Welcome back to That's What She Said! It's been a long summer. Everything from women's healthcare and DREAMers' statuses being threatened to Charlottesville erupting in white supremacy and violence flooded our news feeds these past few months. This means that now more than ever it is crucial that everyone remains active in the resistance against hatred and bigotry. Luckily, we are here to help! Every article and video in this (and every) issue has been hand-picked in the hopes that it will allow you to stay awake, expand your knowledge, and develop your views and opinions. In addition, Athena Chu writes about the exploitation of Chinese women in America in her poem "How We Are Made" and Max Ambris discusses the dangers of toxic masculinity in his article accompanied by artwork from Lucy Lyman.
Masculinity: The Toxic Box in which Men are Put
One of my favorite TV series ever is Friends. I've binge-watched it a few times, and though I can't resist coming back to it when I'm bored, I cringe nearly every episode. I do so because there's always a major issue in the show that is still prevalent today: gender roles, specifically for guys. I want to preface this by saying that I don't want guys to feel targeted. I truly believe that no one at BB&N behaves in these ways out of malice; I really think it's just that some people may not fully realize the impact of their words. People hear the terms "gender roles" and "toxic masculinity", and they roll their eyes. They think it's just a bunch of softies trying to be politically correct. That isn't the case. These "rules" imposed by the ideals of manhood have negative effects for women, LGBTQ + men, and straight men alike.
First, I want to address how exaggerated masculinity promotes misogyny. When a man behaves in a certain way and other men perceive the behavior to be feminine or not manly, thus proceeding to mock the first man and act like he should feel like his behavior was wrong, they put women down. That kind of reaction implies that men should avoid coming off as womanly because women are inferior in that line of thinking. Phrases like "grow a pair" or "don't be such a pussy" need to go. They insinuate that cowardice is a trait attached to being a woman. This is similar to how saying that someone born with a penis (I'll get to that) should "be a real man" implies that to be anything else—for example, a woman—is weaker. It's incredibly unhealthy to experience that kind of pressure. I've even seen women exhibit this attitude as well, which is really ironic because it's bad for all womankind. There shouldn't be rules about what makes a man a man.
I used the phrase "someone born with a penis" a few lines up. To clarify, I'm commenting on how it's important to keep in mind that not everyone with a penis is a man, and not everyone who doesn't have a penis is a woman; it's all about how you identify. A huge problem in the trans community is that trans people aren't accepted as "real" members of the gender with which they identify. We, as the younger generation, have to be more accepting. I'm not one of those people who thinks gender specific pronouns should be avoided, but I do think that if you find out someone isn't cisgender, you should use their preferred pronouns once you do know them. And if all these points are kept in mind, you'll never look shocked or otherwise alienate a genderqueer person should they come out to you.
Next, let's talk about the phrase "no homo". In our environment (and many others) the phrase itself is becoming a lot less accepted (although still used far too frequently), but it's clear that the sentiment is still present. It's the attitude that prevents boys from being able to say "I love you" to each other in an acting exercise. Even when the premise is that it's not real, uttering the words to another boy is too embarrassing. I shouldn't have to explain why that's a problem. First of all, you should love your friends. You should be able to hug your friends of your gender and tell them you love them without worrying about the implications. That's another thing: touch, between anyone, can be completely platonic. When one acts like it's a problem, one denies themselves the intimacy that they're allowed to have and that they should have. Secondly, it's offensive. It's not okay to act like being gay is shameful or makes someone any less of a man. Straight men are put under too much pressure to conform, to be some macho archetype, and to be "tough". It isn't healthy to worry about such things, nor is it healthy to make others worry about such things. Just be yourself, as cliche as it is, and stop worrying about what you're supposed to be. All it takes to be a man is to identify as one.
Just remember that men come in many forms, have different interests, are attracted to different genders, and even have different sets of genitalia. There is no right or best way to be a man, so be respectful to every kind of man, and person for that matter, regardless of how traditionally "masculine" they are.
How We Are Made
in Five Parts, Ending with a Prayer for the Opened Woman on the Other Side
魄 (pò) Our corporeal soul, according to Chinese mythology, one of two parts to the soul. Controls the yin spirits.
Azaleas yawn a muted beauty in this memory, plucked
from the grass palms of Chóng Qìng. We waited
in our mother's hands, singing for mouthless
shadows, pink bodies watered for the proper burial.
