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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.
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.
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.
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.

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.
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 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 12:17 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:
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
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 :-)
21st-Jan-2014 03:00 pm - A Bra Solution
Nude Drawing, sex
Wherein I go on at length about bras and TMI about my own bra needs that will probably only be of interest to other bra-wearers or people who care about the happiness and issues of people who wear bras.

I've occasionally been linking to a blog called Adventures In Bra Fitting (  I have the exact opposite problem that she has - wide back, small cups - but I totally relate to the problems with how America handles women's breasts (pun intended).

After roughly 20 years of searching, I finally found a bra that I like.  It has wide straps that don't cut into my shoulders, it fits snugly around my ribcage actually taking the weight instead of the straps, the gore sits flush against my sternum, there is just enough padding to keep my sensitive nipples from being irritated by my clothing and from showing through my shirts, it has a deep plunge for low-cut tops, it's a racerback which I need because my scoliosis causes standard straps to slip off my shoulders (conversion clips make it nearly impossible to put on a bra by oneself with the clips on), it's cotton which is my preferred aesthetic look and feels better when I sweat and do physical labor at work than the nylon and lace bras do, and the cups are the matching shape for my breasts (hardly anyone matches molded one-shape-fits-all bra cups).

Because I finally have a bra that fits, some of the fatty breast tissue that had migrated around to under my arms and my back (which is very, VERY common in women) seems to have migrated back to the breasts where they belong.  After 20 years of being flat chested, I actually have cleavage for the first time that I can remember.  Other people have noticed and I have actually been asked if I have increased in size.  I haven't, but my breasts are better supported now so it looks like it.

Unfortunately, they only make the bra in a handful of colors.  The heather-grey I like, and of course I had to get a black pair.  But those were the only two colors for a long time.  Now, they've added a black and white striped pair, and a fucking neon green pair.  I like to match my bras with my underwear, and in fact, I almost never wear bras & underwear that doesn't match, regardless of who might possibly see them.  I don't dress for other people, I dress for me, so I always match my bras and underwear because *I* like them to match even if no one ever sees them.

In a fit of frustration, I had a thought.  Since I can't find the one bra I like in the colors I want to match my existing wardrobe, it occurred to me that I could buy the grey pair and bleach them, and then dye them to match.  Sure, it seemed like a lot of work, but the alternative is to go without and continue running around in sub-optimally shaped bras that do match, or wear (Zeus forbid) mismatched sets.

So I haunted the one store that carries this model, looking for the ever-elusive size 36B (apparently only 34s can be Bs but 36s and above must be Cs or bigger).  Forget finding a 36A, which is the size I normally have to wear in bras that don't fit as well, especially before my breast tissue started moving around with this better-fitting bra.  Pre-molded B cups with a 36 band just had too much empty space in them at the top and non-molded cups didn't encourage the shape I wanted, leaving my breasts to do that thing where they start to slide towards the armpits, and I wanted cleavage in my low-cut tank tops.

Finally, after several shopping trips, I found, not a grey 34B, but a white one! And only one - not just in that size, but it was the only white bra of that model there.  I normally prefer a 36, but this is a nice soft cotton t-shirt-like material that was a little more snug than I prefer but not uncomfortably so at the 34.  So I snapped it up and bought a bottle of red RIT dye for a little experiment.  At only $6 a bra, I was willing to experiment. (Also, note that it was under $10, another reason why I love these bras.  Normally women have to pay $30 or more for a good bra)

Today I dyed the bra and it came out FABULOUS!  So this afternoon I will be going to the store and asking the lingerie counter lady to order 5 more 36Bs in white, and another 36B in grey and one in black.  The extra grey & black one will get packed away until my current grey & black ones die out and need to be replaced.  The white ones will get dyed 1 more red, two purple, and two nude (the duplicates to be packed with the duplicate grey & black).  If I can find underwear I like in green and blue jewel tones, I'll get another set to dye in those colors as well.  I'm just as picky about my underwear as I am about my bras, but that's another rant.  Women, even in body shape, are not all the same person.

So, the point of this long, TMI story is to recommend that everyone with breasts learn how to size themselves properly, make the effort to find a bra that you like that fits you well, and then buy a shitload of them in white to dye the colors you want if they don't already come in the colors you want.  It is totally worth the effort to learn the proper way to be sized and find bras that fit well and then do a little DIYing to make them match your aesthetic so that you are wearing bras that YOU find pleasing as well as comfortable.

I hear from the blog author, who has double Gs, I think, on a small frame, that she has none of the complaints that women with large breasts often have - back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, fatigue, etc. - because she wears bras that fit well.  So I believe very strongly that this amount of effort is worth it for a good fitting, attractive (according to the wearer) bras.

For those interested in which bra I'm talking about, it's called the Fruit Of The Loom Perfect Racerback Bra from the Fresh Collection that I can only find at Walmart. I can't find it anywhere else, and even the Walmart online store doesn't carry it. I have to physically go into a Walmart and hope they have the size and color I want.

I have occasionally found individual people selling an individual bra on places like Ebay, but no online retailers, including the Fruit of the Loom website itself. Also remember that, since molded cups fit almost nobody, what works for me may not work for you. But here are some links to images I found of the bras so you can at least see what I'm talking about, if you want to go out and try to find this bra to try on for yourself:
 - this is the same bra but found in the girl's section in only "girls" sizes. But it's basically this bra in adult sizes with a hanger tag that says "The Perfect Racerback Bra"

Here's the grey one I bought, offered for sale from a seller on an Ebay-like storefront:

Here's one from Ebay with the hanger tag that helps me identify it on the shelves:
13th-Jan-2014 01:19 am - Spice Up Your Sex Life!
Nude Drawing, sex
To avoid using toys during sex on the assumption that "relying" on them means you have failed to satisfy your partner or that you're a poor lover is like refusing to use spices in your cooking on the grounds that spices make you a failure as a gourmet chef who can't make an appetizing meal without the "crutch" of flavor.

Using toys during sex takes skill and creativity and openness and vulnerability and opens up the definition of "sex" to such a wide vista that you may one day come to wonder at what you used to consider "sex".

Sex is so much more than putting tab A into slot B. Maybe some people are content, even happy with plain mashed potatoes and creamed corn. I like bland food myself. But my world opened up when I discovered Chinese food and Indian food and Ethiopian food and Cuban food, all known for their varied and colorful spice palates. I didn't give up mashed potatoes when I discovered spice. I just enjoy so much more than mashed potatoes now, and I found new appreciation of mashed potatoes now that I can contrast them with mashed sweet potatoes and curry potatoes and Potatoes O'Brian.

I never quite developed a taste for Vietnamese food, or German food, and I still can't stand seafood. And that's ok, there's no rule that says once you start trying new foods, you must try and like them all. But after having sampled so many different styles of food, I feel that my cuisine before was bereft, and that I am a better person for having tried new things, as well as knowing myself as a person for having experimented and accepted some while rejecting others.

I am not a failed cook for utilizing spices in my cooking. Sure, it takes skill to make appetizing dishes using the same taste-muted ingredients. But it takes different skill, full of subtlety and nuance, to make appealing dishes with a variety of spices.

And a partner who embraces toys and props and settings in his play is someone who has embraced his creative side, and his analytic side, and his introspective side. And it is *those* elements that make someone a good lover.

"Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known." ~Francis Bacon
7th-Jan-2014 12:53 pm - Local STD Testing Update
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
I haven't done an update on local testing options in a few years, so even though that post is still here in my journal, it's time to do a new one.

Local Testing Options ReviewCollapse )
Here's my opinion on necessary testingCollapse )

To sum up:

Get tested for everything listed above at least once to establish a baseline. Then get tested for The Big Four approximately once a year and 3 months after new sexual partners.

If you don't have a GP or health insurance for a full STD screening, visit one of the online services like AnyLabTest Now! for a complete workup to set your baseline. Then, if you are in the Orlando area, I recommend using the Orange County Health Department on Center Ave. for the minimum Big Four to maintain your regular testing schedule and AnyLabTest Now! for the HSV test for the most economical options. If you skip any of the steps, get another full workup as soon as possible to reset your baseline known health status. If you test positive for anything, discuss your case with your STD counselor, your clinician, or your GP for the appropriate measures for you.

For more information about HPV, about HPV research, or about other testing posts that I have made, click on my STI tag below.  I focus on HPV research and occasionally I post about local testing options and general testing information to give non-local people enough information to research their own local testing options.
holiday, Xmas Kitties
How does an anti-thest, anti-traditionalism, anti-consumerist, anti-obligated-gift-giving atheist celebrate the winter holiday season?

I celebrate Newtonmas which, for convenience's sake, looks exactly like Christmas celebration complete with wishing people happy holidays, giving gifts without obligation, wearing red and green, and singing songs specific to the season, decorating with pine trees, tinsel, little colored lights, fuzzy red and white peaked caps, and eating ALL THE THINGS but especially the things with cinnamon, apples, chocolate, and lots of sugar (sometimes all in the same dish, but not necessarily).

The only difference is that, in my mind, the birthday I'm celebrating belongs to a different historical figure - one that I know for a fact existed - Isaac Newton.  And I'm not so much celebrating his birthday specifically as I am celebrating what his birthday respresents, namely science.  All the gifts, all the food, all the time spent with family, all these things are reminders to me of how much science has improved our collective lives.

I live in a time and place where even those of us below the poverty line have such wealth and abundance compared to our past generations, that I can afford to bitch about consumerism on a laptop using high speed internet access in a house with central air conditioning.  I live in a time and place where visiting loved ones 3,000 miles or more away is an actual *possibility* (even if an unrealized one at any given year).

I celebrate on an arbitrary day that happens to numerically match up with the day a historical figure was born (if you do some more arbitrary numerical fudging) because that figure is one of many who represent all that has made my life possible.  I choose that particular arbitrary day because everyone else collectively chose that same arbitrary day for pretty much the same reasons but with a different central character, so it becomes convenient to take advantage of the national acquiescence to allow us all to celebrate.  In other words, no one puts up a fuss if I take time off or spend the day celebrating or wear clashing colors or weird accessories because they're all doing the same thing and it would be strange if I did otherwise.

I won't take offense if people do not wish me Happy Newtonmas instead of Merry Christmas, although I do appreciate the "Happy Holidays!" effort made by those to acknowledge that there are other holidays being celebrated during this season by trying to include their holiday of choice even if one doesn't know what that holiday might be.  But if anyone was curious what a person with different values might do during this time when it seems as though one set of values is being pushed onto an entire planet regardless of personal holiday preference, well, this is what one person with different holiday beliefs does.

There is no war on Christmas.  There is only a desire to experience our own holidays in our own way.  This is how I experience mine.
holiday, Xmas Kitties
I have a lot of issues surrounding cultural obligations of gift giving.  A lot of it is internalized so it's not necessarily that any specific individual is making me feel obligated.  But those feelings are there nonetheless.

Many years ago, I made a personal pact not to exchange holiday gifts with anyone except my parents (who still buy me lots of stuff, making my life considerably easier, which is a huge relief to someone living below the poverty line) and my nephews (because they're kids).  It has always been my extended family's practice to stop buying gifts for family members when they turn 18, so I had some precedence to mitigate the social pressure to give gifts.

But as I dated, that pressure to exchange gifts grew, the more people I dated.  It was always there in monogamy, because it's part of the social expectations wrapped up in being in a relationship and in being female (I just could not get it through my male partners' heads that I did not want them to buy me flowers or jewelry because they could not let go of the cultural trope that women like flowers and jewelry even when one of them says she doesn't).  But as I started dating poly people, people who are already deliberately bucking the social conventions, that pressure didn't lessen.

