Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Battle Cry


Today … I rant.

Because if I don’t rant, I will cry.

As many of you know, my full time job involves teaching high school students how to teach other high school students about sex and sexuality.

Part of this involves teaching about safer sex and the like, but the most important part of this involves empowering teens through tackling really tough topics like abortion, unhealthy relationships, rape, and body image.

Today, in one of my Sex Ed Squads, we tackled body image.

Four of my students cried.

They ranged in age from 15 – 18. They were all colors of the rainbow. They came in all shapes and sizes.

And they cried because their parents are fucking assholes.

All of them shared how their parents told them that they weren’t beautiful. All of them shared how their parents and family told them they were, in essence, useless because they did not measure up to the arbitrary standards of societal beauty.

And it makes me SO fucking angry.

These women, who shared their vulnerability and hurt today are women who I have seen work diligently to make the world around them a better place.

They are teens who have risen above the apathy generally displayed by their generation and have decided to care.

They are silly and fun, and they have made it through 32 grueling 1.5 – 2.5 hour sessions, and have dedicated themselves to learning and knowledge and making themselves better people.

And today, they showed that they feel powerless and ugly because they have parents who cannot see the power and beauty in their own children.

I do my best, every week to show these teens how valuable they are … but I worry.

I worry that when this is over, they’re going to lapse back into those spirals of shame.

I worry that they’ll fall back into the destructive habits taught to them by their situation and their parents.

I worry that they’ll forget.

I worry that instead of waking up and feeling great and wonderful and beautiful, they’ll wake up feeling that their worth is only linked to a set of arbitrary numbers like weight and clothing size.

I know that I’m doing more than some, but I worry that I’m not doing enough.

And I know that this is something that is not just located within my group. Millions of teen women are experiencing this hurt and this shame … and if I could take those feelings away by bawling my eyes out until I could no longer see … shit I might even be willing to do that.

But this, as I mentioned, is not a time for crying.

Rather, it is a time of reminders and remembrance.

A time to remember why I do what I do.

A reminder why I’m leaving the city that I’ve grown up in and love, to move to place where there are seasons and winter (when I would be perfectly happy staying right here).

A reminder that there is hard work to be done.

A reminder of my deep-rooted desire to help heal the hurts of cruel parents and teach youth, male and female alike, that they are beautiful, powerful, and important.

Heart-wrenching, anger-inducing sessions like today remind me why I need to push farther, faster and more determinedly toward my goal.

I will fight my way toward change, and will bruise and bloody myself and my ego to do so.

For the people who have been chastised for their weight, looks, height, body type and manner of dress.

For the people who been told they are powerless because of what they look like or who they are.

For the four brave, beautiful young women who cried in my group today.

For them, I will be strong and persevere.

I have to.

-Becca