Thursday, July 28, 2016

Because of Hillary Clinton, even a girl like me can never be president!

I've been a perfectionist and completionist as far back as I can remember. Once I knew something was possible to achieve, I needed to do it and be the best at it. If I couldn't be the best then I didn't want to do it at all. I'm also compelled to collect things, which I'm not entirely sure is the reason why I like videogames, or the result of me liking videogames. I did the pre-International Baccalaureate program in junior high, IB program in high school, and honors college in university because they were there, so I needed to do them. If I didn't get all As in school I was absolutely distraught, and quietly resentful of anyone who performed better than me. I needed to 100% complete every game I owned, playing some games well past the point of actual enjoyment to accomplish this. Even as a toddler I would loudly protest if my sock seams weren't PERFECTLY STRAIGHT. I ain't putting these crooked abominations on my feet; get outta my face.

Anyway, sometime in elementary school in the early 90s I remember thinking maybe I should be president because that's the highest position you can have. Then I decided it sounded boring and gave myself permission to pursue other things (lolz). At no point did I believe, nor was I told, women aren't allowed to be president. I didn't need to see something happen in front of my face to understand that it's a possibility in life. Children tend not to assume they're not allowed to do anything until you explicitly forbid them from it, and even then it's likely to be taken as a challenge. I was not a politically conscious child, or adult for that matter until embarrassingly late in life, so I didn't fully understand that it's not just another job you apply for, and innocently assumed it was within the realm of possibility.

I see now that despite what happened this week at the DNC, it's impossible for someone like me to be president. You have to have the right connections -- powerful allies to bolster you with political favors and pull the strings in the background, and Super PACs at the ready to replete the campaign coffers with obscene amounts of money. You should focus on attack ads that convince people to vote for you by default because you're not as bad as some other guy who is also running attack ads against you. You must master the art of quid pro quo, thinking five steps ahead, be paid up in the right places, compromising whatever values you thought you possessed at one point if necessary to get those poll numbers up. You must cater your policies to the rich, white, and powerful while pandering endlessly to the poor, POC, LGBT, and oppressed without actually doing too much to harm the former or help the latter so as not to alienate anyone. You have to ostensibly appeal to people on so broad of a spectrum that it's impossible to project any authentic version of yourself. One thing on the very short list of life lessons I've learned is you can be friends with everyone or you can be honest (guess which path I chose), and in politics that concept applies a hundred fold. For these reasons and many more, Hillary Clinton's nomination is the final confirmation that no, 11 year old me; you can't be president.

Lest anyone believe that this stance is borne solely from internalized misogyny, please rest assured that I'll more than likely still be casting my vote for a female president. Dr. Jill Stein, that is. But it's not because, like everyone else crowing over Clinton's nomination, I think it would be really super neato to elect a president who doesn't pee standing up. I vote for principles and integrity, not novelty, gender, or because of a little (D) next to their name. If you don't possess truly progressive principles or are incapable of abiding by rules, respecting citizens' wishes, being honest and trustworthy, and consistent in your moral values and political record, you don't get my vote. The end. Suggesting otherwise smacks of the entitlement that white liberals (a hefty portion of which are straight white men) are so frequently rife with, without a hint of irony. And now to address the usual tired accusations making the rounds in the political sphere:

"You're just privileged and you don't care about the LGBT and POC who will be harmed by Trump!"

That's really fascinating because I follow as many activist pages as I can in the black community, including LGBT POC, as I want to know what they're actually saying. Kinfolk Kollective, Son of Baldwin, and activists like Leigh Creighton, just to name a few. And "Please vote for Hillary on our behalf because we love her so much" isn't the message, by and large. You don't get to hold up what you imagine are the needs and demands of POC, LGBT, immigrants, and Muslims as a mouthpiece for the purposes of your own white entitlement. They are entirely capable of speaking for themselves and sharing their opinions about Clinton and everyone else, and are doing so, if you'd care to listen. I've heard about enough white liberal commands and Nostradamus prophecies during this election cycle to last a lifetime and am not interested in their interpretation of black folks' struggles. Does that apply to me as well? Absolutely. The difference is unlike the little dictators trolling the entire internet at the moment, I'm not saying anyone else MUST vote the same way as myself, or claiming that other self-identified liberals are stupid, ignorant, naive, evil, selfish, delusional, tantrum-throwing babies if they don't, which is the current "party unity" outreach method of choice for Clinton voters. I believe they are well-intentioned, for the most part. They want to stop Trump, which any reasonable person does. But you won't bully, harass, or insult me into doubling your vote. I refuse. Such tactics certainly have nothing to do with feminism, progressivism, moral high ground, or the greater good in any way whatsoever, nor will this kind of rigid thinking ever allow an expansion or departure from the two-party system.

"You can't have the perfect candidate because it doesn't exist! You can't get everything you want in politics!"

Who said Bernie or Jill were perfect candidates? Every politician is problematic in some way, and at no point have I ever believed, nor has reality remotely supported the concept, that disenfranchised voters and marginalized groups will be getting "everything", or even anything, they want. This is also an interesting claim coming from people who voted for Hillary in the primaries because she was inexplicably their first choice. Don't tell me no one can get everything they want when you literally just did. Disillusioned progressives had a brief respite of fleeting victory when the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over her documented corruption and collusion within the DNC for the Clinton campaign, which Hillary just couldn't snatch away fast enough by ensuring that DWS resigned her way right into another prestigious appointment. The overwhelming message from Clinton and her dogged followers is to ensure that anyone who opposes her truly gets absolutely nothing they want. So they made some concessions on the Democratic platform, which the president ultimately won't be constrained by at all... big deal. I won't be surprised when she "evolves" right past it again, which seems to be her MO whenever she needs to do the opposite of whatever she said in the past.

