“The Help” Bothers Me, and For the Right Reasons

My mother does not know this, but “The Help” bothers me to no end. It makes me uncomfortable when a perfectly smart and caring woman is mistreated, forced to use a glorified Porta-Potty and (SPOILER ALERT!) eventually fired for being black, and having an opinion different from utter devotion and praise. (I told you it was a spoiler.) I believe in giving everyone respect, regardless of description. That includes blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, and LGBTs. This is by no means an exclusive list, of course. I believe cordoning off and determining people are better or worse keeps people from achieving their full potential. “I am better than you” is holding us back as a society.

What does this have to do with “The Help?” Plenty. Women are absolutely cruel to other women, even their daughters, due to the fact that they don’t live up to some expected image of the Happy Servant, or the Thin, Perfect Daughter, or the Happy Slave Master. (No more spoilers; watch the movie or read the book.) A side plot revolves around one of the rich white women’s daughters being too fat for her mother to accept her as she is. The mother is told in the end, “Give that sweet girl a chance,” but to me, there is this unfortunate feeling that the girl will die of anorexia nervosa in the 1970s, the decade after the movie/book takes place. One sad side effect of childish thinking is that the child feels responsible for the parent’s happiness, and any negative message received is blown up into monstrous, self-harming psychological damage. For instance, a note on “chubby” or “fat” can turn into a toxic relationship with food, and that eventually develops into an eating disorder. I myself, as another example, turned to food to stuff down any feelings of betrayal and rejection inside my own life, and became a compulsive overeater. But this damaged relationship with food can go a myriad of ways, from overeating, to the binge-based bulimia nervosa, to anorexia nervosa. I guess this anger at her daughter for being too fat is a form of cruelty which resonates with me.

“But you’re not talking about the racism enough!” The excessive Jim Crow laws of 1960s Mississippi and the cruel treatment of blacks and servants in general is enough to make me vomit. Fortunately, it keeps much of it in the visceral, and exposes it deftly, and rightfully. There is so much cruelty across race, across class, across body, across society. Why are women so cruel to women? Were they born that way, or was it extreme competition for the few token spots at the Table of Love and Acceptance? It troubles me that women could be so cruel. It’s just like the bullies in high school.

Truth is, I only have a few friends, and they are a good split between male and female, I think. “The Help” is, to me, a study in female cruelty, and I don’t like that female cruelty exists. Stop it.

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#MasculinitySoFragile, Part 2: It Does Not Have To Be

My sister has a son, whom I love very much. (I love my sister, too, by the way.) One Christmas, when he was just entering his teens, he got clothes and accessories which were dominated by hot pink. He got pink Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, a pink studded belt, pink shirts from skateboarder-favored brands, you name it. His father was there for the opening of these gifts. I noticed the entire time that he acted very stiff and threatened. What threatened him so? It seems that the color pink threatened him. Now, in this culture, pink has been assigned a feminine status, and is still worn mostly by women. During the time my nephew received these gifts, it was rebellious for a boy to wear pink. I think it still is today, for I have generally not seen pink in men’s clothing as an acceptable piece, unless it is upper class or for a cause. Relax, guys. His #MasculinitySoFragile, it seems to be threatened by pink.

Alright, let’s clear the air. The hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile is not an insult to men. It’s not even an insult to masculinity, unless you let it be. What #MasculinitySoFragile intended to do was to expose cracks in masculinity that needed to be fixed. Masculinity does not have to be fragile. What we need to do is allow certain things that are assigned as “masculine” and “feminine” and make them universal.

For instance, let’s look at what masculinity is. Masculinity seems to have evolved from a philosophy known as Stoicism. You can look up Wikipedia for the information on it, but stoicism believed negative emotions (such as fear and sadness) came from errors in judgment, and having a will to be brave and happy, independent of circumstance, was ideal. I will not give my personal judgment on the possibility of this ideal, but it seems to have heavily influenced the concept of what it means to “Man Up.” Another tenet of masculinity is aggression and strength. This I will give a personal opinion on. Aggression and strength are both fine in controlled manners. However, if you let them, they will rule you, as possible. The best example of uncontrolled masculinity in action is the general arena of professional wrestling. Now, don’t get me wrong: I used to watch professional wrestling well into my thirties. It provided some great emotional release, and very sexy men, if I may say so. My beef with wrestling is, aggression seems to be the only emotional response deemed useful and even appropriate. Any other response is relegated to the villains of the show, aka the heels. Everybody seems to be primed for a fight. The trouble is, constant fight response taxes the physical body to an early grave, and there are many professional wrestlers who have gone to an early grave. You can also easily find the names of these men in any web search engine. In many psychology therapy sessions, chronic stress is known to cause health problems. This is why men suffer from earlier onset of health conditions, as well as earlier death. This is what I can see.

