan. The film is beautifully done, and historically accurate, though some societal attitudes miss the mark. Even so, the movie still made geisha look like these exploited prostitutes, rather than woman making a living as artists. It starts with the lead character, Sakamoto Chiyo, being sold to a house with まいこ (maiko) who are training to become geisha. Sakamoto also has blue eyes, and is often criticized for it. A heavy amount of emphasis is also placed on when Sakamoto is sexually assaulted, and the bidding for the geisha’s virginity. To most Americans, that portrayal looks like an exploited girl sold into sex slavery. If you watched the film and saw it as positive, then I’m concerned for you. But in the real world, things didn’t happen that way. Or if they did, it was extremely rare.

The Japanese people believe very strongly in a right way, and wrong way to do things. There are certain things you just don’t do in Japan, and one of those things is prostitution. There were serious limits on what parts of the country could have brothels, and by the turn of the 20th century, prostitution was illegal. There are also restrictions on how much male genitalia can be shown in literary/manga porn.

I felt a little silly for doing this, because for the longest time I assumed my Japanese language teacher wasn’t married because she never wears a wedding ring. Most people from her generation and older, don’t wear wedding rings. In addition, the marital restrictions we have in America are very different in comparison to Japan. Men, AND women, were allowed to seek out the attention of courtesans. While there are clear expectations of how women and men should be in a marriage and home, they are a lot more equal than you thought they were.

Sakamoto’s blue eyes gain much disrespect, but in real world Japan this would not be the case. The sea which surrounds the country is precious, and a young girl with watery eyes would be special. The Japanese pay attention to facial features and appearance, and have more words to describe appearance than Americans do. This is not vanity, because talking about different physical features is casual. Asking someone what their weight is, or how tall they are, is a normal question. When people, especially those in the military, try to convince me Japan is sexist and racist, I get very irritated. The concept of ethnicity and race in Japan is relatively new. When the Japanese first encountered people from America and Europe, they referred to them as あおいめのひと (aoi me no hito), ‘blue-eyed people’, because they were people who had blue eyes.

I’m not entirely sure why a geisha needed to look bad in this film, or why the exploitation of a fictional character was needed to make a statement about feminism. I especially don’t understand, out of all the women in this world who are actually victims, the author chose the geisha to make his point.

How Men Can Prevent Themselves From Being Sexually Assaulted and Harassed

January 30, 2015 - 3 Responses

Several years ago while I was on the city bus, I witnessed a woman start groping the thigh of a man who was another woman’s boyfriend. He was visibly uncomfortable and seemed to have very little idea of what to do. His girlfriend stepped in, and these two women had a violent argument. The bus driver, myself and several other people were able to get this woman who had groped this man off of the bus. He was so quiet afterward, and he looked like a deer headlights. A lot of passengers tried to say she was coming on to him, or trying to steal him from his girlfriend. At one point I said to him, that was sexual harassment, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that. He said thank you, and he calmed down a little bit. This incident revived my anger toward people who believe that men are not capable of being raped or sexually harassed. In reality, nearly 50% of rape victims are men. Because our society thinks men cannot be victims, women take advantage of this, by telling these men that this is what they really want, and societal pressure discourages these men from saying no. After all, aren’t men the ones who will sleep with anyone, and who sleep around all the time?

I had to word the title of this article in a way that didn’t make it sound like it was about men preventing women from being victims of rape and harassment. I already have a blog entry on that topic. We need to talk about what men are forced to go through, and we need to do it fairly and compassionately.

1. Say No: No means no, period. When you say no you make it very clear that you do not want whatever that woman or man wants from your body. Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to invade it, or force you to use your body in a way that you don’t want to. I don’t care if you’ve never had sex before, I don’t care if you have never had a girlfriend before, I don’t care if you really like her. Don’t convince yourself that you have to meet a societal standard more than protect yourself from harm. If she tells you that she’ll accuse you of assaulting her, remember that you said no. You never consented to this behavior so even if she accuses you of something you didn’t do, you are safe.

2. Fight Back: Even when I was a kid, we were taught not to hit girls. Any woman who assaults you is exempt from that rule. You have every right to defend yourself from anyone who attacks you because that is the law. Women are not the weaklings that people think we are, we give birth, and I promise you we can seriously hurt someone if we want to.

Self defense is something that everyone in the world can learn. You do not have to be Bruce Lee, or have some sort of special talent in order to learn self defense. If you want to study a specific style, even better. Self defense also raises self confidence, and empowers you.

