joreth: (polyamory)
www.quora.com/What-should-you-tell-a-girl-to-make-her-like-you

Nothing. You cannot *make* someone feel anything they don’t feel. Trying to make someone feel what you want them to feel is coercive and manipulative. You are not entitled to her feelings.

That being said, people generally like people that they find interesting, share common interests and worldviews, and that respect them and treat them like human beings.

If you want people to like you, go out and be an interesting person who respects other people’s autonomy and treats others with dignity, compassion, and kindness. This particular girl still may never like you, but *someone* will like you if you’re just a decent person.

And, just FYI, trying to “make” someone like you is not being a decent person.
joreth: (anger)
https://wearyourvoicemag.com/identities/feminism/mindy-kalings-brother-slut-shamed-distract-bizarre-race-experiment

There's this thing that some people do. When they belong to a class of people that has some (or a lot) of discrimination against them, some people choose to embrace their oppressors, their oppressors' values, and their oppressors' worldviews.

My mom is a good person, generally speaking, and I love her. I consider her a friend as well as a mother, and I talk to her about almost everything. She grew up a poor Mexican in the '50s and '60s. Her father actually had money for a while, long enough to pay for the eldest daughter's extravagant Quinceañera and send her to private school.

But by the time the other kids were old enough for similar things, my grandfather lost all his money and the family became poor.

My grandparents were immigrants and never did learn English. Oh, they spoke a few words here and there, but they never really picked it up. They deliberately sent their children to English-speaking schools and encouraged assimilation, so that their children would have more opportunities in the US than they had. Which is not a terrible hope to have for children.

So my mom speaks English with no accent (unless she's just back from visiting her sisters who still live in Texas and still speak Spanish at home, and then the accent peeks out again). She also married a white man whose parents were financially comfortable, a little bit racist, and also believed in their children improving on the lives that their parents started them with.

I am a 2nd generation, US-born Mexican descendant. I didn't learn Spanish until high school - in school. And I learned Castilian Spanish (that means, the language spoken in Spain and taught from textbooks with "proper" grammar, not the language of my grandparents).  And my mother still never spoke it to me - she wasn't refusing, she just never remembered to. It was no longer "her" language. She has to convert to Spanish, like a native English speaker, in order to speak it now.  So, to this day, I can't have a conversation in Spanish because I still can't "hear" it and I can only remember a handful of words, mostly cuss words that I picked up in grammar school from my Mexican peers.

My accent, my look, everything about me screams "white & middle class" because that's how I was raised. I went to private school, I was told to expect a bright future full of academic achievements and middle class adventures. I listen to country music for fuck's sake. And metal, back in the '80s.

I wrote before about my recent acceptance of the label "chicana". When I was growing up, a chicana was a lower class Mexican - the 1st generation descendant of immigrants and someone who did not speak proper English, did not live in a respectable neighborhood, dressed slutty, did only "bad girl" things like drinking and smoking and having sex, was probably in a gang, and likely had no future to look forward to other than more of the same - blue collar jobs, lots of children, and an ugly house in an ugly neighborhood.

I was not one of *those* Mexicans.

I grew up in the suburbs in a white neighborhood where a lot of my neighbors probably had that outlook. But I also went to public school whose district zoning was written to include my middle class housing tract as well as those Latino ghettos. So I was exposed to plenty of chicanos in my early days.

And yet, I still had that view of them. Which I got mainly from my parents. They were people who didn't respect themselves. We did. They were people who didn't *want* a better future, because my mom and her parents did want a better future for their progeny, and since they achieved it, obviously it was available there for anyone who wanted it badly enough to work for it. Since they didn't achieve it, obviously they didn't want it badly enough.  My mom embraced assimilation. Being of the light-skinned variety of Mexican and having a white husband, white name (through marriage), and no accent probably helped a lot. But she improved her lot in life by assimilating. So, obviously, assimilation is a good thing, no?

My mom worries about me because I live in a poor neighborhood. She specifically asked me about the racial makeup of the neighborhood as part of her worrying. My parents are the sort who would nod approvingly at Cosby (before his fall from grace) when he declared that black people were hurting themselves by wearing baggy jeans and speaking with their accents. If they just cleaned themselves up (i.e. adopted white values of appearance and decorum), they, too, could reap the benefits that white people enjoyed.

I remember my dad complaining endlessly about baggy pants, especially in the car when he would see "gangbangers" walking down the street. I also remember my mom telling me the story of how, when they were moving from Texas to California while engaged, to start their new life together, my parents were refused service at some establishment or another (a restaurant, a hotel, I don't remember) because the establishment didn't serve "hippies".

Now, my parents were NEVER hippies. But they were married in 1968. So my mom had hair almost as long as mine, and it was very straight, and my dad grew a big mustache when he got out of the military and had that shaggy '70s version of "short" hair, which of course was not short enough for conservatives who were born 20 years earlier. And they drove a van. You know ... one of *those* '70s vans (but it had real seats in it, not a bed).  I also remember my mom telling me about the discrimination she experienced when some establishments recognized that they were an interracial couple. Hateful things screamed at my parents when they were together in public, once someone recognized my mom as Mexican.

Mom even refused to allow me to attend a formal dance at my high school called The Black & White Charity Ball ("black & white" being slang for black-tie, tux-formal) with a guy I was kinda sorta dating who happened to be black.  She was afraid that I would experience discrimination for being in an interracial relationship (the irony that *I* was interracial all by myself was lost on her although I did point it out) and she was so upset by the experience that she was willing to prevent me from having that experience even if it meant hurting me by forbidding me to attend a dance with a guy I liked because of his skin color.

The point is that my parents knew what discrimination felt like, but they also believed that they could *do* things that would reduce or remove that discrimination. As long as they followed the rules, they would be treated like the class whose rules they followed. This is what allows people to tell BLM protestors that the secret to not being murdered while black is to just comply with police. Be a good little Negro, son, and the White Man won't harass you.

Except my parents *could* benefit from following the rules, not because following the rules gets you privilege, but because there are other things beyond their control that determine how willing society is to throw them a bone that they mistake as a privilege. Like whether they're more Spaniard in coloring or indigenous in coloring. Or how much progress has been made in the culture at large.

This goes back to my other post about Godot not being a person of color, and how we are not all the same in our oppression. There are a lot of us with more melanin in our skin or who say words differently than Becky from Wisconsin, but our experiences are not the same as each others'. Some of us are afforded more, or at least different, privileges from the rest.

As was mentioned in the comments of that post on Facebook, this is how That Asshole who killed Treyvon Martin could experience discrimination as a Latino man and still enjoy an enormous amount of white privilege in the killing of Treyvon and his other racist assaults and insults.

People of Latin American descent are *legally* classified as "white", unless they identify as Afro-Latinx (and then they're just "black" like Gina Torres from Firefly, because y'all black people are all the same thing, right?). That gives us some privileges that people who are not classified as "white" don't get. Like being allowed to vote or marry white people before black people could do either.

So here is someone who looks a lot like the US's current favorite whipping boy who still manages to think that Affirmative Action hurts the "more deserving people" (whites and Indians, apparently) and that black people are unfairly privileged in this country.

Because, if part of your culture includes embracing assimilation the way that many Latinx people, especially older people, encourage assimilation of their children to trade for future success, a member of an oppressed class can find some amount of what looks like privilege under your oppressors. This is one of the many (and brilliant) strategies for perpetuating oppression.

It's much like benevolent sexism. "Act like a Lady and we'll treat you like a queen. But fall of the pedestal we put you on, and you'll learn exactly how much we really hate you by the long fall and the hard bottom. You are only deserving of privileges as long as you meet our qualifications for them.

And when we punish you, we'll even tell you that some of your punishments are actually privileges. Like what an 'honor' it is to be a stay-at-home mom. You're just so much naturally better at it than men! What do you need a silly thing like an education or a career or your own income for when you can have babies?!"

"No, but Asians are just good at math! And medicine! They're all doctors and engineers! What? It's a compliment! It can't be racism, I was being nice!" Toe the line, meet white standards, and you'll be thrown some table scraps that you've been convinced are gourmet meals.

"Whose a good boy? Whose a good boy? Do you want a treat? Sit! Speak! Shake! Stay! Good boy! Here you go, here's a treat for you! We love you! Just remember, though, if you ever step out of line and pee in our favorite shoes, it's the pound for you!"*

Keep us all distracted from the white upper class oppression by keeping us looking to the side and down. Engage us in their oppression like a bully finding a shy loner and getting him to do the bully's dirty work in the hopes of one day being accepted by the charismatic and powerful bully.

"Sure, you can join our club. Just as soon as you publicly humiliate your sister, and oh, by the way, the difficulty you're having joining our elite group? Yeah, that's these black people's fault. Might want to go do something about that too."
joreth: (feminism)
There's this pernicious trope in the poly community.  It says "it's OK to restrict someone else's behaviour as long as they all agree to it" and "if one person doesn't want his partner to have sex with other men, and she agrees to it, then it's OK", etc.  For some reason, people seem to think that it's totally acceptable to tromp all over someone's agency, as long as the other person doesn't stop you from doing it.  But I have a BIG problem with this.

If everyone wants to "restrict" themselves, then there's no need for someone else to "restrict" them. If one person has to "restrict" another, that's where coercion comes from. The language is important. It leads to *excusing* abuse.

There's nothing wrong with 3 people who decide together that they all want a closed triad. There *is* something wrong with one person dictating on behalf of all 3 of them that they will be in a closed triad (or 2 people dictating to the third that they will be in a closed triad).  It would be just as wrong for one person to decide that the others *must* date or have sex with people outside the group whether they wanted to or not (or for one or two people to decide that another *must* have sex with that person if the other wants to have sex with this person whether the other is interested in both or not, i.e. the "package deal").

Our language affects how we think and feel and behave. The relationship configuration isn't the problem, the language is.

In studies of other languages and other cultures, they discovered that people's perceptions are actually different and that they are not able to do the same things that other people do simply because of the words that they use and the way they use them.

For example, in English, when we speak about time, we use language that measures physical distances, i.e. "short break", "long wedding". Time is perceived as a distance traveled.  But Greek & Spanish speakers use words referring to quantity - "small break", "big wedding". In Spanish, time is perceived as a unit of volume.

In studies, they found that learning a new language that uses different concepts for things like "time", people actually become aware of perceptual dimensions that people who only speak one of the languages can't perceive. Language and our use of it effects our emotions, our visual perception, and our perception of time, among other things.

In a study years ago, they looked at the language of primitive tribal cultures untouched by industrial societies who didn't have words for things that they had no context for, such as global distances. Because of this, they actually couldn't *see* things that they had no language for.  It's not as simple as holding up a smart phone in front of a tribes person and that phone being "invisible", but their brains literally couldn't see things the way that other people could.

One of the things they had trouble with was perceiving distance, because their concept of "distance" is very different from someone who has seen pictures of the earth from space, for example, and who regularly talks about distance in terms of thousands of miles or kilometers, compared to someone to talks about distance in terms of steps taken or the time to get there on foot.

So, back to the point. Language shapes how we think and what we believe. People who are prone to using language that disrespects the agency of others are *more likely* to have beliefs that disrespect the agency of others, and are therefore more likely to *do* things that disrespect the agency of others.  And they are also therefore more likely to be unable to *see* how they are disrespecting the agency of others.

We see this when people use words like "permission" vs. "checking in".  Some people casually throw out that they need to "ask the spouse permission" to do something, rather than phrasing it like "let me check in with the spouse to see how they feel about that."  That's SUCH a huge implicit difference in how the person being granted "permission" is viewed by the person granting it!

The big difference, I discovered a while back, is that there are basically 2 types of people in these discussions - one who focuses on the outcome and one who focuses on the method of achieving the outcome:

To people who focus on the outcome, it's an "end justifies the means" kind of mentality, where the outcome is the same so it doesn't matter how they got there because the result looks superficially identical.

To people who focus on the method, these aren't even in the same universe. When the method differs, the outcome is irrelevant because that superficial resemblance isn't the POINT. The tools and methods we use to get there is the whole purpose.

And I'm coming to learn that the people in the first group can. not. see. the. difference. 

This is why the language is so important. Their use of language wires their brain so that they are *unable* to see the difference. They literally can't see it, like the apocryphal tale of the South American tribespeople who couldn't see the ships that the Spaniards sailed in when they landed on American soil (of course that's not how it happened, but the tale has lasted as a fable with a moral anyway).

Their use of language is actually limiting their brains' ability to perceive things that other people can see.


The idea that anyone could actually "restrict" anyone else is an illusion. People only follow the "rules" that they want to follow. If 3 people made an agreement to be a closed triad, that agreement is only followed for as long as all 3 people *choose* to follow it. As soon as any one of them doesn't want to follow it anymore, it's over. The "restriction" is an illusion.

I once knew of a guy in a D/s relationship who insisted that his slave was his literal slave in every sense of the word - that it was "real" and that he "owned" her in exactly the same way that he owned his TV. And he kept insisting this right up until the day she served him with divorce papers. His "restrictions" over her only lasted for as long as she allowed them to last. It's all an illusion and he did not actually "restrict" her, she chose to self-limit her own behaviour. It was all her choice and it always was.

If people in a triad use language like "it's OK to restrict someone else", then they are more likely to believe that it's OK to restrict someone else, and that, by definition, is coercion. If the other person willingly "agrees" and *chooses* to self-restrict, then no one in that group is, or even can, restrict her. She is making her own choice. As soon as she decides not to self-restrict anymore, it's over.

Unless the others in the group *actually* have power over her to make her perform actions against her will. In which case, this is abuse and this is exactly the problem people are warning about with the use of language.

Someone will inevitably bring up D/s relationships in these discussions.  I prefer to keep D/s discussions separate - kinda like it's a 201 course and we're still talking about Abuse 101.  You can't get to the nuances of D/s in 201 until you master the concepts in Abuse 101.  But I'll mention why it's different here anyway, but if you don't grasp the underlying concepts, then the subject of D/s and why it's different will only confuse you.

We use the trappings of this kind of language in the context of D/s relationships because some people really want to feel that these things are true for themselves.  If two (or more) people have a D/s agreement, where they will use language like "I forbid you to do X" and the other person obeys, that's an exception to the rule.  But not really.  It's an exception to the rule that you should never use the phrases that imply ownership or that disrespect agency, but that's only because the very act of a D/s agreement is an act of empowerment and agency.

What I mean is that the submissive in a relationship *always* retains ultimate control over what happens to them.  They are choosing to enter into a role-playing agreement where they engage in a fantasy structure of their choice.  The power dynamic is an illusion.  It's called power *exchange* for a reason.  As soon as the submissive loses the power to revoke consent, that's when it becomes abuse.

But the fantasy requires the ability to use this sort of language.  In order to make the brain feel like it's real, we have to make the exception and allow language that is otherwise unacceptable.  The trick, then, is to balance the use of language with the internal respect for agency.  This is indeed a very tricky balancing act and not many people can do it.  So it's usually better to leave out BDSM exceptions when talking about the dangers of language and coercsion.

So, excepting D/s agreements (assuming that D/s agreement truly does value and respect the agency of the people entering into the agreement because that respect and value for agency is what makes it an illusion and therefore not doing what I'm complaining about here), no, it is never, ever, acceptable to "restrict" someone else's behaviour. That is literally the definition of coercion and abuse. If one person has a preference for a certain type of behaviour and another person *chooses* to acquiesce to that preference, that is not someone "restricting" someone else - that is one person choosing to self-restrict. The moment it is not acceptable to say no, that's the moment that consent is violated and that's when it becomes abuse.

The language that implies imposing one will over another is the language that leads to the belief that it is OK to impose one will over another. That belief is what *enables* us to abuse others. Without that belief, one is simply not capable of abusing someone else. Of being a dick in other ways, sure but not of *abuse*. You NEED that belief in order to abuse someone.

And that belief is formed by accepting language that excuses it.

So when we're talking about people who "agree" to various things, it's so important that I can't even stress how important it is, to use the kind of self-empowering language that discourages abusive beliefs and that discourages the community's ability to overlook abuse.  When we promote "but they agreed to it, so it's OK", we open the door to "why did she stay if he was abusing her?  She must have agreed to it."  This is how abuse gets excused.  This is how victims get blamed.  This is how an entire society builds itself on a structure that empowers abusers and disempowers victims.  

The whole reason why victims "stay" with their abusers is because the society around them will. not. let. them. leave.  And part of that is because we give them shit for "staying" even though we have removed any support to help them get out.  When coercion is part of the picture, they aren't "agreeing" to it, they are simply not allowed to not-agree.  And then we blame them for their own abuse because they didn't not-agree.  So we need to change our language so that we center the individual people and their choices over the other people imposing their will.  

She is not "agreeing" to be abused, she was abused and couldn't not-agree.  He didn't "agree" to be restricted by someone else, he chose his own limitations.  These aren't "agreements" between two people, these are things that each person is personally empowered or disempowered to do.  Those words are important.

Just like asking people of privilege to change their language use if they don't really intend to imply whatever racist or sexist or -ist thing that goes along with the words, it is important for our entire community to be cognizant of our own language use and to change it to accommodate belief structures that encourage freedom, choice, and empowerment.

If a white person were to defend his use of the n-word because "it just means a stubborn person" (someone actually told me that not too long ago), I would have to question his motives and why it's so important for him to use that word. Why *that* word, when there are so many other words for stubborn people? Why is it *so* important to keep a hold of *that* one word when people are telling him that it's harmful?

When we say that the language of choice vs. restriction is harmful to the community, I have to question the motives of those who insist "it's just a word" as a defense to keep using it. If it's just "a word", then it should be no problem to give it up.  Because we *know* that words have power. Otherwise it wouldn't be any big deal to switch using that word to another. We know that words are important. So we have to look at why there are even debates at all around people using disempowering language.

So please listen to people who might know a little something about abuse and coercion and disempowerment when we say that this language is problematic, and if you really want to refer to someone who is choosing to self-limit themselves, then say so instead of couching it in terms that imply disempowerment and abuse.

If you don't mean to support abusive and coercive structures, then don't implicitly support them with the language you choose.
joreth: (boxed in)
Hypothetical boss of part-time employee: Yeah, we're gonna need an official diagnosis from a doctor in order to accommodate your "condition".

Me: OK, well, since I don't have health insurance because I'm a part-time employee, I don't have a doctor anymore. This may come as a surprise to you, but doctors don't hand out certificates when they diagnose people with "Congratulations! You have a debilitating illness!" on them.

I don't have any paperwork "proving" that I have a condition, that's not how medical diagnoses work, and I will have to go back to a doctor and pay out of pocket to get one, assuming I can find a doctor who will do that (sharing medical information is a violation of patient privacy, btw, which can be a federal offense, so demanding "proof" is legally questionable, at best).

Which, by the way, will require an invasive exploratory surgery and a hospital stay for a "non-emergency" procedure because that's the only way to diagnose this particular condition. So we're talking tens of thousands of dollars for a doctor to tell me what I already know and which doesn't change the fact of my existence with this condition - whether a doctor recognizes it or not doesn't make the pain and vomiting any less.

And it will also put me out of commission for a few weeks so I won't be able to come into work anyway, or earn any money to pay for the surgery.

OR... you could just believe me that I have a chronic, debilitating condition that affects my ability to work sometimes and make at least as many concessions for me as you do for the pregnant women who are allowed to sit down more often or are given other tasks to make up for the lower amount of manual labor that they do or can call out or rearrange their schedule to accommodate their condition.

All *I'm* asking for is to not get fired if I have to call in sick more than some blanket number of days per year when I show up the rest of the time and when I am a satisfactory employee while I'm there.

I know it's a hardship on the rest of the team when people call in sick. I'm just saying, don't pick some arbitrary number of days that a person can call in sick and then fire people when they hit that number. This needs to be handled with more context and nuance regarding the individual person, and expecting part-time, minimum wage workers to have access to healthcare including the ability to get "doctor's notes" to excuse them is not a solution.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

Hey filmmakers! I know this is a complicated, nuanced concept that takes years of study in advanced academic institutions, but I'm going to spoil the ending for you now:

It is not only possible, but likely, that two people of complimentary genders can be thrown together in a situation and not want to have sex with each other.
I know, I've seen this happen. Like every single mixed-gender office ever. They don't all pair up, even if they're not already married. Even if they genuinely like each other as people. And sometimes, even if they are actually attracted to each other.

Now, some of y'all script writers appear to have advanced doctorates in Non-Trope Writing, because I've seen a couple movies lately where you didn't do this. And I appreciate you. But the rest of y'all need to get your shit together and get some schoolin' because the obligatory romantic subplot that serves to support the male character's story arc is boring, trite, lazy writing, overdone, and way out of proportion to reality. It's like watching a movie set in Harlem around the turn of the last century and seeing only 1 black face (of someone who happens to be in power during Jim Crow and yet not a main character). Like, do you even history bro?

The population is more than 50% "woman" - there needs to be more than 1 female character in a cast of dozens. When you add up all the various ethnicities together, white men are a minority - there needs to be more than 1 or 2 black dudes and possibly that 1 hot Latina in a cast of dozens. And I know that this one will be some seriously high level thesis work for you, but all those women and non-white people have their own stories going on that have nothing to do with supporting some white dude's personal growth, which even white dudes in the audience can relate to if you tell the story well (and if they don't just refuse to relate to on principle).

And when you look at all the times that people don't hook up with each other just because their genitals are complimentary, there needs to be more than 3 movies in the last 10 years that feature a mixed-gender cast that doesn't have the token woman character having sex with the lead male character or any sexual tension leading up to will-they/won't-they subplots.

Because it's totally possible to put an attractive woman and an attractive man* in a room together and have them not want to bone each other.




*I'm not even going to address the problem with body diversity or gendered double standards of age and/or "attractiveness" here - I'm mad enough already.

joreth: (Misty in Box)
Ever since the presidential campaign trail, the effort to work alongside people and make happy small talk yet avoid important topics takes more spoons than normal.

I'm fucking exhausted and distressed at the end of work days because I'm forced to coexist alongside of people who I now know to be truly terrible people. So I can cut off all non-essential contact with my coworkers and lose one of the main reasons why I love my job, or I can very carefully manage dozens of relationships per day to stay within very specific parameters so as to be able to laugh with my coworkers and not be reminded that they honestly don't care about my existence on a daily basis.

I used to love my job. It was one of the things that gave me meaning. It wasn't just a paycheck to me, it was a passion. I still love doing the physical act of my job, but I don't look forward to each day the way I used to anymore.  I used to say that being at work was where I could be the most "me". I had the fewest filters, was the most authentic, and enjoyed life most often. Even a bad day at my job was better than a good day at any other job (and I've worked in something like 30 other industries, so I can say this with some authority).

I no longer feel that I can be my most authentic self at work. I have more filters now, and I have to put on more of an act. This takes a lot of emotional energy and I'm less happy to be working than I used to.

I once said (OK, more than once) that even if I were to win a lottery big enough to live in style for the rest of my life, I would still work at my job because I love it that much and I like staying busy. I don't think I would do that now. I have enough other hobbies that I also love, and enough other interests that I'd like to try, that tip the scales once we add on the weight of managing coworkers' awfulness.

Now, since I still need an income, this is still the job that I love the most and I'd rather do this than any other job. But if money weren't an object, I no longer love my job so much that I'd do it for free. I'd rather be costuming or photographing something or dancing (as long as I don't have to talk to those people either, because here in the South, the dance community is filled with some awful people too), than putting up with my coworkers' bullshit just to be able to climb some truss or fight for a seat behind a camera watching another talking head lecture about quarterly projections.

And I'm sad that my job is no longer one of the greatest passions of my life, or rather that the passion has been dimmed with prolonged exposure to the reality of my coworkers' bigotry and ignorance. After 25 years in the business, I guess the honeymoon is finally over.
joreth: (Super Tech)

The more I learn about Moana, the more I like it.

I'm about to say a few things that I just learned about the film and the backstory that I like, which aren't *too* spoilery, but if you're really spoiler averse, you might want to not read the rest of the post.  It's mostly about the background behind the movie and not so much about movie plot points.

First of all, I just learned that the production team recruited "experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions." Seriously, more movies need to do something like this.

