Jun. 24th, 2015

joreth: (Super Tech)

I've had people trying to put me on a pedestal my entire life. Some women eagerly accept being raised up, because it gives us some leverage, an illusion of power, in an otherwise powerless existence. They embrace their pedestal and enforce the hierarchy of being "goddesses".

I, however, noticed how little room I had to move on that pedestal, and how far I had to fall if I ever made one misstep. I have always resisted the pedestal. I've never wanted to be raised up. I wanted to be on equal ground. "But I don't treat you this way because I think you're weak! I treat you this way because you deserve to be treated like a queen! I treat you this way out of respect!"

"Respect" is a slippery word. That's not respect. I am human, not a goddess, not a queen, not a work of art. That kind of respect only lasts until you decide that I'm not worthy of that respect anymore, if I step out of line and behave in a way un-goddess-like. I have never liked the pedestal.

But women everywhere think I'm nuts. Women, who subconsciously know that we have no real power so they grasp at the scraps thrown to us by our oppressors, couched in pretty language like "goddess" and "respect", those women have always resisted my message that we are not goddesses, we are not works of art to be protected like the Mona Lisa from a thief in black.

I have always known this intuitively. So I have not always had the language to explain why it's so wrong. Who wouldn't want to be cherished? Worshiped? Protected? Anyone who can see the cage surrounding the object needing to be protected, that's who. But if you are someone who knows this intuitively, and haven't had it explained to you, then you, like me, might not have had the words to explain the feeling of wrongness. And you, like me, might not have always been able to unpack how tightly race and gender are woven together, like delicate steel fibers in the mesh that makes up the cage we are being "protected" in.

You can keep your pedestal. I wish to run free on the ground.

"American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched."

"There is an important distinction between white women, a people, and the concept of white womanhood—one that holds that a white woman is the best thing you can be in America after a white man, and that it is the responsibility of white men to protect your virtue at any and all costs. This white supremacist and benevolently sexist ideology depends both on the subjugation of white women by white men, and on the subjugation of all people who are not white—by white people (including white women)."

"This highly selective concern about preventing sexual violence is dependent on the peril of white women;"

"It was, and remains, necessary for white women to decry the violence that is done in our name. It is on us to dismantle racism with just as much commitment as we dismantle sexism, for one cannot happen without the other."

" those women were shot because the belief that white women must be protected at all costs depends on the belief that black women aren’t truly women, that they’re barely people. That they’re disposable. Racism is always gendered, and gender always raced."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Haven't posted one of these in a while: ‪Poly Commitments‬

* I am committed to considering my metamours as "family" regardless of the structure or emotional closeness of our individual metamour relationships and to treat them accordingly.

Speaking of poly families, this one is actually complicated enough to deserve its own post, but I will attempt to summarize here and post the link to the full post when I get around to making it. Basically, I was raised with a strong sense of "family" and a strong sense of commitment to family. But I was also raised to view "family" as being this large, nebulous thing with fuzzy borders that accommodated and allowed for everyone in the family to find their own specific relationship structure. The point of valuing "family", in my family, was to acknowledge that, for better or worse, we are all connected to each other through bonds that are supposed to be based on love, and that we all have an obligation to each other to be considerate of how our actions affect each other, although that doesn't trump doing what needs to be done for ourselves - our personal happiness and health is more important than familial obligations.

My family is a chosen family. As an adopted child, it was really hammered home that we are family because we chose to be family through the bonds of love, not blood. But my family was more than just my parents and myself. It was my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my dozen aunts and uncles, my two dozen cousins, great aunts and great uncles, second cousins twice removed, and family friends. Just because someone was a cousin, it didn't mean that we had the exact same relationship as the relationship that I had with my other cousin. I was allowed to develop different kinds of relationships with my different family members. We were friends, or not, as was natural. But at the same time, I was expected to welcome new members into the family because the happiness of the person they were connected to was important. I was expected to be considerate of my cousins and other relatives and to be aware of how my actions affected them. These were valuable lessons that I take with me into my poly family. My metamour relations are allowed to develop in whatever structure is most natural for the personalities involved. I welcome metamours into the family because the happiness of our mutual partner is important and it's his desire to date her that defines whether or not she's part of the family, not my like or dislike of her. I am considerate of my metamours and I try to be aware of how my actions affect them. To me, that's what makes an extended family.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I've been seeing a lot of "this thing happened between my partner and their other partner. How do you handle that / deal with that / take that / interpret that happening between your partner and their other partner?"

