So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

13 August, 2010

This gives me a little moment of optimism

So I have a tag on this blog, if you haven't noticed, of "sixteen tons". Which I use, of course, for ranting about American corporatism and the nature of employment and related subjects like "What do you mean you have a life and can't do overtime?", etc.



Sometimes I see little glimmerings of things that might make me hope that in some future time, I wouldn't need it.

(Class-limited, that is, but it's something for someone, and that's a little better than nothing for nobody.)



No comment beyond that, just a little quickie note.

11 August, 2010

Paradigm Lost

Normal kinky people confuse me so much sometimes.

In the last week I've come across a "we must totally structure our relationships in a particular way lest Disaster Follow", a "well, I could understand how she might feel a conflict between feminism and kink if she were submissive", and a "How can you do d/s and be poly without the master having control over the submissive's other relationships? Where's the power exchange in that? Surely if the sub gets told 'no' it's her obligation to deal, and if the master wants something he gets it!" (Gendering from original quote; I don't know if it's the usual conflation fail or because it's a response to a thread in which a female submissive was seeking advice about a situation with her male master.)

I just.

No, really, it's entirely possible to let relationships work out and see what properties they emerge to rather than either strictly segregating them or doing the Anapol-bullshit "you all must have a shared cause![tm] in order to succeed!" thing.

No, really ... oh, for fuck's sake, shoot me now. The whole tacit, "Oh, of course a female submissive would be uncomfortable with feminism"/"Oh, of course a feminist would be uncomfortable with female submission" is, ... I can't even work up a good head of rant about this right now. I've said it all already, so many fucking times.

The third one kinda blew my mind, though. The idea that d/s means that some obvious package of agreements is in play - "obvious" meaning "unnegotiated and tacitly present" because we totally all do the same thing right and we don't have to think about what we do even if we're rooting around in the spooky parts of the psyche - and thus it's just flat incomprehensible to not include the package.

Of course the dom wants to control the sub's sexuality, because, you know, sex! It's about sex! And power! So putting tight restraints, restrictions, and obligations on the sex is what it's all about, even if that isn't actually fulfilling to anyone! Because! Sexsexsexsexsex! And power!

Gah.

It makes me miss the carpentry.

02 August, 2010

Re-Birthed

I'm still reading those threads on Feministe. And one of these sentiments keeps coming up, people dismissing concerns about the segregation of mothers and children with things like "[this is] about parents who want to continue living the same life they had before they had children". (Gee, where have I heard that one before?)

I tell you a secret: I have the same life I had before Little Foot was born.

Indeed! I have not died and been resurrected by a divine avatar! I have not been carried up into heaven or dragged down into hell to begin a new existence on a new plane! I have not been spontaneously reincarnated as a very clever emu! I have not been uploaded onto the internet to live in the tubes! I have not been resuscitated after a medical emergency! I have not been in a chrysalis and emerged with delicate wings! I am also not a zombie or other undead entity.

I have the same life as before. My life is, in fact, a continuous flow in time, without notable discontinuities. I know, it's shocking, but it's nonetheless true.

La Lubu made a response to one of those posts over there which is damn good.

But I just want to pull that out a bit more.

The two narratives about women, life, and children that I see are either "Living through her children" or "Gave up her life for her children". This is what's seen as culturally normal: the parent-read-woman ceasing to exist as an independent, self-willed entity for at least the duration of childhood, and either vanishing in a puff of logic or desperately attempting to vicariously devour her child's living soul to replace what she has lost. (And then when the children "leave the nest", she has no idea who she is anymore.)

Why does anyone think this is a good idea? For mothers or children?

Why is this normal?

Here's what I see on this front, at least from the culture where I grew up: I see young women being told that they can do or be whatever they have the aptitude for, so long as they do not have children. A woman can, in theory*, have a life, so long as she is childfree; a woman who is not childfree has clearly "chosen" to discard 'the life she had before she had children'.

Child or life, pick one.

So women who want lives don't have children, or turn into terrifying vampires feeding off their children's vivacity. Some form the "compromise" position of having children and navigating the complex world of daycare and babysitting in order to "have it all", which takes time, energy, and expense, much like any other attempt to pull off living a double life does. Otherwise, it's the women who are content to be 1950s Stepford clones are the ones who have children in this world, right? (Someone in one of those threads suggested that having children indicates not only a political position, but a necessarily socially conservative political position. I don't have the heart to go digging for that now to sort out my memories of it.)

But life is still continuous.

Two years ago I was a struggling novelist and beginning theologian, wrestling with concepts of gender and with recovery from being sexually assaulted at the age of fourteen, primary homemaker in one house of a two-household family, working on and off on plans for my second wedding, dealing with stress and insecurity in one relationship, about to embark on what turned out to be a period of about three months of persistent illness, and trying to get pregnant.

A year ago I was in a hospital bedroom with a nearly nine-pound baby and a husband who'd barely had any more sleep than I had, trying to make sense of the hospital room service.

Today I wrote about 1600 words on a new novel that wasn't what I meant to be doing, am nearly through a first draft of a major work of theological analysis (written in poetry and bad jokes) that will need major revisions to make it to submittable draft (but hey, first draft is nonetheless a fine thing to be nearly done with), working on joining a Unitarian church, still feeling complicated about gender and considering how to make it possible to go back into therapy at least a little bit of the time, married to two fantastic men, navigating the complexities of an only partially split-location household, wishing to address some issues in the relationship with one of them and wishing to have time to celebrate the feeling of connection that my child's birth restored to my relationship with the other, mostly healthy, mostly sane, working on plans for when I might be able to go back to college and dithering about whether I want to start part time sooner rather than later, contemplating my driver's license test and the practice I need to get for that, and I have a baby asleep on my foot.

You might almost think that I kept living my life as best I could even while huge amounts of my time, energy, and effort are consumed by being primary caregiver and food source for the kidlet, wouldn't you?

I mean, I don't get out to social gatherings as much as I used to, which is as much "I'm too tired to move" as it is the complexities of child portability.

But I want to do more, live more, be more, now, in part because my child deserves to see and live life beyond my living room. And that, dear readers, is wicked hard.


And among the things that make it hard are things like wondering, if I manage to get out to dinner, who might try to pull me aside and scold me for having a baby in a restaurant to make a 7:30 reservation. Because, you know, you're a parent now, you need to make sacrifices and accept that you don't get to do that sort of thing.

Babies go to bed at eight, and that's that, even if yours never actually has, you know. That's the rule.

(You don't get to have your old life. You gave that up when you had children.)

(The one where going out to dinner landed at 6:30, which would require interrupting her nap.)



* So long as she is not a POC, is not or does not become disabled, is only queer in "tolerant" areas and maybe not even then, is not trans, makes enough money, and otherwise conforms to standards for life-having as defined by pernicious external forces.

30 July, 2010

Bleeding Mama

I got linked to these posts by guest blogger Maia on Feministe. These links came up in comments, and I am reminded of my commentary on privilege feminism a while back. And this post got linked along the way.

All of which is kind of context for where this bit is bleeding out.

Antiprincess got me between the eyes with this comment, by the way:

the idea of “child-friendly” space vs. “child-free” space is not really about comfort or convenience or “appropriate” behavior or environment. it’s piggybacking (over generations) on the “separate spheres” thing – the idea that men do things in public space and, well, women and children do whatever it is they do wherever it is they do it, at any rate in a space separate from men (private space).


And Faith followed it up with this:

Actually, no one seems to really want to address the problem of women being isolated from certain parts of society if they have children. At best folks have simply stated that parents have to accept a certain amount of isolation when we become parents (and they do use the word parent while ignoring that women are the primary caretakers the majority of the time…), yet no one who espouses this has really given any reasonable explanation for exactly why women just have to accept this isolation.


Since Little Foot was born, I've felt very political.

