ATTACK OF THE KILLER TERFS PART 2: SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIMS ARE PRIVILEGED EDITION

Comics and Images

 

Note to the real male feminists in my midst: you have to stop this.

You have to stop this because I’m not playing with you anymore.

If you do this kind of shit, I will NOT sit back and take it. But also because no one loves you as much as I do and you can’t keep doing this shit to us. You keep it up and none of you will be welcome among the women.

Ask yourself, do you want your movement to go down as the one that did this shit to your own women on the left?

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Fun Responses to Internet Trolls

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If you’re a vocal woman on the internet, it’s only a matter of time before some bridge dwelling troll decides to take his anger with not getting laid (because he’s gross and we all have standards) on you. When this happens, they will often devolve into rape and death threats.

Now, for people who haven’t experienced what I have, this is certainly terrifying and should never happen but we also need to stop taking these trolls seriously. Their goal is to rile us up, and the best way to deal with them is to not get riled up but to laugh at their bullshit. So I’ve decided to provide a list of amusing responses to “I’m going to rape and kill you.” Feel free to use these and spread to other women! I’ve made sure these are twitter friendly and you are welcome to copy and paste. I tried to think of possible responses from different viewpoints, but mostly I tried to amuse myself, which should be our real goal here. They aren’t trying to learn, so don’t bother trying to teach. The goal is to send them back to their bridge.

Troll: “I’m going to rape and kill you.”

You:

1) “That hard to get laid, eh?”

2) “Can we meet in Florida? I’d like to stand my ground.”

3) “Why you such a bitch, tho?”

4) “Who hurt you?”

5) “Are you this angry because your TMI is below average?”

6) “Not if I do it first.”

7) “You have your first amendment, I have my second.”

8) “Aw! I bet you say that to all the girls you jack off to but can never have.”

9) “Knock, knock

Who is there?

FBI

FBI who?

FB I’m going to kill you.”

10) “Don’t you have homework?”

11) “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

12) “Maybe, but you’ll still be a bitch.”

13) “Don’t you want your first time to be special?”

14) “Dead or alive, I wouldn’t feel it.”

15) “Is that a credible threat because if it is, we can have a chat with the Feds. And if not, stop bluffing and go back to your bridge.”

16) “You ain’t gon’ do shit.”

17) “Oh, grow up.”

Women’s Work is Real Work

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I’ve been in activist circles my whole life in some capacity or another, so it continuously frustrates me when we don’t acknowledge the unpaid and often female dominated labor involved in the struggle. We hold up and praise those who have participated in more public ways but not only do we not acknowledge the other contributions behind the scenes, we also shame women who participate in traditionally feminine ways.

 

I was a pretty fragile and sickly kid. There are four of us total. I’m not saying we didn’t get some problematic messaging but my mom makes more than my stepdad and chores were assigned based on interest and ability and not gender (my older sister is like so much stronger than I could ever hope to be). Given that I was so unhealthy all the time, I ended up with what you might call the more traditional tasks like cooking, light housework and childcare. My older sister however, being much healthier than I, often had to do the heavier chores. The end result of this is that I’m a pretty femme looking girl with a pretty femme set of skills that I’m supposed to think is worth less than my masculine skill-set. I like to cook, so does my brother in law, guess which one of us gets feminist lectures about cooking?

 

There is so much work that has to be done in the struggle. So much work that goes unacknowledged. As an actvist and member of my community I have done all of the following without payment or acknowledgement

 

  • provided childcare
  • fed people
  • emotional support
  • networking
  • editing writing or otherwise supporting other people’s projects
  • teaching
  • mentoring
  • crisis intervention
  • caretaking of the ill
  • organizing

 

I really hate that I had to put together this list, because in my worldview, it is wrong to take on these tasks and then expect acknowledgement. You don’t get gold stars in my universe for doing the right thing, you just do it. So I’m listing this for a very specific reason, which is to remind all of you that the movements aren’t just built by powerful speakers. The Montgomery Bus Boycott took a year to plan, a year in which the women of the community got together and organized and made sure everyone’s needs were taken care of. The fact that we value MLK more than those women is a byproduct of sexism and the patriarchy.