My answer is (and my advice that pretty much everyone should also do this) "there is nothing there for me to handle / deal with / take/ or interpret. If it wasn't about me, then it's not about me and there is nothing for me to react to."

It's things like, the metamour wants to try some sex thing that they haven't done before, or some new person has been flirting with or sexting the partner, or maybe the metamour dislikes something about the partner and they had a disagreement over it. It's relationship stuff between two people who are not me, and it's not something like abuse or anything damaging to my partner.

This kind of thing is symptomatic of our cultural values of ownership and possession in romantic relationships, and the lack of agency and autonomy. Those values seep into our subconsciousness and into our assumptions about relationships and they manifest in all kinds of strange and interesting ways, even when we think that we respect and value our partners as people. We probably do, but it's really hard to overcome all the cultural programming that we're subjected to.

And when someone asks how I feel about something that occurred between two people who aren't me and had nothing to do with me, that programming becomes obvious. At least, it does to those of us who have learned to read code.

The context was something like, someone posted in a *poly* forum "How would you guys handle someone flirting with your partner?"

My reaction was "there's nothing for me to 'handle'. It's not something that's hurting him, it's between two people that has nothing to do with me."

There wasn't any lying or deception going on, there wasn't any actual sex yet, the poster knew about the existence of the person flirting with their partner before it happened, and the partner & the flirty person had some romantic history together.

That's not the only post I've seen, just the latest one that prompted this thread. What would we do about some situation that is not happening to us? The underlying assumption is that we have some right or obligation to interfere in some way, that what happens to our partner happens to us or is some kind of statement to us or about us that we need to react to.

I find the whole thing very weird and off-putting.  The very question, and the fact that it comes up so often under different contexts, belies some incredibly deep, unexamined assumptions about possession in relationships.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Someone explained to me that being the mother of someone with Asperger's is the reason why she has conservative values over dress codes.

You see (she explained to me), women walking around with sexually alluring clothing make it hard for her son with AS, because he is not capable of controlling himself in the same way that other people are.

So I explained to her that, my cultures (combining kink & poly & feminist geeky subcultures together, just so that I didn't have to start out with a lecture about the similarities and differences of each of those subcultures) are actually very popular with people who have AS. They seem drawn to them in high numbers and the cultures seem to be very welcoming and able to deal with the symptoms of AS. And yet, we don't have this big problem of everyone with AS being overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions or urges as a result of seeing boobs or skimpy outfits or even outright nudity. And that's because the cultures emphasize contextual sexuality - sex depends on the context.

I could see her stumped, as no one had ever presented this possibility to her before. I think everyone she has ever said this to in the past probably nodded knowingly and gave her a pass for her sexism (she's also a bonafide Tea Partyist, so that should give you a clue to her regular social circles). But our food came and the moment passed, so we moved onto other topics of conversation.

Now, yes we need to talk *within* our communities about problems with fetishization and rape culture and sexism, etc. But I think that it needed to be pointed out that *AS* is not the problem here, and women covering up is not the solution. Other cultures have different social contexts for nudity, and people behave according to their culture's approval for nudity. While the kink community, for example, does have a problem with rape culture, it's not a "men will be men" thing, nor a "people with mental illness can't deal with society" thing, nor a "women must change themselves to make men behave" thing.

The rape culture in the kink community is a product of people bringing in the rape culture from the larger culture that we are all steeped in. It's not somehow *worse* in kink communities because women walk around dungeons in thongs, baring their breasts. If the amount of skin was the cause, then the amount of assault should be directly proportional to the amount of skin shown, and it's obviously not.

If we were going to draw correlations, I would bet money that the correlation would show an inverse relationship if any were to emerge at all. The LESS skin that is culturally appropriate to show, the HIGHER the assault rate is in that culture. And I would bet that the reason is because of the sense of entitlement that comes with a culture that considers telling women to cover up is the solution to men's "urges" is what is responsible for assault, not amount of skin showing.

Damn, I wish I had thought of those last 2 paragraphs when I was talking to that woman.

*EDIT* There are actually studies showing this correlation from a couple of different perspectives or angles.  I was reminded of these studies (at least one of which I've read before and forgot), but haven't had time to look up the links.  Bottom line is - I was right, it's not the amount of skin that's showing, it's what the culture consideres acceptable regarding entitlement to women's bodies.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I wish developing actual film photographs hadn't been so economically prohibitive to my 14-year-old self 25 years ago. I'd love to bombard all those "back in my day, girls dressed like children as in the image on one side, not like sluts as in the image on the other side" posts with hundreds of selfies that I would have taken of myself in my crop tops and micro mini skirts and my bikini swim suit and the jeans with the ass half-ripped out of them (which I still have, btw) had I come of age in the kind of culture that has basically unlimited picture-taking and -storing capabilities.

