Posted in Uncategorized

On the Sexual Assault Narrative: Aziz Ansari

The #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement brought a sense of much needed change of social consciousness on rape, sexual assault, sexual coercion, and the term consent. Dialogues continue left and right, with women constantly coming forward to reveal their stories to the media and bring predators to light. We are all gathering together to track down these “villains,” bring them to at least a public justice with their “true” natures revealed.

And that’s where we actually fail to make real change.

The Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K.’s of the world are easy to condemn. Big men with big power using their power against the women below them on the media totem pole, skeezy hotel rooms, a narrative and plot we’ve known. It’s familiar territory, Lifetime movie drama that, ironically, would be easy to translate to a big screen.

But then we have the Aziz Ansari story.

Aziz Ansari proclaims himself a feminist. He wrote a book, got an award a “Woke Bae,” and up until the Babe.net article hit seemed like the “cool guy” you would want to date. To the public at large, he would be the last person suspected of sexual coercion or assault. Surely a guy who prides himself on getting what women want and even joining their movements couldn’t be responsible for such a thing, right?

Women and men alike have fired at Grace, the anonymous photographer who just had one of the worst nights of her life published for the world to see, with all the fervor we usually reserve for the “villains” in our stories. Her story is full of moments she could’ve gotten out of there, they say. Her story has alcohol and going home with a guy along, they say. Her story can’t be believed because she never said no, they say.

Let’s change this narrative to something familiar. We the public are the police. Grace is a woman who feels violated, coming to us with a story. So now we ask her all the standard questions: Did he put a knife to your throat? What were you wearing? Did you drink? Did you say no? Oh you didn’t actually have sex? Well then, case closed. You weren’t raped. You weren’t assaulted. Case closed. Who would believe you anyway? This story would never hold up in court…

All too familiar, isn’t it?

Despite all the progress we make towards giving women platforms to be heard, we still fall back to the same narratives comfortably enough when a woman’s story gets messy, complicated, and focuses on someone well regarded. Rapists and sexual molesters can’t be people we actually like, because that doesn’t fit with our perceptions of them as ugly monsters.

For women, we are also inviting the terrible idea that we ourselves might have experienced sexual coercion or assault, but we refused to put that label on our past encounters. Our stories can’t have that label, we protest, because…Because we didn’t say no, we didn’t get out, we drank that wine, we dressed that way, we went home with that man, we didn’t…oh.

The realization that your own life’s narrative holds more pain than you want to face is devastating. We say he was just being pushy, we could’ve done more to prevent it, and the excuses cushion us from the truth. Stories like Grace’s happen to women every where. We go into a date thinking we will end up having our bodies respected, only to end up ending our nights in tears and scalding hot showers.

Aziz Ansari gets to keep his dignity and respect. He will never see himself as part of the grand problem, because in his mind “he’s a feminist.” He doesn’t have to admit wrong when he’s on those red carpets talking the talk, ignoring the fact he doesn’t walk the walk. In the end he is as Grace shouted at him that night: the same as every other man who doesn’t respect women’s bodies.

Feminist men exist, those who recognize that a woman’s body isn’t a plaything. Aziz Ansari isn’t one of them. He wants to have the moniker, yet he also wants to treat women as if they’re still just objects for his use. Or maybe for him it was just this one particular woman that he saw as vulnerable, as someone with no clout to control a narrative like this one, and knew he could get away with treating her in an awful manner. Someone anonymous, someone with a standard story that no one will believe, and no proof besides her own words what happened.

We see people finding all the faults with Grace, not the faults of a man who promised to the world at large he was a feminist, but behind closed doors was just as much a creep as a stereotypical drunken horny frat boy.

But as someone so widely liked and respected, he will control this narrative, and so will those who like and respect him. Already we see articles like “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari” that cut down Grace for, to paraphrase, “not calling a cab, being weak, and using her story as revenge porn against a man of a different color.” Because, as we all know, “good women don’t go home with men alone.” It’s disappointing to see that still, despite all of the conversations and talk, it’s still too much to expect men not to be aggressive and forceful for sex, and women are still expected to “know better” than to expect anything more.

