Kiara (Save Our Girls)

The following is based on a true story.

No one knew where Kiara went

 When she was born, it was like the neighborhood received its own personal sun

She was a much-needed piece of love after the summer they had

Big Wheels, ice pops, and the rapid-fire tap-tapping of Skechers dodging fast spun ropes

Double Dutch ended because breasts and hips came early – Earlier than her granny would have liked

No one knew where Kiara went

The first time, she was ten. It was a cousin. He blamed her for being ‘too thick’/granny stopped it and spanked her for being ‘too fast’

The second time she was eleven/It was a counselor at camp—he blamed her for seducing him—she was sent home two weeks early

The third time she was twelve. It hurt. He gave her money and praise.

No one knew where Kiara went

After the third time, she developed a reputation. She was ‘star’ material

Passed around from boy to boy, from house to house, from terror to horror

After the umpteenth time, she turned herself into a stone/she boxed her feelings and left them next to the moldy mattress in the basement of some unnamed house

No one knew where Kiara went

All of a sudden it stopped. He bought her nice clothes, took her to nice places to eat

He gave her an iPod with all of her favorite songs. He told her that she was the best, that he loved her, that she had the ability to make any man happy. He offered her a hug and she jumped into his arms. She cried there until she felt something stab her and the world went sideways.

No one knew where Kiara went

From car to truck to another truck to a bus—landscapes became a blur

Hands touched her, grabbed her, pulled her, lifted her and laid her down

Tears glazed her eyes, but they knew better than to fall/it wasn’t safe

Ceilings and cellars became more familiar/ as memories of her past began to fade

No one knew where Kiara went

Hollow was not an accurate description for what she felt/neither was empty

She felt like she was watching her ghost dance in an unfamiliar home

She was too strong to say goodbye to what was/no longer cared about what was driven out of her

No one knew where Kiara went

After a while, her granny stopped waiting up for her. Even she, with her church foundation, knew that reality is sometimes stronger than God/But she would never admit it

Granny laid an outfit on Kiara’s bed/bought her a new pair of shoes—she should be about a 10 or 11 now—and put her double dutch ropes next to the bed

She looked around her home—it felt as if all the smiles that had ever been had been stolen

The neighborhood was dimmer now/more grey

No one knows where Kiara is

__ __ __

Children are trafficked every day. There are very few programs that address this horror, and its aftermath. The programs that do address it aren't well-funded. If you can, please donate. If you cannot donate, please spread the word. Here are a few places to start:

Misssey 

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 

SF Collaborative Against Human Trafficking

 

 

Men: The Responsibility is Ours

I’ll get straight to the point: Patriarchy and all of its attendant ills (rape, assault, the devaluing of women’s labor, the oversexualization of young girls, the objectification of women, etc.) is a men’s issue. Just like systemic and institutional racism is a white person’s issue, patriarchy is the beast that all men must defeat.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself as misogynist or benefitting from patriarchy, you have some power to combat it. We men have to detoxify ourselves from the influence of patriarchy. We have to detoxify our masculinity. If a women says ‘no’ to you and you feel the need to assault her, the problem is yours. If you see this happen and do not intervene, you are equally at fault. I understand that it is dangerous to involve yourself in the concerns of others. But if men do not hold other men accountable, who will? It is our collective responsibility to hold each other accountable. Not because this women or girl (or women or girl identified person) could be our auntmomsisterwifegirlfriend. But because this is a person and they do not deserve to be treated in any way that dehumanizes them; that makes them less than. Patriarchy not only affects women. Men suffer from it, too. Our suffering is prominent in different ways.

Many of us suffer by having to uphold patriarchal ideals. Whether from our religious, cultural, or family traditions, a lot of us are walking in the anfractuous footsteps of the damaged men who came before us. We trudge the trail without question. And if we do question, other men smack us down. They cast aspersions on our manhood—using female-connected insults: pussy, bitch. So many men will defend their right to wallow in the Patriarchy harder than they will defend against oppression. If you will riot over a sports team winning or losing, or scuffle with someone over a pair of sneakers, but won’t protect women/girls—you need to check your priorities and your empathy. Maybe peek in on your humanity.

Three years ago I published the following. I truly think it bears repeating and emphasizing. How to raise (be) a feminist ally:

  1. Don’t be an asshole to women or girls (or those who identify as such). It is not calculus. Treat women with respect, always, but especially in the presence of young boys. You’ll be the example the boys in your life need.

  2. Encourage the boys in your life to enter the worlds created by girls during play, and encourage them to invite girls into theirs. The invitation is the key. Stop them if they try to impose their worlds.

  3. Teach him to listen and ask questions.

  4. Teach them about male privilege at an early age. Teach them to use their privilege in the service of others until the time they are ready to attempt to eradicate it.

  5. Immediately call out any behaviors they engage in that support or endorse an anti-woman/girl stance. Along with calling BS, teach them why this is wrong and how to correct it.

  6. Teach them how to perform stereotypically “women’s work”.

  7. Teach them that sensitivity; caring, and empathy make you strong and aren’t traits reserved only for women/girls. Nor do expressing these traits make them weak.

  8. Do not assign female gender/sex traits to inanimate objects. Your car is a car. Do not refer to it as ‘her’ or ‘she’ or any other anthropomorphized designation.

  9. Call out gender/sex-based discrimination in public. If it is not acceptable in the home, it damn well shouldn’t be acceptable in the world.

  10. Don’t be an asshole to women or girls.