Tag Archives: identity politics

I have something to say.

11 Feb

I’ve tried to start this post so many times over the past several months, and failed to say what I needed to. Probably because I’m not sure what I need to say, even still. It is long (2000+ words), and quotes other people’s writing extensively. If that’s not your cuppa, I bid thee farewell for this post. [*note – ableist language used as example of mother’s verbal abuse*]

I’ve been raised to believe that I’m the problem in my mother’s and my relationship. That my possessions are the majority of the clutter. That my laundry is the majority of the laundry in the house. That I eat so often, I cause most of the dirty dishes in the house. I’ve never contributed enough to my mother’s household – either in cleaning, or by monetary means. I’m ungrateful and have an entitlement complex. My passive-aggressivity is not a learned behavior, but rather is my fault and I need to fix it or else. I mismanage finances to upset my mother’s financial success, instead of using money in a responsible manner. My depression and social anxiety can be fixed and/or cured by interacting more with my mother. My difficulty functioning in a room with mismatched dresser knobs or sloppy paint jobs are just examples of me being difficult and procrastinating. See also: my phone anxiety. I need to drop everything (including, quite possibly, other people’s needs whose schedules depend on mine) to help my mother do things. I’m a lazy piece of shit and I just need to get over my issues so I can be more useful for her. My religious views need to be put out of sight to avoid offending people.

My mother is emotionally abusive.

It took me until late 2008 to acknowledge anything my mother had done to me as abusive – one series of conversations, over a number of weeks. Until she moved away in June, I remained convinced that only the conversations we had had over the past 6-7 months qualified as abusive.

I didn’t – it didn’t occur to me that I ought to – take into account the years and years of conversation before that, where she insisted that I was useless, worthless, a drain on her resources, stupid, and so forth. I didn’t take into account the control over my actions, the words I used (negativity was not welcome, coming from me), my hairstyle (especially from about 11-16, I was forced to change my hairdo to suit my mother’s requirements), the silence I maintained over my political views, the coercing behaviour which taught me my body was, by default, vile. I didn’t think about the therapy I didn’t want at 13-14 but was taken to anyway; I didn’t think about her insistence I join a religion I had no need for or interest in (and understand this – I did become a member of this religion for 2 years, though I believe this was partially an escape from home life and to allow myself to build a social network on my own terms). I didn’t realize she was just as bad before – I didn’t know I was the one who had changed.

In August 2008, 4 months before the conversations mentioned above, I began reading feminist blogs. Slowly, at first – Shakesville and Shapely Prose, then, as I discovered the concept of RSS feeds, more blogs were added. I started identifying myself on my own terms. I started thinking in words like “autonomy,” “agency,” “auto-identification,” “acceptance.” I realized that I was attracted to more people than labels like “straight” allowed. This…this…revolution (!) was going on in my brain, and my mother was able to destroy more of my identity than she could before, because I was, for once, forming an identity outside the one she set for me.

A 2006 blog post by belledame222 entitled “Objectification, Continued Further” (ableist language at link) I recently read (hat tip to amandaw on Tumblr) put it thusly:

According to [Patricia] Evans [, author of Controlling People], most abuse happens when a person who’s very disconnected is suddenly confronted with the a glimpse of the reality of the other person as a separate individual, as opposed to the “pretend person” the controller has made up inside his/her head (and thus, an extension of him/herself).

By taking myself away from this “pretend person” my mother saw me as, I became vulnerable to her abuse. This is not to say that I am responsible for my mother’s behaviour towards me – absolutely not! – but it does contextualize why I became more aware of the problematic nature of her actions.

So, when people are manipulative around me – not even directed at me, necessarily – but when people use others to get what they want, while I am in the general vicinity, I react badly. I give the manipulator what ou wants, in the (usually vain) hope that this means ou can stop objectifying people and respect them and their identities. I go back to the silencing of my self, to the person who did what she was told so that she could try to get her mother to stop controlling her for long enough to maintain her own identity. For example, I took my antidepressant for six weeks, even though it exacerbated my anxiety attacks, because if I didn’t “just give it a chance to work,” my mother would blame me (more) for my depression.