3. Carry Pepper Spray: Pepper spray is typically associated with being a woman’s weapon, but in reality, both genders can use pepper spray. Cops carry it, mailmen (and women) carry it. Last summer, a male college student was able to subdue a gunmen on campus by using pepper spray on him. State laws about the carrying and usage of pepper spray vary, so it is a good idea to do some research before you decide to get it. Just about everyone with at least half a brain is scared of it because it is extremely painful, and when inhaled can make a person’s throat close up. Therefore, only use it if you are in serious danger. I guarantee you, that a woman attempting to assault you will back off the instant you spray her.

Check out this cool video about how to use pepper spray: How To Use Pepper Spray

4. Be Mindful Who You Date: Don’t lower your standards, make sure that the woman you are interested in is really worth your time. A woman who is confident, respects your space, is interested in who you are, is mot likely a good woman to be around. It’s perfectly all right to ask people who know this about her personality, or what she is interested in. It may surprise you how honest people are when you do this. If someone warns you about a particular behavior, then this is a red flag. Stay away, you deserve better.

5. Pull Up Your Pants and Put a Shirt On: Many women are put off by men who do this, I know I am. I don’t want to see a stranger’s underwear, or even his breasts and abs. For some reason it has become socially acceptable for men to walk around half naked. Unfortunately, when you advertise your body, women will look. And women will desire what they see. Many women are good at giggling, making a cute comment o their girlfriend about it, and moving on with their life. A lot of women catcall shirtless men, and they think it’s okay. Well, it isn’t. Catcalling is inappropriate and creepy. You don’t sexually advance on a stranger. If you really have to mow your lawn shirtless in the middle of summer, then be prepared to tell any woman who harasses you to leave you alone.

6. Report It: Reporting harassment and rape is embarrassing and frightening. Many precincts don’t treat male rape victims like they deserve any support and justice. The more men report what has happened to them, the more it will be taken seriously. The more it is taken seriously, the greater the consequences will be, and hopefully discourage women from taking advantage of men.

7. Don’t leave your drink unattended: Men have been raped by both women and men with the date rape drug, and it happens more often than you think. What makes the date rape drug so frightening is that it not only renders you powerless, but it also makes it hard for you to recall what happened to you, so you cant even defend yourself.

8. Men are victims before they reach adulthood: Thousands upon thousands boys and teens are taken advantage of by members of their family, family friends, school teachers, camp counselors, coaches, neighbors, priests, celebrities, and even their parents. Your sons need to know how to defend themselves. They need to know who is their family and in their neighborhood is safe, and who isn’t. They need to be aware of the reality that people prey on little boys, and that they are not only protected by you, but that they can protect themselves.

Statutory rape is probably one of the most ridiculous laws in America, because it makes a teen girl automatically the victim, and the teen boy automatically the aggressor. This is not fair, because in a situation where the girl is 16, but the boy is 15, the boy is considered the rapist, even if he was actually raped by the girl. Teens are going to have sex, but it is our responsibility as parents to keep tabs on who they hang out with and where they are going. Teens need to be aware of what is healthy sex and what is not.

You Do Not Have the Right to Choose

January 28, 2015 - Leave a Response

There are a specific handful of arguments that parents like to make to explain why they do not vaccinate their children:

1. It’s my right to choose whether or not my child is given a vaccine.

2. Vaccines cause autism.

3. Vaccines cause allergic reactions.

4. Diseases can be prevented with healthy food and good hygiene.

5. Vaccines are ineffective.

6. We don’t really know what is in a vaccine.

This has been a debate that I’ve followed for a long time. Since the measles outbreak in the Disneyland park in California, it has been on my mind more often. My frustration with the anti-vaccine movement lies primarily in the rhetoric used to discredit vaccines, along with the extreme lack of empathy.

No, it is not your right to choose whether or not your child is given a vaccine. You do not have the right to make diseases which were eradicated come back and infect other people. You do not have the right to put your child in harm’s way, or allow your child to catch an illness that can be spread to INFANTS who are too young to be vaccinated. Measles is deadly to infants. You do not have the right to murder babies with your poor decision making.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not, never has been, and never will be caused by vaccines. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a sensory disorder which causes developmental delays. The causes are an enlarged amygdala, which is the emotional epicenter of the brain. There are also abnormalities in the frontal lobe, which can cause intellectual delays. Autism Spectrum Disorder is passed on to a person via genetics, in other words, if your child has autism, your genes gave it to them. There has not be a “rise” in cases of autism, because we have learned more about this disorder in the last several years, including ways to properly diagnose it using MRI scans. Autism is a fascinating anomaly, and is unique to each person who has it. Do not use your anti-vaccine rhetoric to make people with autism feel guilty or ashamed. People with autism who are savants can do incredible things that the average public cannot do. Why not celebrate that?

Allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare, and at the very worst, they are a fever. Paracetamol, when taken after receiving a vaccine, can control these minor reactions. Any serious reactions to a vaccine happen at about 1 in one thousand, to 1 in one million. The amount of people who have died after being vaccinated, is so infrequent, that statistics on risk can’t even be drawn from those deaths. Logically speaking, if my choices are catching and spreading a deadly illness to other people, or get the vaccine with a 1 in one million chance of having a serious reaction, I’m going to get the vaccine. Several studies were conducted in the 1980’s to determine whether or not the Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The studies concluded that there was no direct connection between the DTP vaccine and SIDS. This means that the infants would have died of SIDS whether they had this vaccine or not. You can read more about it here: http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/index4.html

The common cold can be prevented, or at least lessened in severity with good hygiene and healthy eating habits. However, the measles vaccine was first used in 1963, and right after the cases of people with this disease dropped dramatically. Another example is smallpox, which was also eradicated because of its vaccine. And according to http://www.who.int,

Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they allowed their immunization levels to drop. Three countries —Great Britain, Sweden and Japan — cut back the use of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children of 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985.

People auto-immune diseases, such as HIV and Multiple Sclerosis, do not have the option to prevent illness with hygiene and health food. Their bodies do not have enough of an immune system to fight off influenza, and even colds. They must rely on the flu vaccine otherwise it can be serious and even deadly for them.

Read this to understand the vaccine creation process: http://www.immunizeforgood.com/vaccines/how-vaccines-are-made Vaccines are also created using these viruses and bacteria, which are killed and placed inside the vaccine. When your body is exposed to the dead virus or bacteria cells, your immune system can safely react to it and consume those cells, thus allowing your anti-bodies to build up an immunity to the diseases those cells cause. Also check out Upworthy’s graph of 14 vaccines and how effective they are: http://www.upworthy.com/ever-wonder-why-people-100-years-ago-died-so-much-younger-its-these-14-reasons?c=ufb4

If you have always wanted to know what is in a vaccine, this gentle read will give you insight: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile50d.stm

Crobat is Painfully Underrated (And Other Pokemon Strategies)

January 25, 2015 - Leave a Response

It is rare for me to talk about video games on this blog, especially about Pokemon. I don’t consider myself the best Pokemon game strategist in the world, because there are several things about the games I’ve never understood or been interested in. One of those things that I couldn’t care less about, are held items and a Pokemon’s nature. (Nature is the general attitude/personality that a Pokemon has). I’ve spent a long time perfecting strategies that abandon held items and natures altogether, and just rely on the Pokemon’s statistics.

So Crobat has been a favorite of mine since the Gold and Silver games came out. The second generation of Pokemon have just always been my favorites. The first game I played straight through was actually Pokemon Pearl, where I caught my first Crobat. The attack, defense, special attack and special defense stats range from 80 to 95. That’s moderately good, but not great. Many folks tend to rely on Pokemon that have higher stats and can do more attack damage to an opponent. I have some of those Pokemon, because there are times when they are necessary. But while playing Pearl, I ran into a problem with the Elite Four – they kept using items to heal their Pokemon, and then they’d hit my Pokemon so hard that I’d lose very quickly. I realized that I needed to give them no time to hit me, and no time to use items. This is where Crobat came in.

Crobat’s speed stat is 130. To date, there are only 13 other Pokemon that are faster than Crobat. When Pearl first came out, I believe there were less than that.

Crobat’s talent isn’t just its speed, but that it’s a Poison type and a Flying type. Duel types have double the advantages, and double the weaknesses. That being said, I needed to also make the strategy protect Crobat from the damage inflicted by its weaknesses, while also using its strengths.

I have a soft spot for non-attacking moves. Crobat can learn both Confuse Ray and Toxic. Confuse Ray as the name suggests causes the opponent to become confused. Confused Pokemon direct their attacks at themselves, instead of Crobat. Because of its speed, Crobat can attack first most of the time, and the chances of Confuse Ray missing are very low. Toxic will poison the opponent instantly. Poison causes more damage to the opponent every turn. Combine the damage of confusion and poison, and your enemy is in bad shape. This also makes it very difficult for the opponent to attack you, and also means that the opponent’s trainer must use an Antidote in order to stop the poison, thus wasting a turn.