It's a hard and complicated thing, and I don't know where to go with it, or even where to go with talking about it. I don't know how to tackle it, because it's so large, and because there's nowhere immediate and obvious to get a grip on it. It puts a strange, sharp edge on things, things that matter to me, and I have no fucking words, here.

I've also felt overwhelmingly hopeless about it.

I mean, even if I set aside all the bits where it's farcial to imagine that a freak like me - a polyamorous pagan kinky woman who dropped out of school for mental health reasons - might manage to do a damn thing in the political machine. Even if I imagine that there's some alternate route to organisation and action that hits what I need to do that I can do, which ... I see people do, across a gulf of unshared experience, and I don't know how to pick up those pieces which aren't mine. Even if I set aside all that.

I don't know how to do it. I didn't grow up in a world where mami did the union negotiations with a baby on her hip, as BFP wrote about in one of those threads - I grew up in the world where, for all that it was more integrated then than it is now, there was the children's universe and the rest of the world and it was cute when I listened to All Things Considered and came away wanting to make the budget numbers add up because I could do algebra. Cute, not meaningful. I grew up in a world where any memory of being listened to as a human being is tainted with the sneering, raging, "Your father treats you like an adult." I grew up in a world where I wondered when I would be old enough that someone would consider my opinions on the public sphere worthwhile (answer: sometime in my twenties).

And in that world, there are no public mothers. Because of the separation of the spheres, that white privileged woman's fucking paradise, angel of the household, that thing that was the big feminist victory to escape, to let women into the public sphere. People in public aren't parents; parents - read, mothers - are demi-human, shadows on the public sphere, people who are ghosts in the economy, when the economy is what really matters to be human. Now that I am a mother, it matters to me to touch the public sphere, and now that I am a mother, I am bereft of any understanding of how to do it. (Even if the issues that lost me my schooling would let me, which is another kettle of fish entire.)

Somewhere in one of those threads is a set of people saying that centering children is buying into that Little Precious Can Do No Wrong notion that my child is somehow the most important and perfect entity ever spawned. The idea that radical love by whatever means are necessary - as the guest blogger put it - that centers children is really about the solipistic individualism of the sick society built on capitalism rather than actually being the way a movement goes.

It has to be the way a movement goes, from where I sit.

Because it's too late for me.

It's not too late for my little girl. She hasn't been sexually assaulted. She hasn't been bullied. She hasn't been broken by administrative bullshit. She hasn't had her mental health shatter in a way that destroyed her for years. All of these things that happened to me, they haven't happened to her.

I can't build a world where the stuff that happened to me didn't happen. Those words are already written into the fabric of time. I can't center me, build a political effort around making things okay for me, because even though they're okay now there are worlds and worlds of ways in which the way I got here was not okay. I can't center me and rehash the things that happened to me and make it all about me and ignore all the things that happened to other people whose different courses through the wide wild world of not okay didn't coincide with mine.

I have to center the children. Not just my baby, all the children, because it's only when the children are safe from brutality that nobody will live brutalised.

And I don't even know if this is hope or despair. It bleeds, that's all I know.

19 July, 2010

A Theology of Lunch

So, while I was writing "Ka", I was also catching up on blogs, and Raising My Boychick had a link to this post at the Fat Nutritionist.

I think a lot about motherlove and connection and the ka, and about sex and the ka, and all that stuff, but the thing is: food too. And this is a part that's actually kind of subversive. For the reasons noted in that post.

When you break it down to fundamentals, the ka is a repository of life energy, creative power, all that stuff. Where does our energy come, in a deterministic biological sense? From what we eat. "May your ka be fed", that offering liturgy, applies to us here largely in the material world, consuming material things. While my ka is fed by gifts of love and caring, my ka is also fed by lunch, and denying that goes into weird, unpleasant places.

Especially since much of the attempting to bind food up with virtue gets entirely entangled with an aescetic attitude in which there is Good Food and Bad Food - which Food is Good and which Bad changed depending on the latest fad science, of course - and the appropriate way of managing the concept of Soul Food is to only eat the Good or at least feel appropriately contrite when partaking of the Bad. And people get bound up in the lure of the forbidden, and detached from their own body's signals about what food they want to eat, when to start, when to stop. And people cast it in moral terms, referring to their food decisions as "I've been good" or "I've been bad", and even find it harder to make those decisions in the way they would prefer if they have recently been 'bad'.

What we feed ourselves, how we feed ourselves, is a spiritual process; as we offer ma'at to the gods that their ka be fed, when we feed our kau we ought feed them in keeping with ma'at. But what this means in practice is a fiddly sort of thing.

We eat according to our natures: each person has a palate with its quirks, somewhat different nutritional needs, different digestive capacities. We add to this filters for what we feel we can ethically consume, what we can afford, what those in our lives are comfortable with eating. I am not so much a believer in what gets called "intuitive eating" as I am a disbeliever in pretty much anything else I have heard of, honestly, but there's the thing, isn't it? Eat food, it's a good idea.

And there's a lot invested in control mechanisms around food, even if people were free to choose - which we aren't, really. Not by a long shot. I certainly can't afford, y'know, artisinally farmed pastured organic non-GMO pesticide-free antibiotic-free free-range hand-raised grass-fed dry-aged locally-grown ethically butchered non-pasteurised heirloom cruelty-free cageless durians. Certainly not all the damn time.

But that doesn't actually answer the question of how to recognise connective justice at lunchtime.

There are layers and layers.

As a rule, I like my food reasonably unprocessed. And I have the privilege of having the knowledge, time, and facilities to prepare such food rather than having to depend on pre-packaged stuff that contains a fair amount of filler. (Which is one of my little "If I could fix the world" social justice things. Feeding people is one thing. But making sure people have access to ingredients, facilities, and the basic training in order to cook? That's a whole other thing. And getting there, too, that requires making it possible for people to live without having to take several ill-paying jobs - making sure that they have the time and resources to acquire, develop, and actually use those skills. That part would take an overthrow of the current economic system.)

(I still think it's probably a good idea.)

The whole "eat real food! Also organic, locally grown, etc.!" thing is ... okay, it's a nice idea, and I'm not going to knock it. But it needs to be done in a way that isn't catastrophically tone deaf on issues of class. Exhorting people to eat in a particular way has been a growth industry my entire life; making the parts of that that are actually reasonable possible, on the other hand, is evidence of creeping communism and narsty narsty subversiveness. We can't be having with that.

And - like the Fat Nutritionist blogger says - a Twinkie is not the end of the world. (I drink a fair amount of soda. I try to get the kosher for Passover stuff in quantity each year when I can find it, because it's made with sugar rather than liquefied corn subsidies and also tastes better. But even HFCS soda is not a moral failing; I still like it, so I still drink it.)

And yeah. There are ethical questions in where food comes from and how it's prepared, and that's part of eating ma'at. Those questions do not start at the condition of the animals, and they do not stop there either. Those questions include concern about the status of farm workers. (And if you look at that carefully you will notice that that set of questions makes a beeline for immigration without regard for whether or not you wanted to go there.) Those questions include concern about environmental monocultures created by large farms, too. Animal death as a result of farming. Sustainability. Creeping corporatism. Small farmers losing seed crops because of cross-pollination from deliberately sterilised genetically modified corporate grain breeds. Genetic diversity in our food sources. Environmental costs of shipping. Feeding animals inappropriately rather than according to their natures (if you want to eat corn, eat some fucking corn; cows-that-ate-corn is both not as healthy and abusive to the cattle). There's a lot more of that stuff.


Here's a thing, beyond all of that:

Food is one of our social bonds. Exchange of food is considered sacred in a lot of cultures; it's a standard peace offering even in some of our near primate ancestors. This is probably instinctual.

Yet, there is a thread of Western culture that wants to make food divisive. Are you eating too much. Are you sufficiently grateful (there are starving children in Fill-In-The-Blankia, you know). Are you eating the right things. Are the things you're eating of sufficient ethical purity. Have you performed sufficient abasements to apologise to the world for eating that cookie.