 

If you’ve bought into the idea that the only way to be a feminist is to behave like men, you are discounting the importance of female labor. That labor has been absolutely necessary for our species to survive. I personally don’t care who does those jobs, but I will say that if men were doing them we’d treat them with a lot more respect instead of condemning the women who have taken them up. We forget that the women, like say Sheryl Sandberg, who have been successful in traditionally masculine ways got there the same way the men do, which is that they had a underpaid or unpaid feminine workforce behind them that allows them to pursue their goals in the public sphere. So if you call yourself a feminist while looking down on the women that it make possible for you to have a career, then you then you are the one who needs to be educated.

 

I learned the hard way from previous generations and my own burnout, that because my disability, I can’t have it all. I have very limited energy reserves and I participate where I can. I haven’t exactly gotten past the burnout stage and into the
“thinking about my next move” stage of this process, but I know when I do, I will have to make some hard choices. I know this because I’ve watched all my other girlfriends have to do it and they ultimately made the choice that was right for their family, whatever that choice may have been. There are ways though that you could work to free up more women.

 

 

  • Acknowledge that feminine labor is real, difficult work and then pay them like you mean it
  • Provide a universal basic income that acknowledges that the work stay at home mom’s and dad’s do is valuable and real. This also allows poor men and women to pursue artistic and intellectual interests that they might not otherwise be able to do
  • Stop being judge-y about how other women manage these competing interests, if you would praise a stay-at-home dad while calling a mom who doesn’t work lazy, you are the one with the feminism problem
  • Find ways in your communities and organizations to acknowledge behind-the-scenes work that has been traditionally done by women
  • PARENTAL LEAVE. Like seriously, we are one of two countries that doesn’t have this. It’s almost more embarrassing than Trump.

 

My feminine labor has been absolutely essential to the movements I’ve been part of, and I don’t need thanks for it. What I do need, though, is for us to come together as a community and fight for policies that will support and reward the work women have been doing to keep our species alive.

PSA: Hook Up Culture, Not Actually Mandatory

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Ah hook up culture, the bane of my millennial existence. I’m still friends with a number of my former students, because some genius thought it was a good idea for me to be teaching kids 5 years younger than me. It was, because I’ve gotten the immediate satisfaction of watching them become incredibly cool adults. Most of them are more adult-y than I am, but I’m pretty sure that this is just my personality and we’ll be continuing to use that excuse until I’m 80 and we start using senility as an excuse for what has been a very consistent pattern of behavior. In any case, I have the pleasure of being near enough to their age to get what they are dealing with but far enough to have made and seen enough mistakes to warn them. Not a single discussion has gone by this year that wasn’t about how much they hate hook up culture and how much they wish they didn’t have to participate in it.

 

I never managed to successfully hook up with people when I was single, it all inadvertently became a relationship, so I actually told my friends I was no longer hooking up with people to avoid relationships, which is a level of commitment phobia that made even my most player-y male friends disturbed. So I can approach this from their perspective and I still get to say that it sucks. The thing is, as a commitment-phobe and sexual abuse survivor, hook up culture made it possible for me to be very casual about two things that none of us are actually successfully casual about. I realized, very, very recently, that I had engaged in most of my consensual sexual activities while disassociating because it was the way I brought myself to being able to let people I didn’t particularly trust or like touch me. That and lots and lots of alcohol. So you say sexual abuse survivor and you expect that, but this is a lot more common than we think it is. I have lots of friends with very happy childhoods who report the same experience. So I decided the healthier thing was not to do it anymore, the hook up thing, I mean. So I stopped.