Next, I learned that one of those early versions had Moana as the only girl in a family of sons and her character arc was gender-based. Now, I'm usually all in for a good examination of how gender roles are expressed and inhibit characters, but something I've been really into lately is just having characters be fully fleshed characters that get into situations and who might happen to be not straight white males. MRA defenses of mostly white straight male protagonists include the justification that the story isn't *about* being a white male, so girls and POC should have no problem getting into the story because it could apply to "anyone". 1) Totally not true on pretty much every level of that assertion; 2) if they really could apply to "anyone", then it shouldn't matter if the character *is* "anyone", including non-male, non-straight, or non-white; and 3) yeah, having "white male" be the default setting where making a character not "white male" is a deliberate choice IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Ahem.

So, I really liked the fact that the story of Moana is not about her being "a girl". She wasn't prohibited from her dreams by her father "because she's a girl", she wasn't being forced into her traditional role "because she's a girl", and her story wasn't about either overcoming her gender or teaching anyone else to overcome gender roles. Her story was just an adventure story. That happened to happen to "a girl". The story could have been anyone. And I absolutely loved that she didn't have to "be a girl" and yet, she was one.

Next, I learned that the scene with Moana, Maui, and the ... well, I'll just say the "pirates" ... was a *deliberate homage to Mad Max: Fury Road*! Take that you fucking MRAs! Even Disney sees the financial incentive and storytelling value of Furiosa. Even "chick flicks" are fucking badass feminist action movies now. Because, here's a newsflash (and to blatantly steal from some other post I don't have the link to), women actually like action movies but particularly when the main character isn't a sexualized woman. Just tell our stories and we'll come see them. It's not that we don't like action films, it's that it's fucking lazy storytelling when the only women in the film are there to fulfill the (perceived) male audience members' wet dreams and we're *bored* and uninterested in lazy storytelling like that. The action isn't actiony enough to make up for the fact that your few women are cardboard flat and BORING.

There are legitimate criticisms about the film with respect to cultural sensitivity, and I was concerned about that happening when I first heard of it coming out and again when I saw it, but not being familiar with the communities of the people in the South Pacific (other than to know that there is no great controversy or ownership battle over who gets to use the term "poly" online and I refuse to White Knight them by making it into A Thing on their behalf), I was not able to anticipate or later to pick out what those criticisms might be.

So, as someone who is not disinfranchised by whatever gaffs the movie makes, the more I see, read, listen, and think about this movie, the more I want to include it in my top Disney favorites alongside Brave (my #1 favorite for the tomboy struggle), Maleficent (#3 for the lack of romantic love driving force and the nuanced look at a villain without ignoring her flaws) and Frozen (#4 for the lack of a husband and romance plot).

If I didn't list your favorite Disney princess movie, chances are it's because I either didn't like it or because I haven't seen it, so you don't have to ask me "have you seen...?" to find out why it's not listed.

joreth: (Swing Dance)

I got an amazing compliment last night. I have never danced bal before (balboa, a variation on the original lindy hop swing dance that was developed for really fast music in really crowded nightclubs) and I don't even know what the basic pattern is.  But a guy in the local lindy scene who knows bal was at the Gatsby party last night and none of the other follows knew how to dance it either, but a good bal song came on and he wanted to dance.

I've always wanted to learn and, through years of dedication and commitment to learning dance, I have learned how to push through my fear of looking foolish in public and I asked him to teach me right there at the (non-dance-event) party, with dozens of strangers looking on.  He showed me the basic step and then led me into the dance. I know I was off-beat the whole time - I could feel it. We weren't in sync and it felt awkward. But he led me and I followed.  Afterwards, he gushed, not just to me but to the others in the party, about what a good job I did, that he couldn't believe I had never danced bal before, and that I was able to keep up on some non-beginner steps that he threw at me.

This has inspired me to add bal to my "I will learn these dances this year" resolution. I mean, it's already on my list of dances I want to learn, but I am resolving to actually take lessons in certain dances in the coming year (Argentine Tango being the top of the list, previously the only one on the list).  Pushing through my fear of messing up in public has brought me more skills, more enjoyable memories, and more confidence than literally any other thing I've tried. The dance community has been instrumental in that because of the embedded nature of acceptance and welcome for newcomers, especially those who look foolish.

We were all that goofy newbie once, and we are all that goofy newbie again with each new skill we learn. No matter how long we've been dancing, or how good we get at it, we're still always that goofy newbie who messes up on the floor, steps on our partner's toes, bumps into someone else, and generally makes a fool of ourselves in public.  I've been that fool so many times, and it still frightens me. But I do it anyway because I have lived through the embarrassment in the past and nothing truly bad happened to me for being embarrassed. And now that I know that, I can tell my anxiety to shut up and I can do it anyway.

I can't always push through my anxiety - as my messy house and full sink will attest. But the more times I do it, the easier it gets to do it the next time. Sometimes I backslide and I just can't in that moment, but I know that I'm a flawed human and that's OK, so I can find the strength to do it next time.  It's that "do it next time" that's important, though. Accepting that I'm flawed and then not pushing through next time as every time becomes "I'll do it next time" doesn't make me better. Dancing, because of the acceptance of the community and the knowledge that we are all still beginners at something, makes it easier for that "next time" to happen, to not allow "next time" to become code for "never".

So, I had a good compliment - one that actually makes me feel good about myself as a person and inspires me to be even better. That's what a good compliment should do - not simply notify the other person that you have pants feels for them, but inspires them to be their best self and accepts them for their current self at the same time.

#WordsOfAffirmation #5LoveLanguages #DancingIsLifeSkills #MadFollowSkillz #NewYearsResolutions #RealMenDoNotHarassComplimentWomen #ToDanceIsToLive #JustKeepDancing #IWillLearnAllTheDances

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
[livejournal.com profile] margareta87 shared this website and suggested that everyone read everything on it. So I'm reading the most recent blog post and I want to share it specifically.

https://norasamaran.com/2016/08/28/variations-on-not-all-men/
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"
I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.

As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.

"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."
He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.

People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"
This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."
This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."
Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

Modified disclaimer: "This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don't want advice. I don't want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle or about not "seeing clearly" precisely because I've been through some fucked up experiences. I do not want devil's advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about lessons I've learned through very painful personal experience, I'm not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it'll be deleted without further explanation."

I have an ex-boyfriend. He abuses women. But he didn't abuse me. I'm not the kind to abuse easily. I'm not totally immune to it. I spent several years in my youth engaged to an emotionally abusive person who was successful at it. In fact, that's partially why I refused to believe it when his victim accused my partner of abuse. I had been through abuse, you see, so I should know it when I see it. And I didn't see it, therefore it didn't exist.

In general, I'm not the kind of prey an abuser looks for. I'm loud, aggressive, I have a strong support network, and I'm extremely confident in my memories and in defending my autonomy and my boundaries. Frankly, I'm too much work for an abuser to abuse. But, here's the thing I learned in my most recent lesson with abusive men: abusers aren't comic book villains twirling their mustachios and plotting out their Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to erase their partners' identities for personal gain. The term "gaslighting" is incredibly valuable, but not all gaslighting looks like the movie the name comes from. In fact, most gaslighting does not look like a film noir movie.

Abusers are often people in pain. They don't abuse because they hate their partners. They abuse because they're afraid. They're afraid of being abandoned. They're afraid that they're unlovable and if their partner ever discovers the "truth" about them, they'll lose that love. They're afraid of who knows what else. But a lot of us are afraid of things like that. So what makes them abusers and us not abusers?

They believe that they are right to address this fear by overwriting someone else's identity. There is also not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "us" and "them".

From the an article by Shea Emma Fett called Abuse In Polyamorous Relationships1 (all bold emphasis in all quoted passages in this post are mine):
"Most importantly, abusive behavior arises from beliefs, not from feelings, which is one of the reasons why people who are abusive are resistant to rehabilitation. I think this is a really important distinction, because people who engage in abusive behaviors can be kind and caring and gentle, and happy and wonderful to be around. They are not abusive because they are evil. They are abusive because the abuse makes sense and feels justified to them."

"[Lundy] Bancroft [author of Why Does He Do That?] says, “Anger and conflict are not the problem; they are normal aspects of life. Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”"

"What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. ... It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people.

But more than that, many of our fundamental beliefs in relationship[s] create a fertile ground for abuse. The goal of marriage is often longevity at any cost, and the presumption is mutual ownership over not just intimacy, but our partner’s choices, feelings and thoughts. And even if we take care to form our commitments outside of these assumptions, we still often carry a powerful sense of entitlement in intimate relationships. In short, intimate relationships often default to the power over model, and the relationship becomes a struggle for this power."

"The purpose of abuse is to erode a person’s ability to make choices for themselves. The abuser feels justified in taking proactive and punitive actions because of a fundamental sense of entitlement to their partner’s choices."
And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting."
I'm not certain that identifying a paradigm of ownership is easier than spotting gaslighting, at least for me, because I've seen some people who are really good at twisting and using language to appear like they're on our side, but aside from that so, what? I've referenced these articles before, many times. Lots of people are talking about abuse nowadays. Why another essay on abuse that is basically just referencing something that's already been said? Well, because I don't think that the concept of "abuse is about beliefs" has really sunk in yet. I've spent many years yelling on the internet about why hierarchy* and rules in poly relationships are dangerous. People keep insisting that they can be done "non-abusively" or that everyone agrees to it therefore it's not abuse, but I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that it's not whether this specific action or that specific action is "abusive" or not or is "consented" to or not. It's about the underlying mindset and beliefs that allow people to think that hierarchy and rules can be done "non-abusively" in the first place.

From Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away?3 By Eve Rickert:
"I believe that if you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."

"There are certainly cases where you might choose not to exercise a right. It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there.

And that’s what makes it a right."
That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".

From Can Polyamorous Relationships Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control4 by Eve Rickert:
"Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express our needs and desires, but it’s when we feel entitled to have our partners do what we want that things go off the rails. Entitlement makes us feel like it’s okay to overrule our partners’ agency (and that of their partners). If we’re part of a socially sanctioned couple, this is especially dangerous, because we’ve got lots of societal messages feeding that sense of entitlement. And the most damaging parts of hierarchical setups tend to come about when we enshrine entitlement into our relationship agreements."

"Once the tower of intimate influence is defended, however, we see the village once again reoccupied. The village is things that a person feels entitled to control in their partner’s relationship, or rules and structures that are put in place to ensure that one person’s needs are always favoured in the case of resource conflict."
I didn't recognize that my partner was abusive because he didn't *behave* that way towards me, and I didn't *see* him behave that way towards his other partners. So when this one person came forward and said he had abused her, I, along with his other partners, all stood up and said "He can't be! He's not like that! He's never done anything like that to us! The problem must be with you!"

But the truth is that he *did* do things like that to his other partners. They just looked a little different because we were all different people so he had to use slightly different tactics. His abuse was expressed differently with everyone so it didn't look like "abuse", but they were all expressions of the same set of *beliefs*. So when his other partners succumbed to his manipulation of them, it looked like everyone was consenting, therefore it couldn't be abuse. Because it wasn't necessarily the behaviour, it was the underlying belief that permitted the behaviour. "[I]f you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."3
"Do abuse victims “consent” to be in their relationships? On the surface, perhaps it looks that way, but that is rooted in a victim-blaming, “why doesn’t she (he) just leave?” mentality and a serious oversimplification of the psychological dynamics of abuse. Abuse relies on tearing down your partner’s sense of self and personal agency to the point where consent is really no longer valid. And it doesn’t take physical violence to make a relationship abusive."3
The thing of it all is that this pattern was visible from the beginning. It wasn't invisible at all. It was just camouflaged beneath this community insistence that "anything" that two people "consent" to is A-OK. That whole YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok) mentality that I find so profoundly dangerous. I get why we started that. It's easy for people to place our own biases and judgements on other people even when we're trying to be all liberal and inclusive and shit. Look how often the furries get thrown under the bus by other kinksters, for instance. We had to teach ourselves that we don't have to agree or approve of someone else's preferences for those preferences to still be legitimate and valid and accepted. But instead of opening the door to inclusiveness, the door swung in the other direction and is now being used to bludgeon anyone who tries to critically examine toxic or harmful behaviour. It's like the religious extremists using "freedom of religion" to justify *imposing* their religious values onto other people by granting corporations personhood status to avoid covering contraception.

When I first met my abusive ex, he was in a hierarchical relationship that enforced triad structures only (FMF with bi-women, of course). So I thought "I kinda like him, but there's no way I'm touching that with a 10-foot pole!" Over time, their structure evolved until, many years later as our friendship grew, I was told that they had worked through their issues and they could now have independent relationships without each other and those relationships were allowed to grow on their own. So I thought "Hallelujah! People can change! People can learn and grow and break out of their insecurities!" Boy, was I wrong.

See, he and his wife still had a lot of rules with each other that I found ... disconcerting. But I wasn't told the full scope of all the rules, just that they found what works for them but that they had reached a point in their lives where they could accept that their other relationships couldn't work that way. So, in enters YKINMKBYKIOK - it works for us and we're not imposing it on you, so don't question it unless you want to be seen as intolerant of other people's preferences. So I didn't inquire too much, except to insist that this structure absolutely, without a doubt, no exceptions, would not work for me. They assured me they wouldn't try to impose it, and thus reassured, I entered into a relationship with him.

In the throes of NRE, I saw all the red flags, but I ignored them. Because he wasn't doing them *to me* and the person he was doing them to *said* she was OK with it and even claimed to be her idea in some cases. But they niggled at the back of my brain, so I stored these red flags in my memory (sometimes literally - a lot of our conversations were via chat, so I have the chat logs and I'm not relying purely on my memory) and when things came to a head years later, I was deeply ashamed that I hadn't paid more attention back then. And holy shit, when I learned what some of their rules were much later I was *really* upset with myself that I didn't press the issue in the beginning.

One of the red flags was that his wife didn't allow pictures taken of herself. Not just explicit photos, but any photos. Well, very occasionally she would pose for group photos of social events. But no candids and definitely no sexy shots. At the time, I thought this was just a quirk of hers. And it was, but sort of. She's also a very dominant personality, much like me in a lot of ways. Back in the beginning, when I thought "nope, not ever gonna go there!", I thought it was because *she* was calling all the shots and I didn't want anything to do with any relationship where the wife had more power over my relationship than I did. But they inadvertently introduced me to what I now call Relationship By Hostage Crisis. This is where two people get into a relationship with each other and one of them allows their partner to remove their agency in some way because the first person wants to remove the agency of the other themself. So they basically trade their own agency in exchange for controlling the other person's agency.

Some people seem to think that this is a fair power exchange, that it's not abusive if it goes both ways. But we're not talking about a D/s agreement where someone has the power to concede something. The reason why that's different is because *that person always maintains the power to take it back*. If they don't, it's abuse, by definition. I know this gets a lot of serious edge-players up in a snit when I say this, but kink is all about fantasy and illusion. None of it is real. Sure, it's real *enough* that it triggers the reactions in our brains so that it *feels* real. But it can end at any time. Franklin ([livejournal.com profile] tacit) once knew a guy who insisted his wife was his slave in every sense of the word and he owned her in exactly the same way he owned his TV. He insisted that it was a real slave relationship right up until his wife divorced him. You'll note that she wasn't summarily hunted down by the government and lashed or hung for leaving him.  But we do see cases where women try to leave their male partners and the men punish them by stalking, harassing, raping, and killing them.  He feels entitled to control her agency - her choices - and she is punished when she makes choices he doesn't approve of.  She does not have the power to take her agency back.  This is not a D/s consensual power exchange fantasy.

Giving up your agency in order to have control over someone else in trade is not a BDSM power exchange fantasy. You may indeed have power over someone else, but you *lose power over yourself* in exchange. This is not something you can renegotiate later when it's not working for you. You have become *powerless*, and it takes a great deal of effort to wrest that power back, if you ever get it at all. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes you can have two bad actors in the play instead of just one.
"Our brains are optimized to seek pleasure and avoid threat. It’s most of what we do. There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid things that we believe will hurt us. However, most people would also agree that you can’t put a gun to someone else’s head in order to avoid the things you fear, no matter how uncomfortable the consequences. Sometimes we have to face what we fear because all other options require taking actions that we consider to be wrong. Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head."1
So, the wife wanted control over her husband in some way so she allowed her husband to control her body in this way (among others). He didn't want other people looking at her body in ways he didn't approve of. They held emotional guns to each other's heads. This is not a fair power exchange. No one was empowered by this situation, they were both disempowered *even while* they held power over each other. So, no pictures of her. Except that *he* obsessively took pictures of her. Of everyone.  At all times. And I mean at *all* times. I had ample opportunity during group sex to see him actually stop the sex, reach for a camera, and take a dozen pictures, all with her glaring at him in the picture because she didn't like having those pictures of herself taken. *She* wanted to control when pictures were taken and right then was not when she wanted to have pictures taken. But it didn't matter, because *he* wanted them.

I had a conversation with her about this once. This is where I learned that the no-dirty-pictures rule wasn't her own preference. She would have wanted to have posed for something for her own enjoyment, but he wouldn't allow it. She saw nothing wrong with his prohibiting her because, as her husband, he had that right to determine what happened to her body, but he also had that right (she believed) because she gave it to him. But there was no consideration for renegotiating that rule, at least not in practice. He made disagreement with him so traumatic to everyone in the family that everyone avoided disagreement with him at much cost. He literally made it a matter of life and death when people disagreed with him. So it was easier to capitulate than try to talk him out of one of his catatonic or self-harming states, and then they got to believe that it was their "choice" to negotiate that power away.

Later on, some other things were happening regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and my partner and I were arguing over his wife's autonomy and the boyfriend's rights in his own relationship with her, and we circled around to the subject of sex work, which led to the subject of dirty pictures. He was appalled, I mean *appalled* at the idea of a partner of his either "selling her body" or of his wife having nude pictures that someone else could see. We veered into all kinds of tangents, including me demanding him to explain how "selling one's body" through sex was any different from me getting paid to dance or to perform manual labor or how sex work was any more inherently demeaning than my soul-sucking retail job at barely above minimum wage.

I also had to watch him go through a series of mental gymnastics to explain why it was OK to be dating me, who has naked pictures of myself on a public website from when I posed as a tutorial model for [livejournal.com profile] tacit's BDSM site, but not OK to have a wife who might have similar pictures. The gymnastics got even more convoluted when I disclosed to him that I had been paid to pose for a nudie calendar years before and that picture is out there, floating around somewhere that I've never even seen and certainly have no control over what happens to it. The takeaway I got from that exchange was that it actually *did* bother him, but he was unable to admit it to himself so his cognitive dissonance forced him to justify on the spot why it was somehow different to be dating someone with that kind of exposure than to be married to someone with it.

But what really stuck in my memory was his explanation of why he believed he was in the right for not allowing nude pictures of his wife on the internet. He told me the story of the bowl of M&Ms. So, let's say you have a bowl of M&Ms on your desk at work. You love your M&Ms. They're your favorite candy. And sometimes you don't mind sharing your M&Ms with your coworkers, but you have this one coworker who you hate with a passion. He's a major asshole to everyone and he definitely doesn't respect you or your M&Ms. He feels entitled to them. You don't want him to have your M&Ms because they're not *his* M&Ms, and, in fact, you hate him so much that you don't want him to have any M&Ms ever because you don't want him to have the pleasure of eating M&Ms at all because he's such an asshole that he doesn't deserve the profound bliss that is the M&M.

I couldn't believe what I was reading (this was a chat argument). I couldn't believe this was coming out of the same person who was otherwise so aligned with all my values and beliefs and philosophies! So I said "but your wife isn't a bowl of M&Ms, she's a person who you can't own and she gets to make up her own mind about what happens to her own body." He tried to handwave away the objectification inherent in his analogy and pushed the "but he's an asshole and doesn't deserve to see the glory that is her body" angle.

He tried to appeal to my sense of justice but I don't actually want people I dislike to not have good things. I might often wish bad things on them, but all the times I can think of when I did that, what I wished was for the bad thing to be relevant to why I disliked them so that they would ultimately learn compassion and empathy from the bad thing, or at least be punished in the same way they were punishing others. I honestly don't give a fuck if Racist Joe in the next cubicle gets a lot of pleasure out of his cold Budwiser while sitting in his favorite recliner watching football at the end of the work day. I don't want to steal his Budwiser just so he can't have one. I'm not bothered by the idea that someone I don't like might actually be experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable or feeling happy. But I am deeply disturbed by the idea that other people are bothered by that.

There are so many other examples, that I have been using my experiences with him as moral tales for years since it all went down and I have yet to run out of examples. Argument after argument, random side comment after pointed discussion, there are a million different ways that he expressed his underlying belief that his partners could not be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies; that if left to our own devices we would necessarily choose things that were not in *his* best interest; that what was in *his* best interest was therefore what was in *our* best interest; that what was "best" for the group took precedence over what was "best" for the individual; and that he was absolutely entitled, as the romantic partner, to have the power to make those kinds of decisions and to ask, demand, or manipulate his partners into doing what he decided we should.

I didn't see any of this because, for most of our relationship, what I wanted for myself and our relationship and what he wanted for me and our relationship were in alignment. "It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there." Until one day, we weren't in alignment. He had no need to try any of the gaslighting or logic-circling or even more blatantly abusive tactics like threats of self-harm because I wasn't doing anything contrary to his vision of how our relationship ought to be or how I ought to be in our relationship. Until one day, I did. And then I saw it. I saw what his victim had been crying to me about just a few weeks before. I saw the entitlement. I saw the belief that he ought to be able to dictate my actions. I saw the carrot-and-stick game he played with her - using group acceptance as the carrot to get me to fall in line and group shunning as the stick if I didn't fall in line. "I talked with everyone else, and they all agree that you are wrong. You’re hurting the whole group, don’t you care about us?" I saw everything she said he had been doing to her for the length of their relationship, finally, in one day, directed at me.

And then I saw that I had always seen it. It had always been there.
"Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head.

The prioritization of fear arises when we replace a relationship of mutual support and co-creation, with one of parental protection. ... A relationship that is hostage to fear is one where everything, the relationship, the mental health of the participants, the future, everything hinges on the avoidance of something. Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it."1
When we first broke up, it came as a shock to everyone. To everyone on the outside, he and I were the most compatible and stable of all his other partnerships. We were so similar in so many ways. And by the time we broke up, his relationship with the victim who came forward had gotten so tumultuous that all his other relationships were being affected, except, apparently, ours. Everything in his life seemed to be falling apart. He was so wrapped up in the drama with this one person that he had no more resources for maintaining any of his other relationships and they were all in danger of blowing up too. His last blog post prior to our breakup was lamenting the fact that his life was falling apart and I was his one port left in the storm. So no one saw it coming, because no one understood that this box containing his beliefs and fears was still there, informing the health and stability of every relationship including ours.

When I told people who had met him or who were privy to my gushings of my relationship with him during NRE, when I told them of how it ended, without exception everyone said that it sounded like I was describing two different people. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde story. His victim once said that she tried to reconcile these two people in her head. Part of what made her stay with him so long is that she kept thinking that she could get back to the nice Dr. Jekyll if she could only find the right way to behave that wouldn't let out Mr. Hyde. But her other partner pointed out to her, "He's not two different people. Your nice, sweet boyfriend is also the abuser. They're the same person."

I keep saying that patterns are important. But I also keep saying that it's the underlying beliefs that are important. People might be tempted to say "but look at all these other relationships he has! She was the outlier! The pattern is that he's a good guy and she's the problem!"  But that's not the pattern. The pattern is in his beliefs. Sure, he didn't try to manipulate me or control me ... as long as what I was already doing was something he approved of. So it may have *looked* like there was no pattern of manipulation or control because he didn't seem to try that on me. But the real pattern was that he *believed* that manipulation and control are appropriate methods of dealing with a partner whose behaviour was something he didn't approve of. "It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices."

This is why benevolent sexism is still sexism and still a problem. The behaviour, on the surface, might seem like it's not oppressive because it supposedly elevates women. It rewards them. It "privileges" them. But only as long as women toe the line. Only as long as women fall within acceptable ranges of behaviour or dress or thought. A pedestal *seems* like a place of power and enshrinement, until you realize how confining it is to stand in one spot or risk falling to your death for daring to sit down or change positions.

