Mislabeling sex workers and addressing sexual misconduct between students

Earlier this week, I wrote about sex worker rights and coronavirus and the ensuing racism. Today, I’m continuing to explore those topics.

There is a new article on The Lily that is personal to me. It asks how do we respond to sexual misconduct between students. I’ve thought this as a teacher receiving threats and witnessing threats between students. I have not seen a satisfactory way to deal with it. Schools prefer to pretend that it doesn’t happen altogether. So, I’m very glad this article at least acknowledges the fact that it happens and we don’t know the correct way to resolve it.

A 4th grader was threatened with rape by classmates. She was told to ‘stay away’ from the boys.

When I was teaching 4th grade, there was a lot of bullying between students in my class. Now that I am not working in elementary education, I can talk freely about it:

The discipline policy in schools often punishes good students and rewards bad behavior. (Whether there are “bad students/children” or just “bad behavior” is another topic!)

Full disclosure: As a teacher, I did not know what was the right way to handle threats toward myself or between students. It’s not something I’ve ever been trained on. School administration gives no directions on how teachers should respond when they get threats in the classroom.

To me, it seemed that the school did not want to address that it was happening at all. PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) was about “providing support and preventing unwanted behaviors.” But clearly, unwanted behaviors were already occurring.

The result is a lot of victim blaming and asking “What did you do to provoke them?” It’s no surprise that it’s the same response that victims of sexual misconduct hear in the adult world.

There is no “magic age” that makes kids old enough to take full responsibility for incidents of sexual abuse, said Stone. But for elementary-school aged students, schools should assume kids don’t really understand what they’ve done. When a 5-year-old pulls down his pants on the playground, for example, it’s clearly very different from when a high-schooler does the same thing, said Martin.

I definitely do not wish any child to go into the court system or get sucked into the cycle of recidivism. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem right that boys’ and girls’ harmful actions toward others go unaddressed, even if they’ve experienced it themselves.

The question becomes, how do we teach children what sexual misconduct is and why it’s wrong? After all, adults are supposed to know better and children are counting on us. When we pretend sexual misconduct doesn’t happen in school, we are letting down students who then have to carry the burden of hurt and harassment, as well as students who never learn that sexual misconduct is wrong and go on to do more of it.

‘Conflating Sex Work And Trafficking Is Harmful. We Need To Stop’

There is a really great human rights blog called EachOther. They have a series on sex work, and one article talks about not lumping all sex workers into helpless victims who got into sex work through trafficking.

Human trafficking is a horrific human rights violation that utilises threats, force, abduction, deception and coercion in order to control people and exploit them.

Sex work is a consensual transaction between adults. For many sex workers, this is their only means of survival.

They are different. Sex work, by its nature, happens in the shadows. But there is a world of difference between selling nudes on social media and working in a brothel and being a slave. When prostitution abolitionists talk about sex workers as all the same, it becomes even more harmful to them.

If sex workers feel so persecuted and judged that they don’t even disclose what they do to the most trusted profession in the world, we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

Sex trafficking victims are not prostitutes by choice.

Sex workers are not all helpless victims.

If we really want to help victims of sex trafficking, let’s not talk about all sex workers as if they are in the same situation. They are not.

Explainer: Seven ways the coronavirus affects human rights

Coronavirus is a public health concern, but it also demonstrates why human rights are a MUST. It seems strange to have to prove the need for human rights, yet it’s an ongoing struggle in 2020.

Amnesty International talks about how “Human rights violations hinder, rather than facilitate, responses to public health emergencies, and undercut their efficiency.”

  1. Early censorship
  2. The right to health
  3. The censorship continues
  4. Activists harassed and intimidated
  5. Regional crackdown on “fake news”
  6. Discrimination and xenophobia
  7. Border controls and quarantines must be proportionate

We have to continue struggling for human rights, because it is literally a life-or-death situation. Even if my rights are not being violated, the effects are much closer than they appear to be.

Keep struggling and connecting with one another! Building connections and community is how we resist. ✊💛

Periods, online dating, and virus racism

Last week, a few of my interests “appeared” in my life:

  • Mochi Magazine, the publication I write for, ran an article on racism in online dating;
  • the alarm around coronavirus increased and I saw it on Facebook and heard about it in person;
  • I ordered reusable cloth pads from Rabbit+Bear Co and they arrived!

These all happen to be things I have strong feelings about: menstruation, microaggressions, and Asian Americans. (It’s also interesting when what happens online intersects with real life!) I’ve had a weekend to digest it and here are my thoughts.

I was bullied as a child after the SARS outbreak, now it’s happening again with coronavirus

There is so much misinformation around an unknown virus, and when compounded with stereotypes about China, it’s no surprise that it turns into racism and fearmongering.