After I have Crobat use Confuse Ray and Toxic, I then have it use Fly. Fly is an attack that requires two turns to execute, but it is worth it. There’s already damage being done to the opponent, so a turn of Crobat just hiding in the clouds for a whole turn isn’t a waste of a turn. After this Crobat attacks, and because it is a flying type, it has STAB, so Fly does a good bit of damage to the opponent. Fly also prevents most attacks from hitting Crobat while using it.

So what is the fourth move that I’ve added to this? Roost. It’s a health recovery, but it means that if one of the select few Fighting type moves has actually hit Crobat, that on the next turn, Crobat can heal from it. Keep in mind that Confuse Ray and Toxic are still working at this point, so Crobat is not wasting a turn. I’ve found that most opponents faint in less than 6 turns.

I do these sorts of strategies with a lot of the Pokemon I use, not just Crobat. My Golduck that I use in Pearl, has an anti-everything attack/defend strategy. I gave it Focus Blast, Surf, Screech, and Dig. This strategy works best against Steel types, Dark types, and Electric types. I call it anti-everything because Screech lowers defense sharply, so after using it a couple of times, it weakens everything to just about everything. Focus Blast has a Fighting type advantage, Surf and Dig have advantages against Fire types, and Electric types. I also use Dig like Fly to avoid attacks, and Focus Blast against Grass types. Golduck’s well-rounded and higher stats also fill in any gaps. My Golduck also defeated Giratina in about 5 hits.

That being said, I actually run a slightly noobish moveset with my Torterra. I don’t care what anyone says, I firmly believe Torterra is the best starter from generation four. So I gave it Sunny Day, Solarbeam, Wood Hammer, and Synthesis. Yep, I’m using health recovery again. But Synthesis also helps counter the recoil from using Wood Hammer. Wood Hammer is my last resort, finishing move if Solarbeam is taking too long. I think my Torterra’s success lies in it’s extremely good defense stat, and attack stat. It’s slow, so rather than try to make it faster, I just took advantage of its defensive capabilities.

My other Pokemon from Pearl use strategies that are intended for specific types only, and for double team battles. If you have any questions for me about what strategies might be best for your Pokemon go ahead and ask, and I’ll do my best to recommend a good strategy.

How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment and Assault

January 24, 2015 - Leave a Response

No one, man or woman, deserves to be harassed. Today I was reading an article about street harassment and I started thinking to myself, this doesn’t happen to me very often, why is that? I am in downtown New Haven constantly. I walk around town constantly. What makes me less of a target than these other women? Once I was able to answer that question for myself, it occurred to me that these women are fully capable of doing the same things that I do.

1. Carry Pepper Spray: Be sure to check with your local police department about what laws regarding carrying pepper spray may exist in your state. Here in Connecticut, it is legal to carry pepper spray, and you cannot be charged with assault if you use it to protect yourself. But not every state is the same. Even so, pepper spray is generally more frightening than a gun or a knife. I accidentally hit myself with my pepper spray a while back and I can tell you it is extremely painful. A lot of people know this, and simply pointing it in the direction of someone who is harassing you, or attempting to assault you, can deescalate the situation long enough for you to run away. And don’t feel bad if you spray someone who assaulted you, because their feelings don’t matter once they cross the line. Also, see this great how to video about how to use pepper spray: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4XfKU5YhS8

2. Be Unapproachable: I know that we all want to be nice and social in public. When I am waiting for the city bus, the last thing I am interested in is being nice and social. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chat with people on occasion, but, if someone is acting inappropriately toward you, don’t feel like you owe it to them to respect their feelings. If someone says something explicit to you, they certainly don’t respect you. Tell them very loudly to get away from you. If they don’t, walk away. If they follow you, find the nearest woman and stand beside her (Also tell your children, if they are ever lost, to find a woman with a baby). Get your pepper spray ready. If he continues harassing you, call the police. If he gets to close, tries to touch you, spray him.

Another way to be unapproachable is to never stand in the same place for too long. Men who are planning to harass or assault a woman in plain view of the public tend to slowly cozy up to you. Sometimes he’ll act friendly at first, until there are about a couple inches between you and him, and it usually escalates to him trying to put his arm on you, or touch you elsewhere. If you see a man trying to get cozy, walk away five or ten feet. If you are at a bus stop, and a bus pulls up that isn’t your’s, get out of that crowd. People who are so focused on boarding the bus, won’t be very good witnesses if someone touches you. These crowds are also dangerous because this is when pick-pocketing happens, given that everyone is preoccupied.