In a post about abuse in online spaces, amandaw writes:

[I]t’s not just that you have flash-backs to previous events; it’s the way you return to the state of mind you were in during the previous abuse, the way your patterns of thought go back to how they were then, the way you react to things restored to its previous setting. You might find yourself becoming highly self-critical, questioning your own experience of things, doubting your knowledge of yourself and what happened. You might find the same problems with self-loathing come rushing back. You might be wondering whether you really deserve it. You might start to see yourself as a burden again, highly aware of all the ways you drag other people down.

You can’t just ignore it away. You can’t just Think Positive your way out of it. You can’t just tell yourself that all these thoughts are untrue; no matter how well you understand something intellectually, there is something about the human psyche that still follows those same self-destructive emotional patterns when exposed to the same kind of situation that originally set them in place.

The thing about my mother blaming me for having depression – the really big, damaging thing – I believe her. No matter how much science I read, or how often I read the Wikipedia page on the causes of depression, or how often I am told by people I trust that it is not my fault, I believe what she says about me. I believe that I am a worthless piece of shit, because she says I am. I believe that it is my fault I am depressed, because she says it is. I believe I am the source of the relationship problems between my mother and myself. I believe I am horribly overburdening my mother’s finances by asking for money for things like food and medicinal prescriptions, because of the way she behaves when I ask.

And I know – intellectually, on a relatively deep level – how incredibly messed up that shit is, but that doesn’t matter to the way my brain understands things and how my brain has been trained by my abuser to understand things.

Another quote from amandaw, this time from a Tumblr post on “That learned inability to protect oneself

But a person who just keeps extending hirself… over and over… getting hurt over and over, and never acting in self-protection … there is something, someone (maybe multiple someones) who destroyed this person’s boundaries, taught hir that acting in protection of oneself is completely beyond the pale (by punishing the person whenever sie does try to act in self-protection, and then telling sie brought that punishment on hirself by acting in self-protection). Someone did this to hir. And it took work, it took time, to create a situation where the person honestly feels that self-protection is never an option.

I mentioned the control my mother had over my hairstyle earlier in the post. I remember fighting her on this once, when I was 14 or 15. I told her that I wore my hair in the style I chose because otherwise, it looked like crap. I was immediately informed that I was not allowed to use such awful language, and that wearing my hair in that tacky style again would lose me various and sundry privileges.

One other time I recall defending myself. I told her [something she did/said, can’t remember what] made me upset. This infuriated her. I was given a long lecture about how she couldn’t “make me” feel anything – my emotions were not her fault. This conversation never sat right with me, and I can’t recall defending myself ever again, but until now I had difficulty expressing exactly what was wrong with it. Essentially, my mother denied the validity of my emotion and her role in it, forcing me into doubt over whether there really was a problem or if I was “just imagining it” or “looking for things to get upset about.”

Yesterday, I was informed via a third party of my mother’s intent to move me in with her, 1000 miles away, if I don’t “shape up.” The definition of “shape up” is unclear, although it may be that I need, according to my mother, to get on antidepressants again, because the last time wasn’t traumatic enough (I received an e-mail from her which indicated she thinks I’m exaggerating the psychiatrist’s behaviour *sigh*). I need to perform well in school – this will, of course, be easy-peasy once I’m cured of depression by those antidepressants. I need to get a job, to show I’m motivated to achieve (the fact that I had a semi-breakdown last semester because I stretched myself too thin – insignificant). I need to work on her house, doing odd jobs until it is perfect and gets sold. With all my free time. You know, the free time which I need to do schoolwork and unwind. I need to organize my belongings (this one infuriates me (wait, so do the others) because my mother is the one who disorganized them in the first place – she packed my things in boxes with neither my permission nor any care to my organizational system). There may be a few other things entailed in this “shaping up” process, but I don’t know what they are.

All of this, forcing me, based on my financial dependence on her, to take medicine whether I want to or not (for the record, I would like medication for the depression and anxiety attacks, but that isn’t being taken into consideration in this ultimatum), to do exactly what she wants me to do exactly the way she wants me to do it, to do well academically (which, if it were so easy as being told to do it and I magically could handle school again? Well, shit, I’d patent that method.). This is nothing less than paternalism and manipulation. It is unfair, abusive, controlling, and absofuckinglutely infuriating.

