Me too?

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After five and a half months of senior year and almost a month into a job in the film industry, I find Western culture rocking in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s imploding world, the outrage in the entertainment sector piling up, and females posting their harassment experiences all over social media with the #me too campaign.

I waited a couple days to say something because I don’t think only words and hashtags will change what is happening right now. At the same time, I am surprised that so many women waited so long to speak openly. I am surprised at myself, at my friends, at other women who have been discussing and shedding tears and raising voices among themselves over the regularity of inordinate cat calling, visual and physical groping, and the ensuing fear of any unknown male. Did we really think that not addressing it would cut short the baby steps towards normalizing sexual assault, rape, molestation, and abuse? Did we literally think that this had happened to so few of us, that keeping quiet would make it go away? I do not think so.

What I do know is that I watch so many girls justifying what has happened to them to stop the guilty thought that perhaps something in them is not enough to merit womanly dignity. We have discussed the fact, often proved by reactions from various pools of male friends, that disbelief or dismissiveness might be the result of sharing very personal experiences. Discretion, fear, resignation, discouragement, confusion, bewilderment, and savior complexities have helped keep so many quiet. And then, suddenly, with this disturbance in Hollywood, the stories are pouring out.

Being described as a conservative and Catholic aspiring filmmaker, I would say that I bridge a gap between the currently reeling Hollywood world and the families back home who do much to shield their children from sexual iniquities. My background is one where I grew up trusting that the males I knew tried to protect my dignity, but I am now part of a world where that trust is taunted around every corner.

As far as this upheaval in the film community goes, I myself am blessed fresh out of college to be working for a phenomenal production company. They treat me like family and are giving me every opportunity to rise as a film producer without forcing me to indict my womanhood in any way. I have friends who are not so lucky.

Even so, I was and still am preyed upon because I look so young and innocent—sixteen is the average I get from people. Let me tell you, I have somehow striven to maintain a pure character, but there is no naivety and less innocence in it anymore. College life without a car in a SoCal downtown taught me fast. Without the luxury of a boyfriend to be with me wherever I went (because I think use is the lowest form of human relationship and a definitive far cry from love), I walked alone. Friends would get mad at me for traipsing to events at night by myself because something would happen almost every time, but there is a humiliation about daily begging for someone to walk with me as if there was nothing I could do. My five foot three inch self preferred a taser, a pocket knife, and sometimes pepper spray coupled with a limited background in karate rather than continuously bothering guy friends or wrangling a group of girls. I don’t like wearing stilettos, so I didn’t have those as another sort of defense.

But the guys that I pass everyday don’t know I have those weapons in my backpack. It doesn’t matter what I wear. I’ve seen friends whistled and kissed at on the street corner for wearing sweat pants and t-shirts just as much as I’ve been yelled at or cajoled to get into a car while wearing a dress or a pair of bootleg jeans.

Yet despite being followed numerous times at night, I am almost ashamed to say that my most harrowing experiences happened in broad daylight. I don’t think its supposed to be normal for a guy to drop his pants in front of you and then tell you off with an “f*** you” because you won’t do goodness knows what on the street with him. Or for a six foot fellow to try to run you off the crosswalk into incoming traffic and then yell at you halfway up the street simply because you are wearing a modest, feminine dress. Or for two guys clearly in the prostitution business to haggle over what they think your looks would fetch as you walk by them at the corner of the drugstore. I don’t think it is considered natural for a girl to have guys honk, whistle, make sexual noises, or throw derogatory comments at her on a daily basis as she walks unassumingly through normal activities.

In my personal experience, it hasn’t solely been guys on the streets though. What of the numerous men who have gallantly thrown coats over my shoulders in a time of need only to turn around and force the gift of physical affection even when I clearly express my distaste? The thought has crossed my mine if I actually will meet a man I am attracted to who does not demand false intimacy that is devoid of simple honesty and selfless interest. Who thought that guy friends would think comments of “Your smile is pretty. So is your a**. Aren’t you going to give me more?” from bums at the bus stop would be a better compliment than a simple “You are beautiful,” from an honest friend?

To throw things in perspective, the last two times a male acquaintance told me I was beautiful (in those words) was at a winter formal dance two years ago and a couple weeks ago over Facebook by someone I haven’t met who keeps telling me I am a close friend and whose intentions I haven’t figured out yet. The other time I felt that a man thought I was beautifully worth it was when a trusted friend told me I was a precious flower he didn’t want to see crushed on the sidewalk as he warned me about a guy he was afraid would use me. On the other hand, numerous degrading, teasing comments have been thrown my way by guys for whom I want to make allowances about cultural desensitization because I have called them some of my closest friends.

