Contract

While writing a story yesterday, I realized that I am / was expecting something of my brother that he did not agree to. I expected the “Hallmark” family and instead I got an abuser as my role model. I now suspect that he did not want to be anybody’s brother. Perhaps he wanted to be an only child. Perhaps he didn’t want to share his time or toys, didn’t want to share our parents attention and energy.

Basically, I’m accusing him of violating the contract he didn’t sign. He didn’t agree to having a sister, so he never said he would act like a brother.

This is the very same thing I’m saying that my sister-in-law is doing to me. She is mad that I wouldn’t help out with our in-laws estate, when I never said I would. In fact, I told my husband (the only person I need to tell) that I wouldn’t, because it was his task to do with his brother. I had done the same task, alone, at 25. Perhaps she has a script that says “daughters-in-law should take care of all family matters”, like I have a script that says “brothers should not abuse their sisters”.

I’m coming to understand that it is best to start with a clean slate, to not be prejudiced for or against situations / people / experiences.

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Poem – Women are not things.

Women are people first.
We are not things.
We are not toys or tools.
We aren’t something to use.
We do not exist for your pleasure or fantasies.

Our bodies are just the vehicles our souls ride in.

We do not care if our bodies are
too tall,
too short,
too fat,
too bony
for you.

We do not care if our hair is
too dark,
too straight,
too kinky
for you.

We aren’t for you, you see.
We are for ourselves,
first and foremost.

We are our own guardians,
our own nurturers,
our own teachers.

We do not define
ourselves
in relationship
to you.

We do not need your permission
to vote,
to drive,
to work,
to feel.

We do not need your permission
to be,
period.

We are not
objects to be objectified,
possessions to be possessed,
or fantasies to be fulfilled.

We are people, pure and simple,
and if you don’t
start treating
us
like that
then you are missing out
on half
the human race.

Stop trying to
get our numbers
and
get into our pants.

Start trying to
know us
as fellow travelers
on this Earth,
at this time,
with you.

-ist

To choose to read something based on the gender or race of the person who wrote it is “ist”.

I knew a lady who is a lesbian who only read books written by women. I wasn’t brave enough to ask her if she ever read anything by George Sand.

There are people who say they are feminists, and they only will worship “the divine feminine” – the Goddess.

There are white people who will only read things by white people, and black people who will only read books by black people.

This is all “ist” – racist, sexist.

It is making God in your own image. It is staying in your own neighborhood. It is only looking at yourself and not knowing anything about your neighbor.

How can you love your neighbor if you know nothing about her or him?

But likewise, to choose your friends based solely on their race or gender is also “ist” -even if they are opposite you. To be white and pick a friend because he is black – not because of who he is, is “ist”.

Prejudice

In the same way that children learn prejudice, they can unlearn it.

Many years ago, I was at a Balinese shadow puppet performance at the Smithsonian. We were all sitting on the floor. A nearby child noticed that one of the male performers was wearing a skirt. The child was a young boy, probably about seven years old. He and I had worked up a rapport, having talked about the event. It was a pretty exciting show. All the performers were wearing long flowing clothes in rich fabrics. The headdresses alone were pretty off the charts, with all the gold and wires and wiggling bits.

The child looked at me and he said “A man wearing a skirt? That’s weird!” This child wasn’t even my child and yet I felt an obligation to help. I said that women couldn’t even wear pants just 50 years ago, and in Biblical times nobody wore pants. What is normal now isn’t always normal. Normal changes. Plus, there is also the idea of men wearing kilts in Scotland.

It was awesome to watch his head expand. His limited understanding of the world just got bigger.

I also know a child who saw a spider outside and it attempted to kill it. I pointed out that the spider was supposed to be outside. Outside is the home of spiders and so it is okay to leave it alone. She looked at me funny, but then she understood. She had learned somewhere else that spiders were bad and the spiders should be killed but I taught her otherwise. If they are outside don’t kill them.

Prejudices are simply limited understandings. They are simply the result of not having enough information.

This is how all of us learned what we learned. We were given just enough information to get us going, and then left to figure out the rest. Hopefully we fill in the rest with good stuff. If we don’t, it is up to teachers to help us out. Teachers come in all varieties. You can be a teacher, and you don’t even need a certificate. If you come across someone with a limited understanding, it is important to teach them a different way of thinking, to fill in the gaps.

I have a friend who is white. She was walking with a little girl who also was white, whom she had just met. The little girl told her a story about someone in school who was mean to her. That someone happened to be black. The girl generalized and said “Black people are so mean.”

My friend was very upset by this and told her about her nephew who is half black and said not all black people are mean. She was a bit distraught about this whole exchange hours later. She thought it was tragic. She couldn’t believe that prejudice still exists these days.

It wasn’t tragic. It was an important moment to teach this child to see things in a bigger way. Our job as adults is to teach them that not everything they know is everything there is. Our job as adults is to expand their understanding. We are supposed to be teaching them to open up their minds and to understand that the world is a lot bigger place than they think.

If you are cooking on the stove and you burn your thumb you may think that the stove is a dangerous thing, but if you have a good teacher with you she will explain how not to get hurt. Then you will start to cook again.

The same is true with people, and cultures, and insects, and anything. If you get hurt once you may generalize and think that is always the way it is. If you have a good teacher with you, you’ll learn how to interact with that person, that culture, that insect, and you will learn that not everything will hurt you.

Our job as teachers is to help children learn to establish boundaries and also how to break boundaries down.

The best part? You can be a teacher and not even be in the classroom. The whole world is your classroom, and teachable moments can happen anytime.

It isn’t sad that this child thought the way she did. This is just part of being a child. She has generalized, like we all do. The sad part would have been to not use that moment as an opportunity.