Monday, March 26, 2012
Friday, April 8, 2011
Feminists who postulate that boys must obtain a spelled-out "yes" before having sex are trying to establish rules, cut in stone, that will apply to any and every encounter and that every responsible person must obey. The new rule resembles the old good girl/bad girl rule not only because of its implicit suggestion that girls have to be protected but also because of its absolute nature, its iron-fisted denial of complexity and ambiguity. I bristle at such a rule and so do a lot of other people. - Mary Gaitskill, "On Not being a Victim"
A friend of mine sent me an article she said had made her think of me, and then casually mentioned it might be worthy of a blog post. It is, in many respects; but this is the one she's getting at the moment. I'm not sure if it's the one she expected. As some people know, I have a history of misinterpreting fairly clear-cut texts. I missed much of the conventional thought about Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and libertarianism, taking out of it a doctrine of selfishness that I feel has served me and my liberal-pinko leanings well. I missed the environmental lesson of the film Ferngully, seeing it instead as a feminist screed about men not being trustworthy. I was 15 and 5, respectively, when I came to these conclusions. So I can see how I could possibly be off-base regarding the feminist thought known, now, as Yes Means Yes. But I don't think I am.
I'm not aware of which feminists, exactly, the author was pointing to in 1994 who wanted boys to obtain a spelled out yes before engaging in sexual acts with women. I was 8 in 1994, so I think I have some excuse as to this particular hole in my knowledge. And it is entirely possible that, like in the anti-porn movement of the decade earlier, the mainstream feminist thought was, well, sex adverse. But this is the same argument that crops up now regarding this particular philosophy of sex, and I think those people making the author's claim now are missing out on a few key details.
Firstly, I don't see Yes Means Yes as a way to make sex and sexual actions more puritanical, or even to adhere to rules carved in absolute. I see this particular campaign as an attempt to change how we think about sex, and about how women relate to sex, and how men relate to women in the pursuit of sex. I'm of the mind that how we handle sex in America right now to be fairly unhealthy. I'm of the mind that in many instances, we are following the old rule book, where men are supposed to be the actors and women are supposed to passively accept sexual contact, or actively reject it. And when something comes up - like rape - we as a general society are quick to point to a woman's (or girl's) supposed deviation from this norm as a reason for that particular crime (case in point: Cleveland, TX). I see Yes Means Yes as a way of muddying up those rules. As a way of making the advancement of sexual acts more complicated, but the sexual acts themselves more fulfilling. As a way of turning the general thinking about women and sex from passively acquiescing to actively participating and actively seeking. As a way of making sex into a conversation, rather than a silent action. And along with that thought is this one: it is important to change the very structure of how we think about sex. Not just how we think about sex with our significant others, or with our flings, or with our friends with benefits, but in general.
We need to start having frank discussions about sex and sexual pleasure from a young age. We need to start not only telling women and men that both women and men have sexual autonomy, but supplying the language and the thought process for that very autonomy. That means changing the nature of the conversation from speaking up when things have become uncomfortable to having ongoing conversations about sex, sexual wants, sexual needs, and what we expect from our sexual partners. We need to change the conversation from a "I don't want that" to a "I want that, I want to try this, and I never want to touch that thing over there". And getting to the point where you know and can speak about that thing over there that you don't ever even want to try.
One of the more interesting points of Gaitskill makes in this article is talking about how she didn't have the ability to stand up for herself at specific moments, to stop what was happening at specific times. I'm not going to try and explain why Gaitskill herself was unable to do so; she explains it quite well enough on her own. But I will say that I think at least part of the problem is the fact (a) the rules to sex are nebulous (even now), but exacting if a person (a woman person especially) is perceived to have not followed them, and (b) the language of sex is shrouded and couched in euphemistic terms. Yes means Yes, for me, is about changing both of those things. It is about being able to say the word "uterus" on the floor of the Florida House. It is about not having overarching rules regarding what you should or should not do sexually, but about having your own set of rules that you can converse with your partners about.