If this outbreak happened in any other country, there would be hashtags like #PrayforParis or #StayStrongLasVegas right away. However, because it’s China, people react with avoidance rather than sympathy.  On Facebook, I see moms worried about the virus coming to their city, videos of bizarre Chinese street food being shared, and polls of whether Thailand should ban Chinese tourists. All of these are valid concerns, but not more so than the risks we encounter in everyday life. (For one, we could walk around being afraid of white men with guns, but you don’t see us doing that.)

People said I was being too dramatic and overreacting about the fake news and sinophobic articles being shared, yet a man in Sydney has already died from the “yellow peril” rhetoric spread by the media. He collapsed in Sydney’s Chinatown and died of a medical issue unrelated to the virus because people refused to administer CPR  due to a viral video going around of people apparently “collapsing” on the street in China.

There are no vaccines or precautions against negative attitudes toward certain countries or groups of people. To be fair, I see fear from both Asians and non-Asians, and China does need to be more transparent about how it responds to outbreaks. When it comes to viruses, let’s think Us vs. Virus, rather than point fingers and spread unhelpful paranoia.

Meet the Latina Fighting Chicago’s Period Poverty

Ashley Novoa started the Chicago Period Project to gather and give period supplies to homeless and in-need people. This includes pads, tampons, underwear, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. (Yes, having periods and being female in general, comes with a lot of costs!) Novoa works with the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry in her old neighborhood to distribute the products.

“People talk about sex but are disgusted to talk about menstruation, even though it is the simplest part of reproductive justice. If people are not talking about periods, they fail to think about the menstrual struggles homeless people face with their periods,” Novoa says.

I love this because it’s a great example of starting where you are and working with your community. Also, it draws attention to the needs of homeless menstruators. Periods are so hidden that it seems as if people are not having periods at all, and among the resources given to the homeless, menstrual products are probably at the bottom of the list.

Support the Chicago Period Project here.

Sexual Racism: The Struggles AAPI Men Face and What We Can Do About It

It’s a fact: Asian men have a harder time getting matches on dating apps than Asian women. It’s uncomfortable to talk about hierarchies within your own race, but this is why it’s so important:

A phenomenon like this runs the risk of turning the female body into a commodity, of creating an arena in which Asian females come across as falsely privileged compared to their male counterparts and in which white women appear to be the ultimate prize. These racist stereotypes can fuel deep-rooted insecurities about Asian men’s masculinity and/or sexual appeal, which can spiral into negative notions about AAPI women.

Asain women’s privilege on dating apps really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and when you start to unpack what it implies — that it’s easier to get some people to date you, that it’s a privilege to date certain people — you see that sexual racism really pits people against each other, and as usual, white supremacy wins.

I don’t want to end on a bleak note, because I am really glad these articles were written. Online dating, period poverty, and viruses are all huge things that one individual can do very little to change, but I believe that microactions can be as helpful as microaggressions are harmful.

Let’s engage in and change the course of conversations about these topics. 🗣💬

Choosing your life *and* following a calling

One of my favorite publications lately is The Lily, the Washington Post’s publication for women. They run stories on national politics, women’s health, and pop culture, as well as personal narratives and comics!

One story stood out to me from The Lily this week:

The unexpected life of a millennial nun

The Catholic church seems to be one of the most patriarchal institutions there is. With reports of abuse by the clergy and conservative, and even restrictive views on women’s health, the church seems like the last choice for young women who care about social justice.

But some women my age have chosen just that. The article talks about Tracy Kemme, a 33-year-old Sister of Charity. It turns out that the stereotype of the secluded nun doesn’t capture what nuns look like and do today. Nuns have careers in the community such as dietician, historic housing preservation expert, hospital ethics member, and minister.

It also makes sense that the religious life offers women in my generation something that is missing in the outer world. To put it bleakly, in recent years, I have often felt the same way as millennial women who chose to become a nun: that the world doesn’t offer anything for me to hold on to. Religion isn’t an escape or rejection, but an embrace of life. It seems contradictory, but I can see how choosing “chastity opens one up to love more; that poverty recognizes common ground; and that obedience signifies deep listening.” Nuns are rejecting a traditional lifestyle but embracing the world at the same time.

Nonetheless, being a nun IS unusual. People are going to ask and wonder why women would forego so many possibilities to choose the religious life.

“There is something scary about women who congregate together, something scary about women who don’t live some kind of idealized American womanhood,” says Sister Mary Therese Perez, 36, of the horror nun genre.

This story resonated with me because I feel the same. I think married, single and religious life are all callings. I don’t feel devoted to religion, but the lifestyle of a nun does appeal to me. I care about social justice and helping others, and I don’t fear being lonely.

“I had learned that religious life wasn’t magic,” Kemme wrote this past summer. “[I]t wouldn’t save me from loneliness, anxiety or self-scrutiny. It wasn’t perfect; living with women from different generations and backgrounds was challenging and even painful at times. It wasn’t an escape; ministry with the suffering can be exhausting and heartbreaking.”