This is not to point fingers. It is simply to say that there is something direly wrong with the presentation and permissive action of men’s sexual attraction toward women. Something that must change if we want to repair the relationship between men and women.

Believe me, I realize that at least two generations of women have done much to harm our own cases. However, there is a deadly truth stemming from the ancient power struggle between men and women that is bursting into outrage with the #me too campaign now trending.

We are woman, so fiercely independent because we are so easily manhandled.

Behind every woman’s note of bitterness and every quick jump to lash out is tucked a painful experience. Every single one of those incidents has been piling up distrust to reveal a grotesque cultural situation that can no longer be ignored by men or women.

I struggle with resenting guys who force me to do something that feeds their gentlemanly nature simply because I am a woman. I dislike them just as much as I gross out after a guy friend tells me the woman he will date needs to have a butt that measures from here to there as if who I am and the obvious attraction between us isn’t enough. However, mere resentment will not fix the problem.

Sometimes I am tempted to think that I come in contact mostly with men who are soaked in the permissiveness that has allowed Harvey Weinstein and the Hollywood elite to grope along their oily, gross journey. Sometimes after run-ins with especially immature men who would otherwise have been very lovable, I feel a certain despair. Why haven’t my hopes and dreams crashed there?

I also know a select few men who value the dignity of women the way my father has defended my dignity as his daughter and a woman and the way I hope my brothers will always uphold the women in their lives. For that reason, I trust and hope and pray that someday one of those men will step forward to guard and defend my womanhood in ways that I cannot from the everyday nightmares who have not yet learned what their manhood truly means.

Thousands of women posting “Me too” on their social media feeds will not fix the repugnant problems that are coming to light. They will, however, continue to open eyes to how widespread this grotesque feature of our porn infested society has become. The dialogue we need to have now is what we will do to execute concrete solutions. For starts, it will require girls to recognize the authentic dignity of their womanhood. It will require guys to grasp their manhood and take a firm stand in the breach so that girls don’t feel the need to cry, “Me too. Where are the men?”

 

PC: Sophie Flemings

 

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Attitude of Gratitude: The Benefits

Through Christ's Strength

Okay, I am excited right now. I am very excited and happy and grateful! Among the obvious reasons are the fact that two of my good friends just got engaged in the past week, my cousin is dating an amazing guy, and my sister recently got yet another outstanding music scholarship. My suite mate and I spring cleaned our apartment, I was able to make a larger tuition payment upfront than I thought I could, five of my other friends and a cousin are knee deep in wedding planning, I spend yesterday afternoon in Julien on a location scout at a gorgeous vineyard, and my roommate just got back from Virginia. On top of that I just spent a sweet half hour putting the two-year-old darling I babysit to bed after an hour of enjoying Disney’s Robin Hood, tomorrow I am going to an early Mass and coffee with a dear friend and then picking more friends up from the airport, and I am half done with my pre-reading assignments for the start of the quarter on Monday. The list could go on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been having my fair share of insecurities, frustrations, lack of time, and other such pains this week, too. It is appropriate, however, to take this moment to focus on the fact that my heart is overflowing with happiness and jumping with joy. (My friends and siblings can attest to the fact that if I was around them at the moment I would be talking ninety miles per hour and physically dancing around.)

I could choose to dwell on some major frustrations and personal pains, but I simply don’t want to in this snapshot of time. There are so many things to be thankful for. Besides, I notice that the more I give thanks for the blessings, the happier my mood, the easier it is to meet the rest of my battles head on. It’s actually scientifically proven.

The benefits of having an attitude of gratitude include opening the door to more relationships, sleeping better at night, improving physical and psychological health, and increasing self-esteem, empathy and mental health as is put forth by Psychology Today in an article.

A Harvard Health Publications article announced studies by the Universities of California and Miami that show persons who write about things they were grateful for had more optimistic outlooks within ten weeks than a second group that only wrote about irritations.

A second study mentioned by the same publication and conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that those who wrote a simple letter of thanks to someone from their early memories who had never been properly thanked witness a high increase in satisfaction.

Books such as Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray also show a pattern of greater well-being and happiness in the relationships of couples who take time to verbally or otherwise communicatively appreciate each other.