In any case, even a child can fully grasp the concept they cannot get everything they want and that perfection doesn't exist, especially since a perfect candidate would mean different things to different people. But you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that Clinton is actually further left than Bernie. This entire election, her supporters kept saying Bernie can help by "pushing her to the left". Or, you know, you could have just supported the candidate who was already further left instead of trying to fix the warhawk flip-flopping pantsuit chock full of white feminism. But why do that when we have a FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT to coronate?

"Stop saying mean things about Hillary! You'll be sorry when Trump wins because of you!"

If stating facts about Hillary comes across as being "mean" to Hillary, that's on her. It doesn't hurt my white feelings when black folks say they didn't care about Bernie either because he hasn't done enough in recent history to demonstrate unwavering support to racial justice and voluntarily enumerate clear steps to dismantling systemic white supremacy. Their feelings, experiences, and political views are valid. I'm not going to talk over them, suggest I somehow know more than POC about their experience, or whether they should be convinced by any given candidate. It's up to each candidate to sell themselves to us, not the other way around. People shouldn't have to rush a stage, shut down a rally, beg to be heard and called racist, rude and disruptive for demanding that the message that black lives matter is spoken beyond throwaway gestures.

You can critique someone and still plan to vote for them. That's what they signed up for when they became politicians: the entire world will be pushing and pulling you in the direction they want in hopes you'll represent them. If Hillary or any other candidate can't weather the slightest scrutiny, they don't deserve the office. Because when you say "don't criticize Hillary", it sounds to me like "don't expose Hillary". You say it's all about fear of Trump but I think it's about suppressing legitimate concerns about her past and present positions. No problem in history was solved by refusing to acknowledge it, especially the systemic issues of inequality plaguing the country.

"A vote for a third party is just a vote for Trump!"

If you live in a swing state, that argument might have some merit, as long as you ignore the fact that a vote for Clinton is still just a vote for corporate neoliberalism and the status quo. But since most Americans don't, including me, I could vote Green and sleep like a baby knowing full well my vote wasn't spectacularly influential anyway. The primaries/caucuses proved the futility of my vote already when Bernie overwhelmingly won every single county in my state, and governor Jay Inslee, superdelegate in Washington, decided to vote for Hillary anyway. And just like that, millions of votes were utterly subverted. "Democracy"!

There are actually two equally silly sides to the Clinton rage coin. One side says you MUST vote for Hillary or Trump will win and it'll be your fault. The other side, an attitude I see with almost equal frequency, is that Hillary is inevitable so you poor dummies with your populist third parties don't matter anyway and they don't need you. So which is it? Am I vitally crucial or less than nothing? Because it can't be both, and the only thing these attitudes have in common is snide, seething disdain for anyone not in lockstep. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the electoral college is aware that it's not a "one person, one vote" system. A vote for Jill Stein in Washington is not a vote for Trump, because Washington is not and has never been a swing state. I as a Washingtonian could vote for Clinton, vote for Trump, vote for my grandma as she has repeatedly requested, or stay home, and it wouldn't particularly matter either way. However, if I vote for Stein, even if she doesn't win I can help to ensure the Green party gets federal funding by being part of the minimum required 5% total popular vote to make that happen. The majority of Americans are Independents, and most Americans want more than the two choices being forced upon us. Can you really blame them given that we're faced with the two most hated Republican AND Democratic nominees in history?

Ultimately, my vote is my choice, as is yours. To suggest otherwise is inherently undemocratic, grossly entitled, and anti-American. I won't spend any time here trying to convince anyone to align their votes with mine, because it's up to the candidates themselves to earn our trust, and up to each individual voter to research them well enough to know the difference. I also won't say anything is set in stone because a lot can happen in the four excruciating months remaining until Sophie's Choice 2016 is over. The only real request I would make is that we all spend more time reading and truly hearing the thoughts and feelings of marginalized groups directly from the source, rather than through a white liberal filter who arrogantly professes to speak for them. Being married to any specific candidate inhibits this process of listening without trying to be offended, which is why I won't do it. Maybe if we make an actual effort to distinguish ourselves from the far right who are spreading the exact same admonition to "vote for the nominee no matter who" out of fear and against another person instead of affirmatively in favor of the values we share, we might end up furthering some values that don't require an extended campaign of online harassment and bullying to ensure their propagation and representation by the highest position in the land.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prince, grief policing, and THE TROOPS!!11!

Ever notice how every time a celebrity dies, after the initial wave of fans paying their respects in the media, there has to be a kneejerk reaction from conservatives with a war fetish demanding to know why we aren't paying just as much lip service to THE TROOPS®? Oh, sorry, I should probably explain who THE TROOPS are since you've likely never, ever heard of the 500 lb gorilla known as the US military. They're the reason you're living the carefree American dream in this utterly flawless utopia rich in freedom, Unobtainium and other powerful minerals. But beware, for if you stop talking about THE TROOPS for even a moment, they wither away in a forlorn husk and take your 100% daily value of FREEDOMS with them.