As I said, it wasn't necessarily direct pressure from individuals.  Because of my difficulty with gift-giving, I tried to date people who had similar issues, so that I could escape that pressure within my relationships.  But when I started building large, multi-adult poly families, certain traditions were held by some people with a ferocity that brought all those social obligations roaring back, whether they intended it or not.

When there would be a holiday party, inevitably someone would bring someone a gift.  I get it, it's a wonderful feeling to see someone's face light up with pleasure at something you did for them.  I enjoy giving people gifts.  But I'm dirt poor and I just can't afford it.  So at these poly family and extended poly social gatherings, someone would be really into gift-giving.  They might say "I just like giving gifts, no one has to get me anything" and they might even mean it.  But some people would feel obligated to return the gesture.  And others would likewise enjoy giving things.  And sooner or later, we'd have a poly holiday gathering where everyone but me was exchanging gifts, and yet I would still be receiving them.

So I could continue to just accept gifts.  Or I could make a fuss and reject all the gifts on principle.  Or I could bow to the (usually unintended) pressure to return the gestures.  Between socialization as a woman not to make waves, to go along with the crowd, "when in Rome", be polite, etc., and the genuine desire to do nice things for the people I love, as well as feeling left out that can be such a danger in polyamory in general, eventually that pressure builds, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of everyone else.

And forget giving gifts to just some people and not others.  In a family where "honey, what's for dinner" can lead to a week of relationship triage emails and a panicky
group IM chat, deliberately leaving someone out of what is supposed to be a beloved tradition expressing love and happiness is a social minefield.

So now, although I still have a poly family and I still have core partners (my replacement word for "primary" because I refuse the hierarchical power structure but still have emotionally intimate connections and long-term commitments), being a solo poly or someone with a singleish poly lifestyle, I am missing that sense of obligation with regards to gift giving.  I feel a huge relief as I look at my meager checking account and tally up all the bills and eye my empty work calendar and I realize that I don't have a dozen other people to buy gifts for in the next two weeks and I don't have to deal with the crazy, hectic consumerist shopping trauma that my life always entails because I'm always too busy with work in the months leading up to December so I only have a couple of weeks before the holidays to even start thinking of gifts.  And I know I could make gifts that would be cheaper, but then I have that whole time issue thing.

So, I'm thankful that I can build deep, intimate, loving connections with my partners, and even to create our own traditions, but can also have the kind of structure that makes it *look* like I'm a single person, which allows me to discard certain other traditions that don't work for me without hurting people's feelings or raising too many eyebrows.

I deal enough with poly education of my monogamous circles, that sometimes it's a relief to do something that I don't have to explain or justify, even if they accept it for the wrong reasons.  They all think it's totally reasonable that I wouldn't have anyone to buy gifts for because I'm "just dating around" or "single", but when I have a partner that passes for an escalator relationship partner, and I talk about how stressful gift-giving is, that's one more battle I have to fight to make people understand alternative relationship options.

There are a lot of obligations and expectations that I feel free of by identifying as a solo poly or as poly singleish.  There are other things I struggle with, other downsides, other expectations.  But this is one I am happy to be free of.  And it doesn't mean that I dislike receiving gifts, or giving them for that matter.  It just means that I feel some relief of this particular pressure to give, that really comes from several places and is a very complex issue for me.
9th-Nov-2013 11:23 pm - Happy Anniversary!
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I was too busy and sleep deprived and just fucking exhausted to get online yesterday, so happy belated anniversary to my sweetie tacit!  9 years together, I can hardly even believe it! I wasn't sure where our relationship would take us when we started. You were so different from anyone else I had dated before and I wasn't sure our slightly different relationship styles would mesh well enough to find a common thread.

But I tried a new (at the time) tactic of just jumping in and seeing where things would go without trying to prescript our future, and also allowing our relationship to change and flex with circumstances instead of holding onto a particular structure and then giving up when circumstances change. And that seems to be the successful strategy.

You "get" me unlike anyone else, you inspire me to be more than I am, and you always seem to come up with some nuanced philosophy that so clearly expresses views that I, myself, am just developing or being introduced to, unintentionally providing me with such a clear roadmap, lighting my path and showing me the way I wish to travel.

Thank you for always being there for me and for taking so many years to get to know me and evolve along with me. I look forward to sharing many more years, many more shared projects, many more conversations, many more debates, and even many more chagrined moments as I realize that I have gradually approached a perspective that you held for some time and that I argued against at first but have eventually come on my own to see.
Purple Mobius, polyamory

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to correct people on the "protect the existing relationship" that once you introduce someone(s) new, there is no longer any "existing" relationship - it's a whole new thing that has a whole new dynamic with (perhaps only slightly, perhaps massively) different needs and priorities.

New partners are not patches to be slapped onto an old pair of jeans - intended to add onto and improve, but not otherwise significantly change the original garment. They are a completely unique element unto themselves that changes the entire ensemble - sometimes in complimentary ways, sometimes in unflattering ways, sometimes merely altering the tone but sometimes changing the whole look and feel of the outfit.

Like my black slashed t-shirt that I made for a 7 Deadly Sins party one year, where I dressed as Wrath. With the leather pants and chain mail skirt and creepy fire eye contacts, I looked like Wrath. But paired with a black fedora and short flirty skirt and hi-top Converse, the black slashed t-shirt looked totally '80s hip hop dancer. Vastly different outfits because I swapped out other elements.

Then, for my Victorian ballgown, that's clearly a historical looking outfit. But I can take off the outer blouse and skirt, and just wear the corset and underskirt, and I get a Victorian-themed ballroom dancing outfit or add a mask and I got a kink-appropriate Masquerade outfit. Leave the whole thing put together and add some jewelry made of gears and I get a Steampunk Victorian outfit. Leave the fantail down and I get an extravagant gown that needs an assistant to move around or pin the fantail up and I get a much more practical gown that I can walk around in. Same outfit, different tones and feelings with different elements.


So stop trying to "protect the existing relationship" and start asking "exactly what kind of team is this anyway, and what will it be with me as part of it?"
24th-Aug-2013 02:44 am - You Have No Claim Over My Dancing
Bad Computer!, anger
So there's a guy who pissed me off recently and I want to delve into it to process the incident. As ya'll know, I do a form of ballroom dancing that's called "social dancing". It's basically people who have learned at least a little bit of formal ballroom, Latin, and/or swing dancing who then go out either to public venues or to ballroom dance studios and other dance spaces and just do what they do. Sometimes we learn something new, but mostly it's about having a good time and practicing or expressing whatever amount we *have* learned. Social dancing tends to focus on being good leaders and followers - on good communication - rather than perfect form or memorizing a lot of patterns (specific dance steps within a dance style). Many people only know a handful of patterns for each dance style that they've learned. It's about communication and connection and physical activity more than excelling at a physical art or sport. Perhaps not coincidentally, that also sounds like romantic relationships - being about communication and connection and physical activity.

Some background on the kind of dancing that's related to the incident.Collapse )

So back to the incident...Collapse )

Now I have some things to say about that...Collapse )

Video of the danceCollapse )
20th-Aug-2013 07:43 pm - I Love/Hate Strong Female Characters
Super Tech, strong, feminism

"In narrative terms, agency is far more important than “strength” – it’s what determines whether a character is truly part of the story, or a detachable accessory. ... Their strength lets them, briefly, dominate bystanders but never dominate the plot. "

I love female characters who are strong. I think of myself as strong, so a female character who is strong makes me feel represented in the film - she's someone I can relate to, can emphasize with. But being able to throw a punch is not enough. A cardboard cutout with kung-fu grip isn't something I can relate to, emphasize with. She still has to be a *person*, and the Disney princesses and other pandering female leads are not good enough.

My favorite male characters are complex, with flaws. My favorite female characters are also complex, with flaws. But I also want female characters that I *don't* like - because I want there to be so many female characters, in such diversity, that I can't possibly like them all. I want there to be so many female characters with such diversity that the very idea of inserting the "obligatory strong female character" becomes as nonsensical as it currently is to consider throwing in a "strong male character" just to keep the male demographic happy.

I don't want writers to throw in a female character, strong or otherwise, to make us damn uppity feminists shut up and I certainly don't want writers to throw in a female character to give the guys some eye-candy to sell movie tickets. I want there to be female characters because women are interesting, complex protagonists, antagonists, and side characters who have interesting stories to tell.</span></span>

22nd-Jul-2013 01:33 pm - The Two Brains Model Of Honesty
photography, Self-Portrait, personal

This article reminds me a lot of tacit's post on honesty ( and strikes a particular chord in me because of current life circumstances. In the example of a boyfriend telling his girlfriend about spending time with a female friend, where the girlfriend accuses him of cheating, I particularly liked the line: "In this scenario, the girlfriend is telling the boyfriend’s primate brain that she thinks he’s been cheating. What she’s telling his lizard brain is this: “When you are honest with me, you can expect hostility in return.” That is a very bad association to create."

What this means is, and what tacit broached in his article, is that a lot of people prefer the Little White Lie method because they don't feel safe in being honest. There is fallout for telling people something difficult. tacit champions the Path Of Greater Courage (, which is, essentially, the idea that truth itself is not necessarily a virtue to be held at all costs, particularly at the expense of compassion. Which path takes greater courage - telling someone the truth that they need to hear even if it's hard, or lying to save yourself the trouble of dealing with their reaction? Which path takes the greater courage - telling someone the truth that will get an innocent person killed, or lying about their whereabouts to protect their life?

Where things get fuzzy is in relationship "truths". It's not a matter of life or death, and the fear of dealing with someone else's bad reaction is all too easily masked under a false sense of "compassion" for not "hurting them". So, although I still advocate for truth being generally the better policy, and protecting someone's feelings is not a good enough reason (by itself) to lie, it makes perfect sense to me that the idea of telling someone a truth that might hurt another can be a very scary idea to contemplate if the other person does not make it safe for you to tell them such truths.

It can make a person wait for "the right time", or make them clumsy with their words, or timid, or preemptively defensive, or any number of other things that might actually change the reception of that truth to an even stronger negative reaction, which will then only reinforce the idea that “When you are honest with me, you can expect hostility in return.”  It then becomes a vicious cycle, being afraid to tell someone the truth which leads to the other person interpreting the fear as signs of deception and reacting with hostility which leads to being more afraid to tell the truth, etc.

My position is to muscle through the fear of the negative reaction and tell the truth anyway (assuming the Path of Greater Courage, of course). But it's not easy, and I understand the *impulse* to avoid the negative reaction. I'm positive I've failed in being courageous myself here and there, so even if I disagree with taking the easy road, I do understand the motivation to.
20th-Jul-2013 11:25 pm - On Happiness
Super Tech, strong, feminism
Someone told me recently that I seem really happy and wanted to know what my secret was.  How do I work in the stressful environment I work in, how do I deal with the people I deal with, how do I live in the world we live in, and still be happy?  I have 2 "secrets" to being happy.  They may or may not work for anyone else, but this is what I do:

1) I follow my passions.  I am dirt fucking poor.  I live below the poverty line and require government assistance on a quasi-regular basis.  I'm one month away from total disaster at all times.  I've been stuck here in this state when I really would rather live elsewhere for a decade past the point I had originally planned to leave because I can't afford to move.  Why?  I have skills in several job categories and could make a decent living.  I used to do a job that paid me $25K a year entry salary, with health benefits, 15 years ago and could be quite comfortable if I had stayed there with various promotions and raises over the years.  I could move up in my current job into management or equipment/personnel coordination, with either a salaried position or lots and lots of hours at a good hourly rate.  I'm poor because I love my job.  It's my passion.  I don't work in the other industries because I'm not passionate about them.  I don't move up into management in my current job because I like, as I usually put it, playing with my toys and getting dirty.  I'm merely a technician.

