My Internalized Racism Started With My Name

It started with my name.

It was Fall of 2002. I was seven years old. We just moved to a new city, into a new neighborhood, a new house. It was the beginning of a new school year and I was going into the second grade

On my first day, the teacher had a difficult time pronouncing Pliab correctly, even after I repeated myself multiple times. It was frustrating. My previous teachers never had this problem and a part of me didn’t understand what was so hard. When she introduced me to the class, she mispronounced my name and somewhere in the background I heard a snicker. I tried not to think too much about what that might have meant, so I brushed it off.

When I sat down at my desk, the white girl seated next to me leaned over and tapped me on my shoulder. She pointed at the laminated tag with my name on it and asked me, “How do you say your name?” Believing her curiosity was genuine, I told her how to say it. What she did next left me dumbfounded: rather than pronounce it correctly, she butchered and insisted my name was something else other than Pliab.

I corrected her but we kept on going back and forth about my name, then it dawned on me that she was doing this on purpose. She was intentionally mispronouncing my name for laughs. The kids around us were snickering at the exchange, and I was the butt of an unfunny joke. I felt a whirlwind of emotions crashing down on me all at once: confusion, humiliation, embarrassment, frustration, anger, pain, and resentment. My face was burning hot and there were tears pooling at the corners of my eyes. A quiet voice at the back of my head kept telling me not to cry.   

Was there something wrong with me? Was it because I didn’t have an anglicized or English name? Was my name “too ethnic”? Was it because I was Hmong? Did that not make me American enough?

I cried when I walked home from school that day. I cried even more when my parents asked me how my first day went. All I could manage to tell them was that I didn’t want my Hmong name anymore. I didn’t want to be known as Pliab. I hated it. I hated them for giving it to me. I hated myself. My parents didn’t understand, they just kept telling me “Koj lub npe yog Hmoob, vim hais tia koj yog Hmoob”. My older siblings told me I was being dramatic and to get over myself, they didn’t understand.

I knew damn well that I was Hmong, and I had been proud of it up until that morning. What I learned from that encounter was that my name, my culture, my history, and my identity as a Hmong kid made me different in the eyes of other people. It painted me as foreign, as an Other, and if I wanted to belong I needed to conform—to assimilate. At seven years old, I had began to internalize my own oppression, and I made every effort to do anything—like going by an anglicized name—that would distance myself from my Hmong-ness.

 

It would take the next 13 years of my life to realize that those efforts never made a difference. I ended up hurting myself the most in the process of denying my identity. It took me 13 years to unlearn what I internalized and when I learned to let it all go, the first thing I did in an act of self-love was to reclaim my name.

Ethnic or ethnic-sounding names can hold cultural significance for many people, especially people of color as our names are a huge part of who we are. When people mispronounce our names—whether consciously or not—it indicates a complete disregard of our culture and identity. Ethnic names are seen as less valuable, weird, foreign, and perhaps a burden to pronounce correctly in comparison to names that are anglicized.

Studies reveal that applicants with white or English-sounding names are 50% likelier to receive callbacks for job interviews than those with black-sounding names. While it’s not the most pressing issue, people of color with ethnic names do face name-based discrimination with regards to job employment.

When people make fun of our ethnic names, they’re not being funny. They’re just blatantly racist. Our names mean something significant to each and everyone of us, they don’t exist to be used as punchlines


mePliab (Plee-ah) Vang is Hmong American. A feminist. An undergraduate senior at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She enjoys talking race, gender, class, social issues and pop-culture and is passionate about Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. Pliab is a Master of Procrastination. She spends an unhealthy amount of her time binging (but never actually finishing) TV shows, scrolling through Twitter, and hanging out with friends. Social media consultant.

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As A Child I Remember Being Told…

(CONTENT WARNING: rape, sexual assault)

As a child, I remember being told, “oh my gosh, you’re so pretty, your parents better hold onto you tightly” and as I grew older these expressions changed to “being a pretty girl like you, you should be careful” and finally before college I remember someone just flat out telling me “you better be safe at college, bad things could happen to a girl like you.”

These comments never stopped, they just progressed.

You better be careful you don’t want to become a statistic:”

You don’t want to be vulnerable, and you don’t want to be a victim.”

You don’t want to be raped!

You don’t want to be raped. The echoes of my mothers voice repeatedly telling me this will haunt me forever.

July 27th 2014, I was raped. I’m not going to sit and tell you all the gruesome details, about how I still can remember the smell of his breath, or the weight of his body on mine. I am not going to tell you about the wounds I have internally that are still bleeding. I’m not going to tell you how I wished to god I wasn’t born that night. I’m not going to tell you about that because that is beside the point. I believe that the world’s idea of rape is when a complete stranger finds you in an alley and randomly decides to sexually assault you.

Well that couldn’t be a bigger misconception. My rape story happens to be the complete opposite of this stereotype. A family friend raped me… at my sister’s house. Not in an alley…. not by a stranger…. I would have never guessed that someone I once called a friend, a man that I went to church with nevertheless, could commit such an act. Approximately 7 out of 10 incidents of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

People tend to question me more because I knew my attacker by asking me, “Well, were you drunk?”

What were you wearing?” And “Were you asking for it?” And some people have the audacity to say this isn’t considered rape!

How can we hold our ground if everyone around us wants to bury us beneath it? No one wants to talk about rape. And that’s exactly why I’m talking about it. We act as though the subject will simply just go away but let me tell you, this feeling inside of me, every time I am kissed or feel the touch of a man, all those feelings of fear, shame, hurt, and filth reclaims my life. And these feelings are ones that I fear will never go away.