 

When I was coming of age, this behavior was supposed to be both enlightening and liberating. Finally, women could fuck people they didn’t know or like too! HOORAY FEMINISM! Or something. I’m not really sure, I just know that it was very much part of the cultural expectations. And it’s not because dudes are assholes, because ultimately they’ll try to get away with having sex with the lowest level of commitment possible if they can. The reason for this is many, but one of the big ones that tends to get overlooked is that we get married much, much later than we used to. We have about a decade or more (pending on when you started having sex) where getting into a serious relationship IS A VERY BAD IDEA but we are still human and want to get laid. Most dudes don’t want to do the hook up thing forever, just until they reach an age where they are comfortable with a relationship that might lead to marriage. For college-educated folks, this age generally starts around 26, 27. Which means that in the interim, we all have to find a way to satisfy basic cuddling needs without accidently getting serious with anyone before the socially sensible time. It also means, that a lot of us don’t date the people we could see as a marriage material until we are at this age. Which has led to a lot of confusion for a lot of really wonderful people that I know. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, these are sensible, thoughtful decisions so long as the hook up thing doesn’t bother you, but if you have feelings and don’t drink, my guess is that it’s hard to be intimate with strangers you don’t like. I mean, I just don’t have that level of self-control.

 

One of my former students felt so much pressure that she asked me if it was ok for her not to have one-night stands. That’s right, folks, I had a beautiful, intelligent, well educated, professional young woman ask me if it was ok if she didn’t do something that felt right for her body because the culture is so pervasive and powerful that is not socially acceptable for her not to. So I just wanted to be the adult in the room that said this: No, you don’t have to do anything that doesn’t nourish you. And any guy that isn’t willing to wait to have sex with you until you are comfortable and trust him doesn’t deserve to be having sex with you at all. If hooking up with people makes you empowered and happy, I say go for it! That’s awesome! I support you! YAY SEX! But what is empowering to one person isn’t empowering for others.

 

Millennials are very confused about relationships. We grew up in the aftermath of divorce becoming commonplace and the in the shadow of the sexual revolution. We now have to negotiate a world that has fewer and more nebulous rules. But there is one rule we can all agree to, no one gets to tell you what to do with your body and sexuality. If it makes you feel more empowered and comfortable telling dudes you aren’t sleeping with them until they make feel safe, however long that is, then do that.

 

I’d apologize to my still single male friends for spreading the word around, but they’ll have to admit first that they’ve complained about this culture to me too and that at the end of the day, they want the girls they are sleeping with to be happy and comfortable too. I’m not sure what to do about the “still need to get laid” problem, but I think we can start by being honest with each other and ourselves.

Why She Stays And What Needs to Be Done About It

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“That sounds an awful lot like rape and if I ever see him in person, I’ll kill him.”

It is a question that has long haunted me, why did my member of MENSA uber feminist mom stay with a man who beat her and then a man who hurt us and was an awful drunk. The older I’ve gotten, the more forgiving I’ve become as I’ve watched my friends, former students and ultimately myself become statistics. Vulnerable, young women without education are typically the image we have of the domestic abuse victim but what happens when she is Stanford educated, a role model with training, albeit with a self esteem problem?

I felt angry with my mom, she should have known better. We were poor but she’s smart, she raised me in such a way that I was giving feminist lectures in 5th grade. She can stand up in a room and dazzle any audience. And yet, I know she’s deaf on her left side from being kicked down a flight of stairs. She left her second husband when she found out he was raping us but he was a mean drunk who didn’t work to begin with and I remember being so angry with her for failing to leave both of them. But the first one held a gun to my head and threatened to kill us all if she left and she only escaped when her male friends intervened and made it physically impossible for him to hurt us anymore. The second guy was my sibling’s father and my mom was in a haze, she protected us to the extent she knew how but she too was vulnerable. Intelligence can’t save you from abuse, but your community and the police can.

