Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Navel gazing is easy, when your belly button is this pristine.

By Anci CL

I'm in a starbucks, sipping on a foamy cappuccino, silently judging everyone around me. It's true: I judge what I can't relate to. (but luckily, due to the mixed bag that is my upbringing, i can relate to a whole hell of a lot.)
 Here I see women opening their mouths a little too widely when they laugh, or speak and it irritates me, and I don't want to fucking unpack the reasons why. I don't want to think about what anger they're trying to conceal-- I want to sit, and stew in my irritation, because dammit, it's comforting.

Growing up, my mom used to always call me out when I was laughing or smiling fakely. Because that's one thing Croatians don't do--pretend to be happy. And that goes for grocery store clerks, and cashiers. If you catch them on the wrong day, they will roll their eyes at you, as they weigh your potatoes, or your plastic bag of blitva.

it's okay to make this face once in a while. because sometimes it's too cold to crack a damn smile.

In a way, I prefer that. Because it somehow feels more human. Seeing women with hysterical, unconvincing grins  plastered to their faces always makes me shudder. Like, why not fucking say "i'm not in the mood for this shit? I don't want to sit here and laugh at your micro aggressions, and your sly digs, and your prying questions about my alcoholic son?"

When I was 12, my school put on a production of Li'l Abner. And naturally, most of the performers were terrible. (because they were 7th graders.) The lead however, was fantastic-- he was confident, and perhaps aberrantly mature in his stage presence. so my mom walked up to his mother and warmly related that "your son was the best." Another mother overheard, and decided to correct my mother's heartfelt praise, with a snippy "ALL the children were  equally great."
"Oh please," my mother smirked good naturedly. (If you've never heard of a good natured smirk, well.. then you haven't hung out with enough Slavic immigrants.)

You can't sell bullshit to a Croatian. Don't tell her all the children were equally good, when one was clearly better. It's not harsh, it's cultural. 

me, my sister my mother... several summers back.

I get up, order another cappuccino-- I sit back down on the computer, and i peruse old photos.

I stumble across the only picture I have with both my grandfathers. (Obviously, one lives in Mexico, one lived in Croatia.. so it was hard to get them in the same place.)

Looking at this picture though, their feelings toward me are so fucking clear. one grandfather is posing for the camera, while limply clutching one of my chubby baby legs. The other is gazing at me warmly, with both arms wrapped protectively around me. I wish I had known my grandpa Nikola better-- I wish the war hadn't separated us for six fucking years.

He came to live with us in Boston for an entire year, when I was a baby, just to spend time with his little American grand-daughter.

My mother says he adored me-- and I can see that by the way he beamed at me proudly in photos. I actually have a video clip of him, practically purring with happiness the first time I walked up stairs ALONE. "she's doing it herself!" he croons in Croatian.
Whenever I relive this moment onscreen, I am moved by his joy-- a departure from his usual stoic demeanor. (my sister inherited that from him by the way.) He was a man of few words, and he sometimes stuttered on the "ch" sound.
I know all of this from stories my mother tells me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Adolescent Development My... Self?

By Anci CL

One of the classes I took this past semester was of course, Child development-- which as a former child, ended up being quite helpful in processing a few things that have forever been circling my psychic drain.

You know, its funny the way children- particularly adolescents are routinely pathologized for displaying what amount to typical "growing-up" traits-- anxiety, discomfort, confusion, experimentation. And although we all go through those unflattering phases, it still makes society uncomfortable, when we see these tendencies displayed in the "youths" that we come across. Why? because stigmatizing angst in young people is an effective means of dismissing them.

Think about the most cutting thing you could call someone. Stumped? Try recalling what we compare any emotional person to, when we're trying to put them down?
A teenage girl.

Everything related to teenage girls is considered lesser-- from the way young adult fiction (meant for girls in particular) is deemed trashy, to the way the (developmentally sound) self-absorption that characterizes the ages of 11-21, is reviled. (Newsflash: self absorption is inescapable during those tumultuous years, and it's actually pretty healthy, because.. guess what? sustained internal reflection is kinda necessary for establishing identity.)

as is..apparently,  brooding before bookcases. (me age 16)

The point here is that all of that newly acquired awareness has manifested into the mentally modifying mechanicisms of a cerebral stool softener...  (if you dig enough you'll find a metaphor about relief, buried somewhere in there.)

This is namely due to the fact that for years, I have been carrying guilt for being "bad" when I was in high school-- bad in the sense that I was dramatic, insecure, underperforming, and impressionable. (none of that is code for drugs or sex, by the way. I actually am serious about that.)

But I did have a tragically warped body image, which consumed my daily life, and rendered all other moments, joys, and interests, comparatively empty. And guess what? It wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault because I was conditioned to feel like my worth was based on male approval, and at the age of 16 I was falling for that nasty narrative, faster than Lindsay Lohan fell of the wagon on that Oprah reality show.  (Man, I am nailing this metaphor thing.)

It wasn't my fault, because puberty and body development, are by definition traumatic. (which is something grown people tend to forget) And it wasn't my fault, because I didn't have any young role models to look up to, who looked, acted, sounded and thought like me-- (which was probably the key element of survival, I was missing.)

To be fair,  the reigning queens of celebrity at the time were Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, so... pretty much none of us had a chance.


But more importantly, I didn't know of anyone who had overcome or even experienced depression - because that wasn't something people talked about. And guess what the reigning emotion (or lack thereof) in my life wasBleak, unrelenting, mother effing depression.
Every single day of middle school and high school experience was brutal, and as it turns out, that stage in life is pretty equally brutal for most sensitive, intelligent young folk.  (Yes, you can feel mildly vindicated at the strong correlation between intelligence and depression-- which is a relationship that needs to be further explored, but isn't necessarily causal.)

Reading pages and pages of text on this period of time in life, however, has given me a more compassionate perspective, towards myself-- and all teenagers (particularly girls.)
It's easy (and lazy) to write off the youthful histrionics of an up-and-coming generation as the side effects of a spoiled, pampered upbringing... but it's more honest to interpret them as distressed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

That was a long, unannounced hiatus... (A listicle)

By Anci CL

Okay here's the deal guys, I was back in school, taking five classes, commuting over 2 hours every day, and well, I forgot about my blog a little.
But here I am on Christmas break ready to tear the world up with my feminist laser beams. (and radiant, unparallelled... personality.)

