Be who you are. That’s what I remember as the main deal. Be who you are, fuck the rest, fuck the perceptions, misconceptions, expectations. You don’t need makeup to be beautiful. You don’t need body alteration to be who you are. Wear what you want, say what you want, be objectionable if that’s who you are, say it if you want to.
That’s what I remember. The things we did to be who we were, the things we did that weren’t to match an ideal or a look even.
What’s with all this madness of identifying and claiming and then living up to? It’s like we have to live up to our identities instead of shaping them as we go. Claim your identity, don’t let it claim you.
What happened to be who you are? What happened to you’re beautiful just the way you are? Why do we let culture push us around? Be who you want. Fuck the rest.
I’m losing it with identity politics. I’m a woman, I’m a girl, I’m a female of the species. That doesn’t define me. I’m white, with great grandparents hailing from northern and southern Europe and New England. Culture wants to define my white lady ass, but I refute definition. We all do. My kid plays soccer but I’m no soccer mom. (Plus I watched the speech where Dole coined the phrase, and you could tell from context he meant to say single mom, but got flummoxed, because he’s Bob Dole, and said soccer mom instead.) Fuck that.
This thing where we’re supposed to, simultaneously, acknowledge our own privilege, recognize another’s lack there of, acknowledge their race and sexual orientation, not let those things play into how we treat that person, yet keep those things in mind enough during our interaction to show deference to their experience of victimhood, has really got me thinking about what equality means, what freedom means, and how, as a storyteller, human beings are meant to communicate at all.
Can we just take each other at our word? Meet each other where we stand? Look each other in the eye and see a fellow human being? When did my identity become your business? When did your identity become mine? Who even wants that? Can’t I just be who I am? Can’t you stop judging my internal book by your perception of the cover? My outward appearance doesn’t give you a fucking clue to what’s going on, to what I’m about, and that’s true of everyone, no matter how far out of your comfort zone their appearance lies.
Shit people. Do you. Treat everyone equally. Be who you are, fuck the rest of us.
Every time I log onto facebook, which is far too frequent given how annoying I find everything, my feed is littered with articles and coy phrases telling me how who and what to not be, or to be. How to raise my kid, what school to send him to, not to call him a him, to respect his burgeoning gender identity, to let him wear a dress, to give him less sugar, more structure, less structure, more activity, more free-time, to exercise to be slimmer, to take pride in my body, to love myself despite my short comings, to support Palestine, to support Israel, to condemn hate groups, to recognize that I am part of a hate group, to realize my privilege, to take advantage of that privilege, to share, to not share, to be a slut, to keep my legs closed, to recognize my child’s privilege, to tell him how to interact with women, to stop telling women how to not get raped, to advocate for abortion, to advocate for borders, or not border, or… Every single message I receive on facebook is counteracted by a message just a few items down, often counteracted by the same person, or by a person who liked the post that contradicts the post they just posted.
It’s overwhelming. Overloading. The media tumult is schizophrenic, each article that demands we stop doing this is countered with a listicle insisting we do that. Add that to the phenomenon of the perception that our spheres of influence are expanding… When we hear about a tragedy in, for example, Nigeria, or Gaza, we cannot accept the fact that it has nothing to do with us, is completely and utterly outside of our own control, and that nothing we can conceivably do will change either the tragedy itself or the continuance of that tragedy. It doesn’t matter how much a person hashtags or tumbles or anything, if the Nigerian government refuses to acknowledge the mass kidnappings by Boko Haram, or the Western powers refuse to send in military swat teams to secure everyone from each other, then there will be no change to these tragedies. We can keep talking, keep feeling outraged, but it will have the same effect as if we just kept drinking lattes and didn’t say anything at all. Money? Do we give money? Do we volunteer?
When I was a Girl Scout, we wrote letters on behalf of Amnesty International to free political prisoners in Myanmar (then Burma). We had a standard letter, that we got from Amnesty, and we each copied it out, in our hand, and sent them off. We sent masses of these letters, and I have no idea if any prisoner was ever freed. It was after our letter writing campaign that Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned for 15 years. We knew about political prisoners, and we wanted to help. Letter writing is what our scout leader came up with for us to do. We wrote the letters, then we moved on to the next thing. With the emergence of social media, it is very difficult to move on to the next thing, because the next thing is another tragedy about which we have no control. But we do it, we abandon the girls of the Chibok School, move on to police brutality against black you, abandon that to embrace a righteous tone in condemning the cat callers of New York City.
On facebook, the plight of local, sick friends, mixes in with abused dogs that need adopting 3,000 miles away, children who are maimed in wars half way around the world, and strangers whose petitions to get their insurance companies to fund experimental surgical procedures have gone viral. The plethora of horrible things that are within my daily vision makes it impossible for me to see the things that I actually can do something about. These cries for help become a maelstrom in which I am swept up until I find my way to the tabs button and shut it all down.
Here in the lovely fall, bees humming outside my window, fresh honey in a tupperware at my office, the internet beckons to me for help. I can’t help you, internet, I wish I could, but you’d take it all, then keep demanding more, while continuing to question my commitment to the cause.
Be who you are. Stop telling people to stop. Stop telling people to do. Lead by action. Treat others the way you’d like them to treat you. Love others as you love yourself, without preconceptions or conditions, without a mandate to change. Love yourself with the love that is a gift and not a burden. Don’t let’s be afraid of one another.
(I am aware of the irony of the last paragraph.)