Grace & Frankie: Nick is a Creep

Netflix’s original series Grace & Frankie returned for it’s third season March 24th. I love this program. However, a plot point which begins towards the end of the latest season bothered me and I needed to write this.

Spoilers ahead, content note for stalking and manipulation

Episode 11, The Other Vibrator
Grace and Frankie now have their own company, Vybrant, and they’ve launched a vibrator made specifically for older women. 
They discover another company , Onmi Tech, has stolen their idea. They send a cease-and-desist letter via their lawyer and then have a meeting with the other company’s legal team. It’s during this meeting that the head of the company, Nick, spots Grace. He immediately walks into the meeting.

Untitled
Spoken like a true entrepreneur

The whole time he’s in the meeting, he doesn’t take his eyes off Grace, to the point that even when he’s responding to Frankie, he only looks at Grace. He’s told why the meeting is taking place and proceeds to kick out his legal team (which by the way, includes his own son). Grace dismisses her lawyer as well. Grace can already tell this man is interested in her and her intent seems to play this to her advantage. Which, I can get behind. Nick is the type of man who likes to feel powerful and have his ego stroked. If Grace can use her “feminine wiles” to save her company, then by all means. There’s some flirtation and Frankie’s attempts to also be a part of the conversation, which honestly save the whole scene. Otherwise this is a very run of the mill cis hets being bland. Nick suggests he and Grace go to dinner so he can “make this all go away”. Frankie however sees what’s going on.

Untitled
I love you, Frankie

Frankie tells Nick they’ll sue him. He says, “Ok, I’ll see you in court”. He turns to Grace and says, “At least I’ll get to see you again.”

Episode 13, The Sign (Episode 12, focuses on Sol and Robert which is why I’m skipping it)

In this episode the women is served cease-and-desist papers from Omni Tech.

Untitled
Really, Frankie is the star of the show

Later in the episode, Grace is on the phone with Nick. And well, see for yourself:

Grace: Are you kidding me? You can’t sue us! It was our idea!
Nick: Grace, you said you were gonna sue me, but I never heard from you.
What’s a guy got to do to get your attention? 
Grace: You’re suing me so you can see me?
Nick: I’m being proactive, one of the things you like about me.
Grace: [scoffs] There is nothing I like about you.
Nick: Oh, come on, it’s cute. I’m a scamp. 
Grace: Oh, stop. This is not a game to me. We built Vybrant from nothing in our 70s. And it was just starting to take off. And not filling orders is not good for business. And if you think that I’m going down without a fight, you’re not as smart as you look.
Nick: You think I look smart?
Grace: What is wrong with you?

And scene! (emphasis mine)

So, what do we see here? Nick used the legal system to get a hold of Grace. She and her new company are vulnerable and he knows this. He dismisses her very legitimate concerns by laughing it off. He tries to gaslight her by making it seem like she is the one who likes him, he’s doing this for her, really. This is a joke to him. Like Grace said, she and Frankie built their company in their 70’s. If you’re familiar with the show, you know they’ve dealt with the topic of ageism and how society views (or doesn’t) women over a certain age. This is clearly a way to manipulate Grace. He’s counting on the fact that as an older woman, she’ll feel like she can’t say no.

Later in the episode, Nick shows up at the house, comes in even though Grace never invited him in. Grace tells him Frankie has had a stroke, he shows concern for a second and then it’s back to pressuring Grace to go out with him.

Again, emphasis mine:

Grace: Would you stop playing games with me? Things are hard enough right now.
I can’t even work because of your cease-and-desist.
Nick: I just wanted to see you. Look, Grace, my original offer still stands. Have dinner with me. One little dinner. I’ll drop our vibrator, nobody sues anybody, and we all go on with our lives.
Grace: And what do you expect to get out of this dinner that will never happen?
Nick: Nothing untoward. I want us to get to know each other. Come on one dinner.
Grace: That’s all I’d have to do and you’d drop everything? Stay out of my business? My life?
Nick: Yes.

Then there’s a back and forth about what type of meal, where it’ll be, how they’ll get there, even what they’ll eat. I’m sure it’s meant to be cute. It’s meant to show that Grace isn’t easy and just look at how hard poor Nick has to work to get a simple date with Grace.

After shaking hands on the “deal”:

Grace: Why are we doing this?
Nick: Because I can’t get you out of my head.
Grace: Then you should get a new head.
Nick: I would, but I have great hair.

