Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

The Mythical Friendzone

December18

I want you to imagine something.

You meet this person. You hit it off. You spend a lot of time hanging out. You discuss your favorite shows and politics, they’re always really complimentary, you go out drinking together. You get sick and they come by armed with Sweet And Sour Soup and you chill and watch tv together. When you go places, you drive in your car. You help them carry stuff home from IKEA in your car, you help them move with your car. You like and trust them. You’re friends.

Then you loan your car to someone, and they find out and flip out at you.

Don’t you realize that THEY wanted to borrow your car? How DARE you loan your car to someone else when they’ve wanted to borrow your car this entire time! How disrespectful are you? Just loaning your car to everyone around except for them. Unless you loan your car to them RIGHT NOW and let them drive it ALL THE TIME, they are leaving your life forever and telling everyone what a shitheel you are. OBVIOUSLY they only wanted to hang out with you because you have a car. Why else would anyone voluntarily spend time with you?

This is what complaining about “the friendzone” is like, this idea that women owe men sex/romance and that’s the only reason a man would want to be friends with a woman. It’s harmful and reductive, saying that the only value a woman has is in her willingness to date/fuck a dude. It’s immensely disrespectful. And it’s a super common complaint.

How dare that woman I’m friends with date someone who isn’t me. I used to hang out with this bitch all the time and talk about comic books but she wouldn’t date me so whatever. “friendzoned.” I didn’t go to that woman’s Doctor Who party because she already has a boyfriend so what’s the point, I won’t be able to bag her.

This attitude reduces women to nothing more than an accessory that provides a (sexual) service and it’s gross and wrong. It states that women aren’t deserving of having and sharing their opinions, talents, skills, hobbies, creativity etc the same way that men are. Women’s friendship isn’t prized. There is only one thing about them that has value.

Two guys can get together and talk about football or Marvel comics or science fiction or cars and be friends and that’s fine, that’s good and normal. But if a guy and a girl do the same and she doesn’t put out she’s a bad person because her friendship, her emotional connection, her very SELF is not valuable.

And that’s so fucked up.

posted under feminism, life, social responsibility | Comments Off on The Mythical Friendzone

What can men who are Feminists do?

December17

There’s this dude who makes a living as a professional feminist, writing books and teaching and getting paid gigs writing articles/blog posts about feminism. His take on feminism discusses the following:

  • his boners
  • people he’s stuck his boners into
  • people he wants to stick his boners into
  • people he’s stuck his boners into when they didn’t want his boners in them but LOL WHOOPS sometimes you just can’t tell a woman doesn’t want sex!
  • that time he decided his girlfriend, who was passed out from drugs and had just been raped, needed to die (for her protection!) and he tried to kill her
  • how women need to shut up and let men ejaculate onto their faces because it’s good for men
  • how hard it is to be a man
  • how femninism is gross and hard and unpleasant, but a duty
  • how shitty people who aren’t white are, with their wacky names and terrible fashion sense and how LOUD they are
  • how slutty and gross women are
  • how important he is
  • how it’s totally cool for a dude in a position of authority to have sex with women much younger and less experienced than him, especially in a scholastic setting (teacher and students)

In other words, he goes into feminist spaces and turns them into spaces about him, about his needs, about men. Did you know it’s hard to be a man? Women are just so baffling! And weird! And hard to manage! Whew, thank goodness there’s men like him around to herd those sluts.

He’s also tried to get WOC feminist writers fired by going over their heads to the people who hired them. Truly, he is professional!

So, in addition to Not Being That Guy, what can men who really are feminists/feminist allies do? There’s a growing body of men speaking as feminists who enter feminist spaces and shit them up, some to the point of becoming staunch MRA/MRM (Men’s Rights Advocates/ Men’s Rights Movement) shills. In media coverage of politics and health care and legal decisions that affect women, men are FAR more likely to be interviewed or given talk time. The society we live in automatically gives mens’ words more weight than womens’ words. Stuff that dudes say is taken more seriously than stuff that chicks say. So it can be really harmful when men are given platforms to speak in feminist spaces, because it continues the idea that male words are important words, that male voices have authority. But men take part in society, and raise women, and love women, and work for and with women. Shouldn’t they have a voice as well? What’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that women’s voices and experiences are heard?

One thing that men can do, one very strong and vital thing that men can do, is make all spaces they inhabit feminist spaces.

Any space that you occupy, make it a feminist space.

I’m not saying wave your magic feminist wand and erase all inequality forever.