“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence,” St. John Paul II spoke to us people in modern cultures. The truth is, gratitude breeds enthusiasm which imbues a human person with enough confidence in the goodness of creation to move forward unflinchingly into the future. It’s well worth a bit of extra effort.

These are three things that I find helpful in maintaining the perks of gratitude:

  1. Say “thank you” to a person for something every day.

Make that magical phrase for something unique and personal to show that you really mean it and put thought into it. Something a little more than merely for food or holding a door open, but don’t forget to give thanks for those unparalleled daily blessings as well.

2. Each week give a written thank you note to a person who particularly reached out to you in the course of the past seven days. 

It doesn’t have to be a long note. Simply show them you noticed, appreciated, and cared that they cared for you. It goes a long way toward brightening someone’s day, strengthening their resolve to keep doing those things, and fostering a relationship because you are joyfully appreciative.

3. Each morning when you wake up and each night as you lie down, repeat out loud three things you are thankful for in anticipation of the day and for what happened during the day. 

This is an especially important little step because it bookends the day with generous, blessed thoughts. If you are especially ambitious, try taking some of your annoyances or pains from the day, find what you learned from them, and thank God for those lessons.

“The Lord has given this land to us, no need to fuss. He knows what he’s doing. We know that he will take care of us if we will follow him.”  –Veggie Tales

Photo Credit: Maria Andress

La La Land: The Artist’s Struggle

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La La Land—last week spur of the moment with a couple friends I saw Hollywood’s newest musical film starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. We laughed and then cried. From a filmmaker’s standpoint, La La Land sports phenomenal art direction, acting, color, costume, and choreography design in my opinion. It’s 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.9/10 on IMDb seems to agree. Continue reading “La La Land: The Artist’s Struggle”

Prayer Through Action

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Every college student knows life can feel like a mad dash through a fountain of Post-It notes, clothing pieces, event reminders, alarms, and books. Your highschool friend texts you, “How’s life?” Family asks during a weekend Skype, “So what’s this week going to be like?” A roommate questions when you’re finally both in the bedroom at the same moment, “How’s it going today?” There’s usually one answer: “I’m doing pretty well. 😀 It’s crazy as usual.”

Under such circumstances then, how can we be expected to pray without ceasing (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)? Or as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini said: “We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success…but on Jesus alone.” I have been tempted to ask with a smidge of astonishment in my voice, “How does that work?”

Continue reading “Prayer Through Action”

Stitching the Standard

 

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Stitching the Standard by Edmund Blair Leighton

This is one of my top favorite paintings. The lady of the castle perches on the battlements finishing the standard that her knight husband’s squire will bear before him into battle. She is a woman skilled in the accomplishments of needlework, personal presentment, raising children, handing on the Faith, and keeping hearth for her people. But up here on the castle wall, she also commands view of the surrounding countryside. Should a messenger arrive at the fief she will be there to greet him. Should an enemy mass she will help her husband prepare the garrison and command the defenses. Should the town be struck by fire or pestilence she will rise up and assist them. Should a mob break out she will go down to address them. Should capture or another woe befall her husband’s troops she is versed enough in regional politics and customs to negotiate the best outcome for his safe return. And that is exactly what she must be prepared to do. She is the lady of her lord, the queen of their lands, the heart of their castle. As the keeper of her knight’s heart, she is also his most able partner. Because of her upbringing and her presence at his side, when he rides away to war, he will have no qualms about leaving her in charge of their kingdom. No matter how large or small their holdings, he knows she is prepared with the skill and insight of a wise ruler to lead after his own heart until he returns. And when he returns she will sit at his side with valuable contributions while he rules.

Regardless of what dark legends say about the Middle Ages, the truth about Medieval Europe is that the majority of women were raised with just such an ideal in mind. Peasant wives worked alongside their husbands on their fiefs. Craftswomen had their own guilds same as the craftsmen. Of course, the peasant women did not haul stones from the fields; they helped plant them. Of course, the craftswomen did not quarry stone and mold windows for cathedrals and palaces like the men; they made beautiful pottery and jewelry and woven tapestries and embroidered cloths for the cathedrals and palaces instead. Just as there were valets, pages, and squires to aid the stewards, there were also maids and ladies-in-waiting and cooks. Each had a crucial place in the medieval round of life. As for the ladies, princesses, and queens…

Continue reading “Stitching the Standard”