We live in a world where sexual assault happens every 98 seconds. So that reminds me to tell you, since you started reading this someone has already been sexually assaulted. EVERY 98 SECONDS. It’s estimated that 300,000 women are raped every year. And 1 out of 4 women on a college university will be sexually assaulted. There are about 15 women in my average college class. That means statistically 3 of us will be raped; I am one of those woman. Who will be the other two? Don’t think I have forgotten about the men! Statistics show that 1 out of 33 three of you will be raped. Well, your odds are a lot better than mine; we still have a problem here.

One of you could potentially be raped.

I’m not telling you this for you to feel sorry for me or to scare you but rather for you to stand against rape with me.

Rape stole my virginity, my innocence, and my beliefs. I will be damned before I let rape claim another part of my life. Rape ends with me because I’m so ready to talk about it. Rape ends with you when you allow people to talk to you about it. Rape ends when we all start taking responsibility for it.

The percentage of rapes not reported is 68%. I am sad to say I fall in this percentile. To this day, my parents don’t know that I was raped, even though I did everything they told me to do to prevent it. I stayed in groups, I never went to the bathroom alone, and I didn’t put myself in dangerous situations. But I’m so sorry, mom.

I GOT RAPED!

My parents are not the only people that think this way, as though we think that we can simply put a few flyers around a college campus that says “ WAYS TO NOT BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED” in big bold letters. With a simple, inadequate list of things to do to prevent rape by a stranger in the middle of the night.

WHAT ABOUT ME? What about me? What was I supposed to be told, taught, trained to do in my situation? Our thinking is wrong! What we are being taught is wrong! All our attention is being focused on how to deal with rape, and how to prevent it, when it should be focused on exposing the problems in society.

The reason I have not told my parents, or many others is for the same reason I believe most people don’t report it. I am in no way ashamed of this or embarrassed by this event. But I am hurt. YES. I am scared. Oh hell YES! But what I’m scared of most about telling people of my story is…I don’t want to be looked at differently. And that is something that will never happen.

The small amount of people I have told have responded like you all would imagine, they all feel sad for me, want to hug and comfort me, and tell me how strong I am. But to be completely honest, that’s the last thing I want! I’m not a hurt puppy that’s been left outside too long, and I’m not a wounded bird that can’t fly anymore. I am not strong, I cry.

I hurt.

And I feel hopeless at times. But I am human, and I am going to do what all our natural instincts tells us to do; I am going to fight like hell to live one more day. I don’t need people’s hugs; I don’t need people’s sympathy, I yearn for something to be done. I’ve started talking, you started listening, it’s time for a change… and this change starts with me, but it ends with you.


21752519_1652510154761860_3915307248027411024_oHi, my names Dotsie. I am a Communication major, graduating this December from St. Cloud State University. I am passionate about women’s rights, empowering all individuals and advocating for diversity. I am also incredibly passionate about nonprofit fundraising. I love communication, every aspect of it! I truly think that every problem could be solved with effective communication. (And that’s why I love it so much) I am obsessed with my family, and love when I extra time to spend with my friends and beloved boyfriend.  

 

#METOO

(Content Warning: rape, sexual assault)

*Author’s note: this is the companion piece to “Sexual Assault in the Industry: Intersectional Factors” written by Kholood Abuhadid. If you haven’t done so already, please make sure to read the previous post as well.

The plethora of sexual assault allegations made by over 40 Hollywood actresses against Harvey Weinstein has not only caused a ripple effect within Hollywood, but it’s permeated outside of the film industry as well.

Ten years ago, the “Me Too” movement was originally created by activist Tarana Burke, as a way to support women of color who are survivors of sexual violence. It only became a hashtag movement on Twitter when actress Alyssa Milano invited women who’ve experienced sexual violence or harassment to share their stories to amplify the magnitude of rape culture in our society. A multitude of survivors took this opportunity to reveal harrowing personal stories.

Through this conversational piece between Pliab Vang and Kholood Abuhadid, we aim to talk about the prevailing issue of rape and sexual assault in our society, the ways in which rape culture is upheld, and to address the good and the bad of the #MeToo campaign.

KA: Hello, Pliab.  Thank you for joining me to discuss the recent events that have just occurred.   I guess I’m going to be blunt and just state it.  We have a hell ton of sexual predators in this freaking world and Pliab, we need to talk about it!

PV: I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation with you, Kholood, there’s a lot we need to unpack. The issue surrounding rape and sexual assault is prevalent in our society. None of this is new, but with the buzz surrounding the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the mass trending of #MeToo on Twitter last weekend. It’s evident we’ve still got a problem we’re not addressing.

KA: I’m glad you brought #MeToo up!  I’ve seen that hashtag all over my Facebook and at first, I didn’t really understand what was going on.  All I saw was #MeToo as a stand alone hashtag without much context but it wasn’t until the first facebook post I saw on my feed mentioning sexual assault that it finally clicked together.  

I think it’s actually pretty amazing and absolutely heartbreaking to see the mass amount of survivors coming together and not allowing for this problem to be silence any longer.

PV: The show of solidarity between survivors and those who are not survivors alike, has been empowering to witness. Though like you said, it is heartbreaking that societal issues like these repeatedly require a mass airing of trauma in order for everyone stop and listen.

Apparently statistics of rape and sexual assault aren’t enough for everyone to realize we’ve got a problem that needs fixing.