I'm not kidding. This is what happens when you look into a magnified mirror after one semester of barely-passable tweezing.

So in these past several months, I have been studying children's literature, child development, education, math, and art education...along with working in an Elementary school, in a place so rural and remote, its legally referred to as a village. (that's not a joke. Which you probably already gathered, because it's better than most jokes I make-- but that's because that shiz is legit.)

As you can imagine, this set up resulted in a series of hilarious quotable moments, which this disgraced blogger is eager to fall back on, in lieu of content. (Give me a break though--- i did  get a 4.0 gpa, which means i was pretty busy killing it academically...or...watching Netflix in my slanket, while hugging a cup of coffee for warmth.)

So here are my top five moments in the classroom this year: I know, i'm such a CHEATER:

5) When I obliged to the odd and adorable request: "Ms. Ana, will you take a picture of my shoes?"

4)The moment when one of my five year old's confidently approached me, about seven weeks into my student-teaching interim, and declared "I know who you are are, ms. Ana!" Me: "Who am I?" Her: "You're the librarian!"

3)When one of my students did this:
It says POOP.

2) When I brought five boxes of cupcakes to school, and one of my more precocious little blueberries came up to me asked "Ms. Ana, is that your lunch?" (Excuse me,  do I look like a sea-monster, capable of polishing forty pounds of processed faux-colate mix off? As always, the answer is: I look like a graceful hummingbird, thank you very much.)

1)The moment when one of my kids looked up at me and said "Ms. Ana, I know why you're here." Me: "Oh yeah, why?" Him: Because you don't want to be alone.

And a bonus number 1B
when I encountered a Zebra, on a way to my rural elementary school.... because that's all an economically depressed group of people needs... other than you know, dental care.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm back from Vacation!

 By Anči

Hey readers, so as you may or may not know,  I "just" (as in two weeks ago) got back from a five week seaside vacation in Croatia-- which was pretty freaking awesome, for many (feminist, and non-feminist) reasons.

Between views like these:

hey its me!

Beaches like this:

and food like this:

I can't say i'm super thrilled to be back:

 Part of the reason I enjoyed my vacation so much, aside from getting to relax by the sea every day is that I made (and followed through with) my commitment to get fit (which is a challenge I plan on meeting, for the rest of my life--  along with dedicating a new section of my blog, (tentatively titled "Fitness and Feminism") to that very kick-ass process.)

Because getting healthy and fit-- is a worthy feminist goal, when at its core it about honoring your body, mind, and health.
 More than that though, real fitness (and no, I'm not taking the Shape Magazine version) also happens to be a tenet of basic self care, which comprises a whole host of healthful habits-- from beauty routines, to nutrition, to emotional well being.
And believe me when I say that five weeks on an Adriatic island proved a pretty ideal environment for soul searching, and general battery recharging. (which is where the semi-non-feminist portion of this essay comes in, because I know that not everyone has the means or privilege to go away to Europe for five weeks. So bear with me while I excitedly rave a bit.. keeping in mind that this was... ya know, first and foremost a long awaited trip home-- and not some luxury-spa-resort-type deal. [Which I could neither afford, nor care to take part in.])

So for me specifically, this vacation represented a welcome return to the basics-- healthy food, sunshine, hiking, and swimming. (the last of which, as a frosty Ohio dweller, I'll have to eventually trade in for stickier, more upsetting fare-- AKA our apartment complex gym)

Anyway, the end result proved much more powerful than the mere effects of a tan and a slimmer physique. (though I can't say I minded either of those outcomes.) Because what I ended up appreciating the most, is how fast, and agile I've become in my daily life. I can run, walk, swim, bike for long periods of time-- without losing my breath. That's a freaking amazing feeling for any able-bodied person. On top of that, roaming the hilly Dalmatian coast also afforded me much-needed bonding with the natural world - (which Dalmatia has plenty of-- from fields of lavender, to.. well just take a look)

I've also learned something about prioritizing-- which is to say that exercise is a choice I need to make every day-- even if it means, cutting into social activities, or (sob) new seasons of orange is the New Black. (Can you believe I still haven't started Season 2?) 

Anyway, now that I'm back I've channeled this renewal into daily workouts, and a new focus on self care...including making time to read, write... and occasionally apply one of those cheap charcoal face masks from the moral vacuum known as Walmart.

Which by the way, should be the takeaway here... I've been back in the states for two weeks, and I've already been to Walmart.

I know, Mindy.

*all non-moving pictures in this post belong to me.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Turns Out Our National Weight-Loss Obsession Wasn't About Health At All! (Who Knew?)

 By Anči

So after years and years, of exploiting a publicly-sanctioned focus on "health" in order to (I dunno,"scientifically?") justify an aggressive campaign of body shaming, Shape Magazine has finally made a fatal misstep--and effectively unmasked its true horned visage...as that of (yet another) unabashed agent of the male gaze. (Surprise, surprise!) Which by the way is also funny, since I'm pretty the magazine is run by actual male gays. 

So, for those of you who aren't as familiar with Shape as I am, (probably because we don't frequent the same medical buildings,) it's a magazine that purports to celebrate um, "fitness," and "female empowerment" (while exclusively featuring the boner-worthiest images of "well-being")

And Isn't it funny how fitness always seems to coincide with dude nation's current pornification agenda?
Not to mention how this pattern continues to go unnoticed, cause see, fitness is one of those magical coded terms that can easily be manipulated into appropriateness, while signifying something far more troubling and sinister.  After all, it literally means like, glowing and robust. (neither of which terms came to mind, when I saw LeAnn Rhimes on a recent-ish Shape magazine cover...)

"I'm this much fitness!"

You feeling me, readers? Most of the time, these healthy living magazines aren't as interested in advocating healthy living, as ...airbrushing abs onto hot bodies.

I can feel my blood-pressure hitting its target level already!

No one is quite as aware of this insidious hypocrisy as Brooke Birmingham-- who after undergoing (a medically justified) 170-pound weight loss, is now the picture of radiant health.

