What does “patriarchy-proof” mean to you? We visited the homes of people we admire to find out what the patriarchy means to their lives, work, and relationships (ain't nothin' holding them back!).
ShiShi Rose (@ShiShi.Rose) is an activist, organizer, and writer who speaks out about racial, gender and economic inequality. She was also a member of the National Women's March on Washington social media team.
“Being a black woman, most of the sexism I experience is laced with racism. There’s no way that I can liberate myself from sexism without also bringing in race to the discussion. That’s why having these discussions in feminist spaces is so hard, because most of the people there are white women, and they don’t want to understand why we have to be intersectional most of the time –because I don’t exist in a space where I can just be a woman. And then, when I’m in a black space, I’m asked to take the woman part off to fight for liberation for black people….and then being queer on top of that. There’s so many different ways that the patriarchy can embed in someone’s life and oppress them.”
Thinx: When you’re speaking out on these issues online and on social media, you have a lot of people arguing with you and a lot of internet trolls in your comments – how do you 'patriarchy-proof' your mental health?
Shishi: It’s still something that I’m working on honestly, there’s no one answer to that. I have to deal with sexism and racism in my everyday life anyway, so I have to just cut people off online. I did feel guilty about doing that in the beginning, but I can’t teach everybody. I think the biggest thing to realise is that you cannot teach everyone, and sometimes in order to protect your mental health you have to cut people off. I can’t teach someone who comes into the conversation with their fists closed, they have to be coming into the conversation with their palms open, wanting to learn, and asking questions, to actually learn and not just giving an opinion that’s already been formed.
There is a picture of self care, or what we think “self care” is supposed to look like, where we are sitting in bathtubs and doing face masks, gossiping with our friends and watching Netflix all day, but that is not actual self care. I can do all that and still feel like shit mentally. Self care for me is making enough money where I can go therapy regularly. Where I don’t even have to think about it – it’s just a staple in my week. Being able to talk about mental health, especially as a black person, because of how stigmatized that is, that’s self-care for me. So taking care of my mental health, as opposed to the visual of “self care”, although face masks are nice too!
My advice for young people who want to stand up to the patriarchy would be to do their research, get informed, and educate themselves on the issues they care about.
Max: As I’m early in my transition, the amount of changes I see are minimal, and the thought of ever seeing myself as cis-passing seems pretty unachievable. I don’t know if I’ll ever look at myself and see what I hope to see staring back at me, or whether I’ll ever see myself and think, “Oh, you look exactly the way you want to look.” On one hand, I’d love to present as cis-passing to put a halt to never-ending misgendering, but on the other hand, I don’t ever want people to look at myself or my relationship as being anything but queer.
Molly: Being queer is such a part of our identity. We don’t want to lose that. The difference in being visibly queer and being queer and not having people know, if I say “Oh, my boyfriend...” people will assume I’m straight. If I’m talking to people I’m meeting for the first time that are queer, it puts up a wall, maybe unconsciously. Why is it important to be visibly queer? Should we say... this is my partner? We’re still trying to navigate where our identity lies, and what is the most important part of that.
Max: I’m 5 months on testosterone now, so I’m still seeing changes, but some days I’ll go out — and I haven’t pinpointed what it is yet that gets me a solid and confident “sir” from the salesperson. I’ll go to the same places for lunch every day, and some days get ‘sir’ and the following gets ‘miss’.
Molly: We’ve both changed so much. We’ve been together for almost three years, and while we’re not different people, we’ve evolved and grown so much together. Max and I are the right people for each other and we just haven’t experienced that kind of support and motivation before in other relationships.
Max: I would like people to know that it is normal for men to get their periods, too. I also would tell any guys planning to get on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) in the near future, that you might not lose your period within the two month mark, or the four month mark, or even the eight month mark. Nearly all of the people I watched online when I was thinking about transitioning and figuring myself out – one of the main and most highlighted changes seen from testosterone was that their periods diminished after their first or second shot. When I still had my period after 4 months, I was devastated. I thought something was wrong, because from everyone else’s story I’d been following, theirs had completely disappeared. I’m nearing 6 months and I still have it.
I would also say, use your resources. I believe social media has its pros and cons, but simply having an instagram account has aided me in my transition and my dysphoria to unfathomable extents. The amount of other trans guys that have reached out with questions or just good vibes is amazing. I’ve made so many new friends that I truly feel I can confide in whenever I’m unsure about something or just want to chat to someone that actually understands what I’m going through first hand. Through instagram, I was able to find tons of other guys that still get their period, and was able to really put my mind at ease about it. Obviously, I still hope it goes away, but I don’t feel as alienated about it as I once did.
My periods have always been awful. But now especially, as a trans man, they suck more than usual. Men’s bathrooms don’t provide garbages in the stalls, resulting in me having to carry my tampon and wrapper out of the stall, and either sneakily throw it in the trash bin, or if there are already too many men in there with me (which there usually are), I’ll feel obligated to walk out of the bathroom with it and throw it out in the next public waste bin I see.
Just by being an independent female musician that writes about that experience, I’m addressing and standing up to the patriarchy, just by nature of who I am, and my identity [as a queer artist]— also, I write songs with very overt themes of feminism.
I wrote the song “Fight Like A Girl” after Trump was elected. The writing was to heal myself and the women around me who were feeling disenfranchised after the election. After Trump was elected, a lot of the people around me felt their voices were stripped away. As an artist, you have the power to say something through your art, and reach a lot of people and connect with a lot of people. I felt a *good* pressure to make art relating to that.
I’m an independent artist – I don’t have any high-powered men at a label telling me what they want me to write or what they want me to do. I think by making my work very queer, and not being afraid of using female pronouns, that’s definitely a way I follow my own path with my art.
I’m continuing to make work that’s queer, because it might positively affect young people. There are a lot of artists that say they are queer, which is great, but don’t make queer work. Thank god Halsey finally made a song with a female pronoun in it! Like Sam Smith – who is gay, but uses female pronouns because “he wants to appeal to everybody”.
For their whole lives, queer people have been projecting their experiences onto straight music to connect with it. Straight people should be able to do the same with queer music.
I have a lot of privilege. Being a femme lesbian, to the outside world, I’m straight and I’m white and I’m feminine. But sometimes in the queer community, people doubt my queerness, because of the way that I look, and because I’m a femme lesbian. Not as much anymore, but earlier on I found it difficult. When I first came out, I definitely presented myself as more masculine, even though that didn't feel like me— I felt that I needed to do that to show people that I was gay, you know, that hopefully girls will know that I was if I presented myself in this way.
My advice to young people who are struggling with pressures from society to act or live a certain way would be to find a community of people who empower you, and if you don’t have that where you live, find those like-minded people online!
Interviews have been edited and condensed for brevity.