Dec. 8th, 2009

joreth: (polyamory)
I took part in an online survey of polyamorous people that is looking at their spirituality and spiritual views. When I saw "spirituality" in the title, I believed that there would be a bias under her research and I felt it was important to make sure that atheists and non-pagans got represented because I was pretty sure that the pagan community would be over-represented. It's very frustrating to me that pagans are so much a visual part of the poly community that non-pagans often avoid "poly communities" because they feel as though they'll have nothing in common other than the polyamory, and that the polyamory will look quite different, and sadly, that's often true, in my observation.

>Please note, it is not my intent to dump on pagans here. I'm not saying that pagans intentionally push out people of alternate viewpoints, and, in fact, many of the pagans that I know personally are quite welcoming of people with different spiritual outlooks. It is my intent to point out a, perhaps, overly subtle discrimination or imbalance in the poly communities, which is that poly people who do not have strong spiritual viewpoints are under-represented and overshadowed, and that the statistical data on polyamory may be incorrect because of the lack of connection or outreach with non-spiritual poly people by the rest of the community and by researchers.

This study has covered almost exclusively pagan polyamorists because they're who are most visible and often participate in the community, and therefore things like studies & media events. Although pagans are still free to join in the study, I would like to encourage poly people of other spiritual or non-spiritual outlooks to chime in to get a better representation of the actual diversity among spiritual beliefs in the poly community. The first part is an online survey, and then, if you qualify (I forget what the qualifications are), you may be asked to do a phone interview, completely anonymously, for research purposes and not for any form of media or public presentation.

I just completed this phone interview, and, although this study has been going on for some time now, I was the first atheist the researcher had spoken to, and she had a host of misconceptions about what atheism is and isn't and how religious views do or don't affect one's relationship structures. She was very appreciative of the alternate viewpoint and the opportunity to have her biases made clear to her that were completely overlooked by both herself and her approval committee in her word choice and assumptions (for the record, I did not tell her she was biased, I answered her questions and she revealed to me that she had found a bias in her thesis wording through my answers and so thanked me). So I am hopeful that my contribution will prove to be very beneficial in present and future poly research and I urge others to contribute as well, since my views are not the same as, or necessarily representative of all atheists, but currently, I'm the only atheist voice in this particular research study.

Please also feel free to forward this request on, particularly to non-pagan polyamorists. I realize it may come across that I am trying to push aside pagans or pad the numbers in a non-pagan favor, so I want to be clear that I am not trying to do that. But I do feel as though the non-pagan polyamorists are much higher in number than the current research suggests, so I am particularly encouraging non-pagans to get out there and help make the statistics more accurate. It's not a matter of "let's outnumber the pagans!", it's a matter of better representation of other types of polyamorists. Pagan polyamorists are very well represented, but other groups are not, as evidenced by the fact that I am the only atheist the researcher has talked to, and I happen to know I'm not the only atheist polyamorist out there :-)
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
So there are all sorts of wacky expectations and obligations around this time of year that really make things like holiday gift exchange a terribly complicated and incomprehensible tradition for me.

You're supposed to exchange gifts, but you're not supposed to give away the surprise, but you're supposed to get the "right gift", but you're not supposed to ask what the "right gift" is, and you're supposed to buy for some people and not others, but you're not supposed to discuss beforehand if any individual you know is one of those you're supposed to buy for or not buy for ... my head hurts just writing this post.

It starts to sound an awful lot like "I shouldn't have to say what I like, if he loved me, he'd just know" - no, all I know when someone says that is that I have a high probability of screwing it up and doing something wrong because you can't be clear about your needs and expectations and all my years reading Tarot cards and palms and studying horoscopes and wishful thinking STILL hasn't given me the ability to read your mind. It's not selfish to be clear on the things you want in life, it's selfish to try and get them to the detriment of others, and this is clearly not what we're talking about when someone asks "what do you want for Christmas?"

So, I'd like to make a request that I make every year on behalf of all the people who have trouble wandering the maze of holiday expectations, that everyone who reads this and takes pity on the rest of us make a post about what they want for the holidays.

