Nov 11, 2014

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Birthday Thoughts for Cat

In honor of Cat’s birthday yesterday, Sunday, I wanted to share a little about how she’s made me a better person, and gush a little about how great she is.

Two years ago this month, one of my favorite cousins and pretty good friend, Cat, found her way back home to the bay area after many many moons away. It wasn’t very long before proximity turned existing mutual admiration and enjoyment into a grand friendship that grows stronger with every midnight cup of hot chocolate or cute puppy picture shared. Besides for enhancing my life by being a constant source of understanding, support, and laughter, she has, without intent, bettered my emotional and social footprint on this world.


I fundamentally believe that people are always changing; every day, every minute, we are receiving feedback that affects how we perceive, how we think, and how we act. Some days we change more than others, but generally that change goes unnoticed until viewed from the distance of time. This decade of my life has held a lot of changes, but the last two years, besides for this headlong jump into my education, I’ve most significantly felt the impact of my shifting perceptions.


Two years ago I started to become more directly exposed to Cat’s gentle scent of activism in the form of critiques, musings, and efforts to be inclusive and thoughtful in her language. Now, I have always thought myself socially conscious and have been surrounded by varying aspects through the people in my life, but never before to the level at which this challenged me.


I say challenged because even though I had always been open to ways in which I could be more inclusive and progressive, Cat would notice and talk about issues I had never before thought to think about. I thought myself a humanist, or an equalist, assuming that of course it was better to only think of all the people as a whole, not realizing how necessary it actually was to focus on women, or the differently abled, or people of color, or any oppressed or disadvantaged by society. As a white, generally healthy, cisgendered person, the impact of the issues weren’t fully in my field of vision, not to claim that they are even fully now, but you generally know what you live, and I have fortunately lived a pretty charmed life.


These challenges were mostly presented in the entertainment industry, in games, movies, shows etcetera. In a way, initially, I was angry about being challenged. Her critiques of some of my favorite things, though not untrue, felt hurtful and souring. I would be annoyed while watching Doctor Who with her, or would dread the end of a movie viewed together. I was stuck in this mindset that these things she saw as “problematic” where simply the stories that the writer wanted to tell, and I felt like simply because I enjoyed the thing was reason enough for it to be fine the way it was.


Cat never pushed me or actively tried to get me to change, she loved me the way I was, and I knew she thought I was a wonderful human being no matter what; she just simply was – unapologetic and unflinching in her quest for global betterness.


Through this, I was suddenly painfully aware of the lack of people of color in my favorite television shows, or the way in which a character I viewed as a badass chick was actually a tired trope. I was angry with Cat because it was her pointing these things out that caused me to feel uncomfortable about what I loved.


It didn’t take me long though before I realized that my anger was in fact misplaced and that I could in no way blame her for removing a little of the wool that had been systematically pulled over my eyes for the last 25 years. I even got to a point where I realized I could still enjoy the things I had loved and that I could also be critical of their failings; the two were not mutually exclusive.


And as feminism is currently having this big moment, both in and out of the entertainment industry, I’m struck with how thankful I am for being in a place where I can really appreciate it and understand what I have to fight for.


So on this, the (yester)day of her 32nd Birthday, I want to share my unending appreciation for what she has opened me to, and of who she is, because I think she’s pretty fucking cool.



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