How do we remedy this? The remedy comes in acknowledgement of men’s feelings, which do exist, and in widening the arena of appropriate masculine behavior. Men, if you feel like crying for any reason, go ahead and cry. A man crying is quite manly, if I may say so. It shows you are tender, and strong enough to do it. According to my current society, men are not supposed to cry, so for a man, crying is a revolutionary act.

Now, I believe masculinity and femininity are social constructs, where things are assigned one gender or another. Apparently, this is masculine and that is feminine and never the twain shall meet, but this standard is almost never met, especially in 21st-century America. Men cry all the time, for instance. It’s just that crying in men is triggered by different things than women. The winning of the Super Bowl by your favorite team? Assigned as a masculine crying trigger. A dramatic movie? Assigned feminine crying trigger. Now, if masculinity and femininity are social constructs, then are not the tear triggers social constructs themselves? Why don’t we accept emotions as universal experiences, regardless of gender? Society says not to, that’s why. But why don’t we change society itself? We can all do it together. And in this, Masculinity is NOT so fragile.

#MasculinitySoFragile

The above hashtag made headlines for all the right and wrong reasons. Its original purpose was to have a frank and honest conversation about the changing notions of gender in general, and masculinity in particular. However, many people on Twitter took it as an affront to men. What did they read? #MenSoWussy? That was NOT the hashtag, and NOT the intention. Anyway, considering the changes in the notions of manliness, why is masculinity perceived so fragile, anyway? Much of this can be blamed on a marketing campaign towards men, to get them to use things apparently not perceived as “manly,” like soap or trail mix. (Seriously? A clean man will more likely get a woman.) But seriously, what is masculinity and why do men need it? More importantly, why did the above hashtag get coined and used in the first place?

Let’s start with the concept of masculinity. What makes a man a man? A man is described as somebody with male sex characteristics. Assuming that my readers know what those are, masculinity is very simple, and very strong. What we are talking about is the connotations of masculine behavior, and nothing else. Masculinity is very undefined, but apparently it means “tough,” “violent” and “not gay.” Of course, when men say “gay,” it usually means “effeminate,” or “like a woman.” (What makes you think gay men are effeminate, anyway? The Birdcage? That is a stereotype.) I’m not including any right or wrong arguments about lifestyle, though. Those do not help the cause of manliness, which seems so threatened by women.

What is so threatening about women anyway? Our emotions? Please do not tell me that men do not have emotions, too. The outcome of any professional sports team’s game can affect morale for a man until the next game, either positive or negative. My case in point: the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team had an undefeated regular season, and was on its way to winning the NCAA basketball championship when it was stopped by the Wisconsin Badgers. Of course, the fanfare and camaraderie leading through the season was loud and boisterous. But, when the Badgers beat the Wildcats, the mood was so silent, I felt a societal pressure to change out my UK purse to another one in my bags. My point is, a sports team’s outcome can affect morale around local businesses so much. Please do not say that men do not have emotions; it is just not true. So, what is threatening about women? The fact that we can get you to like us? Well, liking is a two-way street. In general, we like you, too. So what is exactly threatening about women? That is so undefined, I cannot even describe it now. Unless it is the “different” factor, of course. Curiosity and bravery are important virtues which can remedy the fear of difference.

