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  • Siria Contreras

Deep in the Heart of Texas



I’ve had a few unwritten blogs floating in my head for a few weeks now as I haven’t had much time to just sit and write just to write, so let’s see where this one takes us.


Let’s start with something that is of great importance to our Consciously Studio, a team where there are 2-3x more women than men who make it up.


In response to recent events, I am willing to bet that the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely not resting in peace at this time. Yet, her spirit in the form of women and young women across the U.S., remains strong and it is my hope that in my lifetime the wills of this collective will be enough to defeat such backwards policies that are making their way into accepted (by enough to make them law) regulation.


This past week, I’ve had some conversations with some of the women in my professional life and some of my team members and one thing is for certain, while women are strong and women are excellent at making things happen. Women are also tired of being the ones to lead the charge against everything that compromises not just our futures, but the futures of those to come after us. It’s not to say that we don’t have some great male allies, but let’s be honest it has been the men driving the exact agendas that women are having to challenge.


In these conversations with some of my teams, one of the things that most of us agreed upon is that we never wanted to lose our sense of empathy nor that of showing kindness towards others. Yet, when you’re having to defend your female reproductive rights even against other women, time is of the essence. This image paying homage to RBG stating, "We must now be Ruthless" is saddening as it's true, we must now fight this on our own without the mightily Notorious RBG, but more than the actual act of "ruthlessness" we must be "strategic."



Even if we have not needed to exercise the option of abortion, that does not mean that this option shouldn’t be available for other women who might need it. By the time you’re in your 20s or older, if you’ve lived life outside of a plastic bubble you yourself or someone you know has had a pregnancy scare or perhaps even had an abortion or maybe you have been in a relationship where you were a part of that experience. I won’t get into the topic of unplanned pregnancies as the reason why one occurred or even the parties involved are not necessarily the focus of this write-up.


The focus is on the fight. The exhausting fight that is renewed as a new generation joins in every few years. The fights that feel like we take one step forward and ten steps back. The fights that need the baton passed on from the original advocates and activists to newer ones so that the embers re-spark into flames that do not extinguish no matter how often a deluge may occur.


Here we are once more fighting to not let the struggle, the sweat equity, and heartache and turmoil of Roe v. Wade be for naught. Might I mention that this is all happening at a time when we are also seeing the terrible circumstances of our fellow women of Afghanistan, from young schoolgirls to the female judges whose very lives are all endangered in a myriad of ways.


And that is the issue exactly that even the strongest of women, the smartest of women, or the most privileged of women can still have harm brought upon them at any moment. Sure, the same could occur to men, but apples to apples the two never will be--the two as potential dangers aren’t even in the same fruit and produce section.


We have been told what to do with our bodies for most of our lives. Don’t wear this, wear that. Don’t sit like this, sit like that. Don’t go out late at night, it’s not safe.


Of course, the choice is still up to us whether we follow that “well-intentioned advice.”

Of course, we’ve also come a long, long way since the 1950’s, especially in the last decade as more women assume leadership roles and as the glossies and entertainment mediums started presenting women as more than just supporting loving counterparts, mothers, or the object of men’s desires. Sure, there have always been some better storylines, but in comparison to those that were available to men they may as well have been non-existent. Yet, these storylines had to come from somewhere?


Cue #IRL.


Yes, real life for a woman is a daily opportunity to exercise critical thinking skills as well as exercises of restraint when instead of facing-off with, we laugh off the good ol’ boy Governor Abbotts and Ted Cruz’s that we encounter in our daily lives.


Generational hand-me-downs such as the previously set role of a woman are thankfully evolving--in many ways thanks to social media platforms which serve to amplify a woman’s voice as much as a males.


It was thanks to these platforms that allowed front-row access to women who are now wielding stronger voices and less tolerance now that we’ve had many examples that this does not have to be how we as women continue to behave. Women like RBG were pivotal role models that I am so glad even the littlest of girls were able to witness and be impacted by.


And while, we also now have more earning power and are respected for our contributions in many areas of business rather than the aesthetic we bring to a workplace--and while we may no longer need any male to provide for us, even there the inequality persists when it comes to the gender pay-gap struggles. But that’s just one of the other fights that we as women face.


Even with all of the aforementioned positive and empowering change, women still do have to navigate their daily decisions a little differently than most males. If we were to list all of the daily decisions that we make in a day, I’m willing to bet that even we as women would be surprised at the sheer volume of them and also how we keep ourselves out of trouble and any of you male readers might wonder why we even leave our homes to begin with.


Yet, these decisions are as second-nature as parking in a well-lit area versus a darker and potentially more dangerous option, or when it comes to males aside from at times enduring unwanted advances or compliments for the most part we deal with lesser offenses--undermined by small annoyances like the joys of mansplaining or having male counterparts talk over us or even take credit for our ideas in professional settings. Rarely do they truly endanger anything more than our self-confidence or level of tolerance for others.