A few hours after I found out about this scheme of my mother’s, I read the following on Zero at the Bone, the blog of the most excellent Chally:

You’ve got to ask why your sense of control over what’s what is so important as to invalidate that person’s autonomy. Reassuring yourself that the world is a certain way, that those around you are a certain way: it’s just not worth it where as a consequence someone’s being dissolves under them – where they themselves are dissolved. That’s what’s important here, not your relatively unimportant wish to assert your own worldview.

Trust people to identify their own identities.

These words resonate with me, because my mother’s abuse has caused my “being [to dissolve] under [me].” Because I lose my identity to my mother’s controlling behaviour. Because I am hurt, and I am human, and I don’t want to be silent anymore.

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Oglers

14 Oct

So, there’s this fairly popular TV show called Nip/Tuck. As near as I can gather without having to watch an episode or do any research (in other words, my expert opinion is based on advertisements I saw 3-4 years ago with much less feminist theory informing my media consumption), it’s about a bunch of male plastic surgeons and the shallow, sex-driven women who are the surgeons’ patients.

This understanding of the show does not in any way clash with the following advertisement, seen on Youtube as I was looking up links of David Tennant-y goodness.

niptuck

For those who may not be able to see the image, it is a picture of a mostly naked woman in a highly sexualized pose. She is wearing tight white underpants, and corset piercings running down from the nape of her neck to the top of her underwear. The string lacing is tied in a bow at her iliac, and the remainder of the thread wraps around her hand in a loosely immobilizing position while a man in semi-recumbent pose pulls it, as if controlling her by using reins. Both he and another man are staring at the woman in what strikes me to be a somewhat predatory fashion. It’s also worth noting that all three are white and conventionally attractive.

This is fairly classic male gaze operation (obligatory link to Dinosaur Comics). The men, both dressed in business attire (slacks and jacket) are ogling the woman, mostly nude and in a position suggestive of performance for the male gaze – right hand behind head, which widens the chest and shoulders, lifting the breasts and making them more prominent (while we the viewer don’t see the woman’s breasts, the shot makes it clear that the men in the picture do, so the movement breasts undergo in this position is significant), upper left arm held close to the body while the forearm stretches towards the semi-recumbent man, hips tilted at an angle uncomfortable to maintain for long periods of time, yet often used in what I’ve seen of mainstream porn photoshoots. The mens’ clothing indicates a certain social stature – rich, powerful, able to objectify and control women.

In certain ways, the ad reminds me of Le dejeuner sur l’herbes, a 19th century Manet (a precursor to impressionism) painting (description by Emile Zola at the Wikipedia article cited above).

The woman is nude among well-dressed men. It is worth noting that the woman is not sexualized, just naked. While there is, in this society, an automatic sexualization of nudity, Manet does not further objectify the woman. The men are also not staring at the woman in the skeevy, predatory way of the Nip/Tuck advertisement – instead, the woman is staring at the viewer (rare in compositions: usually, subjects of the composition are shown from a slight angle, so that the viewer is allowed to be a passive observer, rather than treated as an active participant (which is why it’s so jarring when actors look directly into the camera)).

There are also sharp contrasts to the famous Yoko Ono/John Lennon photo by Annie Liebovitz, where Lennon appears naked, cuddled around a fully clothed Ono.

Both John and Yoko look so vulnerable, so tender here that it’s quite touching. I don’t feel that the photo would be as powerful if Yoko weren’t dressed – the photo feels so intimate, like we’ve been allowed a gentle glimpse into the lives of two who loved each other so deeply it’s almost surreal, and as thought this love allows for a form of sexuality. It’s so drastically different from the sexuality of the Nip/Tuck ad – Nip/Tuck allows only for sexual enjoyment of the female form, while Liebovitz’ piece shows that nudity needn’t be about the male gaze, that it can give the viewer a powerfully intimate image of a couple where the woman is not treated as an object.

Quick Hit: FWD/Forward

12 Oct

Apropos of my last post concerning the Feministing debacle, a bunch of awesome feminist writers have teamed up (including friend to Foxtrot Chally *waves*) and started a group blog discussing disablism, accessibility, marginalizing language and lots of other cool goodies.

It looks like a useful resource. It’s new, so reading the extent of the archives is easier than older blogs (in other words, go! Read!).