I have my mother’s sharp mind, maybe even more so. And I am far more educated. I’ve been taught to recognize abuse, I have a special knack for seeing it, and I’ve made my fair share of CPS reports. A fiery radical, I’ve given my fair share of lectures on gender at parties, and I’ve taught the stuff. But all of that hides my vulnerability; my crippling insecurity and lack of self worth, my anxiety and PTSD and my almost impulsive need to try to understand and see the good in everyone. It’s a dangerous combination and it’s resulted in a lot of intimate violence. The boy who stalked me when he drank, the other one who harrangued me to lose weight and most painful of all, the boy who pushed me during sex to do things that physically hurt me. I thought I had safe guarded myself by choosing among my long term friends, but his struggles with work and depression brought out a dark side I couldn’t see and couldn’t have predicted. In Boyhood the mother marries a mean drunk and it’s easy to judge, but how could she have known?He was an educated guy with a job, just the kind of guy that people were judging her for not being with not five minutes in the film earlier. It’s easy to pass judgment on the screen but much harder when it’s not strangers.

I was saved by the men I call my uncles as a little girl and I was saved by my friends in my adulthood. They gave me a place to stay as I fled, countless hours of coaching and just kindness and love as they reminded me who I was. Nothing else saves women but their community, that’s why abusers always try to shut them off from their community. But in a world where I felt I had to apologize and feel embarassed for my failure to predict the future, how can we possibly protect each other? Something is lost when our communities no longer feel responsible for to each other and there are probably lives being lost because of that. But it’s also the same forces that protect rapists, we blame victims for crimes committed against them, crimes they could not have predicted or controlled. No man presents himself as a dick during the courting process and often the abusive ones are also the best manipulators and actors. We could try to stay a few steps ahead, they identify as nice and nerdy and then we finally catch on, they claim to be feminists and we catch on; they will adjust to what they have to adjust to. We have to stop asking women what they failed to do to stop monsters and start asking why the monsters exist and why we aren’t helping to fight them.

My mom’s high IQ didn’t save her. My best friend’s high self esteem didn’t save her. My Stanford degrees and training didn’t save me.

My community did.

People are People. Treat Them that Way

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I had just gotten back from China, when I found myself on a party bus with a guy I was seeing on my way to a formal when he said to me “I just feel like I really want to have sex with a Japanese girl.” Facepalm. I had a conniption fit. And in response to my conniption fit he said: “well don’t you have things you want to do, like hook up with a black guy?” Double Facepalm. No, I told this granola eating, long-haired, alternative religion having, white male, I don’t reduce people to stereotypes or treat them like things I can collect.

Just so we are clear, I have interracially dated, several times now. It never once occurred to me that it was abnormal or special until I had people tell me it was weird at Stanford. We all dated outside our race. But I would never and have never gone out looking for men of a particular race. Though I joke about my desire to not date privileged men (which, everyone please calm down, is a joke) that applies more to the cultural jumps I would have to make and tolerate to be around men who read a lot of Ayn Rand and don’t appreciate my trophy wife jokes. I interracially date because it would be really hard not to and not in fact, be racist, especially as a white woman, and also because I have been attracted to different people from different races, because people are attractive. Given that this is the norm in the community I’ve grown up and my parents aren’t racist bigots, it was a bit of a culture shock when I got to Stanford and it seemed like the only acceptable interracial couple was Asian Women with White Men.

I studied China, and like everything I study I fell in love with the place. So I lived there for three months while learning Mandarin and became really well educated in Chinese history. It gave me fantastic insight and perspective on the world to have such a wide range of knowledge. Now I knew American history, Chinese history, and European history. My undergraduate adviser could make connections between anything and everything and I wanted that too. I didn’t want to have just one lens to look at things, so it was paramount for my growth. I didn’t think about the problems with the white men/Asian female trope until I acquired a few Asian male friends and also went to China. My Asian male friends explained to me that they felt desexualized by American culture, which was true when I looked at mainstream culture, though in my community, which has a large number of immigrants, Asian men were pretty much treated like all other men (meaning they needed a car and couldn’t have a baby mama-standards that make perfect sense in High School). I started noticing that most of my classes on China were populated by white men and Asian women. And then I went to China.