However, there are the days when no matter how smart we might be, we cannot control what occurs and events transpire that can shake one up and either strengthen or break depending on our psychologically starting point at the time of the incident.


Recently, because we are working on a new art project together and I’ve involved some of my team in it, one of my old roommates and I shared an incident which now (and to some degree then) we can laugh about. It came up as one member of my team was talking about how she’d just moved into a new apartment and my ex-roommate and I laughed and thought back to our time living together and then almost at the same moment recalled the following incident.


At the time that we were sharing an apartment we ended up dealing with a break-in. Neither of us had ever dealt with anything like that before and if I’m honest I’ll share that I’m scared of very little--rats, crocodiles, Texas cockroaches, cliff-diving, and driving on ice notwithstanding.


I’m more of a problem-solver and logical thinker than I am prone to panic. So typically while others are breaking down I’m the one who is pulling together a solution real-time. In this instance though, even I was at a bit of a loss and as I said, we can now laugh about it and at that time I didn’t feel overly frightened, I did become more vigilant of my surroundings at that time. We lived in a pretty safe neighborhood so this type of ordeal had never been a real consideration for each of us.


One day when both my roommate and I were in our 20s, I actually recall it was right around the time of the Academy Awards and of all of the times to visit us (their first time in L.A. in years) my roommate’s mother and sister were in town visiting her and were schedule to meet us back at our place before going to dinner. I was working at Variety at the time and typically got home a little later than my roommate. I recalled pulling up to our apartment and finding two police vehicles in front of our small four-unit building. I instantly assumed something had happened with one of our neighbors, but instead I opened my door to find two police officers sitting with my roommate and one of our girl friends at our dining room table. My heart stopped and my mind went to my roommate’s mother and sister and the first question out-of-my mouth was if they were ok.


I was reassured that they were and then the police took over informing me that we’d had a break-in. I looked around our apartment in confusion as everything looked normal, expecting to see broken glass and items missing. The two male officers noticed my confusion and reassured me that it didn’t seem like anything was taken, but they would want me to check my room to be certain.


Then, they looked at each other as if trying to decide who would tell me the next part. I’m sure they went through a similar thing with my roommate.


They led with, “Miss, would you happen to know anyone who would have a key to your apartment, a friend, a boyfriend?”


I answered that I didn’t as at that time neither my roommate nor I were dating anyone and since we were quite busy we didn’t have people over that often. We’d recently had our belated housewarming party though and had more people over than usual, but we knew just about everyone that attended pretty well and didn’t think any of them would’ve broken in.


I was still assuming that the break-in had been with the intent of a robbery. Yet, what came next instead I would never have guessed.


After both my roommate and I were done going through a list of the party attendees the officers finally found the right moment to tell me what had happened. They asked me to follow them to do a walk-thru of our bedrooms and that’s when they told me that they didn’t believe the forced entry into our apartment was with the intent to rob our home. Instead, they explained that someone had broken into our dining room window by prying it open and climbing in. We rarely opened our windows, especially not at that time of year so we were confident that neither of us had left it open so they definitely had to force it open.


The officers continued, still trying to find a way to tell me what had transpired. Finally one got it out by saying, “Miss, we have reason to believe that this wasn’t a random break-in, this was targeted and it could’ve been someone that knows one of you.”


He pointed first to my roommate’s bedroom and asked me to take a look at her bed and then took me into mine and showed me mine. All I saw was a pillowcase and our undergarments strewn about our beds. And never have I ever witnessed someone so uncomfortable as he went on and long story short informed me that whoever broke in had “pleasured themselves to our undergarments” then asking if they could take those undergarments for testing in case they could be matched to anyone already in their system.


The officer said that the intruder had been interrupted when our friend arrived with my roommate’s mother and her sister. My roommate’s sister had her keys and was going into the apartment to use our bathroom while her mother smoked a cigarette outside in our driveway. When the person inside of our home heard this they quickly ran out and crawled back out of the same window. Mind you it was only about 5pm and all of this took place in broad daylight.


Not only were they brazen enough to do what they were doing inside of our apartment, but when they ran out of our backyard area and climbed the fence they actually ran past my roommate’s mother in the driveway and shouted at her “See you later!” as they continued to run down the street.


My roommate’s mother was of course confused, but when telling us all what she saw she said that at that moment, she thought “Well this is L.A. strange things happen here, I didn’t know if that was a typical occurrence or not.”


Somehow my roommate and I still stayed in that apartment after that incident, our landlord’s were horrified for us after that incident and wanted to ensure that we were safe so they ordered that decorative bars be put over the windows and a higher fence be built. They really were quite concerned and kept checking in on us. The police officers also kept surveillance for a few days and we were assigned a detective as some weeks prior to this incident I had also received an odd thing in the mail, which at first my roommate and I mistook for the wrong address or previous tenant’s mail. It was one of those Ralph’s grocery stores club cards addressed to our apartment but had the name “Airis Evoli” as the recipient. As I was setting it down in the “not ours” pile, I realized what that actually said.