Don't get me wrong, even my lowly technician gig pays me very very well, per hour or day and plenty of people make good livings doing what I do.  But I also don't work as often as I should.  Sometimes it's because I take time off for my other passions, like relationships or hobbies or vacations.  Sometimes it's because I suck at the work-politics game and I don't know how to schmooze the right people to move up the corporate ladder.  Sometimes it's because my job is more about who you know than what you know.  And sometimes it's because I failed to keep up with changing technology and have trouble finding mentors to bring me up to speed so I can't always compete in the job market.

But the point is that I love my job so much, I'm willing to live in below-poverty conditions to keep doing it.  I do what I have to in order to survive, including taking other kinds of work.  But it doesn't make me happy.  When I'm gigging, I'm happy.  When I'm costuming, I'm happy.  When I'm dancing, I'm happy.  When I'm photographing, I'm happy.  When I'm creating, I'm happy, and that's what all my passions have in common - creating something. When I take the time to indulge in my passions, no, to pursue my passions with a ferocious intensity, I am generally happy with life itself.

2) I find outlets for those things that make me unhappy.  Like ranting on the internet.  Most people who know me primarily online think I must be profoundly unhappy because all they see are my angry posts.  But I make those posts in order to get the thoughts out of my head, where, if I didn't get them out, they'd just run around in circles all day, every day.  They're like music earworms, sorta.  Some people have to listen to that very song in order to get it unstuck from their heads.  I have to rant about whatever is pissing me off in order to let it go and get on with my day getting back to the business of being happy.

People who know me in real life first, who then find my online profiles, feel a little jarred at the difference.  I don't seem like "me" to them.  But if you were to ask most of my coworkers who have either not seen my online profiles or who don't read much of Facebook or Twitter or LJ even if they have a profile there, if you were to ask them to describe me, "happy" is a common descriptor.  A boss once quipped something to the effect of not recognizing me without my smile, or if I'd lost my smile, something must seriously be wrong.  I don't remember the exact line, but the occasion stuck out in my memory because I had just lost my place to live because I was "always angry" online, even though I'd never had a harsh word IRL with that person and, in fact, had been told when we first met that he had a crush on me because he so loved how often I laughed around him.  So when that boss remarked on how being unsmiling was a rare event, it struck a chord with me.

I have periods of depression.  I get overwhelmed by stuff and I start to withdraw into myself.  I stop reaching out to my friends and loved ones, I stop going out, I start to cry more easily, and I can start to say and do things that, to someone who doesn't know what's going on, may seem out of character because I stop being able to express myself clearly.  Being a generally happy person doesn't mean never feeling any other negative emotion.

But, in general, I think I'm happy.  I love life and I think it's worth living.  I feel that death is the enemy and I can't even comprehend the idea that there might come a day when I'll be tired of life and voluntarily want to end it, even when I think of living for hundreds or thousands of years.  I joke easily and I laugh often.  Even when I'm in the depths of a depressive episode or feeling particularly down, I know, with every fiber of my being, that it'll pass and I'll be happy again.  Sometimes I even willingly indulge in periods of sadness, knowing that it's just part of the range of human emotion and expressing it can be part of getting through it.  I never need to be told after a breakup, for instance, that things will get better and I'll find someone new.  I know that, and I don't stay sad for very long.  I pretty quickly bounce back to being happy.  Even when Misty, my cat, died, I was able to be at work the next day, laughing and joking as usual with my coworkers.  I'm very much still in mourning for my cat, and I still cry at the drop of a hat when I think of her.  But the joking around at work the day after her death was not a mask I had to wear in order to get through my day.  I was genuinely happy to be working and to be with my coworkers.  And I'm creating a memorial for her, which goes along with my first point about creating making me happy.  Sadness doesn't overwhelm me and life goes on, dragging me along with it.

And I think that's essentially why I'm generally happy.  I follow my passions and I allow myself to express the negative emotions so that I can get through them and get on with the business of being happy.  I remember trying to suppress my negative emotions for a while.  I had a very troubled adolescence and, for a time, the only thing I wanted was to stop hurting.  But, even in that first depressive episode, suicide or self-harm was never a serious consideration (although I did consider them).  I shut off the negative emotions so that I wouldn't hurt.  But then, one day, I realized that I wasn't feeling any of the positive emotions either.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I still felt all my emotions, but they were all very, very muted.  I didn't feel strongly about anything.  I spent many years trying to turn back on the positive emotions without turning on the negative ones, and I failed every time.

Eventually I embraced the idea of feeling because I wanted to feel happy again.  Feeling sad on occasion was just part of the price to pay in order to feel happy.  I don't like the idea of an emotional roller coaster.  I know some people that swing from extreme to extreme, and I've heard of those who are basically emotion junkies.  And I'm not talking about any of that.  I just feel happy in a general sort of way, with moments of elation and joy, and, fortunately rare, moments of sadness.  Every couple of years I go through a depressive stage, but then I pull back out of it again.  To me, depression is not a "normal" state to be in.  Like my moments of sadness, it's something I have to occasionally go through, but those moments are like islands dotting a mostly placid but occasionally excitingly active, sea of happiness.  I'm not sure I could answer definitively about whether the chicken or the egg came first here, but I believe following my passions and allowing myself the opportunity to express and feel my sadness or anger in a controlled manner, are what cause me to be happy in life.  It could be that I have a "happy nature" and that's what gives me passions in the first place, or makes me seek out these outlets for my anger or sadness to expunge them.  But when I'm feeling down, if I can somehow find the motivation to get out and dance, or take my camera somewhere new, or get inspired by a new costume design, then my depression or anger or sadness usually lifts.  So I *think* the causal relationship goes the other way and it's that my happiness is caused by the things I do.

At any rate, I've found it to be a self-perpetuating cycle.  The more I dance, the happier I get.  The happier I am, the more I want to dance.  Same with work, same with costuming, same with photography, same with picking up some new skill or hobby even if that particular one turns out to be a phase that I drop later and never get back to.  Work is where I feel most like "me", where the most number of facets of my personality get to shine at once.  Dancing and my other hobbies are opportunities to focus on a single facet at a time; to really give each facet some undivided attention and undiluted expression.  Sometimes, that hobby is pure emotional expression, like dancing.  I was told not too long ago that he was sorry for staring, but even though he was surrounded by dancers, many in much less clothing than I, he couldn't help watching me dance.  I hadn't ever been told that before.  I've been told that people enjoy dancing with me, or they are impressed when I do a structured dance that they don't know, like swing or Bollywood, but not that my dancing was so sexy and beautiful that he couldn't help but stare.  And he wasn't hitting on me.  When he mistook my enthusiasm for dancing with him as a more personal interest, he was quick to back up and tell me that he was in a monogamous relationship.  He just genuinely felt drawn to me when I danced and was willing to tell me.  I know I'm only a mediocre or intermediate dancer, and that's OK.  I dance for myself, for the sheer joy of feeling my body move.  I dance as though my body was an instrument to join in the song.

And I think that's what people see when they say they like to watch me dance, because my technical skills are, well, they're above average but not particularly exceptional.  Because that's what I see when I feel compelled to watch someone do what they love.  I once watched an artist while he sketched me.  There was something in his expression, something I can't define, that changed everything about him.  When he concentrated on turning the visual signals he received from looking at a subject to a physical representation on paper, he was pursuing his passion.  And it showed on his face, and it made him compelling.  I think I almost fell in love just a little with him right there because of that expression.

My high school sweetheart is a performer.  He is never better than when he is performing.  He is always amazing.  His passion for his art is one of the reasons I fell in love with him in high school and one of the reasons I continue to love him to this day, even though we are no longer romantic and not even the slightest bit romantically compatible.  Back before I realized my stalker was, in fact, a stalker with Nice Guy Syndrome, back when he was just my best friend, I would sit at his feet or hours and watch him play music.  His preferred instrument at that time was guitar, but he could play anything except piano (for some reason, he couldn't put the two hands of a song together on a piano).  He put his soul into his music.  I loved another guitarist too.  He was blind, and he interpreted the world primarily through touch and sound.  Which meant that his playing was exceptional because it was the very essence of how he experienced life.  Not coincidentally, I met him at the same time that I met my high school sweetheart.  In fact, my first introduction to them was the guitarist playing accompaniment to the performer singing.  Two such passionate boys expressing themselves through their passion - it's no wonder I could never really choose between them, and it was only circumstance that kept my relationships with them separated by a decade. tacit is passionate about life itself, and consequently is one of the 3 or 4 happiest people I have ever known.  My Darling Boy also has many passions and is one of those people whose very presence in a room make it seem brighter, as though the sun through the window just came out from behind a cloud at the moment he walked in.  He's passionate about flying (he's a chopper pilot) and rigging and music and, like tacit, about life itself.

I surround myself with passionate men - men who are intensely, maybe in some cases obsessively, interested in something that makes them happy to experience.  I find this trait to be more compelling in a person than any other trait.  It might not be sufficient, on its own, to sustain a meaningful relationship with that person, but being passionate about something is a necessary element to being able to love them, for me.  That's the best thing that anyone can do to attract a romantic partner, or even friends, y'know - be passionate about something.  People who do interesting things are interesting people, and others are attracted to interesting people.  It doesn't work if you just try to do something with the goal of attracting a mate.  You have to actually feel passionate about that thing, and your passion will make you attractive - far more attractive than any nice clothing or nice car or slick pick-up line will make you, and it'll last longer than a superficial sheen's attractiveness too.

So, if you're still searching for the meaning of life and how to be happy or make your life look the way you want it to look when it doesn't, that's what I suggest you try.  It may not work for you.  Unlike those self-help books like "7 Tips Of Successful People" or whatever that try to boil life down into a series of steps guaranteed to make you rich, good looking, and happy, I'm not saying that my method will work for everyone.  But if you don't know where to even start looking, I think these two things are good to try.  Find something to feel passionate about and pursue it, and find an outlet and allow yourself to express the negative emotions every so often.  I'm not saying to revel in sadness or self-pity or anger.  I'm saying that repression of negative emotion may result in a difficulty or inability to also experience those strong positive emotions that are necessary for passion and happiness.

You may need to learn how to feel sadness or fear or anger, and consequently how to manage and get through it, before you can feel passionate about something else.  A lot of people try to manage their bad feelings by orchestrating their lives largely to avoid feeling bad feelings.  Then, when something inevitable comes along to make them feel bad, they lack the familiarity to recognize the early warning signs and the tools to manage it productively.  This can spiral, I think, into a never-ending cycle of always feeling bad and not knowing how to feel happy anymore.

tacit says that life rewards the path of greater courage.  I think that's essentially what I'm trying to do with my two happiness tips.  I'm certainly not claiming to never fail or fall off the path.  But I think it takes courage to feel bad and to get my hands right up in those bad feelings like mixing bread dough and really examine those feelings and deal with them.  And I think it takes courage to leap head-first into an endeavor, which is what I feel that "passion" is - feeling so strongly about something that I just leap into it, giving myself over to the creative process and rolling around in the joy of creating.  Passion, even though it's a positive emotion, can be scary.  It can put us in a place of vulnerability.  It can leave us open to criticism, condemnation, mocking, and separation.  You have to really put yourself into whatever you're passionate about, and a negative reaction about what you're doing can feel like the most intimate, fatal, of attacks.  But being passionate about something, at least for me, means that I can't help but to leap into it.