And we have near apologetic levels of defense for him, such as “Aziz Arsani is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.” Boiling down the entire encounter to “bad sex” as if it were that simple, as if women are groomed from childhood to not take the initiative in anything (much less sex) before we get to adulthood. Consent means more than just saying yes or no, more than just being uncomfortable and giving non-verbal cues. Aziz Ansari didn’t get consent, he just jumped right into the porn narrative where the guy got the girl home and now they can bang.

Grace’s failing is that she expected to be treated with respect, and it’s unfortunate that almost no one thinks she deserved it.

Jessica Valenti, a Guardian columnist and author, points out a similar thought by tweeting, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

Our cultural narratives about sexual assault need to change. We can’t keep going back to the same old tropes, of the disbelieving public and the overly victim blamed women. We can’t keep blaming women for expecting basic bodily respect.

The media outlet Jezebel is calling out Babe for many narrative detail issues in “Babe, What Are You Doing?“, citing that putting out all of the gritty details about the story actually undermined the more important discourse within it:

Because Babe did not have the range or depth to present Grace’s story for what it is—a starting point to discuss the ways consent can feel blurring, no matter how clear we might wish it were, and our lack of language to describe this—we all ended up opening up a conversation that did us no good at all. The story had the unfortunate effect of leaving the door a little wider for self-righteousness, allowing detractors to reiterate their shitty assumptions about millennial women and their motivations instead of questioning a set of injustices so commonplace that many people seem not to register them as injustices at all.

Babe had an opportunity to change the sexual assault narrative, to get the story focused on how we remain tied to the ideas of consent being “you must say no or it’s ok.” It had a vital chance to open the dialogue towards what it means to have someone a decade your senior and a supposedly “woke” Hollywood feminist treating you like you don’t matter to him except as a  sex object.

But instead the media has been presented a grand way to re-victimize Grace, and tear her narrative to pieces, along with the narratives of so many other women out there who have experienced this story.

It’s vital to change the narrative, because we’re not just change it for Hollywood alone. The U.S.A. Gymnastics association allowed a doctor to sexual molest and assault women for years, paying girls to keep silent (and yes, girls as most of these victims were underage). These young girls grew up in the culture of being one of the more “woke” when it comes to these issues, but even still their stories are only now being heard after decades of abuse. He was a doctor, a trusted and well respected person, with the control of the narrative for years. We can’t keep letting that happen.

We can’t stop talking and revising what it means to be sexually assaulted, coerced, molested, etc. We need to keep talking about Aziz Ansari, and we need to continually reevaluate how we treat the victims. The narrative needs to become one where if a woman goes home with a man and leaves feeling violated and in tears, we validate that experience instead of dismiss it.

Grace, I believe your story, and you deserve better.

Posted in Uncategorized

On MLK JR. and the Legacy We Need Today

Today my home country will have the opportunity to celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. This great man devoted his all to the cause of equality. Every speech and march was a crusade against tyranny. His galvanized thousands upon millions of people to come together to protest against the unjust nature of American society.

If only he could be here now…

At a time when my own so-called (but not well regarded) President calls less fortunate countries “shitholes,” enacted a Muslim Ban against Islamic peoples from Middle Eastern nations, and continuously badgers for a border wall, I wish at times we had another Martin Luther King Jr. to step up and orate the world into seeing how divisive and abhorrent racism truly is.

“I Have A Dream” is the speech many people know and love. The countless quotes pulled from it will be the main sound bites for the news features, and people will point to it as the leading example of the message Martin Luther King Jr. wanted us to learn.

But that’s oddly enough not the speech that stuck with me.

My favorite Martin Luther King Jr. speech is obscure, to say the least. It’s actually not even supposed to be a civil rights speech, but instead an acceptance letter for an honorary doctorate. For some reason, this one particular part of it resonates with me (underlined for emphasis):

As you well know, racism is a reality in many sections of our world today. Racism is still the coloured man’s burden and the white man’s shame. And the world will never rise to its full moral or political or even social maturity until racism is totally eradicated. Racism is exactly what it says. It is a myth of the inferior race; it is the notion that a particular race is worthless and degradated innately and the tragedy of racism is that it is based not on an empirical generalisation but on an ontological affirmation. It is the idea that the very being of a people is inferior.

