Over the course of 2 weeks, it has been an incredible journey sharing the voices of women throughout the Boston area in our "Why I Rise" Series. We hope that you will join us Friday February 14th in Copley Square at 5:00pm for an open mic, dancing and opportunity for people of all genders and backgronds to come together and Rise, saying, "enough, it's time for the violence to end."
Today's blog is by Simone Miles Esteves middle school teacher step mom, mom, sister, cousin, niece, wife, friend, human being. 3rd time participating in the Vagina Monologues.
That meme isn’t me all the time, but if I’m being totally honest, it’s definitely me once or twice a month. I’d also add that 10 of these problems are things I’ve brought upon myself… like writing this blog posting. Not that writing the post is a problem. It’s definitely an honor. But now I’m all stressed out about the language I choose and whether or not my message is clear. But I mean, is that really a problem? If you do that problem math, 99-86-10 = I’m actually very fortunate… damn near privileged. And that is why I rise… kinda.
My vagina, as a representation of my womanhood, has a couple of stories it could tell. When I think about some of the women I know and love, or experiences they’ve had that I’ve missed by sheer timing, circumstance or geography, I’m sometimes left wondering why I’m so fortunate, feeling angry at myself for not making a different choice or just appreciating the cards that have been in my hand thus far.
Memory (junior/senior year of high school): I had enough money for a cab, but we opted for the bus, getting off at different stops late at night after a poetry open mic at an all girls college. She was raped as she walked to her house from the T station. I walked home from my bus stop without a care in the world. Damn we should have taken a cab. But, hindsight changes nothing. I’m so sorry.
Memory (17 or 18 years old): She’s so tough! She don’t take no ish from nobody… except him apparently. I’d heard rumors that he’d hit her before, but the don’t take no ish from nodamnbody woman stayed with him and I’d never seen it, so I didn’t believe it. Maybe I couldn’t believe that anyone was able to victimize her? But then one day I was there and he was threatening her. I listened before I finally decided to say something. He got in my face and told me to mind my business. Seeing the fear in her posture was all it took for me to retreat. He didn’t actually hit her that day, but I believed it after that. I’ve never forgotten that at a time when I could have stood up for her in the same way that she’s stood up for me, I let him scare me. Damnit, we would have outnumbered him! And I think she would have defended me more than she defended herself.
Memory (the majority of my 20’s): The most valuable lessons I learned from this relationship were 1) what I will and will not accept from a man and 2) when a person, male or female, is bringing the ugly out of me and/or I am bringing up my own ugly to engage with the person, leave. It really isn’t worth it for either of us. One day I mentioned to my older brother that I gave the dude credit. My ugly got out of control on more than one occasion. I’d pushed all of this dude’s buttons and he never so much as laid a finger on me (Not that I would have accepted or justified it, but I understood that a different man with a different mindset may have). The response I got was “you didn’t push all of his buttons… and don’t go looking for that last one.” Nuff said. I revised my brother’s message to lesson #2 above, got my ugly under control and got out of that relationship.
Memory (age 28-present): I just knew this dude was a jerk but after a number of interactions with him though, I realized that I misunderstood his deadpan humor and that he was really quite charming! Something about the fact that his fitted cap sat inside of his giant afro with his beard hiding his face like a lumberjack… and the fact that his appearance was so contrary to his very conscious, socially just, creative and accomplished CV… umph! He was such a gentleman, so respectful, treated me like a queen, loved his sisters, his mama and his great grand-mamas!! I was smitten. I swore we found what everyone in the world was looking for. Inevitably, the honeymoon ended and I saw his humanity. Whew! That was rough. It wasn’t that he hadn’t shown me his authentic self before. He was still a respectful gentleman who supported me and encouraged me to do and be my best. The difference was that I acknowledged his flaws and struggles and recognized him as a complex human being rather than Prince Charming. He was just real and the real him is even better than the fairytale. Turns out we have found what many people in the world are looking for… real love.
So yeah, if you do that problem math, 99-86-10 = I’m actually very fortunate… damn near privileged. And that is why I rise… because I’m not just fortunate, I’m multifaceted and complex (hence, my reluctance to use this play on the Jay-Z lyric knowing I have a myriad of issues with him including his mysogynistic tendencies and the fact that I resent finding myself nodding my head to his music despite this understanding!). I’m an extension of all of the women and men that I love and care about. I’m rising for the women I mentioned in this post and others who stories are inherent in my participation in Vday and the Vagina Monologues. I’m rising for men like my husband, my brothers, my uncles and my friends who are given a bad rap by small broken people who use other people’s heart’s minds and bodies to compensate for feelings of weakness or powerlessness.
I’m rising for victims of violence and social injustice of any gender or any background because I’m fortunate enough to be able rise.