How does one prepare for that kind of life? There’s so much training and preparation to become a nun. But at the heart of it, being a nun is having “[a] sense of adventure or willingness to say ‘yes’ to a life that’s going to have twists and turns and lots of unknowns,” she says. “They’re really courageous people who are willing to challenge the status quo.”

I think we can embrace that in our life no matter what ‘calling” we choose.  Let’s keep challenging the status quo, choosing life, and engaging in the world.

Planning for 2020: Writing, Creating and Activism

The pressure to become a better you is ever present. This January, we head into a new decade with terrible prospects environmentally and socially. 

The 100% truth is that “my anxiety, fatigue and unhappiness over the years” is coming with me to 2020. If there is one thing I learned last year in therapy, it is that sitting with discomfort is more helpful than trying to erase or ignore it. So that is what I’m going to do this year. I’m going to turn discomfort and anxiety intos something good. 

This comic by Christine Inzer from The Lily resonated with me. She said:

“This year, there will be no ‘new me.’ 

There will be just me.”

I’m taking this mantra to heart. Instead of becoming a more acceptable version of myself, I want to become a truer version of me. Here are three ways I want to do that this year.

#1 Write & Draw

Last year, I had the opportunity to write for Mochi Mag and the MEI-CHA and HighbrowLab blogs. I also went to the Denver Publishing Institute and learned about the book publishing process. It turns out that I really like writing, planning and drawing. 

This year, I plan to continue doing all of that, and also taking what I learned and applying that to my personal blog. I find that researching and mapping help me make sense of big topics like human rights. I understand a bit more after writing a blog post about it. 

Creating content not only helps me understand, it also helps me be a mindful content consumer. When I research for a blog post, I look for relevant posts and evaluate which publications speak to me and why. It’s been super informative learning from other writers in terms of craft, language and identifying biases in my own writing. This year, I want to grow as a writer and artist through practice.

#2 Advocate in my own way

No matter what my job is, I’m creating something. That’s the nature of capitalism. Everything we create and do has a value attached to it. Who you are at work, and increasingly at home, has to be worthwhile. No one gets to just be. But we are not meant to live compartmentalized lives. I have tried that, and it only lasted so long before I broke down and had to make a change. 

Capitalism teaches us to compartmentalise parts of ourselves – the personal self must be non-existent to avoid being ‘inappropriate’, even if this means straining to withhold our suffering from colleagues.”

We can’t fix capitalism or our workplaces, but we can advocate for ourselves and each other in the smallest ways. I like to think of it as the opposite of microaggressions. Microactions? Microadvocacy? It doesn’t have a name yet, but we can advocate through our creations. 

I was inspired after reading “Strange Birds” by Celia Perez. In it, a self-made girl troop advocated the welfare of birds by writing letters, making stickers, painting murals, and “bombing” their community with facts about birds. I want to do the same for the causes I care most about. For example, I can :

  • Make zines and comics
  • Blog and report info
  • Send postcards & letters
  • Talk to friends about it

I think advocacy looks many different ways. It can be quiet or loud. You can make trouble or do what you can, within the boundaries you live in. I’m really excited about this goal because there is SO much to be done. Let’s shout about the things we care about!  

 #3 Engage in real life 

I think all of us can sense that the way the world is going right now, is not right in any way. How do we heal from our personal trauma as well as protect ourselves from taking in more toxic stuff from the world? It’s no surprise that self care has become so popular — we NEED it. But I think self care tricks us into thinking the problem is our own, when the truth is we need each other to thrive. 

“bell hooks emphasises love and healing as priority before any other aspect of life. If healing were a worker’s right, we could stimulate healthy mental wellbeing for young women of colour who are hiding the same pain.”

This year, I will engage in real life and see and talk to people. The power of listening to and engaging with a human being in real life, is very much going against what capitalism and apps want us to do. So let’s do more of it. 

What are your goals this year? Let’s support each other in uncertain times.

Dipangkorn, I Am Your Father

There are so many rumors surrounding Prince Dipangkorn, the only son of Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi. His father is the king and his mother is under house arrest. He is going to school in Germany. There are rumors that he has autism. No one really knows the facts and it can’t be known.

I am concerned that Dipangkorn, 14,  is being raised by a monster. If your only caretaker is using you, you have no one in your corner. Despite being an heir presumptive, Dipangkorn has no advocate.

Some questions I have:

  • Why is he keeping Dipangkorn, unlike the sons from his previous divorce?
  • Why did he separate Dipangkorn from his mother?
  • Is it true that Vajiralongkorn is using his son for HIV treatments?
  • Will Dipangkorn succeed his father?
  • Will he ever realize what his father did to his mother and grandparents?

Continue reading

Descriptive reporting still exists

Before I joined Twitter, I didn’t know that print journalists were celebrities. Journalists seemed anonymous to me.

It got me thinking about a style of journalism I see a lot today, where the journalist’s voice/tone is a big part of the article. The journalist becomes a selling point, if they’re popular. It makes sense in the age of “brand” publications that personality would become a big part of journalism as well. Continue reading