first: PLEASE listen to the new beyonce album. have mercy. i’ve always been down with beyonce, but can’t claim i’ve ever downloaded much less listened to an entire album of hers. i now suffer from an entirely opposite shame, i can’t stop listening to it. anyways, in my perpetual play-repeat-contemplate greatness- repeat cycle, i found myself catching on a particular part of the song Flawless. It’s the part when Beyonce, showing her cultural consciousness and savvy, interlaces a sick ted talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled We Should All Be Feminists. On B’s track, Flawless, Adichie’s commanding, rhythmic voice prescribes to all listeners a simple way to define feminism: “feminist— the person that believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”
for me, (i in advance apologize if anyone feels slighted or finds me to be uninformed or insensitive) the idea of feminism is something that has always led me to roll my eyes. many of the women I had met who identified themselves as feminists seemed to be on some sort of crusade to prove that women were in fact superior to men, suggesting that the scales of power or respect had been somehow inverted instead of imbalanced. and so for most of my life, i’ve had a negative connotation associated with the word feminism.
that being said, i definitely did not do my due diligence in actually understanding feminism, and that could be a function of the fact that i find it near impossible to even conceive a disparity in intellectual, mental, emotional, spiritual, social capacities between men and women. for me it doesn’t and will never register. i don’t claim to be a sensitive guy who finds it in my heart to respect the equality of men and women: i claim to be an aloof guy who can’t even process the contriving of such a distinction. and because i’ve never taken time to really understand my stance on the equality of the sexes, i guess i’ve never really took a chance to identify how i feel in the midst of sexual oppression, discrimination, amongst the many manifestations of inequality. i’ve never taken a moment to step back and realize that everyone doesn’t see the world i do. i’ve come to realize that my own egocentric view/ projection of my own ingrained belief on others has shaped how i view inequality. everyone hasn’t been blessed to be surrounded by women who make it impossible to consider women any less than me. many boys haven’t been blessed with a mother that shows that toughness, passion, and capacity don’t assume a gender.
and so i find myself looking at the word feminist in a new light, under a different banner. instead of breaking the word feminist into its constituent parts and focusing on the female aspect of the word, i’m choosing to align myself with the broader, more salient : that all of us are equal. many times, i’ve privately and publicly made it clear that i don’t believe in putting on labels like feminist because we are all obviously equal and there’s no sense in drawing a distinction. but, the reality is that the distinction exists. that while gender equality is on the rise, it is nowhere near where it should be and that people on this planet right now, at this very moment are being told they can’t read, or wear shorts, or cry, or dance, or be sensitive because of their gender.
if you just kind of did a double take at that last couple sentence, i probably know why. for some reasons, most people (including myself for the larger portion of my life) immediately associate gender issues with women. men are either omitted or seen as culprits or propagators of an unfair social arrangement. gender equality is gender equality. men, women, transgender. we all occupy a place on the scale.
when a boy puts on ballet tights in place of football cleats he’s being a girl.
when a boy feels heart-wrenching emotions (good and bad), his natural instinct to cry is suppressed by the social reality he will be called a pussy, a wimp, a baby.
when a man is sensitive or emotional, his sexuality is questioned, his “manliness” card revoked.
while the severity of inequality faced by women cannot even begin to compared to that of men, i think gender equality, and feminism as a whole need to truly reflect on the meaning of gender equality.
In her ted talk, Adichie calls for us to all be feminists, to all strive for the equality of the sexes. while i’m not much for labels, we do live in a society, and i think its time for more people to step up and raise the banner of equality.
my pee is emitting a steam cloud as it hits the back of my porcelain squatty potty. in my not so distant past, things like central heating were as part of existence as the air i inhaled (i used inhaled because i don’t know how to transform the infinitive to breathe into past tense).
Shriram: Central Heating
That’s the best way to put it. I had no appreciation of a house that was heated through vents. Insulation was a word left to the guys at home depot.
Ignorance no longer! the words insulation and indoor warmth now produce a beautiful melody. they have a certain ring to them. in-su-LA-tion. INSU-lation. INNNSUUULAAAAAAAATION. (are there groupon discounts for mental wards upon my return to the states?)
but in spite of the cold, drab weather in Kaili, I’ve been, in the past few days experiencing a pretty spectacular lightness of being. things feel like they are passing through me, being felt, and allowed to keep moving on their unimpeded path. I feel a warmth radiating from me, and i want it to, with every fiber in me, stay and warm me unconditionally. i want to insulate myself. put on more coats, gloves, scarves, pants, whatever. whatever i need to do to preserve the warmth that is within me.
but then, i realize that this warmth is radiating. and i have a feeling that the simple radiance of this warmth is in fact the source of it. radiating hugs and kind words, radiating a bounce in my step, radiating a smile to myself in the mirror that sets of an reflection of joy and warmth that amplifies like the sound when putting two cell phones mouth piece to the other’s ear piece and letting the tiniest sound amplify into an unbearable sound explosion (if you have no idea what my meandering description is getting at, try it.) okay, that sound explosion is not at all pleasant, but im trying to use offbeat metaphors as an gimmick to make you think that i have some type of literary prowess of which i have very little. anyways, i digress.
back to the warmth. i want to tuck it away inside me. but tucking it away, trying to hold onto it is what destroys it, what causes it to dissipate. its funny that ephemeral things, ephemeral feelings are the ones I am most stubbornly trying to hold onto. they are the feelings i am trying to pin down. and that’s such a useless pursuit. the ephemeral, indescribableness of something is what can, and what does make it so special. i’m not insisting that this warmth i’m feeling is by any means fleeting. instead, i’m saying that if i treat it as something temporary, then I will find myself grasping for it, trying to shackle it to me. because that’s just a natural impulse i and i’m sure many others have.
but i’m not going to worry whether its fleeting or longstanding or any duration along a spectrum of time. I’m just going to let it move through me, around me, up and down me, and let the rest take care of its self.
in the past week something has happened. i’ve been inducted into my neighborhood’s rat pack. by deciding to mess around with the little munchkins outside my house (7-10 year olds), they have totally decided that I meet the requirements to be more than just “that foreign dude”. I’m now mauled every time they see me walking up the hill to my apartment building.
and to be honest, when its comes to little kiddos running up to you to say hi, there’s few things that exude more warmth. it makes me feel like im part of a neighborhood, of a little ecosystem where i can interact and be interacted with. and a couple days ago, the kids wouldn’t let me leave them so i towed 6 kids on my arms and back up two flights of stairs and gave ‘em a tour of the ‘ol apartment. here were some of their remarks (albeit, in chinese)
1. hmm, its smells funny in here. (i can explain, i’d just cooked some curried potatoes, i swear. that’s not code for me being a smelly human being.)
2. where’s your wife?
3. you’re 23 and you’re not married?? my mom got married when she was 21?
i couldn’t help but grin seeing 6 cute kids just mulling around examining my apartment. it just felt nice and something i can store in the recesses of my mind. and it’s honestly all thanks to one of the little girls who i call my little sister who just sometimes stops by my apartment, knocks on the door, shoots me her million dollar smile and asks me if i want to play. her warmth made me feel comfortable enough to realize these kids, while at first objectified me as just a foreign thing, consider me someone who they like for the simple fact that I’m a kid too.
I’ll get some pictures on the way of these rascals, probably when they (as has become routine) come storm my apartment at seemingly random times.