Prince, one of the most beloved icons in music history, passed away just a few days ago. It should come as no surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that the loss of an artist with his prominence, public presence, and lasting impact on the industry would be deeply felt around the world and incite a proportionately public homage in his honor from fans and the media alike. And yet, time and time again, people the world over respond to these innocent displays of remembrance with complete and utter shock that the universe isn't spending that time cooking up another guilt trip about THE TROOPS. Here's a gem I saw just this morning:

How dare you ungrateful cretins stop talking about THE TROOPS for 5 minutes? You're not allowed to discuss anything else, EVER. I don't care what's going on out there. World War III? Zombie apocalypse? Boohoo, you know who else had to suffer? THE TROOPS!! Because conservatives repeatedly vote in hawkish politicians who are beholden to war profiteers, but they're still going to act like all of this is your fault.

You know what might be an even more appropriate way to honor the troops? Not endlessly sending them to die at the altar of American greed and meddling in the world's affairs. But no, that's far too much to ask because then we couldn't use these American men and women who they claim to care about and honor so much as political talking points about patriotism because FREEDOM ISN'T FREE, YOU SORRY INGRATES. And every time you talk about Prince instead of THE TROOPS, a baby bald eagle dies.

But hey, since policing how the world is allowed to feel about the loss of a major public figure is a thing now, why stop there? In fact, I think it wouldn't be tactless or inappropriate in the slightest to make a post right after Prince dies shitting on everyone mourning his loss for not ALSO mourning the loss of every person on the planet they've never met. No, that seriously is what the unfathomably stupid Facebook page Fsensitivity actually did:

Those two flawless top comments took them to task, which is the only redeeming quality of this mind-numbingly insipid post. Yeah, f sensitivity!... until you notice that the world isn't awash in grief every time anyone anywhere dies, then it's time to unleash the unchecked narcissism dressed up as a feigned concern for all of humanity.

While it's obviously tacky beyond description to shit on mourning people and make it about your own pet cause, I also fully recognize that that's not the fault of the actual members of the armed forces who are injured or killed. Those people should be honored for their sacrifices, and they are. But here's the deal: you cannot guilt the general public into a sense of genuine grief, loss, or sadness. You cannot order a group of people the size of Prince's fanbase to show an equal outpouring of grief for every service man or woman who dies. Aside from any questions of practicality, that's not how society or the human mind works. We naturally mourn and feel a sense of loss over things that we have experienced an immediate, personal, knowable connection to in our lives. For millions of fans, Prince's prolific body of work and larger than life persona accomplished exactly that. But all the somber memes of flag covered caskets in the world won't make that a relatable loss for me.

So why does this matter? Because the conservatives constantly sharing these memes ordering us to remember THE TROOPS (which I couldn't forget if I wanted to thanks to THE TROOPS being the centerpiece of this endless macabre guilt parade) don't seem to realize that they're not doing the armed forces any favors by representing them this way. Whenever the media says someone is brave, or someone has died, or anything ever (including Labor Day, which apparently is now about THE TROOPS), that is not your fucking cue to launch into another "TROOPS TROOPS TROOPS" conniption. Let people honor who they want, for god's sakes. And stop cheapening those service members' sacrifices by comparing their work to that of a movie star or pop singer. They are not and never will be the same. And if it bothers you so much that every dead serviceman doesn't get the media attention of a rock star, perhaps that is speaking to your secret understanding that talking about them won't bring them back, and maybe the troops would be better served by not being sent away to die in the first place.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mad Max takes six shiny and chrome Oscars to Valhalla, Star Wars goes 0 for 5, Leo receives probably the only thing on Earth he couldn't just buy

The 2016 Academy Awards have concluded, and you know what that means! I snarkily dissect a show I didn't watch other than this clip of Gaga singing Til It Happens To You, because holy shit. I cried. But back to the movies because I need to have my entertainment preferences validated by an award show I guess!

Mad Max: Fury Road won 6 of its 10 Oscar nominations, which I am honestly unreservedly stoked about as I thought for sure the Star Wars hype machine would steamroll its way in, dominate every category and also somehow win a new category for Best Obvious Rehash Of A Superior Yet Still Overrated Film With Lightsabers In It. Yet somehow, the twin suns of Tatooine aligned, and that didn't happen at all. In fact, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally differentiated itself from A New Hope by winning none of the five Oscar categories it was nominated for. Kylo Ren is throwing a Force Tantrum as we speak. You know what lost them the win? Not enough Death Stars... oh, sorry. "Starkiller Bases", withhold your nerd rage. What if they had blown up TWO this time? Totally different and not the least bit derivative. Oh well, there's always the next film where Kylo Ren can lightsaber Rey's foot off and announce "I am your COUSIN" in the most original, unpredictable, subversive performance ever. (Don't forget to pretend you're shocked when they inevitably reuse the most breathlessly lauded climactic reveal in cinematic history.)

In other news, Leonardo DiCaprio got his chunk of metal. At long last, our generation can breathe a collective sigh of relief, and he shall be wronged no more. The planet's most over-exaggerated first world problem of all time has been righted. When will the Academy stop slighting obscenely rich white A-list male actors, we cried to deaf ears since time immemorial? That day is today, my friends. Your time has come. Who knows? This could open the door to white male actors making even more than their female counterparts, and receiving an even higher percentage of the speaking roles in film than the 70% they already get. Dare to dream, trailblazers!