But let me get back to masculinity and femininity. Many feminists regard the idea that masculinity is toxic, but what exactly is toxic about masculinity, anyway? Masculinity is, apparently, the opposite of femininity, because that is the only definition I can come up with. One of the main polarizations of this masculine/feminine divide is where the genders stand on crying. For instance, crying is apparently feminine. Men, according to Jeff Foxworthy, whose viewpoint I can trust on this, have been trained not to cry. See above statement about crying as to why. But the truth is, if men cried a little bit more, I think they would live longer, and maybe as long as women. It is a given that most women live longer than men. In less advanced cultures, the difference is a mere two years, but in industrialized cultures, the difference can be up to eight years. My own experience is that men often encounter health problems earlier as well. For men in the US, the average heart attack risk age is 55; for women, 65. Personally, I think this is relevant because bottling up your emotions, which is apparently masculine behavior, is unhealthy, and therefore, toxic.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting down men in general. You are strong, beautiful and self-sufficient creatures which most women tend to love. What I am not fond of is the bottling up of emotions and apparent disrespect of emotions and emotional people in general in the name of strength and toughness. If men can find a safe place to vent their less-pleasant emotions, it would be grand. It would lead to better health, greater understanding, and, let’s face it, living longer lives. We of the #MasculinitySoFragile hashtag users want to help you live long and prosper. So what’s the animosity towards that?

ADDENDUM

I forgot to add the main point about #MasculinitySoFragile: Truth is, masculinity is only as fragile as you let it be. For example, if your masculinity is threatened by a Pomeranian, it’s pretty fragile. If the little doggie does not threaten it, it’s not that fragile, now is it?

Just Dealing with Loneliness

Forgive me, public. I have been in a funk as of late. This is why you can only see reblogs, or blogs from guests, depending on which media platform you are viewing this on. I think I can finally get beyond it, knowing what it is. I heard a sermon the other Sunday which really hit home. Guess what it was on? Loneliness. I think I finally figured out why I have been in such a bad mood, and pining for a man I clearly do not need. Again, I would like a man, but need in order to survive my loneliness? Not so much. I am doing pretty well, just figuring out how to get beyond the loneliness coming from our fairly cut off existence here on the societal outside of one side of my family, and thousands of miles from any member from the other. (I’m not kidding; I’m in Kentucky, and the closest members of my father’s side are either in California or Washington.) That aside, it gets lonely for my mother and me here. I mean, back in California, where I grew up, my mother would be talking on the phone to just about anyone. We had great friends. Trouble is, we are barely getting our footing here after almost a decade in Kentucky. It has been a rough go as of the past five years. But onward and upward-I have finally figured out how to release the pain of the loneliness I have been feeling in this time, now that I know what it is.

Sometimes, concerning autism, it is difficult to make and keep friendships, especially concerning the ABSOLUTELY FALSE idea that autistics like me don’t want any friends. LIES! FABRICATIONS! SIMPLY NOT TRUE! (Okay, spazz out done for the day.) Due to the difficulty of social interaction and communication, the pain and loss of loneliness is felt much more keenly to me. We are social animals, no matter how much we seem not to be. We are not cats, people. We are not loners or islands. We are the extremely social elephant. (Did you know elephants recognize each other from previous clans they were in?) We are birds and wolves. We form tribes to survive. We autistics want to be in the tribe, though we have no idea how to cultivate that necessary relationship. (I swear the neurotypical learns relationships by osmosis-practically out of the womb.) Saying the autistic does not want relationship is like saying the dyslexic does not want to read. Relationships are hard for me, though I still want one or two outside my mother.

And that’s the problem. People think that a relationship will cure what ails you, especially a heterosexual marriage, for the woman. Romance is touted as a cure-all to women, teaching us to focus all our identity and our energy on getting and keeping men. Whether it’s nature, nurture or too much mainstream media, women fall into the trap that focusing on getting and keeping men is the way to meet all your needs. But what if the man cannot stay, I don’t know, faithful, loyal, or even raises his hands in violence towards you? How is a woman supposed to have her needs met with such opposition?

The answer is not in cultivating relationships with whomever, looking outside to fill your cup. The key is looking inside toward building relationships with yourself and your God. I can hear those of you who don’t believe in God groaning even as this comes to fruition, but it really is the answer. The God or Universe you believe in is the key to filling your cup. Let’s face it, humans are human. They have clay feet, wandering minds and a inability to actually know what you need. They cannot meet your need to connect spiritually. You need someone who can be there all the time, and I believe God can do that through the Holy Spirit. So instead of looking outside for your love and comfort, look in-or look up.