If your first thought was to gawk at her stomach, let me remind you this woman did something that millions of Americans struggle to do every day-- lose 170 pounds. She's a freaking superhero. (If you don't believe me, just try losing five pounds. I do all the time, and it's the absolute fucking worst. (Because chocolate is delicious, and running is fucking boring. Not to mention that self-sabotage can feel weirdly comforting, when you have questionable self esteem as well as an ice-box full of cheese. )

Anyway, due to her extreme weight loss, Brooke was slated to appear in Shape, as one of their featured inspirational weight loss stories-- so naturally they requested a picture of her new body to showcase in the issue... at which point shit got seriously lookist, and creepy.
Cause once Brooke provided the (above) photo of herself, the sassy sisterhood at Shape turned an even ghastlier shade of pale... (get it? cause they're probably all-white over there?)  before mumbling something to the effect of  "erm, actually, could you send us a picture with your shirt on? Not that there's anything wrong with your body--it's just that there's this new pro-shirt policy we implemented literally two seconds after we received the attached snapshot of your weird loose skin."

Of course Brooke knew  the "policy" was bullshit, and publicly outed the magazine for their incredibly degrading, shitty behavior*.... which shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone, because hello:

Which brings me to my final point: Weight loss campaigns and hardly ever about genuine concern for the overweight-- If anything, they are an excuse to bully women into submitting to the patriarchal demand for appropriate fuckability. If not, then Brooke's body would not have been deemed problematic to display in a piece about healthy body transformations.

Get it?

*after being publicly shamed, the magazine changed its mind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Not Bragging, It's Resisting! (A Memo)

By Anči

Psst, guys! Complaining about cat-calling ISN'T tantamount to bragging about how "attractive" I am.
 (cause of all things I have to be proud of, why would my alleged fuckability-- which by the way is entirely dependent on the whims of a handful of sexist creeps-- make the cut? Duh.)

Not to mention, that I have no problem talking about how hot I am, without the aggressive promptings of a balding passer-by.  Don't believe me?  Here goes:  I'm a sexy bitch, with rosy apple cheeks, and the breasts of a young boy. (see? Easy.)

So yeah, I don't eagerly wait around for a bro to whistle at me in order to "finally" get the "opportunity" to let y'all know about how flyyyy I must be.  I can do that much more effectively, by.. simply posting a selfie, or straight up saying "daaamn I look good."

mexican magic

 But that brings me to something I've struggled with for a long time-- the momentary self-consciousness that arises whenever I choose to draw attention to predatory behavior. Sure, it never lasts long enough to deter me from speaking out, but it does give me pause. Because, regardless of how confident I am in my own convictions,  I still painfully aware of how needlessly vigilant society can be about keeping our lady egos in check. And I'm also aware that any feminine display of self-importance is instantly regarded with a kind of hostility rarely afforded to comparably confident men..
Of course the irony here is, that being catcalled has NEVER actually made me feel confident-- if anything, it's only served to strengthen the tedious constraints invoked in this aforementioned brand of know-your-place backlash. Get it? Catcalling puts us in our place,  while speaking out elevates us. Hence, speaking out must also be turned into a punishable offense. (anything to silence the uppity bitches right?  Like, "be grateful men want to fuck you, and stop pretending to be offended.")
And because I sense that some people still aren't buying what I'm selling, i'll put it in very plain vulgar terms:

The thing I deal with, when I talk about being cat-called is a strange man-- usually  middle aged, fat, and sweaty-- going out of his way TO LET ME KNOW not only that he would like to fuck me, but that he derives pleasure from my visible anxiety and discomfort at his unwelcome presence. (Sexy stuff, right? Makes a girl feel like a million bucks... NOT.)
Can I get this made into a shirt?

 Because getting approval from gross-looking, Panera middle-managers named Chet does NOTHING for a self-respecting broad like me, maybe it's time y'all stop flipping my harassment narratives into one of forced-self empowerment. (cause like I said, I only have to post a selfie to feel smug and sexy.)

And that's not to diss (both) women who do (inexplicably) happen to thrive on street-side creep attention.
Like, if that kind of dynamic conjures up feelings of pride and confidence in you-- then, you're very lucky because you happen to live in a world that's tailor-made for your ego. But if you're anything like me, or pretty much any other living woman, you'll quickly recognize this phenomenon for the intimidation shit-show it really is... and hopefully, turn that anger into feminism.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On body confidence

 By Anči

So I've been getting a lot of messages from friends and readers seeking advice about body image, and self-esteem... which I suspect has something to do with the dreaded advent of "Bikini Season" panic being shoved down our collective throats. (patriarchy loves coming up with new ways to shove shit down protesting feminine windpipes, eh?)

And because I'm neither famous nor unbearably in demand these days, or actually ever (though I've heard that's not something you're supposed to advertise? Oh well my wasp points were in the negatives  anyway..) I always take the time to answer each and every query...utilizing my exhaustive scope of registered empathy-for-hire, (which for a highly sensitive person like myself, tends toward the dramatic.)
Anyway... this compulsion naturally makes for an colorful communion of exchanges, with other women...which I fervently cherish, (as an introvert, inexplicably fitted with an extrovert's connective tissue. But we can analyze that anomaly some other time...)
But, because the letters I get are also very similar in theme,  I do end up repeating myself quite a bit... so I thought I'd tackle the crux of this body image issue in one sweeping, verbose motion. (with plenty of room for future follow ups in my inbox!)

So... I'm sure you've all heard the feminist saying by now, though it certainly bears worth repeating: "How do you get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body." Succinct, and brilliant, eh?

Though yes I know, no punchy adage can undo decades of sexist conditioning, but it does make for a promising start, when the only alternative involves some degree of self-loathing.

Moreover how are self-described "bigger" women reasonably supposed to feel confident about themselves, when they're surrounded by representations of conventionally fit bodies?

First of all, take a breath, ladies. What I'm about to tell you, won't magically evaporate all your insecurities away-- but it should  give you the mindful skill-set necessary to debunk any abusive  self-talk.
So, whether or not you believe me, you.are.fucking.sexy. Yes you are. I am talking specifically to YOU right now, nobody else. (so don't over think this.) You are sexy, and it's your feminine birthright to own the crap out of that blessed certainty, with as much dissident daring as you can muster. 