But I am saying that if you’re listening to the radio and the DJ makes a joke that’s sexist (or racist or transphobic or homophobic or ablist or whatever) then call and complain. Write a letter and complain. When you see a beer ad that’s sexist etc, write an email to the beer company complaining. When you see a trailer for a movie and all the characters that are in the movie are male, talk about that. When you watch a sitcom where all the women are super sexy and pretty dumb and have little in the way of character development or dialogue, stop watching the show and discuss why you don’t watch it. When people make sexist etc comments, call them on it. When someone posts an anti-woman screed online or talks about “having sex with” a woman who was drunk or asleep, call him on it. You don’t have to give a big speech, just say that it’s not appropriate. Take the space that you’re in and change it. Make it better. Do what you can.

A friend of mine said once that we’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present. We can all make changes. Men can lend their voices in support of women, and should. And that will make a better, healthier world for all of us.

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You’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present

August13

We were lucky enough that a friend of our was able to come over last night. I made pizza and we had a low key evening of sitting around eating pizza and talking. We talked about a LOT of different stuff. And at one point, said friend asked if I’d heard about the recent con where a woman was harassed and I was all LOL WHICH ONE BB because lately it seems like just about EVERY con has had that as a “feature.” And then we talked about sexism a little bit.

He mentioned a work thing. He’s a sysadmin for a big company, and he works with a dude who’s been there about two years. And at a recent meeting, New Guy was asked a question about a problem with a program he’s responsible for, and the guy was all “Oh, that’s Benn-Ware.” And people looked at him, all whaaaaat, until it transpired that he was referring to the Benn who’d written the code, and had some issues with it. And then they were all “dude, it doesn’t matter who wrote the code. If there’s a problem with it, YOU have to fix it, that’s YOUR JOB.” and he was all “BUT BRIGID’S FRIEND, you yourself refer to “Jerome-Ware” when talking about your own stuff!” and my friend said yeah, he does, but only as a preface to “and I’m sorry I haven’t fixed it yet, I’m going to, this is my plan/schedule to do so.” In other words, he acknowledges the existing problem, which was created by other people, but then HE GOES ON TO FIX IT. Because that’s his job.

And, because he’s brilliant, he told me this story as a prelude to talking about how he tries to handle sexism/misogyny that he encounters in the world. Somebody Else MADE the problem. But his job is to fix it in whatever way he can.  Which I adore.

I encounter a lot of dudes who kind of throw up their hands at the idea of being a feminist or working to dismantle the Patriarchy because it’s Not Their Fault or Somebody Else Can Do It or What Can Ya Do, Y’Know? But I think that story– that it doesn’t matter WHO instituted the wrongness or how long it’s been wrong, it’s still YOUR JOB to fix it– might help. I don’t know.

I thought it was a great anecdote and I’m sorry I didn’t tell it better here.

I feel very lucky that I have some really awesome dude friends who aren’t assholes, and who like and respect me and think that I, that all women, deserve to be treated as full human beings instead of humanlite or whatever. And then I feel a little angry that I’m reduced to FEELING LUCKY that I’m treated like a human being. And then I shove that away and just enjoy my friends. IT’S COMPLICATED OK.

We also talked about how awesome it would be if The Rapture actually happened and how we’d advance so much as a society if all those nozzles who believe in The Rapture and think one totally cool way of being right with God is to oppress the shit out of women and gay people were actually Raptured. How neat would it be to open a book and find it’s a bit of Post-Apocalyptic fiction but then find that the Apocalypse was all the fundie assholes being removed from the Earth? (which would leave, of course, the non-fundie assholes behind.)

 

posted under feminism, politics, social responsibility | Comments Off on You’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present

Out of touch politicians

November9

According to <a href=http://www.npr.org/2011/09/20/140627334/millionaires-in-congress-weigh-new-tax-on-wealthy>an NPR article,</a> about 1% of the population of the USA are millionaires while almost half of Congress–46%– are millionaires. They obviously aren’t representing the actual people who make up the USA. This is, perhaps, explained why in a time of brutal economic downturn and lack of jobs the people running the country are busy slashing funding to create jobs and provide medical, dental, housing, and monetary assistance to people who need it most. It might explain, just a bit, why politicians are soundly endorsing “personhood”  amendments that are failing at the polls. It might, just might, account for why so many people are invested in the various “Occupy” movements.

Power is currently held in the plutocratic hands of people looking out only for themselves. Everyone else, apparently, can go screw.

 

Can we revisit the mythical bootstraps college student thing?

November2

Buster Blonde of Persephone Magazine did a really great take down of the mythical college bootstraps studenthere. I want to drive it a bit further into the ground.

"not the 99%"

In case you can’t see the image or read the hand written text, it says:

I am a college senior about to graduate completely debt free. I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage. I chose a moderately priced, in-state public university and started saving money for school at age 17. I got decent grades in high school and received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition. I currently have a 3.8 GPA. I live comfortably in a cheap apartment, knowing I can’t have everything I want. I don’t eat out every day, or even once a month. I have no credit card, new car, iPad, or smart phone- and I’m perfectly OK with that. If I did have debt, I would NOT blame Wall St or the government for my own bad decisions. I live below my means to continue saving for the future. I expect nothing to be handed to me, and will continue to work my ass off for everything I have. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I am NOT the 99% and wehther or not you are is YOUR decision.