KA: Totally, but unfortunately some people won’t understand how big of a problem rape is until a hashtag like #MeToo and many others trend on social media and reaches national news.  It’s showing that these are valid issues women still continue to face.

PV: True true, and by issues we’re talking not only the act of assault and harassment itself but how we as a society respond to allegations, how we treat those who’ve been victimized, and how we fail to punish and hold predators accountable.

We don’t need someone like Mayim Bialik writing an op-ed that openly shames and blames victims, claiming that “dressing modestly” and being “unattractive” or “unconventionally feminine” is enough to protect you from sexual assault.

KA: I think her argument is not based on logic.  Muslim women most definitely are not free of sexual assault or harassment just because they dress modestly.

PV: Exactly, and where does it leave transgender or nonbinary survivors? Men? Or anyone who doesn’t fall into the conventional standards of “femininity”? Rape and sexual assault happens regardless of someone’s attractiveness or femininity.

KA: Instead of blaming how a woman chooses to dress or how feminine and attractive a person is, let’s start talking about how this society allows for this to happen. It’s people like Woody Allen or Quentin Tarantino, both really prominent men in the same industry that Weinstein flourished in, who stay silent which allows for this societal “hush hush”.  Have you seen the Tarantino interview?

PV: I saw a Tweet about Tarantino on Twitter but didn’t get the chance to look into it yet, what did he say?

KA: Apparently, now he’s expressing regret about working with Weinstein but he admits that he know there were assaults occurring, including his own girlfriend, and he didn’t say anything.

During his interview, he states that “we allowed it to exist because that’s the way it is.” I just don’t understand how he knew that Weinstein was committing these atrocious assaults and he just didn’t stand up?  Is it more to defend his own career while disregarding the sexual assault on women in the industry.

PV: I am in no way defending these men, but I’m guessing the reason why it’s difficult for men with power (in the industry) to speak out is because they’re afraid their social capital will decrease. I’m gonna say this, it’s about power and everything else that comes with it: money, fame, success.

KA: Isn’t that sick, though?  The fact that Tarantino worked decades with this guy and now expresses regret and shame doesn’t really paint him in a credible light.  I think the reason why I say this is to the fact that him being complicit wasn’t because he didn’t ‘want’ to get involved or ‘acknowledge’ that this was a theme and not an isolated incident.  It was him saving his own career.  

PV: Tarantino needed a powerful man like Weinstein to exist, so he could move upward in his career. I have to side-eye his decision to speak out now because for years he profited off Weinstein’s abuse and remained silent. Instead of waiting ten years to break the silence, we need men to be proactive and speak up the minute they know something is wrong. More than needing women to speak out we also need men to step up and hold themselves accountable.

KA: Agreed!  Actually, I want to talk more about the #MeToo campaign.  Do you think that’s it’s doing it’s job of bringing light to rape culture? Or do you think it’s leaving out certain individuals?  

PV:  Sure, I think #MeToo has challenged us to talk about sexual assault and rape culture. When hashtags like this one go viral, the attention that it receives makes it a lot more difficult to ignore the problem.

I don’t think the movement is at all perfect. While it’s given certain survivors a platform to share their stories and to use their voice, it has also erased many others too. An overwhelming amount of woc/poc and LGBTQ+ survivors are left out of this conversation, rape and sexual assault isn’t just exclusive to cis-het white women.

KA: Totally agree!  I think this leads into another critique of the #MeToo movement. Does it shame those who are sexual assault survivors for not using #MeToo?

PV: I support anyone who has come out and shared their story, but the movement also pushes those who don’t want to participate into a corner and forces them to talk about their sexual assault trauma.

I also want to say that I do support the individuals who choose not to disclose their history. They still matter and their experiences are just as valid.  

Now, do you think that the success of the #MeToo trend was because it was kicked off by a white woman, despite it being originally created by a black woman for other women of color?

KA: That’s an interesting point.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like if it was women of color who came forth with the assaults and the accusations.  Would it be such a large movement?  Or is it because the women who started coming forth were wealthy and white, that it blew up so largely?  

PV: I doubt anyone would back up women of color as much as they’d back up a white woman. Tarana Burke created the movement and has been working hard to fight against sexual violence for years, but where was the solidarity for Burke and these women of color? Why aren’t the movements created by women of color for women of color trending as well?

KA: You make a valid point, and I understand that you are in no way, shape or form, disregarding the personal experiences of a white women because each story brings value.  But I think I understand what you’re trying to get at because I will fully acknowledge that the sexual assault of women of color is disregarded so heavily in this culture that power thrives in.  It’s become so easy to look the other way from a women of color’s assault because she doesn’t have the societal support that a white women would in society.  

PV: Yeah, a lot of what we’ve been discussing here in regards to #MeToo highlights how important it is for our feminism and activism to be intersectional. We need to allow for there to be space for women of color and LGBTQ+ survivors, we need to show up for everyone just as we’d want them to show up for us.

KA: You couldn’t have said better, Pliab.  I hope this discussion opens for more opinions.

To our readers, what are your thoughts on hashtag activism? With regards to movements like #MeToo and #YesAllWomen, should it be the duty of survivors to come forth with their trauma in order to prove an already obvious point? When do we stop asking survivors to speak up and instead ask for predators and abusers be held accountable? We’d love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to share in the comments.


LakeKholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.

mePliab (Plee-ah) Vang is Hmong American. A feminist. An undergraduate senior at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She enjoys talking race, gender, class, social issues and pop-culture and is passionate about Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. Pliab is a Master of Procrastination. She spends an unhealthy amount of her time binging (but never actually finishing) TV shows, scrolling through Twitter, and hanging out with friends. Social media consultant.