These things are all ways of keeping us from feeding our souls. And, perhaps more importantly, from feeding each other. Because offering food to each other is one of the ways that we can connect, ka to ka, recognising this fundamental bond that we share as members of the cosmos, and as long as there is the reflexive response of "I can't eat the food you offer, it would make me a bad person", we have this fundamental hostility that sabotages our interactivity.

I mean. I'm not saying "Don't be an ethical vegetarian", if that's the way you roll; roll that way. I'm not saying "Totally ignore food preferences and intolerance because what I make for you is totally an expression of soul connection!" I consider it my obligation, when I'm feeding people, to offer them food that will sustain their souls - which means having vegetarian or vegan options as necessary, which means making sure that I manage to offer things that won't risk killing my guests or causing them health distress, which means making sure there is food that I, also, can eat. But it's my obligation as the recipient of food to accept or decline with grace, because I recognise that this is a medium of feeding my ka. This is one way that we can express caring for each other.

When we can feed each other, we can have peace in our halls and sustain each other in community.

18 July, 2010

Unsaid Things

In the comments on this post on Figleaf's, Clarisse Thorn posted a link to this post, in the comments to which there was a fair amount of discussion of, basically, the whole "well, kink comes from abuse", that's in part fed by stories in which people link their kink with their childhood abuse experiences.

And of course there was the usual, "No, actually, I wasn't raped/molested/abused, so my kink doesn't come from rape/molestation/abuse" stuff in there, but here's a thing that I don't think people talk about.

I was the victim of attempted rape.

My emotional response to that left me reluctant to trust people in sexual situations, extremely cautious, unlikely to seek out new partners, and basically extremely sexually conservative, a trait that, believe it or not, has persisted for the following eighteen years.

So there exists, in at least one case (and you know by Ugol's Law there are more, even if you don't know that some of that "more" have been in my comments in the past) a link between highly risk-averse non-promiscuous sexual behaviour and sexual assault.

But, you know, you don't see a lot of "Sexual assault causes sexual conservatism" stories. Because my sort of low partner count and wariness to get involved with people is a desired outcome, after all, so the default social response to it is more likely to go in the "Well, uh, good for you" then than to consider my preferences the sort of problematic that makes a crashing good tale. (Though I have run into a couple of assholes who were of the opinion that I should try some sort of desensitisation therapy - read, have a lot of casual sex - in order to burn out my sensitivity to sex so that I might consider fucking them. There's a whole lot of wrong there, to say the least.)

And as I think about this, I think about one of my little political bits of Discordian ju-jutsu around orientation. A while back I was regularly running into people who would say something to the effect of, "I never hear straight people saying they knew about their attractions before puberty, so gay people who say that must have had inappropriate sexualisation as children." I have, at times, taken some glee in pointing out to these people that I had my first crush at the age of seven or eight, and was quite aware of it as linked to "grown-up stuff" that I would figure out later, and that I am painfully straight. Somehow, they had managed to fail to register my perfectly ordinary and very common story - the elementary school crush, for crying out loud, have they never heard of Judy Blume? - as being relevant to the question of whether ordinary and very common children have any connection to the concept of attraction.

(I so much marvelled at these people for their ignorance of the constant threads of heterosexuality that is imposed on children - when a mixed-sex pair of children starts rough-housing, the declarations of puppy love, for example. Or the creation of gender-segregated classrooms where associating with the Other Side is fraught and charged with inexplicable but oddly adult tension - I can recall my crush standing on the far side of the fifth-grade classroom, talking with another boy, on the far side of the uncrossable gender line, where it would take a braver girlchild than I was to venture.)

How many perfectly ordinary stories do we forget to hear? Because the perfectly ordinary flows so seamlessly into the world that we want to know that it vanishes, invisible, like so many lines in the game of cognitive Tetris, racking up the points for what we think we know but disappearing into the imaginary as soon as we register them. How many perfectly ordinary stories don't register in our mental statistics because their mundanity - the puppy love, the losing adventurousness due to a trauma, the marriage that doesn't end, the kid who never causes trouble in school, the high school athlete who doesn't join the big leagues and make millions of dollars, the brilliant mind who doesn't cure cancer after all - makes no impression?

How many stories do we just not hear?

(ETA: Here's another relevant link to a story we don't hear, explicitly talking about the stories we expect instead, even!)

11 July, 2010

I'ma Thump You With My Cane

For various reasons, I have ventured outside my nice little enclosed area of pagan religious discussion where the majority of people present are actually functional adults (I include in this many of the teenaged posters) and have been reading a bit of More General Pagan Discussion.

Which reminds me why I don't do public pagan-flavored religion as a thing.

Because seriously, people.

Grow up a little.


You are not a mighty warrior called to serve in the Great War on the Astral. Your deeper spiritual nature as a wolf does not inform you about the coming storm. No, I don't "feel the change coming" or believe that Mother Earth is about fit to shrug her shoulders and throw the human race into the abyss over Deepwater Horizon. Earthquakes actually are not that exotic. When the apocalypse comes your "abilitys" will not feed and protect you and keep you in a better conditioned than unenlightened people who have cars. You are not destined to be the foundation of a new species. Your special gift is not to protect the masses from other people's special gifts.

I don't need a guide to your holidays. No, really. Even if I were a sabbat-celebrator, which I'm not, because it's not actually a part of my structural assumptions about religion, I would either know what the fuck I was doing enough to not need your three-paragraph summaries of how you do it or want to get my information from someone who uses an apostrophe to mean something other than "OH SHIT HERE COMES AN S."

If you don't know what you're dedicating yourself to, I can't help you write a fucking ritual. I don't even know what religion you're talking about, though I can guess it's probably some form of neo-Wicca because because you clearly assume everyone shares it. Ranting bad history in all caps doesn't make your ignorance less obvious. Your weird hard-on for ranting about monotheism isn't actually an interesting philosophical position.

No, really, you don't need to add runes to the set to get finer-grained nuance. (Unless, of course, you've sacrificed an eye for the wisdom to know what the fuck you're doing, and if you've done that why don't you know better than to ask the internet?) If you don't know how to read your Tarot spread how much useful information do you think you're going to get out of it, anyway?

You seriously just recommended Silver Ravenwolf. I ...


... feel old.

09 July, 2010

Ka

The irony in the manuscript that I'm currently working on - a treatment of the texts colloquially known as "The Egyptian Book of the Dead" - is that funerary theology is perhaps the least interesting part of my religion to me.

Of course, it's the thing that everyone thinks about when they think Egypt, and it's also where we have a boatload of actual resources, so as a place to work from it's not a bad idea.

The thing with systematic theology is, though, that it doesn't matter where you start; you tug at the bits and they wiggle the rest of it and suddenly you're exploring the whole system. A lot of Egyptian funerary literature is about fixing "what went wrong" that someone is dead, which means that when one teases out how it works and what's being done, one actually comes away with a really vibrant picture of the understanding of life. (Because that's actually what it's really about. It's not even subtle.)

There is a lot to be said about the construction of identity and the nature of being in this system, but honestly I keep orbiting around a bit of the Pyramid Texts that I wrote about before.

A bit of the Pyramid Texts that I keep wanting to express as "Hug your children so they have souls."

"You put your arms around them like the arms of a ka, that your ka might be in them."

The ka - the vessel of life-energy, twin to our bodies, a sustaining and generating force etymologically and thus magically linked to food, reproduction, genitalia, that portion of the gods which receives offerings and that portion of our friends which receives gifts - that essential part of a person is bestowed through parental care and affection.

