Tootsie and Trayvon: How Judgement Makes Us Invisible
This has been an especially rough couple of weeks for me as a woman, as a mother, and as a minority. I have always known that I am all of the above - there was never a question of 'Am I this, or am I that?', but I don't remember ever feeling as though I was finally seen and understood in each of those roles until late last week, and early this week.
I turned on the Today show one morning to find the following story being ran: Dustin Hoffman breaks down while discussing his role in the 80's film "Tootsie"...watch the full 3 minute video below, then read on...
Did you hear it? The catch in his throat is palpable as he talks about when the studio execs told him (while he was in full makeup as 'Tootsie') "that's as good as it gets". But he wanted to be a "beautiful woman". His choking up realizing that though he knew the woman he portrayed was a very interesting, funny, and lovely woman, in real life he would never strike up a conversation with her at a party because she didn't "fit the mold" of what society says is "beautiful", brought me to tears. In that very instant he realized that there were a million "interesting women" in the world that he had never met.
This interview hit me to the core because all too often I have felt like Tootsie. Smart, funny, witty, warm...and passed over..because I don't fit the mold. And ifI have felt that way, I KNOW other women have felt that way too. Whether we be considered too heavy, too skinny, too tall, too short, too dark, too light, too loud or too quiet - many of us have felt invisible and at times insufficient because before we are even approached, we are silently judged, and passed on. We can be passed over by men as possible love interests, by other women as possible friends, or even by employers for possible promotions if we don't fit a certain "look". If I were to tell you the honest truth, there have been quite a few times I have felt this way, but it wasn't until I heard Dustin Hoffman make this tearful admission that I felt someone actually understood what I had never said all these years. Strange how it took a man, dressed as a woman to understand what countless women go through on a daily basis - silent judgement paired with the perceived notion that based on appearance, she has nothing of worth to offer. You might think I'm taking it too far - but I wonder if I am. I wonder
As a mother, and as a minority, my heart is completely shattered by the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. I can not, and I mean absolutely CANNOT wrap my mind around how George Zimmerman was able to walk away with a "Not Guilty" verdict. I'm not going to get into the logistics of the case, as CNN, Fox News, and HLN have that covered. I do however want to ponder the likelihood that the outcome would have been the same had the roles been reversed. What if George Zimmerman was Black, and Trayvon Martin was anything OTHER than Black. Would the outcome still be not guilty? Honestly, I don't think so. And no, I know that George Zimmerman is not White - he's Hispanic. But (and I might catch holy hell and a side-eye from many for this next statement) it seems as though all lives are considered more valuable than the life of a Black male - young or old. It's sad to know that in 2013, there is still a raging undercurrent of unease and discomfort when it comes to race relations. I feel like we have entered a period where we have to send our young men out in suits and ties, wearing cardboard signs around their necks that say "I AM NOT A THREAT". As a minority woman, this breaks my heart. My heart hurts even more from the parent side of things because the nitty gritty of it is that bottom line: Trayvon was a child. He was 17. He had not reached his 18th birthday to be legally declared an adult - he.was.a.CHILD. I can't wrap my head around it. How do you get to gun down a child after being repeatedly ordered by the 911 operator to stay in your car, and still go on about your life? How does that happen??
Is it that a child's life holds no value? No. That can't be it. Otherwise the notion of "women and children first" wouldn't exist. Could it be that male life holds no value? No. That can't be it either. If that was the case we wouldn't celebrate the countless male heroes that come home from war every single day. Could it be that Black Male life holds no value in the eyes of the law and our judicial system? I'm just going to let that one linger.
You may choose to not speak to me anymore after reading this post. You may choose not to support my endeavors. But I ask you not to judge me or this stream of conscious thought until you have walked in my shoes, gotten the blisters, and then walked another ten miles to tell about it.