Anyway, if I were good at making animated gifs, this is where I would take a clip of the moment in Force Awakens when Kylo Ren tries to summon Luke's lightsaber, but replace the lightsaber with an Oscar, and instead of it going to Rey, make it fly past her and land in the clip of Fury Road when Max goes to shake Furiosa's hand. Except he has the Oscar in his hand and he puts it in her hand as they nod knowingly. Sorry I had to explain all that. Is there anything worse than READING a joke you could have just watched? It's how I feel when someone describes the entirety of a funny YouTube video instead of just playing the clip. Ugh. Never do that.

Please accept this as a consolation prize: (a statement also made to the Star Wars team as they received their gift bags full of $900 toilet dispensers)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Making progress is more important than making friends in a post-MLK world

It's been over a year since I last shared my thoughts on this blog. In that broad span of time, I've been exploring different forms of social media in an effort to find my voice, to varying degrees of success. I became a lot more active on Facebook, seeking out communities and leaders with strong values and a commitment to activism, and also remembered that Twitter exists. But more importantly, I had the opportunity to hone my beliefs regarding progressive values and social justice. Especially the titular aphorism of this post: my beliefs will grow and evolve over time, and that is to be expected, but if there is one guiding philosophy that has always pulled me in the right direction, it's that showing up and speaking out against income inequality, sexism, xenophobia, racism, LGBT-phobia, and misogyny are worth risking friendships over. Martin Luther King, Jr. was nothing if not a courageous leader in the face of incredible adversity. How can I honor a commitment to equality so unwavering that he sacrificed his life for it? Today, on the holiday we share in his remembrance, I can start by using whatever privilege I have to speak out every chance I get. Not just when it's convenient or directed towards like-minded friends and family. In fact, the ones who least want to hear it are the ones who need to the most.

I've known many people who deal with confrontation by just opting out and avoiding it entirely. The backlash from clashing ideals, or even the perceived possibility of the slightest disagreement, is so overwhelming that they would rather take up no strong opinion on anything than risk upsetting anyone around them. Some will go so far out of their way to avoid a possible conflict that they would rather move away than confront an individual where they live. I've seen it happen multiple times. This sets a dangerous precedent of unhealthy responses to conflict. Everyone will face opposite opinions or desires from those around them at some point; that much is inevitable. To respond to it by folding at the first sign of antagonism doesn't help anyone in the long run. If anything, it lets them know you can be strong-armed into giving up just by showing up and saying "nah". Bullies thrive on inaction, which is why they so strongly encourage it and hold it up as some kind of moral ideal for everyone else but themselves. As long as you keep "taking the high road" of completely ignoring them, they can get away with whatever they wish.

This approach of instant surrender is great for people who have bought into the lie that you have to be friends and get along with absolutely everyone, that total neutrality and going full Switzerland is the most optimal path of least resistance, that if you stand up for yourself and others who are being bullied then you're "just as bad as the bully", that if you speak out against clear injustice then you're just being "negative" and "bashing everyone", that problems are solved by ignoring them, or that "keeping the peace" is more important than constructively working out your issues. Characterizing valid criticism as "hating" is a fantastic way for immature, defensive people to shut down discussion. And considering how effective it is in a society where so many believe that being perceived as positive and likable takes precedence over anything else (including the advancement of social justice, let alone their own personal desires), there's little wonder as to why "naysayer", "hater", "bitter", and "negative Nancy" are invariably the chosen reprimands for anyone who has the audacity not to be euphorically happy with everything all the time.

If this sounds like I have it all figured out, or I never face any kind of pressure to fold, that is most assuredly not the case. I am on the receiving end of more silencing attempts now than at any point in my politically apathetic, people-pleasing past. I have had my freedom of speech directly attacked and suppressed (as in actual freedom of speech taken away in court by a judge, not the internet's version where I'm being persecuted because someone disagreed with my incredibly widespread opinion one time). The difference is that I recognize these tactics for what they are, and refuse to be manipulated by them. They're not going to stop me from speaking my truth and supporting marginalized, vulnerable groups of people; they only strengthen my resolve.

I fully acknowledge that speaking out can be easier said than done. It's a lot harder not to buckle under pressure from your own friends and relatives than it is to ignore random trolls on the internet. They know this and that's why they double down on the regressive crap when they're called out on it. Recently I challenged one of my boyfriend's relatives on Facebook to answer for a link he posted on Facebook supporting Trump's horrifically xenophobic suggestion of banning all Muslims from entering the US, including existing American citizens. I didn't use personal attacks or call anyone names; I pointed out what I perceived to be a seriously disturbing and unconstitutional attitude towards fellow human beings. He responded by unfriending me without a word, and then venting his complaints about me and my obnoxious opinions later that day all over a completely unrelated FB post made by my boyfriend's sister-in-law. This was a clear attempt to pull rank, publicly beg for sympathy, diminish my standing in the eyes of his extended family, and get more of the relatives to gang up against me. And that's not even close to the most aggressive, angry response I've received from someone in my own circle of friends on Facebook. I've been called every name a progressive has ever heard when they speak up on behalf of themselves or others (libtard, SJW, manhater, whiner, reverse racist/sexist, self-hater), and every four-letter word an uppity FEEEEMALE can be demeaned with. I've seen former coworkers and classmates I'd known for years quietly decide to unfriend me because I spoke out about social justice issues. And most the time there wasn't even an argument with that person or any kind of direct confrontation with them. I was conveying some variation of the outrageous notion that women are people, or cops aren't all flawless gods, or rape and racism still happen, so clearly I needed to be eliminated from the social zeitgeist.