3. Don’t Act Intimidated: City atmospheres are busy and hyperactive. There’s lots of people moving around all the time, and it can be overstimulating. Understand that this will never change. It’s your duty to act like it is not bothering you. I have a severe crowd phobia, but I doubt anyone knows that.

Men who are planning to rob someone, or assault someone, typically pace in front of their target like a lion in a cage. If you see a man doing this to you several times, make eye contact with him. Let him know that you know he exists, and you don’t take your eyes off of him. He won’t like that, because he wants to creep up on you, so you can’t defend yourself. Get out your pepper spray and make sure he can see it. Eye contact is a threatening behavior, so there is a chance he may still approach you. Warn him not to come closer or he will be sprayed. If he doesn’t listen, spray him, and get away immediately.

A few years ago, I was downtown around 7:15 pm, and a man kept pacing in front of a high school student at the bus stop. This girl very loudly told him to leave her alone, which is how I knew what was happening. I got up from my seat and walked over to her, and took out my pepper spray. He continued to pace for several minutes and I watched him like a hawk the entire time. He finally got the message that I was not going to let up, and he walked away down the street. There were several more times that we saw him downtown, but he never behaved that way toward myself or this young woman again.

4. Don’t Tell People Your Personal Information/Business: This should go without saying, but sadly, it doesn’t. If you do talk to people, don’t tell them where you go to school, or where you work. Don’t give them your phone number, address, etc. Not even facebook. Granted, I do have conversations with people who take the same buses as me, and are students at my college, because I have seen them several times. And there are people who I see downtown often who never start trouble, and even look out for each other. So conversation is at your discretion. But the people I talk to, don’t know anything about me unless I want them to.

Don’t tell people your life story, either. No one you just met needs to know what your problems are. And if you are that willing to tell people every single aspect of your life, you are an easy target to be taken advantage of. If someone tries to tell you their life story, do yourself, and them a favor by letting them know you aren’t interested.

5. Don’t Let People Push You Onto the Bus: A lot of people over the years have shoved themselves against my back because they can’t wait to get on the bus. Don’t ever let someone get away with this. This is dangerous, not just because they can push you onto the ground, but they can also push you into someone else, who can fall and get hurt. This pushing behavior is also how people ‘cop a feel’. Unfortunately my butt has been felt or grabbed during situations like this. Whenever someone starts shoving me, I start backing up into them. This makes women stop it immediately. I have driven my elbows into the stomachs of men who do this. The stomach is a very weak point on a man, and it’s a larger area than the groin and much easier to get to. I have also had many loud arguments with people who shove, which often times has made the driver refuse to let them board the bus.

6. Don’t Give People Money: I don’t care how polite this person is, how in need they may seem, DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY. I don’t care if they have a child with them, or if they are a child. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY. That money will most likely be used for drugs, not food, not a bus fare. Also, do not buy anything off of anyone on the street. Whenever you make any kind of transaction on the street, every panhandler learns that you have enough money to give away. This opens you up to someone who is desperate, and might try to rob you. In addition, if someone approaches you, and says they are hungry, and you have some food with you, offer it to them. If they refuse it, then they aren’t actually looking for food. My favorites are the people who ask me to buy them food, and I offer them some food I have, and they refuse it. Those people are just trying to steal your credit/debit card information, or see where you like to store your purse or wallet so that they can try snatching it.

Why is this a way to prevent sexual harassment or assault? People who are looking for targets, are very observant. If they see you give things away, then that means to them that you will give away your body, too. You are easy to approach, easy to deal with, and you don’t put up a fight.

7. Don’t Dress Provocatively: I know that this is very controversial, but it has been my experience that whenever I have dressed in my nicer clothing, or in skirts, tank tops, or anything that shows some skin, I have been approached far more than when I am wearing sweatpants and a hoody. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been approached while wearing a variety of clothing. But my belief is, there’s only one reason why you want to show something off. Yes, we have the right to wear whatever we want, but our actions have reactions. If you are walking around downtown, or waiting for the city bus in a skirt that barely covers your butt, and your breasts practically hanging out, you have lowered your integrity. The lower your integrity is, the more of a target you become. It’s very easy for men to say you were asking for it, when you wear a for sale sign.

