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The Journal Of The InnKeeper
Ranty Lessons by Joreth
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4th-Feb-2009 06:53 pm - Welcome Visitors!
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
 Welcome all visitors and newcomers to the Journal of the InnKeeper.  I thought I'd preface this with a little explanation of what this journal is, what the purpose is, and who I am.

I am Joreth, The InnKeeper, of The InnBetween.  As you can see on the left sidebar, I am an Atheist, I am Polyamorous, I work in the entertainment industry as a Camera Operator, a Stagehand, a Video and Lighting Technician, a Forklift Operator, a Boom Lift Operator, and a Spotlight Operator, and I am sex-positive.  I am opinionated and aggressive and passionate and I care deeply about humanity and my fellow companions on this planet.

This journal started out because I started dating tacit, who began referring to me in his journal.  So I created a profile here so that he could reference me with a link, instead of just S (the first initial of my real name).  I didn't figure I'd use this for anything since I have my own website where I can post whatever I want.  Mostly, what I wanted to post were pictures, and my website is much better for that purpose.

But then I discovered that my journal was a great way to post those stupid email forwards that everyone wants to send, filled with cute pictures and kitchy sayings or jokes, because I was pretty sure that, here, only people who cared what I had to say would see them.  I wouldn't be sending on unwanted junk email, because if people didn't want to read what I had to say, people wouldn't friend me.  Plus, I could put stuff behind cuts and then visitors would have to do double duty and actually CLICK on the stuff they wanted to see.  So nothing I posted was unsolicited.

But then I discovered the internet's second true purpose (porn being the first one) ... RANTING!

Keeping with my concern of bothering friends and family with unwanted email, I found I could blow off steam and rant here in my journal too, and just like with the email glurge, only people who wanted to read it, would.

Well, over time, it turned out that the things that most frustrated me, the things I ranted about most of all, were things that I (and my followers) felt would be a benefit to society to be heard.  I have always been an educator and a mentor.  I'm not particularly smart, but I do grasp concepts quickly and I can often (not always) find ways to phrase things so that people understand when they might have had trouble before.  At work, bosses routinely tell new guys to just follow me around in order to quickly learn the basics of the business.  I was a mentor, a math tutor, a lighting lab instructor, and a guidance "counselor" at various times.

I have also always been an activist at heart.  A passionate personality and an interest in education tends to pair up to become activist leanings, for whatever causes strike's the activist's heart.  The topics I was most passionate about tended to be the topics that frustrated me the most and ended up as a rant here in my journal.  So my journal took on an educational bent, for some definition of "educational".

I tackle topics that interest me the most, or that I have the most stake in the outcome of changing society.  I cover the most current news in STDs and sexual health, I cover gender issues, I cover netiquette, I cover polyamory, I cover atheism and science and skepticism.  These are topics I feel that people need to be educated about, and I do my best to provide one source of education, to those for whom my style of teaching works.

But, as I've repeatedly said, the topics that tend to get written about HERE, in my LiveJournal, are those that I feel most passionate about, which tends to lead me to feel most frustrated when they're not going the direction I think they should, which leads to most of my entries being rants.

And, to that end, Dear Reader, please understand that, although many of my posts are, in my opinion, educational in nature, they are also written from the perspective of a passionate, frustrated, human, who takes the term "journal" to heart, and treats this like a journal, not a "blog", or a news column, or a classroom.  I hope that people get something of value from my journal, that I can report interesting or relevant news items, and that I can teach people something, and I do offer more classic or traditional styles of education, such as lectures & workshops, but I also come here, specifically, to rant.

Journals are typically places where people can write their private or personal thoughts.  They were traditionally considered safe places to reveal one's innermost thoughts, perhaps even those ideas that could not be spoken aloud.  Well, we have discovered just how valuable revealing certain journals can be to society, usually after that person's death.  And the advent of the internet has created a whole new society whose private thoughts are more public than truly private.  We use the internet to share those personal, innermost thoughts, to reach out to people, to connect with others, when once we might have suffered in silence, in isolation, with our private, paper journals as the sole, compassionate listener to our most intimate selves.

So, here, on the internet, utilizing LiveJournal as a personal journal where I can write my innermost thoughts, perhaps the kinds of things I cannot verbally say in polite society or as a way to organize my thoughts for a more appropriate-for-public version later, you, my Dear Reader, can get a glimpse into the mind of the InnKeeper.

But note that this journal, like any other journal, is only a small slice of who I am.  I use this journal to vent, to rant, to let off steam, and these rantings have shown to have some value to those who follow it.  But this is not the whole of who I am.  This is Ranty Joreth; this is the Joreth who needs to vent; this is the Joreth who needs to blow off steam; this is the Joreth who says anything and everything that may not be allowed to be spoken aloud, in public, or to the intended recipient.

Joreth is ranty and frustrated and passionate.  But Joreth is also compassionate and caring and occasionally a little silly.  Joreth melts at the mere sight of her fluffy kitty and is often late to work because she can't bear the thought of disturbing her cat to remove her hand out from under the cat's head.  Joreth needs hugs and cuddles.  Joreth cries at sappy movies and whenever anyone around her tears up.  Joreth sometimes lets her emotions carry her away.  Joreth gets deeply hurt.  Joreth isn't happy with her physical appearance but is mostly content and accustomed to it.  Joreth secretly craves attention and adoration.  Joreth likes to sing, especially bluesy-country songs and showtunes, but is terrified to have people hear her sing, in spite of being a mezzo-soprano in a choir for 5 years.  Joreth is touched by tears glistening in her father's eyes when he's proud of her.  Joreth has a sweet tooth and can almost always be tempted by sugary desserts.  Joreth is a lot of things, just as everyone else is.  This journal, and the other online aspects of Joreth are not the totality of who Joreth is.  

You get to see a portion of me, and it is truly me, here in this journal, but it is, by far, not the only portion of who I am.  Do not mistake reading a journal, whose very purpose is to be an outlet for a very specific part of my personality, for knowing who I am or anticipating how I will behave or react.  Just as I show only a certain portion of myself at work, and I show only a certain portion of myself with biological family, I show only a certain portion of who I am here.  All versions of me are still me, and there is some cross-over, but they are not complete models of me by themselves.  Just like anyone else, I am a three-dimensional, multi-faceted, complex and dynamic person.  I care, I love, I laugh, I hate, I hurt, I crave, I desire.  Just like everyone else.
Super Tech, strong, feminism

"“One of my least favorite things about butch/boi culture in NYC is how it sometimes devolves into paralleling misogyny I used to deal with from cis straight dudes” ...

I’m terrified and ashamed of the idea that the butch identity has any connotation with misogyny. ...

My agency was taken away from me, and it was just as terrifying when done by fellow queers as it was when it was men. ...

Parroting misogyny is not love. Objectifying her is not honoring her, treating her as a possession is not a demonstration of commitment, and using your identity as an excuse for shitty behavior is not acceptable – ever. ...

The thing is that we queers can perpetuate rape culture just as much as the next frat boy, and among too many butches, there seems to be an acceptance of this very kind of behavior. ...

Our masculinity doesn’t have to have a body count."

I'm straight and I'm fine with my female biology and presenting as female, so my perspective on this issue is as an outsider. My problems with gender are not that I think I have the wrong assignment, but that the definition for my gender is wrong. But I do see this sort of thing often, as someone on the fringes of this culture.

I'm more into androgyny, personally. I like the mixing and blending of genders. I delight in having a distinctly and recognizably feminine body that does things distinctly and recognizably un-feminine. When I wear men's clothes, I'm not trying to take on a masculine physique, I'm highlighting my female body by *using* men's clothes (when I think about it at all, that is - normally I wear men's clothing because it's more practical for my purposes).

I like challenging the dominant paradigms by looking feminine but then saying something usually associated with masculinity, such as cussing a lot or talking about math and science or being the sexually dominant one. Because of that, I end up hanging out "with the boys". Just 2 days ago, as a matter of fact, someone made a dirty joke and a guy who doesn't know me said "you said that right in front of her?!", to which the joke-teller said "But she's one of the guys!" I know why that's problematic, but I like that designation anyway.

I hang out with the guys, the masculine men, because my outer shell is feminine but the inside more closely matches descriptions of "masculine". I'm stubborn and argumentative and aggressive and I shout and hold my own. I hang out with the guys, but I also hang out with the butches because butches also hang out with the guys. Especially in my business. So I see the misogyny when both male and butch cultures think there aren't any "women" around to mind it. I'm included in their culture but I'm apart from it too, so I can only assume that what I see is the tip of the iceberg.

People who are part of groups who are historically and continually oppressed can not afford to take on the same trappings of the oppressing group. We have to be better than that. I know that *I* have to try harder. As "one of the guys", I've done my share and sometimes things still slip out of my mouth that make me cringe later. But we don't find equality by assimilating into the dominant oppressive class.

We find equality by dismantling the dominant oppressive class and replacing it with an inclusive class.
14th-Sep-2014 10:49 pm - Gay, Latino, And Macho
Super Tech, strong, feminism

Boy did this bring on unpleasant memories. I grew up in California, straddling the boundaries between suburbia and the barrio. My adopted mom is Mexican and my adopted dad is white, but my biological mother is white and my biological father is, well, we just say "Mexican" because my bio-mom only vaguely remembers that his family actually came from one of the indigenous tribes in Mexico but she can't remember which one. So I could be Aztec or Maya or Zapotec or Mixtec or Tepehuan or who knows.

Anyway, I grew up in a culture clash. I didn't look white enough for my blonde-haired, blue-eyed private school classmates, but I didn't look brown enough for my Spanish-speaking, gang-member peers in church either. My parents enforced gender roles, but it was from my mom's side that I got the exposure to Mexican gender roles and I had no brothers and a white father, so I kind of got introduced to Machismo through implication, not direct influence. But the guys I went to church with sure got that lesson in abundance. Let me tell you, my early dating years were a trial. I dated almost exclusively white men because I had such problems with the Chicanos attempting to enforce Machismo-based gender roles in our relationships. Although my comparatively fair skin (which was actually much darker than it is today because I was a competitive swimmer and in the sun a lot when I was a teen) mixed with the long dark hair traditionally prized in Mexican cultures and bold indigenous nose made me somewhat exotic yet familiar and attractive to exactly those same boys and men that I was trying to avoid because of their Machismo culture.

I went to a private school, but because it was a private school, it didn't have a school bus so I took the city bus home until I was old enough to get a car. The city bus went through the lowest-income (a.k.a. Hispanic) areas of town although I lived in an almost exclusively white middle-class neighborhood. I learned to change out of my school uniform before getting on the bus because my uniform was blue and this was the height of the Bloods and Crips wars which had reached such epic proportions as to have bled north into my hometown far away from East L.A. I couldn't be caught wearing blue either by a Blood gang member who would hurt me or by a Crip gang member who would hit on me.

On top of that, several years ago I learned some interesting things about my biological father. In addition to being Mexican, he was also a cross-dresser. My biological mother and his current girlfriend both insist that he's straight. He could be, or he could be bisexual, or he could be like the "straight" Rios in the article which really means a very good straight-acting gay man. I'm not sure and it's not really relevant. But the reason why I can only relate the suppositions of my bio-mom and his girlfriend is because he went into hiding to protect himself from his parents (my grandparents) from finding out about his cross-dressing.

Back in the '70s, my bio-mom discovered his interest in wearing women's clothes. She didn't break up with him over it, but she did tell him that she didn't want to see or know anything about it and that he was to keep it from her completely. Out of the people he loved the most at that time, this was the most mild response to his non-gender-conforming ways. His parents were the sort of abusive religious parents that Valesquez in the article had. My bio-father was so terrorized by his religious mother and his Machismo culture that, as soon as he could, he escaped his family and could only be reached by pager (at a time when smartphones were not available but cellphones were nevertheless readily available, circa 2005-ish), from which he would then return calls via payphone so that his parents couldn't discover his location or his actual phone to harass him. He did still have some contact with his parents, but I gather that was because he still had younger siblings that he didn't want to lose entirely.

The last thing I heard about him was from his girlfriend. I had found out his full name and tracked him down to his city of residence, so I sent an introduction letter to everyone with that name in that city, just hoping to let him know of my existence. One of those letters found the right man, because his girlfriend came across that letter one day and called me to tell me that I had found him. She wanted to respect his desire to remain unfound but also wanted to reassure me that I had reached him. In order to confirm that I had reached the right person, we talked a little about him and that's how I found out about his current circumstances.

She confirmed that his home life was unbearable and his parents were crazy religious nuts who terrorized him in a manner consistent with Machismo culture. She also confirmed that he did cross-dress, and she had issued the same sort of restriction as my bio-mom - that he keep all aspects of his lifestyle from her because it made her uncomfortable. But he wasn't just cross-dressing anymore either. He was working as either a bouncer or a bartender (I forget which, now) in a gay club that has a drag show. And, apparently, this job was a source of extreme joy and relief to him as well as a major source of cognitive dissonance because it clashed with his internalized Machismo. The girlfriend wasn't really sure what to do about all this. I suspect that bouncer/bartender and "straight" were still whitewashing his activities, but his girlfriend apparently needed to believe that these were the limits to his behaviour.

I don't have any particular personal feelings towards this man because he's a stranger to me. I never internalized the message that we have to love people we're related to. Since I was adopted, sharing DNA with someone wasn't the important connection point in my loving relationships. But I do feel a sense of pity for him, because of all the people in his life, the daughter he doesn't want to acknowledge is probably the one person he is related to either by blood or marriage, who would completely accept him for who he is and even actively celebrate his life choices. With me, he wouldn't have to be anyone other than who he is.

But like Rios in the article, because of the lengths he's going to hide his activities, I believe that even my acceptance of him wouldn't be welcome. I believe he is so indoctrinated in Machismo culture that he would probably be offended at my acceptance. Just like Rios who insists on raising his own sons in the Machismo culture, I think that the freedom that acceptance by me would afford him would be threatening to his own internalized homophobia and misogyny. He would probably be very opposed to my own gender nonconformism because, as a female, I consistently attack and break down my own role as a woman in society and that would, by extension, attack his own Machismo culture even as he chafes against it.

So this was kind of a hard article to read, especially the part about Rios and the internalization and perpetuation of Machismo culture by someone who is so directly harmed by it. People who haven't grown up in this culture, especially people who are naturally predisposed to fit the status quo, like to think that we're much further along in our social progress. I hear a lot of lamenting about the "sissyfication" of boys and emasculating men, and all I can think when I hear that is that they must not have ever stepped outside of their houses before because Machismo is alive and well, and even more macho than the pissant white-boy misogynists think they are. Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, and The Duke have nothing on the average Hispanic male raised in the Machismo culture.

And that's NOT something to brag about, that's something to be deeply troubled about.
14th-Sep-2014 04:43 pm - Samantha Jones Inspirational Posters
Super Tech, strong, feminism

So this has been floating around my Facebook feed in the last week. I'm re-posting it, not because I agree with every one of them or because I don't think the show has valid criticisms, but because some of the lines are actually really good advice.

The show has a lot of problems with it, I'll be the first to admit. I believe it's important to be able to admit the flaws of the media we like. We don't have to wait for the Perfect Media, we can like stuff with flaws. I just think we have to be able to admit and accept those flaws for what they are.

But I think this show is also undervalued by a lot of my progressive circles because of those very legitimate flaws. And I see most of the devaluing of the show from people who have never watched more than a couple of episodes.

The power of this show is that it highlighted a segment of the population that does not often get highlighted, let alone celebrated. This show celebrated the single, adult, independent woman. Yes, it showed them searching for love and relationships, but even single, adult, independent women often search for love and relationships. These are not mutually exclusive traits.

Over the seasons, as the characters age and continue to date as single women, the show addressed the concepts of aging, of female independence, of designer relationships, of the fairy tales, of social pressure and the expectations of womanhood, of class warfare, of alternative life choices, of dealing with death and mortality, of reconciling poor choices, of introspection, of introverts vs. extroverts, of communication, and of parenthood vs. non-parenthood and the validity of options.

I'm not saying that every episode was gold. I'm also not even saying that I agree with the conclusions they reach on any of those subjects. I'm saying that they introduced the topics to a mainstream audience when those topics had previously gone unstated or under-discussed. Much like The Golden Girls brought to every American living room the idea of seniors having sex and the challenges faced by single women as they age, this show eschews the standard formula of happily married but quirky heterosexual monogamous couple raising children in the suburbs.

It's not very realistic in that it does retain many of the other most-common sitcom (yes, I know it's not a sitcom) tropes of hip, attractive people living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and somehow managing to, not just survive, but thrive with enough expendable income to wear designer clothes and attend fabulous parties searching for love in all the wrong places and hilarity ensues. But it doesn't cover it in the young, early-twenty-something way as those sitcoms; it tells the story from the perspective of women who have "passed their prime", who have reached and passed the age at which they should have overcome their silly, young faux pas and found The One already and settled down into that married-with-children sitcom storyline. It tells the story of trying to find love while one's ability to have children becomes compromised and the effects of aging are just beginning to be seen and dealt with.

It tells the story from that in-between stage, where the women are no longer the hip, young people we can excuse from making the mistakes they make because they're young, and the older people who have already reached the stage where aging is a given and now they have to deal with that class. The process of coming to terms with aging, and of aging in our appearance-obsessed, monogamy-and-love-obsessed society is a process rarely examined.

As I do with any serial or episodic form of media in which there are good episodes and bad episodes, I like to take certain episodes that cover certain topics and examine that single topic on its own merit. I might have to provide some long-term context of the characters to explain why they react or behave the way they do, but the episode itself is being addressed as a stand-alone for the message. Even when the characters reach a conclusion that I disagree with, I find it to be a valuable teaching tool, discussion starter, and illustration of important or complex points.

I have a series of clips taken from a few different episodes that single out certain topics and points that I've uploaded to YouTube, and I post them occasionally when the comments threads are relevant. Maybe someday I'll get around to starting up that blog series on this show. It'll be in the Media Reflections tag here in my LiveJournal, if anyone is interested.
9th-Sep-2014 02:10 am - Insecurity & Abuse
Purple Mobius, polyamory
The questions at the end of Chapter 8, Taming The Green-Eyed Monster in More Than Two describe an ex I had once so well that, if I didn't know better, I'd swear the authors peeked inside his brain and used that for inspiration.  Only he would never have admitted to being that insecure. I had to get it out of him in bits and pieces and round-about implications and, in one case, pushing him into a corner so hard that he finally blurted out an admission, which he immediately back peddled on.  I would never have guessed how insecure he was until I started dating him.  But then, the effort he put into hiding his insecurity was such a huge sign, it was kind of like how scientists discover things like dark matter or the "edges" of the universe based on how everything else around it are behaving.  You might not be able to see the signs of the insecurity itself, but the signs of him hiding insecurity are pretty strong, once you know what to look for.

That was one of my few bad breakups and now I'm pretty gun shy about dating people with severe insecurity.

Now that I think about it, my worst breakups were all with guys with crippling insecurity and my abusive, pathologically lying ex-fiancé also had a deep, deep insecurity about his self worth. His abuse expressed itself in a restrictive, behaviour-controlling way and in enforcing strict gender roles. Because it wouldn't do to have his future wife be better at fixing cars than he was. Everything about himself hinged on comparisons to others, so he needed to control me in order to control his own sense of self worth.  My ex-fiancé started out in small ways, like most abusers do.  He started out with, what seemed at the time, a charming humility revolving around the idea that I was "out of his league", so my reciprocated interest in him made him feel "lucky" to have attracted "someone like [me]".

But that pervasive idea turns out to be far more destructive than charming.  It escalated from a few comments here and there expressing his wonder at my interest in him, to constant, deliberate attempts to provoke jealousy in me, to literally making up entire social circles and several ex-girlfriends, to faking illness in an attempt to get me to cancel my plans (and not just social plans, but going to class and work too) to stay home and care for him, to outright sexual assault and the threat of physical harm and property damage if I left - not just him, but if I left the bedroom to sleep on the couch in order to get away from his advances.  It always starts out small, and charming.  People don't get into abusive relationships because a stranger beat the shit out of them and they thought "hey, that was kind of sexy, I should date this person!"  They get into abusive relationships because the abuse is incremental so the victim can't see that it's abusive until they've invested so much into the relationship that they become victims of another sort - of the Entrenchment Effect.

Unfortunately, the more exposure I have to abusive partners, the easier it is to see the warning signs. I say "unfortunately" because I can see the patterns in most of the arguments I get into online, and it frightens me to know so many people out there have destructive tendencies that could turn abusive with just the right trigger, like another ex of mine, who didn't abuse me but did abuse his other gf because she had just the right combination of traits to push his insecurities to the breaking point where he became abusive in order to take back the control he felt he was losing.

Pretty much no one in our overlapping social circles sees the abuse lurking behind his closed doors.  No one believes it when I mention it.  More than one person has said to me, after hearing the story, that it sounds like I'm talking about two different people.  Multiple people, including myself and his other ex, have expressed the idea that there are really two of him - the kind, funny, likeable bloke we all know and love, and the dark, twisted, self-deluded, self-loathing manipulative man who managed to trap one of the most intelligent, self-introspective, progressive women I've ever met in an abusive relationship that spiraled out of control so fast that none of us knew what happened until it was over.  I think this abusive monster living inside his head was always there, but that not everyone could have called it out of hiding.  I believe this because he didn't abuse me.  When he tried to do the same things that he was doing to her, he also started out small and almost-reasonable, but I was already primed to be averse to his tricks and he dumped me after only a couple of days of beginning his attempt.  I think that his other partner was exactly the right mix of her own insecurities and button-pushing habits that made her vulnerable to the abuse spiral they found themselves in.  And, as only hindsight can, the signs in him are now clearly matched to the signs in my own abusive
ex-fiancé, and the ex I mentioned at the beginning, and a couple of other exes that didn't make it into this narrative.

I see those signs in people and it's terrifying how much social support they have for defending their insecurities and how few people are appalled at the inevitable train wreck when they ought to be.  Even I brushed them off.  I remember having an argument with someone who called what that ex did to his other partner "abusive" and I disagreed.  I said that I was in an abusive relationship before, and he said that I ought to be able to recognize abuse in this case then, and I said it was different.  To my credit, there were some details that I was missing, but I am afraid that I still might have defended the abuse for a while before admitting it.  I've now had quite a lot of exposure to abusive partners, and partners who may not be abusive, per se, but who are so insecure that they are toxic partners.  And I see a lot of things in common; a lot of things that, with hindsight, clearly led to the patterns of behaviour that eventually became abusive or toxic.  These things aren't just things *could* lead to abuse or toxic behaviour, these are things that are *missing* from relationships that are not toxic or abusive.