So I think my reward for pursuing my passions and for exploring and expressing the negative emotions is that I feel that I am generally happy with life.  I am rarely without romantic or sexual partners, except by choice, I often have a handful of people I can count on to be there for me when I need someone, and I enjoy life even when others might look at my situation and think it looks hard or uncomfortable.  My life, overall - the big picture - looks mostly like it does because of deliberate choices I made to make it look this way.  I'm not "lucky" to have multiple partners, or to have any specific partner.  I have these relationships because I arranged my life in such a way as to make these relationships possible.  I'm not "lucky" to be working my dream job.  I made choices that allowed me to pursue my dream job, and those choices have had some consequences and drawbacks that are part of it.  You can zoom in on any part of my life or history and find low spots or difficult spots or places where I didn't make the best choice in hindsight.  But when I pull back and look at my life as a whole, I'm generally happy with it, and the places on the timeline where I'm the most happiest are the places where I expressed my two tips the best.  I don't think that's a coincidence.
Swing Dance, social events, dance

OTG YES! Dirty Dancing is such a complex, multi-layered piece of art that had such a huge impact on me and several facets of my various world-views that it's hard for me to emphasize its importance enough.  This article only addresses 4 points, but I think that's just a starting point, although a very strong starting point.  The article covers having an awkward heroine who never turns into the "beautiful, popular girl" to win the guy, having a "hot guy" like the awkward heroine for who she is as a person without being blind to her until that magical "ugly duckling" transformation, giving "the sheltered 17-year-old all the sexual agency", class politics, and illegal abortion.  Set in 1963.

It's not a "chick flick" or a rom-com, or even your typical "coming of age" story. It's a sociopolitical commentary on class struggles, women's rights, sexual agency, gender relations, communication, trust, and personal growth. Baby remains one of my all-time epitomal characters that helped to define who I am, and Johnny remains the ideal romantic partner to whom I compare all my potential partners. It's not just because he has a nice ass and abs, it's because of his integrity, his character, his personal struggles, and his values.

Dancing, to me, is not just a fun physical activity. It is a vehicle through which we can achieve personal growth and relationship enhancement, as well as a story-telling device that we can use to address controversial and taboo subjects. And this movie combines everything that I find valuable about dance - the fun, the storytelling, the catalyst for growth, the beauty, the pain, the personal expression.  I don't think it's even possible to truly "get" me without understanding this movie.  That doesn't mean that you have to have watched it in order to get me, but that you would have to be the kind of person who *would* understand this movie if you saw it in order to understand who I am as a person.  But watching it helps.

Maybe, in my copious free time that isn't today, I'll write my own full post enumerating the points and analyzing the movie the way the article does.

8th-Jul-2013 10:21 pm - OKBingo!
frustration, ::headdesk:: - My new favorite online game.

Guys, if you do 2 of these in one email, I'm posting it all over the internet and you're getting a blog entry from me where women everywhere will mock you for your cluelessness/douchebaggery.

Another game option: try to find one of my online skeezballs or feminist rants that doesn't have something on this Bingo card!

3rd-Jul-2013 11:58 pm - Some Thoughts On Privilege
Super Tech, strong, feminism
"I acknowledge that my white privilege has meant that I’ve been given hella opportunities, and am now in a privileged position to be able to sit here and write these ideas. But part of dealing with privilege is working actively to dismantle it. If I didn’t use my strange combination of oppression and privilege to openly question, critique, and start conversations, I’d just be playing into the system that benefits from Native subjugation and white privilege–and that would be something to be concerned about." -

Replace the word "Native" in the last sentence with any subjegated, oppressed, or discriminated group, and the word "white" with any majority or otherwise privileged group, and this is exactly my position on activism and why I'm "out" as all the minority groups that make me who I am and why I open myself up to criticism and discrimination by claiming those labels and being public about them and talking about them in spite of my natural tendency towards privacy.

Privilege and oppression are rarely binary states. There's a whole field of study on intersectionality, but when trying to introduce or explain the concept of privilege to someone who has it or doesn't get it, we usually reduce it to people who have it and people who don't, for simplicity even though the reality is that almost everyone has some of each. But I can use my privilege to support and assist those of less privilege, including myself. My white-ness and educated status can help my poly, atheist, and female status while my poly, atheist, female, and Latina statuses can all inform the direction my privilege should take in helping.

We are not a nation of Privileged People at the top of a mountain and Oppressed People all at the bottom, with every Privileged Person having an equal panoramic view and every Oppressed Person being buried under the same size rocks that come crashing down, dislodged from the uncaring feet of the Privileged at the top. We are people, in various places along the mountainside, some with easier paths than others, some higher up than others, and all with the opportunity to reach down a helping hand to those below or on rockier paths, while at the same time accepting those helping hands from above or suffering on our own paths while those above refuse to look down and assist, maybe even kicking a few boulders onto our path for good measure.

So, where my path is secure, strong, stable, I'll reach out my hand or lower a rope to help those who need it. Where my path is rocky, tenuous, slippery, I'll call out for a safety line from those above or for someone below to catch me if I fall. Even if they're technically below me, their path might, at this point in time, be more stable than mine, and we can help each other.

Privilege does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean that you never suffer. It means you are part of a group that has been given SYSTEMIC assistance in making life easier, even if you, personally, didn't get a hand on that rope.  Maybe no one lowered down a rope to your path when it got rocky, but someone built the path there for you in the first place, for instance. It also means that you have a stable part of the path that you can use to help someone else up. It also means, in my opinion, that you have a responsibility to use that stable part of the path to help someone else up. As someone who also has rocky portions of the path, that ought to make you more sympathetic to the people below who need your help, not less.
18th-Jun-2013 01:03 am - Communicate With Me Now, Damn It!
Bad Computer!, anger

Seriously, people, you have GOT to let people get out of discussions (i.e. arguments) when they become too emotional to be productive. Even better, let them get out before they become too emotional if either of you can see the warning signs. If they're not the type to recognize that they've lost too much control to be effective, then you may have to request that they take a break for them.

There's this weird fetishization of "communication". I put that in quotes because, in this context, it's not used in the sense that I usually use that word. To me, communication is an exchange of ideas, or, if not an exchange in two directions, at least the ideas flow in one direction and are actually received. To me, communication does not include one person talking to oneself, two people shouting at each other and not listening or "hearing" each other, or anyone shouting at what amounts to a brick wall. Nor does it include someone spouting gibberish or obscenities with no real content (as I have been known to do).

No, to me, communicating means that the ideas shared are actually shared, implying that there is someone on the receiving end actually getting the signal. So when it is no longer possible to share those ideas - when someone is no longer either transmitting clearly or receiving clearly and/or there is no attempt to discuss or debate in good faith, then there is no more communication happening. Insisting that the two sides remain locked in combat with each other past that point is not advocating communication.

I'm all for communication. Hell, I give workshops and private unofficial "counseling" sessions exploring alternate ways of communicating to improve relationships. But I do not agree with this "communicating" that means "talking at each other regardless of how each participant feels during the discussion and insisting that the talking continue indefinitely while accusing any attempt to end the talking as being censorship, silencing tactics, or blocking communication". Bonus points if you can accuse the person trying to end the talking of being a hypocrite for claiming to advocate communication but not wanting to talk about this *right now*, for insisting that the other person "teach" you why what you did was so wrong *right now*, or for using their own emotional state as a weapon against them, discrediting them and their position simply for their inability to keep their cool.

I get it, it's frustrating to be trying to express yourself and have the other person just end the discussion, without letting you get in the last word or to "be heard". But keeping that other person there is not the way to accomplish that goal. However, neither is ending a discussion at this point "censorship", "silencing", or a position against communication. In many cases, ending a discussion before it becomes contentious and tabling it for better circumstances is one method for salvaging the communication.

Often, when a person has reached the point that they are no longer able to communicate effectively (hang on here, I'm going to get complex), they have reached the point that they are no longer able to communicate effectively. Whoa, mind blown, right? This means that they may not be able to explain why they're so angry, or to patiently and calmly explain that they need some time apart to compose themselves and come back to the discussion later. They are angry, upset, hurt, emotional. So their request for time off may similarly be angry, upset, hurt, or emotional. At this point, stopping whatever is hurting them is the primary objective. It is not reasonable to expect them to be compassionate, respectful, articulate, or willing to teach you all about their emotional responses in a tone that panders to your own issues.

If someone needs to stop, just fucking stop. Recognize that they are upset and let it the-fuck go. Sometime later, you can ask them to explain what happened and how you can work with them to avoid a repeat performance. Sometime later you can explain that their reaction to stress is hurtful to you and you want to find a compromise between their need for space and your desire not to be hurt by their need for space. Sometime later you can address if this seems to be a pattern and what that means.

Get your head out of your ass and let go of your own inflated sense of self-importance and look at what's happening. Supposedly, you're the rational one here, right? I mean, you're not the one throwing the temper tantrum and storming off in a huff, so that must mean you're the rational one, yes? Someone is hurting and someone is acting out in their pain. And if you're not actually causing it, you're at least in the position to be perceived as having caused it, or contributed to it. So take a fucking step back and let the other person breathe. Give them the space necessary to calm down and come back around in a more rational frame of mind. Perpetuating the cycle will not achieve communication, no matter how much longer you manage to bully them into continuing the talking (or shouting).

Some things that can increase the odds of reaching this non-productive state are:

  • Starting the argument late at night or keeping someone up past their natural (or necessary) bedtime to talk about distressing subjects.

  • Starting the discussion or argument before they have to leave for another obligation, such as work, where they have to either choose to be late or end the discussion before you're ready to end it (and whatever consequences you might apply for doing so).

  • Starting the discussion when hungry or not breaking for food when they become hungry.

  • Starting or continuing the argument/discussion in front of other people where they might become embarrassed on top of whatever other emotional reaction they have to the topic, or where they might not feel free to express their thoughts as necessary.

  • Having the argument in a place where they feel trapped, like a moving vehicle or at work where they can't leave or out someplace where you are sharing transportation and they can't easily leave.

  • Threatening them with dire consequences if they don't want to have the argument/discussion at the time of your choosing, such as breaking up, destroying property, withholding favors, restricting access to other people, pets, or things, etc.

  • Using a medium to communicate that they feel discomfort using or they have difficulty expressing themselves clearly using, like insisting on email when they express themselves better verbally.

I'm sure there are more, but I see these play out over and over again. In fact, I have personally been subjected to each of these on more than one occasion, even after I have clearly expressed my opinions on the subject. I once had someone start an intense discussion with me after I explicitly said I didn't want to talk about it because I had to go to bed soon and I had to wake up early, looking "fresh" and rested. I had a partner who repeatedly picked fights with me at work no matter how often I told him to leave the personal shit for home and I actually had to request to be scheduled on different gigs even after we broke up. My second fiance would molest me while I was sleeping and then threaten to break my possessions if I got pissed at him and tried to go sleep on the couch (wish I had known he would do this before I agreed to marry him!). My mother once kept pushing me on the subject of my Catholic Confirmation ceremony when I was in the car and I couldn't escape her screaming at me when I finally told her I was atheist so I couldn't go through the ceremony and would she please drop the subject?  I once had a partner insist on having a very difficult conversation through email after I had made it clear on several occasions that I felt more comfortable expressing myself verbally because I felt that we both misunderstood intent when we communicated with each other through text.

I could go on but the point is that these are terrible things to do to someone. I've never read the book Emotional Blackmail, but I'd be willing to bet money that at least some of these tactics are mentioned in it somewhere, or in some book about emotional abuse. Keeping people from sleeping & eating properly while bombarding them with a particular message is a standard "brainwashing"* technique even.  The reason why I have such an explosive temper is because I'm sick of people doing these things to me and I'm sick of then being blamed for the demise of the discussion when they've done it and I'm really sick of not even being allowed to do what is necessary to get back under control, so people can then continue to blame me for not "communicating".

