Because a stranger called me a prostitute

Occasionally, an odd message will come through the blog or even directly to my personal email. They don’t comment on the topic at hand (trivializing breast cancer, embarrassing myself, hating exercise). Instead, they want to use my small platform to peddle their own ideas or products. Probably most cancer bloggers have had at least one herbal-happy loon suggest we attack our tumors with green tea and meditation because chemotherapy is an evil scheme. I’ve only had to block a few weirdoes, which is saying something in this increasingly say-anything-at-all world.

One reader suggested that my willingness to stand naked before anyone but my husband and undergo life-saving surgery was a profound disobedience to God. We in the Shittiest Sorority should submit to His plan regarding our cancers, and die (or not) according divine whim instead of disrobing for surgeons. BLOCK. But it disturbed me enough that I still remember it three years later.

Today I received a bizarre email from a man trying to strike up a jokey relationship based on the conceit that I am being held in this marriage against my will as an “American Comfort Girl.” An actually creepy, deeply racist stranger found a picture of my family on line and wanted to ridicule the outlandish idea that I had married an Asian and birthed these two bastard half-breeds. He wanted to help me “escape.” I couldn’t delete and change all of my passwords to everything fast enough.

This screen-polluting email made me even angrier that there wasn’t a true apology for this. (I won’t link directly to the disgusting clip.) When something that ugly is laughed off as lighthearted fun, it can lead to other jokey offences, actual on-the-street, go-back-to-China shouting, and possibly prompt a message from a stranger suggesting I am a prostitute to the husband I adore.

Our current political climate has reminded us that we’ve only been putting makeup over our hate-filled pustules of racism and sexism. We’ve looked good enough for the school pictures, but it’s time to lance these boils. Maybe someday we’ll actually credit the billionaire bully for exposing what has obviously been simmering and spreading below the surface for too long: fear and misunderstanding of different skin, beliefs, and women in general. And you know, it’s not helpful to simply wag a judge-y Facebook finger at the orange ego-maniac who has been caught on tape, or the white man who made an actual video demeaning an entire town of Asians. We’re going to need to do more than that.

Only one generation ago, it was against the law for Bernie and me to be married in many states. Some of our parents, just 20-30 years ago, warned us not to date other races “because it would be difficult for your children.” And those were the thoughtful, modern parents who weren’t overtly racist. And you know what? They weren’t wrong. Last week, I had to explain to my boys why an entire “comedy” segment on a popular news program made fun of people that look like them… and why no one said, “sorry.”

Have you honestly never been complicit and quiet in the presence of downright rape-y language about women’s bits? Do you publicly chastise the jerk (maybe even a family member) who makes the offhand Asians-with-cameras or black-neighborhoods-where-you’ll-get-shot comments? No. No you don’t. Not every time. And you definitely didn’t ten or twenty years ago.

And that’s ok. Not sure you’re changing minds doing that, anyway. But I bet you make damn sure that the kids within earshot get schooled. Dinnertime discussion at the Lee home has been nothing but race relations (complicated and problematic) and rules for talking about girls (only ever say nice things). Exhausted, exasperated, and frankly kind of grossed out with the topic (God, aren’t we all?), Teddy pushed back from table exclaiming, “I’m still PRE-pubescent! My voice hasn’t even changed yet! Do we still have to keep talking about this weird stuff?” Well, Teddy, yes we do. But last night, this picture went viral, and gave me a glimmer of hope that future locker rooms will be filled with actual feminists.


Young men at Centennial High School, showing us how to combat the overwhelming ickiness on the news.

Unlike other angry outbursts catalyzed by news reports of truly gross behavior, mine is not political. I don’t care about the election (this year). Vote, don’t vote. Whatever, dude. But I do care profoundly about how you and I treat each other, how we talk about and to each other, and how we raise our boys to be champions for women. It’s time to get our multi-colored asses into pews or temples or mosques or yoga studios or Soul Cycle. Where do you go to tap into your sincerest, We Are the World feelings? I need them. And so do our kids.


22 responses

  1. My wife often comments on my fascination with social media and all the darkness and danger contained within. I shrug and continue to tweet and blog but her words swirl in my head.
    Your predicament sickens me, young lady.
    You deserve better. I know this is no laughing matter, but if you organize a lynch mob count me in. I’ll defend your honor with my dying breath.

  2. Not sure what to say to this today…. am sad as on this day 13 years ago, my cousins lost their teenage son in a car accident ( and their last name is Espinosa). I’d like to think we’d come further in this time, but my (other) cousins faced other forms of discrimination too.

    I am hoping that we’re shining a light in those final hiding places and that we DO get better from here. Big hugs to you and your boys, on this and every other day too.

  3. Oh, for fuck’s sake. “Yeah, she’s been through breast cancer. So bigotry and sexual harassment should be pretty funny to her.” It’s odd, isn’t it, that breast cancer has all sorts of sexualization about it, but mine – testicular cancer, which is actually about an actual reproductive part – doesn’t. You don’t see “Save The Dicks” shirts and stuff. I can’t imagine.

  4. Wow Britt. This blog may be your best. I’m so sorry anyone ever said those things and that you had to read them. So so sorry, that THAT is in your brain, your ears, your world. But nice work with those boys of yours.

    • After the recent ugliness, Sweeney called me in a near panic over how I was explaining all of this to my kiddos. Of course, as you can imagine, Nancy had so many wise things to say. I think we’re all infected with the filth in our media, causing a malaise we cannot quite shake. I find healing in the pews. I wonder where other people are going to escape. Love you, Katie. Thanks for writing these sweet words. xoxo

  5. The problem with social media is that it gives a soap box to every bloody idiot, and, sadly, it seems they are many. Thanks for having the courage to call them out while fighting your own battle.

  6. Well said! Gotta love the young men from Centennial High School too! Your description of the weirdo troll attacks to your excellent blog pissed me off so much I’ve got to go scrub a kitchen floor to work off the negative energy. Gotta get it done before the Patriots game, so off to it.

  7. Your words have been rattling around my thoughts since I first read this. I hope you make many others think and that the uncomfortable bits challenge us all to pay closer attention and try a little harder.

  8. Your sons are beautiful and your husband seems great, you know, if you are in to smart, kind, funny, handsome, successful guys. ;). Sad to see the ignorance of others bubble up. The orange beast has unfortunately helped embolden racists, xenophobia and misoginists. Sadly they will all still be here on November 9th.

  9. Pingback: What Will You Do? | Blooms and Bubbles

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