I've been told that talking frankly about sex takes the, for lack of a better word, sexiness out of the act. That somehow the very act of verbal affirmation deflates sexual desire. I don't doubt that for some people that's true. But I think that's because, in general, we have this idea about what sex is. Sex is supposed to be an action. Sex is supposed to be wild and passionate and taking place in a moment of wild abandonment, and it would suck to put that sort of thing on the backburner to figure out exactly how your partner wishes to go about this, if your partner wishes to go about this at all. For my part, talking about sex in detail, talking about likes and dislikes, taking the time to figure out how to make talking about not-wants and wants, and still getting on with business (or, you know, not) is a sign that a person is ready to have sex. Not wanting to talk about it for fear that talking about sex makes sexy time go bye-bye is, for me, a strange concept. I want to talk about sex with my partner. Talking about sex with my partner generally leads to better sex. Talking about sex with my partner allows those times when the sex isn't so great to be understood better, so we can change things up for next time. Talking about sex with my partner makes sex that much more fulfilling, and more of a journey than simply an act accomplished.
The thing about changing the conversation from a "No means No" to a "Yes means Yes" one is that it has the ability to change the functionality about how we think about sex. If we change the model from a "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" experience where we want to see how much we can do and how far we can go before our partner shuts us down to one where find out where our partner's boundaries are beforehand, we are less likely to violate those boundaries even accidentally. That's the place I want to get to.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Saturday, December 18, 2010
We’re not backing down. We’re not disappearing. Because they scared and bullied and threatened and shamed and lied to and lied about and disappeared all of those women, all of those women who were scared enough to go away or too scared to report in the first place, they all went away, and somebody has to not go away. We have to not go away.
“He’s helping so many”, she was told, “and he hurt you. Isn’t it better to just avoid him? We’ll warn him to shape up, but we can’t go further than that. He’s too valuable.”
To err is human. To acknowledge, logical. To apologize, evolved.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up! #wikilieaksby Naomi Klein staring at me. It galled me so much I sent my first "@" reply to someone marginally famous, and went on with my day. But my mind kept returning time and time again to this idea, the idea that Assange is being railroaded as a way of getting to Wikileaks. And what it came down to is this: I don't care.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
They want to make you uncomfortable, and then desperate, putting your route back to warmth and safety in the gift of the agents of the state. They decide when you can get back to civilisation. They decide when the old people can get warm, when the diabetics can get their insulin, when the kid having a panic attack can go home to her mum. It's a way of making you feel small and scared and helpless, a way for the state's agents to make you feel that you are nothing without them, making you forget that a state is supposed to survive by mandate of the people, and not the other way around.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
I don’t really know if this is truly a feminist issue, the issue of expectations and when they become too high. It doesn’t really matter, though, because it is an issue.
Truthfully, I think the idea of having too high expectations to be pretty laughable. Not saying that there is no one in the world with ridiculously high expectations. Of course there are. And maybe they should be told to dial it back and not expect a guy with an actual white horse to come riding up to take them away. But for the average person, I think “too high expectations” may just translate to “different expectations”. As in, “those are expectations I cannot or will not meet, and therefore they are too high”. But that’s the point of expectations. To figure out who fits with who. Sometimes, the person you’re interested in won’t fit yours, or you won’t fit theirs.
I’m a big believer in coming to a potential relationship with an idea about negotiables and non-negotiables. I’m a big believer in coming to a potential relationship with expectations of behavior, and nonbehavior. I’m also a big believer in this potentially not being the first conversation you have with a person, but an evolving topic that has to be built into a relationship. And I mean any relationship. Important friendships as well as romantic endeavors. You have to know where you stand, and what you’re willing to put up with and what you’re not willing to put up with; and the other person needs to know those details as well. Otherwise, this stuff doesn’t work. And if you go into a relationship and say, “I expect X, Y, & Z”, and your potential person says, “I can do X and Y, but I can’t promise Z; oh and by the way, I need A, B, & C from you”, then you have a working knowledge of what’s going on. And later on, if the potential person becomes an important person who does do X and Y and also J through N but just can’t manage to get down Z, you can reassess how much you’re willing to fight for Z. How much of a nonnegiotable Z actually is.
