My Thoughts on Guns as a Teacher

Ok, ex-teacher, but still, the experience counts in this.

I was a teacher at a school where 95% of the students were on free or reduced lunch. My students were usually very poor and often living with 3 or 4 other families in a single family home. Maybe they didn’t have access to running water or have an oven big enough to hold donated turkeys (this actually was an issue at a neighboring high school: people donated turkeys so their students could celebrate Thanksgiving, but so many people returned them because they had nowhere to cook them that they’ve not done a donation like that since). This school was not an anomaly in this city, of the six high schools there, at least four were full of students like this, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if all six were.  I’m telling you this for a reason, promise.

Gangs and taggers were issues, sure, but not usually for ME. They were much more of an issue for my students and I hated the time change when it started getting dark at four because my students had to walk home in the dark (no one drove, very few families could afford to have a car for their kid to drive). Schools are actually considered no fight zones (for the most part) for kids in gangs: they don’t want to attract attention or get identified as a gang member. So, schools are pretty neutral when it comes to gang members and most of the students I had that I knew were probably gang members were some of my most polite and well-behaved kids. There was one exception to this rule, but all he gave me was attitude. Oh, man, so much attitude.

Now, guns were PROBABLY on campus. I went to a seminar on taggers once where they showed us a picture of the typical tagger’s backpack: all that was in it was a can of spray paint and a gun. That was pretty freaky, I won’t lie. However, I never felt in any danger. The kids don’t WANT to be caught after all, so most of their illicit and illegal activities happened off campus. In fact, looking at the record of school shootings, I was probably safer working there than at a school in a more affluent area.

That being said, it was something I was ALWAYS aware of. I taught freshman, 14-15 year old kids, some of whom had been in school since kindergarten but had a second grade reading level (the effect of poverty on education is a whole other blog post). They were GREAT kids and I loved teaching them. And I would, totally and absolutely, have stood in front of an active shooter in order to save their lives.

It’s crazy to me that I even had to think of doing that, but I did. We practiced lock down drills and I obediently locked the door and we sat in silence until the all clear came over the PA system. The truth was though, I was in a portable classroom with walls like cardboard and sometimes with 40 students in it. There was no where for them to hide, no closet big enough for 40 teenagers, no walls thick enough to stop bullets. I would worry, what if it DID happen? What would I do? I would always, in my plannings, step in front of a gun for them because I knew that if a gunman managed to gain entry into my room, I was the last line of defense.

The last line of defense. Me. An English teacher. Not a cop or fireman. A teacher. This shouldn’t be part of my job description. No, I don’t want to be armed and have a gun in my desk in case of an emergency. I don’t want to train to take down a person SHOOTING AT PEOPLE. I want to teach literature and grammar and be a teacher. And yet, people are, instead of passing laws making it harder for certain people to buy certain guns, advocating for arming teachers. ARMING TEACHERS. That’s….that’s insanity. That is not solving anything. That is adding to the problem and creating even more of a gun culture in a country whose gun culture is out of control.

And yet…if I were still there teaching in that classroom and knew that I was the ONLY thing between my students and a gunman,  I’d probably want a weapon. Because my job is to protect those students, those are MY KIDS, and I would kill someone before letting them get hurt just as I would rather die than they get hurt. Teachers shouldn’t have to make that choice. It’s not their job. Except in the United States, it is.

My Views on Guns as a (female) Human

It’s gotten to the point where mass shootings are so common that BBC introduced the story about the shooting in San Bernardino as “Another day in America.” Yep, just another day, another shooting. It’s the norm now. Let me repeat that: IT’S THE NORM NOW. If that doesn’t shock you, it should. So, I’m going to write some thoughts on guns from several perspectives, probably 3. This first piece is about guns from the perspective of a human being, American, and woman. Just a general gist of how I feel about guns.

First, it is not a god given right that all Americans own guns. It’s just not and that is NOT what the Second Amendment is about. The Second Amendment is about arming a militia, not that every joe schmoe gets a gun. In fact, this interpretation of the Second Amendment is largely the fault of the NRA, as seen in this article. So, American’s need to stop thinking that the government is going to attack all of its’ citizens and hold them hostage because they want to make stricter gun laws.