I see some of the early warning signs now.  I see how certain things are symptoms of deeper issues.  And I see communities and society being blind to the connections.  So when these symptoms pop up, say, in online discussion forums, I can connect the dots.  But people who haven't been through abusive relationships, or have only been through one and haven't developed the wider-reaching pattern recognition the same way that I hadn't seen the pattern with the ex who abused his other partner, those people see only isolated, unrelated, unconnected elements that seem harmless at best, or even deceptively charming at worst.  So someone will display a trait that I now know to be related to a much deeper issue that could (if it hasn't already) lead to abuse or toxic behaviour, and I'll call it out, and the entire community will rally around the other person behind cries of "No True Way!" and "you're hurting my feelings!" and "you're picking on me!" and "it's just a joke, relax!" and a host of other things designed to dismiss, derail, or distract from a very uncomfortable possibility that maybe we have more abusers among us than we'd like to believe ... that maybe we, ourselves, have the capability of harming our loved ones with our own insecurities.

Insecurities are almost like living beings themselves.  They fight for survival and they'll pull out any weapon they can to keep existing.  They'll alter our perception of reality, they'll make us justify our actions, they'll make us dig in our heels and double-down, they'll make us turn our own victims into abusers and ourselves into victims, they'll displace blame, they'll make us believe that someone else is hurting us even when no one is doing anything to us but ourselves, and more.  This makes me very frightened and very sad when our entire culture springs up around to defend insecurities and the people offering help or suggestions for living more securely are ganged up on, usually for their "tone", "arrogance", or "militantism" when the reality is that more people ought to be frightened and outraged at the harm being done in the name of protecting insecurities.

4th-Sep-2014 06:45 pm - Dancing At DragonCon
Swing Dance, social events, dance
While at the Suits, Star Wars, & Sinatra dance at DragonCon this weekend, I had the opportunity to teach a couple of guys how to dance. The event featured music from the '30s ragtime to big band of the '40s to Sinatra style jazz, which made it excellent for swing dancing. It also made it excellent for cha cha and foxtrot, but nobody there knew those dances.

But because it was Star Wars and suits, it also brought in a large number of non-dancers who were just attracted to the theme. While standing on the sidelines, trying to identify who were swing dance leads so that I could possibly ask them to dance later, I overheard a girl talking to two guys. She knew how to dance, but was mainly from the local lindy hop scene which may or may not have any formal training (sometimes people just learn from the community, which is totally a fine way to pick up social dancing), and knowing how to dance is not the same thing as knowing how to teach. I'm actually a better teacher than a dancer, personally.

Anyway, she knew how to dance and seemed to be trying to pick up the two guys (who seemed to be trying to pick her up) so she was trying to encourage them to dance. They pulled all the usual objections: "I have white boy syndrome", "I have two left feet", "I tried to learn and couldn't pick it up immediately so I gave up", etc.

So she was trying, and one of the two guys seemed to actually be trying to get into it. I moved closer and closer, as I usually do when I see a dance lesson happening, and eventually got close enough to make a comment. The other guy heard me, and he responded, to which I responded, and so on until I eventually got to admit that I teach beginning swing. So he got the attention of the others and introduced me as a teacher. The girl looked over at me gratefully and asked for help to teach.

So I moved over to the guy who was making an effort to learn and I taught him a few things. In a social setting, where the music is loud, ongoing, and ever-changing, it's a very different environment than a dance class. You can't teach the same things in the same order. You have to be able to give just a couple of pointers that the student can then use immediately to have a good time. If the student is spending his whole time trying to remember memorized steps, he won't be having a good time.

So I start out with 2 goals that I think are the bare minimum for enjoying dancing - rhythm and communication.

Step one: learn the basic rhythm, the pattern of steps, where to put your feet. Unless you're planning to perform or compete, if all you want to do is go to a silly little dance at a sci-fi con and impress someone who knows less about dancing than you do, the only thing you need to know about steps is the basic rhythm. No matter what happens, keep your feet moving in the same rhythm and you'll look amazing. If you lose it, pause for a moment and then start over.

Step two: learn the proper points of contact and what signals communicate what moves. As a lead, if you can communicate to your partner what you want them to do, then you can make up shit all night long and look amazing. If it seems like fun, you can take a class later and learn actual proper steps with names and everything. But if all you want to do is go to a silly little dance at a sci-fi con and impress someone who knows less about dancing than you do, all you need to know is how move your arms and where to place your hands so that the follow naturally responds to your signals even if the follow knows nothing about dancing.

That's it. That's all you need to know to go out and have a good time. After I got done with the one guy (in the span of less than one song), I looked over and saw the girl trying to teach the more reticent guy. So I brought my partner back over to the girl (proper dance etiquette - always return your partner to where you found them), and she asked if I'd like to swap and take a turn at teaching the other guy.

We swapped partners and the two of them went off to dance. The more reticent guy told me that he had White Boy Syndrome (to which I automatically responded that many of the top swing dancers in the world are white) and that he tried to learn how to dance once and was unable to. So I launched into the two-step spiel again. He did have a more difficult time with rhythm. He seems to be one of those people who just can't hear the beat, so I broke it down mathematically for him instead. He almost immediately picked it up that way.

Once he got the hang of the rhythm, I showed him how to communicate and I reiterated that he needn't get hung up on memorizing steps - if he just keeps doing the basic step and moves his arms so that the girl can dance around him, he'll be fine. It was fantastic to see the lightbulb go off behind his eyes. He lit up, thanked me, and said that he learned more about dancing in those couple of minutes than in his entire life up until that point.

I returned him to the girl again, and they all tried to apply what they had learned. Since I saw them together for quite a while, they seemed to be happy with the results. I wandered off to do my own thing.

I love teaching people how to dance. Some people avoid dancing because they think they'll never look like the pros. Of course they won't. Just like any other sport, pro dancers are a very small minority of the very top of the heap. Don't go into dancing thinking you're going to be good at it. Go into dancing thinking that you might develop a new way to enjoy music and social interactions. All you need to learn is a couple of things. If the dancing bug bites you, then you can take that and improve on it with classes and practicing, but that's not necessary. My goal in teaching is to help people have a good time. That's it.

Oh, and possibly to have a good time without injuring anyone else in the process - people who don't know how to dance flinging each other around trying to emulate people who know how to dance is a dangerous thing. It takes control and finesse to do those flashy moves. Learn the basics first. Please.

Here's a video of DragonCon that captured a one-second clip of me dancing at this event.  It's about a minute in and it's literally only a second long, but it did get me in mid-twirl and shows part of my USO costume.  I'd love to embed it, but the site doesn't offer an embed code that LJ recognizes, so you'll have to click on the link.  I've cued it up to just before my dance bit.

18th-Aug-2014 06:48 pm - Poly Jewelry Roundup
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I was going back through my wishlist and I noticed some broken links to some pseudo-poly jewelry.  That took me to my FB Poly Jewelry Photo Album and a couple of old posts I made here, and I noticed some jewelry isn't available anymore.  While trying to correct the links, it reminded me that I haven't done a poly jewelry roundup in a while.  So here are some things I've found:

A very simple little ring made of sterling silver with a heart design, and the infinity symbol is integrated into the band itself, as opposed to most infinity-hearts where the infinity is part of the heart and the whole thing is sort of stuck onto a band (not that I have a problem with that style - it's most of my poly jewelry).  But I liked the simplicity of this because it has a flat band and no color or stones, so it would match everything -

A sterling silver ring with a larger, more obvious heart, with pseudo-Celtic knotwork inside and a twisty sort of design for the band that could represent an infinity symbol, for the more "discrete" wearer who might not want to make it obvious that it's a poly symbol -

This one is kind of stretching the whole poly symbol thing because it's just a series of hearts.  One could infer an "infinity" of hearts because they're all tied together in a ring, which itself is "infinite" because it has no beginning and no end.  The trim on my Miss Poly Manners Victorian gown is actually this exact same design in a black ribbon trim, so it can work, especially for the more "discrete" style preferences, but it's not obviously a poly design -

Another example of winding a Celtic knot pattern around a heart instead of the traditional infinity symbol, to substitute as poly jewelry.  This uses a turquoise stone for the heart and sterling silver for the knot / band.  It's also another example of using the "infinity" (or in this case, the Celtic knot pattern) as the band itself instead of as part of the design or symbol that's stuck onto a band - This same design is repeated with different stones, in hematite; in lab-created opal; in blue paua shell; in blue lab-created opal; and in purple lab-created charoite.

I posted about this one before, but the link is broken now, probably because they updated their shopping cart or database, and it changed all the products' locations.  This is a purple lab-created charoite heart set in silver, and the silver top of the heart melts into a winding, twisting sort of infinity symbol with 2 twists instead of 1 (3 open loops instead of 2 in the figure-8).  I have this necklace and the matching earrings, and it's a very subtle variation on the poly infinity-heart.  It's sufficiently different enough from the poly infinity-heart that it can definitely qualify as "discreet", but the heart and infinity themes are still there, so I'm comfortable wearing it as symbolic of polyamory.  This design also comes in lab-created opal earrings in gold, in lab-created opal earrings in silver, and in lab-created blue opal earrings, but I can't find a matching pendants, and I'd really love the blue opal set that I'm starting to introduce some turquoise blue into my dance wardrobe -

These are a lot like the costume jewelry from Claire's that I posted about a while ago, except that they're handmade silver and not faux-silver plated that can wear off after too much use.  I love the simplicity of the design and I'm a fan of very narrow ring bands because I have such small hands that wide bands don't look or fit right.  Claire's appears to no longer be carrying those rings, so even though these are so much more expensive, they're the same style and they're good quality materials -

From the same jeweler as the previous ring entry, this is a uniquely patterned infinity-heart pendant made of silver and a fairly large-ish size.  It comes in three patterns: the polka dot shown here, something that he calls "grooved stripes" which really just make it look like the bark on a tree branch (I think it looks pretty neat), and what he calls a "chapped-like surface" which looks to me like hammered metal, sort of like one of those metal bowl drums that they play calypso music on.  These ring out at the upper end of the price spectrum that I usually prefer to post about, costing over $130, but for handmade quality silver, it's not a bad price.  It's also available in bronze, gold, or other metals upon request -

Here's an unusual variation on the infinity-heart theme, with a large infinity symbol and the heart is attached to it instead of the other way around.  It's being listed as a "bridesmaid favor".  The infinity symbol is made of plated silver and the color of the heart can be changed upon request -

This blends polyamory with BDSM (although I don't think they intended to) by including an infinity design onto a decorative black heart-shaped padlock marketed for a "day collar".  This padlock is made of a nickel-silver alloy with a black epoxy resin.  The jeweler is willing to add a coat of clear glaze to the backside where the nickel-silver finish is exposed, to protect those with nickel allergies.  It's only a mere 1.25 inches across, 1.5 inches in height, and it comes with two keys.  They look like fairly standard "jewelry lock" keys, so I'm sure additional keys can be found for more than one key-holder.  I think my little diary that I had as a teenager had keys like that, and my handcuff keys might fit too -

This jeweler has a couple on this same basic design.  One has those pearls at the joint between the chain and the pendant and the other has the chain go straight to the pendant.  The stones can be changed to suit the color you want.  You can also add another dangling stone, pearl, or crystal.  It's made of silver but you can request one in gold.  This is also not a typical poly design so it also functions as one of those "discrete" designs.  Unlike the poly infinity-heart or the twisty heart above, this only has one twist and one loop, so it may not register as an infinity symbol unless you count the heart itself as part of the infinity symbol -

Here's a simple little bracelet made of a black wooden bead with the infinity-heart simple carved and painted into it, and then braided into a rough cord bracelet.  For the more "natural" look, without precious metals or stones -

So, that's it for now.  I'm sure I'll do another poly gift roundup as it gets closer to the winter gift-giving holidays.
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I posted this article with the following commentary in the Singleish and Solo Polyamory FB group, and I was asked permission to re-post my commentary.  So I'm archiving it here to prevent it from getting lost in the FB ether, and so that anyone wishing to re-post or refer to my commentary will have a link-back when they give me attribution:

This is a post by my metamour, that if you follow More Than Two, you've probably already seen.

When I started dating her partner, I spent a lot of effort on language to emphasize my solo nature. I had a dangerous job with unusual hours that I love and I was sick of men thinking it was "cute" at first but then trying to talk me out of it. I had never dated anyone who was poly-before-me at that point and I was fucking sick to death of cowboys. I had a long history of partners who sought to curb my autonomy.

So I used language deliberately to over-emphasize how solo I was, trying to nip that problem in the bud. But Shelly, at that point in her life, had invested most of her own self in the dream of "family". She and I had a lot of emails and a lot of discussion - tense, frustrated, tearful discussion - about family vs. solohood. She just could not understand my relationship with her partner. In her mind, it wasn't "serious" if it didn't match this family dream of hers.

She spent a lot of years struggling to understand my relationship with our partner. And I spent a lot of years struggling to reconcile my need for autonomy and independence with my desire for exactly the kind of family that she was offering, as well as to explain those seemingly conflicting needs and desires.

Then Shelly and I both dated another person. And she learned in one relationship what took me a lifetime of micro-aggressions to develop my autonomous stance. And I learned from that relationship a more nuanced definition of "family". This article is kind of a summation of some of our lessons on this topic (not that I had anything to do with the writing of it).

Shelly and I have both come towards the same destination from radically different starting points. Being autonomous has always been easier for me than for her, but finding that autonomy from within a family is her great lesson that I continue to need to work on.

I post this article because she addresses the need for autonomy within poly relationships from a unique perspective. She comes at it from a place of mental health and consent in a way that, although I'm sure others feel, I've not seen it verbalized in quite that way. Shelly looks at life in a very different way than anyone I've ever met. She adds nuance and flesh to already complex concepts, and she forces me to see myself from different points of view. So I want to share this article because it covers the dangers of hierarchical poly in a unique way, and the importance of autonomy, while in the comments she leaves room for the importance of family and compromise and commitment when oftentimes I see the pro-autonomy side stray too far into the "I am me, so fuck you" inconsiderate, un-compassionate (I know that's not a word, but it's what I mean) side.

Shelly makes me a better person, and if it weren't for polyamory, I'd never have met her; and if it weren't for our dating the same person (more than once), I'd never have gotten to know her on the level that I did. Shelly is the reason why I do poly. I mean, sure, it's great and all to have multiple partners. But equally, if not more important to me, is that poly relationships bring metamours into my life that I wouldn't have otherwise. There are lots of forms of non-monogamy out there, but polyamory and the emphasis on relationships over recreational sex as well as the importance of family - or at least of interconnected networks - polyamory brings the benefit of metamours. Metamours are half of the whole reason to do poly.

Not all my metamours have the same kind of relationship with me as I do with Shelly and not all of my metamours are like Shelly. That's not the point. But just as I subscribe to non-escalator relationships for romantic relationships and I require my romantic relationships to evolve into whatever form is best for *that* relationship because I find value in different types of relationships, I apply the same sort of freedom in evolving my metamour relationships.

My other metamours do not have the same sort of relationship with me as I do with Shelly. And that's the value of solo polyamory for me. If my metamour relationships were expected to ride their own version of a relationship escalator, then I wouldn't have the amazing relationships with each of them that I do have - as varied and unique as the people themselves. And I wouldn't have the amazing relationship with Shelly that I have, because our relationship never grew on the sort of metamour escalator that so many prescriptive, family-oriented relationships insist on - that even Shelly tried to insist on in the beginning. And as you can see from her writing, she is an amazing person, and my life would be less bright if I had to choose between an escalator metamour relationship with her that didn't fit right or nothing at all, if I could not find our own path to grow together. And we wouldn't have this gem of her writing to explain the importance of autonomy and independence as it pertains to consent and to mental health.
Purple Mobius, polyamory

The following is a paraphrase of a conversation I had recently.  The first sentence is a direct quote, but the rest is basically a summary of what was said following that first sentence.  I have lots of reasons to be afraid in love, as do many people.  Change is inevitable and my crystal ball is in the shop so I can't predict what form that change will take.  And that's scary.  But I leap into love anyway, even with my fears.  And there are things that I do not fear.  One of the things that I have learned to fear about love (not within love) is that people will not respect my independence or my agency, and to discover that only after I've started to love them is very painful.  So when I find people who do respect my agency, it is a rare and wondrous thing.  It is a liberating experience to feel this sort of love and to be loved by someone in this way.  Although this came from a specific conversation that I had, it actually applies to both of my current long-term partners.  I might even say that this is part of the reason *why* these men are my partners at this point in my life.  Respecting my right to make my own life choices, even if it comes at their own expense, is one of the most valuable qualities I can find in another person.

People talk about "unconditional love" - I don't believe that really exists because I don't believe people really understand how big that word "unconditional" really is.  But when they talk about "unconditional love", I do believe that this is the kind of love they think they mean.  This is definitely the closest I've ever seen anyone come to "unconditional" - the ability to love someone enough to trust that the choices that they make for themselves are right for them even if it hurts one to have their partner make those choices, and the ability to love someone enough to risk that kind of hurt, knowingly, consciously, deliberately, to take that chance.

"I'm not afraid to love you because I know you'll let me go if I need to leave. I also know it'll hurt you if I leave so letting me go won't be because you don't care, but precisely because you do care. Your willingness to love me and risk being hurt by me is another reason I'm not afraid to love you. I'm also not afraid to love you because I already know that our relationship can flex and accommodate change, so I'm not driven by fear of an uncertain future."
I once had a conversation with someone who said that, although he enjoyed being in a poly relationship while he was in it, and he respected that it is a valid choice for others, he preferred to be in a monogamous relationship because he preferred to have a partner who cared about what he did.  He said that it hurt him too much to be involved with someone who didn't care what he did or who he did it with.  I was so stunned that this is what he thought polyamory was about, that I couldn't even respond in the moment.  And that conversation has been bouncing around in my head for a good long while now.  Because, in my experience, polyamory doesn't work if the partners "don't care" what the other does, and jealousy is the opposite of "caring" about the other person.

Jealousy is the epitome of selfishness and lack of caring for the other person.  That doesn't mean that anyone who feels jealousy is a bad person.  No one is their best self at all times.  We can all be selfish and petty and childish and other not-best-self things, that's not a judgement that I'm making about anyone.  But jealousy is not about caring for someone else.  It's about caring about ourselves, about prioritizing ourselves.  That's not necessarily and automatically a bad thing either, in principle, but in the context of jealousy, I do believe that it needs to be addressed.

The reason why I say that jealousy is selfish is because jealousy is fundamentally a fear-based reaction towards someone else's behaviour or person about "how does this affect me?"  Jealousy is being afraid of how something will affect me, of fearing or assuming that something will affect me in a way that I don't want.  Jealousy is not a fear on behalf of someone else, it's all about me, although it can masquerade as a fear on their behalf.  If my partner has sex with someone else, and I'm jealous because I'm afraid he'll leave me for someone else, that's an emotion based on what will happen to me, not what is in my partner's best interests or what is best for him.  If I'm jealous (or envious) because he's doing something that I want to do too, that's all about me, not what is best for him or what will make him happy.  If I'm jealous because someone is trying to "get between" us or trying to "steal him away" or trying to destroy what we have, that's all about what I will be losing, not about what will make him happy or what's best for him.

Wanting to be with my partner, not wanting to be without him, wanting to experience something, wanting to experience something with him specifically, wanting to continue our relationship - none of those are bad things and wanting those things does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy is a sign that something is wrong.  But it is fundamentally a selfish concern - wanting something for our own sake *without regard to what's best for the other person*.  By the very definition of the word, jealousy is selfish.

Which means that jealousy is not a sign that someone cares about or loves *me*.  It *can* be borne out of caring or loving someone, for instance if the reason why I don't want my partner to leave me is because I love him.  But it's not a sign, itself, of love.

True love is not being more concerned with what my partner does without me than with how he feels about what he's doing.  I can be concerned *and* love him at the same time.  But being concerned about my partner having other partners is not a sign that I "care" *about him*.  It's a sign that I care about me and how what he's doing affects me and what I want.  True love is being more concerned with what my partner wants for himself than with what I want for him based on how I feel about what's right for him.  Engaging in relationships in which my partners have the freedom to do what they want to do, be who they want to be, even if that means they leave me, is the ultimate sign of caring for my partners, because it places their happiness for themselves as priority.  People say that being a parent is an act of true love.  But parents have to let their children go, to live their own lives, and once they become adults (some of us would argue on when that point is, but that's irrelevant to the point I'm making now) their lives are now their own.  My relationships with my partners are no less a truer love than a parent for a child, for all that it's a different love in structure (romantic, vs. familial).

And since I only have romantic relationships with adults, that means that I have to skip right to the "let them live their own lives" stage of the love.  They *have* to be able to make choices that are right for them.  And sometimes those choices will hurt me.  Sometimes my choices will hurt them.  That's the risk we take when we make ourselves vulnerable to another human, which is another part of what love is.  Contrary to pop culture, love does not mean never having to say you're sorry.  It means knowing that you will have to say you're sorry at some point, and that they will have to say they're sorry at other points, and trusting that you both will actually be sorry after the inevitable hurt occurs.  It means knowing that you will each cause each other pain and trusting each other with your most vulnerable parts (your heart and soul) by believing that the pain is a cost worth the benefits of being able to share those vulnerable parts with each other, and that the pain won't outnumber or outweigh the pleasure.

And sometimes it turns out to not be worth the cost.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  But the love that once was is a true love even after deciding that the cost was too high, *if* we trusted each other with our most vulnerable parts.  And that trust requires us letting go.  We can feel jealous and insecure and that we think they're making a mistake.  We can feel those things and still love, truly, deeply, honestly.  But in order for it to be love, we can't stop there.  We can feel those things, but we have to let go anyway.  If we truly love someone, we have to recognize their agency, their autonomy, their ability to decide for themselves what is right for themselves.  Even if that means we feel hurt because of it.  I am not afraid to love my partners, not because I think we won't ever hurt each other, but because we each acknowledge that sometimes we will hurt each other, but we trust and we hope that we will each do what is best for ourselves because love means wanting the best life for the other person, even if that life doesn't include us.

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10th-Aug-2014 06:39 pm - In Which I Rant About Empathy
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
Empathy is one of the most difficult senses for people to feel. People think that the goal is to put themselves in the other person's position, but that's not it. If I were to put myself in someone else's position, I would not be in their position. I would have my own experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters while in that position and I *could not* experience what they experience.

Empathy is attempting to understand what it's like to actually *be* that other person, complete with their experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters. I can't try to understand someone who is afraid of heights by thinking "well, if I were standing on that ladder where they are, I just wouldn't look down". I do not have a phobia of heights. I can climb a ladder without feeling afraid. I can climb a ladder without looking down. I can climb a ladder without the intrusive thoughts and physiological responses that paralyze me and cause me to break out in a cold sweat.

If I wanted to understand someone who is afraid of heights, I cannot put *myself*, as I am, in their position. I have to understand what a fear of heights actually FEELS like. I have to know what it's like to climb a ladder and have a flood of hormones and chemicals rush through my body making me shake, making my heart race, making my body temperature drop, and literally preventing my limbs from moving.  I cannot put "myself" there, I have to understand what it's like to BE them.

