I am not delicate. I am not space. I am not chaste or virginal or soft. I am not sex. I am not dresses. I am not peonies. I am not thong underwear or makeup. I am not patience. I am not pussy. I am not lost. I am not second. I am not fixing. I am not waiting. I am not yours.
As a Latina with some social capital at a small, preppy, elite college, I’m expected to retire my thorny convictions when the watery beer starts flowing.
But you are not a part-time idiot and I am not a part-time feminist. I do not oppose the ruinous myth of the eternal feminine to squeeze a grade bump out of a sympathetic professor. I do not oppose the systematic sexual violence sanctioned by the patriarchy to feel important. I do not oppose the intersectionality of my oppression as a woman of color to make noise. When one of our remarkably cowardly peers anonymously Yik Yaks something like, “I get it, ‘T.P.’ because she’s dirty and brown,” drawing a witty connection between my initials and that of “toilet paper,” — after his or her remarkably cowardly friends slut shame me on the same medium — the insurmountable, blinding anger that runs through me is not theatrical.
This is not easy. Being made into a woman — yes, we are made into the longhaired, soft-spoken, secondary citizens that you so criminally assume we naturally are — is not easy. Being made into a woman who will be exoticized, exploited, reduced, and discarded because she does not share your (white) manhood is not easy. Being made into a woman who will be conditioned to hate and then starve her body is not easy. You will never know what it is to be “other,” to be incomplete, to be nonessential; to be defined not by your person but, rather, by your biological operations or some nebulous understanding of the “threatened reality known as femininity” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex). No, you are absolute. You are transcendent. You are self-owned. So you are uninterested, unhelpful, and unaccountable.
This is not easy. Do not insult me further with your suggestion that I leave my values and my intellect on the floor with my clothes.
I smiled and I joked and I swallowed my words because I knew that loudly indicting your racist, sexist person in the middle of that party would reflect poorly on me and not on you — not on the insect with an endorsed predilection for “ethnic” girls and a violent hard-on for our brown and yellow skin. I smiled and I joked and I swallowed my words because I didn’t know either of us yet and, knowing the sore reality that the moment wasn’t mine, I decided that calculated restraint and denial were wise. But now I know myself. And now you should know that when I detonate, you will be burned. Know that I no longer fear you, and know that you will never again know me.
You are not muscle. You are not science or words. You are not evolved. You are not power. You are not first.
I am without you.