 

I graduated high school in 1997. Like the anonymous sign holder, I also went to an in-state public university and had savings from high school jobs. My senior year, for instance, I worked over 30 hours a week every week at a restaurant where the owner literally threatened me with a knife, because I knew my parents would be unable to pay for my cheap in-state public university tuition. Instead of padding out my college applications with extra curriculars, I worked and saved money. I was accepted to every college I applied to, and was courted by several I didn’t apply to as well. They all offered me scholarship money… thousands of dollars worth (one college offered me over $10k, which wasn’t enough). None of it covered the cost of tuition let alone books, fees, and living expenses which is why I enrolled at my shitty state university.

I should note that I went to a college preparatory high school. In theory, every single teacher and guidance counselor and staff member was there to promote college attendance, to help and guide students in selecting and applying to colleges, find financial aid and scholarships, etc. In practice, a lot of students (myself included) fell through the cracks. Overwhelmed and immature, not sure what to do or how to do it, we also had the “bad” guidance counselor who was more interested in coaching softball than guiding students. My educational experience was incredibly privileged and I still was unable to find ANY scholarships other than ones offered by schools. (If the internet, and search engines, had existed then things might have been different; instead I leafed through binders and catalogs with no idea what I was looking for). There are a LOT of kids, a huge amount of kids, graduating high school and interested in college who have no idea how to find scholarships and no guidance counselor to help them. The fact that this person allegedly got 90% of their tuition covered by just two scholarships implies that they had a LOT of help. Most people aren’t so fortunate.

I also worked as a student and rarely ate out. My final year of school, before my nervous breakdown and suicide attempt(s), I was working 3 part time jobs and still barely able to pay my bills… bills which consisted of telephone and credit card payments for text books and housing and basic clothing purchases… underpants, a sweater that fit, nothing extravagant. I punched into my first job at 8am, then went to class, then went to my second job, then went to class, then went to my third job and didn’t get done with that until almost midnight. It was a grueling and stressful existence and an appalling way to live. I was constantly “on,” short on sleep, and busting my ass for SIXTEEN HOURS A DAY. I made slightly more than minimum wage and still had a hard time paying the bills for my cheap-ass in-state shitty university education.

Smart phones did not exist at the time, but I currently have one. It’s possible to get an iPhone through my phone company for free, and the basic data plan is not much more than a regular phone plan. Poor people squandering money on smart phones as proof of their not-really-being-poor/making-bad-decisions is a shitty strawman argument that I wish would die in a fire. Credit cards enabled me to enroll at the start of the semester and pay it off over the course of said semester, as UIC did not offer payment plans. You paid all at once or didn’t go to class. I especially leaned on my credit card the semester UIC lost my financial aid payment, leaving me several thousand dollars short (but don’t worry, they found it a year later and gave it to me! Wasn’t that nice of them?). There’s this pervasive rumor that people in the USA have massive credit debt because they are buying frivolous things and are too stupid to make good financial choices. This lets people without credit card debt feel smug and superior and ignore the fact that most credit card debt is to cover emergency situations, like groceries while unemployed or surprise medical expenses or super fun sudden car repairs or tuition or the like. I also had no car at all and continue not to have a car, but I live in a city with pretty great public transit. I do not NEED a car to get to work or the grocery store (although it’s great when my husband can give me a lift places). There are places not-where-I-live where if you don’t have a functioning car you can’t get to work. You don’t go to work, you don’t get paid. You don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills. A functioning car is necessary in some places, in most places. It’s shitty to sniff down your nose at people for filling a legitimate need.

College tuition and fees have been going up more and more each year while state and federal financial aid have been going down and down. College tuition, even at affordable in-state institutions, is getting out of reach of MANY people in a country where a bachelor’s degree has become the equivalent of a high school diploma, a requirement for the most basic untrained work. Sure, there’s community colleges… assuming those colleges are at all decent. One of the community colleges near where I grew up lost accreditation and didn’t regain it for several years, although people continued taking classes there. A friend of mine put in 4 semesters at a community college, spending time and money and learning things, only to find that most of his credits wouldn’t transfer to a traditional 4 year university because LOL COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AM I RITTE? Further, part of the reason we have the current problem with the housing market and foreclosures is that banks encouraged home owners to take out mortgages to fund their kids’ college educations, to invest in their kids. Which is great in theory, but helped prop up the skyrocketing cost of college tuition while shutting out people who didn’t own homes and couldn’t take out mortgages, and which also affected the people who held the mortgages when their interest rates shot up 10% overnight. WHOOPS. I don’t know about you, but banks that aggressively fuck people over while the government sits back and slashes funding to educational opportunities sounds like a pretty sound thing to get riled up about.