I get it: it's a scary burden to shoulder-- after all, we're taught that beauty comes with a terrific responsibility to impress or 'deliver'-- but girl, you don't owe nobody shit. You don't owe anyone your time, your attention, or your respect-- just like you don't depend on anyone else's! Why? Because the miraculous fact remains that you deserve to take up space-- as much space as is required to comfortably accommodate each luxurious layer of flesh adorning your abundance.

And your abundance is damn sexy. From the alluring shimmer in your thigh which creases and crescendos every time you hop up and down, to the ripple that embraces your abdomen, with its notoriously demanding volume, every time you sit down or bend over. More than that, it's magnified by a  lover relishing in the generous expanse of your sinewy bounty, and then again by a child seeking comfort in your welcoming lap, (because nobody else's will do!) And girl, you radiate resplendence just by knowing  how freaking gorgeous you are--and not letting anyone-- anyone convince you otherwise. Because the second you give in to self-destructive habits, disordered eating, or similarly punishing behavior, your glory starts to shrink and diminish. And nobody is worth sacrificing that.

So ask me again how to reconcile the pressures of bikini season with the fickle immensity of self love. Or better yet, give yourself a giant fucking hug...
Remember, it's not for nothing you are somebody's source of comfort, and it's not for nothing that you're somebody's wild wellspring of unrestrained gropey passion. (that's the ardor your body inspires! And that's also the only narrative you should be internalizing... as long you never post any pictures. There is such a thing as too much luminosity see, and the corresponding cut-off wattage is generally heralded by the unscheduled appearance of its purveyor's pubes. ) Now.. ladies, carry that certainty with you-- store it in the softest corner of your gut-- until it unravels into a brilliant outpouring of warmth and self-acceptance.
Believe me, this will lessen the impact of the hoards of skinny bitches, paraded unceremoniously into your criminally violated consciousness... and will hopefully help ground you to a much more ancient fountain of feminine power. The first power. The one that you draw your esteem from.
Cause anything else is a manufactured mirage, cynically imbued into an elaborate reservoir of consumerist self doubt and guys? its foundation have begun to crumble.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I'm a feminist blogger... now what?

 By Anči

So... it's been an interesting month in feminism: what with Moroccan women marching for gender equality, Transgender women being unfairly targeted, and women's reproductive health remaining under constant fire. (Oh and that hilarious time bell hooks called Beyonce a terrorist)

All of this makes for great material when you have a feminist blog to update, but most of the times it just leaves this bitch feeling bloated.
 It's true, I'm "lucky" I never have to click too far for a juicy tidbit to exploit, and snark into oblivion...  But more often than not these days, I've been looking inwards for inspiration instead. Because well, to confront every instance of rape culture, transmisogyny, and injustice, would be to... undermine this light, fluffy tone I've stubbornly fought to preserve. (and to do that, would be to metaphorically massacre a litter of chinchilla-kitty hybrids.)

And fluff does make the bullshit a bit more digestable--as my entire third grade class learned, the day we watched Pocahontas Junior devour her entire litter of premature pups.
We never had a classroom pet after that. And as for me, well... I didn't get my period for another ten years...

 So. Anyway. When this blog was first conceived, (by a feminist free spirit named Leili,) the goal was to explore themes of women and worth-- specifically, what is it that makes women today feel so damn shitty about themselves? It's a pretty daunting question, when you consider all the factors involved-- like class, race, ability, sexuality, experience, etc...
 but that's what makes it such a rich subject matter to devote an entire blog to-- the fact that the answers are so complex, they're seemingly endless! I know this can make me feel like a wee kiddie, surveying the bountiful contents of a pastry case.. But that also comes with a certain set of responsibilities. (That is, if I want to be taken seriously, as a Professional Patriarchy-Pulverizer.) So yes, it means spending time writing about issues I don't necessarily feel like investing myself in. And frankly, that's not a tendency that comes naturally to a sensitive blogger like me. Because writing about rape makes me cringe, and talking about racism in grandiose academic tones, means falling asleep on my keyboard, I'd much rather expose injustices on a smaller, sassier scale. (with gifs!)

That can mean providing personal anecdotes, sharing observations, or making fun of pop culture... and guys? it doesn't make the effect any less hard hitting, because luckily, there's no wrong way to erode at  white supremacy and patriarchy. Even when that includes the occasional unsolicited reference to my lady parts..


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bosnia, my heart.

 By Anči

A lot of people don't know this (because they are neither my therapist or the unlucky few people I relentlessly badger with my dreamscape) but I dream about Bosnia all the time.

I fell in love with the country when I visited for the first time in 2008, and then a year later when I went back,  I fell in love with a boy-- and  then I ran away from the boy, because I was afraid he was too young for me. (he was about to turn 18... and since I was approaching 22,  I felt weirdly responsible and guilty for my all-encompassing emotions and um, lust. Plus, I wasn't sure if sleeping with him was strictly legal--and well, I wouldn't be a feminist if age of consent didn't heavily factor into all of my decisions. So long story short,  I cut and run before doing something that might get me arrested, or simply side-eyed from the town elders. Ever been side-eyed by a mole-ridden Balkan ancient? That shit is scary.)

Anyway it's in large part because of that boy, and what I left behind, that Bosnia for me  represents an epic chapter of loss in my life. I also suspect that much of this heartache is further bolstered by the legacy of tragedy and frankly, land mines which permeate the area. Which yes, makes me feel like a total fucking tourist whenever  I conflate this in any way with my own predictable heartbreak. But here I am.. owning that my story remains cheaply embedded in an unfounded marriage of unrelated afflictions...  and ask you to cut me some slack once you realize that its a weight I still carry around with me at night.

For me, Bosnia represents senseless loss-- (on a historical, and personal level.) And maybe if I write it down, this familiar, entitled, regret I've successfully banished into subconsciousness, will abate into something less problematic and more well, honest.