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm complaining. Far from it. I've said many times before, and will reiterate again, that my progressive values and support for social justice are not only important guiding philosophies in my life, but the most revealing friend filter imaginable. Before becoming politically active and vocal, I didn't know which of my guy friends I can talk to about women's issues, or who among my social circles understands that police brutality is not negated by #notAllCops, or how many of my friends out there realize that "other people have it worse!" is a ridiculous derailing and minimizing technique which is employed by enemies of social justice to deter progress. I do now. And for those who have cut me off, unfriended me, or deleted my number -- I say to you, unequivocally, IT WAS WORTH IT. I am glad it happened. Why would I want to be friends with people who are so vehemently opposed to feminism and equality that they push me out of their lives over it? Or "friends" who care so little about injustice that they'd rather breathlessly defend their own egos than give a damn about my lived experiences by acknowledging that they happened and are a problem? By all means, take your leave. "You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal." - Hamlet, super troll and master of the ultimate burn.

Now I suppose someone will say "But what about when LIBRULS delete all the people they disagree with?!" Well, what about it? I don't subscribe to the erroneous notion that everyone is entitled to their opinion. There's no way I can know or regulate what's going on in your head, and clearly you can believe anything you want. But the second you feel the need to commit your racism, sexism, and bigotry to digital history forever by sharing it online, I don't have to agree with it or support it. I don't want to see that garbage in my newsfeed, or listen to it at a family gathering. Seeing it happen and standing idly by, doing nothing, is enabling it to continue. We can argue all day about what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have thought of the world today, but his stance on this much was clear. In the words of Desmond Tutu, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." I've recently seen several friends take a stand against Islamophobia, homophobia, and bigotry among their own circles, respectfully asking those who partake in this hatred to avail themselves of the exit, and I'm incredibly proud of them for that. It takes a lot to stand up against the pushy conservative relatives and long-time friends who just don't get it. Hate is easier than love, every time.

Still, drawing that line in the sand is a big step, and not one everyone is ready for. What else can we do? Since the goal is to shut you up... don't. Keep showing up, keep pushing, keep sharing. Challenge the hate when you see it, if you can. Give yourself some distance when it feels like too much. No one person can call out every injustice or right every wrong. There are many occasions where I had to click "stop receiving notifications" and call it a wash for my own well-being. It's emotionally draining and incredibly disheartening at times to take on the task of changing one mind, even the mind of a close friend, and not manage to get that point across. Here are some more passive ways to support just causes while building yourself up to a more active role:

- Like and follow progressive organizations and leaders on your social media platform of choice. I highly recommend Shaun King, Tim Wise, Matt McGorry, The Raw Story, MoveOn, FactCheck, Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders, US Uncut, Exposing Men's Rights Activism, Addicting Info, Jezebel, and Laci Green.

- Whenever you like or comment on a public post on FB, it goes into the newsfeed of anyone who follows you. "Liking" public posts is therefore an easy way to disseminate and support useful information without the perceived "aggression" of a direct share to your timeline. Some people like to interpret direct shares as invitations to argue because "you put yourself out there". Which is fine if people can engage in civil conversation, and if you have the energy for it, but when you don't, passive sharing works better.

- Not really feeling the desire or capacity to engage with trolls? Liking a post or commenting via "reply" to an existing comment on a post means you won't be bombarded with hundreds of notifications of replies; only notifications of likes. I've had days where multiple comments of mine on a post attracted hundreds of responses that same day. It can be overwhelming, so navigate FB accordingly.

- Don't want to say a whole lot, or not feeling eloquent? No worries. Not every link you share needs to be accompanied by a profound dissertation or breakdown of its content, as much as I enjoy those. Feel free to "post without comment". If people can't attack the facts of the issue they sometimes like to satisfy themselves by attacking whatever opinions you've attached to it. Declining to comment denies that.

- Practice solidarity. In times when I felt belittled and talked over, it meant a lot to have any supporting voices at all chime in and speak up. None of us can do it all on our own. Even if all I can do is "like" every single comment I support in a thread I have nothing else to contribute to, I will do that.

- Please don't talk over a marginalized group. Being an ally means not negating their experiences or telling them how to feel about what has happened. Allow them to lead the discussion. Listen more than you speak.

- When someone says you hurt them, acknowledge that. Talk with them and see if there was a misunderstanding or something that needs to be resolved. Just whatever you do, don't ignore it. Especially if the person is speaking about an experience you do not share -- their race, religion, income, etc. Yes, there are a lot of sensitive flowers in the liberal world. Honestly, there are times I want to take all of tumblr and LITERALLY throw it in the LITERAL trash. Just be mindful and realize we all make mistakes and have blind spots. Remember that there was a time you didn't know what you do now. I had to unlearn years of harmful ideas too.

And if you're still feeling the flak after taking these measures to guard your own sanity? It sucks, and it happens. Vocal opposition to things that matter and challenge the status quo is loud and swift. Just know that there are plenty of people out there who do support you. When you take a stand for equality and social justice, you are positioning yourself on the right side of history. After that, let the chips fall where they may. If all the crappy people you know want to reveal their true nature as a Sith Lord and call you an SJW, so much the better. Would you want to return to the blissful ignorance of not knowing what they were really about? Martin Luther King, Jr. was a quintessential Super Social Justice Mage. I can't think of many better compliments than being compared to someone of his stature.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Was A Teenage Conservative

Feminist, outspoken, childfree CHALSEE? A teenage conservative, you say? It can't be!