I recognize that I have lost control and I'm taking responsibility for that by altering my circumstances such that I can regain control and become productive again. So let me do that and don't belittle me for it. Let me gain some perspective and some composure. Let anyone who who has lost control gain some perspective and some composure, especially if they clearly communicate that they need it (even if you don't like the tone they use when they express their desire). If they don't know themselves well enough to request it on their own, then you suggest to them that a break might be necessary. You might actually gain their respect and speed along their composure if you can acknowledge their efforts to get back on track, rather than faulting them for not subjecting themselves to your power trip.

*I put "brainwashing" in quotes because I'm aware of some of the controversy on the effectiveness of brainwashing & brainwashing reversal and I don't want to get into a debate about it.  The point is that this is a technique people use when they are deliberately trying to indoctrinate someone against their will or to subvert their better judgement.  Using these techniques during a discussion or argument where each person is supposed to retain their own agency is inconsiderate at best, unethical and cruel at worst.

3rd-May-2013 09:34 pm - FEAR MY WRATH!
Bad Computer!, anger
There's this other thing that people are doing lately. Maybe they've always done this, I don't know, but my memories tell me that, "in the good ol' days", when someone said "I'm getting angry, drop the subject", people used to actually drop the subject if they genuinely didn't want to make the other person angry because they cared that someone was not happy and that they were contributing to that unhappiness. When someone said "this is upsetting me, stop doing it", people either used to care that they were upsetting someone and would stop doing it, or they were trying to upset someone, so would keep doing it.

But lately, when I've said "don't push me on that" or "drop the sujbect" or "I'm getting pissed off so stop", the reaction I'm getting is not "sorry, I didn't want to actually make you angry, I just wanted to converse on this subject, I'll let it go now". No, what I'm getting is "ooh, I'm so scared! Joreth might get angry! What are you going to do about it, huh? Yell at me on the internet?" (This is a quote, by the way, and a very close paraphrase of multiple responses).

For some reason that I can't quite fathom, when I say "this is a triggering subject so leave me alone", what people are hearing is "I AM THE ALL POWERFUL VENGEFUL INTERNET CENSOR. YOU MUST CEASE WRITING ABOUT THIS SUBJECT OR YOU WILL FEAR MY WRATH!"

Listen up assholes, I'm not threatening you with dire punishment for daring to have a difference of opinion. I'm warning you that I am feeling emotional, or about to get emotionally upset, and this conversation will cease to be productive. I'm alerting you to the fact that what you are saying or doing is hurtful to me and I want you to stop hurting me. I'm sorry that being hurt results in my inability to ask you politely to stop hurting me, with an appropriate amount of compassion for your feelings about being asked to stop hurting me [/sarcasm], but I am trying to get you to stop hurting me, not threatening you that I'm about to do something bad to you (although yelling at you might be considered doing "something bad", it's a reaction, not a punitive action, and not a particularly dire one in the grand scheme of things).

I do not have a big enough ego to say that being mad at someone on the internet is this horrible thing for the other person. I don't think that I am important enough for it to matter to most people that I am mad at them.  I am assuming, obviously incorrectly, that you are a decent person who doesn't actually intend to cause me pain or emotional upset, and that notifying you of my impending or current upset is something you might appreciate so that you will have the opportunity to stop doing whatever it is that is upsetting me so that we can continue or improve our relationship (even if it's just online acquaintances).

But, apparently, you do not wish to be notified when you are doing something hurtful so that you can stop hurting me. Apparently, you are enjoying causing me pain, and the challenge to do so after being threatened with consequences only ups the ante.

What the fuck is wrong with you people that when you are told "I'm getting upset, stop doing that", your first thought is not "I didn't want to hurt someone, perhaps I should table this until she's not so upset or in another forum that is more conducive to discussing this subject", but is instead you think "ooh, I'm so scared, c'mon, whatcha gonna do about it?" I'm not warning you not to poke the bear because the bear will tear you to pieces. I'm telling you that I'm hurting and it's because of something that you're doing, and I'm hoping that you are a decent and compassionate person who doesn't want to deliberately hurt me. Clearly, I was wrong.
3rd-May-2013 08:22 pm - Missing The Point Pedantry
Bad Computer!, anger
There's this thing that otherwise reasonable, intelligent people do that just really pisses me off. I've started calling it Missing The Point Pedantry. This is when someone who is a generally intelligent person with a reasonable amount of social skills decides to argue some pedantic, specific little detail that someone, who is also fairly intelligent with social skills, said in a conversation or online post that completely misses the point of what was being said. It requires the pedant to overlook context, any knowledge of the person speaking and/or their past track record or tendencies regarding either the subject or their conversation/speaking/writing style, and any social conventions involved in speaking/writing.

So, for example: let's take Devon. Devon is a college graduate with an interest in the hard sciences but a vast experience with the arts and pop culture. Devon can use "totes" and "adorbs" in conversation and not sound like my dad sounded in the '80s when he tried to say "that's totally radical dude!" in an effort to connect with "the kids these days". Devon is well-read in popular fiction, the classics, and non-fiction in some specialty areas of interest. Devon is sex-positive and active in alternative communities like the Ren Faire and the local indie club scene. In other words, Devon is a well-rounded person with general knowledge, some specific expertise, and social skills like current slang and local/cultural body language.

Now let's take Quinn. Other than the specific areas of specialty that Quinn focuses on or hobbies and interests that Quinn has, Quinn is basically the same as Devon - well-read, intelligent, average size social group, etc. Maybe Quinn is a sci-fi geek instead of a Renny or maybe Quinn listens to goth instead of industrial music, but otherwise, they are fairly well-matched people. They also know each other through overlapping social circles and have had direct interactions with each other, but maybe they don't know each other quite well enough to call each other "friend" in the can-call-each-other-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-rescue sense. They probably show up at some of the same parties if they're in the same area and they are probably friends on Facebook or something.

So Devon and Quinn are at a party one night and Devon is speaking with some people on a subject that most of the people mostly agree on. Maybe it's the conflict in the Middle East, maybe it's about immigration, maybe it's about pc vs. mac, maybe it's on the inherent privilege that blondes face in this country at the expense of redheads. Whatever, Devon is reasonably certain that most of the people have similar, if not identical, views on the subject and that there are probably people at the party who disagree, but that's not who Devon is talking to right now, although Devon is aware that those people could probably overhear the conversation. Quinn is at the party and generally agrees on the subject, but has different personal experiences of the subject so might have a slightly different perspective, although they both agree on the important points.

Devon starts relating a story about a study on the subject that suggests some really interesting and suggestive trends among, oh, I dunno, blondes. It turns out that when you prime blondes by having them read pro-blonde jokes, they have a tendency to become more hostile towards non-blondes. They answer questions about crime committed by redheads with harsher penalties than blondes, and they want harsher penalties than the blondes who weren't primed for it. The study, and a series of related studies, show some shocking revelations about the privilege of blondes in our country that lend weight to the redhead accusation that hair-colorism is not yet over, it just moved to a more subtle form. Blondes aren't burning redheads at the stake for being witches anymore, but they still aren't given exactly the same treatement as blondes in society, and the redheads aren't just being "overly sensitive" about "seeing hair-colorism everywhere".

Since Devon is not a research scientist, was not personally involved in this study, and is speaking at a party and not a science forum, Devon is playing a little loose with the language. Devon sums up the study instead of quotes it, uses anecdote as illustration to connect with the audience, speaks in the common vernacular and not necessarily precise, scientific language, sometimes uses humor to relieve the tension, sometimes gets a little angry at the injustice of it all and the anger seeps into the tone every so often. But Devon is speaking to peers, who understand the same common vernacular, who are swayed by anecdotal illustrations and have not spent their life-long careers training themselves to recognize personal bias (although some do it as a hobby, they all still understand that they're all at a party and not being hired to review this study), who are also there to just converse with people they like and if they happen to learn an interesting new tip, even better.

As Devon finishes with an anecdote that supports the study's conclusion, in an effort to better connect the audience to the dry data and to illustrate the point and maybe to connect the study to something that was said previously that is related but not necessarily the exact same thing, Quinn jumps in with "well, I'm blonde and I like anti-redhead jokes, but *I* certainly have no problem with redheads! Therefore you can't say that blondes are anti-redhead. If I were to follow your logic where you used a personal anecdote to support hair-colorism, then my experience as a blonde who had a hair-colorist redhead father should lead me to make sweeping generalizations that all redheads were anti-blonde!"

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call Missing The Point.

Of course we shouldn't take our personal experiences and use them to make sweeping generalizations. That's not what Devon did. Devon used a personal anecdote to illustrate a trend that a scientific study suggested. The point of using anecdotes in this context is to make the subject matter relatable to the general audience. People use analogies, similes, hyperbole, alliteration, allusion, and other literary tools to create an emotional response in the audience. That's what people do. The scientific and the skeptics communities are both terrible about not utilizing these tools, and it's one of the reasons why we have a culture of anti-intellectualism. The religious and the woo crowds are experts at these tools and they use them liberally to sway the public away from science, away from reason, away from critical thinking. Science, critical thinking, and reason are hard for humans, in general (don't anyone fucking dare comment about how easy it is for you, personally - that's exactly what I'm talking about). But tell people there's a quantum flux theory that totally explains why hospitals fill up on nights with a full moon because your sister once had a dream about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at exactly the same time you were making one, therefore water that remembers the medicine you filtered out of it but not the poop totally cured your autism, and they'll think you're making absolute sense.

When an individual makes a claim, such as "women are just naturally more nurturing than men" and backs it up with a story about how "every single" woman they know is better with children than "every single" man they know, and has been that way since birth, therefore they can make the claim that women in general, or all women, are naturally more nurturing than men - that's a logical fallacy. The counter to that is a combination of actual science research that says otherwise as well as any examples that do not fit the claim. If the claim is that "all people of X group", then only 1 counter example is sufficient to falsify the claim. If the claim is "generally people of X group", then anyone whose personal experience is that most people of that group do *not* is sufficient to falsify the claim - especially when either case is backed up with scientific data.

In other words, if you say "all dogs have 4 legs", then all I have to do is produce 1 dog without 4 legs and the claim is bunk. If you say "dogs are generally mean and vicious animals", then all I have to do is say that I've worked with thousands of animals in an animal shelter and the vast majority of dogs I've worked with were lovable and sweet, and that the only mean and vicious dogs I encountered were raised by asshole owners who trained them specifically to be mean and vicious to counter the claim that meanness is a species-wide trend.

But when the scientific evidence suggests a particular trend, and a person shares an anecdote to illustrate what the trend is, or to help the audience connect or relate to the conclusion, or to say "I can believe that because this thing that supports the conclusion happened to me", that is not a logical fallacy. That's called being a part of a social species that uses complex language filled with nuance and social context to share ideas with each other.

Most of the time, this Missing The Point Pedantry takes the form of a strawman argument. I have an ex who did this constantly. He once got interested in dating someone that I felt would be problematic because she was opposed to polyamory. I was concerned that she would do typical cowboy or cuckoo things to break us up or drive me away so that she could have him all to herself. I was concerned because she exhibited such behaviour in the past. His reaction was to scoff at me and tell me that he was anti-marriage, so I shouldn't worry because it's not like he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her, he just wanted to fuck her.