Second, no one is trying to take your guns away. No one is saying no one should own guns. All that’s trying to be done is making it harder for potential murderers to buy one and to prohibit the sale of semi-automatic guns THAT NO ONE SHOULD OWN ANYWAY. Seriously, who needs to own guns that are used by military/police TO KILL PEOPLE? That’s what those types of guns are for. They are not rifles. They are not hunting guns. They are guns designed to kill people. In some states, it’s harder to buy cigarettes than it is to buy a gun and there is something very very wrong with that.

Third, we are suffering from an internal arms race. At least, that’s what it feels like. The idea that we arm ourselves to protect ourselves SOUNDS like an arms race to me. And, call me crazy, but I don’t want to HAVE to own a gun just to feel safe walking to my car. I should be able to trust that someone with a grudge, or a mental issue, or WHATEVER cannot buy a super powerful semi-automatic gun and ambush people just trying to buy toilet paper. The governments’ JOB, it’s number one job, is to keep it’s people safe. When our government begins telling us to arm ourselves to save ourselves, it’s telling us that it cannot keep us safe. It’s UNWILLING TO KEEP US SAFE. This is a huge gigantic enormous fucking problem. My options are now: 1. don’t own a gun like a sucker (or so says some people), 2. Own a pistol/handgun that is legal to buy, 3. Own a semi-automatic gun that can take out a bunch of people at once because that is what the bad guys are buying and I need to save myself.

Fourth, the NRA is running our government. I’m not joking here. They are controlling the votes of SO MANY senators and representatives it’s impossible to get any change to gun laws. Impossible. Every single person who voted no to new gun laws had been paid in some fashion by the NRA, whether through donations or “expenditures.” Some received upwards of $3 million other’s received as little as $3000. @igorvolsky tweeted each senator who had received something from the NRA and let us know if they voted for or against change. Shocking news: it was always against. The NRA is PAYING our government to think and prey for victims and NOT PROTECT THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. In addition to that, there has been no studies done on gun violence since the CDC was basically attacked by the NRA for DOING THEIR JOB and studying gun violence. So, not only is change being prevented, we have very little understanding into how to PREVENT them because no one is studying them. Way to go NRA. You are SO COOL.

Fifth, feminism is being attacked and it’s creating issues with masculinity. That’s right, equal rights and treatment for the sexes CAN HELP REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE. Everyone benefits from it. This article cites several studies that have proven that masculinity is directly tied to violence, that men feeling inadequately masculine are more likely to use violence to prove their manhood. And this is an issue because we are polarizing masculinity and femininity.  Feminism is good for everyone.

Ok, thus ends part one of my thoughts on guns. Return later for my thoughts on guns as an ex-teacher.

The Terror of Parenting

Who remembers what it was like to bring home your new baby? What were the things that scared you the most?  I’ve made a list for your entertainment. 🙂

  1. Leaving the hospital. Let’s face it, at the hospital you have nurses to help you with feeding, people who bring you food, and the secure knowledge that you are not alone and if you DO mess up, people are there who can help you fix it. The idea of leaving that safe structured hospital is pretty darn scary because really, what the hell do you know about babies? Why do they think you can just take it home? Shouldn’t there be a test or something first? I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!
  2. Driving home from the hospital. First you have to get the new infant in the car seat which you’ve never used before. Then get it in the car. This is when I froze up. I could NOT sit in the front seat. What if the baby woke up and needed me? The front seat was way to far away! So, my husband became an Uber driver and I sat in the back, next to a sleeping infant, on the off chance she woke up and needed to see my face. And THEN I spent the entire trip telling my husband to slow down, make smoother turns, and not hit every damn pothole. THE BABY IS IN THE CAR!
  3. The first bath. I’ve learned a lot since my first one, like how a newborn doesn’t really NEED a bath, just a wipe down with some soft cloths every once in while, barring some horrible diaper incident. But with my first one, I put out the baby tub, got the sling ready, filled it with warm water, and then spent a terrifying 10 minutes trying to not panic. She was so slippery! What if she fell into the water? OMG I’M GOING TO KILL MY BABY AND SHE’S ONLY BEEN HOME TWO DAYS!
  4. Trimming her nails. Baby nails are sharper than anything on earth. And newborns are spastic things that really don’t know how to move their arms or hands yet and if you don’t cut those little nails they will scratch themselves. Like, you will look down and see a bloody gash on their face and think some creature must have attacked your precious baby. Nope, baby nails. So, being a good parent, you buy baby nail trimmers, grab a tiny hand, and then freeze. Those nails are so so so small. What if you miss? What if you cut her precious fingertip off? What if she moves at a key moment? Maybe I don’t have to trim them right now? No, she’s cutting her own face. I need to…just hold still…don’t breathe…..
  5. Giving her to someone else. I hated handing her to other people. I hated leaving her without me. What if she cried? What if they dropped her? NO ONE would do as good a job as me, so hands off! I got better at this one, but the first month or so I was  super protective of my little bundle of joy and if she cried while you were holding her, you got a dirty look and a caustic remark while I snatched her back from you. Sorry. The hormones made me do it. Yeah. That’s why.