8. And lastly, Learn Self Defense: A woman who can defend herself physically, is a very powerful woman. Anyone can learn any type of self defense. I started training in Kenpo when I was 7 years old, and I continuously watch various self defense training videos on youtube. Visit the information desk/office at your college to see when they will have self defense classes. If they don’t do them, recommend that they do. Encourage people you know to do the same. Ask around to see if your town or city has a place that offers short term self defense training, or free classes. Visit your local martial arts school if you are interested in a particular style. You don’t have to be athletic or in shape to take these classes. You don’t have to have some special talent or be Bruce Lee. Self defense is for everyone. And don’t be afraid to hit someone who is trying to hurt you. An attacker sacrifices his/her well being the instant they attack you.

Things That I Will Always Understand Better Than You

January 20, 2015 - Leave a Response

There are two questions which have been thrown at me for the last fifteen years:

“Why don’t you talk to your father?” and “Why are you Atheist?”

No matter what answers I give, those answers will never be good enough. I wish this could go without saying, but my experiences with my father and with religion are things which I have experienced. If you believe that your perception of my experience is somehow better than how I perceive it, then you lack empathy. There are plenty of unhealthy, ignorant and inappropriate decisions that folks make which deserve to be criticized, but I assure you that giving up religion and cutting ties with an asshole, are not one of those.

This has actually been on my mind the last few weeks. It could be because right around Christmas time, my biological father, John, sent me another email, and another facebook message, both of which were religious in nature. Yes, he knows I am atheist. Yes, he knows that I have no interest in becoming Pentacostal. It doesn’t matter to him what I have decided for myself, because my answers aren’t good enough. He firmly believes that someday he will get me to be his “little girl” again, and then maybe we can move down to North Carolina together and preach the gospel. Then we can add in every creepy, racist and misogynistic thing that comes with it. What he might not know, at least not yet, is that I know he stalks this blog. And I know he stalks me on facebook. And yes, I have him blocked. I understand that no means no better than John does.

I have alienated myself from 90% of John’s side of the family, because I know what kinds of people they are. Some of my aunts like to pry for information so that they can spread it around. Anything I say will automatically be told to John, and I guarantee you he knows that. Information such as who my friends are, which are the most common targets of stalkers. This sperm donor is the type of person who will prey on people’s sympathies, like ask a friend of mine to give me a gift from him, or a letter. I don’t associate with morons, and all of my friends have been told what I think of John. The family members I do trust, are infrequently reminded not to tell him anything about me. I am the gateway into my life, and since I have no intention of opening the gate for John, he’s out of luck. And don’t you dare give me that cheap “but he’s your dad!” rhetoric, because in my life, he is not my dad.

And this is where religion comes into play. John is not the only reason, but he is a reason why I stopped believing in “God”. I always questioned religion as a concept when I was a kid. But in my teen years, Catholicism became integrated into my lifestyle to a moderate extent. I stopped believing when I realized I was becoming an arrogant, close-minded prick. I also stopped believing because it made me feel stupid. And if you know me well, then you know how anti-stupid I am. The fear of becoming a black bible thumper, I think really did it for me. I’ve never been good at lowering my integrity.

It was labeled as a phase I’d grow out of because I was a teenager. Or that I would change my mind as I got older. It’s hilarious, because over a decade later, I still haven’t changed my mind. There are a multitude of things about my future that people tried to predict too. Such as, conceiving children. Changing my last name when or if I get married. Strictly dating men. And my personal favorite, that I wouldn’t become a teacher until I was in my mid-thirties, and became a head teacher at age 24. With no children, no desire to change my name, and still being bisexual, I’d say their predictions were more than a little off.

Bottom line, if I don’t want to practice a religion, then I’m not going to practice a religion. If I don’t want an asshole in my life, then that asshole will not be in my life. I have far too much self-respect and far too little patience to be dicking around with everyone else’s expectations of what my life is supposed to be.

I like myself. I like compliments, too.

January 15, 2015 - Leave a Response

The Huffington Post had a very bizarre “social experiment” on their site today, regarding how a woman received compliments, and the reactions men had to what that woman said. The woman was given compliments by random men she chose to speak to. She responded to these compliments with “I know”, occasionally a “thank you”, but mostly comments which would be seen as conceited or even unappreciative. This was a failed social experiment because the language used, is a severe hot button in any conversation, whether or not it is flirtatious. There are no alternative scenarios, in which a man responds to compliments from women, including male to male and female to female conversations. We could even go as far as to include conversations among friends, and gauge those reactions too. I have a strong suspicion that the majority of the people giving compliments, male and female, would be put off by a response like “I know”.

My primary issue with this experiment, in addition to its sloppy execution. is the deep seeded undertone that if I am a woman, I am somehow too perfect or special to take a compliment. I think it is the epitome of arrogance, when a woman constantly believes that every time a man, or anyone, compliments them, it is because that person is trying to validate them. Because the general public has nothing better to do with their lives, than worry about making sure that you feel absolutely perfect all the time.