Humorless Feminist at the Movies

30 Sep

From the director of Something’s Gotta Give, the 1998 Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap, Father of the Bride I, II and the atrocious Mel Gibson film What Women Want, comes a new romantic comedy starring one of my favorite actors, Meryl Streep. Streep stars opposite Alec Baldwin (the ex-husband) and Steve Martin (random architect – the trailer indicates we don’t need to care about this loser character – he’s just there as a plot device, showing how sad and lonely Meryl Streep’s character is without a man), both of whose characters are vying for the affections of Jane, Streep’s character.

Here’s a link to the trailer for It’s Complicated, which I can’t embed. That’s okay, I’ll just discuss the parts I find relevant.

“Jo, you are so lucky Jerry is dead. You don’t have to bump into him!” – Jane

So, there’s no such thing as a congenial breakup. Either you’re sickeningly in love (as Jane is shown falling for Jake, Baldwin’s character in the trailer), or you can’t stand the sight of each other (the initial reaction Jane shows to Jake). This polarity is totally realistic, and I have no qualms whatsoever endorsing this dualistic point of view. None. Got it? </sarcasm>

And now, a scene with the architect, Adam:

“One tiny note: no ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ things.” – Jane

“And you don’t think in the future, you might want a ‘His?'” – Adam

“Oh my god, now we’re talking code about my life!” – Jane

Great stuff, folks. I mean, without this dialogue, how else would we know how empty Jane’s life is without a…a…man? Remember this now, readers with girly-parts (hoo-has and other accessories, or whatever): your lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this fucking world if there isn’t a man in your life, using your spare sink and the second towel-rack.

*cut to Jane and Adam laughing, Jake staring in window stalker-like and mock-laughing with them*

Stalking is not sexy. It’s not funny or hot, and it doesn’t lead to perfect romance stories. It’s fucking creepy, and glorifying it in a romantic comedy screws up social notions about acceptable behavior even more. Stalking is an unacceptable behavior, that makes the culture in which we live even more viable for abusers and rapists (as if they need help), and playing it up for teh LOLs is repre-fucking-hensible. Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we continue unloading the bullshit from this trailer?

“OMG, I thought he’d never leave.” Jake, to Jane, about Adam

Alec Baldwin just used the Internet colloquialism “OMG” like a real word. I’m going to go cry now. (Okay, so that’s not a real objection. I’m just feeling ranty.)

“I’ve never really known how to live without you.” Jake, to Jane.

Warning! Warning! Unhealthy relationship patterns at twelve o’clock! Mayday!

But seriously though, that level of dependency is not something that should happen in healthy romantic relationships. It shows a lack of maturity and self-sufficiency that is highly dangerous to both parties, and reflects the character of Jane as a mother-figure to Jake, rather than a romantic figure. And considering that he’s pursuing her as a romantic figure, the mother-child dynamic that Jake’s neediness brings into the relationship is pretty squicky.

“I’m having an affair…with…a married man.” Jane, to female friends

“You’re not saying?!” Female friend

“Yes, I am!” Jane

*exhuberant, elated screaming from group of friends*

“Turns out, I’m a bit of a slut!” Jane

This part of the trailer leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not to imply that the rest of the trailer doesn’t). Having sex makes you dirty? I do wish someone had told me, because I’ve been having pretty regular sex lately and I’m sure I’m just covered in the sex-filth now. *goes, scours skin* Okay, I’m back. Don’t know if I got it all off me, but that’s the best I can do for now. Anyway, having sex with a married man (Jake left her for the cliched younger woman) is slutty. Because “stealing a man” from someone else is super-evil. It’s, like, being Yoko Ono evil (so evil, you work for peace. Muahaha, my evil plan that we all stop killing each other is succeeding!). Because he was hers first. A person is not fucking property. You shouldn’t own them, sell them, manipulate them like puppets. If a person wants to have sex, it’s not fucking deviant! Sex is not deviant, and placing it as deviant turns sex and romance and all that shit into a fucking game, turns love into a catfight (see also Melissa McEwan). Which is bullshit. The biggest problem I have with the scenario of Jane having sex with Jake is that Jake’s wife probably doesn’t know and could get hurt (but the audience isn’t supposed to care about her, because Jake’s wife is flatter than Adam (Steve Martin’s character, since I haven’t mentioned him in half a post)). So, yeah. Jane is such a slut. For being female. And daring to have sex.

“What about the fact that I’m now the other woman? I’m the one we hate!” – Jane

“He was yours first.” – Jane’s female friend, consolingly

Same shit as above, different candy coating.