Did you have super scary moments as a new parent? It’s all super scary, really, but these are the things that actually had me on the verge of panic attacks for the first month or two.  Practice makes perfect and hormones even out eventually and suddenly you’re a pro.

The Weight of Being a Female Character

I read a very interesting article on tor.com yesterday. It’s about the double standard applied to male and female characters. In a nutshell: men can just kick ass and take names. Elements of their personality do not normally influence whether the audience continue to feel he kicks ass and take names. This does not apply to women. Women can kick ass. Or they can have feelings. They really can’t do both. Somehow, once she starts even remotely appearing female (you know, wanting kids or having icky feelings) she is no longer considered kick ass.

I couldn’t help thinking of Black Widow in Age of Ultron. If you haven’t seen it: here lie spoilers.

Black Widow is one of the very few female superheros in film (there are many in X-Men, I’m told and other comic books, but very few made it to the big screen). Not only that, she’s one of the few that are super awesome and a great role model. She is honest and good. She can keep up with the men, both physically and intellectually. She doesn’t need a man to keep a sense of purpose in life: she knows who she is, what she is capable of, and what she deserves. She is a strong woman. She kicks ass.

In the first Avengers movie, Loki tries to use her emotions and possible self-doubts against her and fails, in fact reveals his own plan because she turns it all around on him. She has an amazing fight scene where she plays the damsel beautifully until she kicks the asses of three strong men and doesn’t even break a sweat. Every feminist LOVED Black Widow in the first Avengers.

And then Joss Whedon decided to do  something CRAZY: he built up the characters. All of them. In Age of Ultron, every Avenger’s character was fleshed out a bit, giving insight into their characters and their fears. No one really complained about this because strong characterization makes good stories. No one really cared, that is, until Black Widow reveal her great sorrow.

Suddenly, her entire character narrowed down to a small point: her graduation ceremony to become an elite assassin was having her tubes tied, killing any chance she would ever have children.

OH.MY.GOD. Black Widow is sorry she can’t have kids?! Well, that’s it, she is no longer kick ass. She has revealed that she has needs and wants, ew. Not only that, but to many feminists, this meant she couldn’t be considered a feminist character anymore because it tied into society’s belief all women want kids. Also, she was kidnapped by Ultron and became a damsel in distress. Suddenly, here’s the double standard.

Suddenly, she stopped being a PERSON. She stopped being a character and became a vehicle for feminism and only that. And feminists were ticked off because she fed into the patriarchy by wishing she could have kids. This became such a hot button issue because she was the ONLY female Avenger (Scarlet Witch only becomes one at the end). As the only woman on the team, the entire weight of being a role model comes to the fore. She must be perfect. She must uphold the values of feminism. She cannot show weakness or she loses her ability to be kick ass. Female characters cannot have emotions or needs or regrets if they also want to be kick ass. They must choose.

What the complainers missed is this: by making it about her wanting kids, they themselves made it about the kids. They skipped over the fact that Bruce Banner ALSO regrets not being able to have kids. Just skipped right over that and it’s because he’s a man. It’s ok for male characters to have feelings and want kids or be sad about NOT having kids. Having kids or not having kids is not tied into a male characters ability to be kick ass. But Black Widow mourns the fertility that was TAKEN FROM HER WITHOUT PERMISSION and is suddenly seen as weaker.