Compliments within themselves have multiple purposes. Some are, unfortunately, used to insult other people. For example, when a 40 year old women encounters a 20 year old woman, and “compliments” the younger woman’s thin waist. Sometimes compliments are fake, just to pretend there is a good relationship there, or because you are co-workers and you have no choice but to “get along”. Compliments are also used as a flirtatious behavior, just because that is one of many ways that humans court each other. But I generally believe that the majority of compliments are given as a sign of respect to the person they are given to. When I compliment someone, it is because I like that person, and I want them to know that I like them, because they are human and they deserve to be liked.

There are also phrases or terms people use in the guise of a compliment, which are really inappropriate. Telling anyone that they are hot and sexy, or constantly telling anyone that they are pretty or handsome, is a severely sexist and appearance oriented thought process (saying these things rarely, in a different context, is not what I am talking about). It has nothing to do with the personality or interests of the person being spoken to. In 2011, 2NE1 came out with a single titled “Ugly”, which targeted the over-complimenting that Korea’s society does to women, as well as the societal obsession with plastic surgery. This over-complimenting is often the use of the word “pretty”, the users of that word often desire to look exactly like the person they are referring to. This is an inappropriate validation, and 2NE1 decided that the term “ugly” needed to be redefined. Simply put, you think prettiness is based on an unrealistic, plastic body. Therefore pretty does not exist, and since you cannot perceive a non-existent thing, you do not have permission to use it to describe me. Ugly is the opposite of pretty, therefore it is real.

However, this experiment that Huffington Post reported on, did not send the same message as 2NE1 did. Instead, this article told us that if a man says something nice to a woman, and she never says thank you and simply agrees, that he should just put up with that. Well no, he shouldn’t, for two reasons: He gave you that compliment because he respects you, and has taken the time to pay attention to who you are, and if you throw it away, that is ungrateful. The other reason is that you just told women they do not need to be complimented because they do not need a man’s approval, but that agreeing with what a man says is a way for a woman to use what he says to be validated. So you are putting yourself in a situation where ultimately, you are being “demeaned” by a man, and putting this man in a situation where he is “oppressing” you. Or I could rephrase that as you believe that women need to agree with what men say about them, because they do not need to be validated by men. You are oppressing women with this logic, and you are doing it in the guise of the word “feminism”. How dare you.

This should not be a debate about whether or not I deserve to be validated by what anyone says. I don’t feel that way, because I like the person that I am. I am also glad when people care to tell me that they enjoy something about me, because meaning something to that person is a good thing. So in essence the debate should be about whether or not I deserve to be respected, and my answer is yes. Even so, when I am given respect, it is my responsibility to return that respect, either with thank you, or another polite term. Even saying something tactful such as “There are times when I feel the same way about myself”, is fine, because it is an expression of humility. When someone sees you for who you are, truly sees you, not themselves, and shows you that, that is their expression of humility as well. If you throw that back into that person’s face, as though it means nothing to you, then your right to be respected by that person has been lost. No man or woman has to ever take that from you, and your gender does not give you special permission to treat someone in a disrespectful way.

Dogs Don’t Make ‘Good’ Pets

January 14, 2015 - Leave a Response

I’m sure there are many dog lovers who are going to jump up and down in disagreement about this blog post. I’m sure many cat lovers will also being jumping up and down in triumph. But I firmly believe that certain animals do not make ‘good’ pets, and aside from still enjoying the company of my cat, I’ve come to learn that non-mammalian pets work better for people.

Dogs are not violent, dangerous animals. Some breeds work better for certain living situations than others. Some dogs are great with kids or small animals, and others aren’t. It’s called research, and given how 98% of the U.S. population has access to the internet, there’s no excuse not to do that research. At the very least, there’s probably a public library nearby that you can go to.

But the absence of that research, and the absence of common sense, are why I believe dogs don’t make ‘good’ pets. Dogs require attention, and cannot self-regulate like a cat, or a bird, or another type of reptile. Dogs have to be cared for like a human infant. If you ignore your dog, they won’t just make a mess in your home, they’ll destroy it. If you don’t train your dog well because you’ve ignored it, they bad things happen. A good example is that dog that stalked that little boy in his driveway and attacked him last year – if his mother and house-cat hadn’t been around to chase away that dog, he’d be seriously injured or dead.