Further, that soul of ours is the same as the souls of our parents, their parents, all our kin, the whole of humanity, the whole of animal-kind, all living things, all things animated by internal spirits, by the essential kinship of coming forth from the Creator, which passed that soul, that ka, into the twinned First Children, and from there into all the created universe through that process of ongoing differentiation. When I offer to the gods with "May your ka be fed" I am allowing this energetic connection to be awakened and to flow, divine to me, me to divine, because it cannot be allowed to stagnate: I give, They give, the cycles of life depend on the ka feeding the ka feeding the ka, all through all things. When I open my arms to my friends, present them with gifts ("For your ka"), likewise our bonds as citizens of the cosmos are affirmed.

It is a little tiny line, that "put your arms about them like the arms of a ka, that your ka might be in them", buried in a set of texts that hardly any people actually read. But tug at it a little, tug and see what wiggles.

Hug your children so they have souls. So they have their unique and glorious portion of the soul, the creative essence, the live spirit of what some might call God Herself.

Hug your children. Eat. Love. Give.

Honor what comes to you by opening your arms and letting it move.

For your ka.

And mine.

For the kau of all the little children.

All the elders.

All the world.

11 June, 2010

Tips for Atheists

In the last few days I have had the misfortune to come across a half-handful or so of largely unrelated discussions in which various atheists demonstrated to me once again why theism/atheism "discussions" on the internet are a waste of time in general, and a waste of time for a polytheist like me in particular.

I mean, sometimes I comment in them anyway, but for the most part it's like I didn't say anything, because I'm not engaging According To The Rules, which rules are apparently defined by conservative Protestantism. I am not feeling as sarcastic about this as I was when I first ran across it a few days ago, but I would like to muster a few points about cultural awareness.

I know a number of completely personable atheists, including a few who are happy to have serious and in-depth conversations about not only theological theory but my actual religious experiences. Not a single one of them participates in theism/atheism discussions on the internet; most groan and don't want to know when I mention stumbling across one.


So, my angry and offensive opinions:

1) You may very well want to express contempt for "so-called holy books", but do not mistake revealed scripture for religion. Not all religions have scripture at all. The ones that do interpret in different ways than you are obviously used to; the Tanakh is read rather differently than the Old Testament, and those are, technically, mostly the same words. Try to apply the same standards to the Principia Discordia and you might understand why that scripture includes the line "A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing what he reads." Your mission, if you choose to accept it: The Oresteia.

2) Similarly, condemning "belief" as a category does not get you anywhere useful. Not only does it slam things like "I believe that my husbands love me", but you are presuming that belief is a fundamental and important factor in religion. Orthodoxic religion is familiar, yes, because Christianity is more orthodoxic than most religions, and Christianity is, well, pretty popular in the English-speaking world. But that whole "more orthodoxic than most religions" thing means we cannot actually have a meaningful conversation. This feeds into the ridiculous and pernicious cultural angst about whether or not Judaism is a religion, a culture, or an ethnicity; contemplation of this may be enlightening. (Condemning "faith" is sufficiently similarly problematic that I will not make another bulletpoint for it.)

2b, though) Also, you're ignoring theistic or religious agnostics when you dismiss religious people as "believers".

2c) Not to mention nontheistic religion.

3) And on the subject of that religion, culture, ethnicity thing: when you talk about your utopian future in which there is no religion, you are expressing a position that is, at best, colonialist. It is rooted in a culture that grew up descended from the Roman notion of "religion" as a category that could be pointed to as something disinct from or other than "the way we live as a people", a notion that Christianity inherited. When you say you want to wipe out "religion", what you communicate to many people is that you believe that their culture and heritage should be destroyed. The people you may hit hardest with this particular colonialist club are likely, of course, the members of surviving indigenous colonised tribes who have been on the butt end of Christianisation used specifically as a tool for destroying them as people with an independent identity. Be careful of the company you keep.

3b) Also, if you are basing your anti-religion-X argument on the way that religion-X treats its women, children, sexual minorities, etc., fucking listen to the religion-X people who are women, children, queer, whatever else rather than stomping all over them with your I-know-better-than-you-poor-deluded-people-who-haven't-escaped-the-trappings-of-your-oppressive-religion boots, okay?

4) Yep, "supernatural" is a big fancy word for stuff that doesn't exist. The relevance of this point to religion is questionable and both 100% dependent on a privileged definition of "god" and a complete avoidance of the concept of orthopraxy. For a trivially obvious couple of examples, an animistically inclined religious person can entirely agree with you that there is no supernatural and still have boatloads of gods kicking around; a religion that is primarily defined on the social practices and behaviours of a community does not go away even if gods do.

5) On that "disproven" thing, yes, gods are not scientific axioms. People who try to use them as such are idiots. Most religious people do not think their religion is science, and trying to tell them that their religion is not a substitute for science will mostly get you an, "Why are you telling me this rather than join me in doing something about the idiots who want to get 'intelligent design' into my kids' textbooks?"

5b) Science is not the full range of reality, either. I like art and music and other subjective experiences! I bet you do too! I'll bet that sometimes you do something daring like eat some chocolate or have sex or listen to Bach sometimes without engaging in a peer-reviewed study of the process by which your neurons fire! I like blue things, and I do it without deriving my enjoyment from the principles of the electromagnetic spectrum!

5c) And regarding that whole "but religion suffuses everything" thing that's part of the arguing with people who want to get intelligent design into the textbooks. Trust me, I hate "God Bless America" played at baseball games at least as much as you do, possibly a little more because it is in my muscle memory as the accompaniment to a tae kwon do kata and I prefer not to accidentally kick people in the head in the seventh inning stretch. (Ceremonial deism is a crock.)

6) By the way, if you start arguing against "omniscience" or "omnipotence" as divine traits, you're basically talking about at best one hypothesised godform, and the rest of us may as well bugger off and have tea. Don't mistake that for a definition of what a god is. (And if you, like one atheist did once to me, respond to someone attempting to point out that that argument is completely incoherent from a non-monotheistic perspective with "What's the point in worshipping a god that isn't omnipotent?", you lose at cultural awareness and probably capability to understand basic polite conversation outside your microscopic frame of reference.)

7) So on that "What's the point" thing, by the way, when you assume that religious people are religious out of fear (fear of death is a popular more-specific version of this), wanting a cookie from some all-powerful parent figure in the sky, or similar infantilising trivialisations, you are probably not going to get a response from the adults in your vicinity. Not because there aren't any, but because the work to disabuse you of your notions just doesn't look worth it, and being a responsible adult bears a remarkable resemblance to being too tired.

8) When you make your arguments about religion, it really helps if you don't use catchwords that indicate you only know about one or two of them. (Hint: "salvation" is a tip-off. "Original sin" too.) Also, saying something like "Your god will eventually vanish into prehistory and superstition, just like nobody worships Thor, Zeus, or Osiris anymore!" will make the polytheists in the vicinity very tired; most of them, however, know that pointing out that they worship Thor or Zeus or Wesir will just get them called childish and primitive or something in the unlikely event that anyone acknowledges their existence at all, and thus don't bother to correct your ignorance.

9) Most religious organisations suck, and institutionalised power leads to abuses. WELCOME TO PROGRESSIVE SOCIAL ACTIVISM AWARENESS, HERE IS YOUR INFORMATIONAL BROCHURE ABOUT WAYS THE HUMAN CAPACITY TO GANG TOGETHER GOES HORRIBLY WRONG. Seriously, are you expecting religious structures to differ from corporate structures? Nations? High school cliques? People form social structures to make levers; people apply levers to get what they want. Some things people want are bloody awful. If you want to end holy wars you'll have more success with it by fixing water rights, health care access, economic security, and all that hope-for-the-future stuff than by trying to abolish gods.

9b) Seriously this is an argument for anarchism not against religion.

10) If you start out your comment or your shiny blogpost by saying "Religion does X thing and I don't want to hear from anyone pointing out religions that don't", posting a comment later on going, "Gee, just about everyone who reads my blog agrees with me on this!" is just - fucking - ridiculous. When you state up front that you're uninterested in hearing counterarguments, only the most bullheaded ideologues will ever bother to make any. (I'm not making this one up, though I will admit it's more of a general Internets Argumenting point than something specific to this particular standing-wave flamewar. I just saw it a day or two ago when catching up on the last few weeks of blogs I read and the resulting explosion led to this post.)