But she was kidnapped and had to be rescued! Well, yes. But she was the only character that plot line would work for. She didn’t just sit there twiddling her thumbs and bemoaning her fate. She MADE A TELEGRAPH MACHINE FROM SPARE PARTS. Tony Stark was kidnapped in the first Iron Man and built the first suit and he’s hailed as a genius. Black Widow builds a telegraph machine and lets the team know where she is and she is reduced to a damsel in distress.  What the actual hell. Who else could have done that? Hawkeye couldn’t build one. Steve Rodgers could tell you it runs on electricity, but couldn’t build it. Iron Man had the suit and could break free. Thor has his hammer and could escape. Black Widow is the only one who could do this. She is the only one who could get them to where they needed to be for the finally. But, you know, she’s just a damsel in distress.

Most importantly, I think, is that because she became a vehicle for feminism, her ability to overcome was completely looked over. She was trained as a superior Russian spy. She killed a lot of people and they took away her chance of leaving that life for a regular one. She could have bought into how she was raised and become jaded and angry. She could be a super villain.  She’s not. She used that training to do good and to be GOOD. She mourns the loss of her fertility, but she doesn’t use it as an excuse. In the end, she puts herself, her LIFE, on the line to save innocent people. She sacrifices any possible relationship she could have with Bruce Banner by forcing him to become the Hulk. She is constantly doing what is RIGHT and GOOD because she believes in it. That’s the type of person she wants to be. She is totally kick ass and totally supports feminism.

Black Widow is a female character and she deserves to be a fully fledged one. Rock on, girl.

What I learned about breastfeeding

There are so so so many articles out there on how the breast is best. I believe it is the best option, but I also believe it’s not the ONLY option. Formula is easy and convenient but also expensive. So expensive. It comes down to what works best for you.

I breastfed my babies for a full year. Each. This is what pediatricians recommend with them being exclusively breastfed for six months. I did it. Somehow I did it. Not sure how, but I did it. Here’s what I learned.