I wish more people could read those lines. We all know the iconic lines of, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” But to lay out what racism at its core really is, as well as put the shame where it belongs is just as important as the dream. It’s pointing out the root of the problem, and demanding action.

Racism must be eradicated, but how?

This speech actually continues on to talk about it:

Well, it may be true that morality cannot be legislated but behaviour can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can restrain him from lynching me; and I think that is pretty important also. And so, while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men if it is vigorously enforced, and through changes in habits, pretty soon attitudinal changes will take place and even the heart may be changed in the process.

Changes in law, changes in the government, changes from the top to demand that the bottom obey these laws, must be just and equal. Right now, I don’t believe my government wants equality, but instead wants to encourage that “myth of an inferior race.” The administration in the White House feels no shame in its desire to rip apart families with ICE and immigration, in threatening to take away the dreams of DACA recipients, in lambasting NFL players for taking a knee (an act Martin Luther King Jr. would’ve surely been proud of, non-violent and attention getting as it is), and the list can just go on and on.

We cannot stay silent when we see injustice, for that is how it wins. Even if all we do is call out racist behavior when we see it, it’s a step in the right direction. Call your representatives, write letters, get yourself open and vocal.

Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a world of mutual understanding and respect between white and black people, but we white people must make ourselves worthy of that respect. Until then, we can carry this shame.

Posted in Slice of Life

Self-Care Days, We All Need ‘Em

If I’m being honest, this whole post is just me procrastinating on writing a personal statement for a job application, but that’s totally fine! It’s not like my future is completely up in the air or anything, she said with a slightly hysterical giggle.

Anyways, today started off perfectly fine. I know, you were expecting with the title that it started off a shit show, but NOPE. My students have actually been too exhausted the first week back to really do much mischief, as in the one boy I had to lecture yesterday slept through class kind of week. The morning meeting held no surprise drama, the first hour class was smoother than it had any right to be for a morning class, and the proceeding hours held students that did as told.

All the same, I felt worn out. Coming back to work and stressing myself out with the job hunt was grinding me down in little ways that just built up. Getting back into a normal sleep schedule, prepping for classes, filling out this application form, writing yet another cover letter, and then all of a sudden in the midst of this funk today it hit me.

HOLY SHIT I HAVE PHOTO SHOOT TOMORROW!

For those of you who are new (Hi, welcome, glad you came), I recently started performing comedy shows. This new hobby fills me with joy, but as I’m the most amateurs of all amateurs, I’ve yet to get around to making headshots or bodyshots. These are semi-important for promotional materials, although I’ve just been getting away with sending bad selfies taken at the last minute.

Tomorrow, I’ve got to head up to Tokyo with a bunch of the Tokyo Women’s Comedy group to get our faces put on glossy paper by a fantastic camera guy, John. Which is great, necessary even, but my hair was shaggy as all hell. I hadn’t gone to my hair stylist in over a month because, ya know, winter vacation. I called up my hair salon and got the last booking for the day, thank God and Jesus and Mary.

I don’t know if anyone is aware of how amazing it is to get your hair cut in Japan, but it is beyond fantastic. I love that for only about $40 I can get a nice hair cut, shampoo, hair treatment, and then getting a scalp, neck, and shoulder massage before I get my hair dried. My hair salon also gives me candy and tea if I have to wait a long time.

This time I couldn’t go with my usual stylist, but this different girl (let’s call her Aya) was super nice. She talked with me about going to New York, and there she was taught by Cameron Diaz’s stylist! So I got my haircut by a person who was taught by a celebrity’s hair stylist, so I’m three degrees away from cool.

I actually will never tell my usual hairstylist, but my hair looked bangin’ after Aya was done. Also, when I mentioned I was thinking about plucking my eyebrows for tomorrow, she told me to wait a moment and got out an eyebrow trimmer from seemingly nowhere.

