On sexual harassment and the ever-annoying ‘Ethnicity’ question

I was hit on the other day while walking down the street.

This isn’t a strange occurrence for  most women. For me, it happens often enough to be annoying, though rarely enough that I still haven’t written out my full list of snarky responses. However, as an ethnically ambiguous woman, the comments are usually geared toward my looks; asking where I’m from, how ‘exotic’ I look, or something of the sort. I’m sure many mixed and non-white people have similar experiences.

But this particular instance made me think a lot harder.

It went a little like this:

“I’m sorry, Miss, could I just stop to talk to you for a moment?”

Now, I’m from New York. Though I don’t live in the city currently, it’s managed to rub off on me. So the New Yorker in me was going “What the hell does this guy want, it had better be directions because I don’t have time for this.” The non-New Yorker in me decided to give him a chance. I ended up saying, “sure,” not sure what to expect.

“Where are you from? Because you look like an Egyptian Queen, I mean with that hair [it’s very curly] and that dress [some loose thing I wear when I’m feeling the need for extra comfort], are you Persian?” He said.

I went for the least complicated answer because I needed an out and I had a meeting to get to and immediately became uninterested. “I’m American.”

He didn’t stop there. “No, but, like, what are your origins? Are you Indian?”

I cut him short by mumbling, “Latina,” knowing that it would be the only reply he would be satisfied with, and rushing into Starbucks. But I had enough time before my meeting to think about the conversation that just happened. First, why the hell did I let him keep asking me where I was from? And why was that the first question that popped into his head? I felt incredibly upset, annoyed again that someone was interested in me because I looked “different.” Annoyed that I bothered to answer him. But maybe it was an overreaction.

As one does, I proceeded to text several friends about the experience to hear their opinions. Some agreed with my indignation, and others asked me why I was so short with him…that he was just being nice. So I spent the next while being torn about how I should react to these kinds of things. Am I too much of an indignant feminist? Do I look for a fight wherever I go? Why do I even feel bad about this? Why did I even engage?

I came up with a few answers that satisfied me, at least.

First, if someone is interested in a person walking down the street and actually wants to have a conversation, they should come up with something normal to say. Even “hi” would have made it better. But this was someone who was trying to put me in some sort of box so he could figure out why exactly he found me attractive. By immediately asking me my ethnicity, not letting me just be “American” (which is not the wrong answer, just not what he wanted), he was trying to justify…I don’t know what. Maybe trying compliment me more by implying that I was different. Which is an entirely different issue with our society today.

Second, sure he was polite, and it’s that politeness that makes me feel a little sheepish for getting so annoyed, but that shouldn’t make his slightly offensive words more valid.

Third, when a woman walks down the street, she isn’t asking for compliments, she hasn’t dressed up for anyone around her. And if you just have to talk to her, don’t ask her about something personal–which the topic of identity definitely falls into.

The end result of all of this was wishing that I had stopped him mid-conversation and said, “look. Next time you think a girl is pretty, come up with something else to say. The weather. It doesn’t matter. But don’t ever do what you just did again.”

Hopefully next time I can fight my initial urge to be nice and demure and actually say what I’m thinking instead of figuring out a witty reply an hour later. We’ll see. I’m rather good at retrospect.


On Selma, The Imitation Game, and why you should see these films

Okay, I’ve been absolutely terrible at keeping up this blog. But I’m on break now and finally settling into the idea of being somewhat productive and relaxed without being too excessive about either activity. I’ve also been on a bit of a movie-going spree (though I’ve only really gone to two movies–I barely have time to go to the cinema during the school year as I’m sure many college students understand), and I’ve seen and thoroughly enjoyed The Imitation Game and Selma so far (future plans include American Sniper, Unbroken, Night at the Museum 3, Into the Woods, and the Hobbit). Seriously. Amazing movies are coming out and I’m not sure I, nor my heart, can keep up.

The Imitation Game, a film about Alan Turing and his team’s work to break the Enigma, the Nazi code machine during WWII, was incredible. I, for one, am a huge fan of both Kiera Knightly and Benedict Cumberbatch. I think they are both incredible actors and they were amazing in this film as well. I also love Allen Leech, who plays John Cairncross, one of the members of Alan Turing’s team (and Tom Branson in Downton Abbey). But the film is so much more than its amazing cast. I loved how Alan Turing’s homosexuality and the suffering that was inflicted on him by society was woven in. it wasn’t downplayed, it wasn’t hidden, nor was it too hammered into the story. His treatment as a homosexual did influence events and it is something that does need to be noticed, and the film did this artfully.

While some of the plot points were a bit stretched (I won’t spoil anything, but there are some connections made to his young school days that seem a bit too contrived), the debated inaccuracies, and the idea that the teamwork involved in breaking Nazi code was a bit downplayed in order to make way for Alan Turing, as a movie itself that is based on fact, it was incredible. The filmography, the pacing, the dialogue…all of it held you in suspense from start to finish, and I definitely felt for each and every one of the characters. I highly recommend it.

Now, to Selma. Which I just saw yesterday. In case you haven’t heard of it, the movie follows Martin Luther King Jr. and the events around the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, an influential, non-violent demonstration that protested the voting restrictions against black citizens in Alabama. The acting in this film was also incredible, and it doesn’t spare the audience at all. I was in tears during some of the scenes, especially those depicting the violence the state troopers inflicted on the non-violent protesters, partially from shock, and partially from shame that American people felt it was their right to beat the protesters until they were nearly dead. The film is directed by Ava DuVernay, who is now the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe.