If you want to get really depressed, look at how many European countries subsidize their population when it comes to higher education. Spoiler:  a LOT of them do, while also providing decent, qualitative health care and in general taking care of all their citizens and not just the ones who make six figures or more  a year. The USA is losing vast amounts of money every single year by not taxing the top 1% of earners and not taxing huge businesses. We could stop slashing education and health care and social programs, we could repair our falling-apart roads and bridges and deteriorating infrastructure, we could subsidize higher education and training programs… or we could continue letting a small handful of people go swimming in their giant vaults of money or whatever the hell it is they do with it.

It’s incredibly depressing how many people are at best just barely getting by and at worst actively failing (the dude working 12 hours a day 7 days a week while dying from cancer springs to mind. The American Dream, am I right?) and defending to the death their right to suffer and languish and stagnate while a tiny fraction of people continue soaring to great heights. This person, with their 90% scholarship and their never eating out and their barely scraping by on minimum wage… it’s great that you’re self sufficient but is that honestly all you want, all you aspire to? To barely scrape by while working your ass off? To have no savings and no safety net and nothing to fall back on, no guarantee of employment and no vacation days or sick days? I’m sure you imagine that if you just WORK HARD! and LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS! and SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY!!!!! you’ll join the ranks of the 1% but let’s face facts: you’re graduating into an employment market with, in some areas, 9% or more unemployment. There is a LOT of competition for jobs, much of it from highly skilled, experienced people. How long will your rainy day savings last you when you’re unable to find a job because companies once based in the USA are moving more and more of their facilities (including office jobs, not just factory jobs) to other countries? When you realize that you’ll need to get an advanced degree to get employment or a promotion, and tuition is higher and state and federal aid lower? When your rent and groceries and gas and taxes (and your boss’s pay and bonuses) keep going up but your paycheck stays the same or even is reduced, as many state employees are finding themselves faced with having to accept pay cuts to keep their jobs?

Baby, you’re part of the 99%, and they’re fighting to protect you and your interests. They’re trying to make the world a better place for you. I’m sorry you can’t see that.

 

 

Tutoring update

February1

For those of you who don’t know/don’t remember, I tutor through a local community center. I have one student, and we’re working on Adult Basic Education (ABE), Math. Sometimes we touch on Grammar and stuff, though, as my student is also an ESL student. Her goal of working with me is to be able to take a math placement test that will get her into a math credit course in college– a 101 or higher level class, not a remedial class. You know, something that will count toward a degree.

She brought in a booklet on placement tests, from the college, and if we crammed really hard for a few sessions she could probably take the PreAlgebra test and do well on it. However, the PreAlgebra test wouldn’t get her into a credit class. It gave us a good look at where she’s at, and where she needs to be. We went over some sample questions and she got the hang of some stuff pretty quickly.

Our current plan is to touch on a few more PreAlgebra things (mean, median, and mode; brush up on time zones; continue reviewing fractions; order of operations), move onto Geometry, and then hit Algebra. The current goal is to have her take the Algebra test (which includes Geometry) this summer. We might push it back to the fall, but I’m hoping we’ll get it this summer. We’ve been held up and not really progressing because we keep coming back to fractions… we start doing a quick review and it turns out she’s forgotten stuff, so we spend some time on it, she remembers it all, she does well, we do a bit more review, she seems to have it cold… and then next session she needs to be reminded again. So I’m going to put together some practice worksheets with reminder instructions/steps and a handful of problems for her to work on when we’re not together, and hope that consistent practice will help keep things fresh in her mind.

If anyone has any advice or resources, let me know.

I’m going to try and attend more tutoring workshops this year as well. So far, they all seem to be geared toward reading/writing and ESL and not math, but I won’t be working with my student forever, and my next one might be reading/writing. So I might as well gobble up all the knowledge I can, right?

IN OTHER NEWS, Nesko might have to spend the night at work because it is snowing LIEK WOAH and apparently there are no snowplows out near him and it’s massively dangerous to be on the road. He is a dispatcher for a towing company and they are getting a lot of work tonight. Be safe, everyone!

posted under Chicago, feminism, life, social responsibility | Comments Off on Tutoring update

Geek Culture and Inclusivity

December16

I’m female, fairly geeky, and in my (early) 30s. Like a lot of geeky women my age, most of my friends are male. This isn’t because men are more awesome than women, or because I’m uncomfortable around women. It’s because for people my age, nerdy geeky interests were more heavily discouraged in women than in men, so when I found people who were, say, really into Star Wars and science fiction and role playing games, they skewed heavily toward the male. Thanks to the internet (I LOVE YOU INTERNET) I now have a lot more ladygeek friends and oh my GOSH, ladies, I love you so much. But this is because I can easily chat with people in different states and countries. If I want a face to face get together, most of my friends are still dudes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Dudes are pretty rockin! I love my friends a lot. But, unlikes a lot of older female geeks, I’m very lucky. My guy friends are pretty feminist and don’t treat me like crap.