20-year old me on September 6, 2003, on the day I was baptized. In that pool. Let the chlorine wash away your sins and get up your nose. There are sins in there.

Spooky, scary!

Over the past couple years, I've emerged from political apathy and come to accept and embrace the fact that I was no longer the conservative (or increasingly moderate) Christian I saw myself as from about age 12 to age 30. By that I mean I now pay attention to political issues and even voted for the first time in my life, on anything, ever, in 2014. A little embarrassing perhaps seeing as I spent my entire existence up to that point convinced that voting was pointless, ineffective, and therefore futile to engage in, but I guess also a good thing in that I didn't leave a Republican voting record in my wake. Yay?

Unfortunately it took some major personal trauma to shake me out of the bubble of privilege I'd been comfortably occupying up to that point and develop some understanding and empathy for people hailing from different walks of life. But 18 years of trying and failing to live up to whatever gilded Christian ideal I (and others) had set up for myself, in a misguided endeavor to be righteous and pure and a super beacon of holiness or whatever the hell I was going for, was never going to be traded away easily. And as a person who currently tries to advocate for progressive and feminist issues, I try to remember where the other side is coming from, because I can't just pretend I didn't spend a giant chunk of my life in that exact same mental space. And it's a surprisingly difficult cognitive dissonance nightmare sometimes. More on that later.

So how did all of that come about? Becoming a follower of 7 lb 5 oz baby Jesus, and then pulling some big ol' take-backsies. There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Most people guessed I was simply raised in a Christian family. Yeah, no. I wasn't instilled with any particular religious beliefs, or lack thereof, growing up. Was never hauled to church or given a family Bible, purity ring, or chastity belt and accompanying crushing guilt/shame accessory. If anything, going to church was the most rebellious thing I ever did as a child, because my parents didn't really approve, if that gives you an idea of how lame I was. I just decided, somewhere in the mix of bullying and frustration of junior high, that I didn't want to be like the other kids who gave me endless flak for being a natural born "prude", "goody two-shoes", "teacher's pet" and whatever other projections of rage you're subjected to when you excel at school and don't act like a huge asshole to teachers and other authority figures. Yes, I hated kids when I myself was a kid. Being a prude never earned me any popularity points among my peers, but I scored black belt teacher's pet status on the regular. Oh, you thought you were a teacher's pet? Check this action out:

In my junior high health class, we had gone through several teachers, replacement teachers, and replacements for those teachers, because the entire class thought it was hilarious to be intentionally difficult, not follow directions, and harass the teacher to the point of actual tears as much as possible every day. Except for dorklord 14-year old me, of course. And I wasn't spared their wrath either, being called anorexic ten times a day as per usual at that point in my life (when the teacher put on a video about eating disorders, one kid just turned around, stared at me and guffawed), and finding myself laughed at by other girls because I was the only one in the class who didn't bully and make fun of the socially awkward homeschooled kid. "Do you LIKE him?!", they'd ask me incredulously, predictably mistaking my politeness for flirting and just generally being offended by my insufferable niceness. I couldn't possibly tell you why the entire class wasn't given detention or sent to the office and/or directly to hell; my only real goal in junior high health was to talk as little as possible so as not to draw attention to myself. Anyway, I got this cool note from the teacher for basically not being a big fat turd.

So my natural predilection for prudery (I wasn't into underage drinking or getting teen pregnant so any faint hopes of being cool were dashed), combined with my inability to rationalize how the universe could have come from nothing (see: appeal to complexity), made Christianity appealing to my beleaguered child brain. Not only that, but finally, here was a group of people who didn't say I was wrong or weird for not going full raspberry-blowing heathen. In fact, they said it was great to not be a jerk, to not imbibe of the libations or do the sexing. Also, Jesus said to accept everyone, so they pretty much couldn't give me the regular nerd-shun treatment. Ha! Suck on that.

And so began my journey with the Lord, and that is why you see only one set of footprints, for it was then that Jesus went to the beach while I was all up on his shoulders like SPRIIING BREEEAAAK (Amen). But where did it all go wrong? Lots of little things accumulated over time, which weren't enough individually to make Miss Truebeliever stray from the righteous path of righteousness. But treated as a whole, it was the straw that broke the camel's back so it couldn't go through the eye of a needle anymore, as the saying goes (gross).

Like when I attended a girls' youth group in college at the tender age of 18. One of the girls was married, and mentioned this frequently. "Ohhh, you're already maaaaarriiiieeed," the other girls swooned. "You're so luuuuucky." Yes, fresh out of high school she had already checked off the grandest achievement of all for any God-fearing female. Nevermind the fact that younger age at first marriage is consistently correlated with higher divorce rates. The good Lord ordained that thou shalt cleave to thy wife rather than burn in lust, and these ladies had, uh... cleavage on the brain. Even at 18 and in a relationship at the time, everyone's utter awe and marvel at this alleged miraculous feat evoked some subconscious internal eye-rolling.

Then there was my women's Bible study group. For a while I attended a Bible study at some lady's house with several other ladies a couple years into college. I don't remember much about the whole experience other than I fell asleep during our meetings at least once, and one time when everyone was discussing what books they were reading, the host posed this query: "I always forget. Is fiction the one that's NOT true?" Wowee wow wow, and you're the leader of this group? After hearing that I couldn't bring myself to attend women's Bible study at her house ever again. And trust me, the sad reality of a Bible study leader not being able to tell fiction from non-fiction wasn't lost on me.