In China, it didn’t take very long for me to realize that something was amiss. There were 22 of us in the program and 1 Chinese-American male and 4 white females. Within a very short amount of time ALL of the white men admitted, proudly, that they had “yellow fever.” Why anyone felt the need to say that to me in a bar is anyone’s guess, but I have a gift for making people comfortable enough for them to say horrifying things I can’t unhear. The thought of “yellow fever”, by which white men have a strong preference for Asian females, just seemed wrong to me before I knew why this was happening. I was actually one of two people, the other being the Asian male (who I remain good friends with to this day), who was studying to had studied China. The rest of the crew was there for future business reasons, because they liked Asian girls or because they were trying to explore their own roots in depth. No one knew as much about Chinese history as I did, which is fine because I was the only one with that major.

Since I was being my sassy self, I decided, why not ask the source? And I did. I asked all of the men I hung out with in China why they had a preference. Universal answer: Asian girls are skinnier, more submissive and more ‘appreciative’ of white men and more willing to do ‘exotic’ stuff. I can’t make this up. It was so horrifying for me that I started taking long walks around the Beida campus with the only Asian dude in the program so that he and I could escape and pretend we were 12 and living in a magical secret forest (the Beida campus is really beautiful). I stopped going to social events. I stopped talking to people. I’m very sensitive about this sort of thing, when I see people getting exploited, especially by people I know well, it makes it hard for me to stick around.

Here is what is wrong with this. For one thing: it is racist. I am sure that China has women that act on the full spectrum of human behavior, so saying they are all submissive is a weird colonial hold over from when we still talked about white man’s burden. Skinnier and appreciative are more on the line of sexism, where in this universe women are trophies, but not full human beings, they are there to serve the men. Skinnier is also racist and highly problematic, again because it eliminates the possibility for diversity in the whole human spectrum. I met women who fit that stereotype and women who didn’t, and women who were hurting themselves to meet that stereotype which doesn’t sound that different from being at Stanford. That those were the only answers means that these men, all of whom were my age, were looking for a shadow of a human being. The sexual exoticism is both, it is the idea that men are entitled to whatever they want sexually, and that a woman is “better” (to be weighed and measured) if she will do what he wants, if her sexuality is defined by his. The assumption that Asian women have a somehow different sexuality from any other race reduces them to objects. I am sure Asian women, like all women exhibit a wide range of sexual preferences from the vanilla to the more extreme, because that’s what human beings do, and they are human beings. It is ok as a white male to find an Asian woman attractive, you just can’t feel that way for racist and sexist reasons and you can’t impose hundreds of years of colonialism on the body of the person you spend your most intimate moments with, ever. For any reason.

The fact that this was so socially acceptable that we could casually and openly discuss this in bars sort of scares me. In fact, many men at Stanford told me I was insane for pointing this out and treated “yellow fever” as a sort of rite of passage. It is part of a more problematic line of thinking among young men, which is that they are entitled to a sort of bucket list of sexual experience before settling down with a “respectable” woman. Instead of finding partners with equal interest in their sexual preferences they separate women out into objects to be conquered or gained in life experience before settling down their desexualized and virginal wife. With this line of thinking, they think they are entitled to certain experiences and that wives are not supposed to want to explore their own sexuality, so they must do that first before marrying. Women get reduced to points on a score card. And the women they do marry find themselves in marriages where they are never truly equal and full human beings, and where they will have had their sexuality sold out under them as one of their roles as wife.

This is what men my age tell me scares them about marriage, the loss of freedom and the fear of intimacy. And that is fine, that is human, I feel that too. But if they redefined the role of wife into one who is an equal partner, an equal explorer in this weird frontier known as life, then they wouldn’t “lose” their freedom and would experience greater and more secure intimacy because they would see the woman in this situation as less of a symbol of accomplishment. So in other words, gentlemen, you can be free when we are free. Human beings loving other human beings because of their beautiful humanity, that is what this is all about.

