Author Archives: Arikia

About Arikia

Blogger | Technophile | Muse

#MeToo, but hopefully not the next generation

When I was experiencing the height of PTSD from all that I’ve been through (which I have not spoken about publicly and will not until I am ready), I reached out to a colleague at the Trauma Journalism Center at Columbia University for guidance. He told me something that changed my life forever and made me strive to regain control of my brain’s fear-response cycle: when journalists are too traumatized to do their work, it is effectively CENSORSHIP.

The hellscape that is the current state of online media is not unrelated to the trauma imposed on almost every woman working in this environment, in all environments. Men: realize that when you prioritize actualizing your own desires over respecting another person’s boundaries, you are not just hurting the other person, you are hurting yourself and the entire industry you’ve dedicated your life to serving.

Imagine for a moment, if you can, how different the body of human cultural remnants—our movies, journalism, art, and music—might look in the alternate reality where all the women who have suffered the trauma of abuse had simply not, because abusers had made the choice to simply not abuse.

I believe a good way to fight back against abuse is to do whatever you need to do to heal yourself, and then do the work you were meant to do despite the obstacles you were forced to endure because of the unfortunate way society is. Then change society through your creations so the next generation doesn’t have to go through what we did. I am trying every day.

Advertisements

Casual Predation

This essay was originally published on LadyBits on Medium. While I unfortunately can’t say that the conclusion of this essay is true for me anymore, I thought it timely to revisit this piece in light of the recent mass-exposure of the predators among us in the media industry, brought forth by so may brave women. May those pathetic creatures who are inclined to abuse find peace with themselves and the world such that they never have to mistreat anyone again.

1-gaK3I2zfzsTsQQ75hy6cZQ

To know a predator, you must know what it is to be prey

The other day while riding a Paris train, a man boarded my car and, out of all the empty places to sit, chose the seat directly facing me. He casually sprawled his legs open so that his lower thighs were sandwiching my rigidly-shut knees. My field of vision was filled with the bulge in his pants and gray chest hair draped in gold chains overflowing out of his way-too-unbuttoned shirt. And he just stared at me. When my eyes locked with his, I saw an expression so familiar that the hair on my arms stood up. It was a look that most men wouldn’t recognize, as they haven’t ever seen it and probably never will—the expression of someone looking at you as prey.

When a man picks you as prey, his eyes, which were dully scanning their surroundings, abruptly land on you and light up with intent. They linger abnormally long and intensify, beyond what would be normal if there was something unusual about your outfit or if he found you attractive. Sometimes the face relaxes, the eyebrows twitch or the corner of the mouth pulls upward into a smirk while the eyes remain hard, betraying the internal thought processes.

These thoughts are of pure consumption. They are based on the desire to possess — not your belongings, but one’s physical being. It is a drive to gain control over a person and render her powerless, thereby establishing the predator’s dominance and control in a world where he probably has very little. Women are persistently reminded of their physical vulnerability by male displays of sexual power—from gestures so discreet they make you question your own perception, to the ultimate act of consumption: physical violence. To avoid the latter, you must learn to recognize the former, and understand the intent of someone who is looking at you like that.

I am forced to acknowledge my vulnerability by strangers almost every single day while walking down the street in big cities. Most of the men who look at me like they want to eat me alive can’t do so because of practical considerations: witnesses, physical factors (I’m 5’10 and pack a significant bit of muscle), and the fear of repercussions. So instead, they just stare, gazing at me the way a wolf would eye a squirming bunny in a cage — so utterly tempting, but off-limits for now.

When you catch that gaze, you have some choices about what to do to ensure that you do not, in fact, become prey. They’re choices you shouldn’t have to be burdened with making, but that, in this world, they are impossible to avoid. You can alter your path, like I did when I got up and moved to the next train car. I had to go out of my way, but it took thirty seconds and then it was over. You can avert your eyes and look at the ground, both acknowledging your discomfort while at the same time refusing to participate in it further. But sometimes, this is where the game begins.