It's really easy to say "when someone bullies you, just stand up to them" if you are in a body capable of defending yourself, in an economic class where people will back up your claims of being bullied, have a brain that can look at an attacker, mental or physical, and react in exactly the right way that will prevent the bully from continuing.

It's really easy to say "if you want to get out of poverty, work hard and move up the corporate ladder" if you are in a body capable of doing the work, have a brain capable of producing the sorts of answers that impress one's superiors, in an economic class that allows you the time to get a job or the education to get a better job, in a situation that doesn't actively hinder efforts, and are in other classes that are not automatically distrusted and discriminated against even if you're brilliant at everything else.

It's really easy to say "just get off the couch and go to work and stop moping around" if you are in a body capable of lifting itself off the couch, have a brain that actually causes the body to respond to "get off the couch" electrical signals, or are in a situation that provides coping mechanisms and strategies for overcoming chemical impulses that are counter-productive to the goal.

But do you know what it feels like to have a body that doesn't work? A brain that sends the wrong chemicals and the wrong electrical signals? A situation that fundamentally changes the very pathways in your brain to produce a personality that CANNOT do the things that you can do?  Do you know what it feels like to be someone else?

Empathy is either being able to actually imagine those things or acknowledging that you can't imagine them but that it is a valid subjective experience for the other person. And empathy is how we will arrive at solutions.
Super Tech, strong, feminism

One point that I particularly liked about this article is that, while it is pointing out the importance of genetics in our appearance, it also didn't dismiss the work that individuals put into their appearance.

As they point out in More Than Two, DNA is not a blueprint, with the final results all spelled out and you know exactly what you're going to get the way you would know if you looked at a large sheet of blue paper with the plans for a house. "DNA is more like a recipe: a set of instructions that tells cells step-by-step how to grow an organism." That recipe has a range of things that the final product can become.

To paraphrase a section in the movie My Best Friend's Wedding, the recipe for crème brûlée can never become Jell-O and Jell-O can never become crème brûlée (although it can approximate its flavor). It just doesn't have the right ingredients. But the ingredients to crème brûlée can be mixed together by a master chef and become the most amazing crème brûlée to have ever been fired under a torch, or it can get burnt or it can be pretty good or it can be mixed by a 2-year-old and come out a sloppy mess.

Our DNA gives us a range of things that our body can become. It's merely the list of ingredients. Chance, our environment, our conscious effort once we're born, all kinds of things can affect how we turn out. Some celebrities, because of the money they're paid, can hire the best trainers and devote much of their days to crafting the perfect crème brûlée. Other people may have all the same ingredients and also turn out a pretty damn good crème brûlée because they had the good fortune to be born into a culture that privileges people who start out with the ingredients to crème brûlée over people who start out with the ingredients to Jell-O, so they end up with the ability to maintain an exercise regimen and dietary plan to enhance the outcome of their crème brûlée.  And some people also start out with the ingredients for crème brûlée but they treat the recipe like that 2-year old or they have a 2-year old thrown at them and they end up a sloppy mess.

The point of all this is that I'm pleased to see an article that discusses the importance of genetics in the final appearance of these celebrity illusions while also not dismissing outright the work that some of them really do put into maintaining and achieving that look. What often happens when anyone points out a privilege of some sort is that those who have the privilege get all indignant and shout "I worked my ass off to get where I am!"

Yes, you did. You exercise every day, you expend a lot of mental energy to think about your diet, you studied 26 hours a day to get good grades in school in spite of not having money for electricity so you studied by candlelight, you pounded the pavement, you *worked*. Absolutely. But you also started out with the ingredients to crème brûlée. If you work your ass off, you will probably get a fucking awesome crème brûlée. But someone who doesn't have the same ingredients will never create crème brûlée. They might be able to create something else awesome.

But we're penalizing people for not having prize-winning crème brûlées. We're penalizing ourselves for not having crème brûlées. We're blaming each other for being given a recipe for Jell-O and not turning it into crème brûlée. And we need to stop. We need to acknowledge that the celebrities, even the ones who "work hard", are still starting out with a body that, as the article says, "are predisposed to take on a traditionally attractive physical form IN RESPONSE TO THEIR WORK" (emphasis mine).

We need to accept that some of us have one recipe, with a range of things that the final product can become and that will be affected by what we do with the ingredients once we get started, and yet other people have different recipes with different ranges of things that the final product can become. It is important that we work with those ingredients to craft as delicious a product as we can with what we're given. But there is room for crème brûlée and there is always room for Jell-O.

9th-Aug-2014 01:40 am - A Good Story Is Worth Doing
Super Tech, strong, feminism
When I was still in film school, I started up a little film company with a couple of my school buddies (that went nowhere). The guy in the producer's role used to say "as long as you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing." If you've ever seen Wag The Dog, Dustin Hoffman's role as producer is totally my old producer.

I grew up having the curiosity and courage beat out of me. Literally. I was picked on and bullied and had the shit kicked out of me for most of puberty. Every idea I had, my parents were right there to explain to me why it couldn't work, why I shouldn't go out on a limb, why I should play it safe. I didn't learn until well into my 30s that my mother actually thinks I have a beautiful singing voice, that she likes my dancing, and that she thought I was a very graceful swimmer (I was a competitive swimmer for a while). I faced discouragement from many angles.

But not all angles. I had teachers who encouraged me. The meaning of the word "encourage" is "to inspire courage". I had quite a few teachers who told me that I could do anything, be anything. I was encouraged to write. I was encouraged to act and sing and dance. I was encouraged to be good at math and science. I was encouraged to be athletic. I was encouraged to drop everything and go into the entertainment field as a technician, which is what I did.

I've always walked this strange line between timidity and bravery. On the one hand, I was terrified to sing in public and I did not express myself enough to convince my parents to get me singing lessons. On the other hand, I went out and taught myself how to read sheet music and to play piano when I was 8 years old, and then in high school, I went by myself to join a church that my family was not a member of just so that I could sing in their choir. I'm full of contradictions.

I am a brave and courageous soul trapped in a timid and fearful body. But by the time I met my producer, my body was having trouble containing my soul. "Did you live? Did it make a good story? Then it was worth it."

I've lived through being stalked and chased up a water tower by a mountain lion in the middle of the night, where I stayed until sunrise when we could verify that the lion really was gone. It makes a great story. Without consulting anyone, I bought an ancient school bus, converted it to a motorhome, and set off 3,000 miles across the country with no job, no house, and only one friend waiting for me on the other end. It makes a great story.

Every time I get my heart broken, my inclination is to pull back, pull inside, go back where it's safe. But then I remember that I won't 't have any more great stories. I live for the great stories, the grand adventures. I haven't had very many lately. I have some good stories - I have far too many interests not to be interesting and not to have some stories to tell. But my life is my ultimate Great Story, my Grandest Adventure. I'm not done yet. So when I start to freeze up, to fear the uncertainty, to grasp for the comfortable, I try to remind myself - if you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing. Get out there and make a story worth telling; have a grand adventure. You're not done telling your story yet.
9th-Aug-2014 12:31 am - Poly Entrance Guidance Procedure
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I almost wish there was some kind of poly entrance procedure. You go to a local branch office or a representative shows up at your door and says "Hi! Welcome to the Office of Poly Management! So you'd like to try being poly? Here's your infinity-heart initiation pin and local meeting schedule, your Google calendar account login information, and your poly handbook More Than Two. Take whatever time you need to read this and discuss it with the important people in your life.

Be sure to schedule an appointment with your guidance counselor when you're done reading so that you can complete the reading comprehension exam! Don't worry, you can retake it as many times as necessary and the number of times you take it remains confidential.

Once you've done that, one of our social workers will contact you to arrange weekly, then monthly visits to asses your progress and make any personal growth opportunity recommendations as necessary.

Every year you'll have an annual review to see where you're at and where you're going as well as discuss where you would like to be. When you reach the minimum levels of proficiency in communication, introspection, and ethical compassion, you'll be given your official infinity-heart necklace and be offered the licensing rights to a tattoo if that's your style. You'll be a full fledged poly member then!

Of course, you can begin dating at any point; there are no restrictions on what you do with your own body and time. We can adjust your mentoring program to match whatever relationship circumstances you are in at any given time. We just want your partners to understand where in the learning and self-growth you are while you explore love together, that's why we have this evaluation process before you can get the official membership pendant.

And of course there are also further levels and corresponding symbols, titles, and accolades after you achieve member status! There is ALWAYS room for more personal growth! We want to encourage our members to keep working on themselves! Becoming a member doesn't mean we're all done and can coast now!

So go home, read your More Than Two handbook, and call us for your follow up appointment!"

I kind of hear that in my head as being said with an Effie Trinket, syrupy falsetto voice, from Hunger Games. Cuz what I really wanted to do was associate polyamory with The Capital.
6th-Aug-2014 08:46 pm - Don't Box Me In, Man!
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
Posted this as a comment and thought it deserved its own post:

For me, that's the real value of things like personality types. People want to put faith in the idea of a test that can categorize and box people in and then we'll have everyone figured out, and other people justifiably criticize systems for doing just that.

But the value in personality type systems is not in having a test that can magically sort you like a Sorting Hat and then stick you in a box forevermore, it's in giving people language to explain themselves and to finding methods of compromise.

That the test puts me as a J is less important than giving me a framework to say "there are different types of people out there who have different types of needs in interacting with people. I need these things, you need those things, now what mechanism can we use to get those needs met?"

Exposure to various personality type systems have given me words, labels, language, to explain things that even I, with my incredibly diverse vocabulary, was having trouble explaining before. Having a system with multiple types can (depending on how it's done) reinforce the diversity of the population and can also remove or reduce stigma for people who are "different from me".

For example, I'm a schedule-oriented person. It can be too easy to look at someone who is more spontaneous and see them as being "disrespectful" because they don't value my schedules. A spontaneous person can look at someone like me and see them as being too "rigid". But having a system that accommodates, not just for spontaneity vs. scheduling, but also for a variety of expressions of those two traits, can help to change "he's disrespectful of my time" to "he's not doing anything on purpose to disrespect me, he's just a spontaneous person with different values - it's just who he is".

Then, once we have established that our respective traits are about ourselves and not each other (it's not all about you, dude), we can reach for compromises that seek to get at the underlying needs, rather than focusing on the mechanisms. That's a lot fuzzier and gelatinous so I won't be going into examples right here. But a lot of people confuse "I need to feel this way" with "you must do this thing to produce this feeling that I need". Using the framework of the various personality type systems can help in getting us to the need part so that we have more solutions available to us that serve to actually get the need met without relying on the mechanism as if the mechanism itself were the need.

tacit has said things like ask yourself "what does doing this thing make me feel?" Then follow that up with "is this the only way to accomplish that?" That's very difficult and complicated work, to identify an underlying motivation and then seek multiple options for accommodating it. Even more advanced is seeking multiple options that *value the other person* in the attempt to accommodate. I find that personality type systems, even with all their flaws and legitimate criticisms, are a tool that serves this goal surprisingly well, providing that you look at the system as that tool, and not as a magic Sorting Hat.
Swing Dance, social events, dance
I'm going to reveal some secrets that normally would be held by the Girl Code, where we all get together and decide what's acceptable and what isn't, and then we agree not to tell anyone outside the special Girl Meeting so that we can make them guess about what's acceptable and what isn't, and then we can punish them when they guess poorly. But I got a special Hall Pass for this one from the Girl Council because of special circumstances. So listen up, because it's not very often one of us gets to break ranks and reveal our special secrets.

Ok guys - this is for all cis men, straight men, bi men, trans men, gay men, and anyone of any gender or orientation who takes on the "aggressor" or "pursuer" role, but ESPECIALLY those who think of themselves as "gentlemen", or as guys who are capable of putting the moves on a woman. Since most of those types of guys insist on retaining the sexist terminology like "gentleman" because they refuse to see how objectifying it is, I'll use that terminology if it's the only way to make you think that this should apply to you.

Should you find yourself in a heternormative situation, such as a nightclub, where it would be reasonable for you to talk to, flirt with, hit on, ask for a phone number from, ask out, or try to fuck someone who appears to be female, there are some lessons in classy from the ballroom dance scene that you should utilize if you don't want to actually freak her out, piss her off, frighten her, traumatize her, or have her male friend beat the shit out of you for.

So let's talk about how to treat a lady in these situations. Anyone who is biologically female, appears to be female, calls herself a woman, or is otherwise a person whom you are targeting for talking to, flirting with, hitting on, asking for a phone number from, asking out, or trying to fuck will be referred to in this discussion as a Lady. No matter how she's dressed, how she acts, how she talks, or even whether she herself likes or doesn't like the term "lady"; for succinctness, they are all "ladies" for this post.

Now gentlemen, let's say you see a lady across a smokey nightclub. She's attractive and you'd like to connect with her on some level. This is how you do it.

DO: When you see a lady, you may approach her, but only in a manner that does not trap her. Stand side-by-side with her so that she can leave you if she wants to. If it's not possible to stand or sit side-by-side, then stand or sit at a diagonal to her, or place your body in a position that is 90 degrees to the direction her body is facing, so that she has a clear path of escape.  The exact placement of your body is less important than giving her a path that she can use to leave you that doesn't require you to move out of her way at all and that doesn't require her body to touch yours as she exits.

DON'T: Do not face your body to her squarely or front-on. Especially if her back is to a wall or she is seated with a wall or chair back behind her, do not face her squarely with your body. Most especially, DO NOT LEAN IN AND PRESS HER INTO THE TABLE BEHIND HER, forcing her to physically push you back to escape.

DO: When you speak to her, turn your face only (not your body) so that she can clearly see your eyes and mouth, being cautious of her personal space bubble. Pay attention to whether she leans toward or away from you and adjust your proximity so that she can sit or stand upright.

DON'T: Do not lean your face into her face. It is nearly impossible to tell if that move means you are trying to be heard better or to kiss her. Keep your face out of her space.  Think of it this way - she may have a contagious illness that is spread by air like a cold; don't put your face in close enough to feel her breath, or for her to feel yours where she might catch whatever germs you're carrying around or be forced to smell the cheap beer you just drank or the cigarette you just smoked.  Don't lean in so close that she can't focus on both your eyes and mouth at the same time.  Avoiding these things will also prevent her from thinking that you're trying to lean in and kiss her.  Don't lean in and try to kiss her.

DO: If it is too loud to hear properly and you need to lean in just to communicate, turn your face to the side and OBVIOUSLY aim for her ear. Keep your face out of her face. Again, pay attention to which way she is leaning. If she is leaning away, you are either too close or you are speaking too loudly for the proximity to her ear. Back up.

DON'T: Do not take advantage of your necessary proximity to touch your mouth or cheek to any part of her body. Absolutely DO NOT fucking kiss her neck or ear.

DO: Please do talk about relevant topics, such as the music, the atmosphere, the food or drinks available. If you saw her dancing prior to speaking with her and you admire her dancing, it is OK to compliment her on her dance skills. It is also OK to compliment her on an article of clothing she is wearing or her hairstyle.

DON'T: Do not compliment her on her appearance or her body. Even if she is doing things that you think invite complimenting, such as wearing revealing clothing or dancing in a suggestive manner. Especially do not tell her that you think she is "hot". Ladies who appreciate hearing compliments will also feel complimented if you stick to the "do" guidelines on complimenting and, at worst, won't notice that you didn't reveal to her the state of your arousal at the sight of her body. At best, she is probably used to hearing that she is "hot", so your unique and creative compliments will stand out and make YOU stand out from the crowd. Don't be one of the many jackasses that she's had to fend off forever and don't tell her that she's hot. Or that you love her. Or that you want her to be your girlfriend. Or anything at all that you wouldn't say to your younger sister, if you had one, or that you wouldn't want some strange drunk guy saying to your younger sister the moment he meets her. Because, apparently, you can't put yourself in her shoes and treat her with respect just for being a human being, otherwise you wouldn't need to be told to think of a family member in order to consider respecting her.

DO: Do feel free to ask her to dance at a venue where there is dancing. You do so by backing your body away from her space and towards the dance floor while extending your hand, palm up, as if to ask her to put her hand in yours, bow your head slightly in a "questioning" gesture, smile, raise your eyebrows, and ask her politely if she would like to dance.  Practice this in the mirror until you get it right.  Watch Fred Astaire movies for reference.  A self-depreciating comedic flare will probably go over well if humor is comfortable for you and also give you a face-saving way of accepting a rejection by making light of the situation.

DON'T: Do not grab her hand, arm, or any other part of her body and try to physically move her towards the dance floor. If she declines for any reason or using any method, including saying "no", shaking her head in a negative fashion, ducking her head and looking embarrassed, or explaining that she doesn't know how to dance, DO NOT cajole her, harass her, repeatedly request a dance, grab the hand she just pulled out of yours, or demand "aww, why not?" Do not respond to a rejection in any way other than a graceful acceptance.

DO: If she accepts, lead her onto the dance floor and proceed to dance in the manner common to that venue.  Holding her hand to guide her if she placed her hand in yours is acceptable, as is placing a hand on the middle of her back if you walk behind her to gently steer her and to let her know that you are still behind her.

DON'T: If she accepts, do not attempt to dance with her in a more sexually suggestive manner than is common to the other dancers on the floor (excepting those couples who are obviously in a preexisting relationship). Don't break with the protocol of the venue by going "down" or more sexually suggestive in dancing style, although if you have formal partner dance skills, it is OK to break the informal protocol to dance more formally. Especially if you have seen her dancing with other people and she clearly knows how to partner dance, do not immediately devolve your dance with her to a sexually suggestive style. If she has skill or dance training, going straight to the grinding is decidedly unimpressive.

DO: It may or may not be common etiquette for the venue to include body contact while dancing. Use the lightest body contact possible for the style of dance and/or music for the venue and allow her to close the distance if she wishes. Many dance styles require body contact and even placing the legs between the partner's legs to bring the hips and groin into contact - that is not necessarily an invitation.  Remember, many of the best partner dancers are siblings and family members who nevertheless perform classic dance moves that require familiarity with each other's physical presence.  She may be willing to allow body contact that is more than what she would be comfortable with if it weren't for the sake of dance protocol, but it doesn't mean she is consenting to anything else.  Keep your hands above the waist and on her back only.

DON'T: Do not grind on your partner unless she initiates it by moving her groin into yours. Do not touch her below her waist on either her front or her back. Do not touch her on her front above her waist.

DO: To look really classy, keep your right hand on her shoulder blade and use your left hand to gently hold her right hand (in a way that conveys enough pressure to give her leading signals but that allows her enough freedom to remove her hand if she wishes - no closed grips!) in the air about her shoulder height and maintain a firm frame with your arms so that she can follow your dance lead. A proper dance lead will be able to lead a partner even if she has no idea how to dance, or how to partner-dance and she will be really impressed if you make her look like an experienced dancer through your leading skills. If she expresses discomfort with that position because she's not used to proper dance hold, it is acceptable to allow her to place both of her hands on your shoulders or around your neck in the more common, informal closed dance position, while you place your hands in the middle of her back or the sides of her waist and NO LOWER.  If she exhibits discomfort with being in a closed hold, it is acceptable to allow her to break the hold and dance on her own in your proximity even if you were being the epitome of gentlemanliness with your proper dance hold.

DON'T: Do not take advantage of her willingness to accept body contact while dancing to kiss her. Anywhere. Not on the mouth, not on the neck, not on the ear, not on the breasts ... in fact, do not touch her in any traditional erogenous zone or secondary sex characteristic at all. Even if she presses them up against you, do not take the initiative and do not try for anything more than what she is actively requesting of you. If she wants more but doesn't indicate so, too bad, this is about how you can be a gentlemen and impress the ladies with your gentlemanliness.

DO: At the end of the song, step back, slightly bow your head and thank her for the dance. If your dance included dancing in a closed hold position of some sort, it is acceptable to gently squeeze the hand that you are currently holding while you bow your head and thank her in a sort of modified or implied handshake or hug-by-proxy.  If you are in the more informal hold with no hand-holding, it is acceptable to reach up to remove her hands from around your neck and offer the light hand-squeeze then or to pull back from her while running your hands from behind her back, along the length of her arms, to her hands, where you can then offer the light hand-squeeze - both with the bowed head and verbal thank-you.  If you ended your dance in a position with no body contact, it is probably safer to limit yourself to the bowed head only.  Then walk her back to where you found her. Dance only one song at a time. If you began dancing more than 2/3 into a song, it is acceptable to extend the 1-song rule to the second song and no further. After several dances (not in a row), it may be acceptable to offer a light hug in place of the head-bow while you thank her for the dance, prior to walking her back to where you found her.

DON'T: Do not monopolize her time. Do not dance for multiple songs in a row. Especially do not move straight from one song to the next song with no break. This traps her on the dance floor with you and she may be frantically signalling to her pretend-boyfriend over your shoulder to come rescue her because she doesn't know how to break a dance-in-progress without seeming rude or causing a scene, even if she thinks you're being rude.

DO: When you have reached the place where you found her, excuse yourself with an explanation that is clearly not about her and indicate that you'd like to reconnect later without demanding a commitment from her to do so. An example may be "if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get another drink. Perhaps we can dance again later?" or "I'm so sorry, but I have to go say hi to my friend who just walked in. We'll talk more in a bit?" Give her a chance to miss you.

DON'T: Do not sit yourself down in her space and command her attention. She needs a chance to decide if she wants to continue to be in your presence or if she needs a respite or a rescue. Especially do not beg or harangue her for more dances, particularly if she was the one to initiate leaving the dance floor.

DO: Wait a few songs before approaching her again, but then approach her again if you said you would - she may not feel comfortable approaching you, especially if you really are talking with someone else. Pay attention to her body language - is she leaning towards or away from you? Are her eyes scanning the room or looking at you or looking down or away? If she is not exhibiting signs of wishing you were dead or that a hole would open up in the floor and swallow her up to get away from you, now you can choose to have a conversation or ask for another dance - both of which should use the methods already described.

DON'T: Do not think that if she is smiling, she's happy for your presence. Look for other clues. Ladies are constantly told to smile regardless of their feelings and they are regularly punished for rejecting men, so many of them will be conditioned to smile even when they are uncomfortable. Don't rely on a smile alone for confirmation of her feelings. Especially don't give her shit for smiling while exhibiting discomfort or giving "mixed signals" - it's because of guys who desperately need this guide and don't have it or ignore it that she has that habit in the first place. Some of those guys may even be you. At any rate, it's not her fault that she does that.

DO: Do feel free to dance with other people in between dancing with her. If you do, be especially mindful to allow her to see you treating other ladies with the same respect, including not dancing more than one song in a row with any given lady, so that she doesn't mistake your gentlemanly behaviour with disinterest and so that she doesn't feel intimidated or awkward accepting dance requests from you or from other people. This establishes a friendly, open connection that reduces anxiety about feeling trapped or unwillingly committed. If she exhibits signs of jealousy when you spend time with other people or dance with other ladies, considering how early this is in your acquaintanceship, you can use this as your own escape and congratulate yourself on dodging a bullet so early on.

