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

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


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.