"Selfies" were not a thing when I was a kid because film cameras didn't have digital screens you could look at while aiming the lens back at yourself. Cameras were big and heavy, even snapshot cameras. You needed a well-paying job to afford regular photo prints and negative development which, as a teenager, I did not have. I had a job, but photography was not a top priority for my spending habits.

Most of my photos from my early teen years were school portraits or big events that included family (because someone else had to take the picture, and most kids didn't have their own cameras so it was the grown-ups taking all our pictures), so I was dressed fairly conservatively. If I took photos of events that were free of my familial influences, my mom still would have demanded to see the photos when she drove me to pick them up from the developing station. Plus, there were all kinds of cautionary tales about film developers making illegal double prints for their own private spank banks, so we just *did not* put most of the shit that we did on film.

If you go back and look at those few photos of me that exist from that time period, you might not have guessed that, at age 14, I had thigh-high stockings and lacy underwear and a mini skirt that didn't cover my ass when I bent over (still have that one too) or that most of the time I walked around with the flannel shirt I left the house in tied low around my waist to show off my awesome abs highlighted by the barely-more-than-a-bra crop top I was wearing in some neon color.

Just because photographic evidence of the past is low, it doesn't mean we weren't still doing the exact same things that teens have always done - rebel against authority, swear, eat food we're not supposed to, and explore our sexuality.

This picture, btw, is of me at age 11. I still have that bikini and wrap too.
joreth: (Super Tech)

I'm finding this whole Uber controvery fascinating. It reminds me of the problem my own industry has with unions. Here's the thing - I support unionizing and the right to unionize. I've seen far too many employees and workers get shafted because of rich people at the top not caring about the people at the bottom. But, at the same time, I've seen that exact same thing happen because of entrenchment of unions.

There seems to be this trend, this path that workers' rights fights have - workers get stomped on by people who don't care and have no legal incentive to care. Workers organize and build up enough power to make them care. Things improve. Then unions get a *lot* of power and start behaving like the previous employers. So the people at the bottom start getting stepped on again and they start going around the unions. Which solves the immediate problem, but undermines the more abstract concept of unions and the protections they serve.

I'll give an example of my own business. Stagehands were treated like crap - low pay, long hours, hard working conditions. Unions came in and regulated the industry - gave us standard workdays, decent pay, compensation for things that the industry needs to keep going like longer-than-standard days or the inability to schedule lunch breaks at decent times. When the "show must go on", we can't just stop for a sandwhich because it's noon. Fine, that's a reasonable objection to regulating the industry like the rest of the country's businesses, but they have to compensate us for that with extra money. Stuff like that.

So, that's all well and good, but then the unions got entrenched. The rules started getting lengthy, and counterproductive. Like, in some locations, a Project Manager (i.e. the site's head boss) can't plug in his laptop because that's "electrical" and requires a union-assigned electrician to come down to the site to plug it in for him, costing him the time in waiting for an electrician to be found and sent in and also costing him the salary for said electrician. And, it's not just the electrician's pay, but also the union's fee on top of that. Like, the electrician might make $30 an hour, but the union is going to charge that Project Manager $70 an hour and take the extra $40 for union fees. Oh, and they're gonna charge the union worker his own fees for belonging to the union and finding him a job.

As one of those lower workers who might benefit from getting work as the electrician if I had laws that required clients to use me, I find this to be unreasonable business practices. But I'm not exaggerating, this exact story actually happens. There are places where you have to hire a dedicated truck-unloading crew, a dedicated dock crew that pushes the cases from the truck to the building's entrance, and another dedicated pushing crew who takes it from the entrance to the room where the gear will be stationed. Dedicated truck loaders, I get. A separate dock crew, I don't. That's a lot of money to pay pushers when there are already people who can push cases.

On top of that, unions are supposed to protect the worker, but I've found it to be very difficult to actually get union protection in many places. The unions that I've had contact with seem to want to keep people out, not bring them in. So where does someone find work if the unions won't hire them? They have no choice but to find an employer willing to hire non-unionized workers, which means that they're subject to abuse without regulation, which is exactly what's happening in my industry right now.