So yeah. There's my inflammatory bullshit. Let it join all of the other inflammatory bullshit about this subject that's kicking around the internets lately.

07 June, 2010

Running through to drop a link

Ebert's blog: "How do they get to be that way?"

On the painting over the murals of students in that Arizona school.

09 May, 2010

Presumption of Innocence

A while back, two people named Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks decided to try to paint my blogworld acquaintance maymay as a pedophile for not barring minors from the KinkForAll unconference set he started and released into the world. I've been meaning to try writing about this for a while, but between Little Foot and everything else I have not been able to get the spoons together; better, more coherent writing can be found at Alas, A Blog, among many other places. One of maymay's posts on the subject is here.

So rather than roll over those subjects again:

Little Foot pulls books off the shelves: this one is titled Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

In an ideal world I'd have to hand the statistics about some European approaches to sex education, which starts well before puberty and has, as its end result, lower teen pregnancy rates, later age of first sexual contact, and so on, and I'd be able to lay them out in that cool-headed rational way that is how one's supposed to act in order to be Convincing in this culture.

Or I could just dig out my Blogging for Sex Education Day post and emotive appendix and wave them around again like a bloody shirt. Possibly with an "As a mother of a baby girl..." attached to start hitting those buttons as hard as I can.

But, y'know, as a mother of a baby girl, the Hughes-and-Brookses of the world terrify me. They terrify me because they wish to make equipping Little Foot with what she will need to navigate the world in reasonable safety a crime, if not literally, at least socially: they want the concept of frank discussion about sexuality to be, if it exists at all, constrained to those above legal majority, keeping the youth vulnerable, exploitable, ignorant.

I mean, I'm familiar with this sort of thing, this idea that children are 'innocent', which is a code word for 'unsexual', and that they will be tainted by knowledge.

I've run into it in homophobic discourse - because straight people never realise they're attracted to MOTOS before puberty, so gay people who figure that sort of thing out must be inappropriately sexualised. I have a hobby of popping into those discussions to note that I had my first crush when I was seven or so, and recognised it at the time as "something that has to do with grownup things like getting married", and it manifested as - among other ways - wanting to touch the target of my affections which, being in elementary school, involved defeating him in a wrestling match at a friend's birthday party. These people remain wilfully ignorant of the way that hairpulling and teasing get labelled as "puppy love" when the children involved are of different apparent sexes, making it redundant for people for whom that sort of thing is actually the early and inchoate manifestations of sexuality to realise that hey, they're straight!

... those were some very long and complicated sentences. Anyway!

Once, when I was pointing out that I was aware of parts of my sexuality when I was pre-pubescent - that I was formulating my taste in boys from the age of seven, say, I don't think I'd even gotten into the definite awareness of some level of kink by the age of twelve - I got told that I was providing justifications for pedophiles. That self-awareness as someone who was formulating an understanding about "grownup relationship things" and how I felt about having them someday was some kind of mitigating factor that could excuse sexual abuse. That even acknowledging child-appropriate sexuality in a prepubescent was carte blanche for people to fuck children.

I can tell from the way I repeat that and rephrase it over and over that I go all fugue-y and kind of triggery about it.

Children are keen observers of the world, perhaps especially the world of adult social dynamics, because they have to relate themselves to that world in order to survive. A keen state of vulnerability means that understanding the systems of social interaction is a vital skill. (This, tangentially, strikes me as one of the reasons ASD can be so disabling.) Expecting that children will not be piecing together understandings of sexuality from what they observe is flatly ludicrous: even the ones who are not growing up in a household with adults who are in a romantic/sexual relationship of some sort will have friends with married parents, or single parents who are dating, or whatever else. They will see people with relationships on television, or watch a Disney movie and observe how this year's Princess gets her Prince. And they will find themselves drawn to explore things themselves: whether it's "if I touch this I like how it feels" or "That person there makes me feel happy and I want to be near them" or something else altogether in that complex of things.

We cannot cannot cannot dissociate children from an awareness of how what's in their heads relates to the adult world. And sexuality does not suddenly spring into existence from nothing at puberty, at age of consent, at legal majority, at an age where one is old enough to drink, no matter how much the rhetoric would like it to.

And I'm writing about children, because I have a child and I have to work through how to equip her with knowledge from age-appropriate ground up - which doesn't even touch on the vileness of equating teenagers who might be attending one of maymay's unconferences with my nine-month-old child in terms of what sort of sexuality discussion might be appropriate for them.

But this is a culture in which carrying condoms in order to be a responsible driver for one's sexuality frequently gets taken as being oversexed, slutty, indiscriminate, bad, and thus unrapeable, because sex isn't a topic for discussion; sex is something magical that happens from beyond and carries you away. Being frank, real, knowledgeable, aware, making deliberate choices: these are all the sorts of things that destroy 'innocence' and thus make a person guilty.

02 May, 2010

Imaginary

Holly of the Pervocracy is taking apart some internet weirdo named Roissy, who has put forward "tests" to evaluate female attractiveness and male attractiveness according to some wacked out fetish pick-up artist subculture paradigm.

It is ... very strange.

Especially since the usual suspect is in there arguing that the Conventionally Attractive Woman totally benefits from this detestible set of social upfuckery and thus if one wants to have a Conventionally Attractive Woman one must learn these rules.

Now, as I mentioned over there, to the extent that that's an accurate description of "club culture", it's a brilliant argument for never going to a club, but there's more than that going on. As Holly notes in one of the previous posts she's written about this nonsense, the nonsense ignores the huge number of ordinary guys with partners. All of the Conventionally Attractive Women are off clubbing, right!

Er, no?

Unless, of course, one defines Conventionally Attractive Woman - and Roissy might - as someone who goes to trendy clubs. (I am pretty sure that people who go to goth and punk clubs don't count.)

I mean, I know more than a few women who pretty much meet the basic standards for Conventionally Attractive Women as I understand them - fairly thin, non-invisible bust, dress in an attractive manner that is compatible with their figure, and ... I don't think I know anyone who goes to trendy clubs. Or if I do they consider it the sort of shameful secret that doesn't get mentioned in polite company. Closest I'd get is people who go to see favorite bands in clubs on occasion, in which case the trendiness of the club is completely irrelevant. Hell, I've done that, to see a goth rock group. I have no idea if the place I went for that is fashionable, though the bartender didn't know how to mix a lime rickey and I had to tell her.

But it comes around to that thing that got said there - to get a patriarchy-approved woman apparently one has to become a patriarch. Okay, that's as sensical a thing as any.

What I don't understand is why this is an appealing relationship goal to have, at least as anything other than "Look at me I have a hot chick hur de hur hur". I mean, I know that humans are profoundly status-driven in ways that often fly under the radar, but that particular status jockeying just eludes me entirely in its appeal.

Somewhere recently I read a chunk of a post that went something like, "Nerdy types are rarely popular because they don't want to go to the effort of popularity" or something like it. Which, well, makes sense. The goalstates are different. And setting aside the fact that I was cast as the smart one, not the pretty one, even if I had had the option of being the pretty one type, I didn't want to pay the cost.

And there is a cost. Maybe it's a more obvious cost to me as someone who had that weird outsider fringe status but maybe could have paid that pound of flesh if I had had the social acumen to do it - but the cost is immense.

I don't even mean the time and money investment required to manage the beauty ritual, make sure all of the shaving-required bits are shaved, mastering the skills of makeup and coiffure, and so on, though that's certainly a cost - if nothing else an opportunity cost on acquiring other skills or spending that money.

I mean the social cost.