And who could forget the, oh I don't know, raging homophobia, procreation worship, abortion hatred, proud ignorance of science, utterly fragile sensibilities, and all the other cringe-inducing attitudes I regularly encountered at church and among Christ's loving followers. Even though I hated almost everything about the actual teachings of Christianity for quite some time, all the average believer needed to accept it was "because God said so", like a lazy parent who can't be bothered to answer their kid's 500 questions -- and mostly because they don't even have a good answer; they just want you to act a certain way and shut the hell up about it. After sitting in church and thinking "What on earth am I even doing here?", one day I left and never came back.

Prayer is a truly bizarre concept as well, looking back. Be sure to pray about everything, and the Bible says that God will answer your prayers. Except for when he doesn't, but God works in mysterious ways, or something. And pray by yourself so you don't show off, like Matthew 6:6 tells you. But then act like celebrities and athletes are heroes for thanking God as loudly and publicly as possible for everything they get. Here's a really cool back-and-forth that happened: "I prayed about it, and I think God wants me to do this." "Well I prayed about it, and I think God wants you to do the opposite of that." That shit's enough to make anyone ragequit their religion. In all my years of trying to be a Level 100 Super Christian, I really didn't feel any connection to the divine or feel like any prayers were answered. Which is probably because there wasn't and they weren't. Occam's Razor, you say? No dummy, PRAY HARDER.

But perhaps the most obnoxious issue of all came in the form of something I like to call "out-pruding". Which is when other Christians try to make you feel bad about your current level of prudishness, and suggest that if you were a better Christian you would try way harder to be an even bigger prude. Given that at this time, I never swore, never drank, never smoked or did any drugs whatsoever, and decided I was going to wait until marriage, I thought I had this prude business down. How could you possibly complain about someone who never did anything traditionally considered "naughty", I reasoned? I had checked off every prude column to the nth degree, and nobody but nobody could out-prude me. LOL WRONG!

You see, in the Christian world, I encountered plenty of people who always thought that no matter what you're doing, you're not doing enough. You go to church? You should be tithing more money to the church. You don't do sex things with your boyfriend? You shouldn't even hug your boyfriend in front of other people. Or be in a room alone together. You don't swear, aren't violent, and don't sleep around? You had better not even watch movies with swearing, violence, or sex in them. All of these and more were actual complaints I received from my ever helpful then-boyfriend and his relentlessly judgmental family. Nothing like the endless love of the Lord.

I never dated a Christian again. Which was also in no small part because even self-identifying "Christian" men regularly rolled their eyes at my above-and-beyond prude level. Even among supposed fellow Christians I was the fucking weirdo who couldn't do anything right, apparently.

These days, I have toned down my prudish tendencies. I started swearing so I could sing more songs at karaoke with f-words in them (weeee!), and it felt goddamn amazing. I no longer believe it's even remotely wrong to be living in a "den of iniquity" (lolol) with your partner before marriage. At this point, I don't think legal marriage is even necessary at all. And given all that... I am STILL the biggest freaking prude my age that I know. To this day, I have never consumed alcohol, smoked or done drugs. If I really wanted to endlessly scrutinize others the way I was put under a microscope for all those years, I could sit here feeling super smug about out-pruding everyone around me, appoint myself to the ranks of the Fun Police and tell everyone how wrong they are for watching any movie with a rating higher than PG, having a beer now and then, or smoking some weeds. But I don't, because engaging in various allegedly horrific behaviors I was warned against in hushed tones has not destroyed my life. At all. And it's also none of my business what other people do, unless they specifically request my opinion about something they would like help with.

But I'm sure the problem was that 18 years of being failed by my beliefs wasn't enough. If I had read more Bibley stuff, donated more money to the church so they could spend more time indoctrinating people with outdated, impractical admonitions, or stopped hugging my boyfriend like a brazen hussy, things would've worked out. Pray for me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Radical self-care, or how to lose friends and alienate people

2013 was rife with physical and emotional challenges for me. After struggling to manage endometriosis pain, a major violation of trust, and half a year of ensuing depression, I worked to find solutions as best I could, resorting to medical treatment and ultimately surgery to try to prevent the worst kind of pain I'd dealt with up to this point from recurring in the future. During that time I encountered a great deal of psychological and physical trauma, and have found various ways of coping with the resulting anger and pain. In addition to all the usual self-care practices that everyone recommends (good diet, activity, R&R, and confiding in trusted friends), I took to writing for what I felt was a controlled and positive release of my feelings on various subjects. I would also voraciously consume online articles about my depression and its causes, as well as partake in online support forums, often on a daily basis. It's an ongoing process; I was and currently am still hashing out my wants, needs, and boundaries every day.

I realize that while it felt like a positive experience for me, a lot of what I write comes across in a characteristically negative or angry tone, because I've received plenty of feedback stating as much. And it comes across that way because I have what I feel is justified residual anger about those experiences. It sounds angry because it is angry. I haven't tried to disguise it, nor should I feel I have to. Then occasionally I retreat from online interaction on subjects that are important to me, or I don't feel particularly bloggy for weeks on end, because discussing these topics is emotionally exhausting and sometimes I need to step back and regroup. But that doesn't make it any less important or necessary for me to sort through those feelings in writing. I take breaks when I start to feel overwhelmed, which is what self-care is about.