Ugh. If I watch this trailer any more, my head might explode, so I’ll wrap up here. Women who have sex are slutty, men who stalk are hawt, architects are nerdy losers, men are the most important things (there’s that word again) in a woman’s girl’s life, and if you don’t buy a ticket to this movie you’re going to die alone with a nonillion cats. And they lived happily ever after! *swoon*

I’m Brave, But I’m Chickenshit

23 Sep

Title of post comes from an Alanis Morissette song, “Hand In My Pocket.” I’ll be extensively quoting the lyrics (all emphasis mine) in the post. I’ll also be reading things into them that probably weren’t intended when the song was written. A public service announcement before we get started: beware of rampaging run-on sentences.

This song has been running through my head for weeks, since the first time I heard it, driving down a highway in Idaho. A lot of the songs from Jagged Little Pill speak to me, but not in quite as personal a way as “Hand In My Pocket” does. I think it’s the fact that the lyrics are cynical, yet suggest hope for the future. In a lot of ways, the song operates in a similar way to her song “Ironic,” but “Hand…” is more successful for me.

I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby

This summer…damn near broke me. The shit I’ve been avoiding blogging about – my mom selling her house and then moving across the country, while I have to live in the house and act as caretaker for insurance purposes; the thirty-year old house trying to fall apart on me; workload-heavy classes I needed to pass get a degree by the end of this semester; the lack of Internet, which resulted in a loss of social network; no creative outlet, as I couldn’t afford art supplies; the deepening depression and desire to be in physical pain rather than emotional. Wishing I could swap the two, feeling completely without agency, sapped of energy.

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

For me, high fives are a highly (heh) insincere celebratory gesture. They’re like the “I’m fine” thing I say when people ask how I’ve been. I know they want to hear that. They don’t want to hear the “niema spills her guts all over the internet pavement and fails to clean up the eviscera” version I gave above. It’s not that they don’t care. Really. It’s just, we don’t want to know that shit isn’t “fine fine fine” with people we feel we ought to be closer to and why don’t we see them more often and gee I miss talking to hir but I’m glad zie’s doing alright it was nice talking to you I guess we’ll see each other around but if we don’t it’s not such a big deal good luck with everything bye.

I feel drunk but I’m sober
I’m young and I’m underpaid
I’m tired but I’m working, yeah

Story of my fucking life.

I care but I’m worthless
I’m here but I’m really gone
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby

That lack of agency thing I mentioned earlier? Yeah, THAT. In so many ways, I’m just floating around in purgatory (I hate using such a deeply religious term, but can’t think how else to put it) waiting for the next thing to happen. A lot of the time I’m not even paying attention, living shallowly. Paycheck to paycheck, day by day, class by class, waiting for that fucking associate’s degree. Sometimes I buy groceries. Sometimes I don’t. I scrape by, but not without getting scratches from the rough concrete walls closing in. And then I apologize to the walls for getting in their way.

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be quite alright
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is flicking a cigarette

Getting rid of the useless shit. Realizing it’s piling up, like so much cigarette ash. Is there respite?

What it all comes down to
Is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving the peace sign

I can’t figure this shit out yet. How do I take on the responsibilities formerly under the control of a woman almost 3x my age, far more experienced at handling basic household dysfunction? How do I do this relating to people thing?  Maintain my tenuous grip on the events in my life? Fuck if I know, I want PEACE. For myself, for those I care deeply for, for everyone.

Its easy if you try.

It's easy if you try.

I’m free but I’m focused
I’m green but I’m wise
I’m shy but I’m friendly baby
I’m sad but I’m laughing
I’m brave but I’m chicken shit

I’m sick but I’m pretty baby

I’ve taken a lover. My lover knows I blog, but not the URL. I haven’t sent a link. I’m…scared to. And I’m scared to admit that I’m scared to. What is this fear? Coming off as “too feminist?” I mean, we talk about politics and society and religion and I tend to use the word “misogyny” when I talk about that and my lover’s seen me naked and knows what my armpits look like (which, while unshaven hair doesn’t indicate feminism, it usually denotes a conscious decision to deviate from the social norm and is stereotypically applied to feminists). In other words, the feminism doesn’t necessarily need to be spoken, as it’s practically tattooed on my forehead. Am I afraid of being “too sensitive” or “politically correct?” Is that the root? I started this blog with the intention of keeping it away from my “real self” (and if that’s not a loaded concept!) – the part of me known by my government name. I didn’t want to deal with the shit that comes from being openly anti-oppressive, anti-kyriarchical. I wanted the ability to back down if shit got tricky to negotiate, to not have to confront people about the systematic oppression their actions and words enable. I didn’t want to be the humourless feminist unable to enjoy fat jokes or trans jokes or “worse than a woman” jokes; I didn’t want to be the person who ruined the mood for the people who were just being social. I am scared shitless of alienating people I love because I still feel that way, and I feel like a hypocrite for it. As Alanis says, I haven’t got it figured out just yet – if you do, can you help me find the balance?