He might hold his gaze so intently that when you peek back up to see if he’s still watching you (and shit! he is, look away look away), a thrill shoots up his spine because he caught you checking. Now he knows that your inability to look up and examine your surroundings—your cowering stance—is because of him. He is controlling you, and you just got a bit leveled by a complete stranger. It interrupted your thought process, probably ruined your mood, and wasted your time. You didn’t authorize this; it was a violation, and the feelings these little violations instill in us—fear, frustration, anger, helplessness—accumulate over time to shape the way we live our lives.

If you’ve never experienced what it feels like to be someone’s prey, believe you me, it is fucking exhausting.

If you attempt to ignore the mind games of a predator, this is usually when the comments set in—an attempt to win the game by manipulating the air waves going into your ears. It follows this predictable format:

  1. A greeting: “Hey/hello/yo/hola/bonsoir baby/beautiful/gorgeous/sexy/mami/chica/mademoiselle/sugar tits/sweet lips.”
  2. A “compliment”: Some comment about your overall physical appearance that usually has nothing to do with the effort you put into your presentation. “You’d make great babies” is my recent fave.
  3. A call to action. Some request of what your predator would like you to do. One that scored major points for originality: “Get out of my head and into my van,” yelled out the window with a toot of the horn.
  4. An expression of desire. “I’d like to ___ you all over.”

The catcall that baffles me most is “God bless you” — uttered not the way a nun would say it or how one does after a sneeze, but while giving me the elevator and licking his lips. Once, after a guy told me I was looking sexy and I ignored him, he yelled after me that I was supposed to say “thank you.” I turned around and glared at him in disbelief, and he told me I was a bitch. That compliment I could accept from him. “Thank you,” I finally replied.

Sometimes I don’t have the will to engage in this mental combat while walking to the corner store on a Sunday afternoon, so I muster a fake, tight-lipped smile and nod my head with wide eyes, throwing them acknowledgement like I’d throw a dog a chicken bone if I didn’t want it to follow me. But sometimes a smile is just as risky as a middle finger, as it can be an unintentional invitation to the next level of interaction. It’s a lose-lose scenario.

When you complain about casual predation to guys, they usually laugh. They tell you not to let it get to you, and suggest ignoring the comments if you can’t handle a compliment. But the thing is, you can’t ignore it any more than you could ignore a bear approaching your campsite. You are evolutionarily programmed to pay attention to potential predators because sometimes they don’t stop at mind games and catcalls, as far too many of us know.

In my twenty-seven years on this planet, I’ve been stalked, followed home, threatened, attacked, hit, kicked, and groped by complete strangers. Two people have tried to abduct me, once by attempting to drag me into a dark alley and once by picking me up in a fake car-service car. A high school classmate tried to rape me, a UN peacekeeper tried to buy me, and at my own LadyBits launch party an old man put his hand on my knee, looked at me with that look, and said he might want to invest in me.

In all of those situations, I paid attention to the threats I perceived and I did what I had to do to get away, from screaming to pretending to be limp-noodle drunk, to jumping out of a moving vehicle, to engaging in physical combat. And you know what? I am fine. In fact, I’m better than fine—I am fucking lucky! I have my life, I’ve learned to love this thick skin I wear now, and I’ve learned how to protect it. And yeah, I have sought vengeance here and there.

1-x13ZO-B0yZa2_b_irOTE0A

So many women aren’t as lucky as me. What tends to happen to a person when she is shown she is vulnerable day after day is she begins to accept it, and this mentality follows her everywhere. When you’re prey, sometimes you stop being able to tell the difference between the life you choose because you want it, and the life that you settle for because the alternatives are too scary.

Personally, I refuse to compromise the way I live my life out of fear. Despite everything that’s happened to me (and almost happened, which I shudder to think about), I regularly walk alone at night. I have been traveling the world alone for the past six months, and I will continue to do so for six more. I’m single, and not really looking unless it really fits with my life. I walk down the street with my head held high and I look people in the eye when I pass them. And whenever I catch that predator eye, I send it back. I know it’s the lack of control in their lives that makes them act out in such desperation, and I refuse to give away an ounce of mine without good reason. Maybe this will get me in trouble some day, but until that day, I will be living my life.

And I’m not afraid.

Thanks to Quinn Norton.