It's tempting to say "he's not an abuser because he didn't abuse me!" I know, I said that at one time. But it's also tempting to say "but abusers don't abuse everyone yet they're still abusers". The thing is that they actually do, we just can't see it behind the camouflage. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and one of my metafores, are fond of saying, it’s not a problem … until it is. "Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it." A racist who keeps his mouth shut when a black customer walks into his store is still a racist towards that customer. He's not a racist because he does racist things. He's a racist because he holds racist beliefs. And he holds those beliefs all the time, at everyone. A person who believes that they are entitled to control other people’s bodies, thoughts, and choices still believes those things even when they don't choose to exercise that entitlement, for whatever reason they choose not to in that moment. And those beliefs leave signs. It's not about whether or not he tries to manipulate a partner who is already doing what he wants her to do. It's about whether he *believes* he is right to manipulate her should she ever not want to do what he wants her to do. And that kind of thinking leaves footprints, if we only learn how to identify them.

The reason why this is important is because it is too easy to dismiss abuse when it doesn't look like how we think abuse ought to look. It's also too easy to accuse people of abuse when they are not, in fact, abusing anyone.

I wrote a paragraph in a recent post where I distinguished between "selfish" and "self-interest". That paragraph got quoted, and some people took exception to that distinction because abusers will just turn around and call what they're doing "self-interest" to justify their actions. What these detractors didn't seem to get was that this was my whole point.

What worked on my partner's victim was the accusation that she was being "selfish". That it was *she*, not he, who was the abusive monster. Her story is remarkably similar to the same one I linked to and quoted above. That's why I keep sharing Fett's writing - it really hits home with how similar it is to everything we (mostly she) went through. It all started unraveling for me when she called me crying, desperate that she had harmed him in some way, and how could she fix it? When she told me what she was afraid she had done, I was horrified that she could possibly think that she had done anything wrong at all. But how could she be such a monster? she wondered. How could she treat him so heinously? Are you fucking serious? I asked her. This had nothing to do with her at all. This was all about him.
"If you are being abused, there is a very high chance that you will be accused of being abusive or of otherwise causing the abuse. That’s because this accusation is devastatingly effective at shutting you down and obtaining control in a dispute. However, I also believe this accusation is often sincere. People often engage in abusive behaviors because they feel deeply powerless and that powerlessness hurts. But not everything that hurts in a relationship is abuse, and not everything that hurts your partner is your responsibility. It’s important to be able to distinguish abuse from other things that may happen in relationships that are hurtful, or may even be toxic or unhealthy, but are not fundamentally about entitlement and control."1
There are all kinds of things that are problematic to varying degrees. But they are not all about entitlement and control. And this is *very* important to recognize. And they should never be conflated. That harms actual victims of entitlement and control. It's not always just the abuser accusing his victim of being abusive. I see it in communities as well. Now that we're finally talking about abuse in my various subcultures, a lot of terms are getting bandied about - abuse, harassment, consent, violation, predator, narcissism, borderline personality disorder ... just to name a few. Not all of these terms are being applied where they should. When things that aren't abuse get mislabeled as abuse or "rounded up" to abuse, it makes it much harder for actual abuse victims to find proper support. When things that are indeed problematic but not "abusive" get labeled as "abusive" instead of their real problem, then we can't address the problem in ways that are effective for solving the problem.

And when people live in fear that any possible misstep might get them cast out of communities under accusations of "abuser", especially if those people are actually victims who have been told by their abusers that they are the abuser themselves, it makes it way more difficult for anyone to seek help or to seek correction for things that might actually be correctable (or not even offensive at all).

I think we're on the right track now that we're sensitive to abuse and harassment and control in our communities. But I think we're also in danger of slipping off the track too easily. We're not quite at the destination yet and we still have further to travel. One of the dangers is in stopping too soon. Now we know all these words, and now we have started supporting victims and accusers in order to break the previous chilling hold on victims from finding the support they needed when they come forward. But we still don't quite have our finger on the pulse of the problem yet.

Patterns are important, but it's the underlying beliefs that those patterns reveal that are the real key. Those underlying beliefs are what enable abuse and harassment and control and oppression and all the other bad things we're finally starting to look at and combat. Those beliefs set up the foundations that allow abuse and control and manipulation to happen. But not all bad things are about entitlement and control. It's the beliefs that make abusers so resistant to rehabilitation, so it's the beliefs we need to confront. If we don't confront the beliefs but instead attack the behavioural patterns, abusers will simply change their behavioural patterns to continue avoiding detection. It's the beliefs that need to change, and the behaviour changes will follow naturally as a consequence.

At the same time, if those beliefs aren't present, then not only is the attack the wrong way to approach the situation, the behaviour itself also has different chances of correction. It's much more likely to correct someone's behaviour if the behaviour doesn't stem from a deep belief that their behaviour was, in fact, already correct. I’m repeatedly told by those with social anxiety and other social awkward issues that we need to stop excusing bad social behaviour by labeling it some mental illness because people who aren’t predators but legitimately socially awkward often feel horrified when it is brought to their attention that they have done something wrong and they want to learn how to do better. That’s because they don’t have an underlying belief that they were right, they were simply unaware, and they don’t want to do these wrong things. These issues are correctable, but not if we ostracize everyone who does something wrong without first finding out if it was a social awkwardness / anxiety thing or if it was a boundary-pushing predator masquerading as socially awkward thing. One of them believes they didn’t do anything wrong and the other doesn’t. One of them can have their behaviour corrected with guidance and the other can’t because they don’t believe their behaviour was wrong.

How we address the problem needs to be changed if the belief underlying it isn't about entitlement and control, if we want our efforts to be effective. And, as my partner's poor victim learned the hard way, if there are no underlying beliefs about entitlement and control, then there's a good chance that she wasn't doing the abuse she was accused of in the first place. She, like Fett, wracked her brain trying to figure out how to stop this "abuse" she was doing to him, and that only made things worse for her. Fett describes many times about the extreme self-loathing and self-hatred they felt because they believed themself to be an abuser when they weren’t. Because they weren’t actually abusing anyone, the intense searching for the root of non-existent abuse only deepened the wound and left them more and more vulnerable to their abuser’s manipulation.

As Fett says, being victimized by your control is not the same as being victimized by my resistence to your control. His victim wasn't abusing him because, no matter how much he felt hurt, she wasn't the one doing any hurting of him. She did not have any underlying beliefs that she was entitled to control him. In fact, all of his hurt stemmed from her very strong belief that no one was entitled to control anyone else. She was resisting his control and that made him feel hurt. If your hand hurts after slapping someone who raised their arm to block the slap, that person didn't hurt you; you hurt yourself by slapping them.

But *his* underlying beliefs of entitlement were always there, and were always visible. When he first accused her of abusing him, almost everyone who knew her were shocked and suspicious. What do you mean she abused him? She had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before! They had relationships with her that weren't abusive at all! When she later accused him of the same, people said the same thing about him.

But she did not have those underlying beliefs, and her supporters were not wrong to question the accusation. It *was* contrary to everything about her. And because it was so contrary to her very nature, it was a sign that she was actually a victim of abuse herself. When his supporters questioned her accusation of him, well, I don't want to go so far as to say it was "wrong" to question, because serious accusations deserve to be treated seriously, which includes inquiry into the situation. But their dismissal of her accusation in favor of their personal experience with him *was* misplaced because they were looking at the wrong thing - his actions and feelings vs. his beliefs.

When her supporters questioned his accusation of her, they investigated her beliefs. In light of what she believed about entitlement and control, the accusation was patently absurd. The absurdity of the accusation is what led to the situation finally being identified accurately - that he was gaslighting her and emotionally abusing her. He accused her of abuse. Some people who knew her (not me, to my great shame), questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about her. She had never done anything like that to them. But, more than that, her *beliefs* were so contrary to the accusation, that her supporters were able to start piecing things together for her when she was so mired in self-doubt and illusion that she couldn't do it herself. So they started adding things up and told her "you are not this person he says you are. He is gaslighting you."

She finally broke free and accused him of abusing her. Some people who knew him questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about him. He had never done anything like that to them. But that's where they stopped. They did not question his *beliefs*. If they had, like I eventually did, they would have discovered that his beliefs are not actually contrary to the accusations at all. And they would have discovered, like I eventually did, that signs of his beliefs had been visible from the beginning. So no one else started adding things up, and to this day people believe that she abused him and that I also abused him because I withdrew my support and then resisted his attempt to control me when I withdrew that support. Because they looked at actions and feelings and not beliefs.

Those beliefs were visible, and showed a pattern, if you knew how to look for them. Without those beliefs, she could not have abused him. Hurt him, sure, because we all hurt people, especially when we are in pain ourselves and especially because the people who are the most vulnerable with us are also the most susceptible to being hurt by us precisely because of that vulnerability. But she *could not* have attempted to control or manipulate him because she *does not* hold any beliefs that she is entitled to his thoughts, his body, his choices. Everything she ever did in that relationship was an attempt to escape his control, not exercise it. But her attempts to escape that control were *felt* by him as "harm". And misunderstood by everyone else as "selfishness". And I, of all people close to that dynamic, should have been able to see the difference, since that is essentially my very existence within the context of romantic relationships - constantly attempting to escape control and being labeled "selfish" for the attempts.

The problem is that this subject is so complex and so nuanced that I don't think I'll ever be done writing about it. And so this post now becomes a mini-novel. All to explain that patterns are easy to disguise or misinterpret if we only look at actions and not at underlying beliefs. When we look at patterns of *beliefs*, things appear very different. Someone who seems totally affable becomes a manipulative monster (everyone's favorite TV dad, for instance). Someone who is accused of being that monster turns out to be a victim themself. And within communities concerned with social justice, it's hard to see sometimes because those monsters learn to co-opt the language of social justice. But the beliefs are still there, and they show up, if you know how to look for them. So when you go looking for them and they don't show up, it's time to wonder just who is the attacker and who is being attacked and maybe all is not as it seems.

When a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and they didn’t perform those actions on me!", maybe we can question the validity of the group defense. But when a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and those beliefs just aren't present", maybe we ought to question the validity of the *accusation*, like when my abusive ex accused his victim of being abusive for daring to resist his control of her. She (and later, I) was ostracized from her community and her support group because everyone automatically believed the "victim", meaning he called dibs on the label first and everyone jumped to his side by default, without critically examining whether his claims were even plausible, given the beliefs of the people involved. Her actions were deemed "abusive" simply because he felt hurt by them, without looking to see if there were any elements of entitlement or control present and, if so, which direction they flowed.

But those who cared enough to look beneath the surface finally saw the truth. Those who took the time to look for patterns of *belief*, not actions or not simply whether someone felt "hurt", when we saw the patterns of belief, we knew that she could not have been abusive, even if she might also have caused harm. And my refusal to see this pattern when it was first shown to me, that led to consequences of my own. Consequences that could have been avoided, and possibly even resulted in better protection for his victim sooner, had I learned to look for belief patterns and had I learned to recognize that internalized paradigm of ownership rather than quibbling over whether or not specific actions "counted" as "abusive".

Maybe, had I done that instead, I wouldn't today be wracked with guilt and self-doubt, all these years later. Maybe his victim would have escaped sooner and healed faster had I not backed the wrong horse and had I not challenged everyone else who said "but she can't be an abuser because our experience of her is different!"  Maybe she wouldn't have been so easy to isolate had I listened to *her* other supporters instead of arguing that they just didn't see how much drama the family had only when she was brought into the fold. Instead of questioning their support of her on the basis that they were too close to her to be "objective" and not close enough to the situation to see all the hurt feels he had. Maybe if I had acknowledged that, as people who knew her so well for so long, they might actually have had some insight into her belief structure and been exactly the right people to know if she had the beliefs necessary for her to abuse him. Maybe, if I had known that it was the beliefs that were important, not actions that happened behind closed doors that can be interpreted in many ways or rationalized and not simply “feeling” hurt by someone, things could have been different and we both could have been spared at least some of the damage that dating an abuser left us with. Maybe, had I understood all this back then, I wouldn't today feel like that house with broken windows**.

This is not the only time I made this mistake, either, although I was closer to this situation than to others. There was another time someone cried "abuse", and I believed them automatically because I was told I should, and only many months later did I learn that he was, in fact, an abuser. He was just the one who cried foul first. But, again, it took a confrontation with him personally where his beliefs that it was acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality became visible for me to see the pattern. Two people accused each other of abuse, and I took this side because I now "knew", thanks to my experiences dating an abuser, that abusers often think of themselves as victims. So, obviously, his abuser was just doing that, right? Except that later, he tried to gaslight me too. After telling him multiple times my feelings on something, he continued to insist that I did not feel those things, and to insist on his own narrative of what I felt. Now his "abuser’s" accusations of gaslighting sounded more plausible. He *believed* that he was entitled to control another person’s reality, and patterns of that belief were visible, if you know what to look for. That doesn’t let the other person off the hook for whatever wrongs they committed in this very messy situation. But it does mean that I was wrong to "believe the victim" without treating all the accusations flying around seriously and critically examining the situation even though I thought I did at the time. My bias towards "believe the victim" and my personal experience with abuse telling me that I should now know what abuse "looks like" fogged the matter and I did not examine the situation critically enough, or with enough information (knowing the difference between beliefs vs. behaviours or feelings) to be able to examine it properly.

So I yell on the internet, hoping people can learn very expensive lessons without paying the high price I paid to learn it first. After I believed the wrong "victim" more than once, I'm not positive that "believe the victim" is the right response. *Support* the victim might be a better response, because support allows for the ability to examine the situation and then provide the *right type* of support based on that examination. Had I "supported" all the actors in that messy double-accusation drama instead of "believed" just one of them, I might have been able to provide better support for the actual victims in the story, given that I had some community authority and responsibility in the matter. Had I "supported" my then-boyfriend instead of "believed" him, I might have discovered the truth sooner and been able to support him by holding him accountable instead of inadvertently contributing to the gaslighting of his real victim. Had I "supported" him instead, I might have been able to hear the chorus of "she couldn't have done that because we know her!" and looked into it more clearly instead of dismissing it out of hand, and I might have then learned about this beliefs vs. actions/feelings problem.

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



* I will not be hosting any debate in my comments about the definition of hierarchy. That’s why I linked to the definition I’m using here. If your definition differs, then you’re not doing what I am calling "hierarchy" and I don’t care. I absolutely refuse to hold space for this endless circular argument because it has managed to keep the entire community derailed for over 20 years. I’m insisting on moving on. Any comments that include anything even remotely resembling "but sometimes hierarchy is…" or "but I don’t do that…" or "but my kids really do take priority!" will be summarily deleted regardless of what other content the comment may have. If you’re feeling the desire to make a comment like that, go read the link I provided for the definition of hierarchy, and then parts 1 and 2 of Can Poly Hierarchies Be Ethical first. If you still feel the desire to make those comments, re-read all three posts. Continue re-reading until you no longer feel the need to make those rebuttals.

** This is in reference to an essay that might not be available. The essay is an analogy to living in a house with windows that aren’t perfect but that do the job. They’re good enough and the house is sound. Then one day, someone comes along and breaks the windows. And you spend a long time ignoring the broken windows, and then working around the broken windows, and then finally learning how to fix the broken windows. One at a time, you repair them. They’re not all repaired yet and some rooms are still unusable because of the broken windows, but the house is getting fixed, the new windows look great, and you learned a new skill. But the windows were fine to begin with. You didn’t need to learn this skill or replace the windows until someone came along and broke them. So you’ve had to spend all these years learning how to fix windows that shouldn’t have had to be fixed in the first place, and all these years ahead of you continuing to fix each window, when you could have been using that time to learn a different skill, to get better at something new, to grow or improve. Instead, you spend all this time just trying to move backwards to get back to a place you were before because you can’t move forward until you get there first. The breaking of the windows was a huge step backwards and now you’re playing catchup. And it all feels unnecessary because the windows were fine to begin with.



1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/relationship-rights-can-negotiate-away

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Super Tech)
Me: ... I even know what song I'd dance to at my wedding.

Him: You don't even want to get married! Do all girls just naturally like planning weddings?

Me: No, you don't understand, I've had my wedding planned since high school because it was a *required class*! I've had the dress designed since then and even had a version of the dress made as my high school prom dress (which I still have in the closet, I'll show you later if you're interested). Obviously, if I really were to get married today, there would be some changes because I have some very different values since being a teenager (like not believing in marriage, for one thing, and being poly for another), but the reason why so many women have ideas for their weddings even before there is a prospective husband is because we're proactively coached in wedding planning.

Not everyone is forced to actually take a wedding class in high school. Some get it through their cotillion or sweet 16 parties or similar "coming out" parties that are really just mini-versions of today's weddings. Others just get it through their families. But I had sex ed every year from 6th grade through 12th grade, and eventually there's only so much biology to be taught on the subject. So they covered other related subjects.

One semester, our "sex ed" course was a self-defense class where I learned tae kwon do (not that I remember any of it, but I did flip a real assailant over my shoulder once, which was pretty cool). That class doubled as a P.E. credit. Another semester was a marriage and family planning course where we had to actually plan an entire wedding, down to calling venues to find out about how to reserve dates, developing color schemes, and making a budget. We were also randomly assigned various careers with certain incomes and had to plan a household budget with given criteria and limitations. The course ended the semester with one of those flour sack baby projects. And I also learned all the symbolism and significance to all those wedding traditions.

Did you know that the bride is supposed to have two bouquets? One of fresh flowers that she walks down the aisle with and then dries or freezes to keep stored forever and another fake bouquet to throw at the reception?

Him: What? You have to keep the bouquet?

Me: Yeah, along with the dress. That multi-thousand-dollar dress that you only wear once and then put in a box in the closet, never to see the light of day again. The flowers can get preserved and saved too. If you spent all that money on flowers, wouldn't you want to keep it too?

Him: I suppose. I just didn't know you were supposed to.

Me: So it's not a guy vs. girl nature thing, it's that I literally didn't have a choice. And even women who don't have a class to make them plan their weddings don't really have a choice. We're hounded by our family and friends, asked questions about our wedding plans that we have to answer, and when we're segregated into our respective gendered wedding parties, you guys are expected to go out and get rowdy while our "parties" are actually helping the bride prepare for the wedding. So even if I hadn't ever had that class, all I'd have to have is an invitation to a bridal shower or a close relative get married and I'd have been expected to help pick out dresses and florists and taste-test the cake and look at invitation fonts and discuss the hopes and dreams and expectations of the bride and her bridesmaids.

That bridal shower is pretty much all wedding planning and grooming. We give the bride wedding gifts that are supposed to help her with the wedding ceremony or the marriage after. The "games" we all play at these things are basically silly versions of wedding traditions that reinforce the cultural programming of weddings. Like dressing the bridesmaids up in toilet paper wedding dresses. That's dress designing reinforcement right there, even if it's silly.

Do you know the importance of choosing an invitation font? Or the seating chart at the reception? Or the consequences for having a more casual reception where there is no seating chart? How about the order of events? Do you know why, when you were a groomsman and you walked down the aisle with your bridesmaid, your linked arms were "wrong"? Do you know why that's important? And the cake, the topper for the cake is supposed to be saved too, frozen, and then eaten on your first anniversary together. Every little bit of the wedding and reception has to be planned out and it all means something.

Him: !!

Me: We are literally pulled into two different worlds and coached on different things. So, yeah, I have a wedding plan even though I'm ethically opposed to the government regulating my romantic life and philosophically opposed to most of the symbolism inherent in traditional marriage ceremonies (which, as I told Franklin, is subtly but significantly different from being "opposed to marriage" but it's too complicated to say all that so I summarize it as "opposed to marriage", but I'm not quite, not exactly). I have that plan because it's not really very likely to be socialized as "female" in this society without one. Even for us conscientious objectors or conscientious "modifiers", we can't be "conscientious" about it without looking into the whole concept of weddings and marriages and analyzing what we disagree with and why, both for our own introspection and also because we, as women, will be challenged on our objections so we have to really understand the subject in order to defend our position.

You guys just get to show up with a tux, or not. Even if you choose not to, you don't *have* to really examine why. You're guys. You could just be "a bachelor". But I have to defend my protest with reams of historical data, studies of sociological mores, piles of legal precedent or justification, and a degree in biology to counteract the false "evo-psych" bullshit that says I'm supposed to want to get married.

And even then, I'm still supposed to be able to describe the dress I would wear if I ever changed my mind.

Him: Huh. I didn't realize there was that much that goes into weddings.

Me: Yeah, it's not a "girl thing" in that we just like planning weddings. It's way more complicated than that. We don't really have much of a choice in whether or not we "like planning weddings".



In response to the inevitable "but I'm a girl and I didn't take any classes like that in school!" response:

I went to a private Catholic school, which held this class. But many public schools do have flour sack or egg baby projects so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also have wedding planning mixed in there somewhere. Maybe in home economics class? I dunno, I'm told they don't have that class anymore, but they did when I was in high school, so it's not that archaic. Not yet anyway.

But, as I mentioned, we do have cotillions and bat mitzvahs and other religious or social practices where wedding planning sort of sneaks in there. Much of our "wedding training" is pretty subversive.  A lot of us go to religious or cultural classes in addition to our public school education. I went to Catechism as a Catholic (religious Sunday School), for instance. The Filipino Catholics had cotillion training that I only learned about after I joined a Filipino church and was invited to someone's cotillion, where I discovered it was basically a wedding reception where they dismissed the importance of the "groom" entirely except to be arm candy for the girl whose party this was. She held "court" and everything.

But many, as I said, just learned about wedding planning through attending the pre-wedding events like the bridal shower. It's sort of an informal tribal-school learning session, where the bride is the main attraction and the elder women all gather around to assist and then instruct the younger women and girls on doing the legwork. I can't tell you how many times I sat at someone's kitchen table with a sponge and a stack of invitations, stuffing envelopes and listening to the older ladies all talk about the wedding and the symbolism and the etiquette and fielding off demands from the grannies to know what *my* wedding will one day look like.

So even before high school, it's not like my mother quizzed me on wedding rituals, but I absorbed a lot of this knowledge just through cultural osmosis by being around other women going through their wedding preparations.  Which I was required to do as a "girl" as my mother, and then later myself personally, was invited to participate and celebrate in weddings, because the wedding activities were all segregated, with women attending bridal showers and pitching in to help and men attending bachelor parties and pretty much nothing else.  Really, sometimes my upbringing looked like a movie from the 1950s without the poodle skirts.

Plus, as I mentioned, even when women do opt-out of the cultural expectations, a lot of the time they still end up knowing about weddings precisely because they chose to opt-out.  Either they really looked into the subject and what they saw informed their opinions, or they started looking into the subject for their own weddings and got overwhelmed and just said "fuck it" and deliberately ignored the rituals.  Either way, the guys still mostly had the luxury of just showing up without really having to learn much about the process they were either participating in or eschewing.

It should also be noteworthy that people who follow me online are kind of a self-selected group, particularly a group of those who break gender norms, and when I speak of gendered social programming, I'm speaking of cultural trends where it should be obvious that some individuals (especially those who follow me) would be on the outsides of the bell curve.  Obviously I wasn't alone in going through these gendered normalization practices.  I grew up in one of the largest cities in the world and was raised in one of the most populous religions in the world.  While weird to my current friends and followers who follow me pretty much because we're all weirdos in these ways, my experiences growing up were still very common and are typical examples or illustrative of the sorts of experiences that shape the culture in which I live.



*Update*

In the comments of someone else's share of my post, someone said they were glad they didn't grow up like me. I have a response to that which I think is kind of important. I'm noticing a lot of borderline horrified reactions, and I think that's kind of missing the point.

The point of my tale was not "poor me, I was forced to learn about weddings". The point was "poor men are excluded from this process and women are expected to pick up the slack so here is yet another example of culturally enforced gender discrepancy of emotional labor".

The learning of the wedding process wasn't the criticism. In fact, I believe I benefited from the learning process and that maybe classes like these should be taught more often - just without the gender role enforcement or heteronormative structure.  Imagine what kind of cultural awareness we could be teaching our youth in classes that examined popular cultural traditions like weddings in-depth and challenged the students to understand why those practices are used and why they might want to keep or reject any given practice by having them plan and explain their own hypothetical weddings!  Imagine how the entire wedding industry might have to change as a result of an entire generation of youth growing into marriagable ages where they have already examined and challenged the gender roles embedded in weddings and already examined the interconnected economic consequences for participating in the wedding industry!  Imagine the generation after the "millennials" seeing the economic disaster that their parents are currently facing and learning about how we got to that point and how it affects even day-to-day decisions and larger decisions like the structure of our relationships, and then applying that knowledge to their own creations of their own relationships and futures!