And what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano

Oh.

What it all comes down to my friends
Is that everything’s just fine fine fine
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailing a taxicab

Is fine. Not gonna be. But “is.” That’s some powerful hope. A hope of escape – taking action to get out of the situation causing the despair and insecurities and self-loathing. A return to agency.

Quick Hit: Bastille Day

14 Jul

In honor of Bastille Day, C. L. Minou has a  fantastic post up drawing parallels between French history, kyriarchy, tesseracts and revolution of various sorts. The post is a delight to read – she quotes/references people as diverse as Gerard Manley Hopkins (one of my favorite poems of his, no less(yes, atheists can like religious poems)), Madeleine L’Engle and bell hooks (whose Feminist Theory I am currently reading) to make her point.

Lessons From History

9 Jun

I’m taking a United States history course this summer. Class started yesterday, and today we were assigned a reading from the May 7, 2007 issue of Time Magazine, when Condoleeza Rice was in Bush’s Cabinet and Barack Obama was proving to be a significant candidate for the presidency.

Here’s an excerpt:

The great achievement of the civil rights revolution was the dismantling of what the inheritors of Jamestown had instituted. Today a black woman fills one of the most powerful political offices after the presidency, and a black man holds serious promise of becoming the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Whatever the persisting problems of black Americans–many of which, like a fragile family life and the lack of inheritance, also originated in slavery–it is now incontestable that they belong to America as America belongs to them. In this, America stands far above all other multiethnic Western nations. Nonetheless, it cannot, and should never, be forgotten that the racial tragedy that began in Jamestown took more than 350 years to overcome.

The message I receive from this article makes me incredibly sad. The passage I quoted suggests that we are, in fact, living in post-racial America. The first sentence, indeed, states that the institutionalized racism that “began in Jamestown*” was fully dismantled by the civil rights movement revolution. And that is utter bullshit. Just because a handful of POCs inhabit places of influence in the United States government in no way indicates that race is no longer a factor of the world we inhabit. To state that it is requires willful ignorance and a heaping helping of privilege that affords those that buy into this utopian America** the ability to put the blinders on and forget atrocities done for the sake of “racial superiority” (in “scare quotes” because that was the best way I could come up with to convey the utter scorn I have for those that, by accident of birth, view their skin tone as superior to that of another human being).

Whatever the persisting problems of black Americans–many of which, like a fragile family life and the lack of inheritance, also originated in slavery–it is now incontestable that they belong to America as America belongs to them.

Is it just me, or does this sentence seem to say, “Gee! Sorry about all that nasty shit we pulled a while back! But hey – now you’re a real American! Because you’ve struggled, we’ll give lip service and pretending we care! Yet at the same time, it appears to brush those struggles under a rug – smother them beneath a muzzle of “Your story has already been told, so shut up about it already! We get it, you’ve been oppressed, and we can’t wait until you stop whinging about it.”

In this, America stands far above all other multiethnic Western nations.

Oi. That ethnocentrism hit me so hard, I’m seeing stars. How in the hell does this person have the gall to use that jingoistic drivel? How was this approved for publishing? What the fucking fuck happened to journalistic integrity, Time? Oh, right. I keep forgetting that the United States*** is the paragon of enlightenment and reason in the world. It’s in all the best news sources!

The racial issues in the United States haven’t been solved. It’s going to take a lot more than a few elected officials to fix that – it requires intellectually honest discussions about race and privilege, and recognizing that reparations cannot be made through time alone. There has to be an effort to change the root of the problem, rather than pretend we live in a post-racial fairy tale where cookies are handed out for every act of minimal decency.

*I feel confident stating that racism was institutionalized long before the establishment of said colony.