That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m LUCKY that my friends TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Isn’t that sick and gross? But for a lot of female geeks, that’s just how life is. Geek demographics are changing and more women are joining the club. But the social hierarchy is still heavily male, and young female geeks face a hell of a lot of prejudice and discrimination and outright hate (hdu invade our boysclub with your tits and opinions! Go make a sandwich!) even while there are more of them. Will their greater numbers turn the tide? Will some measure of equality be achieved? Or will young geeky girls just get turned off by the geek macho posturing and turn their interests elsewhere? No idea.

But there is a reason that the face of geekdom is overwhelmingly male (and white and able bodied).

I’m not saying that every geeky/nerdy guy is a misogynist or a dickhole or evil. I’m just saying that we all live in a culture that privileges (white, straight, able bodied) men over everyone else and subcultures by and large reflect that.

So what’s a guy to do in a subculture that contains The Open Source Boob Project, Big Name Authors Sexually Assaulting Women, Developers not understanding (caring?) just how very real Rape Threats and Violence Against Women are, the overwhelming majority of published authors being white and male, industry editors and publishers sexually harassing (female) employees and potential authors, enough incidents of sexual harassment/casual misogyny that a wiki is needed to keep them all straight, and more? I mean, this is just stuff I found in like 5 minutes of google searching/remembered personally. And this doesn’t touch on racism, ablism, homophobia, or the million other ways predominantly straight white able bodied dudes actively and passively (whether meaning to or not) make it clear that other people aren’t welcome in their social group.

I have male friends who’ve asked just that question. A lot of them have leadership roles in their friend groups. They run games, they’re the ones who have the house everyone visits, they’re the ones who organize movie outings, etc. Most social groups have at least one person like that. So they’re poised to help guide and shape social mores or at the very least speak up when someone’s out of line.

Here’s a post on the effects of making rape jokes or dismissing rape/assault allegations. It’s a good starting point. You can apply those points to any sexist commentary or “jokes.” 1 in 6 women has been raped or assaulted, according to statistics. Almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted. When people in your social group use “rape” to mean “killed” or “cheated” or “beat me at something” or “stole” or “unfair,” the women in your group hear that you consider a relatively major crime that mostly happens to other people (women) on par with relatively minor inconveniences in your own life. Some women are cool with this but a lot of women aren’t, and unless you know that woman well you won’t know where she falls on the spectrum. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime and 25% of women (1 in 4) report being physically assaulted or raped by a domestic partner, which makes jokes about beating your girlfriend/a female NPC kind of tasteless. (And FYI, 1 in 33 men are raped per year. I know two guys who have been the recipients of domestic assault, one who was in a homosexual relationship and one who was in a heterosexual relationship. Male reporting rates of domestic violence are really, really low and a society that mocks and belittles men who are the recipients of violence/have been raped is part of that. If you care about your friends, don’t make them feel bad because someone acted violently towards them. Men, especially, are less likely to talk about having been raped or beaten, so you’re really unlikely to know if one of your male friends has experienced this.)

So purging rape and abuse jokes is a good start.

The next step is purging unwanted attention. Ladies! They are pretty awesome, right? They smell good and have nice hair and they have tits and everything. Wow! How great are ladies? Here is a clue: while many ladies enjoy flirting and being sexy on their own terms, ladies were not put on earth for you to claim as your very own. Which means don’t flirt with a woman who doesn’t seem interested, don’t “hit on” a woman who is anything less than encouraging/enthusiastic, don’t stare at a woman’s body parts or tell her/tell other people how hot she is. If you are a straight dude, think about how a gay dude might act around you. Would he corner you and talk about how great your ass is and how you should totally get together and not give up that line of thought ever? Probably not. If he did, how would you feel? Kind of gross and used? Frustrated? Bored? Threatened? A little flattered but uninterested? Part of why gay dudes don’t do this in mixed company is because it’s considered incredibly socially wrong, but it’s somehow totally ok for straight dudes to do this to (presumably) straight ladies. Why is that? Because straight dudes have power and control that gay dudes and ladies do not have. Don’t do that. It’s really gross and off putting and a lady who had to deal with that in social setting will eventually find a new social setting. Perhaps that social setting will consist of non-geeky people. Perhaps it will consist of people on IRC. Perhaps it will consist of a group of totally awesome geeks that she will never invite you to join because ew, you have terrible manners. WHO CAN SAY.