 

Sexual Assault in the Industry: Intersectional Factors

(Content Warnings: Sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation, rape, rape drugs)

There’s an open secret in the culture that we currently and actively take part in that not only is sickening but it’s also easily ignored.  

We still currently live in a rape culture.  


Sexual abuse is rampant and we thought it would be better as the years progressed and as we brought forward more movements; it’s not to the substantial proportion it needs to be at.  It’s simply not. Sexual assault and rape has fallen 63% from 4 out of 1000 people in 1993 to 1.6 out of 100 people in 2015.  While that is progress, it’s not enough.

These numbers baffle me.  

It needs to be understood how this is still occurring in every community and that there are different industries that allow for this to continue.  Universities, secondary schooling, groups homes, Hollywood, hospitals and anywhere there is power and influence.  Who’s to be held accountable and why are the voices of sexual assault survivors silenced?

Sexual abuse in large industries is not a new thing.

To act surprised or even astonished that a powerful figure in the industry, especially in the case of Woody Allen or Harvey Weinstein, has been exposed as a sexual predator is ridiculous.  What needs to be understood is who are the abusers of power, why they get away with it, and why this community allows this to be a hidden secret.  There’s much to unpack and it’s going to start with the Hollywood industry.

The first thing that needs to be said is that this is not a Hollywood problem.  No, it’s a privileged man with power and authoritarian issues problem.  It’s not accidental that many of the sexual assaults that occur to men and women are from usually wealthy, powerful men who know without a doubt that they can get away with whatever their actions hold.  

Recently, American film producer and revealed sexual predator, Harvey Weinstein has had numerous accusations of him sexually harassing women.  The revelation is apparently a “shock” to some of the big wigs of Hollywood, but it certainly was not ringing true for multiple actresses who have come forth with their own personal experiences with the sexual predator.

He’s not the first predator and they are not the only victims.

Woody Allen married his step daughter after she became legally able to marry a fully grown man, but it is important to mention that she was a child raised in his home.  This is becoming more unsettling the more I break this down.  Was there abuse?  Mia Farrow, the child’s mother, states that her child was groomed and may have been sexually assaulted.  What staggers me is why did he not have a bigger investigation leading into his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn?

Let’s talk about this.

Corey Feldman brought forth multiple allegations against Hollywood executives and agents that prey on the vulnerable in the industry and are still currently in the industry. When he was questioned about who they were, he stated that he legally was unable to answer because of California law that has a statute of limitations. Bill Cosby is infamous for his alleged drugging and sexual assault of women; the late Carrie Fisher was being told by her director not to wear undergarments when she was on set for the Star Wars films, and Terry Crews reported being groped by executives. These cases are not random incidents.

Each incident has one thing in common and it is the internalization of the rape culture that these individuals perpetuate.  Women and children are not the only victims but it is also men who fall into this sick perversion that allows for power and money to silence everyone’s voices.

What also needs to be discussed are apologists.  I am unable to fathom how someone can be so callous to say that they simply did not know and if they did, how could they have looked the other way? Quentin Tarantino states that he “regrets not acting on itr” and that he is shocked that something like this came from someone who stood with him in the production of his films.  Tarantino, did you stay silent so that your career can be protected? At this point, I don’t know whether him speaking out now is an act to save his own image.  Is it possible that he knew that his knowledge of Weinstein would come forward?


We live in a society where it is structured so that abuse is committed by the powerful or by the individual who has a foundation that can coerce or abuse those who are  marginalized.  It’s not accidental that 9 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed against women.  It’s not a surprise that the majority of our sex trafficking victims are young teenage girls or women.  And it’s certainly not surprising that the ones’ holding this power or are the sexual predators are mostly men.

This society is a patriarchal society where by default the men, especially white men, have power embedded already into their hands.  Sexual predators are able to continue to offend because they either have the influence to ‘hush hush’ their crimes or they have defenders who will defend them regardless of whether they are guilty or not.

No more.

It needs to be understood why this abuse occurs and it starts at a societal level.  When power and money are considered the forefront to success, moral obligations seem to evade certain groups of individuals and they seem to have it in their minds that their actions are not held accountable.  

What makes things even more startling is that people of color who are sexual assault survivors do not get the privilege of having a foundation such as #MeToo or even having the ability to speak out.  In a society where we have made it incredibly easy to replace a person of color from their occupation, the stance of speaking about one’s own assault is minimal.

Movements such as #MeToo bring to light the deeply ingrained sexual abuse in society that we ignore.  While there are limitations to the #MeToo complain, it is yet another call to society to wake up and start the drive to change how we address sexual assault as a society.

It raises the question of whether or not these movements are effective and if they fix our society rather than just raise critique about the abuse that occurs.


LakeKholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.

 

Thursday Book Blurbs!

Quick History: Filipino-American History Month

In 1988, October was established as Filipino-American History month: a month to celebrate and recognize Filipinx-Americans, (as an inclusion to members of the Philippine-American community of all genders) their unique past, culture, and their many contributions to the United States.

Lightning Fast Fact Sheet:

  • The United States colonized the Philippines in 1898 after a 300 year colonization by Spain
  • As of 2015, there are approximately four million Filipinx-Americans in the United States
  • We’ve been on land that is now the United States since 1587, making us the first Asian group to be on United States soil!
  • We have a history of activism!