I particularly loved that the film shows MLK to be a human being and not a deified being. The film doesn’t tarnish his reputation in any way. On the contrary, it made me even more inspired by his speeches and his ideas. But the fact that we see him in moments of strength and doubt made it all the more real to me. While there is controversy surrounding the film and its negative portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson, and of course a film based on a true story can never be completely accurate, this is a must-see.

It’s also incredibly appropriate in the timing of the release. With the Ferguson protests, stop and frisk, and various prejudices that, embarrassingly, still exist, Selma is an eye opener. Yes, the violence and the fight is on a different scale, but we’re still working toward the goals that these activists fought for: equality.

On Music and Chocolate

Probably one of the saddest minor and unimportant things that can happen to me in my daily life is coming out of the freezing cold, all excited to buy a cup of my favorite hot chocolate, only to be told that it’s gone. I don’t even have to ask anymore. They just tell me if they have any or not. But then off I go, forlorn, and buy myself a tea that most definitely does not satisfy my need for beautifully delicious hot chocolate, and go study. But I digress.

I’ve decided I’m going to try and update at least once a week, since I’m serious about keeping a proper, bonafide blog. This week shall be a bit of a music review again, since I haven’t had much time to read. But then again, music is another form of food for the soul. So I’m not suffering too much from lack of reading.

First thing’s first. Let’s talk a second about Twenty One Pilots. They’re a band my friend just harassed me into listening to last night, and I think their sound is absolutely brilliant. Some songs have this slow rap that sounds like spoken word going on, set to this soft electronica background. Other songs have a more indie rock feel, or just indie (not that I can tell the difference anymore) while others sound almost like dance music. Basically they have the coolest sound that I can’t help paying attention to. And then they have me guessing as to what the next song is going to sound like. It’s great. All of it. Give them a listen.

While we’re on the topic of music, I think it’s terrible if I don’t make it known that one of the best bands around right now are The Kooks. You’ve probably heard of them, and if you haven’t, click on the link right now and then go listen to every single song on Spotify. I’ve been listening to them for what, 7-8 years now? They released their fourth album earlier this year called Listen, and didn’t disappoint, obviously. Though they used to be an indie-guitar-rock-ish band, they’ve changed and broadened their sound with this new album, but they haven’t lost their essence. Which makes them so great.

I drove two hours to Philadelphia and back on a weekday because I needed to see them (and I took my sister to her first concert as a birthday present) and even with the flat tire I got on the way there, and having to drive at 55 mph the entire way on the highway (and panicking because it’s actually really terrifying not being able to speed up on the highway when you need to), it was so worth it. We even got pictures with them after the concert (but only because my sister somehow grew up without my noticing and somehow became the braver of the two of us).

Yep, there they are, right in front of my face

Yep, there they are, right in front of my face. After 7 years of listening to their music. And there, there is Luke Pritchard (lead singer).

Here’s the newest music video they released for the song See Me Now, which is beautiful.

Ok. So this has turned in a Kooks gush session. But it was most definitely necessary.

Let me know if you’ve heard of any of these groups and what you think of them!

Now, to quickly return to our starting topic of chocolate, Nutella is another blessing that has been sent to us. But to make it even more delicious, spread it on a piece of toast, and sprinkle cinnamon all over it (if you dislike cinnamon like my roommate does, I do not recommend trying this). But if you are a normal specimen of human, do it. It is probably the discovery/life-hack I am most proud of.

Back to the work I have been avoiding by writing this blog post. Enjoy your music and chocolate.

On a Range of Subjects

So, I have decided to start a blog on this website. I’ve always talked about it and had all these wonderful ideas and I never did anything about it. But now I’m determined that I shall.

A little bit about myself: I am a college student. But I also identify as a writer, a reader, a dreamer, a singer, an artist, a musician, a feminist…I really dabble in everything and wish I had more time to do it all. Ah if only I could function on less sleep. Alas, I cannot.

What am I going to write about? Anything. Everything! All things that my incredibly scattered mind finds interesting.
Books, movies, writing, nature, fashion, music, life, etc.

I always stay up late on the computer anyway so I might as well put that to use.

So, to begin, I’ll lightly touch on a book that I just read that I should have read ages ago and didn’t. It was a phenomenal, subtle, critical and cynical novel that had me sitting by a window and looking into a field in the most pensive and dreamlike of states:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

If you don’t know the story, it is about a young man, Newland Archer, who is very conforming upper class American citizen of in the late 1800’s. He is engaged to be married to the perfect girl whom everyone expected him to wed, yet all changes when he meets his fiancee’s very unusual cousin. I won’t give anything away, but we follow Archer as his sentiments towards society is affected.
The novel doesn’t progress at the speed that fiction does today, but this little story is a gem of fiction and dispelled my writer’s block. Wharton writes so romantically, describing everything in beautiful language no one really uses anymore, yet not so much that one grows bored when reading.

If I can one day write the way she does, I will have reached the summit of one of my tallest mountains. And 19th century New York always makes me extremely jealous. (I end up walking down fifth avenue imagining that I’m actually in a four-horse coach on my way to some ridiculously proper dinner party).

On a slightly different note, I recently watched My Immortal Beloved, a film very freely narrating Beethoven’s love-life. I took it mostly as fiction, as one must with these types of movies. And as melodramatic as the film was, apparently I’ve been enjoying it since I have been listening to Beethoven and Chopin all day on Spotify.

Don’t worry, I’ve also been listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 on repeat for the past week, so my music tastes cover most of the styles. It is, by the way, a really great album, and I’m not just saying that because everyone else is (though they are). The album has a great balance of upbeat, fun songs, and deeper, more emotional songs that one may or may not shed a tear to.

Back to work for me, Go listen to Moonlight Sonata or Welcome to New York. Or something.