If you see someone harassing a woman– commenting on her, staring at her, flirting aggressively with her even though she’s tried to turn him down, cornering her, dominating the conversation, step in. On the one hand, women don’t need to be “saved” by men. On the other hand, women are often taught to be “nice” and to avoid confrontation (and you seriously never know when a woman’s tried to turn aside a dude who’s flirting with her and it escalated to violence and so she learned not to escalate or take a stand because she likes having her face bones unbroken). So step in. Go over there. Ask the woman if everything’s ok. Distract the guy. Don’t go in with the idea of saving her– or of claiming her as your own! God no!– go in with an offer of help that she may or may accept.

So that’s another pretty basic socializing thing. What’s a more sophisticated one?

Consume– and discuss– media by and featuring women. I have actually heard actual men who I thought were intelligent up until they said this thing, say that they don’t read books by or about women because they are not worth reading. Oh HO! Apparently women, the gender stereotypically known as the communicative/chatty/talkative gender can’t write books. OH NO THAT IS FOR MEN TO DO. Also: women are just not that interesting! Yes, yes. That’s right. The gender that makes up literally half the population of this earth, the gender that men are told they want to spend their sexy lives with, is not interesting and has nothing important/fun to say. OH WOW THAT IS NOT SEXIST AT ALL. When you say that you don’t read books, watch movies, listen to music, etc when they are by or feature women because they are inherently bad for featuring women, you are saying that women are inherently bad and there’s no reason to talk to them or be around them ever. Which, ok, if you really believe that, please say it loudly enough and often enough that everyone who thinks otherwise can easily pick up on that and start avoiding you. But if you think women are actual human beings whose thoughts and words are worth something, consume media by women and featuring women. Discuss that media. Talk about it with your friends. Review it online. And while you’re talking about books and movies and stuff, talk about the problematic stuff. Like female characters who do nothing but get rescued or give the (male) hero sexual relief or who are killed off quickly so the hero has something to avenge. Or how often rape is the sole defining character trait of a female character.

When someone in your social group makes jokes about rape or makes jokes about how women are stupid or unfunny or whatever, shut him down. Tell him it isn’t funny. Don’t put up with that shit. It’s really easy to sit back in silence and let one person bloviate about how women are inferior or they just can’t do math or drive or they need to make more sandwiches while giving him head. But your silence tacitly supports his sexist/misogynist comments. When you don’t say you disagree, he assumes you agree with him, and everyone else assumes that everyone in the social set holds the same views. Be prepared for backlash, for being called PC or “overly” PC, for being called “butthurt” or “a girl” or “a pussy” (NOTE: the worse thing you can call someone is a feminine designation. SEXIST? NOT AT ALL.). This is pretty much nothing compared to the backlash women get when they point out sexism, which generally starts out with allegations that the woman is “overly sensitive,” “lacking a sense of humor,” “hysterical,” or the like and often ramps up into threats. Why is asking someone not to make comments/jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or safe such a big deal? Because there is power and status in being able to unquestionably put other people in their place. Being called on that is an erosion of power and status,and some people take it as a personal attack. What fun!

If someone in your group consistently makes sexist comments and jokes and acts inappropriately despite interventions, ask them to leave. Stop inviting them to things. Tell them why. If a friend came to your house and was cruel to your dog or urinated in the sink every time he used the bathroom or constantly insulted your dad’s political views/appearance/whatever you’d step in and say something. If they kept doing it, would you keep them around? Probably not, yet people are very willing to sit back and tacitly encourage folks in hateful and harmful behavior toward women.

Remember that the goal of this is not to treat women as “special” or “put them on pedestals.” It’s to treat them with respect and consideration. It’s to leave them feeling welcomed and safe and part of the group, not like an outsider being allowed in and granted a small measure of acceptance which can be revoked at any moment if she doesn’t behave appropriately (laugh at the jokes, endure the tit-staring, tidy up after get-togethers, etc). For some reason, a lot of people think that “not verbally berating someone” means “condescendingly treating someone like a special princess on a pedestal.” If there’s someone like that in your social group, dump them. They’re toxic.

Women have been geeks and nerds all throughout history, and for big chunks of history have been denied, stifled, excluded, or not given credit. We are in the 21st century and it’s time for women to stop being excluded from society and instead welcomed. Do your part.

(a lot of this can be applied to racism, homophobia, ablism, cisexism, etc but I’m taking a lot of my responses and advice from what I know personally, so have focused mainly on sexism. Yes, my privilege is showing. Please feel free to comment on that, as well as offer other advice on this topic.)