This can be a link to an online wishlist (please, if you have an online wishlist, post it!), this can be a desire for holiday activities, this can be a charity you want people to donate in your name, this can be a set of guidelines for how to shop for you, this can be a request to be left alone and drop all the damn holiday requests already! Although I would like to add that, if you list a charity to donate to as your holiday wish, please offer a non-charity alternative for those who, either disagree with that charity or really want to give *you* something.

A nice mix of cheap/free options, actions, and easy-to-find consumer products really help a variety of people find something they can do for you that still makes *them* feel as though they're doing something that adequately conveys their feelings for you (read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman - different people have different ways of expressing their love and even if *you* aren't all hung up on the Capitalist Regime, some people best express their feelings by giving gifts, while others feel best performing a service - remember, even though posting a holiday wishlist is for other people to do stuff for you, my request that you post it is supposed to be something nice that YOU can do for US, so help us to feel as though we're doing something nice for you by actually telling us what we can do).

I only ask that everyone make it clear what it is they want in a sort of public manner (a locked, friends-list post suffices, since it's the friends who are most likely to want to do something for you for the holidays) so that no one else has to go through the awkward "what do you want for xmas - oh, you don't have to get me anything - I know I don't HAVE to, but I want to - it's the thought that counts - yes, but my thought is to get you something you would like" conversation or the even-worse underlying "I actually do want these things, but I'm afraid to sound greedy by admitting to anyone that I want stuff even if they ask me outright" feelings of guilt.

So, please post your holiday wishlist, whether it's an online link, things you want to do, general guidelines, or what-have-you, not because you're being greedy and selfish, but because you genuinely want to help your loved ones who genuinely want to do something nice for you, some of whom have a little difficulty with hints and reading cues.

I'll start. My wishes for the holidays are to spend time with my loved ones, if not in person, then by Skype; to have more people in marginalized social categories stand up and be counted; to give money or time to science- and evidence-based educational programs, even if it's not "in my name", such as JREF, CFI, and even Planned Parenthood; and a whole shitload of "toys" and gadgets, most of which are completely unreasonable for someone else to purchase for me, (although you must have your own account in order for me to give you Guest Access to my adult wishlist - the only way I could keep my adult toys from showing up on a keyword search of my wishlist when non-Guests, i.e. my parents, read it). I like being surprised and don't want to know about my gift until it's offered to me. I don't particularly care if it's wrapped up prettily or not - if you like making a presentation of the gift, then I appreciate it the work you put into it, but if you can't wrap for shit, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the process in the slightest.

The posting of this link in no way assumes that anyone reading this will want to buy something for me, but it is made available in case someone *does*. I do not expect gifts, I do not require gifts, and I'm pretty sure that no one here is even considering getting me a gift, which is totally OK with me, even if you are someone for whom I happen to buy a gift. No, really, when I say something is OK, I actually mean it!

But I have hinted and asked outright for what other people want, only to go through that conversation I paraphrased above, and I've been in some situations where I wasn't sure if I had the kind of relationship with someone that warranted a gift or felt awkward about asking, so it would have been a HUGE help if everyone just accepted that sometimes people want to give gifts to other people and to make it simple to figure out what kind of gift to give. And it stops sounding like a nice gesture when you blurt out "goddamn it, I know you want to be seen as a nice and unselfish person and all, but I have money and/or time and/or skills to spend and I enjoy spending it/them on you but I want to make sure I spend it well so will you stop fucking whining about how it's the thought that counts and tell me what the fuck you'd like already?"

Some people like actual gifts, some people are very picky, some people already have a bunch of stuff so it's hard to guess what they don't have, some people prefer homemade to consumer products, some people like surprise better than the content of the surprise, some people prefer actions instead of objects, some people want to actively avoid exchanging gifts entirely and prefer just to spend time with loved ones ... and it's a damn maze trying to figure everyone out when you add in all this other holiday game playing.

So, for everyone else's sake, please do your loved ones a favor and don't think of it as being greedy or setting up the expectation that people should get you stuff. Think of it as not complicating or inhibiting something that is supposed to be a nice gesture from someone who loves you. Think of it as a grown-up version of a letter to Santa Claus. He actively wants to bring you something nice for the holidays so you write him a letter to help him out, but, in reality, it's your parents, and maybe your grandparents, who are reading it so they know what the heck to get you because the joy when you open a gift that you truly like means something to the ones who gave you the gift.


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