Cool. But why is this important?:

Like other minority groups, the contribution of FIlipinx-Americans is often neglected in histories of the United States, either being traded  for the “bad immigrant” trope or the equally damaging “model-minority” myth, not realizing the rich and complicated history that Filipinx-Americans have with the United States. Similarly, Asian-American history month, while an incredibly important celebration for its own reasons, can simplify and even homogenize the Filipinx-American experience as something not as unique as it is.

With FIlipinx-American History month, our special culture can be recognized and celebrated in full and our complicated history with the country can be addressed.

I want to learn more!:

Great! Take a look at these resources and further expand your knowledge of Filipinx-Americans!

Pride History Month

Pride history month, during the month of October, is a month to recognize a few things; the unspoken history of lgbt rights and movements, the history of iconic figures like Harvey Milk, James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. We aren’t taught the history, so therefore why not have a month dedicated to the history of us.

According to the Library of Congress, the history behind LGBT History Month is as so…

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

In 1994, a coalition of education-based organizations in the United States designated October as LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months.

LGBT History Month is also celebrated with annual month-long observances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, along with the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. National Coming Out Day (October 11), as well as the first “March on Washington” in 1979, are commemorated in the LGBT community during LGBT History Month.

Sex Workers Unite by Melinda Chateauvert

A provocative history that reveals how sex workers have been at the vanguard of social justice movements for the past fifty years while building a movement of their own that challenges our ideas about labor, sexuality, feminism, and freedom

Documenting five decades of sex-worker activism, Sex Workers Unite is a fresh history that places prostitutes, hustlers, escorts, call girls, strippers, and porn stars in the center of America’s major civil rights struggles. Although their presence has largely been ignored and obscured, in this provocative history Melinda Chateauvert recasts sex workers as savvy political organizers-not as helpless victims in need of rescue.

Even before transgender sex worker Sylvia Rivera threw a brick and sparked the Stonewall Riot in 1969, these trailblazing activists and allies challenged criminal sex laws and “whorephobia,” and were active in struggles for gay liberation, women’s rights, reproductive justice, union organizing, and prison abolition.

Although the multibillion-dollar international sex industry thrives, the United States remains one of the few industrialized nations that continues to criminalize prostitution, and these discriminatory laws put workers at risk. In response, sex workers have organized to improve their working conditions and to challenge police and structural violence. Through individual confrontations and collective campaigns, they have pushed the boundaries of conventional organizing, called for decriminalization, and have reframed sex workers’ rights as human rights.

Telling stories of sex workers, from the frontlines of the 1970s sex wars to the modern-day streets of SlutWalk, Chateauvert illuminates an underrepresented movement, introducing skilled activists who have organized a global campaign for self-determination and sexual freedom that is as multifaceted as the sex industry and as diverse as human sexuality

Bend by  Nancy J. Hedin

Lorraine Tyler is the only queer person in Bend, Minnesota. Or at least that’s what it feels like when the local church preaches so sternly against homosexuality. Which is why she’s fighting so hard to win the McGerber scholarship—her ticket out of Bend—even though her biggest competition is her twin sister, Becky. And even though she’s got no real hope—not with the scholarship’s morality clause and that one time she kissed the preacher’s daughter.

Everything changes when a new girl comes to town. Charity is mysterious, passionate, and—to Lorraine’s delighted surprise—queer too. Now Lorraine may have a chance at freedom and real love.

But then Becky disappears, and Lorraine uncovers an old, painful secret that could tear the family apart. They need each other more than ever now, and somehow it’s Lorraine—the sinner, the black sheep—who holds the power to bring them together. But only if she herself can learn to bend.

Hmong Americans

Interested in learning about the Hmong American diaspora, their identity, history, culture and experiences? Check out The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir written by Kao Kalia Yang and The Bride Price: A Hmong Wedding Story by Mai Neng Moua. Yang and Moua are Hmong American writers from the Twin Cities, having both migrated to the United States as young refugees after the Vietnam war.

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

The aftermath of the war in Vietnam left the Hmong people vulnerable—their fight alongside the United States in the Secret War made them targets of persecution by the communist Pathet Lao. Thousands of Hmong families trekked through the jungles of Laos and across the Mekong hoping to seek refuge in Thailand. The Latehomecomer tells a classic refugee story of a Hmong family’s relocation from the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand to their new beginnings in St. Paul, Minnesota. Upon their arrival to America—the land of opportunity—Yang and her family find that learning how to survive in a new place they’d eventually call “home” isn’t easy.

The Bride Price: A Hmong Wedding Story

The age-old tradition of the “bride price” is a sum of money given to the bride’s family as compensation for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Hmong parents see it is a symbol of honor, respect, and a promise of love. To Mai Neng Moua, she sees this custom as one deeply rooted in sexism and patriarchy, her refusal to accept the tradition causes a rift in her relationship with her mother. The Bride Price addresses the intersections of Hmong diasporic issues regarding: culture, traditions, identity, gender roles, and family dynamics.  


* Writing Women at the Center: Mai Neng Moua along with Nora Murphy, Marcie Rendon, and Jna Shelomith will be visiting St. Cloud State University on Thursday October 26, 2017 in the Atwood Theatre from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m.

Let’s Talk About Palestine

Many do not know the of the Palestinian occupation and apartheid currently happening which is crucial to Americans since the American government is heavy allies with Israel, the occupying force in Palestine .  What is usually written on Palestine is from the point of view of the dominant culture that is not of the Palestinian people.  To see and understand the struggles of the Palestinian people is to be immersed in the culture and what better way to do so than read it directly from the source?  I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti and Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa are two personal accounts of Palestinians displaced and the land altered un-consentingly.  