This is just to get the front door open - etiquette on how to approach a lady. There are whole other chapters on what to do now that the door is open and how to get your foot inside, and then the rest of you inside.

In ballroom etiquette, the gentlemen are required to ask many women to dance because there are often more women than men, so it is polite to give dancing opportunities to as many of the ladies as possible so that they are not left out of the event. Even if a gentleman arrives with a special lady, he is still expected to make the rounds, even if he saves certain dances or more dances for his lady. A gentleman asks for the privilege of dancing with a lady and accepts her rejection with grace. A gentleman escorts her onto the dance floor, dances one dance with her, and then escorts her back while thanking her for the opportunity to dance with her. A gentleman then politely excuses himself so as to give the lady opportunities to dance with others while he does his gentlemanly duty to ensure the other ladies are having their own opportunities. A gentleman only touches where is necessary for the dance and nowhere else. A gentleman does not take advantage of the proximity that the lady offers for the sake of the dance - a proximity that she would not otherwise offer if it weren't for the sake of the dance. A gentleman expressing his interest may then approach the lady several times throughout the event to give her the opportunity to respond to his interest. A gentleman also graciously accepts attention and requests to dance from ladies in the same vein that the ladies generally accept it from him and rejects with grace.

Ballroom etiquette is no longer in favor in nightclubs and pickup spots, so you are not necessarily crossing any social taboos by not knowing or following this etiquette. But someone who is concerned about whether or not he makes other people uncomfortable by his presence will want to take the safest route when dealing with unfamiliar people and ballroom etiquette is designed to minimize social discomfort even with the most ... sensitive ... of us.

If more people still followed ballroom etiquette guidelines, I wouldn't have had my ass grabbed tonight on the dance floor, I wouldn't have had one guy grab my hand 3 times after I pulled it away from him, I wouldn't have had someone tell me "but I love you, I want to dance with you!" repeatedly after I repeatedly rejected him, I wouldn't have had someone try to kiss me on the dance floor and when I turned my head aside and pulled back, had him pull me back towards him and have him kiss my neck because that was all he could reach, and I wouldn't have been pinned against a table as yet another guy ground his groin into mine forcing me to put both hands on his chest and physically push him back to get enough space to escape. I also wouldn't have had a friend see what was going on in that last example and rush over to rescue me only to have the asshole get offended that I ran off with another man and shout "what the hell?" and complain to his buddy who was next to us and saw the whole thing, then had the two of them shoot me dirty looks the rest of the night, prompting my friend to insist on walking me to my car at the end of the night.

Look guys, I know some of y'all think you're all smooth with the ladies once you've had some liquid courage, but you're not. I'm sober, I can see what you think is "smooth". You're not. If you're not a sociopath, you'll care whether the ladies you hit on in bars think you're an asshole or not. The advice I give might make you miss an opportunity with a more passive lady who doesn't know how to deal with someone who values consent and autonomy and personal space, but it will prevent you from being an asshole, whether you like the label "gentleman" or not.

Some people think that having some chick they hit on in a nightclub bitch about them on Facebook later that night isn't a big deal. So what? You didn't know her anyway, right? Most reasonable people care about not making people feel uncomfortable, especially people they were hoping to connect with in some way, but if you need a purely self-centered reason, these tips will help you to be your best self. If you like to brag about being a "gentleman" or you like to think of yourself as a decent person, this is how you start. This is how you start being a decent person and have the side effect that other people like you and like being around you because you're a decent person who can at least fake empathy and compassion while doing your best to respect other people's autonomy and space, if caring about their feelings isn't enough of a reason.
4th-Aug-2014 01:15 pm - You Can't Be Trusted
Purple Mobius, polyamory

Rules:  Why We Make Them, Where They Can Go Wrong -

"One of the things that came up on that hashtag again and again, though, was the idea that abusers can gain power over their victims by making their victims doubt their own judgment. “You can’t be trusted.” “You don’t make good decisions.” “You mess things up.” “You have poor judgment.” “I have to make decisions for you or you’ll screw up.” “You’ll hurt me if I give you a chance.” I saw dozens of variations on this theme all through the hashtag. And it got me to thinking.

“I will limit my behavior in this way because I know my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap” can be a reasonable approach to healthy boundary-setting. But I see the potential for abuse when it becomes “I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can’t be trusted to keep your commitments.”"

I can't tell you how many times I've seen this play out in destructive ways. It seems to me that the people who are most interested in the latter example ("I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can't be trusted") are more likely to be the sort of person who is actually abusive. The ones who make rules for themselves, however ("I will limit my behaviour because my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap") are exactly the ones who do not need rules imposed on them in the first place because they are owning their own limitations and they're making their own rules out of concern and compassion, rather than edict and imposition.

This goes back to tacit's saying "if your partner truly loves and cherishes you and wants to honor your relationship, a rule isn't necessary; if your partner doesn't cherish you, a rule won't make them".

I attended a poly meeting once. In it was an
asterisk family (a single person with multiple partners) who were first-time visitors to that group. It was a guy who had two female live-in partners and a third girlfriend (if I recall correctly; there were definitely two live in partners so it could have been a V but I'm pretty sure there was a third girl in there somewhere). When he and his original partner first opened up their relationship, he had no rules imposed on him. He just found another girl, dated her, moved her in, and that was that. Same with his newest girlfriend. His original partner struggled with it but eventually learned to accept it (it is not clear if she actually embraces and cares for the other girls, but she didn't seem terribly resentful).

Now the original female partner was branching out to find partners of her own. She had finally managed to get the guy to grudgingly release the One Penis Policy and was dating men. Except her existing partner hated everyone she chose. He went on at great length to explain to the group, in front of his partners, how his original partner had terrible decision making skills and partner-selection skills; she had absolutely no ability whatsoever to make good sexual decisions. So he, of course, had to be the responsible one and step up to interview all her prospective dates to make sure that they passed muster*.

His entire justification just dripped condescension and paternalism. I mean, he was cruel in his description of her. She tried to get a word in to defend herself now and then, but he talked over her and quickly put her back in her place. Other attendees tried to very gently steer him into being more accepting and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was some sort of healthy BDSM dynamic and not an abusive relationship, but by the end of his defense, his partner was in tears and she ran out of the building. When he started in about "women just have different methods of dating" and "women just aren't as good at ...", that's pretty much when I lost my own shit and the whole group erupted into a shouting match; I was down to only one word by that point, "bullshit".

On the other hand, I have known people who fully understand that they get twitterpated easily and have asked their existing partners and friends to reality-check them. I like to use tacit's observations skills for that purpose, but he's far too accepting of my ability to make my own decisions to ever tell me that someone I'm interested in is a bad choice, so it doesn't actually work very well to have him be my reality check. *Sigh* the downsides to dating someone who completely accepts your autonomy and consent and trusts you to make your own decisions, I suppose

I, myself, have frequently told would-be suitors that I could not do certain activities because I had a "rule" about when and under what circumstances I could do things. Occasionally, one of those pursuers (and I use that word intentionally, because these types of situations are usually not a back-and-forth discussion about boundaries, but me trying to put the brakes on someone else's aggressive advances) would have actually paid attention to my previous rants against rules and say something like "I thought you didn't do rules?" or "but he doesn't have to know!" (the latter ones don't get any further than that, btw), and I would clarify that these are MY rules for MYSELF, so breaking them would, in fact, be known by the very person they were most important to.

Of course, it is also up to me to decide when I can and can't break them, because they're my "rules". The point is that they are not rules imposed on me by someone else. They are limitations I impose on myself for reasons that happen to be limitations that my other partners are comfortable with me imposing on myself. This actually makes them boundaries, not rules, although English does funny things so sometimes we might use the word "rule" when we mean "boundary" (and vice versa as well).  As soon as it becomes someone *else* saying "you can't make this decision for yourself, I have to make it for you," that's when my autonomy is threatened. And when autonomy is threatened, that is not a healthy situation to be in.

An agreement is more about expectations. If I make an agreement with a partner, that means they have a reasonable expectation of me doing or not doing certain things. But it it STILL my choice to live up to that agreement or not. It never becomes something that my partner is preventing me from doing. It is always something that *I* am choosing to do or not do for myself. It never comes to "well, I WOULD do this thing with you, except I promised my other partner I wouldn't do it." It is always "I made this agreement because I believe not doing this thing with you is the better choice for me, so even if I hadn't made this agreement, I still wouldn't want to do this thing with you because it's not the better choice."  The former foists the responsibility, and hence the power and the agency, onto someone else.  The latter is using the psychological trick of stating one's commitments to reinforce or cement the willpower to maintain those decisions during times when pressures to ignore those decisions compete with the desire to maintain those decisions.

I've seen too many people use the word "agreement" but behave as though they were rules, with one person dictating another's behaviour, relationships hinging on 100% follow-through of the agreement, and no ability to renegotiate or alter the agreement if it doesn't work for someone in the future, relationships being literally irreparable after an agreement is even sort of kind of nudged a little, and those "agreements" used as blunt weapons with which to beat someone over the head with piety or towing the line**.

So I'm even more careful now to avoid words that imply some sort of contract and to avoid relationships with people who use that kind of language, including the word "agreement". I never again want to be in a relationship with someone where I can say "this is my Standard Operating Procedure, generally speaking, so you know what kinds of things to expect from me" and they hear "from this day forth, I hereby pledge my undying soul to live up to this procedure at all times and at all costs to make you happy or forfeit your trust and this relationship forevermore and you hereby agree to the same so that every time you have the opportunity to break this agreement and don't, you can be given cookies for being a Noble and Honorable Partner."

I now know far more about what an abusive relationship looks like from the inside, and how reasonable, rational, intelligent, self-respecting people can find themselves in one, and how the abuser can justify their actions, even making themselves look like the victims of abuse to those on the outside.  Unfortunately, I can now see some of the more subtle red flags that mark the sorts of mindsets that often lead to abusive behaviour.  I hate to see people have to learn that same lesson the hard way when they don't have to, but people will always think that their situation is completely unique and no one ever felt what they're feeling, so people will justify, excuse, and jump in blindly even with warnings from people who have gone before them.

I do not do rules. I do boundaries.  I make my own limitations and restrictions and it is completely within my power to determine when to flex those boundaries and when not to - when to give and revoke consent for my body, my mind, my emotions, my space, and my limitations.  I.  Do.  Not.  Do.  Rules.  It's like putting a drunk chimp into the gunner's cockpit with all barrels armed with nuclear warheads and all safety protocols turned off. Sure, there's a chance that the monkey won't hit the giant red "fire" button in the center of the console, but I wouldn't bet money on it and the consequences for betting wrong are disastrous.

* Site note: as a person with the Love Language of Words of Affirmation, I can't tell you how offensive I thought this behaviour was.  To publicly demoralize one's partner is one of the most hurtful things I think another person can do, even if their own Love Language isn't Words of Affirmation.  It's even worse, from my perspective, than physically assaulting a partner in public, because a public assault may be intervened and is a much clearer case when it comes to legal proceedings.  But to just insult a partner matter of factly like he did was vicious and cruel, and judging by her reaction, I think she feels the same, even if she's too tightly buried in that abusive relationship to admit it.  Emotional abuse is sometimes hard to identify, especially from the inside but also sometimes by onlookers, but I would say he was clearly being abusive and using the D/s angle to hide it.  That's the danger with the BSDM community - it too easily hides abusers like this because there are no safety measures to distinguish between consensual dominating / humiliation play and actual abuse.

Also people are way too easy to fall back on "your kink is not my kink and that's OK".  While that is a very important mindset to learn acceptance of diversity, it is, in my observation, used to ignore abuse.  I have a whole other post brewing about that concept.

** A healthy relationship where two people believe in consent and agency and fully trust each other to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are more important than the relationship, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person ultimately accepts the first person's decision even if it hurts or they feel a sense of loss or they need to renegotiate the relationship in light of new information.

An unhealthy relationship where at least one person does not grant the other person the right to their own agency and does not fully trust them to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are less important than the relationship itself, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person throws their own adherence to the agreement back at the first person as "proof" of their nobility, how much better of a partner they are than the first person, using punishment & reminders of "but you agreed to this!" to reinforce the desired behaviour and attacks the first person's very humanity for choosing to revoke consent, change the agreement, want something different, or even legitimately having a lapse in judgment.  This is fundamentally different from the other person choosing to renegotiate the relationship and/or revoke some kind of consent themselves in light of the previous agreement now being changed or broken - that's maintaining one's own boundaries.
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
I am all about being deliberate. I deliberately choose my words. I deliberately choose my attire. I deliberately choose to do things that scare me for the first time without alcohol or any other inhibition assistance so that I can know that I chose to be that person with intention, not as a byproduct.

I have worked on removing certain words from my vocabulary over the years as part of my commitment to being deliberate. Although I would like it if people noticed and it prompted other people to be more deliberate themselves, that's not my intention - that's a hopeful side effect. I do it to remind myself every day of whatever point I'm trying to make by not saying that word.

I've completely removed "gypped" from my vocabulary because it's a racial slur. To me, it doesn't matter if no one else remembers that it's a racial slur or if the people who are hurt or offended by it can't even hear me to become hurt or offended. Every time I have to choose another word to use in its place, I am reminded to be more conscious and considerate of oppressed people and of my own privilege and to not abuse that privilege. It's easy to avoid certain racial slurs because we have plenty of social reinforcement to help us remember not to use those words. But can I be considerate and conscientious when no one else is even listening? Can I be a decent person even when I don't get credit for it? Choosing to stop using the word "gypped" is an attempt to be a good and considerate person even when I get nothing in return for it, not even appreciation from the Romany people.

I've also changed when I use the word "theory" and when I don't. I have stopped saying "conspiracy theory / theorist" and I now say "conspiracy story / conspiracist" because I want to make a point of separating what a theory *actually* is from the common misunderstanding of "just a theory". A conspiracist is NOT promoting a theory, he's telling us a wildly fantastic story. I've tried to remove the phrase "in theory" to mean "in some dubious thoughts about something that hasn't been proved in the practical sense yet" and I try to only use it when I'm actually talking about scientific theories. Instead, I might say "I agree with that in principle, but in reality..." or "well, that's the hypothesis, anyway, it hasn't been tested in real life yet". I wrote a whole long post about this one a while back.

Many of you have also noticed that I use the term OTG in writing, although I have yet to transition to using that phrase consistently in speech (mainly because I don't say oh-tee-gee / oh-em-gee, I actually say the whole phrase and "their" is a much more noticeable substitute for "my" than the T is for the M). That's another deliberate act to remind myself and others that it is not OK to impose one's religious values onto anyone else, including by affecting the entire culture into casual use of one's own religious views. The pervasiveness of religion is so pervasive that it's not even noticeable to most people, including most secularists, until they try to consciously substitute religiosity for a secular version.

On that note, I am also trying to remove religion from my swearing. Not out of any respect for the proposed deity or its adherents, but as a reminder of how pervasive and intrusive religion is in my life. I've started saying "for fuck's sake" in place of "for god's sake" (I always said both, but now I'm trying to eliminate the latter entirely), and I've been looking for decent substitutes for others.

My most recent additions are Dear Gourd and oh Dog. I just really like the sound of "dear lord", and I like the feel of the word in my mouth. When I say it in frustration, it's a very round sound, with the Rs pronounced way back in my throat (like a Southerner), and it feels very base, earthy, grungy, exactly as I'm feeling when I exclaim that phrase. So I was hesitant to give it up. So I'm trying out the substitution of a rhyming word to see how it fits.

Some people, when they give up religious swearing for these reasons, replace the deity entirely, usually with some other deity that they feel is equally ridiculous but that people of the religious faith they are dismissing will also agree is ridiculous, kind of to make the point that they're all just as ridiculous as the religious person thinks the new deity is.

In other words, when a newly out atheist wants to make a point to "Christianity" (not necessarily any specific Christians), I've often seen them replace phrases like "for the love of Christ!" with "for the love of Loki!" The point, of course, being that the atheist thinks both are equally silly or false, and by equating the two, the atheist's beliefs about the equal standing of the two deities is made public.

I'm all for that trend in principle. But in practice, I haven't seemed to be able to make it stick. If I'm going to start substituting deities, I want to get creative. There are thousands of deities out there to choose from, but I seem to only remember Loki, Thor, and Zeus when I'm in the process of swearing. Since the Gourd substitution has been successful for a brief bit now, I'm trying another rhyming substitution by saying "oh Dog" instead of "oh God" or "Dog damn it!"

I'd also like to incorporate some sci-fi slang, but none of that has stuck either. I did manage to spontaneously yell "frak!" one day instead of fuck, but it didn't feel as satisfying as yelling "fuck". But gorramit might be a decent substitute for "god damn it". The only thing I don't like about that, though, is that I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to find more *polite* ways to swear. The ways I'm substituting are just weird enough to feel "off" to some people, particularly religious people, and that's a side effect I want to encourage. I don't want people to hear me make these substitutions and think I did the equivalent of saying "fudge" or "shut the front door!" I have a whole other rant on cussing and my moral reasons for deliberately using swear words instead of polite substitutions that I won't go into now. I want them to feel off-kilter so that the prevalence of religion is brought to their attention.

But, as I said, that's a side effect, and the more important effect is that *I* become more deliberate in my speech, which makes me more deliberate in my thoughts and makes me more intentionally who I am.

So that's what I'm up to these days.
9th-Jul-2014 01:09 pm - Gender Swap
Super Tech, strong, feminism

"Go through the projects you're already working on and change a bunch of the characters' first names to women's names. With one stroke you've created some colorful, unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they've had a gender switch."

When I was in high school, the director we hired to head up our baby theater program* decided to do Romeo & Juliet as a musical.  Since Shakespeare wrote in verse, he reasoned, the lines could be delivered through song.  He hired a brilliant composer to add music to select verses and it is, to this day, still the best version of Romeo & Juliet that I've ever seen.

Two other changes he made was to put everyone in modern dress but keep the lines in old English (this was before Leo's movie) although he kept the fencing swords in the fight scene instead of using guns (which I preferred).  He also made Mercutio a woman.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Romeo's best friend, who does his damnedest to keep Romeo & Juliet apart, was a woman.  That added a whole level of depth to Mercutio's motivation and character.  Suddenly, he wasn't just a flat snob, viciously defending his class, but now she was a woman with conflicting emotions about Romeo, motivated by class privilege and familial obligation and unrecognized jealousy and love.

That same director, the following year, directed Jesus Christ Superstar and had a female student play Judas.  He didn't particularly change anything about the costume or the presentation.  She had sort of an Axl Rose look to her, so it wasn't clear whether she was a woman playing Judas or an actor playing a female Judas.  And that androgyny brought all kinds of interesting nuance to the role, again with sexual tension and jealousy and love.  Because we were an all-girl school, it was common to have females play male roles, but we liberally accepted male auditions from any school and most of the main male roles were filled by males.  So when the director put a female in a main male character's role, he did so deliberately.

Most male roles are written as male by default, not because there is anything inherently male about their characters.  They are just character blanks that happen to be male.  That means that there is diversity and nuance and depth in male characters that are not present when a character has to be deliberately written as a female.  In order for someone to put a female character into a story, they have to deliberately write her as a female, which means that they often *write* her "as a female character", instead of "as a character".  This is why so many female characters are so flat and uninteresting - they're being written deliberately "female" with that writer's biases influencing what they think "female" means.

So change the characters' names to female names and they work just fine, because well-written characters are simply people experiencing the human experience.  I posted a link a while back suggesting that parents do this when they read to their children.  If you are the one doing the writing, I suggest waiting until you are essentially finished writing, assuming your characters are male by default, and *then* change the names, so that you don't unintentionally influence your characterization by renaming her too early in her development.

I used to be bothered by changing things like race and gender because it wasn't "canon".  But after seeing how well it worked in my high school play, I am much less strict about "canon" and more concerned with "does it change the plot or the character arc?"  If it significantly changes the plot or the direction where the character is supposed to grow by the end, then I'm opposed to it, generally speaking.  Sometimes those changes make things better, but more often than not, I start thinking "if you're gonna change the entire direction of the story, why not just write a whole new story instead of pretending that it's this pre-existing story that it's now totally not because of how you changed it?"  Wicked, Maleficent, Hansel & Gretal, etc., those change the stories but not in ways that I think ruin the originals or make them so different as to negate the whole purpose of writing about that story in the first place (whether the movies or plays are *good* or not is another question).  They change the *perspective*, which gives depth to the overall story, because we are all the heroes of our own stories and stories told from other perspectives will always be different from each other.  Now for reboots, I have mixed feelings on.  It depends on how they reboot it, again, whether or not I feel "this story is so different, what's the point of calling it by the same name?"

But because of the whole default issue, filling in white male characters with non-white, non-male actors (even if those "actors" are merely drawn/written in another version of a book) often doesn't change the plot or the character arc because most characters are not written *as* a story of the white male experience, but as a story of a human experience.  If there's nothing inherently male about that character, such as a story being told about what it's like to be a man, then switching gendered names or actors is a great way to enjoy some of our classics (or at least, nostalgic favorites) without the historical sexism leaking all over.  What would Pippin & Merry's story be if one of them was a female hobbit?  Iif both of them were?  What would the entire story be if Gandalf was a woman?

Hell, even some strictly gendered stories like romantic comedies that claim to be telling stories of "the male experience" or "the female experience" could probably do with a good gender swap to expose stereotypes and to address the experience of those who don't fit into narrow gender roles.  For most rom-coms, I tend to identify with the male role more often because it more closely resembles my own experiences (inasmuch as I experience the sorts of stupid things that happen in rom-coms).  In the movie My Best Friend's Wedding, I am TOTALLY the groom in that story, and my high school stalker is Julia Roberts.  I so wished for the personal growth that she experienced to be attained by my high school stalker, but he never did.

My favorite retort whenever I hear guys complaining about things that girls do that guys don't, is "I can tell that you have never tried dating men!"  That usually confuses people for a moment, so I can go on to explain that "y'all act very differently when your buddies aren't around and the girl you're with doesn't conform to gender expectations.  Everything you just complained about is something I've had to put up with in my relationships with guys - straight white men.  People tend to act less than they react, and guys who are just like you, as soon as they get into a relationship with a woman like me, who is more of a 'man' than you guys are, suddenly turns into that woman that you're complaining about because that's generally how insecure people or people who don't have a handle on their emotions react when they interact with either secure people or  with arrogant and emotionally distant people.  And let me tell you, guys who are brought up to ignore or suppress their emotions are very much "people who don't have a handle on their emotions".  Here's a thought ... how about people are nuanced and diverse and full of contradictions and the way that they see themselves is not how other people see them?"