I’m a big believer in this for a personal reason. I have been dating the same guy off and on (and off and on… and off and on, and… you get the picture) for the better part of 7 years. And in the beginning, I had little in the way of relationship expectations. Sure, I expected someone I could talk to, who would respect my passions (not that he had to be passionate about the same things, but he had to at least not belittle them). But I didn’t have the big picture ‘How I Expect To Be Treated’ stuff down at that time. And I had my ass handed to me in the form of major heartbreak. And over the past 7 years, I’ve gotten pretty down with the whole, “This isn’t working for me, and we need to change something” deal. It isn’t perfect. He isn’t perfect. I’m certainly not perfect. Our relationship has been at best dysfunctional in the past, and it takes a lot of work to lean toward functionality even now.
But what I have learned from the yo-yo effect of my relationship is that high expectations are key to happiness. Having high expectations, and having the self-respect to expect those expectations to be met, is the key to a healthy relationship. Having the self-respect and self-awareness to understand what will make you walk away.
The only time expectations can be too high is if you’re (a) single, (b) looking, and (c) miserable without a significant other. If you meet those three criteria, then maybe you should think about shelving that whole “He has to have voluntarily read Foucault and understood his theories” thing. If what you’re looking for is a boyfriend, and if you’re not happy without one, maybe you can overlook a detail like not knowing a lot about French post-modernist thinkers. However, if only (a) and (b) apply, if you’re happy – or at least content – on your own, you can hold out for a fellow post-modernist for longer. High expectations only become “too high” when you get tired of waiting.
Too often, I think, we have low expectations when it comes to relationships. Too often, having someone say, “Oh, you’ll never find someone who does X, or will commit to Y, or thinks Z” forces people to settle for someone who doesn’t fit their basic criteria of nonnegotiables. Because the worst thing is to be alone. Because the most important thing in the world is apparently to find someone, so you don’t end up dying alone. I can dig that. When I was little, we had a downstairs neighbor who frequently said, “You’ve gotta live with somebody”. It was a very Steven Stills, “Love The One You’re With” philosophy.
I just don’t think that’s automatically true. It may be simply dependent on the fact that I’m a loner. It may be that my family has an odd history of having singletons who live alone and enjoy it. It may be that I would much rather be alone than be in the marriages my coworkers have, and that I’d rather be alone than constantly feel as if my needs didn’t mean much to my friends.
If the most important thing is getting some friends or a girlfriend/boyfriend, high expectations and some semblance of standards are going to get in the way of that. If the most important thing is getting the optimal friends and/or boyfriend/girlfriend for you, then high expectations are the way to go. Because high expectations are what help create lasting, fulfilling relationships. It’s how we find people who go along with our idiosyncrasies, and whose idiosyncrasies we’ll alternately love and tolerate. It’s how we create a community. It’s how we create a place where we can be ourselves with abandon, and how we celebrate others’ true selves as well. It’s how we find people we can discuss crazy details of our shared favorite things. It’s how we get treated as people who matter, whose concerns and opinions and needs matter. That’s what high expectations are: they are the expectation that the other person is going to care enough to care about what makes us us, and to sometimes bend for us – just as we would bend for them. And if you find someone who shares your love of Foucault who is also interested in social justice and is willing to move with you through this thing we call life, all the better.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
BILL MAHER: Let me give you your examples. This is the - I'm reading the - this is the end of your "A Decade of Lowlights From the Liberal Media".S.E. CUPP: Yeah.MAHER: These are your first three examples: Here's Joy Behar, she's tal - and this is one of your examples - she's talking about -[Talking Over Each Other]CUPP: And she's a friend.MAHER: evolution. She said -[Talking Over Each Other Again]CUPP: I do her show.MAHER: "You have to teach both. Darwinism is not some kind of religious fervor. Teach both." So she's for teaching both Darw-CUPP: No. What she said was that teaching Creationism to kids should be akin to child abuse.MAHER: No. She said you have to teach both.CUPP: She said that facetiously.MAHER: Well, that's interest that you can divine that.CUPP: She said on The View - she said on The View that teaching Creationism should be -[Talking Over Each Other AGAIN]MAHER: Darw-CUPP: child abuse.MAHER: I have it - yes she did. She said, "Darwinism is not some kind of religious fervor thing. You want your children to go into the world being ignorant? That's child abuse". Yeah, it is.CUPP: I-I-I don't think that's true. I think and-and-and-[You Know The Drill, Right?]MAHER: That's not an anti-religious statement.CUPP: the majority of the people who teach their kids Creationism because it's a nice Christian allegory I don't think are guilty of child abuse.