Let's say I go to the effort to convert my more-or-less Conventionally Attractive Woman presentation into something that hits the PUA crowd's buttons, something I could probably do because I have the privilege of having a base template that is fashionable. Let's even say that I would enjoy presenting myself that way, so that we can neglect the mental stress of investing myself in something that is at best neutral to me on the appeal front. Let's even go into the wild hypothetical mode and suggest that this hypothetical me is unpartnered.

This hypothetical me would have to deal with more creepy approaches. Real-world me is sufficiently nondescript in clothing and presentation that she can fade into the background and read a book on the bus rather than having to regularly fend off the inappropriate and unwelcome strangers who will occasionally glom onto a woman and try to demand her attention.

This hypothetical me would be attractive to pick-up artist types. Real-world me has not been subjected to that sort of attention since the regularity of sexual harassment in junior high school.

These costs are magnified by my experience of sexual assault, which makes unwelcome male attention extremely stressful. My particular (major) sexual assault has its roots in my being a wallflower, in part, so perhaps if I had achieved Conventionally Attractive Fourteen-Year-Old it would not have happened. But that sort of breaks the boundaries on this speculation, because if that were the case I would not be the person writing this blog at all, even in hypothetical.

This hypothetical me would be perceived as not unattractive but unlikely to be suitable as a partner by the sort of men I do find attractive - because the assumption runs very strong in certain subcultures that a woman who is not only conventionally attractive but who puts significant effort into the elective portions of conventional attractiveness will only interact with those men either to demand service or for purposes of mockery. I might well have to go to extra effort to integrate myself with these communities - which can be doable, I know and have known several women who cared about fashion and similar matters who have done so - but it would still be a cost.

So, yeah, I could theoretically remake myself to gain certain forms of status in certain subcultures, because I'm thin, could probably pad out a bra a bit if I wanted to, and know a bit about what flatters me physically. But I don't see that I'd derive much benefit from the "patriarchy-approved woman" template, so I can afford to be lazy on that front and pursue other forms of status.

It just always bemuses me to be invisible.

Though it often beats the hell out of being seen by some people.

26 April, 2010

Ghost in the Dwelling

My lion asked me yesterday how I was doing, and after a lot of circling around the subject and trying to figure out how to say things, I finally hit the revelation:

"I'm angry with my mother."

(No shit. I live in a universe of angry with my mother. But, he quite reasonably asked:)

"Why? She hasn't been all that much in contact, has she? I mean, what's she done?"

I tried to explain. Explain that every time I talk to her, if I mention that something is hard with taking care of Little Foot, that I'm feeling in some way hemmed in or tired or stressed or any of the normal things that motherhood brings, her voice takes on this knowing cast, and she says something like, "Yep, that's what it's like. That's what it'll be for the next twenty years! You gave up your life."

This parenting gig, it's hard work. It is one of the most wonderful, rewarding, bloody difficult things I have ever done in my life, because it's a thing that I have wanted to do, that my heart has yearned for.

And every time she says something like this, it gets just a little bit harder. Or maybe a lot harder.

Because I am still a person, no matter how much she wants to turn me into the negative phrasing of the Angel of the Household, the madonna of self-sacrificing motherhood. I still have things that I want to do with my life - that I am doing with my life - even if I have to wedge them around the crevices. And I have to wedge them around the crevices because there's still that legacy of Victoriana, the two spheres, the "real world" and the domestic area that I, as a nursing mother, preside over with my apron and wooden spoon, only I haven't got an apron anyway and Little Foot wants to play with the spoon.

I resent the way the culture surrounding me sets me up to be an unperson now. I resent it, and I wish to change it, and I do things like thinking about joining a church to expand the base of my support structure, to maybe find a community with like-aged children so that Little Foot can grow up with friends, to do all the things that might shore up the slumping walls of my Fortress of Unsolitude that I inhabit as the not all that super mom. I am, since Little Foot arrived, more driven to be political, to find community to be active in, to do all of these things that people do, as well as my own work (terribly neglected in the perpetual onslaught of the nine-month-old), and that politicality comes with a keener awareness of the way that I am marginalised.

Oh, I am doing So Many Things Right, with the breastfeeding and all, and isn't it nice that I'm dedicating myself to being a good mother, and now I can be completely glossed over as a person because I will be off doing BABYBABYBABY, right, that's not something that real people have to bother their pretty little heads about, they can go do real people things. Like work, and have relationships, and achieve things that matter in the world, and 'things that matter' don't include 'raising a loving and loved child to be a healthy human being'.

And that's what my mother tells me, over and over again. That I've given up any chance I had to be real for a good long time. This velveteen rabbit will not breathe and bleed and hop on its own, no matter how much it's loved. Because all my real gets drained away, magically, into childrearing.

What you see here is a clever fake.

So that's why I'm angry at my mother right now.

18 April, 2010

But I Try, I Try

(I've had fragments of "Modern Love" stuck in my head all day, yes.)

Today Little Foot and I went to church.

It was our second time attending this particular church - the first was their family Easter service, where she got to pet a rabbit - and I think we will be going back somewhat regularly. I'm thinking of joining the choir; I miss doing music with people, regularly. (It'll have to wait until I can leave Little Foot with other folks of an evening so I can attend rehearsals, but...)

I miss a lot of things.

I'm lonely.

It's a weird sort of loneliness, not one that can be fixed with family, or close friends, the people who have sustained me for so long; it's the sort of loneliness that can only be healed by a broader community, a different layer of system. If it takes a family to make a healthy person, maybe it takes a community to make a healthy family. Maybe. Maybe now that I have Little Foot, that's what I need.

And I'm lonely.

I'm lonely for fellowship, for shared religious feeling. I have my own work, I have the people I share small group with, and I'm alone. And my work is as much soul-devouring as it is soul-feeding, it consumes all of me in order to meet what I need, and there is nothing left to cradle me and give me rest. There is nothing left for me, no temple that holds my first time anymore, and the shells claiming the names of temples all have Top's Disease and I. Will not. Rest. With tyrants.



We went to church, and watched from the balcony (where there is space for littles to run around without disrupting the service), and when the sermon turned to youth participation she said, "AAAAAAH!" and was audible downstairs.

I searched for local Unitarian Welcoming congregations, and this one has music up front, music and other pagan members and a stray poly-activist, and it is friendly. And maybe I'll be able to be at home here, shy me, awkward me who is afraid of joining things out of the surety that I will not be wanted. But yet it feels friendly, even to me.

Today I filled out a card to get the church bulletin.

31 March, 2010

The flesh endures the storms of the present alone; the mind, those of the past and future....

I was unaware that a particular bullying and cyberbullying case had led to a bunch of local action before it was drawn to my attention recently.

I am incapable of commenting on the particulars of the case; I haven't looked into it. I honestly find the whole subject more than a bit triggery, so I cringe and hide when it comes up, a lot, rather than put too much thought into it, to trying to figure it out, trying to empathise.

You see.

I spent about ten years almost entirely unable to cry.

It's still hard for me, and I'm more likely to get a piercing headache that feels like my eyes are being crushed out of my head instead of tears, along with the driving need to shed tears and no capacity.

Tears would prove that they had won.

And that was even more unbearable than what they put me through.

So I held my tears until I was safely off the bus and away, out of sight, out of earshot, held them until I got home, held them, held them back, probably fooling nobody but that didn't mean I didn't need to try, until I could do nothing but hold them, frozen into veins of ice in my heart that have never fully melted.

Somewhere in there my parents tried to talk to the school administrators, who said "Boys will be boys" and shrugged; sexual harassment and at least borderline assault were nonevents. (And I look at the person who commented on the article I linked who wants to know what caused the "recent uprising in bullying" and wonder what fucking planet they're from. Nobody has ever cared to fucking stop it. I mean, the closest I've seen to any general awareness or giving a damn about it was post-Columbine? And maybe they're doing something about it in Massachusetts because of this poor girl.) Things like getting invited to a slumber party at an address that didn't exist ... well, the gash left by that hope that someone was interacting with me in a manner other than mockery didn't even register as something that needed a bandage, in amongst everything else.