**Specifically, the part of America that is governed by the U.S. Would hate to be unclear about that.

***I accidentally typed “Untied States.” The Freudian potential!

Prop 8 Upheld

26 May

By now, you’ve probably heard that CA’s Proposition 8 is being upheld.

This is incredibly disappointing, not least because of this:

Shaker Faith comments: [Because of this decision,] 51% of Californians could change the constitution in any way at all.

Can I have a collective “AARRRGH!” now? How in the fuck is this a responsible method of governance?

Let’s have some music.

I mean that last video with all my bisexual heart. And I don’t even like marriage.

Thoughts on Survival

5 Apr

*TRIGGER WARNING* Discussion of sexual assault following

I’ve spent the past few days (when not at musicals or playing role-playing games) reading this thread at Shakesville. Here’s my response.

As I’ve read through all of your stories, things have come back in bits and chunks, and made me certain I’m still forgetting many incidents. And I’m not sorry I can’t remember them.

The first I remembered was about a year ago. I was out of town on a school trip, and some friends (mostly women, 2-3 men, all of us in 20s or late teens) and I went out to eat at an Italian restaurant. The manager (at least triple our age) came by the table frequently, and as we left, he said something like “Such lovely ladies – each more beautiful than the last!” then pulled me aside and kissed me on the cheek.

Which leads to another memory – high school. I rode the bus until eleventh grade, when I got a car. A guy who liked me liked me sat beside me a lot, and commented on my eyes and how surprising it was that I had no boyfriend. I did what I could to discourage this (without, you know, saying anything about it. That would have been rude.), including not letting him sit by me a lot. At some point, I felt bad about not sitting next to him – he was nice enough, especially compared to other guys on the bus. So, we sat together again. He was thrilled, and also kissed me on the cheek. Another thing I need to say about this story – I know it doesn’t really make sense to rank these sorts of things – none of them should have happened at all, but this one doesn’t feel as bad to me as the one I related above, or the ones below. I think it’s because there wasn’t as much of a power dynamic between us as there could have been – there still was some, because as I’ve said, I didn’t feel comfortable asking him not to, but it wasn’t like he was being overtly manipulative (And ugh, that’s one fucked-up justification).

Speaking of buses, my parents were divorced and lived in separate neighborhoods in the same school zone. So some months I rode one bus (the bus mentioned above), and the other months I rode the bus I really hated. There weren’t any compromises of my physical boundaries on that bus, but plenty of trespassing on my mental space. A few times, guys tried to talk to me. One guy asked me if I knew the “Milkshake song.” I didn’t. I’ve since learned the lyrics, and suffice it to say “Ewwwww!” Other times, the talking wasn’t directed at me. One kid was telling another about this “chick” whose hairy ass he’d licked. “And if she’s hairy there, can you imagine all the other places she’s got hair?” The people he was talking to laughed, and I shrunk into my seat, completely mortified.

In junior high, shortly after the divorce I mentioned in the above paragraph, my dad lived in an apartment complex with a swimming pool. There were some kids my age in the complex (one of them stole my shoes and refused to give them back until I ran after him barefoot). One time, I was at the pool with a guy I sorta-kinda liked, and he commented loudly on a sunbather’s pubic hair poking out of her suit. “Isn’t that gross? Don’t you think that’s disgusting?” I agreed with him, hoping he would finally shut up if I agreed with him. (Ha! Can you tell I have issues with hair?)

This past May, I went on a school trip to London (I’m from TX). Three of us (at 19, A. and I were the oldest, and all of us were quite naive) were out on our own at night. A street-drawer approached us in Leicester Square (I believe his name was David – I have no interest in protecting his identity) and, after some haggling offered to draw S. for free (normally, he charged several pounds). He talked to us as he drew in a very flirty way, and somehow it came out that I spoke limited French. So, he started flirting with me in French – [Do you want your own drawing? Only five minutes.](I have a feeling the phrase “seulement cinq minutes” is forever going to upset me because of this encounter.) I refused, and then he suggested we meet him at a club/pub a few blocks away for beers and dancing. There was more flirting, primarily with S. and myself (You look Irish! Surely you’ll have a beer with me!) We were all getting pretty skeeved and nervous at that point (beyond the fact that none of us drank), so we got the fuck out of there and back to the hotel. 6 months later, we got together for a dinner and A. told us that while he was trying to ascertain our ages, he told her to “show him her tits and he’d tell her how old she was.” She thought S. and I had heard him, but didn’t do anything about it (I don’t think she blamed us – we were all pretty clueless about what to do about this guy).