See? He’s so funny. How very charming.

The “Date”:

Grace arrives and brings along paper work for Nick to sign saying he won’t pursue the lawsuit. Once that matter is settled, Grace begins to tell Nick about herself in a very disinterested tone. Nick offers her alcohol which she at first refuses because “pre-late lunch drinks” had “not been negotiated”. Nick then says he’ll have “to pour out this extremely dry martini with olives flown in this morning all the way from Spain”. Again, if you’ve watched the show, you’ll know a dry martini is Grace’s drink of choice. She asks how he knew that.

Nick: Because I did a little research on you.
Grace: That’s terrifying.
Nick: I got the lowdown on Say Grace.
Grace: Oh, did you?
Nick: Solid growth ten quarters in a row, despite the beauty market’s volatility.
Grace: Well, it’s 11 quarters, but who’s counting?
Nick: We are. It’s so us.

From the beginning, Grace has been rightfully upset about Nick’s behavior. She correctly identifies that his STALKING is indeed terrifying. After another charming  obnoxious back and forth:

Nick: If you’re an expert, explain them to me.
Grace: Oh, God, no. I am a nightmare when it comes to relationships.
Nick: Yeah, well, I read that in the research.
Grace: Where are we going? There’s no restaurants out here.
Nick: We never said “restaurant,” we said “food”. I’m meeting all the criteria of our negotiation.

So, we know that Nick is aware of Grace’s past with Robert. He knows she’ll be hesitant to start anything with him or anyone, so he’ll be prepared to use whatever he can to get her to do whatever he wants. He has so far.

I wish Nick wasn’t in this show. His character is gross, a creep who doesn’t respect boundaries and who is willing to use the legal system to bully Grace. This isn’t cute. It isn’t romantic. It’s stalking, manipulation and abusive. This plot line is extremely common, all you need is to look at the synopsis of any “romantic” movie 

But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak up about it. I am hoping next season won’t involve Nick but I know better. I just hope I’m proved wrong, because I love this show and I’d hate to have to quit it, but I will if it comes to that.

Dilemma: Explaining Racism to Other POC

So a recent text exchange about white privilege and racism with a potential date (a person of color) made me have a bunch of feels. This is my attempt at parsing them.

Explaining why white supremacy exists to a person of color feels like I’m splainin’ their oppression to them. But he kept blaming racism on mental capacity or ability. I needed to say something about the ableism he was displaying.

He was “not all white people”-ing me and saying “you can have white privilege and not be racist”. Except you can’t have one without the other, white privilege exists because of racism.

I know how frustrating it is having this conversation with a White person. So how does one manage to talk to a person whose facing similar bigotries as you without coming off as condescending? How do you strike that balance of not compromising your message but also wanting to educate them? Personally I’m not a fan of educating White people. My writing is intended for people who are well versed in Social Justice and for people like me so they know they are not alone. This blog serves as a sort of journal and I do not have the desire to explain my existence to someone more privileged than I.

But when faced with a person of color who isn’t well versed in these things, I feel there’s a moral imperative to educate them. Because bigotry isn’t simply “just how the system is”. It isn’t some phenomenon without an explanation. Obviously you’re not going to pick a random person off the street and rant at them but if you’re speaking to someone and they mention the bigotry they face and wonder out loud why it’s happening, it’s a little hard not to want to want to grab them by the collar and just spill your guts about how and why The Man is keeping us all down. I don’t need to reach white people, I need to reach others like me. There is strength in numbers.

Someone who doesn’t understand why bigotry exists but is willing to learn is obviously not the issue. What makes this an issue for me is when faced with someone like Potential Date. Apart from the ableism, his responses smacked of complacency. He wasn’t interested in attacking the root cause of the bigotry. It may be easier to be ableist but it doesn’t do anything to combat the oppression we face. What it does is further stigmatize people who are mentally ill or who have cognitive disabilities.

Potential Date isn’t disabled so he won’t understand why ableism is an issue, at least not right away. Not without someone to explain it to him. So I’m back to my dilemma. I don’t want to waste time educating someone with able privilege but then he’s also a person of color. I feel like he needs to understand. I feel he should understand because he’s faced racism. So, naively, I wish he could just get it. He’s straight and cis and that adds more layers of privilege.

So then I guess the real issue is how do you talk to someone who has privileges over you, but who isn’t at the very top of the racial hierarchy? And if they’re open to talking about it, how do you do it in a way it won’t alienate them? Because I feel that conversation can end up making the other person feel like they’re being talked down to.

