Warning: The bright spot referenced in the title of this post will not be arriving for several paragraphs. First, you have to go some dark places with me.
I do not hold grudges well. I am also generally incapable of going to sleep upset, of keeping my feelings to myself, or otherwise letting emotions incubate for reasonable lengths of time. When I feel shitty, whether for external or internal reasons, the shittiness sits front and center in my brain. I can’t think about other things, I can’t distract myself, and I can’t just let bad vibes dissipate at their natural pace; I have to force them out.
One of the ways I do this by dumping them on someone else. I never mean to dump, it just kind of happens, and then it takes the stricken look of a coworker caught off guard for me to really realize what a lunatic I sound like.
Take Wednesday for example. Every piece of news I consumed (and I consume a lot of news) was horrifying. Not like, oh man, the CTA is raising their prices (which does suck,) but like legitimately filling me with actual horror/fear/desperation. And once that horror snowball starts, I can never seem to stop it. It started with the story about the rape case in Cleveland, TX, where the 11-year-old was raped by 20+ boys and men. Is this story in and of itself horrifying? Yes, but it is unfortunately old and faded news. The latest development is that the defense attorney described the 11-year-old girl as a “spider” who “lured” men into her “web.”
So I stared at that for a while, frothing at the mouth, and then shifted my gaze to my email, where my daily Chicagoist updates had arrived, leading with, of course, a horrifying story about a high school coach who condoned (maybe facilitated?) heinous sexual assault on a boys soccer team under the auspices of “hazing”. Does it ever end?
And then, when it seems like it will never end, I stumble on this ad for toy computers in which the boy computer (blue, obviously) has 50 functions and the girl computer (guess what color?) has 25 functions. And this, of course, is the least horrifying thing I’ve seen so far today, but I am already so worked up that this idiotic ad, this thoughtless, sexist, horrible dumb ad, is the thing that tips me over the edge.
My friend senses my consternation, likely because I am at this point moaning into my hand and rocking back and forth (I exaggerate, only slightly), and I unleash on her an incomprehensible torrent of angst, DID YOU SEE TEXAS, CLEVLELAND RAPE CASE DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS SHE’S A SPIDER SHE’S A CHILD WHY WHY WHY NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD AND CHIAGOIST SOCCER TEAM HAZING WHAT???? EVERYONE SUCKS I HATE IT ALL COMPUTERS FOR BOYS? WHO APPROVES THIS SHIT? I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN. And she just stares back at me, waiting for the steam to cool. I immediately felt better. What had been bottling up all day was at least released, the pressure was gone.
And then she did a cool thing, and sent me something to brighten my otherwise gloomy day. It was the reactions of Jada and Will smith to the criticism of their daughter Willow’s hair (she recently shaved her head). Jada wrote this:
“The question is why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”
And I’m fist-pumping, I’m hollering, I’m jamming out in my chair like this is the best, most joyous song I have ever been privileged enough to hear. And then there’s Will:
We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself
And I’m like… Fresh Prince, I knew you had it in you. You tell ’em! And so the cloud passes, because although the world is most definitely not an okay place right now, we have allies, and the arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice, and because some people speak up, and because we are not alone.
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