*ahem*, I digress.  Write your stories.  Then change some character names to female names (or names of other cultures / ethnicities) without changing anything else about them.  I think some people will be surprised at how well the character still works and at how little work is involved to add more diversity to our entertainment.  If you don't write, then change the names of the stories you read, especially those you read to your children.

*My high school was so small that it didn't have a theater program, or even a building with a stage in it (our gym didn't have the obligatory stage to make it convertible for presentations).  The first play they ever put on wasn't even until my 8th grade year - the year before I started attending.  So the school, which was private so it had money, hired professional staff for all its performances, including the director and stagehands.  We didn't even have a theater teacher to take over as director.  The stagehands physically built a new stage for every play in our multi-purpose room (not the gym).
7th-Jul-2014 12:40 pm - Be The Change You Wish To See
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I woke up this morning to thoughts of my stalker.  His so-far-last text to me was asking if we could still be friends, after I insulted him and was condescending to him and told him that I loathed him.  In my head, I continued the conversation (because that's what my brain does, which is partly why online arguments are so damaging to me - I end up losing sleep by continuing arguments, whether I continue them IRL or not).  In my head, I continued with a horrified and offended tone, saying "no, we can't be friends, you fuckwad!  I will not be Girlfriendzoned!" which of course required me to explain what girlfriendzoning was.

Because I was not yet fully awake when I had this conversation in my head, I jumped to two other scenarios simultaneously.  One was the following thought: "It's very sad, now there's some perfectly nice guy, a real nice guy and not a Nice Guy, who shares my interest, my hobbies, my passions, who may come into my store someday and who will spark a connection between us, and I'll be unable to trust him even enough to give out my number because of this incident.  This situation has created an opportunity lost that is no fault of the nice guy, but he will feel the consequences and we'll both lose because of this asshole."

The other was a conversation with clueless-but-nice-guys about why this whole thing was such a big deal and what girlfriendzoning was.  I said "The Girlfriendzone is where some guys put a girl in a category in their head of being Girlfriend material (or sex partner material), even after she rejects him, and they use her offer of friendship as a door stopper to try and wedge themselves into her life as a future boyfriend (or lover), only to get progressively more whiny and demanding and resentful when she proceeds to give them nothing but what she offered in the first place - a friendship.  This is where an offered friendship with a girl is not viewed as the gift that it is, but as leverage to try and get something out of her without her consent by deceptively coercing her into a relationship that she has already said she doesn't want."

Being girlfriendzoned does what this stalker has done to me - it makes people put up walls and create defenses to prevent being put in that position again.  Usually it takes several times of similar situations before we start building those defenses.  The first time, maybe it was subtle so we didn't see the warning flags for what they are and we just naively missed the warning flags the next time, so it might take several times before we see the pattern.  Or maybe the first time wasn't subtle but we think it can't possibly be a normal experience and we write it off as an anomoly.  So by the time you meet someone with walls, you can safely assume that this sort of thing has either happened to her many times or it has happened to her with such disasterous consequences that it justified building walls after only one exposure.

But what this means is that real nice guys (I mean people who are genuinely nice and who genuinely care about other human beings and who do not see them as need fulfillment machines, not Nice Guys who are people who are actually not nice because they are subversive and coercive and resentful and do see people as tools to fulfill their needs rather than whole people with their own agency and their own right to reject them) actually suffer some consequences from these kinds of assholes who are responsible for the walls going up in the first place.

I've been told by some men that it's not fair to be feared when they haven't done anything wrong.  I agree, it's not fair.  Life isn't fair.  Nature has never had any interest in fairness.  Nature has no problem with a system that requires trading in one life for another (the food chain) or smacking an asteroid into a planet and killing off almost all life in one blow.  Nature has never heard of the word "fair".  That's a human value, and often a misplaced value, in my opinion.  But what's more unfair is being stalked or harassed or raped or violated or murdered all because some narcissist thinks he has the right to someone else's body.  In the grand scheme of things, being "feared" (which really means being put in the "uncertain until otherwise proven" category) is far preferable to being afraid with reason.

But it's not fair.  It would be wonderful if we could all start with blank slates and give all nice people enough of an opening to start out by being respected instead of feared.  However, the way we accomplish that is not to browbeat the very people who have been traumatized into trusting you before you've earned any trust.  People are right to be upset at living in a society where people are feared on sight because of what someone else who shares superficial traits did.  But here are two things that you can *actually* do to fix this problem that don't involve justifying those exact walls that you're upset about in the first place.

1) When you meet someone who you are interested in romantically or sexually, you can first be clear about your intentions and wishes for the kind of relationship you are interested in and then you can indicate in clear and plain terms that there is no expectation for reciprocation; if they are not interested, it's OK with you, and that if they find you worthy of bestowing an offer of friendship instead, that you accept it freely and without obligation or coercion to use that offer as a back door into the kind of relationship that you *really* want.  And then you have to MEAN it.  If you are not willing to accept a friendship, or if you think of it as a consolation prize instead of the gift that it is, be willing to say up front that you are not interested in a friendship, but thank them for the offer and recognize its value, and then go your separate ways with no consequences for the other person for having rejected you.  Leave a trail of people who can have at least one example to point to of someone who takes responsibility for his own emotions and does not make them responsible for soothing his hurt ego when there are mismatched relationship desires.

2) This is actually the most important part, although the first one is also very important.  When you hear other people complaining about being friendzoned or whining about being rejected, you can say something to them about it.  Especially if you are both in a male category.  You can tell them that they are being disrespectful and unreasonable and coercive.  You can explain that the reason why their target* is behaving the way that she is, it's because of other guys doing exactly what they're doing or other guys doing worse so that it's reasonable for her to behave this way (or at least understandable and deserving of compassion).  You, who have nothing in that dogfight, who is not the target and not the competition and not affected by the outcome of this specific situation in any way, you can step in and tell the other person that he is, in fact, the person in the wrong here.

You will probably not see any culture-changing results or immediate changes in any individual situation.  Don't try these steps thinking that you are now the Rape-Culture Crusader, bashing in minds with your impeccable logic and your superpower of thinking of women as human beings with their own agency.  You will probably lose some "friends" over it, or have strange men at bars yell at you for butting your nose into their business.  It will take lots of people having lots of these conversations for a long time before we see a change.  But because it will take lots of people, your individual contribution is necessary to make this long-term change.  YOU will become a better person for doing these two things, and you will start to see benefits in your own personal life eventually, perhaps in small ways at first.

We change the culture by providing enough examples of the kind of culture we want to have to reach a tipping point.  That's what is meant by "be the change you wish to see in the world".  You have to go out there and be the example and you have to do it in a way that other people can see.  That includes using the privilege of being in the same class as someone else to tell him things that he won't hear coming from someone in another class.  It is a scientific fact that people in general tend to listen to other people that we feel are similar to us in certain ways and to dismiss arguments more easily from people that we feel are "different" in key ways.  What those ways are depends on both the issue and the values of the person doing the judging.  So it is important to use our superficial similarities to open that conversation and to tell people the things that they won't want to hear if they come from someone else.

We change the culture by being an example of what we wish to see.  That includes going out on a limb and saying things that might feel awkward or uncomfortable, such as frequently checking in for consent throughout sex and making an offer of a relationship clear instead of hiding behind a joke that can be written off and then making it clear that there are no strings attached to that offer and that you are responsible for your own emotions so that your interest can have the freedom to consent (which also means the freedom to say "no").  But for step #2, it means being nosy and giving your honest opinion to strangers and friends alike that you disapprove of the position they are presenting and why.  It will feel awkward and uncomfortable if you are not currently in the habit of telling people that you think they are wrong.  It can be done subtly or, like me, by crashing into them with a clue-by-four - you choose your own method.  But I believe that it needs to be done, one way or another.

You, by yourself, are not going to change the culture even by doing the two things I suggested faithfully.  But the change will not happen without you.  It will take every one of us to do our part.  If you ever knew someone who has been harassed, assaulted, raped, pressured, stalked, who has high walls and is afraid to trust, if you ever wished that life didn't have to be as unfair as it is, please do these two things.  And talk about how you do these two things.  And implore others to do these two things.  We don't need to be "rescued", we don't need to be taught martial arts, we don't need to be told how to react to the shit we get in life.  What we need is for other people to recognize the root causes of this shit and address *that* instead of us.  People's walls and defenses are a symptom and if you want people to let their walls down, then you have to treat the disease.

*I used the word "target" deliberately.  Very often, the people (and it's usually women) whom these people (usually men) are interested in are not recognized as humans.  They are seen as targets.  They are dehumanized and villified and seen as need-fulfillment machines.  They are seen as something to be aquired based on what they can do for the person in question, like Pokemon balls.  I used the word "target" not because *I* see people as targets, but because the people I'm talking about do and I think it's important to make note of that.
6th-Jul-2014 09:20 pm - My Latest Stalker
Bad Computer!, anger
Here are the transcripts from the texts I've exchanged with my stalker, that I promised to post.  Keep in mind the following facts:

1. I have never met this person.  He saw me at my place of business, interacting with another customer, and he did not interact with me in any way.  I do not know what he looks like and I have had no conversation with him at all in person.

2. He called me at my place of business to ask me out.  I did not accept his invitation, but I did give my phone number because I wanted to be able to explain myself while I was not constrained with my professional limitations at work.

3. During that conversation, I told him I would not be available to talk for several days and to not contact me until the date I gave as acceptable.  He then called my place of business and spoke to my manager twice more after that, and then began texting incessantly that night while I was still at work, until I threatened to block him if he bothered me before the previously-stated acceptable date.

4. That date happened to be while I was visiting friends and family on vacation, and I did not feel that I had the time or the energy to have the kind of conversation I was anticipating, so I did not respond to his texts or voicemails after that first night.  In addition to the following texts, which I saved long enough to record here, he also called several times, leaving voicemails saying the same things as in the texts.  Those I deleted because of the kind of cell plan and phone that I have.

5. I have already indicated, both in voice and text on the first night, that I found his behaviour to be unacceptable and that I did not wish his contact.  I also then IGNORED him for more than three weeks.  And this is still what happened.

6. I chose not to block his number because, just like on OKC, I feel that it is important to explain why I am rejecting someone, especially the worse their behaviour is.  Anyone who defends "but he's just clueless / socially awkward / doesn't understand" can find no traction for their arguments here because I make it very plain.  My plan was to wait until I had the time to explain why his behaviour was unacceptable and then block him.  So here is my attempt to explain.

7. All grammar and spelling is left intact.

6/11 8:45pm - I really like so much and want you as a girlfriend
6/13 10:51am - I want you as a girlfriend and text me back
6/14 7:29pm - What are you doing
6/15 10:31am - Can you text now
6/15 5:53pm - What are you doing now
6/16 12:07pm - I want you as a girlfriend
6/16 3:25pm - I want you as a girlfriend
6/16 7:09pm - What are you doing now
6/16 8:02pm - Text me back
6/17 6:46am - Good morning
6/17 11:35am - I want you as a girlfriend
6/17 2:13pm - I want you And where are you at
6/17 7:32pm - What do you like do to for fun
6/24 10:24pm - I want you as a girlfriend
7/2 10:56pm - I want take care of you and won't rush you

7/6 5:34pm - Him: I want  you and text me back

Me:  How old are you?

Him: How old are you first

Me: I'm guessing you're 17 by your behaviour

Him: What do you mean

Me: You act like a child who has not yet learned that what you're doing is coercive and intrusive and selfish and immature

Him: Not a child lot older 17 and how old are you first and will tell you mine

Me: Refusing to tell me your age is another sign of immaturity.

Him: I want you as a girlfriend and how old are you

Me: Relationships are developed over time, as adults get to know each other and build a connection based on mutual respect and admiration.  Only inexperienced children think you can go straight to "girlfriend" when you haven't even met in person.

Me: I do not date children who objectify women like you do.  I only date grown adults who understand the complexity of adult relationships.

Him: Do you have kids

Me: Apparently I have one child who won't stop texting me to be his girlfriend even though I've never met him.

Him: I am 48 and you

Me: I don't believe you.

Him: Born May 30 1966

Me: Can't be true.  No adult makes it to that age still behaving as poorly as you.  Your mother should have spanked you more to teach you better manners.

Him: I want you as a girlfriend and want meet you

Me: No you don't want me as a girlfriend.  You want a female-shaped doll because you do not recognize a woman's agency or how fucking creepy you are being.

Me: You don't care about my humanity or about me as a person because you don't recognize agency.

Him: I do care about you

Me: You do not.  1. You are behaving very disrespectfully which shows you don't care about my humanity. 2. You don't know me at all to care about me as an individual

Him: I want get know you

Me: No you don't. You have exhibited absolutely no interest in getting to know me, you only care about what I can do for you.  You objectify me.

Me: I have absolutely no interest in you whatsoever.  I think you are creepy, entitled, disrespectful, immature, and selfish

Me: People like you are the reason why women are afraid to give out their phone numbers and why they have safe people walk them to their cars.

Him: Not creepy

Me: The people you creep out are the only ones who get to decide if you are creepy or not.  And you are one of the creepiest people I have ever had the misfortune of texting with.

Him: Give me chances

Me: I gave you a chance when I gave you my number.  You have done nothing but disrespect that offer since.  Assholes who do not respect my agency do not deserve chances to further disrespect me.  I do not owe you my presence just because you exist

Him: What do you mean offer since

Me: Giving you my phone number was an offer to give you a chance to prove yourself worthy of consideration.  You failed astronomically.  You failed so badly that you're lucky I haven't reported you to the police for harassment.  You deserve no further chances.

Me: You failed that first night when you called my store 3 times, twice after I said not to call again.  You lost all chance then and only dug your grave deeper since

Him: Give me other chances please

Me: People who reject other people's boundaries do not deserve further chances to assault them.  You are unsafe to associate with

Him: What do you mean

Me: I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for you.  Begging me to stick around even after I've spent all this time insulting you only makes you more pathetic and disgusting.  An adult wouldn't beg someone who obviously dislikes them to stay.  It's just more evidence that you disregard my agency and care only for what you can get out of me.  You only see women as need-fulfillment machines and I think that's abhorrent.

Him: What can I get you as a girlfriend and how can I get you as a girlfriend
Me: You haven't heard a word I've said.  You can never "get" me as a girlfriend or as anything because I am not an object that a person can obtain.  You are creepy and I loathe you.  Never contact me again.

Me: Until you learn why what you just said is one of the most threatening and offensive things you can say to a woman, you will remain alone and unlovable.  No woman should ever have to be subjected to your objectifying narcissism.

Him: I am not a creepy

Me: Yes you are.  Fuck off you creepy jerk.

Him: I was come see you at work

Me: I'm blocking your number and I will not see any more of your texts.  If you approach me at work, I will have my manager call the police and have you arrested for stalking and harassment.

7/06 6:53pm - Fine won't come and can t text you as a friend
7/06 8:39pm - Text me back

As you can see, I did not exactly block his number when I said I would.  When he immediately texted me before I could complete the blocking process, I decided that it was actually more important to have a record of harassment for legal purposes.  If I block his number, then I won't have a trail showing his disregard for my direct requests to leave me alone.

People who disrespect boundaries are not people who don't hear "no".  They hear it, they just choose to ignore it.  With all my vast experience with men who I have clearly and unambiguously said "no" to, I'm gonna have to view with dubiousness claims that guys "didn't know she wasn't into it".  My experience says that it doesn't matter if she screams the word "no" or "fuck off you fucking creepy asshole", he still won't hear it and will still give a confused puppy look and say "but I didn't know she wasn't into it!" because it suits him to be able to deny responsibility for violating her boundaries.

The really annoying part is that I could have ended this whole thing simply by saying that I have a boyfriend. He asked me that during the conversation on the first night on the phone at work, but the poly talk is not something I wanted to have right then and there.

All my words calling him disgusting and saying that I loathe him and telling him to leave me alone are disregarded as less important than whether or not I am someone else's property that he should not disturb. My own desires to be left alone are irrelevant here. Only his own desire to "get" me as a girlfriend and possibly the desire of some other man who already properly owns me are relevant here.
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
One of my pet peeves is when people reject musical genres based on a superficial understanding of that genre. I'll give one of my own examples. I used to say that I didn't like rap because I didn't like music that disrespected women. To anyone who has ever bothered to actually listen to rap, that is clearly not a definitional element of the genre. It turns out that I don't like music that disrespects women, so that includes some rap, but also some rock and some country and some in other genres.

What I *actually* don't like about rap is that I prefer songs with a vocal melody line (preferably in my own mezzosoprano range), complex harmonies, and a richness to the instrument accompaniment whether through range of instrument selection or in how the instruments are played. *Those* are definitional elements that the genre of rap do not typically have, but using the phrase "I prefer music with..." still leaves room for exceptions within the rap category.

Rap music that has clever lyrics or that cover topics that I value like science, skepticism, feminism, diversity, etc. or that include some of those definitional elements underneath the rap vocal style can become favorite songs of mine. One of my current favorite bands is called Nuttin' But Stringz which is a hip hop duo that plays violin mixed with some rap & hip hop vocal stylings and a dance beat. And sometimes just silly songs that make me feel happy can sneak in under the exceptions, like Fresh Prince of Bel Aire and Parents Just Don't Understand.

Country music is my favorite genre these days, and even though I technically live in the south, I still hear a lot of shit talk about country music, mainly from people who do not understand the genre. The automatic default rejection of country is when people say they don't like songs about divorce and losing one's dog and pickup truck. Another is that they, like I said above, don't like songs that disrespect women. Country music is actually a genre that has more pro-feminist music than any other genre I know about other than specifically girl-power rock (or whatever it's called). Country has always supported strong female lyrics and powerful female singers. I'm working on a playlist over on YouTube that highlights some of the great feminist country music throughout the eras.

But another criticism I hear of country is how it's simple, it's bubble gum pop being cranked out by an industrial music machine with no depth or soul or even any talent in musicianship. Although there are definitely songs that hit the country pop charts that are fairly repetitive and rely on simple harmonies and melodies, I have to wonder if the people who say this have actually bothered to listen to country music before making this pronouncement.

Along the lines of my most recent post, the country genre is not an isolated box, free from influence of other genres. The artists are influenced by classical training, by great blues musicians, by poetry and literature, by hard rocking guitarists, by traditional Irish folk music, by Spanish flamenco, by the world-changing Rock And Roll of the '50s, and even by techno and electronica. And these influences can be heard and felt in current pop country music. Not every song, no. But just like rock is influenced by all these elements (Pat Benatar had classic operatic training, for instance, as have many metal musicians), country music has a wide range and, in fact, often overlaps rock in several places, enough so that there are debates as to whether particular groups or songs are rock or country. I once "won" a lighthearted argument over the Eagles by declaring them to be the rock that country is allowed to like.

When I was a teenager, I started listening to pop country. I used to listen to "classic" country as a kid, but then I got sucked into the popularity game and only listened to what was "cool" in order to try and worm my way up the schoolyard hierarchy. But in high school, I started just listening to what I liked. My sister listened to rap at the time. We hated each other's music with a passion. Then one day, driving her home from school, she put in a tape of Dixie Chicks. Shocked, I said "I thought you didn't like country music!" She said, and I quote, "I don't, but the Dixie Chicks aren't real country." I turned my eyes away from the road to face her and said "you do realize that they're actually a bluegrass band, right? It doesn't get more 'real country' than bluegrass."

I was a musician myself and had years of musical theory by that point, so I was finally starting to see the connections between music and I realized how very closely related so much of it really is. My sister had no patience for music lessons and gave up after only a semester of clarinet, never even getting to the music theory stages. Ironically, country music is now the only thing my sister and I really have in common, and we make a point to go line dancing together every time I'm in town.

Here is a song I just heard on an internet radio station called "Today's Country Hits". It's technically pop country, but I think people who think of pop country as exclusively Taylor Swift might not automatically recognize this as the same genre. I'm undecided on the lyrics at the moment, but it has a richness in the instrumental use, it changes time signatures (which some music snobs I've heard have pronounced that only classical and indie rock even know how to do and that 4/4 time is a sign of low-brow entertainment), it changes tempo, and there are obvious genre style changes within the song itself.

Liking something is a subjective experience, so I do not attempt to change people's mind about what they like. But humans are notorious storytellers, and we usually make decisions first and then rationally justify those decisions afterwards. First we decide that we don't like something, and then we decide why we don't like it. So most of the criticisms I hear about any genre of music entirely, I take exception to because they are clearly post hoc rationalizations for a subjective experience to a superficial exposure.

If you don't like it, then you don't like it. That's fine. But I have short patience for musical snobbery because there are tons of examples within whatever genre is being denigrated that do exactly what is being claimed that genre doesn't do (or that don't do what is being claimed does do). Taxonomy is fuzzy and sometimes there is no real reason why a particular song was included in a particular genre except for maybe that the artist is already classified as an artist in that genre, or that the artist has announced that his new album is a specific genre as a point to mention how they have jumped genres but we might not realize they've switched because it doesn't sound all that different from their last album (Bon Jovi, I'm looking at you here). Also, not every song has to have a deep, sociopolitical message or have the complexity of Tool to be enjoyable or even well-crafted.

*The title comes from the experiment where people with brain trauma are shown two different pictures to two different sides of their brains, then they select objects from a bag, one with each hand, and explain why they chose those objects.  The side of the brain that saw a picture of a chicken can explain pulling out a toy chicken because it has control over language.  But the side of the brain that saw a picture of a mountain can't explain why that hand chose a snow shovel, so the side with language control post hoc rationalizes the shovel within the context of the chicken.
27th-Jun-2014 01:53 am - Alright Then, Let's Play
Super Tech, strong, feminism
"If this is the motherfucking law of the land now, what's good for the motherfuckin' goose is good for the motherfuckin' gander. ...
Going to church is a choice, no? Let's make sure they regret that fuckin' choice, however legal it may be for them to make it. Then let's see how quickly they're begging for buffer zones."

The idea of *actually* doing this makes me so anxious that my stomach is tied in knots just thinking about it.  I hate confrontation.  But I will do what needs to be done to show that these laws that I fight for are for everyone's benefit and are the right things to do.
Every time you think about imposing a law that will allow you to practice your "freedom" in a way that imposes on another human, consider how you would feel if they did it to you.  Want religion in school?  How do you feel about Islam being taught to your children?  Want a religious statue erected with taxpayer money on taxpayer land?  How do you feel about a statue dedicated to Satan paid for with your tax money on taxpayer land?  Want to exercise your "free speech" by shouting at women entering legal places to do legal things that you happen to not like?  How do you feel about a bunch of angry feminist atheists exercising their free speech by shouting at you when you enter your legal places to do your legal things that they happen to not like?

We exist by virtue of an uneasy truce - I promise not to hit you in the nose if you promise not to hit me in the nose.  That's how societies too large for our monkeysphere get along.  You can swing your arm all you want, as long as you don't hit me in the nose.  But if you start swinging, I'm gonna start getting nervous and may swing back, just in case.  Sooner or later, one of us is going to punch the other in the nose.