I would like to add as a footnote, my gratitude to Dawn Alden, who was inspired by this piece enough to host a film competition about the predator/prey relationship as perceived by trans women. May beautiful creations continue to emerge from scorched earth.

Why trust is a must when working together – some reflections

I’ve never used the “reblog” function in WordPress before, but this is a good first. Written by someone I trust.

Social in silico

Next week I’m taking part in a panel discussion about the role of trust in communities at the Community Roundtable’s annual CRConnect event. Ahead of that I wanted to share a few reflections about trust.

Trust and vulnerability come hand in hand

Trust is ultimately about a willingness to make our vulnerability visible to another – and to believe that they won’t take that show of vulnerability and abuse it to hurt us. Vulnerability can take many forms from revealing a secret fear to a friend, to sharing key insights with a collaborator or admitting to a supervisor that we need more support.

The moment at which we take the plunge and share our vulnerability is always transitional – the next steps for the relationship hang in the balance until we receive a response from the person we’re sharing with. If our revelation is met with reassurance, care, and appropriate…

View original post 837 more words

Tourists VS Travelers

“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.” -Paul Bowles

I am on the road again, though it’s unclear if I have ever not been on the road or will ever leave it. I have never been a tourist. I was born a traveler, an expat, destined to be forever in motion until I am tethered to one place by biological obligations, at which point I am quite sure I will lose my mind.

(Apologies to any future offspring who may read this. I’m sure your existence will justify my stationary suffering, as I hope mine does my mother’s.)

Tourists take from their surroundings; travelers give a piece of themselves to the places that transform them.

Tourists come and go; travelers stay forever in the hearts of the people they touch.

Tourists leave messes to be cleaned up by others; travelers clean up after themselves.

Tourists penetrate, striking each landmark to check off boxes on their lists; travelers arrive at a new place open, allowing the new environment to naturally engulf them.

I throw myself at the mercy of the universe and allow myself to be moved by the tides of fortune, blown like a leaf in the wind from one welcoming pocket to the next.

To all the dear ones who have guided me on my journeys: I carry you with me always and am forever grateful.

“[A]nother important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.” -Paul Bowles

The horror of reality

To Arikia-

Haven’t written a poem in days

months years

In fact never wrote a poem

A poem by its nature is perfect

If perfection is not arrived at,

A poem it wasn’t

Process pulls you in a plethora of

possible ways

Bully ways, bullish ends

Ways and means committees

The song starts like that and not like

that

Too much coffee consumed,

Yesterday pizza pounding the temples

Of his body,

His recrimination

Against himself

Against interpretation

Who knows how harmonious

This can all get

Can it get wet

Can it stay dry

Is there a choice in the matter

I see there is a lot on your mind,

But is there anything in it?

I can’t imagine.

The horror of reality is

everpresent for those

who have eyes to see with.

-Umbrellicus Ginjericho Bizerko

The polar bear in the zoo

The polar bear in the zoo swims in a monotonous loop. Does the polar bear know what it would be doing if it wasn’t for the shortsighted nature of humans emboldened by power? Their noble attempts to improve the immediate for the few they love the fiercest create ripples of destruction they will never see until the waves go fully around the world and show up back at their doorstep, but even then they will not attribute the cause to themselves. Still the polar bear swims round and round in its artificial glass cube, busying itself with the next moment and nothing beyond. For if it looked into the future, a future of hundreds of thousands of loops of going exactly nowhere, it would perhaps give up and sink to the bottom of its tank.

But oh how grateful the polar bear should be to be alive! Thank your captors, you ungrateful little bastard. They have saved you. You would be nothing without them. Swim swim, and forget your nagging instincts that insist you were meant to be king of the arctic. Don’t be so crazy, polar bear. You live in a zoo so that’s obviously where you were meant to live. It’s nice that you like to dream about the life you might be living if you had more than 20 cubic feet to explore, but maybe it’s better you don’t think about that unobtainable reality. Just swim your little loops and be grateful for the air you are permitted to breathe, for now. If they think you might give up, they’ll do things to make you regret it. Be a good little slave, polar bear. Your existence is not your own.