“Eh?!” I shouted in disbelief. “You do that here?” I said in bad Japanese.

“Yes,” she said in English, and then switched back to Japanese, “If only do the eyebrows, it’s usually 500 yen. If you do it with a haircut, it’s free.”

“I had no idea! That’s awesome. Please, yes, do it.”

And that’s the story of how, after two goddang years of going to this salon, I found out they did eyebrow work the entire time.

Sidenote: For those American ladies confused as to A) why I assumed they didn’t do eyebrow work and B) why on Earth would they use an eyebrow trimmer instead of waxing, it’s because in Japan hair salons are generally just for, well, hair. Also, even if they do eyebrows, they never use wax. You have to go to an actual spa for that service, and even then not as often as you might like.

So I left the salon feeling more pampered than expected, but my shoulders still felt stiff despite the best efforts of the trainee guy. As I was walking towards the direction of home, I realized of course my shoulders were tight, I’d been clicking and clacking away on my keyboard non-stop for a week. When I got to my train station, I remembered there was a cheap massage parlor the next floor up.

And from there, I decided the rest of this day would be about self-care. I went upstairs and reserved a time for a 40 minute massage, but needed to wait one hour. No problem at all, I just popped over to Tully’s Coffee for a Snow Man Latte, a nice sweet treat. I also stopped at the drug store for Biore face strips and bought face masks. Might as well do a home spa!

As you can probably tell, my forms of self-care are all easily affordable. I don’t really spend hundreds of dollars on myself, but when the mood strikes me I will put forth effort to care for myself in little ways. As it is the little things that get me down, it’s usually the little things that can pick me back up again.

My masseuse was a dude with a very nervous air about him. He tried speaking to me in English, which I appreciated, even if I’m fairly certain it was causing him several internal strokes trying to do basic words and phrases. Kudos for trying though! Luckily, for the 40 minutes, he mostly concentrated on trying to get the knots out of my shoulders, so we didn’t talk much. I am also fairly certain we went over 40 minutes, and I’m guessing that’s because no one came in during the entire time I was there to schedule an appointment, so yay for me!

After the haircut, the coffee break, and the massage I felt amazing. I honestly forgot what it felt like to be good to myself, and not just physically but even emotionally as well as mentally. I’ve been consistently harsh and critical of myself ever since November, telling myself that I should be better at nearly everything I’ve been doing: better at studying, better at applying, better at writing, better at vlogging, better at teaching, better at being this or that or the other.

As I’ve been home I took a long shower and I’m currently doing my face spa, I realized that I don’t need to keep beating myself up all the damn time. I can be good to myself, at least for this day. Tomorrow I’m sure I’ll start back up on wearing myself down, as my own worst enemy, but for the next little bit of time I have left today I want to remind myself that I’m worth the effort I’m putting into myself.

Hey, and you readers, be good to yourselves! We all need a little rest, relaxation, and self-care. You deserve it so let no one, not even you, say otherwise.

Posted in Blog/Vlog Announcements, YouTube Videos

Happy New Year!

Yep, I’m late to the party for that little salutations, but that’s how life goes don’t it? I took a much longer break than I intended, ended up having a really good time with friends old and new. I went to Christmas and New Year’s parties, I did comedy shows, I did a lot of various things.

Now as the new year begins, I find myself tied up in knots. It’s hiring season here in Japan, and I’m trying to get hired. I’m worried with only a couple months left that I might not find something, because I’m that person, the one everyone else expects will land on their feet just fine. Meanwhile, I’m nearly always certain I’m about to be a big failure.

And so, I work hard and I apply myself. I’ve posted resumes, I’m even working on a Japanese one at the moment, but it’s tough. There are always people out there with more experience, more education, or more connections than me. Not to mention, of course, many of those same people probably passed the JLPT long before I ever tried. It’s all I’m thinking about as I type, type, type away from this job site to the other.

However, I do still hope 2018 will bring good things. No matter what, I want to stay in Japan, in a country that I love and I consider home. I don’t have any plans to leave anytime soon. I do want to move, so hopefully I can procure a profession of some variety and then get somewhere closer to where the majority of my friends live.