Or you can choose to acknowledge that you have the right to swing your arm but choose not to do it out of courtesy and compassion for how uncomfortable it would make me feel because you know that you would feel uncomfortable if I swung my arm towards you.  We can live in a world where we have an uneasy truce, barely missing each other's noses and snarling at each other, or we can live in a world where we give each other space and nod as we pass by.

I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt and just walk on past you.  But if you insist, I will start swinging back.

The Rude Pundit: You Wanna Keep Harassing Women At Clinics?  Then Let's Play.
26th-Jun-2014 03:35 pm - Complimentary Etiquette PSA
Super Tech, strong, feminism
Everyone knows that I am opposed to complimenting strangers on their appearance as a blanket rule. But some people "just can't help themselves"! Hey, "it's a compliment, you should be flattered!" "But I'm not one of Those Guys!"

So, fine, since you're doing your best to convince me that men are slavering idiots who can't control themselves in public, that you can't intuitively figure out how to be compassionate and considerate human beings without clear guidelines, and that teh poor menz feelings about giving a compliment trumps the recipients feelings about receiving the "compliment", at least learn how to compliment properly.

If you absolutely can not restrain yourself from complimenting someone on their physical appearance, here's how you do it correctly:

  1. Choose something that they deliberately did to themselves, like their wardrobe or their hair style (if they have an obvious style - mine is just straight down, that's not a "style", that's "I was too lazy to do anything with it today").

  2. Tell them that the thing itself is attractive, such as "that's a very pretty dress you have on" or "your necklace is really cool!" or "I love how you did your hair!". DO NOT tell them that their body is attractive in that item of clothing or that the thing they did to themselves makes their body attractive. And for fuck's sake, do not allude, imply, or outright state anything about sexuality. At all. "Hey baby, lookin' good in that dress!" is not appropriate.

  3. If they overreact (in your opinion) or take it the "wrong way", slightly tilt your head down in an apologetic manner and back away. You have no idea what they have been going through that led them to that reaction, so just give them space and move on. Then let it go. Do not come online and whine about that crazy bitch who couldn't take a compliment, even though you followed all the protocols us manhating feminazis insist on. Accept that it's not about you and let it go.

  4. Repeat this mantra over and over in your head: "it's not about me, it's not about me". This means that the compliment you give should not be about you - it's about the recipient, and if the recipient doesn't like it, then you did it wrong because it should be about THEM and their values and preferences, not yours. This also means that the reaction is not necessarily about you. The recipient has no way of knowing who you are or what your motivations are, so they have to draw upon experience to evaluate the world around them and make decisions.

There ya go, 4 simple steps that even the complete and bumbling morons some of you keep trying to convince me that men are should be able to handle. Pick something the recipient did deliberately, tell them that it is attractive without referencing their body or sex, back away and give them space, and accept that this whole thing is not about you personally.

Now, I happen to know quite a few man-identified persons who are perfectly capable of grasping this concept on their own, and even more who can understand it once it was explained, so I still refuse to believe those of you who seem hell-bent on maintaining that men are barely more than wild animals who tolerate domestication in exchange for sexy privileges. But this should be simple enough even for those types.

Then again, I could still be over-estimating the capacity of men. It's a flaw I have - assuming that men can be decent human beings, capable of rational thought and compassionate behaviour. It's one of those crazy lessons I learned from feminists (although I didn't know they were feminists at the time, nor did I realize at the time that this lesson was a feminist lesson).
26th-Apr-2014 01:19 pm - You Can't Handle The Truth! PSA
woo, stupidity, rants, Dobert Demons of Stupidity, religion
I see a lot of people complaining that someone who blocked them just "couldn't handle a difference of opinion". That's not why people get blocked. Ever. Everyone has friends and family who have different opinions from themselves, and they get along with them fine, or at least put up with them.

The reason why people get blocked online is not for their differences of opinion. It's for their attitude or personality regarding those opinions. Every single time, I guarantee you, it's not the opinion, it's because they think you're being a jerk about it. It doesn't even matter if you don't think you're being a jerk - they do, that's why they blocked you, and the opinion that matters when someone is being a jerk is the person who is the recipient of the offending behaviour. Most often it's because you wouldn't drop it when they asked. Respecting consent is important in all social interactions, not just sex (but disrespecting non-sexual consent is a good indicator of that person's attitude towards sexual consent, which is why those of us heavy with the banhammer use it as often as we do).

And I say this as someone who gets blocked. I know when I'm being mean to people. Most of the time, I'm doing it intentionally because that person was a jackass in some way and I'm either trying to teach him what it feels like or I just no longer care about hurting his feelings because I've deemed him not worth my empathy or the cost in spoons for being such a fucktard. But that means that *I'm being an asshole*. Doesn't matter if it's in response to something they did, if they block me, it's not because I'm an atheist or poly or feminist or hold those views, it's because *they don't like me as a person* or they don't like my approach. When I'm being an asshole, that's kind of the point.

I've had plenty of "discussions" with anti-vaxxers, for example, where I thought I was being totally reasonable, calm, rational, in explaining why they're wrong.  And I stand by my belief that they're wrong.  They are, empirically, factually, wrong.  But I wasn't blocked because I am pro-vaccination.  I was pro-vaccination from the beginning when they friended me in the first place.  I was blocked because they didn't like my approach.  *They* thought I was being arrogant and condescending, even if I didn't (and still don't) think so, and they didn't like it.  So, sure, even if there was some way to prove, without a doubt and with completely objective metrics, that I absolutely was not being condescending and they were wrong to think so, the point is that they still did not block me because of my argument; they blocked me because they did not like how I said it.

Maybe it's true that there is absolutely no way to express that opinion in a way that the other person will find acceptable.  That is my position on many of my opinions - I believe that there is no way to express atheism (a personal lack of belief in a deity) that won't offend some people, for example.  There is no magic phrase, no amount of kowtowing or humbling that will make my personal lack of belief acceptable to be spoken about in public.  "I don't care if they're gay, but do they have to rub it in our faces?"  There are times when I believe it is justified to continue to press an opinion even when a listener doesn't like the approach.  This PSA is not a position on whether it is appropriate or not (or when it is or not) to hold or voice a controversial opinion.  This PSA is an EXPLANATION of why people get blocked, regardless of the rightness or moral standing or reasonableness of the action.  It's not the opinion that got you blocked, it was your attitude, your personality, or your approach that got you blocked.

So drop all this self-righteous blathering about how people just can't handle "the truth". What they can't handle is your arrogant, entitled, posturing. Your opinions are not nearly as offensive as you as a person are when you spouted them which resulted in you getting blocked.
1st-Apr-2014 01:59 am - Why Did Joreth Block Me?
frustration, ::headdesk::

For future reference: if I ask you to drop a subject or to stop talking to me for a period, and I warn you that continuing to press the issue will result in me blocking you, it is not a "threat" that you should feel afraid about; I am giving you necessary information to make informed decisions about your future interactions with me.  I hold no illusions that anyone is "afraid" of no longer having contact with me or that it's even something worth fearing.  Frankly, if someone is afraid of that, then I worry about their emotional stability.  Nor is it because you have a difference of opinion. I am quite good friends with a lot of people who have radically different opinions to me, some positions to which I am actively opposed and even work against. The reason why they remain friends is because we both respect each others' right to hold those positions and not argue about them for the sake of peaceful interactions.  I am opposed to the ideas themselves, not the people, and we can coexist, not just peacefully, but even amicably and as friends as long as a basic level of respect for each others' humanity is in place (if their opinion itself is a disrespect of others' humanity, well, that's a whole other can of worms).

No, when I tell you that I do not wish to discuss a topic anymore, it is not because of your opinion. It's because of your personality. It's because I find your approach to be disrespectful and I am attempting to keep the peace by just agreeing to disagree, at least for now.

If I warn you that I will block you, it is not because I can't handle differing opinions or that I live in an echo chamber. In fact, accusations of such are worth blocking for on that statement alone. It is because you are violating my boundaries in my request for peaceful disagreement and the only way I have to enforce my boundaries is to block you entirely because continued pressing of the issue is direct evidence that YOU DO NOT RESPECT BOUNDARIES and are therefore untrustworthy to be around.

I am posting this because I cannot message you after I have already blocked you to explain why you have just been blocked. So if you get blocked by me, this is why. It's not me, it's definitely you. It's not your opinion, it's you.

You are being blocked because you are untrustworthy, not because you hold a different opinion and certainly not because I can't "handle" that opinion, and not because I have to have to have the last word. In fact, there's a good chance that you already had the last word, since I will often not even bother to refute people I'm about to block, I just say "drop the subject or you will be blocked".  You are not being censored (although I appreciate that you think I am a powerful enough person that I have the force of the government behind me, I simply do not have the ability to censor you). You are not more rational than I. You are not more level-headed than I. You are not more open-minded than I. You are entitled, rude, belligerent, pushy, manipulative, and a conversational terrorist*. None of that is more "rational" or "open-minded".

By the time I feel the need to resort to blocking you, I couldn't give a fuck about whatever opinion you think is so important that I'm blocking you over it. By that point, your opinion is the least objectionable part about you. By that point, I am more concerned with your total lack of empathy and your willingness to trod all over another person's request for space. If you can't even give that space on a stupid social media site, I have to wonder if I'm even safe being around you in person, or will I need one of the weapons that I carry on me at all times**?

And the internet is the ONLY place that I have the power to remove people like you from my presence. Every where else in the world, I am forced to coexist with people I am not safe around. Every where else in the world, I am smaller and less capable than those I am not safe around. But here, on the internet, I can force YOU to give me the space I need to feel safe.

So that is what I'm doing when I block you. I give fuck-all about your stupid opinion on whatever stupid subject that started this whole thing. I care that you have no consideration for the people around you. And THAT is why I will block you.

*Even for me that title is a little too hyperbolic, but that's what it's called and I didn't make up the term so that's the word we're stuck with.

**I have had to pull my knife on 3 occasions, only two of which were strangers but all 3 were people who did not back off when I repeatedly and clearly stated my desire for space.

17th-Mar-2014 03:56 pm - Actors And Characters And Canon
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
I agree with Felicia Day about how changing a character's appearance through casting is not about sticking to canon. In addition to all the other things she says about diversity and minority representation, for me, when I get upset about changing a character's appearance through casting or when it's OK with me has to do with when that character's appearance affects the character development.

Take Annie, for example. That was a story about an unwanted, forgotten child who struggled with adversity in the lowest class of person there was. In the era it was written in and for, being poor and red-headed was the lowest a person could be (because being a person of color was *not* actually a person, and the predominantly white audience could not relate in any way to a black protagonist; just look at the names given to Warbuck's ethnic servants). But today, who better would understand the trials of being in the lowest economic class, hated and distrusted based on appearance alone, with little-to-no options for improving one's station than a little black orphan girl? Changing Annie's appearance from a red-headed white girl to a black girl does not change her character. In fact, one could argue that it enhances exactly those character traits the character was written around without the embedded racism of the early 20th century.

But remember the debacle about princessifying Mierda from Brave? All they changed about her was her clothing, and that sent fans into an uprorar. Why? Because the whole fucking movie was ABOUT her resistance to being princessified. And she WON that battle. That's why we loved her and that's what her entire character was about. Changing her clothing is literally the same as changing her very personality and her whole story. But you could make her a different ethnicity and still tell the same tale.

Most white characters are written as white straight males out of default, not because there is anything inherently white, straight, or male about their characters. There was that article I passed around a while back that advocated to parents that, while reading your children their bedtime stories, try changing up the gender pronouns. It turns out that telling most stories with white male protagonists as female, especially those written for children, doesn't typically alter the story in any way. It's totally believable because the stories aren't usually written AROUND the experience of being a white straight male. They're just stories that white straight males have adventures in. And when that's the case, pretty much anyone can have those adventures.

But when a writer creates a minority character, that writer has to deliberately make an effort to point out that the character is a minority. They usually only do that when they have a reason to do it, such as the experience of being that minority is what results in the character as we eventually meet them. I'm going to overlook for the moment the fact that most minority characters are either poorly written, written flatly, or written to represent or convey a stereotype and just address the fact that they *are* written, but are written for a reason. So to cast that character with a white actor pretty much erases the entire reason for that character having been written as a minority in the first place. Very rarely are minority characters put in a story just because the author felt like describing someone who looked different without those looks being some kind of commentary or effect on who the character is.

I originally wrote "never" instead of "very rarely", but then I remembered modern vampire romance novels (sorry, but Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton write romance novels. They just do. Disclosure: I like modern vampire stories and I read romance novels. I stand by my assertion that they are one and the same). I believe that the minority characters in those stories really could be replaced by white actors and it would not significantly change the characters in any way. I think that these authors threw in minority characters simply to give themselves more adjectives to describe a cast of several dozen that all have six-pack abs, piercing eyes, honey-voices, and long flowing hair. Eventually you run out of ways to describe bulging biceps unless you throw in ebony skin or perfectly symmetrical faces with full lips without adding almond-shaped eyes, but there's nothing fundamentally "ethnic" about these characters that isn't simply "exotic objectification". But I digress.

Does the arrogance and selfish entitlement of Captain Hammer still work if we make that character a black man? Or a woman? Or a disabled person? No, Captain Hammer works best as a white male precisely because of the arrogance and entitlement of the character. He is, in fact, a commentary on the perception of heroes and making him a minority would hurt that message. But there is nothing about the Human Torch that is inherently "white" that a black man couldn't also play.

There is, however, a problem with casting a skinny model as a character who is the very embodiment of physical activity, martial arts, and ass-kicking skills even though both the actor and the character are white women (although a woman of color could easily play her character too). The character represents strong, independent womenhood, while a conventionally attractive female with no muscle definition does not convey that same message. She conveys the importance of beauty over strength and unrealistic ideals of the female body, which directly conflicts with the character's traits. Wonder Woman is an Amazon written by a man who is actually a "misandrist" - he actually really and truly believes that women are the better gender. She does not work as a skinny, conventionally attractive, small woman. She is supposed to be bigger and stronger than men. That's her THING.

Tonto cast as a white actor? Tiger Lily cast as a white actor? Aside from the original racism inherent in writing those characters in the first place, those characters *are* their ethnicities. To cast white actors in those roles is to further the erasure of those ethnicities and to erase their entire motivation for being in the story in the place where they are. If we tried to tell the Color Purple with white actors, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. If we were to tell The Secret Garden with an Indian protagonist, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. The whole reason the characters have the adventures they do and the personalities they do is *because* they are wealthy white children in colonial India.

The point here is that my upset or lack thereof when it comes to casting an actor of different ethnicity or gender or orientation than the character has to do with how that character's appearance changes the character's development, traits, and skills, not whether something is canon or not. Did the author write that character's appearance that way for a reason? What does that appearance do for the character's development? Is there another way to accomplish that development? Is that the *best* way to accomplish that development? Does that development or does that appearance represent stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevent more complex dimensional characterization or does it instead enhance or explain the character or highlight/comment on the culture's stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevention of character advancement? In other words, is that character poorly written because of its appearance, or do the ethnic/gender/orientation limitations placed on the character actually serve a larger social commentary purpose?

I don't want to stick to canon for canon's sake. Sometimes authors make mistakes or write something less well than it could have been written. Doesn't mean I don't like it, just means it could be better. What purpose does this element serve? Do I like that purpose or can the spirit of the story survive with a different take? Can that purpose be served by a different element? Those are the questions that ought to be asked when casting choices are made and plot changes are made going from one medium to another.

Replacing minority characters with white actors is racism because of the larger social issue of diversity representation and because the minority part of the character usually is an important character trait. Occasionally casting white characters with minority actors is NOT racism (or "reverse racism") because there is almost never anything fundamentally "white" about a character that could not exist if a minority actor portrayed that character and because of the larger social issue of diversity representation.

Racism is what happens when someone of an already disadvantaged racial class is disadvantaged or discriminated against. By definition, it is not racism when an advantaged racial class has to share some of the privileges with disadvantaged racial classes, even when sometimes "sharing" means you get those privileges just a little bit less often. That's called putting on the big boy pants and not hogging the spotlight so that others get a turn too.
8th-Mar-2014 08:46 pm - Getting The Right Bra
Nude Drawing, sex
Lately on Facebook and Twitter and G+, I've been supporting the opening of a new store called Revelations in Fit. Although there are similar local stores in select large cities, the concept for this store is still a revolutionary idea - that women are a lot of different sizes and shapes, that American bras are terribly designed for that variety and American sizing and fitting systems are completely wrong, and that every woman deserves a bra that fits. This new store came about from the author of the blog Adventures in Bra Fitting, who saw this problem and tried to help by sharing with women the correct way to fit a bra. As a professional costumer and corsetier and a full-figured woman with a small frame, she is more than qualified to help.

Poorly fitting bras cause a lot of problems. They contribute to back pain, bad posture, fatigue, poorly fitting clothing, and low self-esteem when women don't like how they look in the mirror. It is very disheartening to not have well-fitting clothing. Yes, I realize this is a first-world problem, and even a class problem in first worlds, but it's still a problem. They may also be associated with other health concerns (although the idea that underwire causes breast cancer is a complete myth, so just drop that one right there).

tl:dr I finally found bras that fit and I solved the problem of having only ugly white or beige bras. I share some advice on getting pretty bras that, if you're like me, may never have occurred to you to try before. The MUCH longer story and a picture of my efforts are behind the cut. Also included behind the cut is a lot of personal information about my physiology.Collapse )
26th-Feb-2014 04:08 pm - How NOT To Pick Up Chicks At A Club
Swing Dance, social events, dance
How NOT to pick up chicks at a club:

  1. Don't invade her space before you've even exchanged names. I know it's often hard to hear and you have to get close to speak, but keep the body bent away and/or stand side-by-side, and back up when there are no words exchanged. Make it clear that you're leaning in towards her ear, do not drag your mouth across her cheek to get to her ear and then back across her cheek towards her mouth when you back up.

  2. Don't mistake her smiling at you for an invitation for anything. Women are socialized to always smile and be polite, and many smile when they're nervous and don't know what else to do. Watch her other body language, like is she leaning towards or away from you and is she trying to hide behind her drink and are her eyes flitting around the room rather than fixing on you?

  3. Don't shout "SMILE!!" when she's waiting at the bar for a drink and obviously annoyed about something. Ordering her to perform for your benefit is probably not going to be a reason for her to legitimately smile.

  4. Don't stand facing her squarely if she's sitting down or her back is to a wall so that she can't escape without feeling like she has to push past you (even if you think/know that she wouldn't have to do that; she doesn't know that).

  5. Don't do a weird step-forward-lean-in-step-back step on the dance floor so that she can't tell if you're trying to come in and kiss her or not;

  6.   5a) and then don't try to kiss her after she figures she's safe and it's just a weird dance step.
  7. Don't cut in on her when she's dancing with someone else. Especially if she's dancing with a female friend. ESPECIALLY if she then grabs her friend back and they "close ranks", don't try to cut in on her again.

  8. Don't stomp off to the bar pissed off when she does the last, or when she does anything to discourage you, for that matter.

  9. Don't try to kiss her when you haven't even exchanged names.

  10. When you're doing the kind of dancing that requires touching (i.e. swing dancing, ballroom dancing, pseudo-partner-ish dancing) and/or that requires you to lead her, DO NOT lead her into simulated sex moves. If she wants to turn her back on you and grind her ass into your crotch, she will.

  11. Don't challenge her to kiss or touch you by asking if she's "too afraid" to do so.

  12. When she clearly refuses your challenge, don't then challenge her with "am I too young for you?" Yes, that question shows you are definitely too young, like too young to have social skills and you should be put in a time out by your mother for misbehaving. Even if she's barely 18 herself, you are too young to be allowed to date.

  13. AND DON'T FUCKING TAKER HER HAND AND TRY TO FORCE HER TO FEEL YOU OR HERSELF UP OR TRY TO TOUCH HER BREASTS, ASS, OR CROTCH. Hands and back/shoulder blades only, even if she does allow you to do the kind of dancing that brings hips and legs into contact.

Shit like this is why I prefer swing dancing, ballroom dancing, and gay clubs. Ballroom & swing clubs may still be too heavy on the chauvinism-masquerading-as-chivalry but they emphasize maintaining a level of dance etiquette that makes women feel safe. Men are supposed to ask a variety of women to dance so that none of the women feel left out, but then they are supposed to return her to her table or spot after a single dance and not dance more than two in a row so that they don't monopolize her time. Even people who arrive together or as a "couple" are supposed to dance with others at least a little so that the single women have dance partners and none of the women are monopolized and can feel safe to socialize as they choose without feeling trapped or stuck and jealousy is strictly discouraged. (The reason why it's the man's job to dance with all the women is because there are usually more women than men and if everyone partnered up, there'd be a dozen women with no one to dance with. Women are also encouraged to ask men to dance so it's not one-sided, but women often outnumber the men so this etiquette exists so that women don't stop coming for lack of dance partners).

Alcohol-induced boundary-pushing is also limited at many swing and ballroom dances by not selling alcoholic drinks at all (although I've attended several swing dances in public bars and it's still usually fine because of the general swing etiquette of discouraging public drunkenness - it's too difficult to pull off many of the dance moves while drunk without hurting your partner or other dancers).

So even when I get hit on by people I don't want to be hit on at swing and ballroom clubs, it's always with much more respect and much less threatening behaviour than I do at regular night clubs. So I'd rather go partner dancing or club dancing at a gay club to avoid men all together.

This is why so many guys have so much trouble meeting or finding women, why they're not approached, and why they have to "do all the work". Many straight women, even those of us who are aggressive and totally fine with making the first move, get chased away by the few jerks that are out there, and because we can't tell the jerks apart until after they've done their damage, it's easier and safer to just go away so that we don't HAVE to try and tell them apart. There's also the complication that what could be inappropriate behaviour to some women may not be inappropriate for others, so even if we could label all the jerks with a big neon sign over their heads, we still may not be able to tell until after we've been made uncomfortable. All that unpleasantness often just isn't worth the effort to go out, so you guys get stuck with "were are all the women?"

If men who want to meet women, and men who care about women, want to help change this, then instead of bemoaning "where are all the women?!", you can help by addressing other men when you see it happening, or when you know someone who behaves inappropriately to make the places you are in feel safe for the women to come back on their own. Because the jerks are the ones fucking it up for you, not the girls who are running away.

I don't mean that it's your job to "rescue" women and protect us, I mean it's everyone's job as a participant in society to help create a society where people feel safe. And since a lot of hyper-masculine behaviour is done to impress other men and done completely contrarily to women's preferences (i.e. men who refuse to learn to dance because it's "not manly" even when their own female partners express a preference for male dancers), it is helpful to have other men discourage harassment and molestation. Again, not to be the white knight and "protect" us, but to be a responsible citizen and contribute to creating a welcoming atmosphere for everyone.