“ilovE siriA”


My immediate reaction as with most things was to laugh it off. I remember saying to my roommate, “This is hilarious! When did you do this?” and showed her the mailer again. She looked at me confused and answered, “What do you mean?” I had her look at it a few more times and she still didn’t see what I’d seen, so I finally told her and she was like “wtf?” I still was convinced it was a friend who had signed up the card with this and texted a few friends, but none of them seemed to get it. Then a few weeks later this "break-in' incident happened.


Still, I wasn’t afraid and I’m fairly independent, but as I said just exercised more vigilance. I know much worse could've happened if I or even my roommate would've been home when this intruder came in, but there was no point in focusing on that. I couldn't go through life thinking that way.


We did tell a couple of our guy friends who we trusted about the incident and after getting over the fact that it had happened, were upset for us. At this time I was a central part of a music collective putting on fairly popular music nights, but I didn’t really think it was tied to that.


Although, I will say that I was probably the most protected member of that collective as typically the security guards at our venues were always overprotective of me and one of them would stay near me during most of the evening (this still happens to this day!). Of course I ended up with some pushy advances at times or some overzealous "fans" I guess you'd say, but for the most part everyone was harmless and situations rarely escalated. I also don't lead anyone on and friend-zone just about everyone instantly.


Yet, those two incidents and others that have occurred over the years did cause me to become more wary of people that I didn’t know.


While I have a lot of acquaintances, my close friends are made-up of a much smaller group of folks. Somehow, I’m an odd mix of social-butterfly and natural community-builder that can talk to anyone about anything and a private recluse who often would rather be in nature or near water, I'm totally fine with socializing and hosting parties, etc. yet I remain more of a private person when it comes to friends and personal relationships and those two incidents, whether related or not, certainly felt like invasions of my privacy and even to this day come to my mind when I’m making certain decisions.


Such as recently, I was considering leasing a property that was while still in the city was in a more secluded neighborhood. I still really love it as it felt like a little bit of rural/nature but still with the benefits of city-life being down the street--it even had adjacent horse stalls in case I wanted to have one/some. Yet, this incident from what feels like so long ago came to mind and I realized that as a woman it probably wasn’t wise to live there on my own. Plus, since I won’t reside in this city full-time I figured I’d probably have to hire someone to keep up with the property during the times that I wouldn’t be there and probably didn’t need to add that to my plate right now as well. Yet, it mostly came down to not wanting to worry others. I think I would’ve been fine to live there on my own and would’ve enjoyed it, but I’m sure others would worry. So I passed.


In regards to that “break-in”, we never found out who it was. We definitely created a short-list of who it could’ve been, but never truly knew. I have rarely thought about that incident over the years as there have been plenty of other moments that as a woman you navigate and definitely laugh when I think about it now or even when I tell either story to anyone which is rare (now I can just point everyone to this post instead). I don’t think I ever even told my parents or my brother about those incidents as I know how worried they would have been. I just saw those as one more incident where we as women realize our vulnerability.


So to take us back to what made me start writing this to begin with, there are so many instances where women are put into situations that they have no say in that to further ostracize anyone for making a decision over their own body and even worse implement into actual law limitations and restrictions against personal choices over someone else’s life is b.s. (apologies, no other term comes to mind at this moment).


This is not a fight even against Texas, who after exhibiting both a strategic/scheming and inept side in every area from power-grids, to Covid-19 management, to now this, is the current target--it is what this opens up in America. Yet another door where deep, deep crimson can further destroy progress that has literally taken lifetimes to achieve and implement into current society. It is what this moment sets us up for in 2022 and the campaign trails leading to 2024.



We must fight harder than we’ve fought before as the moment that we accept this or divide our voices further, that is the moment that Democracy truly dies and it has been in danger for some time now.


In our Bring on the Ballot inbox, we received a message from a woman who wrote us this message, “I am 72 years old, I thought this was all over with years ago. I fought for you all in my 20’s. Please do not f**k it up. Fight!”


It has been great to see companies like GoDaddy, Lyft, Uber, and a few others speak out against the "Heartbeat Bill," yet the list of corporate advocates is tellingly short.





This is a time that needs all voices heard. Voices of every age. Voices of any gender. If you have a voice. Use it. TOGETHER. Harmonize and then dial it up to 11.


I know what I’m capable of achieving and I know that you also are capable of accomplishing much in this world, in your community, or even just in your own homes. Positive action and dialogue are always needed, but especially now.


Your grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, and female friends deserve better than this--together, we all have the opportunity to help write a better chapter than the one that is currently drafted. Whatever you may or may not believe in, should not take away the personal choice of another. Yet here we are.


Just because you nor I have had a need for abortion services or it may be against your personal beliefs does not mean that we should get to decide for another what is right for them.


This headline alone should motivate you into action:” Republicans in six states rush to mimic Texas anti-abortion law"


We fight this NOW or we fight this LATER.

That's the only true choice that we have.


xoxoxoxo,


Siria


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