MAHER: Okay, the second one you quoted is John Meacham, the editor of the -CUPP: Newsweek.MAHER: Newsweek. We have - he's a religious guy.CUPP: Yes, he is.MAHER: He doesn't like -CUPP: The cover of Newsweek declared the death of Christianity - on Easter [laughs disbelievingly].MAHER: Are you kidding me.CUPP: It's preposterous.MAHER: Jesus or Mary is on the cover of Newsweek or Time, like, every other week [TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: I subscribe to Newsweek. This is pretty accurate.]. If Jesus had an office on Sunset Boulevard and you walked down the corridor, he'd have his magazine covers on every wall!...CUPP: But Bill - one of those - one of those - one of those stories -MAHER [Talking Over Her]: You're crazy.CUPP: was saying that you can actually read - if you read the Bible correctly - it actually supports gay marriage. I mean, it's one thing to show these covers, but come on!MAHER: Well that's - you're picking out one little raisin in a giant piece of bread, there, lady.
Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
[BREAK in the RELIGIOUS TALK]MAHER: Let me get back to the premise that the liberals and the media are anti-religion. The pre - the things I talk about, are questioning, "Is faith good? Or that prayer doesn't work. That's the things I say. It's just me and a couple of cartoons -CUPP [Interrupting]: No! You're so wrong!MAHER: Who are saying that.CUPP: No!MAHER: Tell me one other person in the media -[Talking Over Each Other]CUPP: I'll tell you! I will go down.MAHER: who ever questioned whether faith was good or prayer worked. Brian Williams?CUPP: No.MAHER: Keith Olbermann?CUPP: I will go - I will go -MAHER: Katie Couric?! None of them.CUPP: Ohmygod! I can give you those examples right now!MAHER: Tell me -CUPP: Chris Matthews - Chris Matthews said -MAHER: Chris Matthews is a devout Catholic!CUPP: Chris Matthews said that Sarah Palin and Michael Steele praying on big decisions isn't normal. Rachel Maddow said that the National Day of Prayer infringes on her right to religious freedom.MAHER: It does.CUPP: Keith Olbermann called pro-lifers religious jihadists. I could go on.MAHER: That's not - they're not questioning the essence of religion. This is a country that worships religion.CUPP: Of course they are, Bill. Of course they are.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Asked about the tendency for people of color to play the "race card," I responded as I always do: First, by noting that the regularity with which whites respond to charges of racism by calling said charges a ploy, suggests that the race card is, at best, equivalent to the two of diamonds. In other words, it's not much of a card to play, calling into question why anyone would play it (as if it were really going to get them somewhere). Secondly, I pointed out that white reluctance to acknowledge racism isn't new, and it isn't something that manifests only in situations where the racial aspect of an incident is arguable. Fact is, whites have always doubted claims of racism at the time they were being made, no matter how strong the evidence, as will be seen below. Finally, I concluded by suggesting that whatever "card" claims of racism may prove to be for the black and brown, the denial card is far and away the trump, and whites play it regularly: a subject to which we will return....
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America writ large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we've become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
So, I went out the the Southwest. You know how you can tell where you belong? By going other places, seeing them, and experiencing them. I belong pretty much where I am, in New England, or at least in the Northeast.
Reason? The Pacific Ocean smells wrong. When I got out of my car on the monday morning after my return, I could smell the ocean. It smelled like home.
Also, the West is beautiful. Vibrant, even. And going out to California, it reminded me of Joni Mitchell's song California, how she sings that she doesn't want to stay where she is, "It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here". But I like the oldness and the coldness.
It was like sensory overload, with the sky seemingly so expansive and the mountains being so tall against the sky, and I wanted to go back where the sky seems sometimes close enough to touch and the mountains are smaller, and full of a lively green.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
And I don't know about you, Cristen, but swimming with weights on doesn't sound like much fun. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
KEITH OLBERMANN: Billo replied, "Yeah, I thought that they - basically, in the very beginning - should stuff every member of NBC News in that hole".Maybe we should listen, Bill, because based on the Andrea Mackris lawsuit, I gather that you were the expert on unsuccessful attempts to stuff things into holes.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Is that at the same time not only dismantling our ideas of equal opportunity and democracy but also almost categorizing women once again into this, like, ind of separate, special little corner that they need to hang out in and, you know, work on their, like child care, etc., types of issues rather than allowing us to, you know, jump in the fray and get in there right beside, um, elbow our way in alongside men?