So, this Uber thing. Taxi unions protect cab drivers by negotiating fair wages, compensation, and working conditions. But here in Orlando, the Mears company has a monopoly on public transportation that isn't specifically city-provided like the buses. They're strong enough to pressure Disney, which is usually the heavy hitter in this town. Mears might be protecting their employees, but they're also strangling free trade in this city. So Uber comes in offering much more affordable pricing to people whose economy just tanked and can't afford taxis and offering jobs to people who desperately need work.

But at what cost? We've seen from the alt-med industry that lack of regulation is not in the consumer's best interest. There's no training program for the drivers. There's no accountability. There's no adherence to other protective laws like ADA compliance. It's up to the random people who get hired to make sure that they're good drivers and that their cars are in working conditions because there's no centralized method for keeping things up to a minimum standard.

The unions in my industry have behaved so poorly that they've convinced even freelancers who would benefit from union protection that unions aren't worth it. So what happens? Companies sweep in and fill the void, and once they've built a firm base for themselves, they start whittling away at those benefits that the unions once fought for us, because there's no union now to stop them. I've gone 10 years in this business without a raise. I've seen the lowest, entry-level stagehand wages get raised, but I'm making the same money as a camera operator now that I did a decade ago. As a freelancer, if I raise my rates, some companies just won't use me.

I'm seeing the eradication of Day Rates - a guaranteed salary for reserving my entire day for a company. Since we usually don't know how long our work is going to go, when we take a gig, we reserve the entire day for the gig. That means that we have to turn down other work. If the day ends up being short, it used to not matter because we were paid for an entire day. But lately, companies want to pay us by the hour. If we don't know what time we'll be done, or we can't guarantee that we'll be done by the estimated time given, then we can't schedule other work for later in the day to make up for the lost hours.

I'm seeing the loss of food being provided. That was a perk, but given the heavy manual labor, hard working conditions (usually in rooms without air conditioning in Florida and a violation of many OSHA rules), having food provided is good for morale. There is a surprising amount of shit that workers will put up with if they just get fed.

And there are other small erosions. Weird stuff that you might not think of as an eroson of "workers' rights", like dress code. It used to be assumed that backstage workers were "lowlifes", and we could wear whatever we wanted (as long as it didn't compromise safety, so, like, no sandals at work). But more and more companies are expecting us to do hard labor in humid temperatures wearing nice slacks and collared shirts. Or to sit still in freezing air conditioning but not wear appropriate clothing to keep warm. Because appearances are more important than comfort these days. It's ironic that tattoos, piercings, unnatural hair color, and other body modifications are becoming more and more socially acceptable but less and less acceptable in an industry known for its uncouthness.

Not every company is doing this. It's not consistent across the industry or across regions. And not every company is doing every one of the things. Sometimes one thing is taken away but another is given in compensation (they might not feed you, but they'll double the lunch break time to give us time to go off-site to find food). My point is that unionization was important to protect the worker, but when those protections prove to hamper job efforts for those very workers, then the workers themselves will sabotage their industry by allowing in unregulated employers in order to just get work, any work.

I don't have the answer to this problem. I don't have the training or the experience of working where these kinds of decisions are made and the data is collected. I only know what I see. What I see is that regulation is important to protect the people, but the people need to feel protected by those regulations, otherwise they'll cut off their noses to spite their faces and go around those very regulations to fill immediate needs without benefit of seeing the big picture of the regulations. And when they do that, they open the door for exactly those sorts of employers that the unions were protecting us from in the first place.

A union is great, but if I can't get hired by the union, I have to get a job somewhere. And if the union's version of "protecting the worker" costs the employer so much money that he can't make a profit, right or wrong, this is a capitalist society and profit is what the employer wants. If he can't profit, he'll find some disillusioned worker like me who is willing to take some cuts because half the benefits is better than no benefits which is what the employee was getting from the union.

With Uber, I'm strongly in favor of regulation. That's my life on the line in that unregulated driver's car. I want some assurances of safety and I want some accountability. But as a poor person, I'll be back to begging for rides from friends because I can't afford cabs in those situations where I've needed to use a service like Uber. And a lot of people will lose a lot of money if Uber has to change their policies. I'm not arguing in favor of Uber. I'm saying that I'm interested to see if a solution can be found to this problem, because I'm in the category of people that is most susceptible to being preyed on by exactly this sort of union / employer power struggle. I really hope there can be an answer that requires regulation and accountability while still providing the public with affordable services and jobs.