I've said before that nobody escapes childhood unscathed, but some of us had a rougher time than others.

And I sit here thinking, "I have a child. I have a child. My gods, I have a child."

She is eight months old and I am terrified of school for her. I flail helplessly at all kinds of ways of doing schooling for all kinds of reasons, but a lot of them come down to this:

I'm still bleeding.

Somewhere deep in me is that kid who cannot cry, who views every human interaction with distrust because they all turn to ash and mockery sooner or later. That touchy agitation jumps too far, too hard, at any slight, any dismissal, waiting for the signs that it will turn into the knife twisting in the gut.

I'm still bleeding.

Even those people I trust most completely, most utterly, can make me jump. A bad day, a moment of distance, and I'm braced for the snap. Sometimes that bracing is worn smooth and old, a bare lump of awareness, something where I can ask my lion "Are you okay?" rather than half-hiding, half-cowering in the far corner of the room because I assume something's going to shatter and leave me bereft and laughed at, catching the sudden horrific backlash of a joke half my life in the making. I don't believe it will happen - but there's that sliver of horribly twisted, broken person in me that knows it has to be prepared.

I'm still bleeding.

My baby is so innocent.

I'm so scared.

26 March, 2010

Right-Wing Irony Oops

This in from The Moderate Voice:

Conservative thinktanker David Frum was fired soon after his criticism of Republican obstructionism over health care reform, with his boss claiming, well, y'know, times are hard.

Turns out a lot of these policy wonks have think tank jobs ... for the health coverage.

22 March, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

A friend recently linked to this article, titled 'Why Self-Discipline is Overrated'. Which ... I recognise me in it, despite the fact that I have kind of terrible self-discipline.

Though I certainly internalised the notion that moral rectitude is in part measured by how good one is at knuckling down and doing What Must Be Done.

But one of the things that it reminds me of is the style of "schooling" intended to shape children into good, obedient workers, rather than critical thinkers, innovators, or even well-informed and knowledgeable citizens. Under some bits of the history of school development, none of those things are actual desired goals - which explains why the system stinks at producing them. No, the system is supposed to produce "self-discipline", pretty much.

But the stuff about going to college? Portrait of the blogger as a teenager. And a few other people I know, besides:

Dutiful students may be suffering from what the psychoanalyst Karen Horney famously called the “tyranny of the should” -- to the point that they no longer know what they really want, or who they really are. So it is for teenagers who have mortgaged their present lives to the future: noses to the grindstone, perseverant to a fault, stressed to the max. High school is just preparation for college, and college consists of collecting credentials for whatever comes next. Nothing has any value, or provides any gratification, in itself. These students may be skilled test-takers and grade grubbers and gratification delayers, but they remind us just how mixed the blessing of self-discipline can be.


I was a nerdy kid. I'm still an autodidact, pursuing levels of in-depth knowledge on subjects of interest to me - but of course those subjects fit remarkably poorly into any instructional pattern. I was bad at most of my homework, because - as the article notes - so much of it is utterly pointless, and that much was evident to me from the age of, y'know, seven or so.

But in college? I had no idea what I was doing. I had nebulous goals for the future, none of which were dependent on a degree, but getting a degree was What One Did and An Important Experience, so I tried it. (It didn't work out, but that's neither here nor there; I both know people who, like me, went from "stressed to the max" to "broken" and people who scraped through with a degree they found meaningless aiming them at a life that didn't feel like it went anywhere.) The whole value in college was the "discipline" of it, and the "won't it feel so good when you've accomplished". I had no space for finding the place to learn - and do - what I loved.

I didn't even figure out what I wanted to be doing for something like ten years after I dropped out. Because I didn't have the tools; I just had the discipline thing (and the knowledge that I kind of fail at it).

I think of this now, for two reasons - one, that I'm having a major shitfit about the conservative/discipline approach to living and the way it devalues more spontaneous and intuitive attitudes right now, entirely unrelatedly, and two, because I'm seriously considering how I might want to actually go back to school. And ... what I want is a particular Master's degree. And to get that, I ... need a BA. So I've been trying to find something that I can do, that fits in with my life, that is also work that I love, because if I have to hit this particular hoop, I want to do it for more than the discipline.



(In a fit of irony I'm trying to make sure I get at least a post a month up here despite being profoundly occupied with Little Foot. Discipline! Perseverance!)

14 February, 2010

Weighty Contemplations

So, I recently joined FetLife just kind of for the hell of it, and discovered that it's full of all the same stupid arguments I see on the blogs, only with maybe a little more kink acceptance. (Sometimes that maybe is a little thin. It's depressing.)

Today I decided to poke around the Submissive Women community to see if there were interesting discussions there. I found "interesting", though not the sort I think that one might be hoping for.

There were two threads in particular that caught my attention. One was "Would you let a dom give you a buzz haircut?" and the other was "Would you let a dom put you on a diet?"

Guess which one got the more vehemently hostile reactions from the community?

Guess which one had, in the first comments to the discussion, something along the lines of, "I bet this one will go over better because it's serving vanity!"

Oh no, I thought, people will be just as harsh if not harsher on the weight-loss thread, because it's so much more invasive, because health concerns are involved, because ...

Wait, what. "They're about equivalent in invasiveness"? The vast choruses of, if not enthusiastic support, "Yeah, that'd be okay, I think, so long as she's not at a healthy weight already". A few lone voices in the wilderness suggesting things about that sort of thing being bad for self-esteem were scattered among the generalised quiet murmurs of assent and one or two "If you're going to do that sort of thing be sure you have your medical shit together, you know."

I'm left kind of half-speechless. Even knowing that there is so much derangement around weight and the possibility of losing it, a community of people who spit fire at cutting their hair but would acquiesce without complaint to being ordered to lose weight? Who consider these things roughly equivalent, but only the latter acceptable?

I wish I had clever commentary. I'm just too stunned.

23 January, 2010

Keeping Abreast of the Subject

I'm not sure I have anything to say on this Shapely Prose guest post about experiences with fluctuating breast size that isn't kind of tangential of the subject, so I'm pulling my ruminations back here.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I started to enter puberty.

This was, as you might be aware, a touch on the late side. (Further, I was in high school, due to getting skipped up a grade, and thus that much further out of synch with people whose physical development had started, typically, two or three years earlier.) And, as longer-term readers may recall, I was not well-positioned for good social skills development especially around sexuality, nor particularly ept at it.

I had been sexualised and objectified prior to that point; one of the driving forces behind my schooling decisions for high school was wanting to avoid any further exposure to the boys who had made an avocation of attempting to grope my undeveloped breasts or taunt me with sexually charged commentary. But the actual physical stuff didn't really start to kick in significantly until I was actually in high school.

The androgyny of childhood gave way to an androgyny of early adolescence, one too lean and light-boned to show any of the broad paintstrokes of womanhood, with bare hints of the swelling of breasts. I learned how to change shirts in the gym locker room without ever quite seeming to be topless in the selfconsciousness of knowing that I was braless, puerile, exposed. My mother harassed me to wear a bra despite the fact that I had the barest suggestions of curves, and I humored her for two or three days before discarding the thing as an uncomfortable mass of useless fabric.

Despite all this, I was bemused by notions that I should want larger breasts; the pectoral workout scenes in Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret left me laughing at the strange implausibility of adolescent females rather than reassured that I was not alone. I did not think larger breasts would make me attractive; attractiveness was such an unreachable goal that such physical transformations did not occur to me. I hardly thought about breasts at all, beyond a near-subliminal discomfort with a sense of sexualisation and exposure that came of admitting to having them - a discomfort that was eased by the fact that, compared to most female people I knew, I didn't have them.