Well, no shit Sherlock, I didn't think he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her and that's not at all what I was concerned about. It doesn't take something as drastic as a vehemently anti-marriage man completely 180-ing on his lifelong, somewhat pathological, anger at the institution of marriage to make me concerned about how a new partner is going to affect my existing relationship. Things like refusing to be in the same room with me even at parties forcing him to routinely "choose" between us, calling in the middle of our date night for her weekly emotional "crisis" to have a 2-hour long argument about whether or not he should come home *again* to take care of her, showing up at my house at exactly midnight because "my night" with him is now *technically* the next day, which isn't my night, so he has to come home with her right now, spinning private stories in a negative way to mutual friends to gradually turn those mutual friends away from me and onto "her side" - these are the kinds of things that I'm afraid of. These, by the way, are all things that have actually happened to me and not hyperbole, exaggeration, or strawmen or pulled out of my ass. I don't need to be worried that she's going to kidnap my boyfriend at gunpoint, force him to marry her, and never see me again to be concerned that my life is about to be unpleasantly disrupted by someone with a history of being disruptive.

So sometimes the pedantry is used to pick on a specific detail or pull a loose form of speech to focus on at the expense of all the rest of what was said - the context, the cultural influences, the history of the speaker, and even the non-spoken implications revealed by the language used - to pick out that detail and blow it up to exaggerated proportions so that the original speaker would have to backtrack or renege the point in order to not be associated with the caricature now presented.

But sometimes it's another logical fallacy, and I don't particularly want to attempt to cover every possible fallacy that someone could make in these circumstances. The point is I really hate Missing The Point Pedantry because I have to explain, in great detail and at great length, why this is a misdirection in order to get back on track, which, in effect, is exactly what I'm trying to avoid - being misdirected. Instead of discussing the topic, we get sidetracked onto this other niggling little detail. There's no good way to handle this problem that I am aware of. If you don't address it, a falsehood or a fallacy goes unchallenged, and all that results from that. If you do address it directly, you get off the main topic and start arguing something that wasn't your point in the first place. If you address the fact that it's missing the point, you still get off the main topic and start arguing something else that wasn't your main point, only now you're arguing about arguing.

The people I know are intelligent, reasonable people, for the most part, and, contrary to the mainstream perception of intelligent people, are not actually all socially maladapted misfits like Sheldon Cooper. They are people who understand humor, sarcasm, double entendre, can tell when someone shouts "fine, whatever!" and storms out of a room that she's probably not actually fine and is likely pissed off, can identify "I'd love to but..." as a polite rejection even if the word "no" was never spoken, and a whole host of other social interactions. But, for some reason, all of those interaction skills go right out the window when they seize on a detail that might not be an absolutely, literal, 100% in all cases down to the fractal level, perfect phrase or example.

When most people say "I'm going down to Miami for the weekend", most other people understand that "down" is a cultural slang term that means "south-ish from this point", not that the speaker is literally moving in a downward direction into the planet and pretty much no one tries to correct the speaker. Even when someone says "I'm going down to New York for the weekend", and we all know that "down" means "south-ish" but the speaker will be traveling "north-ish" or "east-ish", most of the time people still don't try to correct the speaker because we grasped, from the context, what the important point was - that the speaker is going somewhere for the weekend. But when Missing The Point Pedantry happens, suddenly I'm faced with, for example, anti-sexist men who want to argue that "she didn't say the word no so it's not rape" or "but men have bad stuff that happens too" or "what's wrong with wanting to protect my primary relationship?" or "if she just knew self-defense, she wouldn't be a target" or "I agree that religion is actively harmful, but do you have to be so aggressive about it?" or "you know that aspirin comes from willow trees, right, so don't do the opposite and assume everything that's natural is harmful" or a million other wacky things that completely miss the point.

No, I haven't actually counted out one million examples. That's a figure of speech and is intended to convey "a lot" in a way that impresses the reader with "really a lot". And that's exactly what I'm talking about - Missing The Point Pedantry. Everyone knows that "a million other things" doesn't literally mean exactly one million other things, and "everyone knows" doesn't literally mean that every person on the entire planet that has ever or will ever live understands that figure of speech. And you, who is doing this, also understand that, in most contexts except for whatever it is about this one that prompted you to point this out. I'm not speaking to Rain Man here, or Sheldon, I'm not speaking to or about anyone who has any kind of actual neurological condition or complication that makes them actually have trouble with abstract thought. I'm talking to and about people who, in most cases, get this, but couldn't refrain from "not getting it" now. I know you're not stupid and I know you're not an asshole, but for fuck's sake, stop acting like it and, by implication, stop acting like I'm stupid by ignoring all the context around whatever detail you picked out to focus on.
6th-Apr-2013 11:46 am - The Trouble With Skeptics
Bad Computer!, anger
or The Misuse Of The Argument From Authority Accusation

First, a couple of disclaimers. 1) I'm going to use the word "skeptic" in this post to lump everyone from the skeptics, secular, humanist, and atheist communities into a single label. Those communities are absolutely not interchangable, let's get that straight right up front. Being an atheist doesn't make you a skeptic, as everyone's go-to example, Bill Mahr, can attest. Neither does being a skeptic automatically make you an atheist, as our resident non-atheist skeptic, Pamela Gay, proves. Irrelevant for my point here. I don't feel like listing out all the groups every time I reference them, so I'm going to lump them into one place-holder label, and I chose "skeptic" because I say that word often enough that it comes out easily.

2) I am a skeptic, and damn proud of it. I love the label, I love what I learn from both the community and the process of skepticism. I am in no way considering dumping the label. I'm uncomfortable in skeptic spaces because there are certain problems I encounter, but I want to fix those problems so that I can continue to be part of the skeptics community; I don't want to split off into a whole new group that has the exact same premise as the skeptics community but who refuses to be connected to skepticism because of the bad association.

3) This is not the only problem with the skeptics community. In fact, it's not even one of the top 10 worst. It could be considered a symptom of one of the more major problems, but I don't want to hear "that's it? That's your big problem? Why are you bitching about that when there are real problems with the skeptics community that need to be addressed?" This is an irritation that has real-world implications, and this is my journal where I specifically set it up to bitch about things. So I'm going to bitch about it.

So, on to the problem.

Skeptics, overall, tend to be a fairly well-educated, intelligent group of people. When you have a group of well-educated, intelligent people, the arguments have a tendency to take a particular form. People tend to try to remove all emotional content from the argument and argue everything academically, even when the subject is about emotions, is personal, or is subjective. Many times, they will argue something just for the sake of academically arguing it - it won't even be a subject they're particularly invested in exploring, they just want to argue. If that subject happens to be something that their opponent is invested in, then because the skeptics aren't, they have a tendency to, not only be totally unaware of how damaging it is to academically argue about something the opponent is personally invested in, but to also be completely dismissive of the emotions of their opponent because, hey, it's just an intellectual exercise, no need to get your panties in a twist over it.

Now, as an intellectual exercise with no emotional investment in the outcome other than being right, skeptics will tend to throw accusations at each other, and anyone they're arguing with, like they're in the middle of a Logical Fallacy oral exam in school. Except that these dispassionate skeptics are not actually unemotionally invested in the argument. They are, just not in the topic. They're invested in the idea that they're well-educated, intelligent, and not emotionally involved. So any criticism of this really irritating way of arguing is taken personally and defended with great vehemence and their own set of logical fallacies.

Final disclaimer, I'm not immune to the subject of this rant. But I can still be irritated when I see it happen.

So, the one I'm going to vent about today is the Argument From Authority. There are a handful of logical fallacies that are easier to identify and remember than the others, so every time they come up, skeptics immediately jump to accusing their opponent of using said logical fallacy. The Argument From Authority is one of them.

The Argument From Authority Fallacy is when a claim is deemed to be true simply because the person who made the claim is an authority figure of some sort.

The Misuse of the Argument From Authority Fallacy is when someone is accused of using said fallacy when it's actually a legitimate argument.

So, for example:

  • Quinn: Acupuncture TOTALLY works! You should try it!

  • Devon: Uh, no it doesn't. Here are citations from well-regulated, double-blind, placebo-controlled, large sample population studies from a variety of research facilities that all confirm there is no measurable effect from acupuncture.

  • Quinn: Psshhh! My acupuncturist is a guy I've known for 20 years and he's a karate sensei  so I believe him, not your studies. Science gets things wrong all the time, but THIS guy knows karate! I think he knows what he's doing with acupuncture!

  • Devon: *blinkblink*

You might now want to accuse me of Strawmanning by pulling out a ridiculous argument, but this is, I swear, a conversation I actually had with someone. It was a person I know in real life and had the conversation face-to-face so it's not a troll either. This is actually how it went. In order to keep the peace, I had to end the conversation simply by advising him to make sure that his sensei at least uses brand-new needles and wears gloves because of the recent hepatitis scare among acupuncture patients in Florida. Even the thought of getting a life-threatening illness didn't phase him, because his guy is a guy he "knows", who would never do anything dangerous. Karate. Acupuncture  Nothing dangerous. OK, I'm done.

So this is an example of a legitimate accusation of the Argument From Authority. Quinn believes the claim that acupuncture works because "a guy" said it does, with complete disregard to the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Here are some examples of legitimate USES of the Argument From Authority:

  • Paula: As a black trans woman, I've experienced sexism, racism, and homophobia in skeptic communities, so I'm less likely to want to attend skeptic events.

  • Paul: That's ridiculous, there's no sexism, racism, or homophobia in skeptic communities! We're a rational group of people, we require evidence to hold beliefs, and there is no evidence supporting the unequal treatment of other genders, other races, or other sexual orientations. Therefore, you couldn't have experienced any of those things because we're just not any of those things.

  • Paula: Look, I'm telling you that I've experienced all of those things. Just because you weren't there or you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It does, and I've felt it, and so have a lot of other people. That's why there are so few women, people of color, and people of alternative sexualities at your little events - we get treated poorly and we'd rather just not go.

  • Paul: I don't see you citing any rigorous studies supporting your claim, therefore you're just spouting anecdote, and anecdote does not equal data. You're wrong, it doesn't happen.

  • Paula: I think I get to be the authority on my own personal experiences and you can't tell me that I didn't have them.

  • Paul: That's the Argument From Authority! Your argument is invalid!

  • Jordan: Polyamory is a legitimate relationship style. I love more than one person at a time and polyamory is a valid way to ethically explore those feelings.

  • Sam: You don't love more than one person at a time, you only think you do. Real love doesn't let you love more than one person at a time, so if you think you love multiple people, you don't really love any of them. If you did really love any of them, you couldn't have feelings for the others. QED.

  • Jordan: You can't tell me what I do and don't feel! I know what I feel, and I feel real, true love for each of my partners!

  • Sam: You're just deluding yourself, that's not real love. says love is exclusive, therefore what you feel isn't real love.

  • Jordan: No one gets to overrule what I say about my own feelings. I have feelings that I can feel, I am part of a community you've never even heard of before today, and I have an academic sociology background. I am the final authority on what I feel and anyone who says different is wrong!

  • Sam: Aha! That's the Argument From Authority! Your claim is now invalid - polyamory is not real because you can only support it with logical fallacies!

Before anyone tries another accusation of Strawman, these are also both absolutely real conversations. And both are absolutely misuses of the accusation. There are times when it is completely valid to take an authority figure's word on a subject. It can, and should, be provisionally accepted, but it should still be accepted. When the authority figure is an authority on a subject with actual experience in the subject and not just "I read Wikipedia for hours about it" or took some classes on it, and you're not, you can provisionally accept his word. When the authority figure is telling about her own personal experiences, you can provisionally accept her word. When the authority figure is telling you about their internal feelings, you can accept that they do, indeed, have those feelings (even if you remain dubious regarding the nature of what caused those feelings - i.e. just because one feels attacked, it doesn't mean someone actually attacked them). Especially in the third example, their word automatically trumps everything else.