(edited to change some mildly problematic wording)

Voting

October25

I am very unenthusiastic about voting right now, especially as I live in Chicago and a lot of our local political options are especially dire. I kind of feel like I’m being asked to chose between being stabbed in the arm or being stabbed in the leg. Both are going to hurt and be bad for me, but which will hurt less? Which will lead to less long-term damage? Do I want to go with the leg, which will bleed more; or with the arm, which may lead to nerve damage of my hand/fingers? It’s a hard question to face, to make a decision on. Frankly, a lot of the platforms that a lot of politicians are standing on are directly designed to hurt me and people like me. They are literal attacks on me and people like me. I’m talking about stuff like restricting access to health care and abortion (even in the case of rape or incest! BTW: if it’s incest, it’s probably rape! even in cases where it will literally kill the mother! ABORTION: MOST EVIL THING EVER; WOMEN: TOTALLY EXPENDABLE), slashing important funding for stuff like education and government services, cutting funding for WIC and SNAP and programs that feed the poor and also stimulate the hell out of the economy.

I’m disgusted by the continuing attacks on the “Obamacare” initiative and the utterly foolish allegations about stuff like “death panels.” At least once a week, often more frequently, I read a blog post from someone about their personal life or a friend of theirs or someone in their church or community who needs medical assistance. Maybe they need new corneas, or need surgery on their jaws to keep all their teeth from falling out. Maybe they need a new heart and also anti-rejection medication. Maybe they need medication for their mental illness. Many of them either have insurance that simply magically doesn’t cover this expensive thing, or else they are uninsured either because they don’t have the option of insurance at all or because they’re uninsurable or because their insurance options suck (trufax: I once had the option of health insurance that paid out less than what you paid into it. For instance, you paid $X per month, but would have to pay out of pocket for anything that cost more than $Y for the year. $Y was less than $X*12 and also you had to pay into the plan for six months before you could use it. One was better off stuffing one’s money into one’s mattress and praying.). There is a gripping and vital need in the USA for affordable, comprehensive health coverage and access to medical care. People are literally dying without it, but as they aren’t affluent white dudes I guess it isn’t really that important or something so hey let’s talk shit about Nancy Pelosi in political ads. Saving Lives: It’s A Bad Thing Apparently.

Anyway, that being said, here’s Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day by Dave Johnson.

posted under Chicago, life, politics, social responsibility | Comments Off on Voting

Does it really get better?

October7

I don’t really have friends.

That sounds weird and possibly pathetic, doesn’t it? I mean, who gets to be in her early thirties and doesn’t have friends?

I keep most people firmly in the “acquaintance” category, in my head. This includes people I’ve known for over a decade; people who I spend holidays with; people who I’ve helped move and who’ve helped me move; people who invite me to parties and who I invite to parties; people who, I’m sure, lump me firmly in the “friends” category. And if I were “normal,” I’d consider them friends and feel how very lucky and secure I am in having so many close friends to whom I can turn in times of need. But I don’t feel I can turn to them, and that’s entirely not their fault at all.

Rather, it’s the fault of every single person who bullied me throughout grade school and made it very very clear that I wasn’t worth being friends with; that nobody liked me, would ever like me, could ever like me. I meet new people and I just wait for the other shoe to drop, for them to realize how disgusting and socially inept I am, to realize how undeserving of friendship and human contact I am. Even when I meet good, kind, intelligent, awesome people I still feel that way. I don’t get fully involved, I hold back, and I assume that they like everyone better. This happens in social situations, and this happens in work situations. People make friendly overtures to me, and I assume that they are either being polite and don’t really mean it, or they want to get me into a situation where they can dig at me and hurt me.

I am 31 and I’m still afraid of people.

I’m married to a wonderful person and I have a son who I love with a deepness and intensity I didn’t think possible. But even with them, I often feel on the outside, like I don’t really belong. They are human beings. I’ve been told over and over that I’m not really a human being, and this was reinforced by the teachers at my very small, tight-knit grade school.

I remember when I was 7 years old, lying in bed in the crushing grip of insomnia, staring up at the ceiling and wishing I’d never been born; that I didn’t exist. A few years later I stumbled on the concept of time travel and spent hours concocting elaborate fantasies about discovering how to travel through time… and prevent my mom from conceiving and giving birth to me.

This is what bullying does. It destroys people. And the onus is often, so very often, placed on the victim of the bullying. Sticks and stones break bones, and name calling and shunning and shitty behavior stay with people forever. Teachers shrug off the complaints– if the victim is able to pull their shit together enough, brave up enough, to make the complaint in the first place– or, in my case, join in on the abuse.

Schools have zero tolerance policies for things like bringing plastic knives (to spread cream cheese on a bagel) to school, or bringing a plastic squirt gun to school, or playing hands-on games like “tag.” How many schools have zero tolerance policies for bullying? How many schools are actually invested in protecting the most vulnerable– and most likely to be targeted and bullied– students?