You'd always have to wonder if you were in power because you're a woman, or if you really had something to contribute to government.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Which, actually, brings me to what made me not the hugest Rowling fan. She kills so many of her damn characters! Which, yes, ironic, coming from a Whedonite. But Whedon always makes me feel like that character just *poof* died, and there was nothing anyone could ever do about it, seriously, it wasn't even his idea - it totally just happened, just like in life, ya know?Rowling's deaths always seemed a little... forced. And then, I started recognizing some bad gender themes, plus the whole "Dumbledore was always gay!" thing with little going on in the text to truly back that up, going down and I was less of a fan.
That being said, maybe I am a huge fan of Rowling as a person. Maybe I'm just not the hugest fan of her authorship of children's books. Which, you know, is always possible. Why? Because I am in love with this piece written by her, especially this part:
I had become a single mother when my first marriage split up in 1993. In one devastating stroke, I became a hate figure to a certain section of the press, and a bogeyman to the Tory Government. Peter Lilley, then Secretary of State at the DSS, had recently entertained the Conservative Party conference with a spoof Gilbert and Sullivan number, in which he decried “young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing list”. The Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, castigated single-parent families from St Mellons, Cardiff, as “one of the biggest social problems of our day”. (John Redwood has since divorced the mother of his children.) Women like me (for it is a curious fact that lone male parents are generally portrayed as heroes, whereas women left holding the baby are vilified) were, according to popular myth, a prime cause of social breakdown, and in it for all we could get: free money, state-funded accommodation, an easy life.It isn't that I think everyone on any country's welfare is automatically someone who could become Rowling, or that we should have a welfare state because Rowlings are possible from it - that if only we support the poor, they could become multibillionaires themselves. Instead, it is about worth. It is about what we think we owe the most vulnerable in our societies. It is a "there but for the grace of the mysteries of capitalism go I" thing, too, but it is also something else.
An easy life. Between 1993 and 1997 I did the job of two parents, qualified and then worked as a secondary school teacher, wrote one and a half novels and did the planning for a further five. For a while, I was clinically depressed. To be told, over and over again, that I was feckless, lazy — even immoral — did not help.
The poor are easily knocked down. I don't mean, you can easily knock a randomly specific poor person down. I mean that, good economy or bad economy, the poor are easy targets of anger and derision. Because, well, it is the easiest way to separate the poor from us. If the poor are poor because they are lazy, they are not like us. If the poor are poor because they are shiftless, they are not like us. If the poor are poor because they choose to be uneducated, they are not like us.
Here in America, there's an awful lot of race baggage that gets mixed in with the class and - yes - gender baggage. There's the "welfare queen" stereotype, for one, and that is one that still holds strong today. As in, a woman where I work, just today, told me that there were women out there who were popping out kids in order to get state assistance and were "working the system instead of just working". My response? There have got to be easier ways to game the system. And, the women my co-worker was describing are almost assuredly minorities, because she did the "Those (Name of City) people" thing that the less uncouth people in my office do when they are saying something with racist undertones that they don't want to just say with racist tone-tones. Which I, on one hand, appreciate because, hey, it means that these people understand that saying "all (blank) people are like X" is unacceptable. But on the other hand, it makes it harder to say, "whatever do you mean, 'those (Name of City) people?" Because the only answer to that seems to be, "You know...."
Sorry, tangent there. Anywho. What I'm saying is this: those on the edges of our society - and that society over there across the pond where Rowling lives and is commenting on - are generally the ones pushed totally off the grid when someone decides we need to tighten our government's financial belt. And it makes short-term political sense. You don't want to do anything that could anger people who actually have money and power, because those people with money and power can come back and make your political career a living hell. Because they have money and power. I mean, look at what happens when you decide to not make an expensive, unnecessary, and unwanted military plane! It riles up a whole bunch of powerful people. Including one Chris Dodd! Who should know better!
Which is why J.K. Rowling wrote this piece. Because there are a ton of people on that edge. And she has been there. And they are routinely made to be less important, the dredges of society really; and because of that, cuts to the very social net that keeps them afloat are seen as being perfectly reasonable.