Dude, Just Treat Smart Women With Respect

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I’d like to talk about two of my favorite Stanford men. Both of them are STEM majors (one is working at a start-up and the other is in his PhD program at MIT). These two individuals are two of the smartest people I have ever met in my life. Not only are they capable and amused by scientific and mathematical concepts that would made a normal person insane, but they can also both converse on history and culture, which is why I am their token fuzzy friend. I have a really scientific approach to my work, borne out of the way my brain works and also the excellent training I got from my undergraduate adviser. What I loved about history, and the reason I majored in that and not something else, was that history required evidence, research, piecing together data and constructing a larger narrative from the pieces of evidence. Or at least the history I was doing did. Either way, at Stanford the Techies seem to have a superiority complex about what they are studying as if majors should be chosen solely on the following criteria 1)How much money it will make and B) How hard it is. The two individuals in question are the kinds of people who love, sweat and breathe what they study, just like me, which is why we get along.

My field is one of the few that is still dominated by men on the fuzzy side of things, so I took a lot of courses with a lot of men over time (this was especially true because I studied Asia, which every white man apparently needs to carry out his colonial fantasies on at some point in their undergrad career). Some of the men I took classes with were great. They argued with me like I was another man they respected and we hung out on the weekends in a completely appropriate manner. However, there were classes where I got treated like I was a talking dog. I have been called aggressive, aggravating, bitchy, difficult, unfeminine and all sorts of other fun words for the crime of thinking I have the right debate about issues as an equal.

The high school I went to had some serious advantages. There were so few people who wanted to challenge me that I pretty much got used to being allowed to say what I want and do what I want. The few times the male students decided to be jerks the teachers schooled them quickly or they were embarrassed by me. I was raised with a woman who would have been really angry if she had gone to a parent teacher conference and was told by the teachers that her daughter was quiet and needed to speak up more. So before getting to Stanford I got inoculated with a shot to prevent me from losing my voice.

This has come in handy in weeding people out. I still have some male friends who tell me when and where and how to exercise my voice, I do what I want anyway. There is something more insidious than the name calling, however, and that is

mansplaining:

to delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation

Mansplaining happens to me a lot because I happen to be in multiple fields where people think it’s perfectly acceptable dinner conversation to spout off their uneducated views about China, Education, Poverty, History, etc. etc. It’s incredibly frustrating when it happens, when someone with condescending tone and usually an over-usage of SAT terms tries to explain to me something I already obviously know. The reason I brought up the two engineers into this is even though I’ve known many engineers to be guilty of that, these two have not done that to me in the many years I have know them. This is despite the fact that they have knowledge I don’t have. But the true marker of intelligence and humility is knowing what you don’t know and being willing to learn from someone else. I don’t espouse opinions about things I don’t know about, and if my students stumble on a question I don’t know the answer to, I will tell them “I don’t know but I will find out.” The thing about my historical training is that I have the ability now to find out about anything, so I am confident that I can do that and then I report back. I understand that there is a lot of pressure on men to appear to be knowledgeable about all the things and that with some people it has resulted in some rewards to keep doing this, but when they encounter a woman equally well educated it’s just insulting. It shows a basic lack of respect for my intellect. I’ve actually seen the male version of me argue in the same way I do and be handed a cigar and entrance into the club. Nine times out of ten the dudes continue the debate even after I have clearly displayed my knowledge and then they continue it until eventually getting so angry they stamp off and tell me that I am “angsty” or some variation of a bitch. That’s how I know I’ve won, and usually I wasn’t even trying to play the game. For a brief and silly period in my life, I actually tried to moderate myself and “feminize” my tone and speaking style, but I decided that was a bad idea. I want don’t a seat as the trusty and adorable side-kick, I want a seat at the big table in my own right. And I want them to have to deal with my existence. Because I am here, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. And eventually, you are going to have to open the door because I am a relentless bitch.