  1. Babies aren’t born knowing how to do it more than you are. Maybe you’ll be a lucky person and everything will click together like legos, but for me with my first, there was a lot of, “am I fucking doing this right?!” You need to practice AND they need to practice. It’s a joint effort, so don’t get frustrated if it takes a while (it took me almost 3 weeks to get it down to a science) to get started. Wit my second, there was a LOT of unlatching and re-latching. OMG, so much of that. But they learn and so do you.
  2. Milk comes in suddenly. When the baby is born it drinks colostrum and only about a teaspoon at a time. That’s why they eat so often. Milk USUALLY arrives about 2-3 days after birth. With my first, it didn’t come in for TWO WEEKS. Come to find out, that’s actually sort of common with c-sections, but I didn’t know that. Two weeks after my first born my breast swelled up and became hard as rocks and she wanted to eat but was either not getting enough or too much. It was so damn confusing. Your breasts hurt like fucking hell and you start leaking everywhere. This, my friends, is called engorgement and it is sucky. Luckily, it only lasts for a day or two. Nursing doesn’t really help it go down, but it might make you feel better temporarily.
  3. Your boobs don’t know how much milk to make at first. They make milk based on demand and it takes about 4-6 weeks for everything calm down and mesh. You will make more milk than your baby needs (unless you have supply issues), so you will leak milk. Have nipple pads available and more than one nursing bra so you can wash one. Your shirts will be covered in spit up and leaked milk, so accept it now.
  4. It hurts. Like, really hurts, at least for a while. Your nipples, your wonderful sensitive nipples are going to be sucked on SO FUCKING HARD and they need to build up a resistance. It takes two to three weeks for that. If you’re bleeding, it’s probably a latching issue, but for a while you’re going to be wincing every that baby latches on. The good news is that as soon as the baby latches on and starts eating, the pain eases, so it’s only for a minute. If the pain lasts throughout the feeding and there’s bleeding, check the latch.
  5. Your baby sucks your entire boob into it’s mouth. Ok, not really, but your nipple should be practically down his throat and your areola inside his mouth. It’s amazing how much they fit in there.
  6. You can drink alcohol, but carefully. I was a paranoid breastfeeder. I didn’t take the hardcore pain meds my doc sent home after either c-section. I didn’t want the  baby getting exposed to them. I survived recovery of a major surgery on Advil. I’m not a natural drug taker or drinker. I don’t like feeling out of control or woozy. I was assured by all doctors and people that it was FINE to take those meds, but I just couldn’t do it. So, take the meds if you want them. Do what’s best for you. I did drink occasionally. The rule is if you can drive a car, you can breastfeed. I usually gave a bottle of pumped milk because I was Miss Paranoia, but again, don’t be a slave to MY anxiety.
  7. What you eat can affect the baby. I couldn’t drink caffeine with my second. At all. She would not sleep if I had ANY. So, for a year, no caffeine for me. *sob* I know some people who couldn’t do dairy because it gave the baby gas. Some had to drop chocolate for similar issues. So, if the baby starts having weird gas issues, check your diet. They might also turn away because they don’t like the taste of your milk. Spicy foods can do that. So, while you’re not nearly as restricted as you were when you were pregnant, you might still have to give up something.
  8. Growth spurts are hell. Every once in a while the baby decides to grow a foot in a week and so he needs more milk to support that newly grown body. In order to build up supply, they eat. All the time. They are always hungry and you will exclaim more than once, “BUT YOU JUST ATE AN HOUR AGO.” It will go away after they get the supply up, but for a few days to a week you are in constant demand and sleep will be disrupted.
  9. You’re it. As a stay-at-home mom who breastfed, I was it. My husband couldn’t feed the newborn, I had to get up every damn time. You will hate your partner. You will hate your baby. You will hate breastfeeding. It WILL get better. Once you get past the nipple confusion worries (about 6 weeks) you can introduce bottle feeding, but until then, you’re it. Be prepared for that.
  10. Pumping sucks ass. And my breasts sucked at it. I was lucky to get 4-6 ounces at a time. Ever. I’ve known women who got 8 ounces in one go. I hate those women. Every drop of breast milk in my freezer was worth it’s weight in gold because it took so much work to get it. You will become obsessed with how much you have stored. It will never be enough. You will be afraid it will run out. You’ll end up throwing a ton of it away after you wean, crying a little as you do it. There was a scene in “Outlander” where a new mom hand expresses into a cup and then DUMPS IT INTO THE BUSHES. I actually cried out in horror. THE HORROR. And my baby had been weaned for MONTHS when that happened. Milk is precious. I’ve totally cried over spilt breast milk.  TIP: set up a time of day to pump and stick to it. You’ll start making more milk for that feeding and it will get better (if you’re not me with the non-responsive boobs). Once a day should be enough unless you’re working. Then you’ll pump more because your baby is bottle feeding more.
  11. It takes a long time in the beginning. Feeding a newborn can take 40 minutes to an hour. Then you burp them, they sleep for a bit and then you feed them again. Every 2-3 hours you go through this cycle. You feel like all you do is feed them when they’re new. They’re stomachs are small and breast milk digests super fast. It gets faster, but in the beginning, you’re feeding for a while. I watched a lot of Netflix during the newborn phases.
  12. One breast does better than the other. And your baby will like one better than the other.
  13. I didn’t stick to a schedule. If the baby was hungry I fed it. You cannot spoil a newborn. Schedules tend to happen naturally, but if you force it you might be making it harder for yourself than you need to be. Those boobs are natural pacifiers. Use them.
  14. Get help if you need it. Seriously, don’t be me. Get help if you need it. Don’t just give up (I didn’t thank god) because you’re afraid it’s not going to work. Ask!
  15. If it’s too much stress, don’t do it. Seriously. If it’s making you cry constantly or worry too much, don’t do it. If you’ve given it the best shot you have in you and you’ve tried everything FORMULA IS FINE. However, once you start supplementing you will start making less milk, so only start doing that if you’re absolutely sure that’s what you want to do.

Good luck! It does settle down and become easy as pie, it just takes a while sometimes. I wish good breastfeeding vibes on you and  your little one!

Anxiety, Introversion, and High Sensitivity, oh my!

It’s the triple threat and it’s why I tend to see the world a little differently than most people. It always strikes me as funny because I see the world as obstacles to overcome and hurdles to jump, but everyone is always surprised when they learn I am an introvert. I’ve never talked about anxiety with anyone, but it’s there and is really happy being paired with the introversion. Being a highly sensitive person is just a bonus.

