Monday, April 27, 2015

"Just Another Number" Feedback from a Role Model

I've been asked quite a bit what instilled my headstrong feministic beliefs. They came from a lack of strong female role models. Although the majority of my family was comprised of women, the selected few who demonstrated any dominant personality traits were labeled as "bitchy" and "crazy." As a teenager, any remnants of defense towards attacks from my stepfather, "Carl" were responded with various shades of degradation and resentment.
When you abuse an animal, they respond two different ways: they either become timid and cowardly, or aggressive. Children react the same way.
It's taken nearly 25 years for me to figure out how to preserve my strength while allowing myself let people in and fully embody emotions. It's still a work in progress.

I'm from the south, hailing from a culture of secrets, facades, and unspoken, but strict rules for what one should say and how one should act. Those customs and expectations were shackles that imprisoned an overwhelming about of pain and wrongdoing. When I broke free from that world with my book, Just Another Number, I vowed to live my life publicly and openly because I truly believe that publicity is the deadliest weapon against corruption. That is why I am being very open about my relationship with my family.

Although I will always love my mother unconditionally, I had to develop my own source of strength and self esteem. Just as she wishes she had a daughter far less controversial and outspoken, I wish I had a mother much more vocal, bold, and opinionated.
The woman who wrote the message below was a quick friend I met on a whim. She is about my mother's age and relates to me on a level that I could never reach with my own kin. She maintains the balance of strength and affection that I am learning to obtain. A strong source of support from the beginning of our friendship, the memories of her words and the perspective of myself she gave me are is the only thing that makes me feel safe when it occurs to me how much I am risking with this exploitative book.

Anyway, I wanted to share her feedback on Just Another Number because it truly meant a lot to me.

I finished it and loved it!  I did experience some PTSD, though, because these experiences (while very personal to you) REALLY resonated with me.  You've created a taxonomy of guys that I know and understand.  Sadly, although you were waaaaaay younger than I was when I encountered most of these guys, I had the same reaction to them.  We all (heteronormative women who have spent our lives being trained to think that our sexual attractiveness is our reason for being) have been conditioned to think that love and attention is the pinnacle of our lives.  But it isn't.  It is a challenge, though, to get our physical and emotional needs met with men who respect us.  I enjoyed your adventures, though.  My headline about you is that you go all out: whether it's challenging the system, or athletic training, or trying to get into Berkeley, you gave it ever fiber of your being.  That is a weird gift/blessing of being an anorexic/bulimic that I've observed (about myself and others); our powers can be a force for good or evil.  But I hate it when you describe yourself as chubby: I haven't seen you for your entire life, but I'm pretty sure that you were always beautiful, smart and funny on the inside and out. You don't give yourself enough credit, but that will come in time.  Once you love yourself, and have a solid group of champions surrounding you, you'll be so much better off and content.  Trust me: it only took 53 years to figure it out.  But you are very far ahead of the game, as an artist and human.

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