What I feel the need to communicate lately is that the net result of bringing those issues to light was positive for me. I'm not just trying to piss people off with polarizing content, nor do I expect to change the universe. I write and discuss my issues because I personally benefit from it. If other people get something out of it, that is 12 kinds of wonderful, but it's also not my primary goal. When other people tell me I'm being too negative, I would like to emphasize that what you construe as negativity, I believe is healthy skepticism and a compulsion to educate others about the various conditions I've faced. I say "compulsion" rather than "desire" because it won't be ignored. In order to avoid negative situations, I need to ensure my feelings and boundaries are clearly communicated at all times. If that's a little crunchier than some are used to dealing with from me, it's intentional. And again, the overall result has been positive.

Living life suppressing my feelings, internalizing anger, and overlooking slights caused or perpetuated a lot of problems in my life. I suppose I tend to adopt extreme and somewhat cynical scorched earth policies as a direct reaction. But when people say I need to be less negative or keep it all to myself, I must object, because that's exactly how those problems started. When I feel disrespected, slighted, or hurt, I don't sit on it anymore. I advocate for myself and others where possible, and take whatever action is required to resolve the problem immediately. Adopting a cynical attitude may have upset older friends who aren't accustomed to seeing me so outspoken. However, it hasn't pushed everyone away as they suggested it would. Being cynical and skeptical attracts like-minded cynics and skeptics, and repels those who cannot accept a female (or a version of myself) with strong boundaries and unwavering stipulations of mutual respect. This can only be a positive thing for me. So far, the results have accomplished exactly what I set out to do for myself when I decided to engage in radical self-care: my needs no longer go untended, and people who disrespect me are no longer in my life (or even gain a foothold to start with), which was the entire point.

Today I read back through a lot of my writing. Some of it I feel more or less strongly about. My opinions, however harsh and seemingly uncompromising, are evolving and I am always trying to learn more about what is the best way to create an atmosphere of happiness and respect in all of my relationships, while also maintaining my integrity and pursuing my goals. Regardless, I voiced a lot of hard line feelings and personal changes, such as stating that I wasn't dating anymore (for my own reasons, namely to protect myself directly after an extremely trying year). Everything I said at that time was true, and as far as I'm concerned, since all my dating profiles stayed deleted and I never tried or expected to meet anyone for romantic purposes, I stuck with it. I spent the next half a year sorting through my feelings, trying to determine what I was capable of accepting in my life in the way of male companionship.

Ultimately I decided that exactly as long as my boundaries were honored and I felt respected at all times, I could actually manage to accept affection. By raising my standards and refusing to spend time with anyone who insults me, makes me cry, is dishonest, or doesn't improve my life in every way, I accomplished what everyone told me my negativity ensured I couldn't have. I had created a series of walls and hurdles so challenging that all the unsuitables and ne'er-do-wells took a quick once over, muttered "nevermind" and hastily retreated. You would have to be the most patient, caring, genuine and overall impressive dude in the galaxy to make that cut. And why would I want less than that to begin with?

These days, I pay extremely close attention to how I feel about my interactions with friends. Some of my new boundaries have drawn people in, and others felt pushed away or have grown noticeably distant. It's unfortunate but absolutely imperative for my own happiness and health that I continue down this path. I immediately address anything that doesn't feel right and embrace the things that do, even if that meant allegedly contradicting my previous proclamations and dialing back my Nuclear Winter approach to the concept of love and companionship. For the first time in my life, I am more interested in meeting my needs than in what others will think or how it will look. I am engaging in radical self-care and I hope that those in my life who've known me for some time will recognize how much I've grown from it. I've already reaped the benefits in my life and am enjoying them every day. My snark and ragey venting sessions may not sound inviting all the time but every step has been crucial for my progress and I wouldn't take it back. My life is changing these days, often strangely but always positively. Hope you'll still be there when I'm exactly where I want to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Men, women, cats, and especially non-feminists all need feminism.

Which is worse: a man who states outright he is not a feminist, as if not supporting women's rights is just another viable opinion like enjoying sports, or a man who lies about being a feminist in a pathetically transparent attempt to score points with womenfolk?

Trick question! You're both trash and you go in the fucking trash can.

And as for the women who smugly assert they "don't need feminism". Brava, ladies. Way to use that freedom of speech that you now get to take for granted because of the hard-won efforts of your ancestors and use it to collectively shit on all your sisters still suffering from human rights violations worldwide. Victims of rape and domestic violence (and yes, women are disproportionately more often on the receiving end of this type of violence), child brides, women cut off from needed reproductive health care, women who aren't allowed to go out in public or drive a car unaccompanied, women being paid 77 cents on the dollar -- they all need feminism. Even if you just so happen to be extravagantly privileged enough to think you specifically don't, they do. "Women Against Feminism"? Could there be a more self-undermining philosophy? I mean besides taking back some jerk after he dumps you.

It's 2014. Just being kind of racist isn't an option. Just not liking LGBT people isn't an option. And just not giving a damn about an entire gender unless they're subservient supermodels bringing you your slippers and a brandy isn't an option.

"But I do give a damn! I just don't like the word feminism." Or insert other generic male auto-response here. I guarantee every objection you have to feminism has been asked and answered. 1000 times (probably in the last 10 minutes alone by increasingly frustrated women on Facebook who shouldn't have to spend their time regurgitating readily available information). The answers are out there if one would care to avail themselves of The Google. So essentially, there is no excuse. Cool, glad we've got that out of the way then.