Intoversion

Oh, the joys of being an introvert. There are billions of articles out there about being one since it’s a very popular thing to be nowadays. They make it sound like we’re a separate species or something, but really, there is one key difference between being an introvert and an extrovert: extroverts need social interaction to create certain happy brain chemicals. It makes them happy and full of energy and is necessary for them. Introverts use up happy brain chemicals during social interactions and build it up in solitude. Those happy brain chemicals become coin to use and social interactions are assigned to categories: worth the cost or not? This is ANY interaction, not just parties. Meeting with a friend, play dates, taking the kids to the park, being around your kids, hanging with your husband. All of it takes a toll from you; all of it costs happy brain chemicals. Some introverts can’t handle small talk at all because it so damn pointless and it’s waste of my precious happy stuff! I like deeper conversations, but I can handle small talk in small doses. I love my couch and Netflix and reading because during that time I’m creating my happy chemicals and introverts require such solitude in order to be calm and happy. Nap time is essential for me as a parent because it gives me some time to rest by myself.

Anxiety

I’m naturally shy and a very private person. I am also an overachiever and hate being wrong and very rarely ask for help. This all stems from anxiety issues of people judging me (even if they aren’t) and is compounded by my introversion. If I approach you and start a conversation, you should seriously consider giving me an award. I stress and worry about possible scenarios at parties. “What if” is a favorite game of mine. I worry about things I have to do or finish. My husband has often gotten frustrated at my stress over things beyond my control and has said, “Just stop worrying about it. You’ll find out tomorrow,” or “You can’t do anything about it now, just stop worrying about it.” To which I reply, “HA, easy for you to say.” Because it is easy to say but WAY harder to do in practice. My anxiety has gotten better as I’ve gotten older, although postpartum anxiety was pretty bad with my babies. Still, I understand what’s it’s like to freeze up or be unable to breathe when anxiety suddenly rears it’s head. Anxiety is real and it can debilitate your ability to go out, to do things, to conquer.  It isn’t something you can easily “get over” or “push through.”  It’s actually a terrible thing to say to someone with anxiety because it just makes the anxiety worse.

Highly Sensitive

And then, as if I didn’t have anything else to deal with, let’s through being highly sensitive into the mix. This isn’t a bad thing really, it just means that I notice way more than the average person and I’m extremely empathetic. By notice more, I mean I see everything and I remember almost everything that is told to me (I’m an auditory learner which helps with that). If you tell me you like scones, don’t be surprised that I remember that and bring you scones one day, even though you thought it was an insignificant part of the conversation. This makes me a GREAT gift giver because people forget the stuff they’ve told me they wan, but I remember. I can visit your house once and then again in a month and I’ll be able to tell you if one picture has been moved on your fireplace mantle. No, I’m not creeping around memorizing everything, I just notice that it’s different and probably can’t tell you what it was before just that it’s different now. I can’t watch gory horror movies or violent movies. Once I see that stuff I cannot unsee it and I will get flashes of it forever after that. I know that it’s fake, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t find many comedies funny simply because they make me uncomfortable or embarrassed (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kimmy Schmidt, Wet Hot American Summer all fall into this category).  I’m sensitive to emotions, more so than other people, and can pick up on stuff that other people miss. All of this can make social occasions like parties or even restaurants somewhat overwhelming because I’m hearing and seeing EVERYTHING and I can get overstimulated.

So, the next time you see me out somewhere, just remember what it took to even go out of my door. I completely understand people who want to always stay inside their house, I just happen to think seeing people and doing things is important, necessary, AND fun (yes, I do like it, once I get there, but it’s all worry before I leave the house).  If you find I’ve disappeared for a while, I just needed to recharge a little, it’s not because I’m sad or angry. If I turn down an invitation, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s just that I can’t handle that right now, but next time might be better, so ask me again!

The “evils” of Princess Movies

I’m a big Disney fan. Huge. I think they make good movies and I don’t think those movies are as inherently sexist as many people say. For one, I think it’s a matter of perspective. I’m a big believer in talking to my children during movies. I never just sit them down and show them one. We sit together and talk about motivations and emotions. I use them as learning opportunities, not babysitting ones. That’s not to say we do nothing but watch TV, because we don’t, but that when it does happen, I try to be involved with it with them.

So, here are some of the ideas I have about a few Disney Princess movies, some of which get so much flack from people for being sexist. I present them in a whole different light to my kids than just “she got rescued by the guy.”

