Hello to my fellow Gauchos, ladies, friends, and all others who read this blog.
I’m writing to you fresh off of my vacation, and, quite honestly envisioned my first post back to be something very different. I was hoping to write to you about my travel adventures in the Pacific Northwest and all the fantastic UCSB alumni I met with along the way. However, as most of you are well aware of by now, a tragedy has occurred at my beloved alma mater, and I feel the distinct need to address it here.
The years I spent at UCSB and living in Isla Vista were some of the best years of my life. Comprised entirely of UCSB and SBCC students, Isla Vista is a hub for young people to bond, to share their homes and lives with each other. Its community is inherently trusting and, in my day, you would rarely find a home with the front door locked. Although it got many of us in to trouble on occasion, (hello Halloween insanity!) Isla Vista welcomed anyone and everyone with open arms. It was a special, very happy place. Ask any Gaucho, and they will corroborate my story.
After the news broke on Friday of the mass killings in Isla Vista, I was glad to coincidentally be in the company of so many fellow UCSB alumnae. We’re still all struggling with coming to terms with what happened. I, admittedly, am trying not to dwell on it too much. The New York Times recently released a “Trail of Violence in Isla Vista” graphic mapping the events that took place that night. Of the two places I lived in Isla Vista, shots were fired mere feet away from my former homes. The path I used to bike to campus everyday was the same the gunman drove down and injured multiple people. The IV Deli Mart, now with its windows shot out, was formerly the bookstore I would frequent for all of my textbooks. That pervasive sense of freedom and happiness that myself and many others associate with Isla Vista has been taken from us. The beautiful place I used to call home and the wonderful people I shared it with deserves to make national news for its many accolades, not for something so unspeakably tragic. The deaths and injuries were horrific, senseless, and, without question, preventable.
I would be lying if I said I’m not deeply sad- I’m angry, even. The more I hear about what has happened; the more news articles I read, and trends on Twitter I follow about, the more my frustration grows. This obviously wasn’t some random act of violence. It was a hate crime against women. It was a hate crime committed by a misogynistic, narcissistic little boy with a gun who felt such a sense of entitlement, believed so strongly that women owed him something, that when they didn’t submit to him, he felt the need to “punish” them. Regardless off the fact that this is the behavior of someone obviously and deeply disturbed, let me take this moment to say, on behalf of my fellow women:
We owe you nothing.
At the risk of sounding horribly jaded, what I’m bewildered by is how many people are surprised by this show of misogyny and gender disparity. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t consider it. It’s become so ingrained in my behavior that it’s second nature. I consider it when I get dressed in the mornings, when I park my car on my commute, and everytime I walk anywhere alone. Everytime. As a woman, you’re indirectly taught that the way you look and the way you behave has great bearing on whether or not you’re harassed or victimized. To not become a target you learn to do things like walk quickly, stay off your phone, never make eye contact, never park next to a windowless van, never leave your drink unattended, never go to the bathroom alone; never wear anything too short, too low-cut,or heels that are too high, or even your hair in a ponytail alone at night. I could go on. Stray outside the protocol of “respectable” behavior and you knowingly put yourself at risk. This is universally understood by all the women I know. While I’m optimistic in regards to the powerful #YesAllWomen trend on Twitter stemming from a show of solidarity against the hate-filled ravings of Elliot Rodger, it doesn’t mean anything is changing. Of course, sharing and acknowledging these truths is the first step to ensure nothing like this happens ever again. The father of one of the victims, Christopher Martinez, has spoken publicly on his belief that his son would be alive today if not for “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.” Now, once the insufficient and indiscriminate gun laws are addressed, what then? What about the quality of mental health care in this country? Or lack thereof? What about the fact that all of this, and all the stories you read with #YesAllWomen, stems from an inherent lack of respect and encouraged degradation of women in society in general? There are so many issues that need to be addressed as we move forward and attempt to heal. There might not be definitive solutions to any of them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
Oh SB, always a part of me!
Oh hear me shout, hear me shout
Hear me Shout! Shout! Shout!
Rain or shine
Win or lose
My heart belongs to you!