She swallowed us, with every dragonfly and breath caught
in her stomach, a garden rooted in the underworlds of her skin,
home to husbands who carve playgrounds and tombs
out of wives for their children.
Bury your fingers in her earth and pray to the mo guaiA type of ghost.
when she is not looking, Save our history from drowning in our own saliva.
I. 脾 (shunt) The kidneys, representing fear, according to Chinese medicine. The first of five yin-organs.
In a church for the godless we are full throats, dammed
by spice and the blood of men born
from gold mountains, who slither into our bodies,
the flesh of our mother's want. Keep our stories
from spilling out of your loose mouth, she warns. They could fall
out of those eyes. They could crawl from these ears, this nose. Hold
your breath. Don't
look at me.
II. 肝 (gān) The liver, anger.
Who sold our bodies across the ocean?
Who tricked us to marry a faceless love?
Our bodies, sliced with streaks of hot iron, hair yanked
from our scalps, eyes propped open with sticks.
They could fall out of those eyes. They could crawl
from these ears, this nose. Hold your breath. Don't
look. We are nine, and aging with our country.
500 American dollars.
We are twelve, and more beautiful than our mothers.
1,500 American dollars.
We are seventeen, and old enough for our fathers.
3,500 American dollars.
We colonize ourselves before the white men turn green.
When they touch us, we moan into their bodies a prayer.
III. 肺 (fyi) The lungs, anxiety.
Mama, where is Baba?
Where is your Baba? Did your Baba teach you
how to eat dragonflies? How to hold
your breath? What does the crunch
of wings between your teeth
taste like? Is this how you held onto him? Tight?
Tight. The men said. Tight.
Sharp enough to slice
fruitless bones. Smooth enough to sleep.
This is how we are made.
The fish bone penetrates the taste bud,
and this is how we are made.
Twist your tooth in the soft gum of my body,
and my mother's body, and her mother's body.
and this is how I am made.
When you touch us, we open our mouths
one second into the past.
There, the moonlight of a forbidden city flutters in a skewed line,
as if our mother's shaking hands had sown
the sky and the ocean with our bodies clasped together, and left a trailing
white seam for me to follow home.
I could fall out of my eyes.
I could crawl from these ears, this nose.
Breathe. Look at me, Baba.
Which shore did you forget me on?
We are only remembered for our servitude to America's sins.
I am my mother,
married to the wrong country.
IV. 脾 (pí) The spleen, pensiveness.
Can dead young men become old ghosts? There are three mosquito bites on my cheek, which means a dead man has kissed me goodnight three times today. I said goodbye to Baba long before I had a tongue or a hand, but he is not dead. I remember every man by itchy affection, each kiss leaving a swollen and hollow afterlife. You made a playground out of my body for children I do not have so I made a church blessed in your skin for a god living on the wrong side of the shore. Do you love me? Am I worth one more dollar? I don't remember what Baba looks like, but you remind me of him. Every man and his ghost are faceless. God is faceless, but He is the wrong God. And still I pray. I pray into you. An open mouth waiting for rain. What good is beauty that cannot speak for itself? Can you hear me now? The azaleas will find me. The grass from Chóng Qìng will bring me home. They can hear us from here. Their roots slither toward the sound of trickling water like men slip into us. They know it does not belong to you. The sky will take back everything you stole from it, and return our waters to the right mother, godless and open, who gave our earth a home long before you had a mouth to moan with.
V. ⼼ (xīng) The heart, joy.
Only savagery will save us. This flesh grips onto our bones
for planting when the rain comes. Death is the release,
and only then will we split in two. Here, graves existed
before we gave the earth a name or someone
to belong to. And the mo guai would hold onto each other.
We said, Let the dead play human and let the screaming
children play dead. Let the ghosts make frictionless love
in the rain, and the spine and the tongue will curve in harmony,
each bending to preserve a bloodline of mountains and men
who no longer remember where they come from. Mama, listen.
We heard the moans as we woke. Xie xie,Thank you. I whispered. Our village
dissolving in the mouth of dawn.
Xie xie. Xie xie. Xie xie.
and the bodies in the cornfields our mother once stole from
turned pink again, to mirror everything hidden.