So since we're being honest, I suppose that referring to myself as a tourist, is not entirely accurate-- given that I am also Croatian, and that we're hardly regarded as out-of-towners. It's not just because we all used to be one nation, and that we speak the same language. (although my Dalmatian accent was definitely super hilarious to all my Bosnian buddies.) It's more to do with a common survivalist spirit.. which ultimately transcends whatever the politics of the whole thing are. And because Americans are prone to oversimplifying things, and (worst of all) ascribing inspirational sappy endings to these types of anecdotes, I won't dwell too much on that bit.  I mean, did I experience Croatophobic backlash over there? Only in the city ridiculously known as the "muti-ethnic" haven, Brcko. (you know there's some serious compensating going on, when a city spends all its resources pushing the multi-ethnic angle. Give it a rest, won't ya?)

I do however want to make it absolutely clear that the Muslim city of Gracanica only ever regarded my Croatian self with the most absolute, loving warmth. (not that I ever expected any less.) It was in this city, that I fell head over-heels with an on-the-cusp of 18 waaay-ripped bro-- with like, the arms of a centaur wrestler. (I love me some strong arms..) and it was there, that through some previously-untapped reservoir of will-power, (which continues to elude me around lesser temptations like chocolate,)  I commanded myself to keep away from him. It was also in Gracanica that I met Zina, the strongest, bravest woman I have ever known. (I spent a month or so living with her, after a shit-storm in Brcko virtually forced me out. We won't go there though.)
What can I say about Zina that would do this badass mama of two justice? For starters, Zina survived the war by making and selling caramels to her sweet-starved neighbors, and by growing vegetables in her garden. She spent most of those days in hiding from the vicious shelling that besieged her neighborhood, while her husband fought in the army.  And when in the midst of the aggression,  a Serb mother and her two children appeared at her door begging for refuge, Zina gave it to them.  [though understandably she refused subsequent entry to their father-- who followed a day later,  dressed in the uniform of her oppressors. "Women and children only" she maintained unflinchingly to the armed man standing in her doorway. He didn't hurt her though-- as she was currently sheltering his wife and kids.]
As though that weren't enough, Zina works with mentally ill orphans, and homeless people, at an organization where I got to spend a month volunteering.. And as per usual this grueling adventure came on the heels of my paralyzing decision to keep away from the boy I wanted...making for the most viscerally shattering four weeks of my life...

See kids, the thing about working with orphans, is that it has very little of the Angelina Jolie glamor many people have come to expect of the "genre." It doesn't make you a "better" person.  Like, I didn't become better when a 13 year old parent-less child named Dzevad, broke down and called me "kurvo!" (whore!) because he was frustrated and embarrassed at not being able to read. "I know you know this letter," I remember insisting to the yellow hair boy who had now thrown himself into  my lap.
"It's a D!" he shrieked wildly.
"It's not a D!"
"It's a B then!"
"Dzevad, it's the first letter of your name!"
"I don't know!"
"I don't know that one!"
"You knew it yesterday?"
"Stop it! Or i'll stab myself with this pencil! I swear I will!"

The funny thing was, that a news crew came later that day to film our lessons for some European TV station--  (which was apparently important enough to compel one of the higher-ups from the center to come down and threaten all the children into behaving.) And by the time the cameras arrived, I was full-on irritated with the fakery.  I guess I just felt like the work we were doing was deserving of attention, without all the sanitizing fanfare.  I also felt a little bit like a Kardashian, practicing my teacher-voice in between takes-- which let me tell you, is a particularly unforgiveable brand of humiliation to visit on this self-respecting young woman. (not cool guys!)
I mean, all I know is I spent the entire segment alternating between demonstrations of overly-directed gesturing (aimed towards the cameras, and obediently received by my mercifully cooperative kids)  and offering up giddy praise at the squiggly lines the children had written down for me to "grade" in the full view of this news team... all for the benefit of some phantom European audience, who literally didn't give two shits about Dzevad or anyone else.

What the cameras didn't catch was Sladjan the 13 year old Serb boy jealously demanding attention from me every time I dealt with one of Dzevad's tantrums. (And vice versa) They never caught the few genuinely touching moments when our entire classroom (even restless Dzevad) listened in wide-eyed appreciation, as Sladjan performed Serbian folk songs for us-- in a cracked falsetto, which would eventually dissolve into hysterical sobbing.
"I miss my mother," he'd weep. The first time this happened the other teacher I worked with took me aside and said "He's lying. He's never met his mother."

I wanted to tell this woman that it didn't mean that he was lying. But I shrugged instead and mumbled "yes, kids exaggerate."
 From across the room I felt Sladjan shoot me a look, but when I guiltily rushed to return it, he had moved on to something else.
"I'll be more patient with them from now on," I decided.

I came back to town that day, and started thinking about my crush-- who i'd temporarily forgotten in the midst of all the volunteering drama. And as I made my way through the town center, I became increasingly aware of how much I wanted to call him, and say "fuck it," lets spend the rest of the month together...I mean shit, why not?
What if we got like, a room or something? What if I apologized to him, and explained i'd been keeping my distance out of confusion and fear... and what if we spent my last four weeks here wrapped up in each other? I mean, people have flings rooted in a hell of a lot less chemistry right?
By the time I decided to call him, I had made it back to Zina's home and I suddenly felt ashamed of myself, as I caught her friendly silhouette in the doorway.
"How was your day?" she asked, as I barged into the hallway.
"Well, nobody peed themselves this time," I muttered in response. She laughed and said "You need to eat something."
"Later," I promised.

I went upstairs, and opened the window in my room-- the beginnings of September had gently begun to envelop the view before me. I inhaled the evening air, resenting the light fog which had settled into the surrounding greenery.  Where did the summer go?  Instinctively I reached for my journal, opening it up to June 18th--  "I saw him for the first time today!"
I skipped ahead a couple pages, landing in early July, where i'd eagerly scribbled "He kissed me." Then I flipped through several months worth of musings "what does it mean if you haven't had any sex, but you haven't gotten your period in two months? ASK DOCTOR." (spoiler alert: I never asked a doctor)  past all the blank pages where I had childishly written his name down, past my illegible recounts of police intimidation (oh yes, I spent plenty of time shuttled in between police stations-- did I mention my reasons for leaving Brcko included a metaphoric shit storm?) and past the corner where i'd weakly penned "Food poisoning in Tuzla. Threw up five times. I want mama."