There are much worse things than expecting children to learn and understand the culture in which they are expected to participate as adults.

Here's my comment:

I am glad to have grown up as I did. I learned a lot about my own culture, so that when I choose a different path, I have a very in-depth understanding of what I am choosing, what I am rejecting, and the whys of it all. I have a deep understanding of our cultural history and all the connections made over time and across cultures as imperialism and trade created influences on our own culture.

Knowledge is a good thing and I was fortunate to have grown up with people who embraced knowledge. It wasn't enough for my family and teachers for me to just adopt, say, wedding practices without understanding them and it wasn't enough for them to let me get to the stage where I would have a wedding without learning all the work involved in putting one on. My schools and the elders in my life wanted us to be prepared for adult life. They didn't want us to build these giant, unrealistic dreams of fantasy weddings, they wanted us to know how much they cost and how much work goes into them. They didn't want us to go out into the real world without understanding how checkbooks and credit cards worked and how much of our pay would go to essentials like rent and utilities.

I was better prepared to enter life as an independent adult than most of my friends who went to schools that didn't offer such instruction and I had a better understanding of why we culturally did the things we did than those same peers. No, the sad part is not that I learned all the stuff that I learned, but that men don't also learn these things and aren't expected to shoulder any of the burden while women are expected to know and do all this on our own (whether the women were given instruction as I was or not). As I told the person in the original story, if I ever was to have a wedding, my future husband would be an equal partner in the wedding planning because he would be an equal partner in the marriage. But thanks to culturally enforced gender roles, if I want an equal partner in this, it'll be up to me to educate him to the point where he *can* be an equal partner, and that's the part that is the problem, not that I'm already schooled in how to put on a wedding.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/08/16/selfishness-valid-response-entitlement-boundary-crossing/

In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:



"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy.  Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around.  You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk.  After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME?  Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking?  Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed?  Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!'  You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about!  And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do.  You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK.  You're not seeing them behind closed doors.  I am.  Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."

Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros.  I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be.  But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"

Before I started dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch.  I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons.  By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them.  There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.

And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!).  So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do.  But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings.  I like baking for them.  I like validating them.  I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries.  I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning.  So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words.  Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off.  So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words.  Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"

The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them.  It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One.  I disagree.  I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks".  Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them.  Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally.  And most everyone else is somewhere in between.

Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them.  It's like touching an exposed nerve almost.  Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally").  If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them.  And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.

A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank.  It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy.  When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough.  When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict.  This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these.  It's contempt that is the big warning sign.  Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low.  Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour.  If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.

These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them.  I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested".  "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed.  When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS.  I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else.  I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested".  Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity.  They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.

I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims.  Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be.  So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested.  Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition.  I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels.  This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms.  Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article.  It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.

So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally.  Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people.  But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language.  Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.

So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship.  Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off.  So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).

But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover.  I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks.  So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves.  So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.

"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.

Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."

I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius.  This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way.  I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope.  But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow.  But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.

When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing.  So, for example, my family.  My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them.  They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing.  But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff.  My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not.  One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall.  I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home.  To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.

Another example is my parents not respecting my agency.  In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person.  It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal.  The big deal is the aggregate.  It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it.  I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story).  My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall.  My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.

My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off.  The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time.  She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for.  No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up.  I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life.  Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm.  I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it.  See?  Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation.  But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.

"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."

"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."

"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."

"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."

The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor.  I can relate there too.  Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point.  I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.

The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it.  I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops.  And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them.  But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.

He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too.  But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships.  He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.

We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour.  There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again.  And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!"  I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s).  But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this.  Relationships and love are abundant.  We can find them all over the place.  But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together.  Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.

In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look.  I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners.  But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs.  This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far.  To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources.  So we keep spending.  And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).

I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part.  I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship.  I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship.  Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger.  Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.

When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response.  If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up.  If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.

And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship.  If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can.  If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it.  If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it.  It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until the culture is changed - if girls under the legal age of majority are considered autonomous enough to choose to conceive or keep a pregnancy or raise a child, than women the same age and older are capable of making the choice not to.  With adoption, fostering, step-parenting, and the more extreme pregnancy surrogates as options, the consequences for regretting a permanent sterilization are far less disastrous than the consequences of forced motherhood or regretting childbirth.

I have ALWAYS known that I did not want to be pregnant. I assumed, when I was a child, that I would eventually become a parent because, with no role models otherwise, it never occurred to me that not having children was even an option. But all my childhood dolls and daydreams were adopted, as I was. My adopted parents provided me with such a loving home that I was convinced that the more responsible thing to do was to be an adoptive parent too, to give other less fortunate children the kinds of opportunities I had been given.

As I have gotten older, starting at about age 21, the idea of parenting even as an adoptive parent became more and more onerous until, now approaching middle age, I can't think of anything culturally expected that I want to do less. I'd even choose monogamy over parenthood at this point, if my life were on the line for picking one cultural milestone that I had to accept that I have previously eschewed. Every year, I keep expecting some magical "biological clock" to start ticking, but every year I am more grateful than the previous year that I do not have children. The closer I get to the age of no return, the more relieved I am that I will one day not be able to change my mind.

I have been refused sterilization, and those who were willing were out of my price range because I don't have health insurance. Perhaps people ought not to be trying to convince someone who lives below the poverty line without health insurance that she should be having children - it's tragic those who are *actually* concerned with "what about the children" are the ones who don't have them, while those who do are more concerned about imposing their values to the *detriment* of those children they pay lip service to. But I digress. Always, the response to my desire to be childfree is that I might change my mind, as if adoption isn't an option. Some day, I might find that "right man" who will make me want to procreate.

Sorry, but the only thing that delaying sterilization did for me was make it more likely that I'd have an abortion, which I also don't regret. Had I been sterilized when I first requested it, I wouldn't have had the procedure that these same people find even more appalling than the sterilization procedure. This is what happens when you withhold contraception - you increase the chances of having abortions.

That is not a procedure I would have chosen, like other elective procedures such as getting a nose job, but I did choose it because it was better than the alternative, which was remaining pregnant. If one is truly interested in reducing abortions, one ought to be the most supportive of access to contraception, including permanent methods. My brief pregnancy and abortion procedure were some of the worst days of my adult life, but you bet your ass I'd do it again rather than carry a parasite around for 9 months or be stuck raising a dependent for the next two decades. And I'd bet *my* ass that you really don't want someone raising said dependent when that person refers to it as a "parasite".

Every day, every year, I am more and more relieved and thankful that I had an abortion. The only negative emotion I feel about it at all is the accompanying frustration that I shouldn't have NEEDED it in the first place if I had just been allowed to get sterilized at an affordable price when I asked for it.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
In the course of explaining my quirks to a new partner, it gets bought to my attention just how much emotional labor I perform in my relationships, or at least how many habits I developed from performing this emotional labor and compensating for other people's inabilities to deal with their emotions in the past.

There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.

For example, I cut the bread for the table. I used to sell and demo cutlery and I have always had an affinity for knives. I am also a bread addict - er, I mean, aficionado. I have known a lot of people who do not know how to properly cut bread and it ends up smashed in a lump when they grip it to cut or rip it apart. Instead of light and fluffy and we now have to *chew* it instead of lightly chewing it while it also dissolves on the tongue (for those breads that are soft and do that). I can slice the softest breads and cakes with even a fairly dull knife and still retain most of the integrity of delicate pastries and breads.

But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.

So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything.  I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.

So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.

That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?

This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.

This is why feminism is important, particularly the latest wave of non-TERFy feminism that sees the harm of imposed gender roles and binary systems.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
The reason why people can hold such harsh views on other wrongdoers is because they can't imagine themselves in that position and needing understanding or leniency or seeing the nuance or contextual complexity of a situation.  This is the very definition of privilege. You can't see how something can possibly affect you so you're willing to excuse poor treatment of others by rationalizing that they "deserve" it.

You are not above reproach. You are not infallible. You can one day find yourself at the receiving end of a justice system that you helped to create that will not take into account your special circumstances.

The reason why we have "innocent until proven guilty" as our standard (and why it doesn't always apply to social settings) is because our forefathers knew that even a just system would necessarily be flawed because people are the creators, and so it was therefore more acceptable to err on the side of leniency where some criminals might go free than on the side of harshness where innocent people might be punished. Our current system, even *with* that aphorism supposedly guiding it, has swung too far to the wrong side.  And then there's the middle ground where one's innocence or guilt is not in question, but they are nevertheless fully nuanced humans because no one is a cardboard cutout, comic book, black-hat villain.

You cannot see yourself ever being in one of these unfortunate positions because you have convinced yourself that you are a Good Person, and Good People do not do Bad Things. Those people did Bad Things, therefore they are Bad People. You are the problem. You are the reason why people do Bad Things and why people continue to do Bad Things. Everyone thinks that they are morally and ethically right in what they do, because everyone thinks that they are Good People. That kind of thinking is what blinds people to the fact that they fucked up and did something bad. That kind of thinking is what prevents people from learning empathy or from taking responsibility and holding themselves accountable for their actions.

The knowledge that there is no understanding, no forgiveness, no second chances, no contextual exemptions or explanations, no space to repent and do better, is what drives people who do Bad Things underground and what drives them to continue doing them. Why should anyone feel bad about their mistakes? Why should anyone stop making their mistakes? Why should they ask for help in ceasing their mistakes if there is no room for them, if there is no safe space for them to change? They are lost souls. They are cast-outs. They are doomed. So why bother to fix anything? Their situation is your doing.

And you may one day find yourself on the receiving end of your "justice" precisely because you cannot conceive of being in that position so you will be unable to predict or prevent the thoughts that lead to the actions that carry you to that position.

YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.



Further Comments:

There is a very big difference between drawing strong boundaries around ourselves and how we relate to, interact with, or feel about someone who has done Bad Things personally, and giving the government the power to make irrevocable punishments and decisions over people who do Bad Things. While we absolutely need a system of justice to deal with people who do Bad Things and while we absolutely can draw whatever personal boundaries we want regarding other people, setting the same consequences for both personal feelings and the government penal system is very dangerous.

That led to witch burnings and lynchings and a for-profit prison system that punishes black pot smokers because of *personal* feelings towards those kinds of behaviours. The reason for leniency in the penal system is because, at any moment, we could find ourselves on the receiving end of an unjust system with an enormous amount of power. All it takes is either the system being controlled by people who have different value systems from ours, or one of those complicated, nuanced situations popping up where we are able to rationalize how "it's different when I do it".

Look at the no-tolerance laws for drugs and weapons on school campuses! People who can't see themselves in that situation or who think of themselves as Good People don't see how it was inevitable that the law would eventually start penalizing children for their asthma medication or bringing in their homemade clocks to show their teachers. Part of that is because of the Good Person fallacy that they're committing and part of that is because they are part of a privileged demographic who is not likely to be unfairly targeted by ridiculous interpretations of those rules.

We all do shit that other people think is unforgivable or heinous. Most of the time, we feel justified in having done those things, which is why we did them. Those no-tolerance attitudes can be applied back on us. Other times, we might have genuinely learned from our mistakes and grown as people. Had the penalty for our crimes been death, we would not have become the productive members of society that we are now, with people who love us and accomplishments and acts of redemption. Had the penalty been death and we just never got caught, we would be unlikely to have sought help to find accountability or even changed our outlook to one in which we now admit our wrongdoing, because to do so would have meant our death.

Had the penalties been other atrocities like rape or castration or assault, even though we might have lived through it, those things would have damaged us which decreases the chances that we could have found redemption, accepted accountability, or learned empathy or regret. Those penalties would likely have exacerbated the problem. Those penalties would likely have made us worse or more broken people instead of given us a chance to get better.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I think I'm zeroing in on why I still get startled when I see people talking at my abusive ex (even though I've blocked him so I can't see his online activity). It's not that I'm upset that people still talk to him - it's more complex than that. It's more like ... I expected that person to be closer to me than to him so I project my own discomfort of him onto those people even though, in many cases, I wasn't actually close enough to that person for them to know enough about the story to choose "me over him".

So, here's what I mean. When he and I broke up, I lost direct contact with that entire branch of my network, even though I was *also* romantically involved with someone in that branch and had what I thought to be some very good friendships from that branch. This was mostly by my action, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it was my "choice". My abusive ex was stalking another one of his exes, with whom I was still in contact, so I and several other people on my side of the network actually blocked his entire side so that "his people" couldn't feed information to him about the ex he was stalking through our contact with that ex.

This sounds like that entire network was in some vast conspiracy to hunt down a single person, but I don't think it was like that. Maybe it was, I dunno. But I still have mixed feelings for some of those people I lost. When I see them some of them in person, I still greet them warmly. But I don't tell them anything personal or intimate about my life now. Someone once questioned me upon witnessing me hug one of them hello why I was still willing to do that but not still date or keep in contact with that person. I said something about how I didn't trust them enough to be intimate with them, but hugging isn't intimate. They thought that was weird, and after I said it, I can understand how someone else might find it odd to hug someone you don't trust.

But, the point is that I knew those people were going to side with him - that's not exactly true, they were going to either side with him on certain specific things or they were going to abstain from taking sides on certain other specific things which *effectively* put them on "his side", given the details of those things. I knew that. I know the dynamic of that group. That's partly why I had to block them too, because I knew that they did not find what happened between us worthy of siding against him. So, when I see one of them out somewhere, it doesn't surprise me or, well, "trigger" used to be an appropriate word but I'm much less effected by his memory now so I don't know if it applies, but it doesn't do that to me when I am reminded that people in that group are still actively in contact with him.

I've long since gotten over my disappointment that they didn't find his behaviour worthy of "breaking up" with him too, and I don't actually feel that abusers need to be left completely isolated and alone. There was an excellent blog post by Shea Emma Fett (whose blog is now taken down but there is a wayback link at http://web.archive.org/web/20160211074648/http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html) about how abusers *need* friends, but they need friends who can hold them accountable, and we need to find a path to reintegrate people back into our communities after accountability has been held. Otherwise, all we do is shove wolves out to find some other flocks to prey on (www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/02/thoughts-community-abuse), only now they're also resentful on top of their entitlement that led them to abuse in the first place.

Please note that "reintegrating back into our communities" is not a statement on what any specific individual victim ought to do with regards to their abuser. I'm not saying that victims can't make their own choices as to who they allow into their lives, but broader communities need to have different standards and tactics (which I am not personally always able to uphold but I still believe in).

So, back to the point - I'm not bothered that my ex has friends, aside from my early disappointment of losing those same people as friends back when it happened. I *am* bothered that they don't seem to be holding him accountable, but the mere act of there existing people who like him isn't what's bothering me when I get that twinge when I see his name @replied to online. That surprise I feel is always "how can you still be friends with him after what he did to other people?", but now I can see that it's more than that. It's that, but ALSO it's "you're supposed to be MY friend!" and it's also "don't you know about this thing?"

The problem is that A) no, they probably don't know that thing because I don't name him when I talk about him publicly. So if they're not one of my in-person, RL friends who I am close enough to confide in about abuse, then there's a good chance that they don't know who I'm referring to when I say "my abusive ex", even though they're also friends with him. And B) because I haven't confided in them, that means that they're not close enough to "take sides", and consequently to take *my* side.

It's true that several of my communities are pretty gung ho on the "always believe the victim" policy right now, but that's much easier to say when all the people in question are internet-friends or famous people or are otherwise not someone one currently thinks of in intimate terms. I'm not even going back on that policy and saying that we shouldn't. But I am saying that personal emotions and social nuances make things complicated in the minds of individuals and it's not fair to tell other people when to stop being friends with someone when there are all these other influences regarding social ties or intimate connections.

So I'm saying that these twinges are a result of a contradiction, of a dissonance in my head between social justice policies and personal expectations. One the one hand, there's the "burn the abuser at the stake!" anger, while on the other hand there's the "hold them accountable and that requires not shunning them out of the community" compassion (that I am still not very good at).  One the one hand there's "how can you still talk to him, I thought you were my friend?" while on the other hand there's "oh, right, we're just acquaintances and you don't know my side of the story".

There's no real point to this. There's no deep lesson to learn from this, no "here's how you can be a better person" morality tale. Just uncovering a little more nuance into my own psyche for my own benefit (hopefully).

* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (Super Tech)
"Our bodies are special so only our (future) husbands should get to see them!"

My body isn't special because no other man has seen it, nor is it tarnished because men have seen it. My body is special because it is part of me and *I* am special. It is the vessel which houses my soul, my essence, me. No man is so powerful that he can remove my specialness just by looking at me.

No matter how many men see or touch my body, it remains special because *I* am special. No matter how many men I share the experience of my body with, every experience with me is special because *I* am special. No one, man especially, is powerful enough to remove my specialness.

Just because I exist, I am special. Just because I *have* existed, I will always *be* special.


It's also why I'm not afraid of polyamory. Nothing my partners do or say or think or feel with other people changes my specialness, and our relationship is special because *we* are special and *we* are in the relationship.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)


If an abuser is a dick 24/7 they'll never actually GET ANYONE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM in order TO abuse them.  Thinking about this logically for .5 seconds would make all the "but he's nice to ME" people realize that OF COURSE HE'S NICE TO *YOU*, HE WAS NICE TO HER TOO BEFORE HE WASN'T


I have this problem with one of my exes. All our old mutual friends are still friends with him because he never did any of his abusive shit *to them*. He never did it where they could see it. His victims were the "real abusers". Not one single person left his friendship over his abuse who wasn't already on the victims' side before the abuse was revealed. Not one. It still throws me for a loop when I see people @reply him on social media or when I run into people I used to care about who are still connected to him (who often say that they miss me when we meet in this manner).

Hell, even *I* tried to defend him at first. It took him turning his tactics on me before I could finally see what his victims were saying was true.  He's charming and endearing and so harmless-seeming because he's not attempting to control everyone he meets.  Everyone loves him.  Except those he has harmed.

I just can't trust people who try to play the "neutral party" with abusers anymore, even though I was one of them and even though I adamantly believe a person who has harmed can still redeem themselves if they show a willingness to be held accountable (and I have put my money where my mouth is and given some people a chance when they showed evidence of accountability).

Consequently I remain apart from my old communities because too many people are willing to throw their hands up, say that they weren't there so they don't know and won't "take sides", and continue to socialize with certain people because Zeus forbid they give up access to parties or events in order to take a stance and not implicitly condone or support abusers' unwillingness to be held accountable for their actions.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I had been posting about the Stanford rape case for a few days, and rather than fill up my blog or Twitter feed (which auto-tweets each of these blog posts as I make them) with all the posts I blew up my Facebook with, I'm going to just put them all in a single post, and I'll even put the meat of them behind a cut for the 2 of you who still read LJ like a social media feed.

Here goes... )


If you want to do something and you don't live in Santa Clara county to sign the actual recall petition being launched by a Stanford professor this week, fill out this form and mail it in to file a judicial complaint against Aaron Persky for showing bias in according such a light sentence to a fellow Stanford athlete.

http://cjp.ca.gov/res/docs/appendix/complaintform%20fillable.pdf

WHAT TO SAY:
Judge - Aaron Persky
Court - Superior
County - Santa Clara
Name of case & case number - The People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner, Case No. B1577162
Action of judge: (feel free to write in your own words, this is just an example) Appearance of bias toward a particular class: Judge Persky sentenced fellow Stanford athlete to an unusually light sentence of just 6 months, in spite of a unanimous jury verdict on three counts of sexual assault. There were two eyewitnesses to the act. Turner being a swimmer has nothing to do with the severity of his crimes and should not have had any influence on Persky's sentence.
Others present: District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Defense Attorney Mike Armstrong, Brock Allen Turner, Jane Doe.

WHERE TO SEND:
Commission on Judicial Performance
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, CA 94102
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
In this latest installment of "real conversations I have with real people, face to face" -

Them: Well I TRIED to be progressive, but people get so angry! I just don't even want to help anymore!

Us: The only way to move forward is for the more privileged person to recognize and acknowledge that the less privileged people have a reason and a right to be angry. Once we accept that they have a right to be angry, we can stop being afraid of saying the "wrong thing" and making someone angry (because their anger is a given and is valid, even if directed at us in the moment), and then we are better able to listen to what they have to say.

Them: But when they get angry and say hateful things, it HURTS ME!

Us: I understand that and, let me take time out of my educational process here to validate your feelings because, goodness knows no one can ever hear that they're wrong about something without first soothing their ruffled feathers, but if you really want to move towards a more inclusive and tolerant society, it's on US to stop being afraid of their anger and to let them be angry.

Them: But they say such mean things!

Us: Yes, but the first step is in accepting their anger.

Them: But I can't even TALK to them because they're so angry! They need to stop being angry so we can have a calm and rational dialog!

Us: No, as the group with the more privilege, it's OUR job to let them be angry and to listen to what's BEHIND the anger.

Them: Well I can't even hear anything but the hateful angry stuff they say. *I* didn't do anything to them! I was trying to help and they just shut it all down by getting so angry!

Us: No, the people who aren't acknowledging and accepting their anger are the ones who are shutting everything down. The first step is on us, to give them the space to be angry.

Them: but... anger! My feels!

Social Justice seems to be little more than an ongoing exercise in circular arguments.

‪#‎SJW‬ ‪#‎privilege‬ ‪#‎WhiteFragility‬ ‪#‎IKnowISteppedOnYourToeAfterSomeoneElseShotYourFootButWhyYouGottaYellAtMeForIt‬?
joreth: (Super Tech)
Some article somewhere recommended that if I liked some TV show that I do happen to like (and I forget which one), I ought to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from Australia. Then, after I watched a mini-series about an all-black jazz band in England during the 1920s, Netflix also recommended that I check out several other "historical" epic movies and TV shows, and included among them was Miss Fisher. So I did. And I'm loving it so far.

The article billed the show as a "feminist Sherlock Holmes" whose intelligence and civilian meddling solved crimes and who liked music, partying, breaking social norms, liquor, and sex, especially without monogamy. How could I not be interested in that?

In addition, as I learned from the first handful of episodes, she has no interest in religion (although they have not established whether she actually believes in anything supernatural, her lack of religiosity is established through snarky throwaway comments she makes here and there without focusing on her beliefs), strongly dislikes being around children (although will tolerate and even love certain specific children), is intentionally unmarried and plans to remain so, and also has sympathies for the working class (she is titled) and the alternatively gendered / oriented.

Episodes start right out of the gate tackling issues of abortion, Communism, rape, poverty, class warfare, religious corruption, drug addiction, homosexuality, and sexual freedom.

I wouldn't call her a "lady Sherlock Holmes", because he was a narcissistic, addicted genius who had little to no connection or empathy with other people. Miss Fisher is not a genius, she's just really smart and well educated. She's not narcissistic although she is confident and moves through life expecting things to go her way and people to listen to her. She very strongly connects with and has empathy for other people and that's what keeps drawing her into the various cases she gets entangled with.

The other characters at first seem to fall into certain tropes, such as the naive young constable who assists the more jaded and older detective, and the very naive and "pure" companion to Miss Fisher, along with her unflappable butler and her gritty working class henchmen, but over the course of the first season, those characters turn out to have their own depths of character and they grow along with their experiences. In particular, I really like how the lady's companion character is young, sweet, and almost annoyingly innocent yet turns out to be feminine and proper and also clever and courageous in her own way. She repeatedly steps up to the plate with her quick thinking and bravery at each new challenge without really losing that very prim and proper demeanor that characterized her in the first place.

The show is an episodic series of murder mysteries involving a police detective who is pretty good at his job and a civilian with some skills who keeps butting in and solving crimes with unorthodox methods that exacerbates the local law enforcement who are bound by the same law they are trying to uphold whereas she has no qualms about breaking the law for the greater good. That plot may get a bit formulaic, but it's a formula that I happen to enjoy so it isn't interfering with my enjoyment of the show.