As I’m writing this, I have a million thoughts running through my mind. For example, if the text exchange had been about sexism, transmisogyny or homophobia I probably wouldn’t bother to educate him. Because in those cases he’s privileged. But then again, I can’t just separate my transness or queerness, or the fact that I present as “female” from the racial oppression I face. These things do not occur in a vacuum. I’m interested in hearing your take. Is this all just an exercise in futility?

Addendum:
This is why dating advice that says to go out and just meet people in meat space doesn’t work. As a loud feminist and sjw is so fucking tricky and most times impossible to meet someone in the wild who is like-minded. Which is why online dating is the way to go for me.

7a2b18c52f4b8e8b105bbac46fb8ec39

Fuck no, I don't love you or forgive you

Since Donald Trump winning last night I’ve seen several posts by people urging those of us who are upset, hurt and terrified by this election to be understanding, open-minded and to love Trump and his supporters.  To accept him as president-elect.

People have been sharing that one particular Martin Luther King Jr.,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

And to that I just have one thing to say: fuck you. I don’t have to love Donald Trump, I don’t have to love the GOP, I don’t even have to fucking love the Democratic Party. The only people I have any obligation to are myself, my family, my friends and all of the people who are going to be hurt by the decision to elect Orange Hitler.
Don’t you dare tell me that the only way that oppression and hate will go away is if the oppressed love and are nice to our oppressors. I reject that notion.

I’ve already seen several posts from White liberals who are so surprised that America could elect Donald Trump. Marginalized people have been warning about this from the get-go. You love saying Donald Trump doesn’t represent America; doesn’t represent American values but if you knew anything of your history; of American History you fucking know that Donald Trump is a product of America. This is stolen land; it was founded on the oppression of people of color.

Conversion therapy to “cure the gay” is still a thing which Mike Pence, VP-elect supports and advocates for. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia transphobia, hatred of all religions save Christianity, all of these different types of oppression are completely American. Donald Trump is not an anomaly. Donald Trump exists because this country encourages, enables and fosters these types of attitudes.

I do not have to tolerate, accept, or love it. I’m beyond over liberals telling me and mine that all we have to do to make things better is to be nice. I am done being nice. Abusers and oppressors don’t deserve my kindness, let alone my love.
You know what? During the whole campaign I saw so many supposedly progressive people constantly throw mentally ill people under the bus by calling Trump supporters by ableist slurs; questioning their cognitive ability.
Accusing women of only voting Hillary becuase of some “gender bias”.
None of those things are very “nice”, but I guess when it’s white liberals doing it then it’s all OK. Let a marginalize person fight back and suddenly you white liberals get bent out of shape.

I will fight you every step of the way for myself, for my child, for my friends, for my family and all other marginalized and oppressed people. I am angry, I am sad, I am devastated but I’m not surprised. I’m in mourning and I’ll be mourning for a while but you’re not going to be able to get rid of me and mine. You’re going to get hatred, you’re going to get my anger, you’re going to remember me and you’re going to regret ever fucking with us.

By the way since you love all quoting MLK Jr. so fucking much, how about you read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

My Coming Out Story

CN: homophobia, religious bigotry, Pulse
.

.

 

The recent shooting at Pulse has me hit me hard. It got me to think about my own queerness and about what it means to be a queer Boricua. I started thinking about my first encounter with Pride and the LGBT community.

I was 11 the first time there was a pride march in my hometown in Puerto Rico. Mami took us. I remember it was treated as a sort of spectacle for cis hets to enjoy.
Anyway, we’re in the car and my older brother is driving. I see this rainbow flag and I asked what it was. My older brother called it “la bandera de los maricones”. I yelled at him for using that slur. He just laughed at me.

We passed by a group of people holding signs with messages like “homosexuales van al infierno”, “Dios te odia”. I asked Mami if that was true. I was taking Sunday school classes and they told me God made us in his image and he didn’t make mistakes. He loved us all. So why was he condemning these people? She didn’t know how to respond. She would just say we weren’t allowed to question God because that meant the devil had taken hold of us.
I don’t remember much from the parade. I know there was a lot of people and everybody looked happy and like they were having fun.