Years later I am suddenly aware of a number of things: First of all, that I was fucking brave. I traveled across this unknown country all by myself-- on rickety-ass buses (which occasionally got pulled over during routine inspections for  land mines,) I was harassed by police-- all of whom I calmly confronted in fluent Bosnian-- and I worked with special needs orphans in the shoddiest of conditions with very little training and preparation. Frankly, this makes me kinda badass..ya know, barring the pathetic nature of my infatuation with a teenager. (which, did I mention was thoroughly mutual?)  but I'm even starting to re-evaluate that embarrassment thanks to some previously-unknown generosity.. towards myself.
Because here was the kicker-- it wasn't only this boy's age that stood in my way. (although it made for a damn self-righteous excuse, at the time) It was that for the first time, somebody I was head over heels for, was also head over heels for me. See in the past all of my intense crushes had been strictly one-sided, and while I had always hoped this dynamic would shift, I freaked out when it finally did for me. Because based on my experiences-- as the weird foreign girl with a stutter, growing up in suburban Ohio-- life wasn't supposed to play out like this! I NEVER got the golden guy, the popular guy-- and suddenly (whether because of my newcomer status, or the four years I had on him) I was wanted-- badly. And I didn't know how to reconcile that with two decades worth of unchallenged notions about my romantic value. (which for most of life had remained at a cruel, but comfortable ZERO.)

So maybe if I write it down I will forgive myself for coldly ditching someone I not only felt incredible warmth and love toward, but who was a good, solid, guy, with yummy shoulder muscles.)
It's been haunting me for years, and now I'm ready to look back at myself... and say "Shit girl, you fell for someone, and couldn't handle it. It happens!"

Yeah but I wish I would have happened with somebody else-- I wish I had let myself enjoy what could have been a beautiful few months... (in between barfing on buses, and stubbornly defending my heritage to semi-sadistic police officers named Semir.)
Instead I boarded a bus to Sarajevo, and left without saying goodbye.. even after waiting an entire year between visits to see this guy, and even after the many tender moments we'd shared together in the park... which I think i'll keep locked in my journal.
I just couldn't bring myself to address any of it-- how could I? How could I tell him "I am super super into you, but I am also super hung up with insecurities... but like can we talk about that after we make out? Cause your arms are doing it for me." (the funny thing is, that if that sexy mess had happened right now--like, starring me, at this age? That would totally have been what I would have said to him. If only I had discovered the  disarming effect that my awkward admissions have on (some) people..  I would have had a much easier time relating, ya know?
(moral of the story kids: stop pretending to be what you aren't, and freaking embrace who you are-- cause that shit is hot on its own!)
 Now several months shy of 27, floods have swallowed the entire region-- in an near cinematic call back to the devastation of the 90s. And right now most of Bosnia is underwater, (including Brcko the "multi-ethnic haven" which currently remains submerged  in the failings of its own shoddy infrastructure.. oh and water. Lots of water. ) Mercifully, my Gracanica has avoided such a dramatic fate... with the water levels finally receding to a semi-manageable level. And with the electricity flickering back, it seems like life there is ready to go on.
But for me, Gracanica remains a kind of purgatory-- that I'm cursed to wander in the night time in search of my lost friend.. In search of a moment in time, when I was both exceptionally brave, and exceptionally lacking in courage.

 But now, the waters have both drowned out and revealed the fragmented fragility of  history-- along with the many houses and villages, and lifetimes it perilously sustained. And with the ensuing upheaval, the floods have perhaps endowed a collective humanity, and forgiveness to the struggling region. And yeah, it makes me want to say something super American and lame like,  "In the tragedy, and in the devastation, perhaps there is a renewal to be found--  a renewal to engulf the pettiness, and the bitterness, and the poverty." But maybe that's not the case. Maybe it's pure shit all around, with nary an upside to parse out. Maybe what Bosnia represents for me is really fucking inconsequential in the light of this emergency, even as it continues to weigh heavily on me-- as a big fucking deal, and maybe I need to simply acknowledge it, before letting it go. (Also fuck Frozen for ruining that phrase!)

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

For My Mother

 By Anči

As a baby whenever I would start crying because my mama had to leave, her response would always be to gently sit me down and ask: "sta treba imati u zivotu?"  what does one need to posses in life?) I wouldn't always reply immediately-- in fact, i'd often take my sweet time getting my shit together, before conceding with a murmur: "Muda." (balls.) That's right, from the age of infancy, mama taught me that I needed to harness my (metaphoric) balls, and persevere-- because sometimes life was hard-- even for a baby.

Anyway without fail, the moment I'd say "muda" (however reluctantly) something would shift inside me, and I'd feel brave enough to let my mother go. (it was something of a verbal security blanket, but it always had the same effect affect on me, according to my parents...)

To this day, my mom is still a big source of my strength. Which sounds totally cheesy, except that as I type the words, I really mean them. She's the one person in the world who's able to call me out on my bullshit, while simultaneously serving up some seriously life-altering wisdom in the process. (it's a distinctly dissonant experience-- further complicated by the ensuing rush of... awed annoyance. Have any of you ever experienced awed annoyance? No? Imagine the person you've projected all your adolescent angst on, steadily commanding your admiration and respect. (through a ridiculously unparalleled intellect.--Like, she's scary smart--, passionate curiosity, and strength of character.) Then imagine, momentarily seeking refuge in your highschool-honed cynicism in order to deflect from that, (because a part of you is always going to be a little defiant around your parents.) Then throw in some gratitude, and factor in 26 years of solid guidance, and love-- always delivered in the form of WITTY zingers. (Because my mama is freaking FUNNY.) That's what awed annoyance feels like, and that's what my mama makes me feel every day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Once Upon A Gay-- in which I eviscerate the SwanQueen Naysers, and celebrate lady love!