I have been feeling more and more uncomfortable in skeptic spaces over the last year or two, and the smug and dismissive attitude when it comes to topics the speaker has no experience in that is so prevalent among skeptics keeps me away. I don't even want to bother attempting to educate them, because they're so confident in their own intelligence that they don't think they need education on anything they have already formed an opinion on, even if they formed that opinion without the benefit of any education on the subject or with speaking to anyone relevant to the subject. Even worse is when they claim to have done their own "research" on a topic (it usually means they've Googled it or read Wikipedia) and think they're fairly well-read, but they have no personal connection or experience with the subject and dismiss anyone who is actually living the subject but who hasn't done any formal research on it.

Take Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory - he is constantly lecturing Raj on Indian culture, even though Raj was born and raised in India and Sheldon has never left his own apartment, let alone the country.  But Sheldon has read stuff and is smart therefore Raj's personal experiences don't count.

So misapplying the accusation for the Argument From Authority pisses me off. If you aren't kinky, poly, female, transgendered, non-white, poor, or anything else that is as much "experience" as academic (if not more), and when someone who is talks about their experiences or their feelings or their own community, your ability to recite all the logical fallacies by heart and have an argument without getting "emotional" does not make your opinion as equally valid as theirs. "There is no authority and all opinions are equally valid" is a classic logical fallacy among pseudoscience cranks. Don't fall into the same trap and don't dismiss personal experience when the subject is a subjective one. We're not talking about the chemical makeup of water or the physics of gas planets. Those have yes/no answers - either something does or does not, and we can test it and find an answer that is right and an answer that is wrong (insert appropriate error bars here, for those who are pedantic). But a physicist with credentials and published papers and a university behind him is probably more right about physics than the guy who hasn't left his basement in 5 years spouting Deepak Chopra and Dinesh D'Souza is, because the physicist is an authority on the subject, and we can provisionally accept his word that cold fusion is highly improbable and that we will never develop a free energy machine that sucks electrons from the ionosphere but that could turn into a doomsday weapon with only a small modification to the plans (again, true story).
24th-Mar-2013 11:46 pm - Life Update
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
My life has been filled with change these last couple of weeks.  Most people have gotten only bits and pieces and very few people have heard all of what has been going on with me.  But I'm told that those bits and pieces have seemed, to many, cryptic or even out of character, and upsetting.  So I'm going to elaborate on one of the more disturbing bits I've tweeted about, because people are worried and even more people have completely the wrong idea about what happened.

A few months ago, my landlord decided to sell the house and, thanks to an irritating bit of law, left me with very little time to find alternate housing.  So a friend took me in under extremely charitable conditions, only to very quickly make that situation intolerable to me, so I had to move again a few months later.  Here is my perspective of the worst of what happened.

I have a terminally sick cat.  She has an illness that leaves her underweight, malnourished, and at risk for dehydration.  She is on daily medication to try to control her appetite and water consumption, and her ability to digest it, but the medication will not cure her.  She will die of this illness, today, tomorrow, 5 years from now, we don't know.  Her medication is merely to improve the quality of her life, thereby prolonging it, for a while.  She has been sick for over 2 years now, and this worry has taken a toll on my own quality of life.

Right about the time the owner of the house where I was living, and I seemed to reach the same conclusion that our living arrangement wasn't working out, but before I had secured another place to live (or even told him that I planned to move out), my work picked up.  I began working 8-14 hour days in 10-15 day streaks (with at least one day that reached nearly 24 hours at work).  Now, at this time, the house-owner appeared to cease direct communication with me, so I can only guess at his motivations based on his behaviour, but he appeared to decide that chasing me out of the house by making me uncomfortable was preferable to actually speaking to me directly and asking me to leave.  I make this guess on his motivations because of what happened next.

The house had an air conditioning system that actually assigned certain rooms in the house to zones, which were independently controlled.  So the master bedroom, for example, could be maintained at a separate temperature from the living room.  The room I was staying in had its own zone.  The house-owner first started by turning off the air conditioner entirely to my zone.  The first time that happened, I thought maybe there was a glitch or a mistake.  So I turned it back on and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, the room was sweltering.  It was so hot that I was actually having trouble waking up and moving, as I do when I get overheated.  I had heatstroke several years ago and one of the side effects is being increasingly more prone to heat stroke again with each successive heat attack.  So when I overheat, I tend to get sluggish and have trouble with cognitive functions, until I eventually just collapse in a faint.  If I overheat while sleeping, I'll just not be able to wake up.  That's why I'm always wearing tank tops - I have to have the ability to shed layers at any moment when I start to get too warm.  Later, when I did finally get up and moving, as I passed by the A/C control, on a hunch, I checked it and, sure enough, it was turned off again.  This happened a couple of times and I noticed that the warming of my room would coincide with his movements downstairs where the A/C control was located.

After a few times of that, the speed at which the room would start to get warm increased while the sound of air coming through the vents was still running.  So I checked and discovered that he was no longer just turning off the air, he was turning on the heat.  I know this was in February, but this is also Florida.  I was leaving for work before he woke up in the morning and not returning until many hours later.  He left for work after I did, but he also got home from work after I had gone to bed.  So he would turn off the air or turn on the heat after I went to bed and again after I left for the day.  The room was also on the second story of the house, with windows facing both the rising and setting sun, so the room baked all day.

This would be merely annoying, even with my own health issues regarding heat, except for my sick cat.  You see, I would come home to find the cat's water bowl empty because it had evaporated while I was gone.  In the temperature I normally kept the room, the bowl would hold water for more than 2 full days before going empty, but now the bowl was drying out between the time I left for work and the time I got home from work.  I would come home to find my cat sitting by her water bowl, meowing in distress.  Remember her illness and her dehydration risk?  Yeah, she got dehydrated and I had to take her to the vet.

The cat started losing weight again and her diarrhea got worse, and she dehydrated.  She had to have a pocket of fluid inserted under her skin, between her shoulder blades, to immediately hydrate her and get her out of danger.  The vet was horrified and wanted to call the animal cruelty authorities, except there is no tangible evidence for "he turned off the A/C while I was gone" accusations, and I had finally moved out.  Since the cat was already sick, all it would take is a counter-accusation that it was my own care of her that led to her condition, or hell, that it was the condition itself, to result in possibly a lengthy and costly court battle, or more likely, no action taken at all.  All my emotional and financial resources are tied up in caring for the cat, so I didn't pursue any probably-futile legal action.  Anyway, the room was actually so hot before I found a new place, that I started taking the cats to work with me because it was cooler to leave them in my car in the parking garage than it was in the room, and I could get out to the car every 2 hours (on my breaks) to make sure they had enough water.  The thermometer in my room said that my room was reaching triple digits.

So, those of you who read my tweets about "torturing my cat", it wasn't hyperbole.  My terminally sick cat was actually being tortured by the deliberate actions of the house-owner. A healthy cat might have been merely discomforted, but a sick cat who is prone to dehydration was actually in a life-threatening situation.  Not to mention my own danger with my history of heat stroke.  I have trouble reconciling these actions with the self-assigned description of "extremely nice guy" he likes to tell people he is.  He also has his own cats, and he's quite emotionally attached to them, so I just can't fathom what could have prompted him to take out his feelings for me on my pets.  It doesn't matter how angry I get at someone, or what terrible things someone might have done - I would NEVER do anything to deliberately hurt their animals.  The worst I ever do is yell at people on the internet.  Hell, I cry at movies where even the "bad" animals get killed, I couldn't do anything that would hurt someone's pet no matter what I felt about that person.

My cat is still not fully recovered, and she may never.  And, by that I mean, she may never even recover to the point where she was sick but stable, since I know she'll never actually be healthy again.  I have been accused of lying about this whole incident, and of making a big deal out of nothing, since most people would find a Floridian house without the air turned on in February to be quite comfortable.  But I have a medical condition where I can't handle extremes of heat (or cold, for that matter, but that's a different story) and I have to look at my cat every day and see her illness in her extremely low weight and the signs of her dehydration in her fur, skin elasticity, and gums.  To me and my cat, this was decidedly not much ado about "nothing".  This was something very serious, indeed.

The toll of caring for a sick cat these last couple of years has affected me deeply and has changed a lot of my priorities.  My ex, who works with the MBTI and other personality systems, has shown me books on how the various personality types react to stress.  To people who are not familiar with that specific research - types and stress - many usually think that people under stress behave in unpredictable or contrary ways.  The MBTI system actually can predict how each of the types will behave under stress, but the relevant point is that the behaviour is often interpreted as "contrary" or "unusual" or "out of character" to those around them, even though it's not unpredictable at all, if one understands the patterns.

I have been under an awful lot of stress in the last couple of years, with the stress factors piling on in the last couple of months.  And I've been handling them pretty much alone.  I don't tend to speak out publicly when I'm under stress because I was taught not to "whine" as a kid and not to "air dirty laundry".  A neighbor kid once pushed me down a flight of stairs and broke my ankle, and I had to walk on that ankle for a week before anyone took me to a doctor for a cast because I should just "toughen up" and "stop complaining" and don't "make up stories to get out of P.E. class".  The only reason I was taken to the doctor at all is because my next door neighbor was a First Aid instructor and, after seeing me limp for a week, asked to see my ankle.  He determined I needed medical attention and it was only when he said so, did my parents take my complaints seriously.

So I prefer to handle my stresses privately, and then use the situations to illustrate growth opportunities or lessons after the event has passed.  Which is why many people who follow me online may be confused when I explode with something that seems out of context or that didn't appear to have any build-up to it.  Things looked pretty fine, until I started tweeting about the house-owner "torturing" my cats.  Naturally, several people who knew the house-owner just outright didn't believe it and accused me of lying about it or exaggerating the severity.  But it's the nature of Twitter to not have much depth or allow for nuance and detail.

So I'm giving the details here.  Things were far worse than just "turning off the air conditioning" in the end of a Floridian winter.  The room my sick cat was staying in got so hot that the water in her bowl evaporated, and it was during a time that I was out of the house for many hours at a time and could not refill her bowl regularly.  Her condition makes her specifically at risk for dehydration, and the heat and lack of water actually did cause her condition to worsen.  She may recover, she may not.

Ever since we moved, she has taken to attaching herself to me the way she did when she first got sick.  She was always my little shadow, moving from room to room with me in order to stay near me, but now it's so much more.  She doesn't just move from room to room, she actually moves around the room with me.  Tonight, I went into the kitchen, drained a bowl of soup in the sink, walked to the trash can to dump out the solid food, and then walked back to the sink to wash it.  She actually walked back and forth from the sink to the trash and back again with me.  And I don't have a large kitchen - 3 or 4 steps at most between the two stations.  She tries to time her litter usage with my own bathroom use, now that the litter box is in the bathroom, presumably because she doesn't want to be separated from me even long enough to use the litter box.

So hopefully that clears up some of the strangeness going on around me lately and hopefully that adds more context to my outraged tweets.  If I seem out of sorts, or touchy, these days, perhaps understanding some of the stress I'm going through will help things make more sense.  Also, keep in mind that the issue of my sick cat is only one of the major stressors I'm going through and there are several that I'm not speaking about, at least not publicly.  Some stressors involve personal, intimate details - some of which are my personal details that I don't particularly want made public and some of which belong to other people and it's not my place to speak of them publicly.  If something I say or do seems odd or out of place, chances are that there are other things going on below the surface or other details to the story that you don't know about that would probably explain everything.  
Super Tech, strong, feminism

Read and add your signature, if you want to. It’s easy and fun, and shorter than an iTunes TOS update!