How We Are Fucking Over Young Men in the Schools

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I have a long standing affinity for and good relationships with smart alleck-ey male students. If you know me, you know why I have that affinity. Mostly it’s because I was/am far worse than any of them could hope to be. I had a lot of really brilliant male friends growing up. Few of them made it out and those that did are not as successful as their female counterparts. I took a lot of gruff from my colleagues last year for being concerned about the boys in my care. Considering that boys are far less likely to graduate from high school and college (poor boys-this applies to the working classes only) and far more likely to end up in a desert or a jail cell, I felt it was a completely valid concern.

We need more male teachers, sure, but we also as female teachers need to think about what we bring into the classroom and how that affects our students and our boys (we ALL need to think about what we bring into the classroom always). If you don’t have a good relationship with men chances are fairly decent you will bring those biases and issues into the classroom, and I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

One of the smartest men I have ever known was drinking by the time we were 5th graders. He was also failing every class. He had already been labeled as a problem, and I met him in my reading group. Considering his test schools and in class performance, I am not sure why no one said, “hey this kid is brilliant, maybe he’s bored?” His pool game is ridiculous because he can calculate the angles in his head and has been able to do so, as far as I know, since we were 14. The fact that someone can look at an 8 year old (or even a 5 year old, I’ve seen this happen to really young kids) and decide that they are “bad” and stick them with that label is sort of beyond me. But it happens, with appalling frequency. I am always shocked when a kid tells me that I am the first teacher that really believed in them because I teach high school. So by my calculation, assuming I am teaching freshmen a minimum of 28 adults prior to me really dropped the ball. By the time they get to me they already have an attitude and I can’t say I blame them; I had an attitude at their age too. I’ve said this once already, but I always assume that there is a valid reason for student behavior. I’ve never been proven wrong on that count and I doubt I will be. My group of GATE students at Don Julio Junior High was reportedly the most difficult and most intelligent group several of my teachers have ever seen. We also had the most problems and were incredibly high risk (Yes, me too. Perhaps especially me). I watched as each of those kids drowned. For a huge percentage of them they were done before we even walked into the doors of junior high. Another percentage was done before freshman year. We were difficult because we had rough home lives and were intensely aware of the fact that we were getting an unfair shot. Why participate in a system and structure that had alienated us and that we didn’t stand to benefit from?

For everything I have gone through, nothing was more painful that watching the squandered brilliance of my friends as they headed down darker and darker roads. Part of me lives with profound guilt over the fact that I can’t do anything about it. I realized I couldn’t save them, so I started saving the kids who looked, talked and acted like them. I’ve wanted to be that kind of teacher. The kind of teacher where smart alleck and obnoxious kids would excel. The kind of teacher where artsy kids would have a protected space in the confines of my walls. The kind of teacher that loved kids unconditionally and got up every morning prepared to give them a new chance, a new start, because I firmly believe everyday that they have a chance to turn it around, and it’s my job to be patient and waiting and open for the day when they do.

We waste our brightest poor men, and then wonder how they end up in jail. We tell them they can’t be successful in school and then are confused when they stop participating in school and go out into the world where they can find something to be successful at. We tell them they are “bad” and then are confused when they do exactly what we said they would. For me, it’s really simple. All of my students are automatically innocent until proven otherwise. All of my students are good even when they can’t show that in the way I would like. All of my students can redeem themselves at any point on any day.

When you talk to working class kids who got out, there is always this origin story about there being a teacher that loved them and believed in them. I am no different; my story starts with my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Kroes. Mr. Kroes loved me at my worst, held me to a high standard when I didn’t believe I could meet it, and protected and fought for my particular brand of intelligence. This chain continued. I’ve always found a teacher prepared to go to war for me. The only way for me to repay that is to be prepared to go to war for my kids. My job is to protect and reach all kids.

Boys in working class areas are drowning. They are fighting a battle they shouldn’t have to fight and that they can’t win on their own. The gap is huge and frankly makes my social life and teaching that much harder. I want more male teachers in the classroom, but we have to get them through high school and college first.

I want each of my kids to know this simple truth: I will love them not matter what. I will have faith in them, always.