By Anči

For those of you not invested in LGBT representation in TV and pop culture (which, if you're not, you should be!) the concept of Queer Baiting might be foreign to you. But for the rest of us, who love television, pop culture, and gays, this phenomenon represents a tired game of bait-and-switch we've been forced to relive week after week, one disappointing episode of will-they-won't-they, at a time.
"You smell like Head and Shoulders shampoo"
So yeah,  queer baiting is a tactic used by fan-favorite TV shows, wherein a homosexual relationship between two characters is strongly implied, but never acknowledged or played out. (Like straight love affairs always are.)  That way show-runners keep their gay viewers on their toes-- by offering up homoerotic crumbs for them to eagerly lap up, without ever committing to that particular line of storytelling. Its a cowardly way of taking LGBT viewers for granted, and a risky one at that-- especially for a campy costume drama, that relies on its LGBT audience for survival.

One such (infuriating) example, is the Fairy Tale drama "Once Upon a Time," which despite its many shortcomings, continues to make up one of my favorite hours of television every week. In this particular series, the two would-be-gay characters are Emma Swan, and The Evil Queen Regina-- who are so flaming hot together,  their touch LITERALLY creates sparks.

And without giving too much boring detail, (most of which functions as a convenient stand-in for "technical" reasons NOT to make our two leading ladies a lesbian couple,") the two characters  Emma, and the Evil Queen Regina, share passionate glances, as well as a son named Henry.
Emma is Henry's birth mom, and Regina is his adoptive mom. All caught up now?
That's right, their kid has two mommies, whose magic powers are inexplicably intertwined, in a totally friendly way...

Originally, the star-crossed characters were positioned to be mortal enemies-  As the evil Queen was responsible for a curse that stole all the fairytale character's happy endings, while Emma, was the savior that (sort of) brought their happy endings back. But as the series went on, this femme-tastic duo learned to work together, and take down far more nefarious forces threatening their little family--often relying on their magical connection, in the process. (Incidentally, the two of them are at their best, when fighting for their son..)

should we... give it a shot? For the sake of uh, the boy?
Bitch, the show runners clearly want us to be straight!
God, you're beautiful

I'm not the first one to say this-- in fact, there's a HUUUGE community of SwanQueen shippers (that is, fans of the show who "ship" [short for relationship] Emma Swan and Queen Regina, for the exact reasons I listed.) And while the show keeps offering us sexy screenshots like the ones above, it never dares to acknowledge the obvious sexual, and romantic tension between the two young mothers who clearly love each other, and their son as much as any opposite-sex parents would.

It makes for pretty frustrating viewing, when you're invested in the happy endings of two very flawed, very broken characters, who have true love and happiness at their finger tips, but who continue getting paired with growly-voiced dudes (neither of whom do either woman justice... I mean are there any fans of the show who REALLY think Robin Hood is any match for the Evil Queen? Please. Like that wandering muggle could handle all this Latina sexiness!)
I'm too much mujer for a Waspy golden boy like Robin Hood

Aaand that just made me realize something-- Emma is officially being paired with Captain Hook, and Regina with Robin Hood.. Hook, Hood-- its like they've even coordinated their respective beards!!

Understandably there's been so much backlash from the Swan Queen Shipping community, after years of being let down and overlooked, that show runners, and actors have been finally forced to address this particular pink elephant in the room. And predictably, their responses have all amounted to some form of "deny gay deny gay deny gay!"
 But most unsettling of all, was the the icy beat down from Imp-faced actress Ginnifer Goodwin (who someone clearly very drunk decided to cast as Snow White.)
Princess Fiona from Shrek is that you?

Yes, the decidedly unfairest of the cast, recently tweeted then deleted that Emma would never be paired up with Regina, because Once Upon a Time is a "Family show" (funny, a family show has no problems pairing a straight man with... whatever species of elfbaby Ginnifer is.) Sure, she later recanted, adding that  she "fully supports homosexuality." Which is like, the laziest, most-removed phrasing of "support," ever.  Nice try, princess.


Then shortly after that, the actor that portrays Happy the Dwarf, publicly turned on the SwanQueen shippers in a series of aggressive tweets; which basically called us all awful.  Can you imagine any actor on gigantic show like Once scolding proponents of a straight romance for being ridiculous, awful, and not family friendly? No you can't, because that has never happened.
And it's funny no one mocks or questions the infinitely creepier (straight) relationship between Belle and Rumplestilskin, despite the fact, that their love story is an obvious extension of Stockholm syndrome. (as Rumplestilskin AKA The Beast kept Belle a prisoner,  before they finally fell in love... sorta.)  So yes, abusive relationships are all fine and dandy for a family TV show, but shipping two women who share a son, and who have undergone the greatest character-transformation of the entire series, as dedicated co-parents, is somehow... wrong, and mock worthy?

 And do not get me started on all the fans of Emma and Neal (the biological father of Henry), who were heartbroken after (spoilers) a recent episode effectively squashed that potential pairing entirely. (spoiler over)

Yes, Neal is Henry's biological dad, but he's also known his son for two seconds, and don't forget that he left Emma to rot in jail years before, while she was pregnant with his kid. That's the making of an epic love, but Emma and Regina aren't? Seriously Once Fandom?
The point is, you can't be outraged at an Emma/Regina pairing, without harboring some manner of homophobia. It's just not possible. An Emma/Regina love story simply makes the most emotional sense, and is built on a deeper foundation than any other fairy tale duo on the show. Just compare their relationship to the one between Ariel and Eric, in the show's sappy retelling of The Little Mermaid:  wherein Ariel and Eric talked for three minutes, and BAM, became eachother's "the one's." If boring-ass Ariel and Eric, are worth rooting for after such a unimpressive "courtship"  then a similar nod to Emma and Regina is waaaay overdue.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A quick blurb about Avril Lavigne

By Anči

As some of you may have heard, Avril Lavigne (I know, right? "Who?") recently came under fire for releasing a racist music video, called "Hello Kitty."

Gwen Stefani is that you?
I guess "racist" is a judgment call-- but one that we can all agree should be left to members of the appropriated culture. (The Japanese/Asians.) And guess what? They are pissed.
You'd think that a decent person's response to such a backlash might include some display of humility or remorse... but no, Avril's only retort was "RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!!"
(such a master with words, that one.) But seriously, how cynical do you have to be to laugh off somebody else's pain like that? And at this point it's pretty official: The Asian community (including a thoroughly annoyed Margaret Cho)  has made it clear that they feel insulted by Avril's music video.