And thank you to my friends last night who kept interrupting the guy I was with on the pretext of dancing with me to give me excuses to get out of uncomfortable interactions. Even when sometimes you guys were mistaken and you interrupted me with an actual friend, I really appreciated the effort because several times you weren't mistaken and I needed an escape.

Touch is one of my Love Languages, and when I'm nervous or anxious, I find that I need a lot of affectionate touching to help calm me down - stuff like holding hands or standing with arms around the waist or leaning against someone, nothing unusual and things that even platonic friends can do. But that contact really helps. Most of my coworkers, however, have remarked to me that I often seem very aloof and that I am really quite self-contained most of the time. So when I am affectionate with someone, it is REALLY noticeable by comparison and many times that affection is mistaken for meaning something more than is intended. Being affectionate, to me, means only that I am either really comfortable with someone, or that I am feeling a lot of anxiety. It is not an indication of sexuality, to me.

I noticed that, by the end of last night, I had practically not taken my hands off my friends for the whole rest of the evening. I was letting even dance acquaintances that sometimes make me feel a little bit uncomfortable stay close to me and keep their arms around me, and I kept holding onto my drunk friends to keep them upright, when I would otherwise close in on myself around all that. So I was more bothered than I thought I was at the time, which is why I woke up today with this rant running around my head.

Guys, don't do that to girls you just met at a bar. And guys, please do the other stuff I was talking about, like discouraging this kind of behaviour, giving your female friends "excuses" to politely escape and then backing off if they say that they are actually OK, and allowing her to do a little bit of what is necessary when she's not OK like leaving or hiding or being nearby.
15th-Feb-2014 07:53 pm - Undercurrent Of Fear
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box

“If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.”

~ Chris Clarke

It's important to note that "an undercurrent of fear of men" does not mean "is a perpetual victim and terrified of all men". It means that fear of any given man turning out to be one of the few bad men who will harm her is a motivation for almost every choice she makes in her life, from what she wears in public to how she walks to her car to her habit of calling home when she's late to freaking out when her loved ones don't call home when they're late to where she parks her car to what stores she's willing to shop at to what her daily schedule is so she can time her errands according to when she believes she is least likely to be accosted, and much more.

This "undercurrent of fear" is very subtle and sometimes not even a conscious, deliberate thought. But she might choose to wear pants one night instead of a skirt, and justify it with the cold weather, but really it's to avoid being called a slut (because only sluts wear skirts in cold weather, or something). Or she might choose to wear sweats and no makeup to the grocery store just to avoid someone flirting with her. Or she might choose to read a book on the bus and say it's because she likes to read (which is true) but it's also very convenient for avoiding eye contact with strange men.

It is not an outright, terrifying, panicking sort of thing. Most women who feel this will often come across as stable, confident, self-assured, capable. It's the same sort of fear that prompts people to buckle our seatbelt. We're not shaking in our seats every time we get into a car, but the undercurrent of fear that we might possibly, at some point, have a car accident informs our behaviour, often in very small ways.

And then to hedge off anyone who wants to jump in with "but I'm a woman and *I* don't feel any generalized fear of men! I'm not afraid of any man unless he actually does something threatening!  So this doesn't apply to me, therefore you're just using hyperbole in your crazy feminazi misandrist rhetoric!"

OK, so no one has (so far) accused me of being misandrist by posting this quote (but I have gotten feminazi, misandrist, and whiny cunt for posting a video made by a man asking other men to stop supporting rapists, so I'm STILL not being hyperbolic), however I did get a comment almost immediately on Facebook saying that it didn't apply to her, personally. As I told her, it doesn't have to be true for every single woman on the planet. The statement says "If NO woman in your life ... consider the possibility that it may..." (also note the use of passive terms, all the better to avoid the aggressive uppity woman who doesn't know her place accusation).

The important point is not to say that every single woman lives in terror of all men because that would be patently untrue. The important point is for men to understand that this is a much bigger problem than many men are aware of and their lack of awareness might possibly be BECAUSE they are part of the problem in some way.
14th-Feb-2014 01:39 pm - More Poly Jewelry
Purple Mobius, polyamory

Dude! Claire's, that costume jewelry store in most US malls, is selling poly jewelry! Quick, go out and get some before they figure out what it is they're selling!

The earrings and rings were $6.50 and the necklaces were $5.50 each. They seem to be marketed as "best friends" jewelry, I suppose because their target audience is tweens and teens, so they don't want to encourage The One Twue Wove that early, but BFF (best friends forever) is an acceptable trope for that age.

Since they're costume jewelry, I expect the silver and gold patinas to rub off over time so I'm also going to buy enough to pack away for when the others wear out.

You can order the accidentally polyamorous jewelry from Claire's online & have it shipped to you!

I can't find the rings online (apparently called best friends rings), but I did find a set of bracelets with the infinity heart that I did not see in the store! I might order a set of those. Also part of the "best friends" collection, you get a bracelet set with one silver & one gold just like the rings.

The silver & gold pendants:
The silver post earrings:
The gold post stud earrings:
Gold & silver bracelets:
I can't find those infinity heart "best friends" rings on their site anywhere. This is the closest I can find, a "Love Knot" ring.

*Meh* I've bought other jewelry that have a heart and an infinity but not in the usual poly configuration just to have *something* even a little bit related that matched an outfit, so y'all might be interested in this. But knowing that they have a real infinity heart ring set at the stores in person, I'm less inclined to settle for this one, personally.

I made some modifications to the ones I bought, so here's my new Poly By Claire's Collection:

I went back and got a second silver pendant to store in a ziploc jewelry baggie in anticipation of the day that mine would tarnish and the finish would peel off (they are costume jewelry, after all), assuming I wouldn't be able to find these again when I needed to replace them.

I also bought a second pair of silver earrings to turn into dangly earrings. I had this pretty silver chain made up of curved links, so I attached a fishhook earring to the middle of a short length and attached each end to the humps of the heart with a very small jump ring. I would have made it a single strand but there was nothing in the middle of the infinity heart to attach it to, so it would have tilted to one side and I didn't want that. With two points of connection, it hangs straight.  I also didn't want to have to buy two more silver pendents to make the earrings (which would have that hanging point in the center), so instead I cut the posts off a pair of earrings to get them cheaper.

Then I took the silver pendent off the silver chain because I rarely ever wear anything but chokers when I dress up, and I already have my favorite silver & copper one from Abzu Emporium that I wear daily on a standard length ball-chain.

I made 3 new chokers - a red suede, a purple suede, and a silver fine-weave chain - that the new all-silver pendent can be switched to, to match whatever color outfit I'm wearing. I already have a silver pendent that looks like it's made of ball-chain (but it's not, it's solid silver) on a black choker and that's my go-to "dressy" necklace now. But I wanted a few colors so that I could have jewelry that matched my outfits, not just standard black (especially for the few red, purple or light colored outfits I have that don't have any black in them.)

Then, of course, I still have the gold pendent & gold earrings for the very rare occasions when I want to wear gold jewelry, and silver and gold rings for those costumed occasions when poly jewelry wouldn't work for the character and some other theme jewelry would work better.

I'm hoping to get the silver and gold bracelets that I saw online as well, but they were not in the stores when I went back to get my duplicate silver earrings & pendent, and the sales clerks seemed so confused when I asked for them that I'm sure that they never carried them in-store.

Now I have daily poly jewelry, gold poly jewelry, dressy poly jewelry to match any color outfit, and very large poly jewelry (got some for xmas that I haven't posted pics of yet), and birthstone poly family jewelry.

I think I'm good on the poly jewelry now!

14th-Feb-2014 01:07 pm - Thin Skinned
Bad Computer!, anger
I get a lot of shit for losing my temper, getting offended, and blocking people when someone is a serious asshat. I'm often told to "calm down" or "relax" or "I'm just asking questions" or "we're just having a conversation."

No. Fuck you. I'm not the asshole for getting pissed. You're the asshole for pissing me off AND YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO MY ATTENTION, TIME, OR POSITIVE OPINION OF YOU.

From Miri Mogilevsky:

In responding to an asshole on my blog yesterday, I realized that there's a misconception out there that anybody who demands respect and asks someone to stop insulting them is doing so because they have "hurt feelings" or a "thin skin."

1) Even if that's true, there's nothing wrong with that and we must not use "thin-skinned" as an insult. Ever.

2) When I demand to be treated the right way, it's not so much because my feelings are hurt otherwise but because I am worth too much to be treated like shit, and being able to interact with me is not a right granted to you simply because you exist and possess a computer. It's something you get to do only if I decide that interacting with you is fun or pleasurable or simply useful to me (the latter applies mostly to people I don't know personally).

If that sounds egotistical, I don't really care. I'm not here for anyone's entertainment or to serve their apparent need to humiliate and mistreat others.
14th-Feb-2014 01:02 pm - Why Do Men And Women Feel Threatened?
Super Tech, strong, feminism

“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. (I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.) So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.”

~Margaret Atwood, Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1983), pg. 413.(via bydbach)

You've probably heard the punchline before, but here’s the full context for the quote.
14th-Feb-2014 12:59 pm - Discrimination And You
woo, stupidity, rants, Dobert Demons of Stupidity, religion
Much like you are not being censored unless the government itself is actually penalizing or prosecuting you for speaking about something, you are also not being "discriminated against" if you are not part of a marginalized group that is institutionally and systematically prevented from participating in society on the basis of some quality that has nothing to do with what they are preventing you from doing.

So, someone who doesn't want you around because you're a bitch? Not discrimination of people who "tell it like it is". Someone who doesn't want to follow you on Facebook because all you post are pictures of yourself? Not discrimination of good looking people. Female-type person won't go out with you? Not discrimination of Nice Guys or Smart Guys.

A public and commercial establishment refusing to offer you their advertised services at their advertised prices on the basis that they don't take business from people with your skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, nationality, or level of ableness when those qualities have nothing to do with the services being offered such as a restaurant or office supply store? That's discrimination.

You are entitled to being allowed to participate in society to the best of your abilities. You are not entitled to any individual providing you with the opportunity to irritate them.
14th-Feb-2014 12:54 pm - Privilege Is Annoying
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
This is a post made by someone else, but it says exactly what I want to say on the subject, so I'm just going to quote it here:

The most common argument I see against the [use of the] word "privilege" is that it is "annoying."

You are, of course, welcome to find anything annoying if you want. So here's what I personally find annoying:

  • Seeing people with no background in the social sciences summarily dismiss a sociological concept backed by decades of theory and research because they don't like the sound of it;

  • Having my own ideas and writing dismissed because they share a word in common with a bad Tumblr you read once;

  • Being asked to apologize for people I have never met or interacted with who were mean to you when you argued against the word "privilege";

  • The implication that ideas have to make you feel good in order to be accurate and worth your consideration, and ideas that make you feel uncomfortable or bad can be safely dismissed.

14th-Feb-2014 12:42 pm - Follow Your Arrow
Super Tech, strong, feminism
We all know the joke about listening to a country song backwards gets your dog, your wife, and your truck back, but country music has a long history of feminist values and a rich diversity of topics. I'm even building a whole YouTube playlist of feminist country songs.

I'm not saying you'll like it if you just don't like the sound, but country music isn't what most people think it is. Take this song for example...

This is a song all about the no-win double standard of social expectations, self-acceptance, diversity, and being authentic.  There are more like it to be found in country music.  In fact, country music is one of the earliest genres to include hit songs that stand up for women's rights and alternative viewpoints, believe it or not.  I have a whole post brewing about that for later.
14th-Feb-2014 12:30 pm - The Sex Talk
Nude Drawing, sex
Pretty decent intro to sex (I know MANY experienced adults who still need to hear this intro because what they know is WRONG).

Pretty thorough for 6 minutes. Obviously they skimmed over some stuff, but nearly everything one should know in the first talk is at least mentioned.
14th-Feb-2014 12:27 pm - You Keep Using That Word...
frustration, ::headdesk::

"A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon." -- Kim Ann Zimmerman,

~Shared from Physicist TV

This is why I have made a point to now say "hypothesis" even when using cultural or slang idioms. I also say "conspiracist" and "conspiracy story" instead of "conspiracy theorist/theory" because it's not a theory.

Wrong: "My theory is..."
Right: "My hypothesis is..."

Wrong: "In theory, it should work"
Right: "In principle, it should work"

Wong: "Theoretically speaking..."
Right: "Hypothetically speaking..."

These are not the only examples nor the only corrections for the examples given. But it's a start to give you an idea. This rant came from a Facebook post, not an hour-long lecture or a class or a book on science & grammar, so I kept it brief with just a few examples. I don't feel the need to list every possible example or exception and I'll get irritated if the comments devolve into a semantics debate with pedantic exceptions (but personal substitutions are welcome, to increase the general vocabulary).

I won't play the obnoxious pedant every time someone uses the word incorrectly and correct them (unless it's actually relevant to the discussion), but know that every time y'all use it wrong, I'm thinking in my head that you're wrong and I assume that you know less about science because of it unless/until you can prove to me that you don't.
14th-Feb-2014 12:17 pm - When Dance Gets Kinky
Flogging, BDSM
Another blogger wrote a post called When Dance Gets Kinky with some examples of BDSM elements found in dance performances.

I often use dance as a metaphor for sex and relationships, but for me, the parallels are so strong that "metaphor" is not always the right word. Dance, sex, and romantic relationships all rely on the same elements - communication first and foremost, physicality, and passion. Just like sex, dance can be done with strangers, friends, long-time partners, solo, or in groups. It can be awkward, silly, hot, fun, tender, or chaste. It can be comfortable or challenging. You can teach or learn something new or fall into predictable patterns.

Like good sex and good relationships, good dancing incorporates the skills and steps you learned from past situations to blend with the new partner, forming a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that can never be duplicated or replicated with anyone else ever again. Even with the same partner and the same steps, it will not be the same. The chemistry will be different, or it'll be more effort some times than other times, or it'll be faster or slower, or you'll hit it just right or it'll be a little bit off.

For me, dancing is not just a metaphor for sex and relationships. Dancing is almost interchangeable for sex, and what I learned from dancing I apply to relationships. The three very different activities are inextricably intertwined in my head, even though I am perfectly capable of having relationships without sex, dancing without relationships, and I certainly don't have sex with everyone I dance with! It's just that, to me, they are three sides of the same coin, as it were.

So naturally, I'm interested in examples of dance that also incorporate elements of BDSM. To stretch the coin metaphor way too far, BDSM would be the fourth side of that coin - in requiring the same elements, in who it can be done with, in the moods you can have while in a scene, and in how it can be mixed or isolated from the others. Most of my kink is separate from sex, I have to mix my kink with relationships but I don't have to mix my relationships with my kink, and I am desperately hoping to one day mix dancing and kink but finding a partner who does both (and who does my style of poly, since I can't do kink outside of a relationship) AND has that chemistry that makes any kind of relationship even possible is a pretty tall order.

Just a tip, if anyone really wanted to increase his chances with me, he'd learn to ballroom dance and be interested in at least some of my kinks and have advanced poly skills and he'd mix all that up under a rational & skeptical worldview. Seriously, the dancing & kink stuff REALLY goes a long way towards catching my attention - just as much as the poly & skeptic stuff does. None of this is a guarantee, of course, but dancing will catch my attention immediately and at least make me consider the dancer, even more than the other stuff (but, to be honest, the other three are more likely to *keep* my attention once I've decided that I'm interested).

Anyway, the examples she gives are from the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, but from a night when the dancers are doing the same choreography from previous episodes. While all 3 examples are exemplary, I am still partial to the originals just because they did them first and they are now associated in my brain with those routines. So I'm going to include the original videos in the comments, while the ones the blogger highlighted are embedded in her post:

This dance is actually about addiction. It's passionate and entrancing and heart-wrenching and I cried when I saw it for the first time. But the blogger included it for the domineering manner of the male dancer and how rough he is with his female partner, who keeps coming back again and again for his treatment.

I want to take a moment to make absolutely clear that BDSM relationships are not about addiction and they are not abusive, 50 Shades of Fucked Up notwithstanding. They are also not exclusively about male Doms and female subs. This song and this choreography are NOT about BDSM or even about abusive relationships. The male dancer represents the addiction itself; he is the addiction personified.

But within BDSM there is role playing that superficially takes on the trappings of things that might look like abuse or pain or even addiction to someone outside of the relationship or unfamiliar with BDSM and kink. It was this superficial resemblance that attracted the blogger. Rough treatment and the resistance can sometimes be found in some BDSM scenes and the blogger's point was that there were elements of kink found in the choreography's individual steps, leading her to imply that the choreographer herself may have a background in kink to draw on.

This one is all about spanking. That should be self-evident why the blogger included it on a list of kinky elements in dance routines.

The first song included on the blog post is a little different. It doesn't appear to be a remake of a past choreography and it's not one of the dances in the competition. It's one of the group dances that the contestants often perform as the opening number to kick off the show. Their performance will not be rated or included in the judges' consideration of the contest.

The video she embedded also doesn't work. At least, when I tried to watch it, it said that the user had been banned for too many copyright violations, so here's another upload of that same number:
14th-Feb-2014 12:02 pm - The Surprising Costs Of Being A Woman
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I've passed on articles highlighting the stupidity of marketing the exact same men's product but in pink for girls only. But did you know it's not just stupid marketing, it's also brilliant marketing? They make the exact same product but make it pink and sparkly and suddenly they can charge more for it.

It's expensive being a girl. That's one of the reasons why I wear men's clothes and use men's versions of products - they're actually cheaper, and when there *is* a difference in product quality, the men's version is usually more functional too - more durable, more practical, more parts that actually work and aren't just for show (seriously, pockets that don't open on cargo pants?).

Fuck the pink and purple and sparkles. My guns are black, my tools are chrome, my deodorant is unscented, my razors are sharp, and my Bic pens are blue. Unless you're buying something that actually serves a purpose for being gendered (biology or aesthetic preference), don't support gendered products or marketing. Buy what's more economical or is best suited for its intended task if the differently gendered items are basically the same product just colored or packaged differently.
14th-Feb-2014 11:59 am - Creepy Guy Is Creepy
Bad Computer!, anger
Just so you know, when a person goes out of their way to avoid publishing identifying information about themselves on the internet, like their real name or current location, it is incredibly creepy to then publicly message them on social media with that information (it can be creepy to privately message them with that info too, but there is some nuance there that I don't feel like addressing right now; just to be safe, assume it's creepy in private too). Even if you know them or met them in person. Even if you aren't being "threatening" when you do it. Even if you think you're being friendly about it. ESPECIALLY if you think you're being friendly about it. Then you're both creepy and oblivious.


When you publish personal and/or identifying information about someone who has deliberately not published that information (and worse, not told YOU that information), you are:

1) stalking
2) being invasive
3) dismissing, disrespecting, or disregarding personal boundaries
4) some combination of the above
5) all of the above

Even if that isn't your intent. Your intent to be creepy is irrelevant when deciding if you are, in fact, being creepy. The person who gets to decide if you're being creepy is the one who is creeped out by you. Period. I don't care if it's "not fair", only the person whose boundaries you just stomped on gets to decide how hurt they feel over it. Just like the person who is offended by a racist, sexist, homophobic, or other -ism slur is the one who gets to decide if it was racist, sexist, homophobic, or other -ist, not you (and not your token "friend" who thought it was funny, either).

If you step on my toe, your intent to harm me does not matter and you do not get to dictate whether my toe should feel hurt or not. Don't keep standing on my foot defending your right to stand on my foot and complaining about the tone of my yelling. GET THE FUCK OFF MY FOOT.

And don't post identifying information about people online. It's, at best, rude, and at worst, putting someone in danger. If you're not a reporter doing an expose on some dangerous criminal or underground organization, or with law enforcement (and don't get me started on the tangles of THAT hornet's nest), you probably don't know when it's in the public's best interest to know something, so just don't.
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

America is built upon the backs of those less fortunate. It's past time we offered our gratitude and made good on our promises. Ours is a bloody, violent history filled with an ever-growing list of amends for mistakes made at the expense of humanity. We have not yet caught up to our ideals. We have made progress, but social inertia threatens to lull us into coasting the rest of the way into our future, teasing us with the lure of easy, downhill motion while masking the other part of that physics equation - the drag without constant vigilance and deliberate effort will eventually pull us to a stop.

Now is the time to take advantage of our downhill momentum by easing into even greater forward motion with the gravity of our situation currently on our side. To our future, we give the fruits of the labor of those tired, poor, huddled masses. Will they be succulent fruits to nourish our children, or will they be dry, grey, wrinkled on the vine, leaving our children to a bleak existence because of our arrogance and flawed planning? Our future is written by us, and the outcome depends wholly on how we treat the characters of our past and our present.

Picture published on BAMN - Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary website (
14th-Feb-2014 11:39 am - Damn Right I Support It
Silent Bob Headbang, yay!, shiny, cool

"I might not be the same but that's not important
No freedom til we're equal
Damn right I support it"

Too often, disadvantaged groups use the strategy for acceptance and equality of closing ranks against everyone else and appealing to the majority with "we're not that different from you! We have this one thing different, but we're not like THOSE freaks over there!" We are pitted against each other in our scrabble for inclusion to the club, like Survivor contestants or pledges being hazed. Because it's in the interest of the ruling class to keep us bickering and squabbling amongst ourselves. It prevents us from banding together and finding our own power. It keeps the ruling classes in power above us while we content ourselves with victory over their table scraps. Separate But Equal is not equal, it's a grudging concession that they deign to relinquish, hoping it'll keep our eyes off the banquet on top of the table.

It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins
It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference

The exact same thing that made whatever class you're in a disadvantaged class, an oppressed class, a second class is what you are turning around and doing to someone else when you discriminate against another. But what if we all banded together? What if all minority groups linked arms, faced the majority squarely in the face and said "we are all one and when we add us all up together, you are no longer the majority"? Would we finally find equality? Would we finally know freedom?

I might not be the same, but that's not important. There is no freedom until we are all equal. Damn right I support it.

14th-Feb-2014 11:36 am - A Father's Letter To His Daughter
Super Tech, strong, feminism
The makeup aisle feels "like one of the most oppressive places in the world. ...

When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence."

I have a lot of friends with daughters. I hope that they grow to understand (if they don't already), that the sexist jokes and smack talk and chittering behind women's backs that they do with their buddies is the same sort of thing that other men will be doing about their daughter someday, if they don't contribute now to a change in our culture.

They can't threaten all the men in the world with their shotguns to keep their hands off their daughters, and they especially can't do anything about it if it happens out of their earshot. So they need to create a culture that is hostile towards that kind of behaviour, so that some other person can stand up for their daughters in their absence (when their daughters can't defend themselves, which they can't do if the jokes and the laughter are behind their backs).