It is also well produced, well acted, and the wardrobe is a-mazing! I have all kinds of costuming ideas now because of this show. It lasted for 3 seasons and there is interest in continuing the series but nothing scheduled so far primarily because of the lead actor's schedule, I believe.

So, if anyone is interested in a female-led TV series with complex and nuanced characters and that doesn't apologize for the women having sex, having multiple partners, choosing their partners deliberately, disdaining religion, being in control of their own lives and bodies, being intelligent, and concerning themselves with social justice issues, based on a book written by a woman and produced by two women, you might want to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, available on Netflix in the US, not sure about elsewhere.

"But Phryne [Miss Fisher] is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do." ~ Kerry Greenwood (author)
joreth: (Super Tech)
I'm having mixed feelings about these videos where men have to read actual tweets, comments, emails, etc. that women get.

First, too many men still don't believe us that it happens, or that it happens as often, or that the solution is to "just block / ignore it". It's really easy to say that when you aren't forced to sit there and read them all, out loud, in front of other people who can hear you. It's easy to say that when the quality of the criticisms that one gets differs significantly in scope and tone. It's easy to tell people to grow a thicker skin when you aren't living in the other person's skin.

Second, even when men acknowledge that there's a problem, and even when they acknowledge the scope of it, they are *still not the targets* and they can turn off their caring about it whenever they want to. Most men I know who care about this stuff *don't* generally, deliberately ignore the problem when it suits them. The point is that they don't *have* to care about the problem. They can go about their day not thinking about it, maybe even not being reminded about it for several days in a row.

I have that same problem as a white-passing person regarding racism. I can immerse myself in issues of race, but if I ever get overwhelmed by it, I can shut off Facebook and not read my activist friends' posts for a while because *I don't live in that reality 24/7*. There isn't a solution to this, as far as I know. It's just one of several feelings I have on the subject.

Third, I'm grateful for all the attempts to make men understand the breadth of the problem, but most of these attempts re-centers the issue around the feelings of men. Like, when they read tweets directed at a particular woman and she's sitting right there, they get really uncomfortable (as they should). They understand just how horrific those tweets are because they struggle to read them aloud, many even trying to get out of reading them further. I get that often this is the only first step available to people. I get that many men simply cannot conceptualize what's wrong with rape jokes, for instance, until they imagine someone making a rape joke about or to their daughter or until they remove the safety of anonymity.

But one of the points of those videos is for other men to see them and to empathize with the shame of having that woman watching them say those words - words that aren't even their own words. It's related to that saying that women are afraid of being murdered but men are afraid of being rejected - the shame and embarrassment of saying such terrible things is part of their pain.

Many of these men end up apologizing on behalf of other men, and we get the ‪#‎NotAllMen‬ because generally decent people don't want to be associated with those assholes. It *hurts* them to think that the woman who they are insulting to her face might possibly lump him in with Them. And sometimes, that feeling, that fear of being lumped in overwhelms them and interferes with their ability to actually empathize with the victims or do something actively to combat the problem because they get sidetracked in defending the idea that some of them are not like the rest of them. This is not helpful. Simply the act of admitting there is a systemic, endemic problem automatically sets a man apart from the rest. Their virtue does not need to be defended when they align themselves with the victim. That. Is. What. Makes. Them. The. Good. Guys.

I get that empathy is not usually gained in large leaps but by small steps. So, for that I'm grateful that there are campaigns out there trying to humanize women by associating the entire demographic with an individual whom a man knows. But I'm still upset that a woman's worth is ignored as a default by some unless that man can associate her with an individual first and she isn't granted human status until he builds some kind of connection with her (this goes for pretty much all bigotry - people tend to hold bigoted ideas that they were taught and can only break them down if they know an individual in that class and they can't just afford them human status simply because they exist). Again, I don't have a solution to this problem, it's just one of my feelings about the problem.

Fourth, the comments that the men are forced to read out loud are just *eh*. Like, some are not nearly as bad as stuff I've gotten, but all of them including the really bad ones are just so ... common. I'm upset that I'm so blasé about graphic depictions of torture simply because I've already heard it all before and I'm upset that these men are shocked and horrified hearing them for the first time. I'm bothered that they have the luxury of feeling ashamed and appalled because so many women online already *have* developed that "thicker skin" and have seen that shit so often that most of it really does roll off our backs. So, by the time a woman finally loses her shit over something, she's not some delicate little flower who "can't take a joke" or "can't play with the big boys", it's because her threshold is so low for this that most men (i.e. actual decent people) can't even handle reading the crap that she has learned to ignore and it's reasonable for her to have finally flipped her lid by the time she does.

It's like that video of simulating labor pains on people without uteruses - (and I'm going to use "guys", "men", and "women" here to simplify the language because I don't know how to otherwise do it without making it cumbersome) some of these guys think they have a high pain tolerance, until they are forced to experience something equating labor pains. And even then, they get to stop whenever they want. They aren't forced to go through it for 27 hours straight, or 6 times in 7 years. And their labor pains have virtually no chance of killing them or disfiguring them or taking over the rest of their lives after the physical labor pain ends. And yet, countless TV shows and movies show women going through childbirth and write her as this hysterical demon who breathes fire and whose head spins around and shoots lasers out of her eyes like, whoa lady, just have an epidural already and calm down! Because her delicate lady parts just can't handle pain like a man can, amirite?

Anyway, I'm digressing a bit and that's always an invitation for the Missing The Point Pedants to jump in. Point four is that I'm not even surprised or bothered when *I* hear those blog comments read by men because I've seen them all before and that's *a problem*, whereas men get to feel bad for themselves for feeling so awful having been exposed to those comments for possibly the first time. Yes, sweetie, you feel icky having read them *pats head*. Wish I still did. I know that's condescending, that's one of the feelings I'm having with these videos.

So ... mixed feelings. I'm pleased to see progress, pleased to see more attempts made to fix society, pleased to see this conversation happening more often and in bigger venues. I'm also saddened and upset and angry that we still need this conversation, and that we still have to be delicate about it, and that we still have to cater to people contributing to the harm in order to make any progress at all.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

So I find it interesting that only a portion of my posts get multiple shares. If I'm extremely lucky, the number of shares gets to the 2 digits. Like I said, I'm fine with that because I'm not in this for the numbers, I'm in this to be available to those who want my words and that's it.

But the really interesting part isn't that I only get a handful of shares every now and then. No, the interesting part is that the more angry I get, and the more cuss words I use, the higher my shares go. And the post that I made that starts right out of the gate with cussing and rage? Yeah, over 1,300 shares so far.

So, to those people who think that a message will go further if it's nicer, fuck you. To those people who like the sentiment of an activist, but not the anger, fuck you too. The anger is PART of the sentiment. Even people who were embarrassed by the cussing and preemptively apologized for it in their shares, they still shared it because it was *important*, because it said something that people felt needed to be said.

I know that I'm not going to accomplish very much sitting here at my computer and making Facebook posts. That's why I vote and why I sign reputable petitions and why I contact elected officials. But what I *can* do from my computer is provide people with a voice. I will express that rage and that sadness and that horror that people are feeling even when some people wish I would just shut up and stop causing a ruckus, because I can afford to. I will express anger so that people know they're not alone in their passion, and I will share words for those who need to borrow some.

I don't have very much to give, but I do have my emotions and my words. Those include swear words, ugly words, harsh words, because sometimes, those are the only words appropriate for the depth and the intensity of the emotions they represent. There's a reason why my most angry, most cuss-filled posts get the most shares - they reflect what people are feeling. You can't separate the "bad words" from the emotions. They are the expression of those emotions.

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
www.xojane.com/sex/dating-a-social-justice-warrior-made-me-more-vulnerable-to-abuse

"I know that he's going to convince himself that everything that has happened between us was OK and that he is a good guy. He's going to pursue other women with his enlightened talk about feminism, polyamory, kink, and consent."

"Meanwhile, the person I left is sad that our "relationship failed" and will use my story to gain the sympathy and trust of women he can do this to again"


My ex was not this person. He did different things. He didn't do those things to me, he did them to someone else. When he tried to do his usual thing to me, I didn't react the same way he was used to women reacting so he dumped me instead. My anger and rage and confidence has always saved me from prolonged attempts at gaslighting and manipulation.

But these quoted sentiments - I still feel this way as a result of my last brush with an abuser. On paper, everything about him was "right". He was feminist, poly, kinky, secular, he cared so much for other people both those he loved and in the abstract of humanity. I thought he was safe. Instead, it was harder to detect the subtle misogyny that made him believe his female partners were not capable of making good decisions without his input or control, with the assumption that "good decisions" automatically meant "decisions that benefit him and never make him feel icky". Instead, it was harder to see his forms of gaslighting because he sounded so *reasonable* with his talk of science and brain chemistry and independent verification. Instead it was harder to recognize his need for control with his Warrior Woman Worship - a form of objectification of women related to Goddess Worship but specifically aimed at the "strong independent woman" as opposed to more traditional forms of femininity or womanhood in general or, even worse, "female sexual energy" that is more typical with Goddess Worship. How could he feel the need to control his partners if he was so appreciative of women with minds of their own? How does that even work?

I don't have a solution to this. I don't have some kind of checklist or test to weed out abusers who use whatever social constructs are available as manipulation tools. I don't have a way to fix those constructs that we need such as feminism or social justice or even polyamory and kink so that abusers can't warp them for their own use. I just want to add my voice to those saying that we have reasons to be fearful and distrusting. I try very hard not to let my fears shut me down and to begin my relationships with the winning game strategy of "trust first and only defect if they do", but it's hard. Things like this are why.



Just so it's clear to everyone, I'm not asking any questions or trying to understand something or even still processing bad feelings. Anything that ends with a question mark here is rhetorical. I've already done my personal work on my past experiences. This post was made to share with others the dangers and to help illuminate a problem in our communities. The only thing I've seen so far have even a chance of helping is a personal concern and fear of being "that person" and keeping people close who are willing and able to call us on our shit. My ex *thinks* he has people like that in his circle, but his circle has come to me on many occasions to say that they disagree with him but it was too much effort to contradict him, so they don't. So he is unaware this his circle disagrees with him on things, or even that he is viewed as "too much trouble" to disagree with.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Jesus fuck people, get this through your goddamn tiny little minds. Men still can't use the motherfucking women's room in Target. The women's room is still just for women. Some women just happen to not have been born with vaginas and they're sick of being beaten to death for using the bloody men's room.

YOUR DAUGHTERS ARE NOT IN DANGER FROM TRANS WOMEN. They're in danger of being assaulted if they don't look sufficiently "feminine" enough according to someone's arbitrary standards of femininity. They're in danger of men who never needed to stroll into a women's bathroom to assault them. They're in danger of law enforcement and friends and family policing their fucking bathrooms in fear of some mythical man waiting to assault them but who don't believe them when they talk about the times they were actually assaulted.

They're in danger of athletes and students assaulting them right out in public with an audience at college parties in full view of cell phone cameras. They're in danger of dying in childbirth now that abortions are illegal again, and hard to obtain even where they're still technically legal. They're in danger of being trapped for years in abusive relationships because there aren't enough resources to help them escape.

Where was all your goddamn outrage on behalf of the safety of women when Cosby or R. Kelly or Woody Allen or Roman Polanski or Josh Duggar or all the athletes and "good students" with "promising futures" or uber drivers assaulted women and young girls? I couldn't see it behind your protestations of "innocent until proven guilty" and admonishments that if women didn't want to get raped they shouldn't wear the wrong thing or look the wrong way or go basically anywhere (but of course, if they do those things, they'll just get yelled at for not being attractive or available *enough*). I couldn't find your outrage on our behalf when we talk about the real threat and you told us that you "never see it" therefore it couldn't be as bad as we say, or that "not all men" therefore we should just "relax" and stop painting "all men" with the same brush. Ironic, now that you think "men" are allowed in women's bathrooms you say that "men" are going to start following women into said bathrooms in droves to assault them. Which is it, are men a danger to women or "not all men"?

Stop using my safety to fuel your faux outrage. You didn't give a shit about my safety until it conveniently lined up with your own personal disgust and confusion over other people's genitals not matching the dress code assigned to them. I do not give you permission to use me to justify your unhealthy obsession of other people's bodies. What the fuck is wrong with you that you are so fucking interested in everyone's genitals?

If you're actually that concerned for my safety, then fucking listen to me when I tell you what makes me feel unsafe - transportation drivers who don't go through background checks; bigots walking around with assault rifles; young white men walking alone into a school or theater; fraternities; my primary source of health care closing all over the country; white cismen on the internet; the economy; drunk men in nightclubs; other drivers; angry ex-boyfriends; chivalry; overprotective men trying to control my environment "for my own good". These are the things that make me unsafe.

I'm more at risk of catching some kind of illness from bacteria in a public restroom than I am of being assaulted by a "man in a dress".
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I know this is a complex concept to grasp, requiring a Ph.D level of education and all, but I'm gonna try to explain it in simple terms anyway: It is possible to give a shit about more than one political or social or civil rights issue at a time, even if one is speaking about only one issue at the moment.

It is possible to care about the militarization of our local law enforcement AND people dying of famine in other countries.

It is possible to care about refugees from war-torn nations AND our own veterans not getting adequate post-war care.

It is possible to care about black people being murdered for petty or no crimes AND about the safety of our police officers on the job.

It is possible to care about the harassment, assault, and rape of non-men in our culture and how our politicians enforce and legitimize it with their completely fallacious laws AND about aggressive nations grandstanding and waving their dicks at us or other countries.

It's possible to care about the words and pictures written on government objects like money and buildings AND about our children's education.

It is possible to care about celebrities - who they're marrying, what they're wearing, which ones are dying - AND about the economy.

It is possible to care about street harassment in the US AND genital mutilation / acid attacks / women being stoned to death in other countries.

It is possible to care about and invest in the latest movies / sporting events / books / TV shows to come out AND about cancer.

If you are tempted to tell people that they should stop caring about something they do care about because you think that it's both frivolous and interfering with their ability to care about something you think is important, I'm gonna throw your advice right back at you and tell you to stop wasting your time complaining about what other people care about and get off your ass and actually DO something about those issues YOU think are so important because being concerned with other people's interests is, apparently, interfering with your own ability to care about the important things.

While you're busy whining on social media about how people aren't paying attention to whatever pet issue has your ire up, what you're NOT doing is raising money for that issue, or writing to your elected officials about that issue, or getting a science degree to solve that issue, or putting your life on the line to fix that issue.

By all means, post about the issues you think are important to get people to pay attention to them. Be upset about your issues not getting enough attention. Just don't mistake other people's interest in something that you *don't* care about as an inability to care about other things. It could be that YOU are the one lacking in the information or education or perspective to understand why THEIR topic is also important.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/04/04/one-penis-policies/

I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".

It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.

This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.

Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.

BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").

I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.

He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.

I was wrong.

Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he* had a right to control access to *her* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.

There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).

But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!

Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.

So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/03/17/you-dont-have-to-love-your-body/

"I realized that most days I didn’t love my body—I didn’t anything my body."

A while ago, I was talking with a friend of mine about my ridiculously high self esteem. She pointed out that most people, including herself for a while, think that high self esteem is thinking that you're the shit - that you're awesome and wonderful and that you love yourself.

But that's not true. She said that she learned that high self esteem is about SEEING yourself, honestly and authentically, and accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all. And that's why I have high self esteem - not because I think I'm awesome, but because I know what all my flaws are and I accept myself. That's how I love other people too.

Whenever I make a complaint, or more likely an observation, about my body, people rush in to give me a compliment like they're trying to console me. I have pudge around my waistline that I'd like to get rid of - oh, you do not! You look great! Fine, but that's not what I said. I made an observable fact and expressed a goal that I could accomplish if I really wanted to. I didn't say I was *upset* about the pudge around my waist, just that it existed.

My body gives me labor pains every month, and tendons so short that I can't touch my toes without bending my knees, and excruciating lower back pain and a chronic cough and occasional migraines and crooked teeth and crooked toes. Some days I really hate my body.

When I dance, or climb, or push road cases, I can feel every muscle in my body. I feel them stretch and flex. I'm aware of my limbs all the way down to the tips. I'm aware of each muscle group and how they interact with each other. I'm aware of my skeletal system and my circulatory system working in tandem. Some days I really love my body.

But most of the time, I don't anything my body unless it's actively telling me something. It's a tool to help me interact with the world. It does some things well and some things not so well. It just is. This is why I have such a problem with our whole cultural focus on gender - I don't really think about my gender at all except when it's brought to my attention (and that happens far more often than is relevant, as evidenced by my rants about it). I don't see myself as having a gender at all, except in certain contexts, which is why I have such trouble picking one. Even genderfluid and other ambivalent terms don't feel right to me because it still requires me to *be* something, when, in my head, it's nothing until it's relevant. And then, when it's relevant, I have a gender, but not any other time.

"Nobody tells you that your only options for car ownership are to drive around ashamed that your car isn’t pretty enough, or spending all day talking about how great your car is because fuck the haters. And just like your car, you do own your body."

My body just is. It has good points and bad points, and I'm allowed to decide what those good points and bad points are because it's my body and only my opinion of it matters. I'm pleased that my lovers are pleased with my body, but ultimately it's my opinion that matters because it's my body, not theirs. I'm not fishing for compliments when I either complain about my body or show it off. I'm just experiencing it.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
So ... just FYI, it's possible to defend a person's right to say no while still acknowledging that their *reasons* for saying no stem from internalized cultural bigotry.

Like, they totally have that right to say no to sex with anyone at any time and for any reason. If I ever saw, say, a black person yell "you HAVE to have sex with me, otherwise you're racist!", I'd totally rip them a new one.

But it's also possible for a person to not want to have sex with a particular marginalized demographic (note: not an individual in that demographic, but the entire demographic) *because* the culture of bigotry that they grew up in affected their preferences and tastes as they developed into the adult sexual being that they are today.

Denying that we are products of our culture, that we don't develop in a vacuum, and that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to tease out exactly what parts of us are "nature" and what parts of us are "nurture" (save the false binary comments, I'm making a point here), are contributing factors to exactly that sort of cultural bigotry that usually ends up raising this exact issue.

Maybe if we could learn to accept that people are contradictions, that no one is a Good Person (TM) or a Bad Person (TM), and that we all do both good and harmful shit to people, maybe we could start admitting that bigotry influences us instead of defending ourselves as if our very integrity depended on never ever having a bad thought or bad motivation ever ever, like, ever, and then we could finally get on the road to moving past it.

Also, P.S. - "moving past it" doesn't mean "and now you have to start having sex with people you don't want to".
joreth: (BDSM)
I don't have time for a full book review, but if you liked 50 Shades of Grey, then read The Training of Eileen series. If you hated 50 Shades because of its abuse romanticism but like female sub fantasy porn, read The Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli (on Amazon and Symtoys). It's literally the 50 Shades plot (rich man takes naive young woman to wife & trains her as his sex slave) without the, y'know, abuse. There are *so many* books with this exact same plot and no abuse that exist, this is just one that I happened to come across that I enjoyed reading.

BECAUSE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.

YES EVEN WITH THE SPANKING AND PUNISHMENTS AND SHAME THERE IS STILL A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.


Throughout the series, we are given tantalizing hints and outright evidence that the sub *wants* to be trained as a sex slave, she just doesn't know it yet. This is not the misogynistic fantasy that all women want their husbands to dominate them, this is a genuine interest in submission that a more experienced Dom recognizes and indulges because A) he wants to; and B) she wants him to and he wants to provide a safe place for her unrealized fantasies. It's that part B that makes it not abuse and not misogynistic.

There is no "you will be my sex slave because I am damaged and only damaged people like hitting their lovers." There is no "you will be my sex slave because I'm the man and I will stalk you into submission." There is no "I am rich therefore my coercion is charming and above the law." There is no "ooh, look, it's a belt, that's so kinky!" There is no fucking inner goddess doing back flips and hula dancing or subconsciousness whispering anything. And there is no "I'm a good girl who doesn't believe in all this kinky sex stuff but I love you so I will save you from yourself and your damage and make you see the value in vanilla sex" bullshit.

This is good ol' "I like hurting and humiliating and dominating people who like to be hurt and humiliated and dominated, and you like being hurt and humiliated and dominated, therefore I will hurt and humiliate and dominate you with actual kinky sex and toys and tools and evil ideas because we both like it" fantasy porn.

Disclaimer: this story is basically heterocentric, which is actually why I'm recommending it. 50 Shades was wildly popular because there is something in the fantasy of a young, innocent girl being dominated by a more experienced man that speaks to a lot of people. I want to provide an alternative to that series by offering a story that has, basically, the same plot to appeal to the same people who liked 50 Shades, so that they can see the difference between a healthy D/s relationship *even under fantasy conditions* vs. an abusive one.

I'm sure there are plenty of books with more diversity, more queer-focus, more all kinds of things that are worth promoting. Perhaps even more important to promote. But I'm making a very particular point with this promotion - that for all the millions of people who got something out of 50 Shades, there's nothing wrong with you having that kind of fantasy, just that there are healthier ways to express it and here is one better way.

Most of the anti-50 Shades reviews I read are from people who are not actually into kink, so they have to make a bunch of disclaimers about how "kink isn't bad, even though I don't get it". But when they're not into kink themselves, it makes it difficult to explain to similarly-new-to-kink readers why 50 Shades is bad but they're totally not kink-shaming, no really, they're not, they just don't get it but their bestie who is a pro-Domme promises that there's a difference.

So I'm here to say, as someone who is definitely into some pretty disturbing kinky shit (although still pretty "vanilla" compared to my kinky friends), I really, truly am not kink-shaming and it really is OK to fantasize about D/s even when it's heterocentric male Dom / female sub and even when it's "she just doesn't know she likes being dominated yet but this handsome wealthy man will show her what she likes", but that 50 Shades DOES NOT GET THIS FANTASY RIGHT. It romanticizes abuse, and there is a difference. Here is an example that is not abusive, and yet it's still fantasy (i.e. people never have bowel problems or headaches or weight issues or disabilities when it's inconvenient for the story) to indulge in. Porn does not have to be so realistic that it's a turn-off in order to be respectful. You can still have fantastic elements that wouldn't be appropriate in real life (as the defenders of 50 Shades argue) and yet still not romanticize abuse or misogyny (the good girl will save the damaged man with her love myth).
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I'm getting awfully good at recognizing people who don't value consent from tangentially related warning signs.

Almost every nightclub I go to (usually that has alcohol - can't say as I've ever been in a nightclub without alcohol, and this never happens in ballroom dance parties, with or without alcohol) has that one lady. She's always drunk, she's always dancing off-beat, and she walks around the edge of the dance floor gesturing to everyone to get them to join her on the floor.

This, by itself, irks me in a way that any individual person approaching me to ask *me* to dance does not. I am flattered and I appreciate individuals asking me, in particular, to dance, even when I don't want to dance with them. It's what happens after they ask me that determines my final reaction to their request. But this action of both hands out, palms up, waving literally everyone in the club to join her on the floor really irritates me for reasons I never bothered to unpack. So I never accept. Even when I'm *already dancing* on the floor, I do not join this person.

But most people do. They're at a nightclub. They're often there to dance. If they're not there to dance, they're back at the bar or at a table, away from the floor, so she can't really see them through her alcohol-induced fog anyway. So most people accept her invitation and go out to the floor, including people who would rather not, but who feel awkward about rejecting her. It's not such a big deal, right? They *are* there to dance, after all. She's just trying to be friendly, and she's a little drunk, so we can give her some leeway, yes?

No. This person is never able to tell where the boundaries are, and she always crosses them. Without fail, this person will come back to me at least once more, usually twice. The final time, she will actually physically put her hands on me and try to pull me out on the floor. The last time someone did that, I yelled over the music not to touch me and she asked why, so I told her that I was armed. She got offended at *me* for "escalating".

Don't fucking touch me without my permission. That is a consent violation. I don't care what gender you are, you do not have permission to touch me until I grant it. Now that we've convinced ourselves that women are these helpless, fragile, delicate little things, it makes it possible to excuse all kinds of violations and abuses because women, apparently, can't violate or abuse anyone. Now that we've convinced ourselves that there are such things as "blurred lines" and that "no means maybe", it makes it possible to excuse all kinds of violations and abuses because, apparently, no one can even tell where the boundaries are anymore (hint: it's before you touch anyone and before you say anything sexual or insulting to anyone and before you look at someone in a sexual way - i.e. while thinking of either sex or power over them - if you haven't received clear, verbal permission to do so).