I Saw Ramallah

Ramallah had numerous conflicts occur in the beautiful and ancient city. One of the most dire and unsettling events was the 1997 six day war.  Not only did it displace thousands of Palestinians but it also forced the culture to be disrupted and for the people to be displaced.  Mourid Barghouti creates a beautiful and harrowing account of his exile away from his homeland.  He delves into the separation of family many Palestinians face and the ambiguity as his role as a Palestinian.  The account he provides is of the old Ramallah and the newly spaced Ramallah.  He delves into many questions about the actual living idea of Palestine and the place and identity of a Palestinian.  

Mornings in Jenin

This novel is absolutely heart wrenching and it does resonate deeply with the loss of identity of someone who is forced to evacuate their homeland. The family portrayed in the novel is the Abulhejas who are removed from the small village of Ein Hod into Jenin, both residing in Palestine.  What makes it incredibly difficult to comprehend is how a family is forced away from their community as the community is disbanded and how they are forced off the land they harvested and grew for years.  It’s not only the land that is lost to them, but it is the sons of the family who fear for the bullets that raid into a village and the peace that quickly resided down because of the occupation. The point-of-view is many of the members but it is Amal, the granddaughter of the Abulhejas family, who gives a chilling account in the daily life of Jenin.

The Trans Experience, pt. 2

From part one of this series, I gave a brief glimpse into my personal life. Now, I think I would like to share my political views. While I go into more detail of my personal life, remember that it is related to my politics; for the personal is the political. I’ve come a long way in my life both politically and personally, and I think sharing my story will help give insight to what some trans people are doing.

To be honest, I was very determined to write many of my thoughts for this blog post, but considering the intricacies of life, I will be telling a few key points of my feminist ideology and some important tidbits of my life as my intersecting identities (queer, transmasculine, gender neutral) co-mingle in our current society.

I grew up in rural central Minnesota for most of my life up until this point. I was exposed to fairly centrist ideology until I reached high school, where I started to learn and think more about social justice. At the time, I had come out as bisexual to a few close friends. Coming out to my family was a very sudden and and not thoroughly well thought out. The reaction wasn’t necessarily physically violent as it was emotionally damaging.

Identifying as queer was and always will be very important to me. It’s an aspect of my life that had lead me to where I am today and with whom I have interacted with.

I came out as transgender in my first year of college. I had known I was different as far back as I can. I believe I was raised fairly neutral regarding gender. It was when I was surrounded by other transgender people that I came to discover that these feelings I had were real and others experienced them as well.

Being someone who is part of the marginalized group makes it easier to see the inequalities that all marginalized people experience. The more I discovered my own identity, the more I discovered the world I wanted to work in.

While my sexuality has shifted during my time alive, my gender identity has remained fairly consistent. As a gender neutral transgender man, my privileges are shown through my white skin, able-bodiness, and academic proficiency are also noticed through a male lense. I’m just one of the boys now; that comes with both the positive and negative aspects of being a male.

I’ve never been physically beaten or bullied for being queer. I was a very quiet person throughout most of my primary schooling, so I think a lot of my classmates just didn’t care. Ironically, I was popular amongst the popular kids for some reason, but I digress. The only forms of harassment I’ve faced, so far, is my lack of medical care due to my gender identity. I feel the pain of gender dysphoria when people misgender me, mis-pronoun me and ask me uncomfortable questions about my body.

Since my life has revolved around queer issues, my political and feminist ideology stems from that base knowledge of discrimination against queer people. Through involvement with different social justice groups and black student associations both inside and outside my academic life, I came to better understand the diversity in our world.

A lot of my feminist thought comes from Black Feminism where sexism, class oppression, gender, and race are inherently woven together. One cannot be defeated and the rest exist, for their histories are so woven together in time that only focusing on one of the systems of oppressions is useless.

As to keep this blog post short, I will simply put out statements most relevant to my beliefs:

    • I believe in free housing for everybody.
    • I believe in the reclaiming of the means of productions.
    • I believe in the abolition of money and capitalism, for both do not benefit anyone but the super rich.
    • I believe in the abolition of prisons and the police (this including the military).
    • I am anti-fascist.
    • Hate speech IS NOT free speech.
    • I believe in protecting our planet.
    • Animal rights are just as valid as human rights
    • BLACK LIVES MATTER
    • NATIVE LIVES MATTER
    • TRANS LIVES MATTER
    • You are not defined by your productivity.
    • I am an anarchist.
    • No Walls, No Borders

If anything were to be learned from these two blog posts, it’s this: To whatever extent possible, make sure to take care of both yourself and your neighbor. Self-care is important but community-care is just as important. Keep good friends, ditch bad ones. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your neighbors. Be kind to the planet. Everything is horrible enough as is, why not be kind to others to make the world a better place? However, take no crap from anybody. The revolution starts with the average Joe so start today.

From one comrade to another.


Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 1.06.51 PMHello! My name’s Archie Andersen, and I use he/him and they/them pronouns. I identify as a neurodivergent, AFAB, Fat, Queer, Nonbinary Transgender man activist. My main studies are in Queer Theory and Issues and the Prison Industrial Complex, but I also work to end all forms of oppression. I am in my 4th year at St. Cloud State University majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and minoring in Ethnic Studies. My favorite color is pastel blue, and I really enjoy watching YouTube videos in my spare time.  Blog monitor. Editor.