Before that my only encounters with LGBT folks were reruns of Will & Grace and the trans woman who was a regular at the annual town fair. Everybody used she/her pronouns but I was told she “used to be a man”. I vaguely remember hearing she had been attacked and the reaction was that it was wrong because she didn’t bother anybody. No one told me it was wrong becuase transmisogyny is wrong. They basically said she didn’t deserve it becuase she kept to herself. I didn’t question it at the time but looking back the message was that some LGBT folks deserve the attacks.
Mami worked in a hotel near the beach. That was the only part of town LGBT folks felt safe expressing themselves. I would hear stories about “patos” holding hands and there was a lot of “joking” about loose hands. Mami never made those jokes and she always told me it was wrong to hate homosexuals.

It wasn’t until I moved to the states 13 years ago that I saw a gay couple publicly showing affection. My mind was blown. Here were two men holding hands and just genuinely enjoying each others company.

I didn’t come out as pan and non binary until last year. Before then I believed I was straight and cis. I ignored the feelings I’d get for certain girls. I thought “everybody has those feelings. It doesn’t mean anything”.
Growing up I was very much a “tomboy” and my grandmother once asked me if I was “pata”. I was so offended. “No, of course not! Can’t a girl not like girly things without it meaning anything” (It can, of course). My grandfather was worried my Tonka trucks would make me “machua” (butch lesbian)
My abusive boyfriend would constantly question why I had some many queer friends and why I would watch Noah’s Arc. He’d constantly talk about threesomes and ask me to pick the girl and I would ignore him. He’d insist and point out different women and when I would give up and say I found a woman attractive he’d use that as proof that I was a lesbian.

I never felt like I could own my sexuality. Looking back, I think I stuck to cis and straight becuase it was easier. I didn’t pick them, I didn’t have to justify them. They were the norm, they were safe; indeed they were the only labels available. I didn’t know there were other options. That all changed when I met several NB’s and when they would talk about their identity it just made sense to me. I read up on it and I felt this immediate sense of relief. These feelings I had had a name and they were valid.

My mom is supportive even if she doesn’t completely understand. My daughter was unfazed when I explained. “You’re still my mom. That’s what counts. You’re a person”. (From the mouth of babes, huh?)

The shooting at Pulse happened the morning the Puerto Rican Day parade was to take place. I watched the parade on TV and saw so many Puerto Rican flags with the rainbow colors. This was the first year the Parade included queer Boricuas. While my heart was breaking over Orlando, I was also so proud that Puerto Rico is finally (although slowly) moving forward.
I’m fiercely proud of my Puerto Rican heritage. I’m fiercely proud of my femme queerness.
The shooting  scared me and it still does. But that is OK becuase it’s that fear that drives me to speak up; to protect myself and others.

This is why I’m writing this. This, my official coming out story.

 

13450726_1091977407528870_7408633718092815579_n

Hatred will not silence us. We will not stop fighting. We will mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.

We Don't Respect Children

I came across this meme on Facebook today. I was going to repost with some commentary but the commentary turned into this blog post.
CN: abusive parenting

536645876123725825-twitter

 

(image description: black text against white background reads: My 8-year-old just talked back to me. While she’s at school I’m logging into Minecraft and destroying her fucking village)

 

Look, I don’t care how annoying your kid’s behavior may be. I get it, I really do. But you DO NOT under any circumstances, destroy their things. Destruction of property is a sign of abuse. And yeah, I would count this as destruction of property. The kid spent who knows how long building the village and you’re going to destroy it because you can’t handle your kid standing up for themselves? There are ways to correct behavior that doesn’t involve hurting your child. Think of it this way, if I disagreed with my spouse, would that give my spouse the right to destroy something of mine?

Plus, behavior deemed “bad” is usually caused by some distress to the child. Figure out what it is and work through it. Talk to your kids. Don’t fucking do this. It disturbs me the amount of people sharing this on Facebook and commenting that this is something they’d do. We, as a culture, don’t see children as autonomous beings with fears and dreams like any adult. Why do we think treating children like this is OK and then act surprised when those children grow up to be maladjusted adults? Lots of parents think they own their children and treat them like property. Then when those children are adults who want nothing to do with their parents, those same parents act hurt. I see it every Mothers’ and Fathers’ day. I see children who feel pressure to talk with their parents. I see people shaming those children because we refuse to see parents as people who make mistakes. Some of those mistakes are too awful to forgive.