These things make it possible for *actual* rapists and abusers to push boundaries. Of course not everyone is a rapist (although, judging by the number of people who gleefully admit to rape as long as you don't call it by the r-word, there are more of you out there than it seems), but our culture protects and hides them. It puts the onus on the victims to be "polite", so people accept small boundary violations because they're "not a big deal", the people don't want to "cause a scene", and no one wants to be a "party pooper" when someone is just "trying to have fun".

So, regular people accidentally cross boundaries here and there, because it's more rude for the person whose boundary was just crossed to police that boundary than it was for the person who accidentally crossed it. In that kind of environment, an actual rapist or abuser can "accidentally" cross a boundary to see how easy it is to cross that boundary with that person. They're testing to see what they can get away with. And when their victim is more concerned with being a "bitch" than with enforcing her boundaries, they "accidentally" cross another one.

Baby steps. Small violations. Each one seeming like not a "big deal", especially when the victim has the previous violation to compare it to. "Well, I let him do that, it would be rude not to let him get away with this too." Until suddenly the victim looks up and sees that the rapist or abuser is WAY behind enemy lines and has no idea how they got there or how to get them back on their own side of the fence.

A lady came 'round the dance floor, waving everyone to join her. I declined. Someone next to me responded, but did so with reservations. The lady came back to me a second time and I declined again. The other person, apparently, didn't join this lady to her satisfaction and she assaulted them, grabbing the back of their clothing and actually pulling a fastening off.

Fortunately, the other person was secure enough to reprimand the lady at this point and she wandered off, probably forgetting the whole thing in her alcoholic fugue. But I declined originally because I saw the warning signs and I was put off. As long as everyone acquiesced to her boundary violations, things were fine. She wasn't going to rape anyone, sex wasn't her goal. But she had a goal for what she wanted other people to do, and if anyone did not consent to her goal, she pressed for it. She isn't a Bad Guy, a black-hat villain, she is a product of her culture. Our culture told her that this sort of behaviour was acceptable. You could pooh-pooh her behaviour away because she was obviously drunk, but being drunk and then violating consent is still a part of our culture - still something that our culture teaches is acceptable. Our culture says that everything about this situation is No Big Deal. Which means that someone who really is a Big Deal has a place to hide as long as he makes his Deal a series of little deals first. This lady does not value consent because our culture told her consent is not valuable. And someone always ends up getting assaulted when one does not value consent.

I saw the warning signs. Sometimes I hate being right about people.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Consent means, when someone doesn't want you to do something to their body, you don't do it. No matter what.

That's it. That's all it means.

A slightly more sophisticated view of consent means that you have to assume, by default, that they don't want you to do that thing unless and until they tell you otherwise in a clear way. If they haven't used their words, and you live in fear of "buyer's remorse" because you don't understand this shit, then get a verbal consent before and during.

That's it.

GUYS, THAT'S FUCKING IT.

This is preschool level stuff.

There's more advanced stuff dealing with consent of emotions and mind, but for fuck's sake, just start with the lesson that a 4-year old can grasp before y'all confuse them with your sense of entitlement. Just get this lesson down pat. I promise, consent really is this simple.

"But what if she's wearing..." NOPE
"But what if she promised..." NOPE
"But what if there's this vibe..." NOPE
"But what if she's on..." NOPE
"But what if I did ..." NOPE
"But what if I paid..." NOPE
"But what if ..." NOPE

No matter what. As soon as there is a "no", you don't have consent. If you haven't gotten some kind of clear "yes", assume it's a "no". If any of this is confusing or you can come up with "but what if...", then assume that anything other than a verbal "yes" is not a "clear yes" and get confirmation in addition to her "body language" or whatever bullshit you think you can "read" that says "yes" to you.

I can make up a flowchart cheat-sheet that will fit in your wallet to take with you every time you leave the house if this one 3-step rule is too hard to memorize.
joreth: (Super Tech)
www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a28027/when-i-stopped-cutting-my-hair-i-learned-how-men-treat-women-on-american-roads/

I was at Gasparilla one year (an official excuse for the city of Tampa to get roaring drunk in pirate garb), watching the parade. I was up against the barricades, as close to the parade as you could get without actually being in it. Some dude was, well, apparently he was attempting to slam dance next to me. I have no idea why - there wasn't any music appropriate for that and no one else was interested in joining in.

So he was throwing himself around the crowd in that mosh pit way, getting a larger and larger circle as people tried to avoid him. But not me. I had a fucking awesome place to see the parade and it was my first Gasparilla goddammit, I was gonna hold my ground.

So he slammed into me one more time and I pushed him back. He stopped, puffed up his tiny chest, and started cussing at me. So I turned to face him and started cussing back. So he said something to the effect of "you better stop saying 'fuck off', bitch, or I'm gonna hit your boyfriend". The "boyfriend" in question was a tall, gangly, computer nerd I had been dating who was standing behind me and desperately trying to hide behind my much shorter frame.

So I looked the dude in the eye and said, slowly, clearly, and loudly, "Fuck. Off."

I could hear my boyfriend whispering to just let it go, we'll move somewhere else and tugging on my sleeve, but I didn't break eye contact. The dude repeated himself "go on, say it one more time, and I'm gonna fucking hit your boyfriend."

"Fuck. Off."

"Bitch keep saying it, I dare you.

"Fuck. Off."

And on it continued. Notice how he never did actually take a swing at my boyfriend, nor did he address the guy in any way. He focused his entire attention on me, trying to intimidate me. But I don't intimidate, mainly because adrenaline makes me stupid sometimes.

Eventually, he got tired of repeating himself and not seeing the reaction he wanted, so he turned away and melted into the crowd, throwing gendered slurs over his shoulder the whole time. I watched the crowd close up around him, all eager for a front row spot to see the rest of the parade that he had been hogging, and I went back to the parade.

My boyfriend was all kinds of freaked out and worried aloud at what might have happened had the dude made good on his threat because he'd never been in a fight in his life and had no interest to see what it was like.

I said, "don't worry, sweetie, he'd have to go through me first."

I'd like to say this is the only time something like this has happened, but it's not. I have several such encounters of guys completely losing their shit at me, either to back down when a guy came to my defense or to exclusively direct their shit at me instead of the men around me, any of whom could have been the culprit for whatever Angry Dude was mad about.

I've also been fortunate enough to have several guys with me when these sorts of things happen who, when Angry Dude said something about "control your woman" or "you gonna stand up for her or what?", respond "nah, dude, she's scarier than me, you're much worse off dealing with her," who then sit back and, by their confidence in me, show the dude he's in the wrong. That often diffuses situations better than my guys jumping in the fray.

Now, if any of them ever *actually* took a swing at me and I had guy friends (or any friends, for that matter) nearby, I'd very much appreciate some physical assistance. But usually just their presence scares off Angry Dude as it does in this article, or if he's too amped up to back down, their amusement and willingness to let me fly off the handle confuses Angry Dude and makes him wonder what kind of mess he's gotten himself into and he'll wander off shouting slurs rather than escalate to violence.
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://feministing.com/2016/02/01/on-reclaiming-and-revisiting-my-masculinity/

This is something I feel very keenly. I don't quite fit in anywhere. I'm Latina, so I don't belong with white people ("even a drop"), yet I was raised by my white dad in a white neighborhood and a white school so I don't really have any strong connection to my Mexican heritage, and I don't have the accent, and I don't "look" Mexican so I don't really belong in Hispanic cultures either.

I identify currently as "tomboy". As a kid, that was the label applied to me and I felt that it fit. I didn't want to be a boy, necessarily. As a child, I had none of the biological issues I have today being female, and I have no body dysphoria. I don't feel that I'm in the wrong body or the wrong skin. The housing fits fine. It's the definitions that don't fit. But, as a "tomboy", everything I did was excused or explained or accepted. She doesn't like dresses? Oh, she's a tomboy. She likes climbing trees? Oh, she's a tomboy. She doesn't like dolls? Oh, she's a tomboy.

As an adult discovering my sexuality, that's where I got confused. Girls are supposed to "outgrow" being a tomboy, so when they don't, it must mean that they're really "boys". Which means lesbian, of course. Once I hit puberty, if I still don't like dresses or dolls and I still like climbing trees, then I must also like girls, y'know, "in that way".

Except I don't. So, OK, queerness is getting a little more sophisticated since I was a kid, with more labels and more orientations and more gender expressions, so ... she doesn't like dresses or dolls or makeup, but she also doesn't like girls, she must be a guy trapped in a girl's body, i.e. trans.

And that kinda fits. It fits just well enough that I do occasionally identify as a "gay man in a woman's body". But it's also not quite right. Because I also don't fit any stereotype of gay man, other than loves to give head, and I don't really fit into gay male culture. Sometimes I'm flamboyant drag queen, but I'm not really that either because, although I do wear dresses as costumes and learned all my makeup techniques from drag tutorials, I'm really not "big" enough, showy enough. Sometimes I'm effeminate boi because of the dresses but low flamboyancy, but I'm not that either because I cuss like a sailor and wear combat boots and climb truss and I'm way too harsh to be "effeminate". So, sometimes I'm Normal Dude, except I also like dresses now and I definitely move in a soft, effeminate way and I'm quiet and unassuming when I'm not being loud and boisterous and obnoxious.

I made the observation a few years ago that, if we didn't have strict gender roles, would I even identify anywhere on the queer spectrum? Would I actually have any problems just identifying as "woman" if we had no assumptions for what "woman" means? My entire identity is based on cultural constructs. I'm not saying that everyone's identity is, but I really only consider my own gender when I'm faced with questions of gender identity. Otherwise, I have no idea what my gender is - I just know that it's not what other people assume it is.

So, I'm back to tomboy as my gender identity because that one doesn't have any associations with "wrong" genitals. It excuses all my "guy" traits, because I'm a tomboy, but when I break out of the butch stereotype, it still allows for girlie things because tomboys are still "girls".

But I've also grown really attached to the masculine of center identity that I discovered a few years ago. That also seems to fit really well because, like "tomboy", it still assumes "female biology", it doesn't require me to stick with a rigid "guy" code like "butch" can (basically viewed as a girl who has to live up to guy rules), but it accommodates all those "guy" things that make me who I am - fondness for power tools and getting dirty and being physical and cussing and being aggressive and confident etc.

Yes, I know that everything I'm talking about is other people's perceptions of me, and that my own gender identity should be whatever I want to make of it. But that's kinda the point - if other people didn't have perceptions of me based on either my biology or my appearance, then I won't be arsed to have a gender identity at all. *I* get that someone can be "butch" and still like the color pink, for example. It's other people's expectations of me as a person based on their perception of my gender identity that's causing all the problems for me and forcing me to analyze and introspect and consider and cogitate on what my gender identity is and what the labels mean.

And before anyone says "fuck labels, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, just be you", I've already had that argument. Labels are important for a variety of reasons and I'm convinced that the people who say "we don't need no stinkin' labels" are people with an enormous amount of privilege in that area to not need them. The culture caters to ignoring, excusing, or overlooking whatever it is you're doing so that it doesn't challenge you on the labels you use and it doesn't force you to fit into whatever labels it applies to you from the outside.

Not all of us have that luxury. So I continue to look at labels, at what they mean to me and at what other people hear when I say the label, at how society treats people with that label, and at who else is attracted to that label for finding my communities of like-minded people.

Right now, "woman" is the label I use when I'm using my feminist lens because "woman" is the experience that the world imposes on me, and "tomboy" and "masculine of center" is what I use to describe my behaviour, my preferences, and my attire. I consider myself cis-gender because I don't have any dysphoria over biological sex that I was assigned, but I do not consider myself a "woman" outside of feminist ranting because I think that the external social definitions for "woman" do not fit me. I consider myself "straight" because of being cis-gender and being sexually attracted to exclusively a narrow selection of biologically male humans.

I have a lot of "I am X, except when I do Y" labels, which makes me feel like this article, that many spaces don't include me. Most of the time, I'm fine being the privileged ally - I don't need queer spaces to make room for me as the straight cis-woman, for example. But it does mean that there aren't really any places for the straight cis-woman who doesn't really think of herself as a "woman" and has to stare blankly at her more mainstream woman friends when they talk about "girl" stuff and I get confused about why on earth they would like that or do that or think like that and they wrinkle their noses at my dirty cargo pants when I sit backwards on a chair and talk about fucking some dude just because he's pretty as long as he doesn't open his mouth to say something that would ruin it for me.

I am X, except when I'm not. And there isn't a space for me.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
[Image of text: "Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men.  You're supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that's not how it works.  The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt.  Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt.  They think you don't have a place on the road at all.  And if you do get hurt by a car, everyone makes excuses that it's your fault."] - photo via Feminists United

I've never been hit by a car or run off the road while cycling. That doesn't mean it's not a real or constant threat or that it doesn't happen often enough to be a problem even if I've never personally experienced it.

Unlike being a cyclist, though, I can't just choose to switch to cars if I want to / have enough money to. And I have been assaulted by men *because* they were male and I am female. I have been assaulted, not because someone was poor and wanted my money, or because they thought I was rude to them and wanted to teach me a lesson, but because they believed that having a penis granted them rights to my body solely on the basis that they believed my body houses the receptacle for their penises, and some assaults were because my rejection of their entitlement angered them and they believed they had a right to be angry about my rejection and a right to respond to my rejection.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I did not have permanent scarring either physically or emotionally. I'm indignant, sure, and angry at the injustice, but otherwise I got off pretty lucky, considering how often assault of some sort has happened to me.

Other people are not so lucky. They are the broken cycles with the wheel torn off and rolling down the street. Because they are cyclists in a city made for cars, and the odds are that many, but not all, will end up that way because the city caters to the cars.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2016/02/the-one-percent-difference/

"My response is that if you think something like this is a minor difference of opinion – that we can differ on this point, and yet our beliefs can still be 99% similar – then you haven’t understood me at all."

This is the basic disconnect between liberals willing to ban, block, or otherwise cut out someone for a "difference of opinion" and conservatives who get offended at the idea that having a "difference if opinion" is a blockable offense.

It's not that we agree on 99% of everything except this one thing. It's that the *weight* of this one thing is way more than 1%, and that the foundations of thought and philosophy that lead us down our respective roads to our "difference of opinion" are actually radically different, to enable us to have reached this "difference of opinion" in the first place.

If you think we agree on a lot except this one little thing like human rights and equality, then you really don't understand me at all.

From the comments of my FB feed, where I originally posted this link, someone suggested that it was sort of like a meme of Michael Shermer saying "In the past 10,000 years, humans have devised roughly 100,000 religions based on roughly 2,500 gods.  So the only difference between myself and the believers is that I am sceptical of 2,500 gods whereas they are sceptical of 2,499 gods.  We are only one god away from total agreement."

So I responded, "Kinda, yeah. Atheists feel that one-god-difference is a big difference, big enough to create a movement out of it. I feel that human rights is a big difference, big enough to make a fuss over it."  We have "singular" differences of opinion big enough to cause huge rifts all the time.  Because it's not a simple arithmetic problem where the difference is 1.  It's a variable algebra problem, where the difference is 1x, and the value of x can be small or it can be so huge as to approach infinitesimal, and where x is influenced by the value of other variables in the equation.  X doesn't live alone, isolated from the other integers.  As someone else said somewhere, it's not like a difference of opinion on whether or not pistachio ice cream is a tasty dessert.  Sometimes it's a difference of "opinion" on whether or not other people are even human beings.  Skeptics and atheists disagree with believers over "1%" all the time, and we often feel it's important enough to argue about, block, try to change their minds, or write scathing screeds on the internet about constantly.

It's just when straight white cis-male atheists & skeptics are on the receiving end of the weight of one of their value judgements being questioned that suddenly they're all "why can't we just get along?  It's just a single difference of opinion when we agree on everything else!"


As it happens, I think this dismissive, minimizing attitude is exactly the problem. When it comes to sexism in the atheist community, the biggest problem isn’t the relatively small (but noisy and persistent) mob of screeching trolls and harassers. The biggest problem is the much larger bloc of people who don’t engage in such behavior themselves, but are willing to tolerate it, and who think that whether a person is sexist should form at most a very small part of your opinion of them. It’s the people who believe that if a celebrity author or scientist is effective at promoting atheism, that’s all we ought to care about, not anything else they say or do. (You may notice the analogy with the way that moderate religion can protect and enable dangerous fundamentalism.)
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
[Image: tweet screencap that says "If you think sex work is 'selling your body', but athletes, manual laborers aren't, etc. it's a moral hang-up you've got, and that's on you."]

I had this exact argument with an ex, who didn't want his wife to have naked pictures of herself available on the internet (whether she wanted to or not was irrelevant). After pressing him, he pulled the "selling her body" line, to which I responded that I (was at the time) a professional dancer and I worked manual labor which required me to do physical things like climbing and heavy lifting, so how was I *not* selling "my body"?

He had no good answer for it, but he certainly tried very hard to rationalize it, and we ended up arguing in circles for quite a long time that day. He tried to distinguish using one's body *for sex*, to which I pointed out a gradation from "respectable" dancers to "sex" dancers, and at what point is the dancer responsible for the sexual thoughts of the audience for her body, and followed up with "what's wrong with making money from sex anyway?" It was fun to hear someone try to explain what was wrong with making money from sex when STDs weren't on the table (i.e. pictures, lap dances, etc. = no possible STD vector) and when the person arguing against them is non-monogamous so he clearly couldn't use the "sex is special and reserved only for your spouse" line either.

He also tried the "it's degrading" bit, so I reminded him that he once worked in fast food, and various other well-worn responses, including my own "respectable" form of dancing still involved drunk men slobbering over me and needing to wear a fake wedding ring or have a male "manager" attend gigs with us, which still didn't prevent assholes from propositioning me after a performance.  One such memorable and yet entirely common proposition was at 4 in the morning after a performance when the venue was closed for the night and empty except for employees, contractors (like myself), and people associated with the event.  Some drunk dude cornered me to "compliment" me on my dancing, so I plastered my "I am working and can't afford to alienate paying clients or their friends who might hire us again later" smile on my face while he invited me back to his hotel room for what was left of that night.  I held up my "wedding ring", and he came up with the oh-so-brilliant line that my "spouse" need never know about it.  Because, OMG, that never occurred to me!!!  The only thing holding me back from hooking up with drunk strangers after a performance was the thought that I would be obligated to tell my "spouse" about it!  This totes changes things!

I almost never feel degraded when I have casual sex. I haven't tried any kind of sex work, but most of the sex workers I know seem to enjoy their jobs well enough. But I very much feel degraded working minimum wage jobs like retail or waitress jobs, because I take home so little pay for so much physical and emotional labor and the clientele automatically assumes that I'm beneath them, that I'm not worthy of being treated with any dignity or respect because I'm there to "serve" them. I can only imagine how poorly service workers like cleaning services, trash collectors, and landscaping workers are treated. You can't tell me that sex work is "degrading" and "selling your body" in one breath and excuse all those other jobs the next. I don't buy it. I've been there.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Just be honest already. You don't actually want "small government", you want no legal repercussions for your business dealings but you're totally fine with a government big enough to invade every bedroom and every vagina and every poor person's pantry, as well as every country that doesn't provide us with cheap labor and expensive imports that you can profit from.
joreth: (Super Tech)
You people do understand that when black people ask, or even demand, that cops stop shooting unarmed black people and insist that black criminals & suspects be treated at least with the same level of caution and consideration as rich white criminals, when black people criticize police brutality in general or specifically against black people - you do understand that accusing that message of being "anti-cop" is tacitly acknowledging that police brutality and racism is *inherently* a part of being a cop, right?

Those of us demanding the demilitarization of the police force and better treatment of criminals, suspects, and minorities such as people of color or trans folk are actually saying something very positive about law enforcement. We're saying that racism and police brutality are not necessary elements of being law enforcement. We're saying that it is possible for police to do better, because we say that they ought to be held to a higher standard. If we didn't believe it was possible to live up to a higher standard, we wouldn't insist that we try to force them to live up to that higher standard.

But when you claim that a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-cop" (just like a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-men"), you are implicitly stating that "doing better" is opposed to the state of being a cop (or a man). YOU are the ones who believe cops are inherently racist, inherently brutal, because you are telling us that our demands for a more just police force are "anti-cop".

I believe cops can do better. I believe men can do better. I believe we all can do better. That's why I criticize. Resistance to criticism for failing to do better sends a very loud, sad message. You do not believe we can do better because you believe this is the best we can do.

And I hope to all that is good in the universe that you are wrong.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Unlike, apparently, many men, I do not believe that men are children. I believe that men are rational, adult human beings capable of complex thought and logic. I believe that men have it within them the capacity to evaluate basic spatial dynamics by estimating the size of a door, the volume of space their body takes up, and to extrapolate from these calculations the likely outcomes of potential scenarios offered by a door and another human being approaching it, as well as factoring in more subtle nuances such as gender dynamics and positions of privilege to affect the outcome more positively. I also believe that men have the fore-brain skill of grasping abstract thought to understand that the door is just an illustration and a representation of the more important, underlying foundational value that is consideration for those around them and the effects that their actions and presence has on people in their sphere of influence.

I believe that men are able to follow a simple train of logic that leads one down a path of "If [me] = nice, then [X] action is required; but if [X] action is inconvenient then [me] performing [X] = not nice".

I do not believe that men require coddling to protect them from emotions (ours or their own) or to shield them from the consequences of their actions. I criticize men because I believe they are better than they are told they are and are therefore able to improve themselves when they do not live up to their potential. I believe they are *at least* as capable a human being as I am, and therefore they deserve to be treated better than spoiled, fragile children. They deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that I demand for myself, which means that I expect them to behave to a minimum standard of decency and to be held accountable for their fuckups.

I believe that men have, at the very least, the amount of self control that my pet dog had, who was able to sit still with a piece of meat lying in front of him and not go after it just because I told him he couldn't. I believe that men are not less human than a pet, not less able to control themselves, not less able to conform to a set of social guidelines for decorous behaviour in public or in private. I further believe that, if I can see the humanity in men, then they have the ability to see the humanity in women and to understand why women are not the same thing as a piece of meat or a tempting car or a wallet full of cash.

Men do not get special cookies for being the bare minimum of a decent human being, and they do not get a pass for failing to be the bare minimum of a decent human being. If women have the mental facilities to constantly consider the comfort of those around them and to work to ensure everyone else's safety and happiness (as we are expected to be able to do, whether we succeed or not), then I think men are, at the *very least*, able to live up to the standards of women.

I also believe that men should be the ones to be irate at the implications that they are less well-behaved than an animal, less cognitively functional than a child, and less capable of logic, reason, mathematics, physics, emotional control, and housework than women.

And I can't believe that so many men don't see the irony that most men who are not irate at these implications also tend to think that women-associated traits are inferior while men-associated traits and interests are superior and yet they fail at both when compared to women.

‪#‎ThisIsWhyIAmAFeminist‬
joreth: (Super Tech)

This is going to be long, convoluted, and twisty. This is me trying to work out a concept that I have been unsuccessful at elucidating before, using terminology that is new to me that encompasses what I'm trying to get at.

This is the concept of emotional labor. I've been trying to explain for most of my life that women are expected to do all this bullshit work like remember family birthdays and send thank you cards and maintain the family's religious habits and do the dishes and even know the appropriate attire to wear to social functions to tell the husband and kids when they have to wear a suit and tie and when they can wear a polo shirt. I've been trying to explain for my entire life that it's not "no big deal" or just a few extra details or even that it's "what women are good at". Now, I have a term and research to back it up - emotional labor.

I'm told that "men" just don't "see" a dirty house and I know that's bullshit because my own father was the neat freak of our family. He once threw my homework away *on trash night* because I had left it out on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget it, but paper doesn't belong on the table so he threw it out and it was picked up in the morning before I was awake, and my homework was just gone (and my teacher didn't buy my story). It's just that men don't *have* to see a dirty house because the women in their lives will get fed up sooner than they will and the mess will take care of itself, feeding the cycle that the longer they wait, the more likely they won't have to do anything about it. The men don't have to see the dirty house because they're told that, as men, they *won't* see the dirty house, and women are socialized *to* see the dirty house and to have it bother them. So the men wait and the women pick up after them, and the gender roles assert themselves invisibly.