Cinderella (inspired by this set of tweets by @MeliGrey)

Oh, this one takes so much heat. People say that Cinderella is passive and just waiting to be rescued by her prince instead of saving herself. To this I say bullshit.

Cinderella was raised in an abusive environment and I don’t care how strong a person you are, when you are treated by family as a slave and told you are less than nothing, you start to believe it a little bit. Maybe a lot. You start to fear breaking the rules, I mean REALLY start to fear it. You try everything to make the abuser happy, even though that’s an impossible task. Cinderella wasn’t waiting to be rescued, she was SURVIVING. In addition to this, she was a happy person, an optimistic one who still believed in dreams. She could have become bitter, angry, and abusive in turn, but chose to be the opposite. That’s some strong will right there. She broke the cycle of abuse. SHE BROKE IT.

Then, when that stepmother tore her dress and ruined her dream of going to the ball, did Cinderella give up? NOPE. She went incognito. She BROKE The RULES. She went anyway, even though she knew there would be hell to pay if her step-mother found out. This is a big deal for someone in an abusive situation. By going, she found someone who loved her and she loved back. And why would that be a bad thing? She deserves love more than most people. I’m glad she can love someone and be happy.

The Little Mermaid

Or as I like to call it: Romeo and Juliet with tails (and without the dying). Seriously, Ariel did not change herself for a man. That song, ‘Part of Your World’ was sung BEFORE she ever laid eyes on Prince Eric. She wanted to be human for a long time. It was her dream. She collected human objects and obsessed over shipwrecks.

No, she would have probably married a merman and lived a happy mermaid life if her father had been a little more understanding. Her DAD was the reason she became a mermaid, not Eric. You cannot tell me that you didn’t have a crush on someone when you were 16 and had their posters all over your bedroom. Ariel had a statue. Her dad was angry and unsupportive and prejudiced. He not only destroyed her statue, he destroyed all of the human stuff she had collected over YEARS. This was stuff she adored and loved and he destroyed it like trash. Then, in that moment of learning that her father would NEVER understand her or support her or love her for what she is, she was convinced to visit the Sea Witch.

She didn’t turn into a human for a MAN, she did it because she was a damned teenager. She felt alone and alienated. And teenagers, ever since humans crawled out of the muck and learned how to say “You don’t understand! I hate you!” have been doing shit like the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU SAY. It was the Sea Witch who used Eric as part of the spell.

Beauty and the Beast (also seen here, if you know the author, please let me know)

Ok, last one, I think. Belle does not have Stockholm syndrome. This movie is an amazing piece on society and inclusion/exclusion/bullies/and beauty.  Seriously, just think about it. Gaston is revered for his attitude because he is considered manly. Our society encourages bullying because people who are different from us are scary and weird. Gaston is handsome and a bully and the town LOVES him for it. Belle is pretty, but she READS (the horror) and her father is an inventor (OMG, WHAT?) and so are not like the other simple ignorant town folk. The whole opening song is about how Belle is different from the rest of them. Belle feels like an outsider. She has no friends. She is excluded even though she is smart and kind.

The beast is what Gaston should look like. That is Gaston under the handsome appearance, a horrible beast. The Beast, on the other hand, WAS like Gaston, but the curse forced him to think about other. He was a bully who became an outcast. He experienced exclusion. In his solitude, he only had himself to think about, but as soon as Belle got there, he had someone ELSE to think about. He learned to be empathetic and his experience as an outcast taught him something. He grows as a person. He LEARNS. Belle, for the first time, is in a place where she is accepted. The Beast gives her access to his library: he GETS her and what she likes.  And then, he let’s her go because he wants her to be happy. He is SAD when the villagers come to get him, not angry. He only fights back when Belle comes back because then he realizes he has someone who loves him and he’s included.

This movie is not just about Belle. Belle doesn’t need to change. She already sees the good in the Beast and the bad in Gaston. She is intelligent and she reads and learns. She is just a force of change: Gaston doesn’t change and dies for it, while the Beast DOES and the spell is broken.

Ok, that’s enough for now. I hope you enjoyed my pro-Disney movie rant. My challenge to you is to look at a movie in a different way. I am all for feminism and equality, as you know, but things aren’t always black and white.