I am one of those firm believers that any breed of dog can be taught to attack people. But all animals, mammal or not, start out in life being wary of humans. Kittens and puppies are not born automatically loving humans. All pets have to be taught straight after birth that humans are safe to be around, otherwise they will show aggression. All animals are wild until they are taught to live with humans.

I’ve seen cats do some pretty nasty damage to people, and other animals. Cat scratch fever is not a myth, it is a real illness caused when exposed to the bacteria that cats sometimes have underneath their claws (kind of like the dirt under your fingernails). And cat scratch fever is not brought on by a tiny scratch or two, it’s brought on by being mauled by a cat. Despite the level of injury a cat can inflict on a person, we don’t live in fear of cats. We don’t worry about cats lurking around the corner and snatching our tiny chihuahua or child and mauling them. Maybe it’s because even though humans can do some dumb things in regard to taking care of their cats, even the most unruly cat can still be reasoned with. Dogs have to be repeatedly reminded who the boss is, and if they aren’t, they can snap. And that snap is the end of the road.

I don’t understand why, even with smaller dog breeds, anyone is comfortable with having a dog. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, I just have accepted the fact that I would not be able to devote the time necessary to the dog, to ensure that the dog is safe for myself and others to be around.

Frequently Asked Questions that You Should Stop Asking Me

January 10, 2015 - Leave a Response

I have been asked these questions so many times that it is disturbing, and frustrating. It upsets that of all the things that could be at the forefront of a person’s mind when meeting me, are questions like these. Most of them don’t have anything to do with what I write, how I write, or the person that I am. They are some of the most self-centered and superficial things I have heard to date. For that reason, I have compromised a list of frequently asked questions and answers to them. This blog entry will be linked in the Mission Statement and “Enough about myself, here’s a free book” pages, for future reference. In the future, should any questions identical or similar to these be asked, I will promptly respond with a link to this blog entry, so that you may joyfully educate yourself, and thereby cease my frustration.

1. Why don’t you write children’s/teen’s books?

Because I don’t want to. As much as children’s books were a precious part of my childhood, writing one does not interest me. It’s the same reason why you are disinterested in whatever it is you are disinterested in. Many folks have asked and tried to convince me to write for children because I have worked as a teacher. The topics I would write about, have been written a hundred times over by other authors, and I prefer to empower the ideals I believe in, within the classroom. Despite how I come across, I believe in my community and enjoy providing for it.

2. Where are you from/what race are you?

Well, for starters I am human, but if you want to get technical, I am Italian, Irish, English, Nigerian, French and German. Guess where I was born? Middletown, CT, United States. I have lived in CT for 27 years, and 1 year in Georgia. I am not some “exotic beauty” from India or South America or Asia or the Middle East like you think I am. And don’t you dare tell me I look Indian, because my dark skin and big nose do not mean I must be from India or some other country.

3. Why don’t you write about…?

It drives me up a wall when people try to shove their ideas in my face. If you have a story idea you want to see written, then don’t you think you should go write it? If you had the sense to think it up, then you probably have the sense to make it a halfway decent, or even really good book.

4. Who is your favorite author?

Depends on your definition of author… some people don’t regard comic book artists as authors. I hate to go down this road, because I know some people are sick of manga and anime, but it’s Takeuchi Naoko. Her exaggerated art style for starters, and her incredibly realistic character personalities too. The story-line of .Sailor Moon is not the most complicated, but Takeuchi-san makes up for that with the way she challenges gender equality and gender bias in society through these young and powerful women. CLAMP comes in a close second, because despite their beautiful artwork, their track record for finishing a series is often sloppy. Their series are usually very short too, and the only longer one I’ve read is Tsubasa Chronicles, which became confusing and tiring after a while. Still, Magic Knight Rayearth and Angelic Layer are some of the best manga series I’ve ever read. For the hell of it, in third place is Togashi Yoshihiro, who tends to have a similar track record to CLAMP, though not as severe. His series tend to be repetitive in plot/story-line, but I have all 19 volumes of Yu Yu Hakusho on the shelf beside me, so there you go!

5. What do you write about?

I don’t stick to one particular genre, though I have a handful of favorites: Romance, horror, fantasy, science fiction. I guess with all of my blog posts we can say non-fiction is one of my genres too. My stories are rarely similar, and rarely focus on similar topics. I do occasionally use tropes, like human male + alien female, because it’s one of the few that doesn’t bore me. (Corban Dallas with Leeloo, and Jake Sully with Neytiri, are a couple of my faves. I’d mention that couple(?) from Guardians of the Galaxy but I haven’t seen the movie).

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