I once refused to do the work anymore. I watched my housemates literally step over a pile of trash *in the living room* rather than throw it away. I had long ago put a trash bin in the living room so that no one even had to get up and walk into the ADJOINING kitchen (it was one big room, no wall or counter or bar or island to separate them) to throw anything away and they still couldn't manage it. They'd toss stuff from the couch, and if it missed the can, they'd leave it there. So I stopped picking it up.

I actually broke up with them and moved out of the house before anything got picked up. And I left the trash there on the floor when I left.

In this same household, the bills stopped getting paid. I got tired of nagging everyone to pay their share. The house went into foreclosure and I moved out before anyone started paying (they actually continued to live there until the house got new owners and they had no choice). They were seriously willing to let the bank foreclose on us before either paying their fucking share or working with me to find a way out of the financial mess we were in (including selling). They just. Stopped. Paying.

Fashion is similar, although with less dire consequences. I'm fully aware of the class issues and history regarding social dress codes, particularly anything "business class" or "higher", but *I'm* the one who pays the consequences if my *partners* don't dress appropriately regardless of the class struggle symbolized by those clothes, so I was schooled at an early age to know what the various dress codes were. Men are *expected* to not know fashion, so women are the ones who get the disapproval if "their men" show up dressed inappropriately. In fact, men are *shamed* if they know too much about fashion (see homophobia and misogyny here). Women whose partners do not dress appropriately are either shamed for not getting them to dress correctly (because it's obviously their fault for failing to dress them like children /sarcasm) or pitied for having chosen men who can't or won't dress themselves properly whereas men are rarely shamed or pitied for a woman who dresses "correctly" when they don't, although they might sometimes get a little shame for not dressing up to a woman's standards. The worst that men get is shame or pity for a woman dressing *above* the appropriate dress code, which means she's "high maintenance", but that's yet another rant. *It doesn't matter* that the dress code system is bullshit to begin with and it doesn't matter if the woman herself is a conscientious objector as I am (overlooking the fact that because of those very class issues, many women don't have the luxury of objecting to fashion standards) or if she actively enjoys fashion for its own sake outside of the class issues also as I do, there are still consequences for women whose male partners don't comply with fashion standards, above and beyond any consequences for each given individual not complying with fashion standards (and you really don't want to get me started on women's fashion standards).

Dates, attire, eating meals, shopping, bill paying, caring for guests, housecleaning - all shit that if I don't take care of it, it doesn't get done. So I just stopped living with people so that I don't have to be responsible for it. I have my own difficulty with all this stuff - my OCD makes doing dishes very difficult, for instance, and if I'm not doing dishes and they're not doing dishes, shit gets pretty nasty. Unless I'm baking, I use disposable, or better yet, cook-in-its-own-container stuff so that I'm not making extra waste and I still don't have to do dishes.

But, even now, when I complain about this, it doesn't sound like it's as big of a deal as it is. Like, it's annoying to always do the dishes, but not worth a panic attack or a breakup. But it only seems like it's not a big deal when it's isolated away from the concept of emotional labor.

It's kind of a strange revelation to learn that I would be much less averse to things like cohabitation and even marriage had I not been subject to so much emotional labor over my life. I wonder, even though I'd likely still be just as independent-minded about things like autonomy, would I even consider myself #solopoly if gender-based emotional labor wasn't a thing?

I used to want to date only partnered men because I got burned by so many cowboys. I wanted them to already have a partner so I knew they wouldn't want to dump me as soon as they got another partner. Not only do I now see the flaw in that logic, I'm also very suspicious of guys who cohabit with women, particularly if they married young. They tend to be the worst I've seen for not just expecting women to shoulder the emotional burden but of being totally unaware that they're doing it.

Like, asshole patriarchal men who are still single (probably because they're assholes about it) make it easy to spot and therefore avoid. They're pretty obvious that they want women to shoulder that burden. But liberal men who champion women's rights but who have never noticed how the rent gets paid on time because they went from mommy's house to a dorm paid by mommy and daddy to wifey's house who paid the rent, did the cooking, picked up the trash they step over, and didn't have to remember anyone's birthday because wifey will remind them when it's important - they're something I've learned the hard way to look out for.

They're the ones I get burned by these days, especially before I had this language of "emotional labor" to express this concept. Before, I might talk about each individual chore or responsibility and get "Of course I can cook my own meals [but won't notice that you gradually start taking over more of the cooking duties because I'll just sit here at the computer until you get hungry enough to cook for us and your empathy and hostess training forces you to cook for both of us instead of just getting food for you]" and "I just don't remember dates, that's just how I am, take it or leave it [and I don't recognize the extra burden put on you to "take it" because I think the matter is just a simple "accept your partner for who he is" equation, so by forcing this binary choice on you, I'll also add pressure on you to choose the "take it" option instead of the "leave it" option by resting unintentionally on patriarchal standards that require women to "stand by your man" and making you look like the shrew trying to "change me" or not be accepting enough if you don't - a particularly guilt-laden punishment in liberal circles who espouse acceptance and tolerance of people's differences]."

See, in liberal circles especially, we tend to embrace this idea of accepting people for who they are and not trying to "change" them. Taken to its extreme, this leads to people who actually have very toxic or damaging habits that no one is allowed to confront or address because we might not be "tolerant" or "accepting" enough. I once dated a guy who was extremely emotionally insecure (although I didn't realize how badly at the time). He felt personally rejected every time I turned my back on him while sleeping. He felt that I was metaphorically and deliberately "turning my back" on him. That the act of facing away from him was *about him*. Of course, it wasn't. I have a bad shoulder and lumbar problems. I can only sleep on one side, especially on his hard mattress on the floor. Sleeping on the bad shoulder seizes it up and sleeping on my back or stomach makes my lower back hurt. So I sleep exclusively curled up on my left side. I also don't like sleeping face-to-face with people. That breathing in my face just bothers me. I don't like it when my cat does it and I don't like it when my partners do it. On top of that, I have some trust issues. Turning my back to someone is a sign of either trust or lack of fear. I have to feel very confident about someone (or about myself) to allow them access to me in a vulnerable position. Added to *that* is the fact that, sexually, my backside is very sensitive and is a secondary erogenous zone. So, in my mind, facing away from my partner not only isn't a negative thing, it's a very, *very* positive thing.

So, this guy got his feelings hurt every time I went to sleep. But, instead of talking to me about it, he kept it to himself until a dozen little, correctable things added all up to one big conflict and he broke up with me over it. During the breakup conversation, he admitted that this was one of the reasons he wanted to breakup. When I expressed my surprise that he never mentioned it before, he said it was because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change for someone else. My turning my back was "just who I am", apparently, and asking for any sort of accommodation, or even asking me to come up with compromises that I would be comfortable with, was intolerant and not accepting of me.  O.o

The BDSM community has a similar problem with "Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's OK". In principle, it sounds like a good idea. It promotes tolerance and empathy and understanding. We don't have to be all alike and we can still get along. But in practice, it ends to work out as a defense for abuse. No one is allowed to say anything negative about another person's sexual proclivities, even if they're harmful and especially if the person in question is a community leader, because that wouldn't be "tolerant". So guys (in general) get away with never having to learn how to use a calendar or run the washing machine because "that's just who I am", and asking them to take on some of their own emotional labor in a hetero relationship would be "intolerant" and "unaccepting" of who they are as a person. When, the reality is that asking for this kind of change is actually *more* respectful of their agency than just mutely taking on the extra burden and not supporting them in taking control of their own life.

I was talking to one friend who found herself recovering from a relationship with an emotionally controlling partner. She's a strong, intelligent, capable, generally secure woman (like me) who nevertheless ended up being controlled and manipulated by someone in extremely subtle and clever ways. No one saw it coming, and no one even saw it happening, until it was too late. So, she asked me one day how she could ever have been talked into giving up so much of herself to this man. How could no one have seen the signs? Neither of us knew or used the phrase "emotional labor" at the time - this was years ago - but she wanted to know how she could have been talked into being responsible for his own emotional landscape. How did it ever get that far? How did none of us see that he made other people shoulder the burden for his emotional care?

This was not something I had thought about before, but sometimes revelations pop out of my mouth without me having consciously considered it, because I see patterns and I connect dots, as I talked about in a FB post that sparked this one. I responded that the reason it had gone so far before anyone recognized the warning signs is because she had been conditioned already to be the one to care for a man. We had both dated men before who had primed us, unintentionally, for exactly the sort of releasing of boundaries that this other man took advantage of. The guys in our past could not care for themselves. One in particular had done the parents-dorm-wife path himself and had never even questioned that life would be managed by the women in his life, mainly because he kept getting involved with women who took their own sense of identity from exactly that role. They *demanded* that role from him, and it suited him, so that's how it was. If someone didn't remind him to eat, he didn't eat. If he finally noticed that he was hungry and there was no food in the kitchen, he didn't correct it by grocery shopping, he bought McDonald's, setting himself up for the same thing to happen the next day because there still wasn't any food in the fridge. He didn't remember anniversaries or dates because he never had to - his female partners controlled his calendar for him and he just showed up when he was told. Although I notice that men in general are terrible at remembering dates like birthdays and anniversaries ... yet they have no problem managing a freelancing schedule that has them going to different cities on different days and different times or part-time jobs with schedules that change at the whim of a boss and not working a set M-F 9-5 job. Some men have secretaries to keep track of client meetings and conference calls and other office type scheduling, but a lot of men, especially freelancers, don't and those also seem to be adequate at managing a calendar. But as soon as they get a girlfriend, it's all "I'm sorry honey, I'm just not good at remembering anniversaries" and "here are some flowers to make up for me forgetting Valentine's Day" and "it's my mother's birthday already? Did you send her a card from us?" Anyway, this partner in question didn't pay attention to fashion requirements because he worked in the tech industry and Steve Jobs brought blue jeans into the office. He didn't even have to cut his own nails or hair because his wife insisted on doing it for him.

My friend had been primed to accept abuse because she, like me, had a long history with man-child partners and a society that says this is acceptable and expected. This past partner who sloughed off the emotional labor onto his female partners, he wasn't abusive. He was loving and considerate and compassionate. He valued the agency of his partners. He is not a bad guy, and he's not even a Nice Guy. He's genuinely a good person who would not *want* to be participating in this system if inequity if he were aware of it. But he *is* participating in this system because no one knew how to make him aware of it - that's how privilege works. The system benefited him so he didn't see that he was benefiting from anything. He dated or married women who embraced the system and considerately let women go who could or would not (rather than abusively making them embrace the system against their wishes). When I dated guys like that, because I didn't have the language to explain any of this, I simply restructured the relationship so that I didn't have to deal with it by not living with him and only seeing him in the capacity where I didn't mind temporarily being "in charge". But even I had simply learned to accept that "men" were just like this, and it was a patronizingly "cute" personality quirk that smart, capable women had to keep the men in their lives fed and clothed. So, with this training in hand, my friend was set up to be taken advantage of by someone who manipulated exactly that training.

You don't want to hurt me, do you? You don't want to leave me when I could hurt myself, do you? Remember your training that says you are responsible for my well-being. If you shirk your responsibility, you are an irresponsible, inconsiderate monster. It's your fault if I get hurt. It's your fault if my life falls apart. You are a compassionate, kind person. You must stay and do what I say, or else your compassion will drive you insane because of how much I am hurting. If you leave, you will not be a kind, compassionate person, and you don't want that, do you?
I'm fortunate in that I'm not particularly bothered by people thinking I'm a cold-hearted bitch. That's not true, I *can* be bothered by it, but if it's applied when I'm doing something I feel strongly that is for my own good and in support of my own agency, that overrules any concern about being considered a bitch. So the "you don't want to hurt me, do you?" form of abuse doesn't work on me. I just raise an eyebrow and point out that what I'm doing is not about hurting them, it's about supporting me and that any harm they do to themselves for failing to care for themselves is on them. Other people, women in particular, don't have this specific defense mechanism. It seems to be internal to me, not something I learned. It can be learned, but usually at great cost and many just don't have the teachers to show them how to learn it.

But I *am* particularly susceptible to ignoring or overlooking abusive tendencies under the "I must be tolerant and accepting" banner, as well as overlooking this whole thing of displacing emotional labor that isn't abusive, per se. I have controlling tendencies myself, and I have overcompensated for them by backing WAY off when someone doesn't change in the way that I think they ought to. So, when I fall in love with a man-child who hands off the burden of emotional labor to his female partners, I don't insist that he take up the slack in his relationships. I just let him pawn it off on his other partners while I back away far enough that he can't hand that burden off to me. I can't make sure they eat their vegetables or pay their rent if I don't live with them or see them often enough to judge their diet or get their bills in the mail, and they can't reasonably expect me to.

They also can't reasonably expect me to assuage their insecurities by controlling my behaviour with regards to other partners if they don't see themselves as "entwined" enough to justify doing so. A cohabiting fluid-bonded partner might feel justified in telling me what kind of sex I can have with someone else, but a long-distance partner might be more willing to deal with it by just wearing a condom with me when we have sex and out-of-sight-out-of-mind keeps him from facing that he'd otherwise be willing to infringe on my autonomy if given the chance. However, I have had some try to justify telling me that he deserved to have a vote in whether and when I took a new partner and which sex acts we were allowed to engage in and at what pace we began engaging in them, even though this partner did not live in the same city, hadn't had sex with me in months, and was currently embroiled in a lot of drama with one of his own partners who I warned would likely cause exactly this sort of trouble but didn't try to enforce a pre-dating veto power that he wanted to give me. He wanted to date her and I didn't see myself as having the right to control his decision about it, although I did give my opinion on it.

He was not content to just give his opinion on my new partner (that I could take or leave) and he wasn't even content to notify me of how my behaviour would affect his own boundaries with me to take into consideration when I made my dating decisions. He wanted voting rights because he had insecurities and was not willing to do the work to eradicate those insecurities. Instead, he fell back on some couple privilege as the pre-existing partner, and palmed off the emotional labor onto his partners, who were required to limit their behaviour until he "got comfortable", at which time *he* would magnanimously declare the behaviour ban lifted. But since it didn't address the underlying issue, he would have to require the same ban the next time, and the next time. Because these bans eventually did get lifted, he offered this as evidence that he was "working" on his issues and making "progress". But the procedure itself never changed - his partners had to limit their behaviour until *he* felt comfortable, and then *he* decided they could remove the limitation. Always, his partners had to carry the burden, not him. He never had to sit with the discomfort himself. Oh, but he would insist that he was uncomfortable! But don't let that fool you like it did me - feeling uncomfortable when your partner does something that you don't like isn't the same thing as feeling uncomfortable by facing *why* your partner's actions make you uncomfortable in the first place. That's a very different sort of discomfort, but easy to confuse.

So, back to the whole pattern recognition thing from the Facebook post that inspired this post (I complained that I can see social patterns that others can't see, and gave emotional labor as an example of one such set of patterns, the entire text of that example is now the beginning of this blog post). The concept of emotional labor as tied up in the feminist movement and patriarchal society and internalized sexism is a dot that I can now use to connect a bunch of other dots - why it's such a big deal to me when men rely on their female partners for domestic labor and upholding social standards, why I tend to back away and structure my relationships more "casually" or less entwined to avoid shouldering that burden, and even more extreme dots like emotional relationship abuse.

If you saw me blow up on Facebook recently about dress codes when I was trying to talk about how men don't know the categories and then some men jumped in to sidetrack the conversation about fashion being tied to classism, this is why. I was bruised and sore about carrying my male partners' emotional labor and feeling the social burden and the consequences for it, while men (those who can most afford to ignore the social burden or consequences for dress codes) were dismissing my complaints and instead choosing to talk about economic class struggles, which, frustratingly, are *part* of the reason why that particular emotional labor is such a heavy load for women, who - all else being equal - are almost always in the lower class than men.

Basically, I was drawing a connection, and I was failing at making myself understood, so I lost my temper as I am wont to do when I get frustrated, and as I am particularly likely to do when someone is "intellectually debating" a topic that affects me very intimately and personally. This idea of emotional labor makes seemingly isolated events like women doing domestic duties or being the sole emotional outlet for men (because men aren't allowed to have emotionally intimate male friends) apparent that they are related to each other. It also shows that these events have more weight than simply doing an extra chore or taking extra time. If all other things in life are exactly equal, having a woman spend an extra 30 minutes doing dishes after dinner doesn't sound like a huge deal, especially if you throw in that the man mows the lawn or something. But add the weight of cultural history and institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy, and those 30 minutes doing the dishes take up more than just the literal minutes of the day in the emotional landscape of the woman's life. Once you factor in that extra weight and see how all these separate activities are connected under the same umbrella, then we see the path light up leading to emotional abuse. It's not the only path, nor is it necessarily the guaranteed destination. But they're connected.

And now I have some language to describe and explain what I'm feeling and those patterns that I can see that no one else seems to see. It will take a few more novel-length blog posts, I'm sure, before I work out some quippy soundbites or before I streamline my ideas based on those take-aways that seem to work for readers most often.

More resources on what Emotional Labor is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it:

joreth: (Misty in Box)
It boggles my mind how many people conflate "I forbid you" - which is a position of authority over another human being that denies their agency - with "I recognize you as an autonomous individual and I have some steep concerns about this thing in your life, what it represents, and how it affects me as a person and us as partners and I'd like to encourage and support you in moving in a direction where this thing is not a part of your life anymore, and I do so with your full cooperation because you recognize the validity of the claim that your life is better without this thing in it and you take full responsibility for the decision to accept my support and encouragement in your efforts to make this change."

"Forbidding", like "veto", ends the discussion and transfers the responsibility for the decision onto someone else as well as transfers the consequences for said decision outside - usually to a third party who is affected by the "forbidding" or "veto" or whatever.

The second option does not take away autonomy even if the outcome is the same. The second option requires the person who would otherwise be the one "forbidden" to do something to instead say "I have two choices - one where this thing is in my life and this person I care about is unhappy about it, and one where this thing is not in my life and this person I care about is happy that it is not in my life. I am making the choice myself to prioritize the happiness of this person and I agree with them that my life will be better without this thing in it."

There are two kinds of people, I've discovered. One kind of person sees the huge gulf between those two options. To them, these situations are like apples and jet planes. Another kind of person sees that, in both scenarios, the individual loses whatever the thing is and therefore sees no difference between the two scenarios.

These are people who don't understand autonomy or agency. These are people who frighten me. Without being able to understand the difference between agency and authority, they lack the basic, fundamental principles to understand why rape is wrong, why slavery is wrong, and why all the other things I fight against are related to these things, like why abortion is so important and why Planned Parenthood is important and why #BlackLivesMatter is so important and all the other causes big and small that get my ire up. They're all related by issues of agency.

If you can't understand agency, if you can look at the above scenarios and only see similar outcomes and not understand how things can look similar on the outside but have very different foundations underneath, then you can't understand how all these other things I argue about are related to each other and why they're important and I really don't know the right words to make you understand. Even if you happen to agree with me that some of these things are wrong, if you can't see the issue of agency in the two scenarios, you won't understand how all the things I think are wrong (whether you agree with me on them or not) are related and how they affect each other when any are prohibited.

And I noticed those people have a tendency to be the sorts of people for whom their agency is never questioned or never taken away in the first place.

There is a third kind of person, who says, "I forbid people, but it doesn't mean that they're not allowed to do something, it means that we start the conversation and discuss it rationally and they're allowed to make their own decisions, so you're just wrong because I'm making up definitions for words that go contrary to their generally accepted use and I'm going to argue semantics with you just because I feel entitled to make shit up and don't like the cognitive dissonance you're creating by your judgmental posts". If that kind of person feels the need to comment below, I'm just going to delete the comment because fuck you. Also anyone who caveats D/s or M/s relationships because a healthy power exchange is actually an example of the second option where the sub or slave retains the power to make the decision to transfer power in negotiated ways (just with fantasy-based language like "control" and "authority" and "forbid" to set an illusory scene) and also retains the power to amend, halt, or end said power exchange at any time in spite of the superficial trappings of authority - that's what makes it not abuse.

Back to the point. It reminds me of a scene from a movie I just watched again recently. Bedazzled is a remake of a movie where a guy sells his soul to the Devil for 7 wishes, mostly to get a girl he likes to notice him. In the negotiation scene with the Devil, she tries to convince him that his soul isn't worth hanging on to, so might as well sell it for something good.

She says things like "have you ever even seen your soul? What is it good for? What has your soul done for you lately? You won't even notice that it's gone."

Obviously, as an atheist, I don't believe in souls. But agency is a lot like that dialog in principle. When you live in a world that doesn't even question that you have agency, and never tries to take it from you, what is there about agency to notice? Have you ever even seen your agency? What has it done for you lately?

But spend your life fighting to have your agency recognized, let alone have control over it, and you'll sure as hell be aware of it then. To most of the people I've talked to who struggle to see the difference between acquiescing to "I forbid you" and making the autonomous choice to forgo on your own, they tend to be people who, if someone ever *tried* to say "I forbid" and they disagreed, there is literally nothing that could come of that. They recognize "I forbid" as essentially toothless and a command that requires compliance. So they can't see a difference in the two scenarios because, to them, their agency *can't* ever be compromised, therefore this is not a question of agency and but of goals and both scenarios have the same goal when you remove the question of agency - to get rid of the thing and make a loved one happy.

But those of us who are in a position for someone to "forbid" and there are either no options to refuse or the consequences for refusal are worse than compliance, we can see the apples for the jet planes. The goal is *not* the same. The goal is not to get rid of the thing, the goal is power and control - of the body, of the self, of the mind, of the decision-making process, of that which makes us a person. With our very souls on the line, we have to consider carefully if those 7 wishes are worth signing for. And some of us do end up signing away our souls agency, either because we're manipulated into it by increasingly stepping past our boundaries just a little bit at a time so that we don't really notice until we're in too deep to get out, or because we're held at pitchfork-point and forced to sign using brute force and intimidation.

While some of us fight the Devil even as the rest of the world thinks we're delusional as we scream about things that they aren't even aware exist. Unlike my soul, I'm confident that my agency exists and that I am an autonomous individual and I will continue to point out every time the Devil shows up in a cop uniform that she isn't the good guy she appears to be and she is trying to steal people's agency and the 7 wishes you get aren't worth the price.  And some people will continue to ignore me and think I'm crazy because the Devil never made a deal for *their* agency so they don't even know what it's good for but they just assume they have it.
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)

http://www.the1585.com/dorksawaken.html

Important to read, but with spoilers mainly about the main villain. Although, this article is really more about nerd culture and entitlement, and how those two are linked together than about details of the film. It merely uses character analysis to explore those concepts. I usually copy passages from the articles I'm sharing that especially highlight the point I want people to take away from the article, but I'm finding that hard to do without including passages with spoilers.

So I'll pad this part of my explanation and include them below the cut, and a little out of order because there is a quote further down that isn't really spoilery. At least, I hope by this time it isn't a spoiler, since the potential spoilery detail is in the trailers.

Quotes that highlight the point I want people to take away from this article. )
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I get angry, I mean *rageful*, when I am told in an argument that I feel a particular way that I have not said that I feel, or that I don't feel a particular way that I do, in fact, feel. Telling me that I don't feel passion or that I'm cold and unfeeling, for example, in those stupid fucking anti-science arguments where people attempt to defend their hold on superstition and magical thinking, sends me right over the edge. Yes, clearly, in my passionate rage, I am cold and unfeeling.

I have never really understood why this behaviour triggers my rage, but it always has, for as long as I can remember. In person or online, attempting to say anything about my internal landscape will send me flying off the handle. But I think I now understand why.

I think I have always been inordinately sensitive to gaslighting without ever having the benefit of anyone explaining to me what gaslighting is or how to recognize it.  I have come to this conclusion now because of 2 specific encounters. In both cases, I had dealings with men who have been accused of gaslighting their partners to an abusive degree.