The Problem of Internalized Racism

In the suffocating Texas summer, the last thing you want to happen is your A/C to break down. Yet that’s what happened in June 2016. It grew unbearable quickly, the inside temperature reaching past 80 degrees.

My dad arranged for someone to come and take a look. He called one of those companies that run their Ads during the morning news and daytime soap operas; the good companies, with money and company vehicles emblazoned with the logo and, probably, white employees.

A problem with their schedule forced a change of date in the inspection. Instead of rescheduling, my dad cancelled and called up a family friend who helped us with the installation of a new sink and the renovation of our entire first floor. He is also Filipino.

When my dad told me about this change in plan, even with the knowledge of all the work he’s done, my first thought was: “Does he even know what he’s doing?”

Internalized Racism is a known and insidious problem among many minority groups. Many times, it is a learned behavior passed down through the form of comments and jokes among your family that you make sure never leave the house.

Even if the premise is ‘just in good fun’, there are serious problems that can arise from those jokes and underhanded comments.

– Perpetuating Stereotypes

If you are from a minority group, there is a very strong chance that you have heard derisive comments about other minorities from members of your own group. Many times, these hurtful words come from the dominant group and repeating them only reinforces the offensive stereotypes that are attached.

–  Us vs. Them Mentality

Minority groups have always been placed in opposition of each other in the fight for education, resources, etc.  This is a tactic formulated by the dominant group (in the cases of race: white folks) with the goal to keep them on top. Contributing to this opposition through any sort of means (upholding the belief that one minority group doesn’t deserve as much as another or not believing in the agency of another group) contributes to the general oppression of all minorities.

It is important to see instances of racism being performed by yourself and members of your own community. In order to effectively combat racism in all areas of society, self-reflection in how you deal with racism in your daily life can help make strides against terse race relations between different minority communities and start to affect relationships between the dominant group and minorities.


 

Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American third year SCSU student. She is double-majoring in English and Women’s Studies and has loved writing from a young age. She is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding the world of politics and pop culture today. Mariam is an editor for The Upper Mississippi Harvest, SCSU’s literary journal and a writing tutor at The Write Place. In her free time, she writes for her personal blog, scribbles in journals and is the Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games.  Consulting editor.  Monitor blog analyst.

 

The Journey

A spine-chilling breeze hums in my ear.  Rainfall touches my shoulders and caresses my face; I am sitting on the windowpane of my room that overlooks the balcony. Every so often, I like to sit by myself and think. The rain gives me serenity, for few minutes I am transported to a utopia. Sitting in the rain helps me escape all the chaos and inner turmoil that has been engulfing me lately. I have a decision to make. A decision that will determine the path I have to embark on.

My father’s words still echoes in my mind. He trusted me with this. This might probably be the biggest decision I have ever been subjected to make in my nineteen years of life. The one that will forever stay with me. He summoned me to his room earlier today and said, “Asmita, you have a decision to make.”

For many, this decision might be easy to make– effortless, evenbut for me, it is tough. Fear of the unknown, the fact that I might mess things up, scares me.

I reminisce about all the things I have done with my family, my friends, my siblings here in this very place I call home. It feels like yesterday that I was playing hide and seek with my brothers and screaming at them. My eye falls upon my window pane–the pane of memories. As I look through the windowpane, I see old markings. I look at the different colors I used to draweach portraying a story of their own.

The red crayon, I used to draw the ludicrous picture of my brother when he was mad at me. The way I used green to draw a sad personification of the grumpy old tuition teacher of ours to cheer my brothers up when our tutor got on our nerves. I look at the windowpane and I smile. I smile thinking about all the we were and all that we will someday be. Each and every corner of my house holds some sort of beloved memory of us.

Us as a family, us as siblings, us as people slowly trying to morph from naïve childhood days to adulthood.

I recall fighting over something as small as who gets the remote control. I recall mistakenly smashing my brother’s fingers in the door when he tried to get inside the television room. I recall blood dripping down his fingers and the murderous look he gave me.

I drown myself in memory lane so deep tears start to stream down my face. It is bittersweet. I have spent nineteen years of my life in this house. I have grown with my brothers here. I have learned from my parents here. I have grown emotionally and physically here. I have never known life outside this house and outside the love of my parents. I have never known anything but to be a caring daughter to my parents and a pain to my brothers.

I look at my dog that is now wagging her tail and is trying to get my attention. I remember the circumstances under which she became a part of our home. I was heartbroken when my first dog Bruno passed away. I cried a river mourning his death.My brothers, and my parents made sure I was okay. They were my rock at times when things were tough. As soon as I recovered from Bruno’s death, they got me Lucky my new dog. Bruno will forever hold a special place in my heart,but the void that he left behind was gracefully fulfilled by Lucky.

“Asmita, your future is in your hands. Either you stay here in Nepal with us and pursue your higher education in the prestigious Kathmandu Management College that you qualified in, or you go to a foreign country, be independent, and enroll in the college that you qualified in, too. What will your decision be? Which college will you pick? Where do you want to go?” my father asked.

Coming out of memory lane, I observe my surroundings and see that in the blink of an eye, the night has been swept away into the dustbin of the past and a new day is upon me.The sun, like a great golden disk, rises across the sky to greet me. It shines in my hair and glitters in my heart. I see the overcast fog of my clouded mind fading away.