Shouldn't that be enough to garner an apology from the "Complicated" starlet? You know, given that she's loudly identified herself as someone who "loves Japanese Culture?" (Guess that love just doesn't extend to the people!)
 I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as defensiveness seems to be white America's go-to reaction for everything these days. But still, I hold out hope for the glorious moment when one of these yellow-haired lasses finally spits out her gum and declares  "I screwed up, you guys! Also, check out my sex tape. Now available on Amazon."

And of course it's not "just" the blatant appropriation of Japanese culture that uncomfortably reverberates from the cotton-candy set-- it's also the music video's painful reliance on a 2004 aesthetic, which has since faded into that stomach-churning void of cultural contempt, currently filed under "Gwen Stefani, Relevant" (Yes, it's been that long.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guys: That Thing You Call "Female privilege" Is Actually Just Whiny Male Syndrome.

By Anči

Some of you may have recently come across the widely shared thoughtcatalog article, called 18 Things Female Seem To Not Understand (Because Female Privilege.) 
I almost feel silly calling attention to something so obviously ridiculous, but because this a perspective that so many people (erroneously) hold, I'm going to grit my teeth and fire back as best I can.

So, for starters:
Number 1) " Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you."
um, sweetheart? Have you bothered to ask yourself WHY women cross the street when they see you? (Because I promise you we don't do that for every guy.) Maybe we see you leering at us, or maybe you just smell really bad? (Have you even tried old spice? It does wonders for the butt area.) Or maybe ya know,  most women have been harassed, abused, raped too many times to feel comfortable walking past another whiny looking bro like you?  But no by all mean keep feeling sorry for YOUR smelly self because hot chicks run away when they see you. (Ha. Loser)

Number 2)  "Female privilege is being able to approach someone and ask them out without being labeled “creepy.”"
Okay so clearly the overarching theme here is that women find YOU creepy. Got it. (Also... instead of blaming womenkind for that, maybe you should stop acting like a dirty creep?)

Number 3)  "Female privilege is being able to get drunk and have sex without being considered a rapist." Awww, women consider you a rapist? It must be so hard for you-- but here's a tip that could serve you very well in the future: Stop. Raping Women.

 Number 4) "Female privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see yourself represented in a positive way."
 If by "in a positive way" you mean as  a straight, skinny white woman with perky titties, and a black best friend, then hooray! Patriarchy is dead!

Number 5)  "Female privilege is saving yourself before you save others and not being viewed as a monster." That's why no one harasses women on their way to getting an abortion.. In fact people are outright kind to women who choose to prioritize themselves over their unwanted fetus. Man being a woman IS easy.

Number 6) "Female privilege is being able to decide not to have a child."
My heart bleeds for George Clooney who doesn't have that same option. (what?)

Number 7) "Female privilege is not having to support a child financially for 18 years when you didn’t want to have it in the first place."
You're right. I bet there isn't a single woman out there who was forced to have a child she didn't want.

Number 8) "Female privilege is never being told to “take it like a man” or “man up.”"
 No, we just get told to "shut up and spread' em."

Number 9) "Female privilege is knowing that people would take it as a gravely serious issue if someone raped you."
Yes, I'm sure people would take me very seriously if I said I was raped-- especially if my rapist were an important, powerful man. Or if I had been seen wearing a short skirt in his presence... or If I had a reputation for having lots of sexual partners. Or if I was an elderly woman, or a teenager.

Number 10)"Female privilege is being able to divorce your spouse... because you know you will most likely be granted custody of your children."
Yes female privilege is people assuming that women want to be stuck with the majority of child rearing duties. And my question to the daddies that are just soooo sad about losing custody of their children: who was the one changing your children's diapers, during this little marriage? Did you and your wife divide up parenting duties equally? If not, what makes you think you deserve custody?

Number 11) "Female privilege is being able to call the police in a domestic dispute knowing they will take your side."
 Yes female privilege is being asked whether you did something to provoke your husband into hitting you.... or  the fact that Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Number 12)" Female privilege is being able to be caring or empathetic without people being surprised."  Yes, female privilege is being told to "calm down" and "Stop being emotional" whenever we deign to express any feeling that a man might find objectionable.

Number 13) " Female privilege is not having to take your career seriously because you can depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do. Female privilege is being able to be a “stay at home mom” and not seem like a loser."
All sarcasm aside, I started laughing when I read this. How dumb is this guy that he's able to complain (without a trace of irony) that women can  "depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do?" Because making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes at the same job is suuuuch a privilege. We're so lucky men get paid more than us! And as for his assertion that women are "able" to be stay-at-home moms (for free!) without feeling like losers, let me just say this: I bet you're just dying to spend your day at home changing diapers, dude. No really. I bet its your dream in life to be overlooked and ignored whenever someone asks you what you do, and you smile and say "I'm a stay-at-home-parent." Man those bitches have it made!

Number 14)  "Female privilege is being able to cry your way out of a speeding ticket."
 Yes this is a female privilege... which would explain why every overweight, poor black woman has been able to do this.

Number 15) "Female privilege is being favored by teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Female privilege is graduating high school more often, being accepted to more colleges, and generally being encouraged and supported along the way."
yes and then still making 77 to the dollar that all your less educated male peers make! (Oh and I'd like to know which elementary school you went to buddy, because according to this study boys get called on in class a lot more than girls do.)

Number 16) Female privilege is being able to have an opinion without someone tell you you’re just “a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who can’t get any.”
Yeaaah I'm pretty sure that's not as universal to men as you think it is, and is actually something exclusively said to butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeards who can't get any. (sorry bro.)

Number 17) "Female privilege is being able to talk about sexism without appearing self-serving."
 That's why we never get called entitled bitches, or cunts....

Number 18)  "Female privilege is arrogantly believing that sexism only applies to women." 
If only one of feminism's tenets were that "Patriarchy hurts men too." Oh wait, it is! But you'd know that if you weren't such a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who couldn't get any!