I can’t help wondering – how much longer would my list be if my grandfather had lived longer? If I’d ever been accidentally left alone with him (my mother and her older sister were both molested/raped by him as teenagers)? If I hadn’t been afraid of people through high school? If I’d been (Maude forbid) popular? I’ve never dated, and now I’m scared to. Part of that’s mental stuff that’s unique to my situation (and I can’t find a way to phrase that which doesn’t come off as silencing my brain’s standard operation as unreasonable – urgh!), but a lot of that’s reasonable fear. Women go through so much shit in this culture that it’s impossible for me to visualize a world where women aren’t “pathologized, criminalized, ostracized, jailed, raped, and butchered.” (via). It’s impossible for me to go out at night without visualizing exactly what sort of assault I could be subjected to – oh, look at that bush. It could hide a man pretty easily. What’s that I hear – footsteps? Better speed up. Maybe I should have called security to walk me to my car. What sort of martial arts move should I use if x happens (at which point I visualize x in graphic detail)? Would a roundhouse kick be good? Neck chop? Lots of yelling and punching? Is there a chance in hell that’s going to be good enough?

That’s a pretty small snippet of the shit that goes through my mind on minimum 2 times a week – I have a night class on Mondays and Wednesdays. If I do anything special, like go somewhere that has me walking around at 11:00 at night, I figure out how I’m going to be safe (the tags on that entry are telling: fear, life) walking to my car. I prioritize this shit, because I know even though the only reason anybody is raped is the presence of a rapist, society will find a way to blame me for my own death if it gets a fucking chance to do so.

And my second story is disturbing me more and more as I think about it. That fear of rudeness upsets me, partly because I still have it, 5-6 years and a helluva lot of self-esteem later. I wish I had some smart insight on that, about how that’s probably some vestige from the days of chivalry, where women had no opinions of their own and never contradicted their menz!, but I have no insight. Just a head full of words, a heart full of sadness and a spleen full of hatred for this culture where rape’s been normalized.

Hair

4 Apr

H/T and inspiration for this post to Amanda Fucking Palmer and Shakesville.

As I’ve implied here before, I don’t shave. I haven’t owned a razor in over a year, and I don’t plan to own one ever again. Among other reasons, I stopped depilating because I was incredibly tired of the way advertising campaigns hit me over the head with my unwomanlyness if I didn’t painstakingly remove every single hair from my body. I realized that I wouldn’t become less of a woman if I stopped paying these companies copious amounts of money to lower my appreciation for the natural state of my body. Plus, I was curious what my armpit hair looked like grown out – as soon as I began growing it at 11-12, my mom freaked out and insisted I shave (which now seems odd, as she has always been fairly lax about her leg hair). So, now I don’t wear sleeveless shirts without feeling like I’m telling the status quo to go fuck itself (whether the status quo is listening is another matter entirely).

When I see advertisements like this, I wish the status quo would listen to me.

And if that was too subtle for you, here’s another ad from the same campaign.

This shit – this culturally enforced hairlessness in the name of “freeing your skin” – makes me want to scream and cry and pull my hair out (oh, teh irony). Why the fuck isn’t it okay for anybody to do what they like to their own body? Maybe it’s what Crowfoot said (couldn’t find a permalink: if in Linux/Windows, CTRL-F “Crowfoot”) in response to Eloriane and my conversation about including all stories in the stories that are told about menstruation:

After all, we are a culture that has a long history of being disgusted
with our physical bodies, thinking them as base and dirty, indicative
of the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. And it’s probably likely
that the idea of the body as base heavily feeds into misogyny: bodies
are base, icky and leaky and women’s bodies are the basest, ickiest and
leakiest of all!

That probably has a lot to do with it. I’m not really in the mood to get into the history of shaving or body politics right now, but suffice it to say that bodies, particularly women’s bodies, have been policed and censored because they fall too close to the natural form.

Run in terror, for the hairy-bodied women are coming for you! They will devour your soul, because they can! They follow Chef Cthulhudee’s recipe for spaghetti and soulballs (the secret – a dash of Atheist salt)!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!