The decision now doesn’t seem to be as daunting to make now as it was a few hours before. I steal one last look at my room, my windowpane, and my dog. I inhale the sweet air of my country and decide it’s time. Time for me to get out of the bubble of protection my parents have always given. I decide it’s time for me to break free and be liberated. I will carry my loved ones with me in my heart always, but I decide it’s time for me to break the mold and embark on the journey of the unknown in a foreign country without anyone to look after me every step of the way.

This is not just my journey. I think this is a journey of every international student who leaves life as they know it to explore the great unknown in a foreign country.We all need to be mindful of that and always make them feel at home or as wanted as possible.


Screenshot 2017-08-31 10.34.50

Asmita Koirala is a senior at St. Cloud State University. She is originally from Nepal, and she moved to the United States three years ago to further her education. Her major is Liberal Arts, and she chose Liberal Arts because she doesn’t want to be limited within a major and thus wants to pursue different avenues and know a little about everything.  She spends her free time reading and writing.  She also enjoys the outdoors and likes to go on hikes as well as snowboard during the winter.  She is a dog person through and through. She wants to make a change in people’s lives through her writing.  She basically wants to empower women to be the best version of themselves because life is too short to be mediocre.  Editor.

Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar: Marginalization and Death

(Content Warning: Ethnic cleansing, genocide, sexual assault, abuse)

My heart settles heavily from the recent events occurring in Myanmar.

On August 25th, a militia group who reportedly are linked the Rohingya Muslims attacked a military outpost which killed a dozen military officials.  The retaliation of the government has been grim and brutal; it has been incredibly disproportional as well.  Ethnic cleansing in mass proportions started and human rights investigators have been refused entry into the region of Rakhin, Myanmar.

Currently, ethnic cleansing is happening.  I repeat this phrase in my head and can’t quite comprehend how this is still occurring.  It must be said that this is not the only ethnic cleansing that has been happening in the the 21st century.  South Sudan is incredibly varied in multiple ranges of ethnic groups.  The main conflict arose is between multiple ethnic groups and there has been a large scale of mass killing and destroying of tribes and villages by government officials that it has been officially declared ethnic cleansing.  

The year is 2017.  

The year that is called “progressive,” “forward,” “inclusive.” It’s one incredible lie for people of marginalized status in oppressive countries.  Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar as I’m typing at this very moment and it startles me.  My breath seizes in my chest for I cannot comprehend how these baseless acts are still occurring.

I feel myself becoming numb from the barrage of horrific news brought to my attention.  Genocides, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing.  I take in this amount of information, and I become so overwhelmed that the only way I can rationalize such horrors is to disconnect from it.

I believe this is what it is to become desensitized.

It’s easy.  

It’s so incredibly easy to become blind to the events occurring around the world and why should I care?  I used this to  reason with myself.  If it’s not me and if it’s not here, why should I care?  I would use this question and reasoning to convince myself that it made sense to think this way.  Until just recently where I learned where my position is in society.  My place in society.  The way I choose how to accept and how to proceed with information in this society.

I cannot use this reasoning any more.

That is not a choice I can afford to have anymore.  To disconnect myself is to leave behind and numb myself to the events that have stricken the marginalized.  I do not get the privilege, and I do not choose that privilege.

This is not about me.  This is not about my reactions.  I’m not speaking for the entirety of Islam nor the entirety of Myanmar.  But I am bringing voice to horrors occurring, and I am giving amplification to the situation occurring.

Women are fleeing brutal rape and abuse.  Children are fleeing slaughter. Men, women, children.  They are all fleeing to Bangladesh from the horrors of government inflicted ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar is a primarily Buddhist country.  The Rohingya are a minority group whose main belief is Islam and while they have resided in Myanmar and implanted their roots in Myanmar, they are not considered citizens. The government has declared this. They are not acknowledged.  Instead, they are brutalized. Their homes are being burned to the ground and they have no choice but to flee.

Accounts of men being shot in the back of the head.  Accounts of women raped.  Accounts of homes being broken into and trashed.  The murders are brutal and they are merciless.  No one is an exception.

What is the meaning of this?  

What makes this situation even more horrifying is that the cleansing is not happening by rebel groups. Not by criminals.  Not by an opposing force coming to Myanmar to crack down on the Rohingya people.  This is the government.  The military who have been given this order to wipe out all they suspect of being a part of this minority group “unofficially.”.

Thousands are being killed.  Thousands are fleeing.  They walk with the clothing on their back and with very meagre belongings.  The Rohingya people have been displaced from their only home they know and they are crossing the border to Bangladesh to receive aid and basic healthcare.

What makes the situation even more horrifying is that refugees who do attempt to return back to Myanmar are turned away by government officials. Bangladesh has been outspoken in staunchly condemning of the Myanmar ethnic cleansing.  They have taken in thousands of refugees and are continuing to do so.  The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stated that there needs to be “safe zones” in Myanmar.  

The Prime Minister is not the only one.  The U.N as well as multiple powers and organizations are raising their voices.  These government officials need to be met with prosecution and trial.  No one group can cause such horror and be able to get away with it.  

What do we need to do as a community?  We need to be aware.  I understand that some events can become overwhelming but for those who can handle it, there needs to be exposure and there needs to be a drive to spread awareness.

Please donate to credible relief funds.  Spread the word.  Support organizations that offer relief.  To fear the power that corrupts is to sign away our human rights.  This must not occur.

Relief Funds

Rohingya Crisis Children’s Relief Fund

Islamic Relief USA

Rohingya Refugee Relief Fund

#SaveTheRohingya

Relief Fund for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh


LakeKholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.