So that’s my two resolutions I suppose: Get a job and move!

I’ll be letting you all know if and when I get around to accomplishing either of those. While you’re waiting, I’ve got a video for you to see! It’s catching everyone up on what I’ve been doing in more detail. I basically just talked the cheat sheet version, but if you’re interested, take a look and enjoy!

Posted in comedy show, LGBTQ in Japan, YouTube Videos

Comedy Shows!! December 9th and 15th

Hey all!

Doing some shameless self-promo here. I’m performing at two comedy shows this month with two different but equally beloved and important groups.

First up this Saturday is the “Out of the Closet Comedy Show!” I’ll be performing the “Snatch Game” with two other members. We’ll also be auctioning off items for Rainbow Railroad, an LGBTQIA+ organization that helps queer refugees.

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But that’s not all! I’ll also be performing with the Tokyo Women’s Comedy Club in “That’s What She Said IV: Christmas Cheer.” For this event, we will be auctioning items as well to go towards awareness and prevention of domestic violence.

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Please head on over to either event and watch me try to be funny. It’ll be a blast!

 

Posted in Japanese Langauge

Post-JLPT: Feels, Advice, and PANIC

Taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N2 meant a lot for me. Unlike previous years wherein I was just taking it for assessment of my language ability, this time it was a step I wanted to take in a different career direction. I’ve been a teacher in Japan for 6+ years and have really enjoyed it, but for all the enjoyment I know that I don’t want to be a teacher forever.

And so, in the video I talk about how I felt after the test (spoiler alert: not victorious) along with what I did in order to study for the test. Even though I’m certain I didn’t pass, I listed a few books here in the video that might help others pass the test (unlike me). Most of these books are easily found online, so I’m going to list them down below. It takes hours upon hours of studying, usually people who pass in one year on their first try have gone to a language school and studied 8 hours a day up until the test.

I’m not giving up, at all, I’ll re-take it again in July. Until then, I’m in a bind because without the N2 certification I can’t prove that I’m proficient enough in Japanese to do something else. If I could, I would turn back time and tell my JET self to quit fooling around and just study harder so I would’ve already passed the test by this point. For those of you in Japan and thinking about sticking around, GET ON IT! Or you’ll end up like me with t-minus four months to go with no certificate and no job prospects other than English teaching.

Use these to study:

Nihongo So-matome

Nihongo So-matome JLPT N2: Grammar - White Rabbit Japan Shop - 1

It describes itself as an 8 week study course to prep for the JLPT, but honestly you should study these way before 8 weeks so you can review all this information before the test again. They’ve got books for all the parts of the test: vocabulary, kanji, reading comprehension, listening, and for all levels N5-N1.

TRY! 日本語能力試験 N2 文法から伸ばす日本語 改訂版

Honestly, this is my new favorite Japanese study book. It puts all the vocabulary and kanji into understandable contexts and situations wherein you would find or use them. You can grasp the grammar lessons well since there is context as well as explanations for the grammar in English. This study book also has listening test in addition to the vocab and grammar you need.

Kanji Master

The Kanji Master is the one I studied the least and I regret it. It has the kanji practice for the kun (phonetics) but also does the all important hiragana to kanji and back again checks that will be so important on the tests. If you’re wanting to pass, get a hold of this book and go through all of it. I found it late, so I couldn’t take advantage of it like I wanted to, so don’t make my mistake.

Remember though, even if you study and study these books, it’s not enough. Read Japanese books, newspapers, watch dramas, make sure your Japanese immersion is coming to you through more interesting, and thus memorable, ways. Otherwise, you won’t retain this information, and you’re going to need it in your future job, not just for a test.

Anyways, I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’ll figure something out I’m sure. I’m worried, but I’m confident that I’ll find something so that I can stay in Japan. I have built a life here, and I don’t want to give it up just yet. I’ll be fine, it’s just hard to think that way after a small setback in the plans. But I’ll just keep going, and hopefully something will come around.