There are kids dying right now because of bullying. What leads a person to feel so miserable, so unwanted, so torn up and alone, that death is the best and most viable alternative? Take a guess. A lot of the media and blogging focus right now is on kids who were bullied because they were– or were suspected to be, or who lived in places where this was the worst insult possible– gay. But sexual policing, sexism, is often a component of bullying, as is racism and classism and ablism. I’m so, so glad that people are noticing that kids are dying and noticing that this is a problem. I’m glad there is outreach to young people who are queer. But this is a symptom of a larger problem.

Bullying needs to end. It needs to stop. Schools need to take a hard line against it, and need to teach children from a young age that it is not acceptable. Every single school that does not prevent kids from bullying other kids is responsible, directly responsible, for what happens to the bullied kids. There is blood on the hands of the school administrators of those kids who killed themselves, those kids whose souls were murdered by their classmates and peers. Every teacher, every class and hall monitor, every principal, who did nothing to prevent it is guilty.

I spent a really big chunk of my life wishing I were dead and resenting other people. If my high school experience had been different, if it had been at all like my grade school experience, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I don’t think I could have slogged through another four years of that soul killing crap. It’s important for young people to realize that there is life beyond school, that there is life beyond whatever crap hole small town they might be in. But any damage that’s already done is still going to be there, and life usually doesn’t magically improve just because you finally escape a shitty situation.

posted under life, politics, social responsibility | Comments Off on Does it really get better?

A brief note on fat, health, and body normativity

September8

Someone on a feminist website recently posted a bit about the BMI and ended it with the admonition that fat people should just put down the donuts, a line that was cliche years ago and thinking that is, frankly, dangerous and hateful. I mean, seriously, if it was that easy to lose weight there wouldn’t be so many fat people and the dieting industry wouldn’t be raking in the money hand over fist the way it is. But it’s easy (lazy) thinking that fat people are just weak and immoral and more in love with shoving food into their gaping maws than being slender, and it paints thin people as morally superior since they can just step away from the food and not indulge. Why yes, there is a reason that it’s bad to be fat, it’s bad to be female, and it’s fucking awful to be fat and female. This ties into the whole puritanical don’t-have-pleasure-ever women shouldn’t lust after or enjoy ANYTHING (sex, alcohol, food in general, “decadent” food in specific, chocolate in specific, shopping in general, shoes, money, power, respect) mindset so very prevalent.

I digress a bit.

One of the arguments against fat people being healthy or active is that every single fat person it’s mentioned who is fat and vegetarian, is fat and exercises, is fat and jogs, is fat and participates in triathlons, is fat and hikes, is fat and mountain climbs, is fat and swims, is fat and rows boats, etc is that that particular fat person is a statistical outlier. Sure, THAT fat person acts in ways that are healthy and active and is still fat, but that’s the exception to the rule! Fat people in general are ticking time bombs of obese ill-health, and it is ALL. THEIR. FAULT. If only they’d just PUT DOWN THE DAMN DONUTS and BACK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. On the flip side of that, however, nobody ever says that thin people who are completely sedentary and/or eat nothing but junk food are statistical outliers. They are given an automatic pass for having an acceptable body shape, just as the fat people are automatically damned for having an unacceptable body shape. And yes, “overly” or “excessively” thin people are damned and told to eat a sandwich.

Meanwhile, the USA is a country with a great deal of poverty and many many people– many of them fat– who go to bed hungry each night. It’s a country where many children cannot count on having enough food to eat, where it can be difficult to find fruits and vegetables or anything that doesn’t come in a box or can and loaded with preservatives and additives. It’s a country where a person can be both overweight and malnourished at the same time. But with all the focus on OH MY GOD FAT PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE there’s very little attention paid to the fact that these fat people are often starving/malnourished or came from a childhood of food scarcity, and that the body’s natural reaction to starvation/malnourishment is to cling to fat– cling to iiiiiiiit!!!– and that it’s not an issue of overindulgence at all.

Because it’s easier to shame people than it is to address a serious social injustice. And it’s easier to point fingers at people who are lesser than it is to examine critical fallacies in the medical system. And it’s really easy to forget that the BMI was rewritten so that literally overnight a bunch of people were suddenly classified as overweight who before hadn’t been, and that likewise the critical numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar have been rewritten so that more people now have medical conditions they wouldn’t have been labeled with a few years ago. Explosive epidemic? Not really. Just a re-writing of criteria.

But that doesn’t write headlines, sell diet products and plans, and make people into disgusting non-humans so, you know, it’s not talked about that much.

posted under body issues, fat, feminism, health, social responsibility | Comments Off on A brief note on fat, health, and body normativity
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