I get that that this is supposed to be humorous but honestly, where is the humor? Is it funny that I’m threatening my child with violence? (yes, violence, see above), is the humor in the fact that my child is supposed to be afraid of me? If I want my child to not talk back to me, how is doing this going to change that behavior? I’d like my child to respect me, but that won’t happen if I don’t respect her. And you know what? Sometimes kids will do things that will annoy you and down right anger you. It’s your job as the adult to set the example and regulate your emotions. If you feel you can’t handle the behavior at that moment, excuse yourself if possible. Take a breather and go back when you’ve calmed down. You can’t expect your child to exhibit certain behavior if you don’t model it for them.

This meme may seem innocuous on the surface but the people commenting how they’d do this reveal a deeper societal pattern. We just don’t respect kids. If we did, no one would find this funny.

I'm not beautiful and that is OK.

I’ve started therapy at a new clinic. My therapist is a WOC who identifies as a feminist so she gets points for that. We’ve talked about growing as girl children in machista families. She understands where I’m coming from with certain things.

However, every time I mention the word ugly she stops to ask if I really think I’m ugly.

No, I don’t. By conventional standards, I am ugly and not very feminine looking. I’m fat, I have stretch marks and cellulite. I have jiggly and flabby skin. I have scars from self injury. I’m tall. I have short hair dyed an unnatural color. I have piercings and I’m hairy.

But I really don’t give a fuck if I’m ugly or not. Not anymore.
When I was little all I heard from my family was how fat and ugly I was. So, as I got older and the other girls were trying on make up and exploring their femininity I decided that those things were vain and frivolous. They were weak and I wouldn’t be.

I had internalized the misogyny hurled at me all my life. I would be one of the guys, not like those other silly girls. I shunned anything that could be called feminine while simultaneously adhered to other rigid gender norms like shaving. And why did I shave? Because hairy women are “ugly”. Men don’t like hairy women. So while I shunned certain aspects of femininity to protect myself I also chose to follow some to also protect myself. I was a mess. A chill girl mess.

As I’ve matured into my feminism, I’ve learned that femininity isn’t weakness. Once I learned to let go of that internalized misogyny, I realized femininity is powerful. I wear make up and dresses now because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel pretty. Not pretty for other people. Pretty for me. I don’t shave because it’s too much hassle and I was only doing it for other people.

I’m going to have to explain that being ugly isn’t the worst thing. I’ll have to explain what I mean when I use the word ugly. I’ll have to spend part of my therapy session explaining 101 feminism/social justice stuff. And that’s exhausting. My thinking I’m “ugly” isn’t more important than treating my PTSD.

On a typical summer day, you’ll find me wearing a pretty dress, make up on my face all while my pits and legs are hairy. I’m not beautiful by conventional standards and that’s OK. I never will fit into the white ideal and I don’t want to. I’m beautiful for me.

Christmas Tree Skirt

When we lived in the homeless shelters we weren’t allowed to decorate very much, if at all. Space was also extremely limited. So we’d make a small poster with secular Christmas imagery. Our first Christmas in the shelter we spent it alone and I made spaghetti. Rather depressing for someone who was used to a bunch of food. But we didn’t have a proper kitchen and we weren’t allowed to spend the night out of the shelter.

The following Christmas, I made a tree of sorts out of my daughter’s baby blocks. I used her gingerbread cookie blanket as a tree skirt. The “tree” looked more like a pyramid but my daughter was happy.

Xmas Eve 2012 (2)

(image is of a pyramid made of blocks surrounded by Christmas presents)

The next year I bought a small tinsel table tree, it cost about a dollar and some change. This tree was very small and it disappered when my daughter put some candy canes and a huge heart ornament on it. Once again, I used the blanket as a skirt.
Untitled

(image is of Christmas presents surrounding a very small tree, above the tree is a green and red arrow pointing to it , there’s a red and white stocking hanging from the wall with some toys in it, also on the wall are some Christmas cards.)

Last Christmas we spent it with some family although we did have a strict curfew at the shelter so our time was limited.
This year however we’re in our own apartment. I bought a full size yet inexpensive tree. We bought a few ornaments at the 99 cent store. We made a lot of ornaments as well. We’re going to cook Puerto Rican Christmas food and spend today with family and friends.

Every Christmas since my daughter was two, I’ve hung the stocking she decorated in daycare. And once again the gingerbread cookie blanket is out as a skirt. Old habits die hard and I also wasn’t going to spend money on a tree skirt when the blanket proved to work just as well.