And I hope that they grow to understand (if they don't already) that a woman doesn't deserve better treatment from them because she's someone else's daughter, but because she's a person all by herself. But maybe realizing that your own daughters deserve respect, not because they're your daughters but because they're "a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire" all on their own will make the distinction clear.

Eventually, I hope that people won't need to be told "what if it were YOUR daughter that some guy was sniggering about?" to break through that solipsistic fog because they won't need a personal connection to her to make them behave - her humanity will be enough of a reason.
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I love the nuance in this article. Usually "the single gal" articles are either about how pathetic we are for shunning male patronage or how totally amazing we are for doing it all alone. We are both and neither and other and I'm tired of being caricatured.

"The single life isn’t a prison sentence nor is it a cocktail party. It is simply a life—a life with responsibilities and rewards, good days and bad ones, successes and failures.

Most of all, it’s a rich and varied life with many opportunities to build strength and character. ...

I’m not saying single people are better than married people—that’s silly. I’m saying that it’s time we start treating the single experience with the respect it deserves. Because what is perhaps most impressive about single women today is their ability to build rich, meaningful lives without any sort of blueprint. It takes courage to stay true to yourself when so many voices are telling you to follow a more conventional path. It takes mental agility to hold two ideas in your head at once: Yes, I would like to meet someone someday; yes, I am fine right now as I am. ...

The trouble is, this leaves the impression that the only way to be a respectable unattached woman is to be impervious to love. ...

Instead of calling the contemporary single woman “fabulous,” let’s see her for who she really is: a person."
14th-Feb-2014 11:14 am - She STILL doesn't have to talk to you
Super Tech, strong, feminism
*sigh* Having a profile on a dating site STILL does not obligate a woman to give you the time of day. There are lots of reasons why she may have a profile and still not want to meet you, talk to you, or even be open to dating anyone at the moment.

1) Being single and having a full and exciting life that may leave little time for dating does not mean she can't still be open to the idea if someone exceptional comes along, so she may be busy with life right now, but she's still allowed to look even though it may look like she doesn't have "enough" time, according to your definition of "enough". The "right" person will fit into her busy schedule because of shared interests and mutual compromise and she is under no obligation to sit around playing the lonely spinster while she waits for you to magically arrive and add excitement to her life. YOU have to be exciting enough for her to justify making space for you in her life. Her complex life is what makes her exciting enough for you, that's why you contacted her.

2) It may be an old profile from when she was looking and she's holding onto it. It's not your business to decide when it's appropriate to let go of a profile.

3) She may be looking for different things, like friends or activity partners, and not a romantic partner, or she may even be looking just for sex and her busy life isn't an issue for a once-in-a-while booty call.

4) Lots of women (and other people too) prefer to take their time and get to know people online for a while before giving out contact info, real names, or meeting in person. Sometimes it's safer. Sometimes she's an introvert who relates better in text. Sometimes, a busy schedule and a request to send emails first is a test to see how pushy the guy is, and if he pushes too soon for a RL meetup, she'll know to drop him because either he's an entitled asshole who doesn't respect boundaries or they just want different kinds of relationships.

5) She goes through busy and not-so-busy stages and it's not worth her time to take down the profile and put it back up every time her life changes, especially if she put a lot of effort into her profile or she will lose her username by deleting it. Besides, if someone exceptional came along, she may be willing to go out of her way to change life to accommodate.

6) It could be you. Just because a woman is available, it doesn't mean that she's available TO YOU, and maybe her "busy schedule" is a hurdle she isn't willing to overcome because you don't do it for her.

This is written from the perspective of a man complaining about a woman's profile only because this is the direction of the complaints that I see most often, not because it never happens with any other combination of genders.

Look, I've written plenty advising women to please respond to the men who contact them even if it's a rejection because I want to reward the courage it takes to approach someone and because I think it sucks that we have this double standard where men have to put in all the effort and women get inundated with crappy first-contact letters.  Both sides suck.  When I'm talking *to* women, I want to encourage that they do their share of the contributing to change society.

But when women are complaining about the bad experiences they're having online, DON'T MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT TEH MENZ.  That is not the time to tell women that they should ignore their own discomfort in order to make men feel better.  That is not the time to bring up how much it sucks to be a man as if it were a competition of which gender has it worse online (trust me, it's not the male gender as a whole, even if I agree that some parts of their experience suck).  That is the time to LISTEN to the women and to do whatever is in your power to help change things.  Because I guarantee that if women as a whole felt safe online and safe to be sexual beings, the double standard that makes it hard for men in online dating would go away as a result.

If we want women to do the approaching, the first-contact outreach, to respond to first-contact letters, and to be clear about their intentions, we have to make it safe for them to do so.  If someone doesn't feel safe in expressing themselves, they will avoid doing it or they will do it in passive-aggressive or indirect ways that may seem confusing or contradictory.  
14th-Feb-2014 11:01 am - Best Relationship Advice
Purple Mobius, polyamory

I believe that it is possible to have both individuality and *healthy* deep attachment, and I believe that the only way that it CAN be possible is to start with the individual.

And I think that even couple-centric evidence supports this. Of course, this is not scientific research, by any stretch of the imagination. But it is one more social research project that supports my hypothesis. Over and over again, articles and documentaries and interviews that ask "successful" couples how they managed to be successful (usually defined by longevity but more and more often defined by quality, or some combination of the two) find similar answers. And those answers include independence, individuality, space, freedom, and conscious decision.

"On the key things that make a relationship successful:

...Self Love: The happiest couples always consisted of two (sometimes more) emotionally healthy and independently happy individuals. ...

Establish that foundation, and you're in good shape.

Intentionality: ...The couples who try on a daily basis to experience some sort of meaningful connection, or create a fun memory are the couples who shattered my perception of what was possible in a loving relationship."

Because poly people are working without a blueprint, without a roadmap, without role models, everything we do has to be intentional. We have to consciously think about the structure of our relationships and what we want from them. Monogamous people, because it's the social default, can simply "fall into" a relationship if they want, and they can even last for a long time in them. But the people who find HAPPINESS in their relationships apply the same lesson that we as poly people find is necessary for ours - deliberate intent.

It's OK to fall into the status quo, as long as you've thought about it and chose it for yourself because that's what works for you and everyone in the relationship (the reason I'm opposed to poly structures that enshrine couples privilege is because they DON'T work for "everyone", they prioritize the original couple at the expense of anyone else. A married couple who has a satellite relationship with a hot bi babe is fine if that's the relationship that just happens to work organically, but a married couple who prescripts that structure and sets up the rules to prioritize the happiness of the couple over the happiness of the HBB (or even the individuals within the couple) without her input and she is expected to agree or GTFO is not fine, for example).

So, this article isn't about being single or polyamory at all (my relationship preferences). But I find that the lessons learned in singleish or solo polyamory, or polyamory that respects the autonomy of the individuals - those lessons that are necessary for that kind of polyamory to work at all, never mind happily - are the exact same lessons that make the best, happiest, monogamous relationships, regardless of how long any of the relationships last.

Funny, that.

#NotAPolyIssueButAPeopleIssue #polyamory #polyamorous #poly #OpenRelationships #relationships
9th-Feb-2014 07:44 pm - Suckage By Association
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
"I've never been there, but I once met someone who talked about it and I didn't like that person, so I'll just assume that he's representative of the entire experience there and say that it'll probably suck."

When it's not a subject with objective data that can illustrate, contradict, and/or remove our own logical fallacies and cognitive biases regarding experiences, I'm going to take a pretty dim view of any review that includes "I didn't experience it myself", especially when combined with "because I don't like a person who likes it".

Now, if the objection is "the entire content is this subject I don't like" or "the target audience is people I don't relate to", it's probably a safe assumption to make that you're less likely to like it yourself.  But...

"I don't want to go to an adult store because only losers go there" and

"I don't want to go to Kentucky because my cousin is a redneck and he lives there so it's filled with rednecks" and

"I don't want to read Shakespeare because elitist snobs read Shakespeare" and

"I don't want to listen to country music because I once heard the joke about listening to it backwards gets your dog, your wife, and your truck back so it must all be filled with stupid lyrics" and

"I don't want to go to the ballet because I once saw a picture of a guy in tights so I assume there's nothing there but men in tights" and

"I don't want to go see your dance performance because I know a guy who pops gum and likes the theater so the audience will probably have people there who pop gum and I can't stand that" and

"I don't want to try Indian food because I was once in an Indian person's house and it smelled funny"

are all examples (from real life, I might add) of people being prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  Telling others not to try the experience without having done it yourself (again, with experiences that are enjoyed or disliked subjectively, not that make truth claims and have objective data to verify those claims) only lets those around you *see* you acting prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  And since I know no one thinks of themselves as prejudiced, close-minded, or stupid, I know that none of you will want to APPEAR that way even by accident, right?  So don't do that shit.

This is not to be confused with reading several reviews about an experience from people/organizations that have a stable pattern of having similar opinions as your own and reporting "I heard/read that This Person didn't like it for these reasons".  I want to be very clear that I am complaining about a specific thing - criticizing an experienced based on association with another person that you don't like, not for the content of that experience, which can be verified even second-hand, and assuming content of an experience based solely on the presence of another person that you don't like without verifying that content is, in fact, the content.

I have a habit of liking movies that get poor critic reviews, so I might decide to go see a movie just because all the critics said it sucked.  If my close feminist friends all say a particular movie was sexist and offensive, I might give it a miss.  But if one of my coworkers, who happens to be sexist, likes a particular movie, I won't assume that the movie is sexist just because he likes it unless he actually SAYS something about the content.  Him just liking it is not enough for me to assume anything about the content.  I need some other data point, like WHY he liked it or the demographics of the entire audience who liked it, to give me a clue as to whether or not I might like it.

And even then, I often surprise myself by discovering things I used to swear I hated and would never like.  Hummus, for example.  Absolutely hated it until about a year ago.  Tomatoes are another thing.  I've hated the texture so much that my mom had to puree them in pasta sauce before I'd even look at it.  Now I love them both.  I also used to really love the Chronicles of Narnia, even though I was an atheist child.  But back then, I lived in a liberal bubble where my atheism wasn't the target of oppression.  Now that I'm more aware of oppression, I can't help but feel turned off by the obvious religious apologetics in the series.  My tastes change over time, and the more I deliberately test my assumptions about my opinions, the more aware I become of who I am and I am better to more accurately predict what I might like or dislike and in what direction I might change.

And the more I find to like where I previously assumed I wouldn't like.  The universe is a vast and wondrous place, far more interesting than any individual can really comprehend.  And there is far too little time to discover all its wonder, so I don't want to waste time avoiding things that might turn out to be amazing just because some other jackass also happens to like it.

“Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known.” Francis Bacon
Purple Mobius, polyamory - Amazon - Netflix - IMDB

This movie was recommended to me by several people, many of whom are not poly. When that happens, I go into the viewing with a dubious mindset. Most of the time, people who are not poly don't really understand what polyamory is, so when they identify something as "poly", it's not really. I was aware of 32nd President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's affairs. Not in any detail, but as a critic of American politics, I am superficially aware that many of our past politicians' indiscretions were more or less common knowledge but ignored, as the public focused on how they performed their jobs and not what they did in their bedrooms. I am aware of that because of the stark contrast for how we treat today's politicians and celebrities. But that's a rant for another time.

This movie is from the perspective of Margaret Suckley, commonly called "Daisy", who was a sixth cousin* to FDR and a regular companion during his time in office. It is more or less a biography of FDR while he was president of the United States prior to his involvement in WWII and seeks to show him as a relatable human, rather than an impressive government official and leader of the Free World.

It has been established that FDR was married to Eleanor Roosevelt, had a long-time affair with her secretary, Lucy, another two-decade-long affair with his own secretary, Missy, and rumors that are accepted as probably true about an affair with Princess Martha of Sweden while she lived at the White House during WWII. It is also "common knowledge" that these affairs killed the emotional connection between FDR and his wife Eleanor, who remained married to him as a political partnership until he died. Rumors of illicit affairs with the owner of the New York Post, Dorothy Schiff, and the main character, Daisy, are controversial, to say the least.

With this kind of history, I had a few preconceptions going into the film. I thought it would be just another movie about cheating, which is pretty common. Many movies that get suggested to me are nothing more than movies about cheating. Occasionally the cheating is the result of a loving relationship and not just about sex, but it's still nevertheless about cheating. Every once in a blue moon, I will accept a cheating movie as a poly-ish movie if I give it a pass for the era in which the movie takes place if the story feels like it would have been the version of polyamory that I recognize had it not been for some heavy social penalties. In other words, it was as close to polyamory as a non-monogamous relationship could get given the circumstances.

This is what I feel that Hyde Park On Hudson is. From here I will be discussing the movie itself, with complete disregard to the question of historical accuracy. In the context of my Poly-ish Movie Reviews, I care less about the liberties a director takes with historical facts and more about how well the movie answers the question "is this a movie about polyamory or that has polyamory in it?"

In this movie, Daisy is a sweet, naive girl who falls in love with a powerful older man because he invites her in to his heart and shows her the human being he is, not the political office. He is caring and compassionate and frail and vunlerable. She knows that he is still married and she does not harbor a belief that he will leave his wife for her. She has heard the rumors that they have a loveless marriage, and usually that is enough justification for a mistress to accept the role. But Daisy observes the spouses together and believes that they still share an emotional connection. This observation does not seem to provoke any jealousy. She just seems to accept that her lover still loves his wife.

But soon enough, Daisy learns that Franklin is having sexual relations with his secretary, Missy. Missy runs after the fleeing Daisy to confront her and explain the situation. Up until this point, I still felt that this was a cheating movie, just one of those that included emotional connections and not just sex. Missy drops more bombs on the shaken Daisy when Missy reveals that Franklin is having other affairs too, and that Missy knew about Daisy from the moment their relationship began and accepted her. Missy insists that Daisy must accept that she will have to "share" Franklin. Daisy says that can't, but Missy tells her that she can.

So, I could have included it on my Poly-ish list at this point because Franklin has what appears to be loving relationships with multiple women who know and "deal with it", but it would have held a wobbly position on that list. It's the next part that makes me feel that this is a poly movie.

Eventually Daisy forgives Franklin and they begin seeing each other again. Simultaneously, Daisy develops a friendship with Missy. The two women become very close, deliberately using their mutual connection to a lover as the springboard from which their own relationship blossoms. Daisy comes to admire and rely on Missy. Missy often fetches Daisy when Missy believes that Franklin will benefit from her presence. The two women do more than reach a truce regarding their respective roles; they forge an alliance. And both women have a somewhat more distant relationship with Eleanor, but a relationship built on respect and admiration nonetheless.

Eleanore has a separate home, but she is a constant fixture in the scenes in the movie. So the image that is portrayed to us is one of a loving family with Franklin, his smart and savvy political wife, his lover and assistant, and his companion, as well as his mother who appears to know all about who is sleeping with whom. His mother and his wife butt heads, naturally, but everyone seems to get along and to accept or cherish each other's roles in Franklin's life. Franklin's mother and secretary, for example, both "severely criticized [him] for not inviting [Daisy] to dinner" on the night that the White House hosted the King and Queen of England - the first time that British royals had ever set foot on US soil. After Daisy learns that she is not the only one and is pressured into attending another social political function while still sulking about it, Missy is the first to approach Daisy and welcome her to the event. Franklin even publicly declares that Daisy belongs at VIP table, where everyone who is important to him ought to be, along with the royals, his wife, and his other mistress.

This movie is not solely about FDR's romantic life. It is also about the friendship forged between the US and England in the tenuous days before WWII, it's about the pressures of political life on an ailing man, about the effect of foreign wars on domestic issues, and about the dichotomy of being a private person in the public sphere. The movie included stellar acting and touching peeks into complex people in complex situations.  I have to say that, although I knew that Bill Murray was a good actor and I've always loved his films, this was the first movie I've seen of his where he wasn't "Bill Murray" in it. You know how there are some actors that, even while they're good, you still know that they are who they are? Gary Oldman is the opposite of that. He's an actor that I usually make it halfway through the movie before I even realize that it's Gary Oldman. Leonardo diCaprio is one of those actors that, even when he's doing a good job, he's still always Leo.

But Bill Murray's performance in this role thoroughly distracted me from my jewelry-making (I often do physical projects while watching movies - my brain can't focus on a story alone without my hands doing something) because I kept watching in fascination at a face that I just knew belonged to Peter Venkman but there was nothing of Dr. Venkman or Phil Connors or Frank Cross, or even of Bill Murray himself as seen in interviews in that face and in that body. I saw FDR, as I knew him from recordings and film reels. I heard FDR in his voice, I saw FDR in the tilt of his head and the way he held his hands. When I can't see Gary Oldman, I really can't see Gary Oldman. But to physically see Bill Murray and still not be able to "see" Bill Murray was disconcerting and wonderful and I am charmed by this film apart from its poly (or not) leanings.

So I recommend this movie. I thought it was an engaging film that I was willing to enjoy as a narrative and not insist that it be taken as a biography, and I felt that the relationships portrayed in the film represented what I recognize as polyamorous - loving, consensual, accepting, family - in spite of the lack of intentional communication and apparent deception that I feel was characteristic of the era regarding romantic liaisons. Although the modern poly movement of the last 30 years prioritizes communication above all else (and I happen to agree that it is a necessary element to healthy poly relationships), people are still the products of their times and cultures. So a movie set in another time and culture will necessarily have a different perspective on appropriate and effective communication. I may still disagree with them, but I believe other elements are more important to classifying a relationship as poly than whether or not multiple adults sat down around a large table with health reports, spreadsheets, and Google calendars to discuss the future possibility of taking a new partner.

There are many different ways to do poly. Some of them are wrong, some of them are right, some are healthy and some are outright abusive, but what makes it poly is that there are multiple, they are loving, and there is acceptance. It is not poly if there are only two partners & that is the preferred state. It is not poly if it is purely based on sex with no emotional connections and that is the preferred state. It is not poly if there is deception maintained throughout (and if that is the preferred state). It is not poly if the participants feel forced into the situation and begrudge the arrangement. Deception and poor communication certainly exist in poly relationships. But it's what the movie says about deception or communication, or how it's dealt with, that changes it from a movie condemning non-monogamy to a movie that merely presents one example of a loving relationship that happens to have some flaws.

*Sixth cousins are really only barely related. It means that they shared a common ancestor roughly 6 generations in their past. So, in other words, you add 5 "greats" before the word "grandparent" to come up with "sixth cousins". The "once removed" bits in relationship taxonomy refer to whether or not the cousins are in the same generation as each other. So first cousins have the same grandparents. Second cousins have the same great-grandparents. First cousins once removed is your first cousin's child - you and that child have your grandparents (their great-grandparents) in common and are in different generations from each other, hence "once removed". None of this has anything to do with the movie. It was common both in the era and within the Roosevelt family itself for non-first cousins to marry or be involved and Daisy's "sixth cousin" status was completely irrelevant to her romantic relationship with Franklin. It was really only relevant to mention because it was her connection as a relative who had grown up as a child with the Franklin that excused the President of the United States' mother for inviting a nobody like Daisy to the White House to attend the President when he fell ill. But I find genealogy interesting, and I know that a lot of people don't know how all those second/third/eigth cousins twice removed labels actually work, and I also know there are a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the idea of relatives having sexual relationships with each other. So I thought I'd mention it in a footnote.
23rd-Jan-2014 09:34 pm - Future Disclaimer
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
Read this on someone else's blog and thought it sounded like an excellent disclaimer for my personal posts as well, since it's much nicer in tone than I usually am and still makes the points I want to make. I'll be saving this and adding it to my Me Manual blog posts in the future, probably with a few minor edits to reflect my personality and/or circumstances.

"This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don’t want advice. I don’t want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle. I do not want devil’s advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about my individual experience and I don’t mean for it to apply to anyone else’s experience, I’m not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it’ll be deleted without further explanation. Commiseration and personal anecdotes are always welcome, though."
23rd-Jan-2014 09:15 pm - Food Musings
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
Huh.  I may be beginning to not like hot dogs anymore.  Over the years, I've added to my palate but the only other food I can recall ever to stop liking is bologna.  I used to LOVE that stuff - I'd eat nearly a whole package straight out of the fridge without bothering to make a sandwich out of it.  Now I can't even stand the smell.  But I stopped liking bologna about 25 years ago, when I was still a kid.

I suppose it's not terribly surprising, given how closely related hot dogs & bologna are (although I have only eaten beef hot dogs in the last decade), but I've been steadily increasing the number of foods I like and only dropped the one.  So that's surprising to me.

I have a weird relationship with food.  I was one of those picky eaters who would only eat like 3 foods.  It turns out that I have an overly-sensitive sense of taste, which is why I didn't like so many foods.  The taste was always too overwhelming.  And then, on top of that, I became anorexic and forgot how to enjoy food and how to eat food and even how to recognize hunger.

When I turned 18, I slowly learned to like the taste of food again, after I mostly healed my anorexia.  But that learning curve sharply steepened after a few years.  Now I do two things with my food, and they are exclusive to each other:

1) I eat to fill my stomach and taste is more or less irrelevant.  This is mostly what I do at work and how I originally got over my anorexia.  I have something of a military-esque relationship to food at work.  I eat because I need to eat, and I eat what I'm given, and I wolf it down because I don't know when I'll get the chance to eat again.  I can eat a lot of food that I don't particularly care for this way, but I have to be motivated for it, like when I'm at work.

2) I eat for the sheer pleasure of the taste or the positive associations the food has, and its nourishment or even my desire for fuel are more or less irrelevant.  This is where I learned to like food again, and to broaden my palate to include foods that I couldn't even stand being in the same room with before - mostly strong flavors like Indian food, hummus, asparagus, ranch dressing, stuff like that.  I eat to feel happy and to revel in the experience.  I don't need to be hungry and I will probably not be able to tell that I'm not hungry until I'm overly full.

For some reason, I very rarely, if ever, combine seeking out food for both nourishment and pleasure.  Most of the time, I seek out food for pleasure and it just happens to coincide with times that I need nourishment, since that occurs roughly twice a day.

Hot dogs is one of those rare foods that fulfilled both categories for me.  I used to love the taste of hot dogs, especially at those venues that are associated with hot dogs like baseball parks and movie theaters.  But I also used to work at an an arena setting up and tearing down for concerts, and the kitchens would usually bring out all their left-over hot dogs for the crew rather than throw them away.  These were mostly still warm, but they had been out for a while and they had no condiments at all.  After a hard night of loading trucks and hauling truss and amps up and down ramps, I needed protein and sugar (hot dogs and buns).  When I ate hot dogs for pleasure, I would usually only eat one.  But when I ate hot dogs at work, I would usually eat 3 or 4, dry, in a couple of bites, with one gloved hand while pushing a road case with another.

So I'm really kind of surprised to realize that I may be losing my taste for hot dogs.  I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  This is sort of new territory for me.  Then again, a lot of my explorations with food is in new territory :-)
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