Weird Questions

Ugh…I’ve been in a funk the past few days. There is so much negativity going through my head. Somehow, every month, I get a series of such weird questions. I don’t know where they come from. Here are a few examples:

1) Will I be enough to please my man when I finally get to him?

2) Why is a woman’s worth only in her looks on the arm of a man? In short, why is a woman a purse?

3) Will I even have a man who won’t harm me?

4) Am I even destined for a man? I’m pushing 40 and haven’t found a husband yet.

Where do these thoughts even come from? I thought I was a feminist, strong enough to stand on my own without a man. It was not until recently that I even thought of having children. (Long story short, autistic children get bullied. I have PTSD by bullying. Therefore, in order to avoid kids getting PTSD, I will not have children to pass my autism to. Capiche?) Where are those thoughts coming from? I told my mother I did not want children, and she respects that, so the pressure is not coming from her. The troubling thing is, is it coming from me? That troubles me greatly. I thought I was beyond this. I thought I was beyond wanting to get married and pop out units every nine months. What’s wrong with me? Am I a hypocrite?

Too Many Strikes: Have I Missed My Chance?

Too short, too fat, too autistic, too brunette…do I have to add too old to my list of strikes against me? There is such a standard of perfection expected among women that it’s like a list of traits about me is a list of things women pretend in order to ward off creeps at the bar. And as they say in baseball and Hollywood, too many strikes and you’re out. Or are you?

Let me list my strikes against me, for example:

Too short (under 5′ 8″ tall): strike

Too fat (larger than size 0): strike

Too autistic (autistic AT ALL): strike

Too old (over 30): strike

Okay, this is depressing me. I can’t sit around and list all the things going against me – I’m not gunning for Donald Trump or the like. I’m not wanting a shallow, unfeeling user of a man who uses a woman up and then throws her out when she turns 40. (Maybe that’s why I’m still single. I have high standards.) That’s not what I’m all about. Besides, my mother was married at 50. That’s one strike down, for starters. She is slightly larger than me in physical size, so that’s another. Then, there’s the height issue too. She’s short as well…another strike down. Finally, people with autism get married, when they are allowed to. So, any real strikes? Not exactly. Hollywood creates such an illusion that you have to be perfect to get anything at all as a woman that it leaves about 100% of existing women miserable because they do not measure up. Yes, I said 100% of women. I have yet to see a picture that is not photoshopped within an inch of its life in a magazine…counting since the 1980s. How are we supposed to live up to this standard, and expect to catch a man who is good enough not to beat us? Maybe that’s the catch. Honestly, I have grown to hate Hollywood for this very reason. Yes, it’s supposed to be a fantasy, but even the ugly have fantasies of being loved and accepted. Are regular people not allowed to have fantasies? Sorry, but I have fantasies of love and acceptance whether you like it or not. I am going to indulge those fantasies, even if I have to do it alone for the rest of my life, because I now love and accept myself. So now, I can look at 38 and embrace it with the gusto of the next part of my life.

Black Widow Left Out of Avengers Movie Toy Line

Remember when I told you how mad I was at the fact that my brother did not get the girl action figure in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set? I wanted to play, too. I had to do a makeshift action with a She-Ra doll I found among some trash in the alleyway near my house. Don’t they see that girls want to play with superpowers? Those emotions of feeling left out came flooding back when I learned that Disney and Marvel purposely left out making Black Widow and Scarlet Witch action figures for the Avengers movies.

Alright, Disney. Where in the world is my Black Widow action figure?! I know you did not make them because the Avengers was apparently a “boys’ thing.” But, there are some girls out there who actually LIKE playing and pretending with superpowers. Did Elsa from Frozen not teach you that? I am very, very disappointed in you, Disney and Marvel. I know you think girls cannot comprehend the utter coolness of super powers – but you are wrong. Completely, willfully, ignorantly, WRONG. Magical powers is an offshoot of super powers. I know there are women out there who agree with me, whether they be Lana Wachowski or Adrianne Curry. Do you not realize that half the world is women? It is time to acknowledge that they exist, and they want to play with superhero action figures, too. The want to see themselves with powers, and abilities. I hope you can get your heads out of the Dark Ages and see that someday. For now, I will stay mad until I get a Black Widow or Scarlet Witch action figure.