I believe that many of us use gaslighting tactics in normal interactions with many different kinds of relationships because it is an argument tactic that we see so often that most of us are not aware that it is, in fact, gaslighting. I don't believe it is usually done maliciously or that the people who do this are consciously aware that they are trying to manipulate the other person in the argument. I think that it's just something we are socially conditioned to be accustomed to.

Gaslighting is where one person tries to convince another person that what they feel, think, or believe is not true. This is not something that a person can argue. I mean, you can argue that someone else believes something that is factually incorrect, but you cannot argue that someone else *doesn't* believe something that they do believe. Or that they don't feel what they feel. At best, you can point out examples that their actions do not match their professed feelings. But it is not possible to know what is going on inside someone else's head.

Much of the time, this is not done out of a misunderstanding or a confusion. Much of the time, gaslighting is done when someone does not like a situation and tries to control the situation more favorably by convincing the other person that their subjective experience of the situation is wrong, so that the other person will behave in a manner that the first person prefers. Imagine, if you will, a child complaining that she doesn't like brussel sprouts, and her mother says "oh, yes you do, now eat them." This is not because the mother is confused about the child's food preferences, this is because the mother wishes the child to eat the damn vegetables and so tries to convince the child that she does not know her own taste preferences well enough to behave in a way that leads to the veggies not getting eaten. The mother is trying to control the situation, and she does so by attacking the child's perception of her own internal landscape, her own subjective experience. And this is considered a "normal" argument tool. Very few people will overhear that mother and think "abusive". At worst, most people will think "frustrated" and probably agree with her method.

So there were these 2 men who were accused of abuse, and who used gaslighting as one of their tools of abuse. Because of the specific details of the situations that I won't get into here because it's not my story to tell, these were not clear-cut situations and I had not yet adopted my "start by believing them" policy. So I heard these accusations and I didn't know what to think. I wanted to disbelieve them, and I was very upset at the turmoil this caused in my own life. By bringing these accusations out, I was now in a very difficult position between two parties where I had my own reasons for wanting to maintain ties to both sides but accusations and counter-accusations of abuse flying around made being in the middle ... awkward, to say the least.

So I did what I could to remain "neutral". And then, I saw it.

In both of these situations, I ended up having my own altercation with each of the men. In one, it was a pretty massive blow-up, but in the other it wasn't - not in the grand scheme of things. We weren't all that close and the argument was not over anything really important. But with both men, they used a form of gaslighting in their argument with me.

In both cases, I was accused of feeling things that I did not feel and also of not feeling things that I did feel. On a normal day, that's enough to piss me right the fuck off. But coming on the heels of these gaslighting accusations, that made me pause. Suddenly, I had the key; I had the connection to *why* this behaviour angered me so much.

And suddenly, their victims' accusations became much more believable.

So I remain ultra-sensitive to when people make declarative statements about how I feel, how I think, how I see the world. I have not learned to control my rage at this. In fact, I now feel more than angry, I feel like someone has attempted to violate me. Because now I see the tactic as a form of control and manipulation.

But more than that, I see it as a symptom of what's wrong with our entire culture. Because I don't think that every single attempt at gaslighting - every single "geez, you're so angry all the time!" - is actual abuse. I think that we've managed to normalize that tactic as simply part of how people argue or disagree, so that even people with good intentions can argue poorly and use the same tactics *as* abusers without actually being an abuser in that moment themselves.

And that's the scary part. If *everyone* uses gaslighting, for all kinds of disagreements, then no wonder so many people can't recognize real abuse when it happens and no wonder so many people don't believe abuse or rape victims when they finally come forward. Every generation teaches the next that this is an acceptable tool in an argument, so that every generation has a reasonable chance of hiding the abusers among them in the throngs of people who simply have shitty communication skills and entitlement complexes.

I don't really have anywhere specific I'm going with this. I just came across some old writing from the time of these two experiences I had, and it reminded me that I hadn't ever gotten around to writing about this. So I'm sitting here, thinking about former relationships (I was reviewing my Breaking Up workshop), former metamours, things ending poorly, other people's relationships ending poorly, abuse, gaslighting, and I ended up here - thinking of all the times people use an abusive manipulation tactic in normal, everyday interactions with all sorts of people. That's kind of terrifying.

So when I fly off the handle because someone dared to make an "observation" that was really a statement that he thinks he knows my emotional landscape better than I do, before judging me too harshly for being "emotional" or "hysterical" or "irrational" or "temperamental", consider all this for a moment. Consider that telling someone what they feel or don't feel is *gaslighting* and what abusers do to control their victims. This person I'm arguing with probably isn't an abuser, and certainly isn't *abusing me* in this one online argument. But what if he is? What if, the reason why he's so comfortable using the gaslighting technique with me online is because he uses it all the time with people who are in a position to be abused by him?

Or, what if he's not and he genuinely doesn't want to abuse anyone? How easy do you think it's going to be to never abuse anyone if the most comfortable argument tools he has are the same ones that real abusers use? Most abusers do not believe they are abusers. Many even think of themselves as the victims (victimization by your control is not the same thing as victimization by my resistance to your control). Abusers are not comic book villains, petting their white cats in their evil lair while they plot ways to break the minds of their victims. Of course he doesn't think he's manipulating anyone. We all think that, mostly. We are all the heroes in our own narratives. So it's really easy to think that I'm the bad guy when I lose my temper. And sometimes I am.

But gaslighting is an evil, insidious tactic that burrows into our society and takes a hold of people often unwittingly. So be on the lookout for signs of gaslighting - in other people and in ourselves. Don't tell people what they are thinking, feeling, or believing. Don't assume that you know what's going on inside someone's head, especially if they contradict you. This is an abusive tactic, and we should all be strongly opposed when we see it happening.

We just need to learn how to see it happening.
joreth: (Super Tech)

Guys!  A woman rejecting you is not "starting it" and not the same as "punching you in the face" so your retaliation is not fucking self defense!
YOU started it by asking her out in the first place.  If you're not an asshole, the asking someone out isn't problematic enough to be considered "starting something", but if it escalates to violence in response to her rejection, then you better fucking believe you fucking started it.

Her rejection of you is HER self-defense against YOU.

I was stalked for years by someone who threatened me with suicide if I didn't date him. I still refused (and he didn't commit suicide, because he wasn't suicidal, he was abusive). But, years later, he "wore me down" and I did end up dating him.

One of the worst dating mistakes I ever made.

When I finally got out, he continued to stalk me for another decade. At one point, he actually admitted that if he ever found out that I had aborted "his child", he would, even then years later, still hunt me down and kill me. I hadn't ever gotten pregnant by him, but I have always been pro-abortion and anti-me-getting-pregnant, which he knew. In that same conversation, I found out that he had been sabotaging the condoms during our relationship in the hopes that getting me pregnant would tie me to him. That's when I reminded him that I would have just gotten an abortion, and that's when he told me that, not only would he have killed me at the time for having an abortion, but that he would *still* kill me if he found out after the fact that I had gotten one back then and didn't tell him.

I was also told in school that it wouldn't kill me to just go out with him. Apparently it might have.

Even without some of the more disturbing details about his obsession with me that I kept from my parents, they recognized the danger he posed and, as a teenager, steered me away from him. They did not want me dating him and did not approve of me including him in my social circle. They told me at the time that they worried for my safety. I scoffed at them. I thought he was a lovesick pup but ultimately harmless. I was wrong.

His brother is currently doing life in prison for shooting and killing his wife and infant child. Some days I'm amazed that I survived to adulthood.

This commentary is in response to a note attached to a picture uploaded on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/the.artidote/photos/a.748110521972432.1073741827.742359879214163/838788566237960/?type=3&theater).  Usually I just paste the link to articles that I'm commenting on at the beginning of my rant and let y'all follow it to read it directly.  But this is a photo on someone's FB timeline, and the commentary I am responding to is in the description of the photo, so this is not a "public" article that anyone can access.  If you don't have FB and aren't logged in, you might not be able to see it, so I'm reposting the text below the cut.
Original Photo Commentary )

joreth: (Super Tech)

Hey guys, stop fucking using women as threats to motivate other guys.  There is nothing shameful about a woman being better than you at something, and there is especially nothing shameful about a woman being better than you in her field of expertise that she has worked in for her entire adult life while you just started.

Him 1:  "You gonna let her beat you at that?"

Him 2:  "Hell yeah, she's better at me than this, and if I can't get it right here in a minute, I'm gonna ask her for help too!"

Look, I've been doing my job for twenty-fucking five years.  I'm damn good at my job.  I'm not "OMG why aren't you working for Spielburg?!" amazing, I'm just damn good (and I suspect that a good part of the reason why I'm not that amazing is simply because of untapped potential and lack of opportunity - I know I have more to me, if I could just find a way to express it).  I know a thing or two about my business and I have a few systems down pat.  Most of this shit I can do in my sleep.  In fact, during my rock-n-roll days when I was double-booking and averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, I *did* do a lot of this shit in my sleep.  This is my job.  This is my field.  This is my expertise.  Of course I'm better at it than someone who just started, and of course I'm better at it than someone who's only been in the business for 3 years.

THERE IS NOTHING FUCKING WRONG WITH THAT.

There is absou-fucking-lutely no goddamn reason why some dude should be naturally better at something than I am when I've been doing it for more than two decades.  And there is abso-fucking-lutely no goddamn reason why he should feel embarrassed or ashamed at hearing so.  Y'all just need to get over that shit and accept that you're not the fucking king of the planet and some people are just simply better at stuff than you are because they've been doing it longer, or even because they are naturally more skilled at that task than you are.  That's just the way things are.  Having a penis does not confer magical abilities to be the best at everything you do, nor even to be "better than a girl" at everything you do, including some of those things that you typically associate as masculine skills.

Stop using me as a threat.  I'm just going to be better than some of you at those things I do well, just as there are some people better than me (and some of them are also women).  And I do a lot of things well.  If your ego is so fragile that the thought of a woman who specializes in a particular industry and has done so for nearly as long as you've been alive spurs you into a competition with her because on noes, you have to be the best!!1! then honey, you don't belong in this business.  In fact, you don't belong at work at all, you belong back in daycare.

Accept the fact that some people are better than you at things, even at things you're not bad at.  Accept the fact that some of those people are women.  Instead of feeling threatened by that, or encouraging other men to feel threatened by that, you can use the talented and skilled women around you as resources to get the job done.  So stop poking other guys with us or having them stand on our shoulders to get up higher on the company ladder than we are.

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
In response to some comments I have seen on several other people's threads where they shared that graphic trying to explain that no one *owes* you their time, attention, love, sex, relationship, thoughts, etc. these blog posts are relevant.

Discussions about agency and abuse in relationships tend to get sidetracked by the minutia and strawman arguments of people pursuing *selfish* (i.e. not self-centric, but selfISH where it requires a lack of concern for how one's actions affect others) hedonism. In other words, there is some defense of "but if the other person is doing things for their own pleasure and it hurts you, that's not OK!" Of course it's not, but that's a different discussion.

"This is my experience. You can not know my experience.
That is your experience. I can not know your experience.
These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them.
Those are your choices. I am not entitled to control over them, I am not victimized by them."

"When we really understand the difference between these statements, we will understand how to support both survivors and abusers.

'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'
"

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html

And then in the article they reference:

"“An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious — he acts deliberately rather than by accident or by losing control of himself — but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.”

What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. It is the way in which we punish women if we feel they’ve stepped out of line. It is the way we always suspiciously ask “what is she getting out of this?” when a woman reports abuse, harassment or assault. It is the reflexive dismissal of female anger as irrational, and female pain as imaginary. It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people
."

https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

This part is relevant because most of the objection to that graphic is in the idea that someone just has the *right* to go off and do whatever they want to do. OMG what is the world coming to that anyone can just LEAVE whenever they want?!? What if I don't want them to go?!?

"It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices". It doesn't matter if we think they are making a poor choice for themselves. It doesn't matter if we are hurt by their choice to leave us, stop loving us, not liking us, revoking consent to sex with us.

They do, in fact, have that right. They might be behaving like dicks about it, but they still have that right. If someone gets involved in an explicitly monogamous relationship and then decides to have an unsanctioned sexual relationship with someone outside of that relationship, their monogamous partner does not own their body and they have the right to do with their own body what they will.

They're being a dick and I will harshly criticize and name-call and publicly shame people for making choices that infringe on other people's right to consent. *That* is not what they have the right to do. The choice to *remain* in an explicitly monogamous relationship without giving their partner the information necessary to give informed consent is what they don't have the right for. But they, and they alone, hold the rights to what happens to their own body and mind.

That graphic does not address the content of the person's character when it says a person has the right to leave, to not love, to stop loving, etc. It only addresses the one seeking to exert control over that person trying to leave.

"Understand, that when your reasons for disrespecting the boundary become more important than the boundary itself, you are displaying a belief of superiority, entitlement and control, and these beliefs are the foundation of a culture that tolerates rape and abuse."

"But what if…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was unjust. It doesn’t matter if it hurt you. It doesn’t matter in reference to whether or not you respect the boundary. It’s their right to set the boundary because they are a whole and complete and autonomous human being. When you don’t respect the boundary, you are telling them in no uncertain terms, that you think that they are less than this.

But…
No.
"

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-to-respect-boundaries.html

Yep, it absolutely sucks to have someone want to leave a relationship that you want to keep. It absolutely sucks to have feelings for someone who doesn't reciprocate. It absolutely sucks to have a partner make partner selection choices that involve other partners who do not respect your own relationship with the mutual partner. They are still allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, mind, and emotions, just as you are allowed to make your own decisions about your own body, mind, and emotions, including whether or not to remain connected to someone whose choices result in your pain.
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://bettermyths.com/chivalry-isnt-dead-you-just-dont-know-what-the-fuck-it-is/

OTG FUCKING THIS!!!! Stop lamenting the demise of chivalry, YOU HAVE NO GODDAMN IDEA WHAT IT IS!

"The truth is, chivalry has basically fuck all to do with women, and everything to do with horses. ... See, the word “chivalry” comes from the French word “chevalier,” which comes from “cheval,” which means “horse.” Chivalry is literally just “rules for if you have a horse.” ... Chivalry was – and still is – basically a way of saying, “okay, I have an optimized death machine between my legs, maybe I should look out for people who don’t have one of these.”"

"Real chivalry is about noticing when you have a horse and somebody else doesn’t. It’s about being careful not to trample people just because you can."

"There are no prizes for being chivalrous, other than the prize of being a decent god damn human. ... They didn’t need to invent a complex code of ethics to justify getting shit for free, because they already had all the shit. What do you get for the man who has everything? How about some fucking morals."

"The main problem with chivalry, though, is that it can very easily cross over into paternalism, and nobody likes to be treated like a child."

"At this point, you may be thinking “hey, this is bullshit, these are just basic guidelines for not being an asshole!” and congratulations, you’re right. That’s all chivalry is: basic guidelines for how not to be a sack of shit."

And I have a newsflash for you - if you insist that "chivalry" has anything to do with men treating women a particular way, especially if you feel entitled to being angry or disappointed when any woman doesn't like being treated that way, then you are, in fact, a sack of shit and violating the moral codes of actual "chivalry".
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
T: Hey, so, you may not know this, but some of us are being bullied, harassed, and even killed, just because our harassers are confused by our genitals. It's even legal. It's called the Trans Panic Defense, and it basically says that someone can get freaked out by what our genitals are and how they don't match with his expectation of what people with those genitals are supposed to look like, and while freaked out, he can kill us and it's totally a justifiable homocide because we freaked him out.

C: OMG, that's terrible!

T: Yeah. But we've learned from research and from the experiences of the gay rights movement that simple exposure and normalization can help. People are afraid of things that they don't understand, and when they live in fear, they react with violence. So all we have to do is expose them to the concept of people like me and others with gender identities that don't match their expectations, and normalize them to the idea that we exist and we're human, and over time, people lose their fear. With their fear gone, they don't react with violence. When the society around them finds their fear to be the aberration instead of our existence, then even if they do still harbor some discomfort, they learn that they can't act on their fears or discomfort because the culture around them disapproves of it. So even if they still dislike us, we're safer from the possibility of violence because they'd rather not risk losing society's approval of them.

C: Huh, well, that's good.

T: So, we're asking those of you who aren't totally freaked out by us to help normalize us and help expose people to the concept of us. If you could start by not assuming the gender of people you meet, that'd be a big help. You can ask people what pronouns they want you to use for them, or you can just state your own as if it's a normal thing to state. You can also start using gender neutral pronouns and labels whenever there is one to substitute, like the singular "they" or "spouse" and "partner" instead of "wife" or "boyfriend", even when the people in question have a gender identity that matches what they were assigned at birth. This does 2 things: 1) It makes trans and genderfluid people feel welcomed and accepted in society when we hear it. We may be a small percentage of the population, but we're still a part of the population and we'd like to feel included in it. But more importantly, 2) it reinforces the idea that cisgender people are not the only ones out there, even if they happen to be a majority, by reminding them in casual ways that the rest of us exist. That's the normalization part.

C: Whoa now, back the boat up! You want me to *change* my speaking habits? Let's not get carried away here! I thought you were asking for *equality*, not special privileges!

T: It's not a special privilege. I'm just asking you to be a little more considerate in your use of language. It's literally the least amount of effort you can do for us. Just change a couple of words here and there.

C: But what about *my* feelings? What about how hard this will be *for me*? This is a lot of effort! I'd have to actually *think* about what I'm saying before I say it! You have all this talk about compassion and consideration for other people, but you're not really considering how hard this will be for me!

T: People are literally dying here. All we're asking is that you switch out a couple of words. You've done that before. You don't use the same slang that you used in the '80s. You're comparing changing a *habit* to people losing their fucking lives!

C: No need to get angry! It's really hard for me to take you seriously when you're bullying me like that. It sucks that the occasional person gets killed every now and then, but this is *my life* we're talking about! I'd have to *change*! I just don't think I can make it through a day of interacting with people without assuming their gender or using gender pronouns and titles. It goes against all of the English language! It's awkward and uncomfortable. No, that's too much to ask. People might get weirded out *by me*!

T: O.o

T: Having people who feel uncomfortable around you because you're doing something they're not used to kinda sucks, doesn't it?

C: Yes! Now you're getting it! So, sorry about all the murder-death-kills and all, but it's just not fair to ask me to put myself on the line for you. I have too much to lose! My friends would look at me funny, and that would ruin my life!

T: Have you ever been diagnosed with Irony Impairment?

C: Oh great, now you're going to go on a tear about whatchamacallit - ableism now, aren't you? Geez, just let up on the social justice warrior shit for a moment, will you? Can't you just relax and enjoy life for what it is? If you learn to just let go of things, you'll be a lot happier. Maybe stop reading all those social justice articles on the web and stick to cat videos, like I do. See how happy I am?

T: #FacePalm
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/10/02/before-you-claim-the-ucc-shooting-was-about-christian-persecution-consider-all-the-evidence/

This supports the comments I've been making about this issue - that the culture around Those Assholes* is the important factor, and the ideology merely focuses the targets for them. The underlying motivations for these sorts of tragedies are toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders. That's what they all have in common. They are ticking time bombs, all they need is some ideology to point them in a direction.

Even if this guy *was* truly atheist, and not one of those pathetic "I am chaos, the Devil bows before me" poser jackasses who chose Christians just because they have the most power in this country so they make the most high profile targets (and therefore are guaranteed to grant him the celebrity status he so obviously desires), we have that same dark underbelly in our own subculture. We have those same dark alleys of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders and violence.

Those dark alleys have been spilling out their filth over the last several years. They're the reason I now identify as Feminist. I was one of those irritating Chill Girls who thought the gender wars were largely over and we had won, so I didn't need feminism. Until I joined the atheist community. Then I saw how bad misogyny still is and how much of it still reigns in our culture. That's how I became a labeled Feminist. Atheists turned me into a big-F Feminist.

If this guy really is an atheist targeting Christians, I won't pull the No True Scotsman card. Atheists can be assholes and atheists can be Assholes. Any woman who dares to criticize atheists on any topic, but particularly gaming, knows this, especially those women who have been forced from their homes because of the public threats of violence. This is why Atheism+ was born and why, even those who didn't jump on the + bandwagon are fighting from within our own ranks to clean up our atheosphere metaphorical "streets" of these dark alleys and the disturbing elements they produce.

But it sounds more and more likely that he wasn't atheist, and that he targeted Christians for their publicity power. Which brings us right back to the original point, that what those asshole atheists and Those Assholes, and This Asshole specifically, have in common is a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders.

Gun Rights proponents like to trot out countries with high gun ownership, low gun restrictions, and still low gun violence. The *reason* why those nations exist like that is because their culture is different. They don't have the same entitlement and toxic masculinity permeating their culture. Sure "guns don't kill people, people kill people", but those people are products of their culture.

I was raised in liberal-but-rural California where guns were not glorified, but necessary for hunting. Guns were weapons to be treated with respect. They were not part of our identities, but tools - dangerous tools - to be used with caution and limitations. I was raised in a culture that does not produce mass shooters, racism, or the idea that violence is a solution to anything.

I was also raised in gang-ridden urban California, where guns were glorified as a status symbol and a means to power. I was within the physical boundaries of that culture, but I was apart from it, thanks to my family. I knew of children, my own peers, who had been caught in gang wars. I even dated someone who had been removed from the entire school district because he threatened violence on a teacher (which he gleefully admitted at the time). Violence was all around me and my family. Both of us - my family members and the gang members in my neighborhoods - had access to guns. One of us thought guns were a solution and the other saw them as a tool. Guess which of us has a higher incarceration rate for violent offenses?

The *culture* needs to be changed. And until it can be changed, it shouldn't have easy access to weapons. As a child, guns were kept out of my hands until I could understand and respect them properly. I was handling guns at a very young age, because I could understand. But my father would never have handed a loaded weapon to a 2-year old. He introduced them to me as I was able to understand and respect their inherent danger. Apparently, we need to treat our nation as a toddler prone to temper tantrums with no control and no higher cognitive functioning. You can't have the guns until you understand and respect their inherent danger. When you understand that, like your older sibling - the countries who don't have the same violent glorification tendencies - perhaps you can have them back.

I won't pretend to know which, specific, policies will effect the change I'm talking about. I am not an expert on legal policy, so I'm not proposing specific restrictions because I don't know which ones will work. What I do know is that the evidence increasingly shows it's the culture that's prompting these shootings. It's our *culture*. It's *our* culture. We need to stop promoting toxic masculinity, stop excusing entitlement and start owning up to it when we have it so that we can work on dismantling it, and stop turning these shooters into fucking celebrities. Regardless of their specific ideologies that chooses their targets for them, they choose acts of violence because they think it's a good thing to display anger and aggression and violence as signs of their masculinity and that this version of masculinity is something desirable. They choose acts of violence because they feel entitled to remove other people's agency. They choose acts of violence because they crave the fame, the notoriety and WE FUCKING GIVE IT TO THEM.

They achieve their goals. They choose acts of violence because they're fucking successful. And they're successful because we have given them a clear path to their success. WE have. Our culture. Our society. We gave them exactly what they wanted. The number of people they kill, whether they "get away" with it or not, that's all irrelevant. They've asserted their dominance and commanded our attention. They are successful. *We* are the ones who need to change because we are their final targets.

As an atheist, if any mass shooter is actually atheist, I fight to change our atheist culture so that we stop producing Those Assholes from within, not denying that they exist, not distancing myself from the responsibility of the culture that produced them. I don't see the gun nuts doing the same. I don't see men (who aren't already feminists or feminist allies and therefore largely shunned from masculine culture anyway) doing the same. I don't see theists doing the same when it's one of their own. 4-chan, PUA circles, Southern Pride groups - these types of groups are the tinder for these firebombs.

Our larger culture that excuses rape, excuses casual racism, excuses religious posturing, excuses homophobia and transphobia, excuses any sort of dehumanization, objectification, othering, and the removing of agency - our larger culture gives places for these cesspools to thrive and fester. Just like the guy who doesn't actually agree with rape but who laughs at rape jokes so that the rapist standing next to him thinks they are allies, our culture provides the hiding places for those among us who would do such harm. Our culture built those alleyways and is refusing to install safety lights. It's time to root out the dark places, and that starts with us.



*Those Assholes or That Asshole is the term I use in place of the name of any violent offender, as doing my individual part to deny them the celebrity status that is one of the main goals for their actions.

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