It was strange to me to hear discussions of breasts (and bras, and similar), because I was ... not precisely dissociated from mine, but had them as tightly associated with my identity as my kneecaps. And so I missed out a lot of importance and had a rather funhouse-mirror perspective on a lot of things, a perspective that perhaps matched the lopsidedness of my actual breasts. (One of which, I have joked for years, never made it out of Tanner stage 4.) Perhaps this was rooted in or a root of my later understanding of myself as genderqueer; gods know.

I picked up a few sports bras from a friend a few years ago, not because I needed sports-bra support of the breasts, but because there were times that going shirtless for exercise was too cold and a shirt led to overheating, so half a shirt was the right scale. They ached some at certain points of my menstrual cycle. My partners found my nipples notably more interesting than I did, overall (experiments with things to do with them mostly led to me wondering when something worthwhile was going to begin). And so on.

All of which made pregnancy ... interesting.

There are stretchmarks on my breasts to go with the stretchmarks on my belly and thighs. I wear a nursing bra most days as much for support as for the protection on my nipples when they've been moderately abraded. The larger one actually folds over, which is frustrating for finding positions to lie down. There is an actual curve between them where there used to be a breastbone; it's possible to imagine corsetry giving me cleavage without me having to put one hand on the side of each boob and shove them together (which was the prior methodology for achieving 'cleavage').

It's honestly a bit confusing. My lion commented that some of the photography of me with the baby suggested a curve, and I was very much, "Yes, it's so weird." Not weird enough to be dysphoric, at least, just perplexing and faintly off-kilter.

And I'm again reminded of the person over at Renegade Evolution's who was horrified by people not wearing bras because People Can See Your Nipples, which left me in a bewildered, "Don't you wear clothes where you come from?" sort of state. Which has to be linked with my mother's insistence that there was some moral necessity to clothe my barely-adolescent chest in additional totally unnecessary layers, somewhere, in the department of socially normal things that make no sense to me.

It's a horribly fraught subject and one where my investment is minute, which is a fascinating experience.


None of this is anything I know how to talk about in a way that's relevant for Shapely Prose, honestly; I'm pretty sure I didn't quite talk about what I meant to when I started here, either. Just ... all the investment people have in breasts, I guess, and I'm limited to faint aggravation at unnecessary clothing and preferring it when I don't get kicked in them.

19 January, 2010

Or A Serious Expression In The Middle Of July

The Mother's for Women's Lib carnival linked me to this post, which contains this paragraph:

Not only are traditionally female fan objects and fan engagements devalued, the very gender identity of the fan thus becomes problematic: reading done in private by women is a selfish and time-wasting activity, and fannish investment is a selfish and time-wasting squandering of emotion. Mothers, however, are meant to focus their activities and emotions on one target only: their family. Capitalist culture has long been undergirded by domestic ideology: the man’s primary domain is the capitalist world, where selfishness and aggressivity are rewarded, while the woman’s primary domain is home, where she creates social awareness by selflessly volunteering and providing moral guidance for the next generation. I’m taking this directly from my domestic/bourgeois ideology lecture for the British nineteenth century, but frankly, living in a white middle class suburban area with two kids in private school, the ideological structure of my community doesn’t really look all that different.


And that's an interesting thing.

I have gotten, since Little Foot was born, profoundly jealous of what time I get to spend on myself. And it's hard, on a lot of levels - I mean, starting with the comment "being selfish is one of the worst crimes a woman can commit without breaking the law" but also all the ways in which my time is circumscribed - whether because I actively need to be minding Little Foot or, like now: she finally went down for a nap, after a fussy day in which she largely refused to sleep. I should go, for example, grab the towels out of the bathroom and wash them, but if I put her down she might wake up. (She has been very, very easy to wake of late, alas.) Which necessity - the dirty towels or the unrested infant - rules?

I have always struggled with taking time for myself, seesawing between complete self-sacrifice and a tendency towards indulgence without ever quite knowing where the range of legitimate behaviour fell. It is not something - growing up in a context where any time spent on myself was proof of my selfishness - that I learned well. Nor a culture designed to help rational thought on the subject, even if I were not kept from learning it at home.

And there are the half-spoken assumptions: that of course the lion and I would stop playing games when we have children, for example. That our recreations will become proper, whatever that means. I already watch baseball games, maybe we'd have to take up more television sports? Or - to really buy into the mythologies of adulthood, that his world would be consumed with Job and my world would be consumed with Baby and neither of us would ever have scope for our own pursuits again, except maybe a movie every year or two when the stars align and someone else could mind the babe.

I find myself strung up by the self-doubt, neither counting off tasks - fold the laundry, clean the bedroom, catalogue the crate of books, whatever else - nor taking time to relax, poised between the two because I have no space to give myself for either.

I think maybe this is why I'm tired.

14 January, 2010

Ignorance and Bliss

I was, for various reasons, having That Conversation the other day. The interminable one, with someone who almost certainly means well, but hasn't quite managed to claw up to spitting distance of social awareness. You know how it goes; you ask, "Look, do you worry about whether you'll be raped if you go out?" and get a response like, "I totally worry about being mugged, I live in a bad part of town." (Because we all know that women totally don't ever have to worry about being mugged; it's one crime or the other.)

Anyway.

One of the other people in That Conversation commented that her moment of revelation was a Savage Love column in which someone had written in asking for advice for how to deal with anal tears, because she'd been mucking about with bondage with her partner and he took advantage of her helplessness to do something she'd previously refused. It hadn't occurred to the writer that she'd been raped.

And, well, it hadn't occurred to the person relating the story that that was rape either. Because she had internalised the "sexuality is like this: resist resist resist resist resist lie-back-and-think-of-England-in-the-end". So: revelation! That is rape!

My first thought on this was relief that I had never been that naive.

My second thought, following immediately after, was that actually, I had been.

Because the cascade that led into my assault was, as I've ruminated before, a long chain of violations, minor building up to major, where I hadn't figured out if I wanted any of them - and by the time I realised I had wanted to say no long ago, it seemed so pointless, so cruel; he expected to be able to do that stuff now, it would be so nasty to suggest that I didn't like it, right? It wasn't nice to lead people on like that. All of the minor transgressions were written off as the price of my failures of promptness, and anything built upon them likewise, not because of resist-and-submit per se, but the same complex of expectation. The things already lost cannot be a crime against person, because they are lost already. And that is what sex is about: resist-and-submit, and if I wasn't able to articulate the 'resist' right on, well, that left me the resolution to do.

Tied for third thought, cascading out of this moment of someone else's enlightenment:

That I didn't know what happened to me was almost rape, and denied that word for many years because I didn't want to appropriate the experiences of "real" victims of assault, but I knew it was wrong, and that's why I wouldn't have been surprised by the opportunistic rape from the letter-writer being named as it was;

That there is a bonus complex narrative about the consequences of being female and kinky (reminded as I was of a friend who was raped under similar circumstances), too;

That for all that I missed out on a lot of the social expectations of femaleness (all the things women are supposed to do 'by default' when they go out because of the risk of rape are things that don't occur to me most of the time - perhaps because I'm a shut-in by preference, perhaps because I was assaulted by a supposed romantic partner and not a stranger and none of them would have protected me) I ... have no idea ... how to show this world ... to someone who does not already see the space in which it inhabits.

I often feel that I don't live in the same world as other women who are talking about the world women have to move through; that was not the case yesterday.




I'm looking at my daughter, now, and it matters that she is female-bodied whatever comes after, because I look at her and think about this world she has no idea exists, snugged as she is now in the arms of her loving family. I have the tears welling up, knowing that she will have to learn to navigate that godawful world, however it looks when she gets older, my happy, sweet child who has never known cruelty, whose sense of betrayal is keyed to a diaper left unchanged a little too long, not ... all the world can wreak.

And I wish for all the world that she could remain as sweetly unaware of the awful things that humanity will do to women as that annoying guy who wanted to know better. That her education could be as gentle as a heated conversation with a handful of frustrated women on the internet, women armed only with domestic violence stats and a fistful of personal experience.

(And I am worlds further away from understanding my mother than I have ever been.)