I pledge not to fetishize civility over justice. I recognize that the very notion of “civility” is defined in large part by those in whose benefit the status quo is maintained. I further recognize that the structure of “civility” at least in part has been created with the express purpose of bolstering chronic injustices. As Malvina Reynolds sang, “it isn’t nice to block the doorways, it isn’t nice to go to jail; there are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.”

I pledge to remember that civility and compassion are not the same thing. Executive Order 9066, for example, was an emphatically civil document. There was not a mean-spirited or insulting word in the entire document, with the exception of the phrase “alien enemies.” In fact, it specified that a group of people would be provided with food, housing, and transportation. And yet it was one of the most unkind, uncompassionate acts of the US Government in the 20th Century. Civility is a very effective camouflage for hatred.

I pledge to remember that a fetishized civility is a field mark of insulation from suffering. The cries of the wounded on a battleground may be very unpleasant and uncivil indeed. I pledge to nod sympathetically and help bind those wounds rather than chide the wounded for bleeding so indecorously.

I pledge to keep a sense of perspective. Tossing basic civil rights under the bus in order to maintain a jury-rigged superficial peace in a single-issue movement is a bad bargain.

Rather than worry overmuch about civility, I pledge to be as kind as possible. And sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways.
9th-Jan-2013 10:22 pm - Lessons From My Normal Parents
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
My dad is kind of a laconic man. We never spent hours discussing philosophy or religion or deep thoughts. He wasn't cold, by any means, he just didn't have all that much to say. Most of my memories of my father involve sitting in front of the television watching Cheers or Three Amigos, and sitting silently in a fishing boat trying not to spook the fish, and quietly freezing to death in the bottom of a duck blind waiting for a decent flock of mallards to fly overheard in range of the shotgun. It's probably safe to say that I was the talkative half of this duo.

But I learned some things about life from my dad. One of them happened during one of those hunting or fishing trips. See, I also learned how to drive from my dad. But the lesson extended deeper than simply operating a motor vehicle.

When I was roughly 10-ish, my dad started teaching me how to drive his giant, old, Toyota Landcruiser. It's what SUVs dream of growing up to become. It's not quite as big as a Suburban, but it's in that class from back when trucks were trucks, not overgrown minivans with a Napolean complex.

Anyway, I was too small to see over the steering wheel, however old that was. So Dad started by having me steer while sitting on his lap, as most kids who learn how to drive as kids & not teens did. From there we moved to me shifting gears while sitting in the passenger seat as he steered and operated the pedals. When I got tall enough to see over the wheel, he finally taught me how to operate the pedals and I was driving on my own by age 12.

This truck was a manual transmission and a four-wheel drive, so I had to learn both how to operate a giant-ass truck with manual transmission and no power steering, but also how to tell when the truck needed to be switched from two-wheel drive to four (and in the backwoods where the lakes and duck blinds were located, I certainly had plenty of opportunity to switch back and forth between two- and four-wheel drive).

So, this lesson takes place on the day that my dad taught me how to operate the stick shift from the passenger seat. Since Dad was operating the pedals, I put my hand on the gear shift and he yelled "shift!" when it was time to shift. Now, I'm a pretty regimented sort of person. I know my parents would never believe me, based on the state my bedroom was always in, but I love boxes and categories and organization. I like for things to fit. But even though the gear shift had a diagram of the gear pattern on the handle, Dad was trying to tell me to not worry so much about it - just remember the gears go in the shape of an H and feel the gear shift move because it will naturally want to go in the next highest slot.

I was just starting to get a handle on this whole "don't worry about the diagram" thing and just "feel" the gear shift, because it really did seem to want to go in the right spot with just a little bit of a push. So, now that I had mastered that particular skill, I began to anticipate the next level - operating the pedals.

I asked my dad how he knew when to shift. He tried to explain something about listening to the engine, but that wasn't working for me. I wanted to know which miles-per-hour-tick-mark the needle was supposed to hit that would signal the next gear change. Dad said that it didn't work like that. He tried explaining again about the engine, but I insisted that I wanted to know ... was it at 20 miles per hour? 25? Every 5 or every 10?

Dad eventually sighed and capitulated and told me some miles per hour that I could use as a rule of thumb to shift. But, he said, really, you listen to the engine and you feel the car. The car will tell you what's going on with it, you just have to listen. Driving is more than moving levers and gears. Driving is about feeling the car as if it were an extension of yourself. You have to pay attention to it, and it will communicate to you what it needs. Get to know the physical space that the car takes up as well as you know how much space you take up. Feel the road under the tires, feel the vibration of the engine, listen to the roar and the whine and the growl and the hum. The car will tell you. You'll know when to shift by how the car sounds and how the car feels.

Naturally, I didn't really understand this lesson at the time. I knew how to ride a horse, and how to communicate using very subtle body language, but this was a machine - how was I supposed to "listen to" and "feel" a car the way I could listen to and feel a horse?  As I got older, I eventually learned what the rpm gauge was for, and I learned that most people didn't shift based on mph, but by rpms. So I shifted my mental scale of when to shift from every 10 mph (or whatever I thought it was) to when the rpms reached a certain level. But then I started driving on my own.

When I turned 16 and got my license, I started driving my own car (a manual transmission, naturally). And I discovered that my rule of thumb for shifting didn't apply in my little Mitsubishi commuter car the same way it worked for my dad's big, old Landcruiser. I readjusted my rule of thumb for my new car, but I had to adjust it again for every car. And then I learned that what rpms you decide to shift at depends on what you want the car to do. I had to choose a different set of rpms based on whether I was trying to save gas or racing or if I wanted to be first off the line, or even if I was downshifting!

Nothing made sense! Where was my nice set of rules? What happened to the categories, the boxes, the regiment?! That's when I finally groked my dad's lesson from all those years ago. I had to feel the car, to listen to her. She would tell me what she needed. She would tell me when she wanted to shift, and she would tell me when her needs weren't getting met, like oil and gas. All I had to do was listen, and to feel.

I learned that relationships were a lot like that too, and, in fact, life in general was a lot like that. I can make all the nice, neat little boxes and categories and rules of thumb that I want, but when it comes right down to it, if I want to really be a driver, instead of just an operator, I have to listen, and I have to feel. I will be told what I need to do if I just listen to what I'm being told and if I feel the world around me as if it's an extension of myself.

I don't always succeed. I often try to muscle my relationships and the world around me into being operated by me according to rules and boxes and categories. And, y'know, that can work an awful lot of the time, for some definition of "work". But when I do that, I'm merely operating a machine. I'm not getting the best fuel efficiency, or I'm not getting the best performance. I need to feel the car as if it's an extension of myself and I need to listen to what it's telling me. When I do that, we work together and I drive.

Thanks Dad, not only for helping me to become a much more proficient driver than many of my friends, or for instilling in me such a wonderful passion as driving, but for giving me the universe through a way of looking at things that adds such depth and connection that I think very few are privileged to experience.
30th-Dec-2012 07:36 pm - Religious Survey Archive
woo, stupidity, rants, Dobert Demons of Stupidity, religion

Back in 2010, the Pew Forum did a survey about how much Americans know about religion.  In a 32-question phone survey*, they asked people about Christianity & their bible, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, atheism/agnosticism, and American legal issues about religion.  They found that atheists/agnostics scored the highest average, even after controlling for education & other demographics like race & sex, and did particularly well on the legal questions, questions about non-Christian religions, and questions about the Bible specifically.  One of the results that I find particularly amusing is that US Southerners scored worse than those from all other geographic regions on the religious knowledge questions, even after controlling for the demographics

The Pew Survey is completed, however you can take a 15-question version of the survey at Pew's website.  Your results do not affect the survey's conclusions and are not counted as data.  But you can see how well you do compared to Americans in general and compared to several different demographics including religious groups.  The 15 questions are taken directly from the 32 questions used in the original survey.

You can also take another survey with all 32 questions, just to see how you'd do, but it's hosted by a Christian website and called Are You Smarter Than An Atheist? and provides no way for you to indicate what your religious affiliation is.  Judging purely by the way other Christian groups have doctored online polls before, I suspect that they will take the results of their totally unscientific survey (which has atheists as well as people of other religions answering it) to show that "their" respondents (the presumption being that the respondents are all Christian) are smarter than the national average and/or the atheists who took the Pew survey.  But I took the survey anyway, just to see how I'd do

I scored 30 out of 32 on the full survey (the highest average being from atheists at 20.9 correct out of 32) and 15 out of 15 on the smaller Pew survey (better than 99% of all other respondents - no religious affiliations given).  I'm archiving the results behind the cut because I'm rather proud of my knowledge and understanding of religious issues.  Don't click the cut if you want to take the surveys yourself and see what you actually know, because the answers are given.  Also don't bother clicking the cut if you don't want to be inundated with survey data - it's a boring list of numbers and stats that I'm only archiving for my own records and most people are not going to care how well I did compared to other religions on each question.

Survey Answers ArchiveCollapse )

*Technically, the phone survey was way more than 32 questions, but that's because it included demographic questions (i.e. age, race, religious affiliation, political party, how often they attend church, etc.) and a handful of "control" questions about non-religious stuff like what is the vice president's name and which party holds the House majority and whether lasers work via sound waves and whether antibiotics kill bacteria and what movement is Susan B. Anthony associated with and who wrote Moby Dick.  But there were 32 questions on religious knowledge and the survey's goal was to determine who knew what about religion.

12th-Dec-2012 03:44 pm - Why Are We So Rude Online?
Bad Computer!, anger
Recently, tacit was waiting in the TSA line for a plane trip when someone came up to him and said "I know this isn't any of my business, but what's with the bunny ears?" Before he could answer, the guy in front of him turned around and angrily said, "I'll tell you what's with the bunny ears, he just wants attention! I'd knock them off if I could!"

tacit didn't respond to the guy directly, but did tell the original questioner that the ears were a gift from a friend. He wishes now that he had said they were a gift from one of his girlfriends, just to poke the angry asshole.

I told him that he should have said "actually, I had a daughter... she got sick..." tacit's eyes got big and filled with a mixture of horror and admiration. He said "you're not right!" and then he and datan0de immediately filled in the rest of the story designed to make the asshole feel as badly as possible for jumping to conclusions and becoming angry over what someone else had the audacity to wear in public. This mythical "daughter" would have had a birthday on the day of this fateful plane trip, had she lived. The ears were her last gift to "daddy". He was on his way to visit her grave. And it went downhill from there.

Shelly chimed in with "I think assholes should be made to feel like assholes!"

And that is the crux of my entire online persona. I am the cautionary tale. I am the consequences of your bad behaviour and I will not let you ignore the consequences.

According to Why We Are So Rude Online:

"We're less inhibited online because we don't have to see the reaction of the person we're addressing, says Sherry Turkle, psychologist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... Because it's harder to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other, she says."

My posts are a reaction, a deliberate attempt to show other people those reactions that they can't see online. When someone is an asshole online, most of the people I know back off. They don't reply to OKC messages, they unfriend, they disengage. I do that too, but before I do, I make a conscious decision to allow that person to see my reaction. That's what all these rants here on LJ are, that's why I post the Online Skeezballs exchanges, that's why I get into flame wars.

I will also eventually back out and disengage when I can't take it anymore. But I won't let their behaviour go unpunished. My goal is for everyone who treats people poorly to see what happens when you treat people poorly. I want there to be consequences for treating people poorly. I want you to be unable to retreat unscathed from treating someone poorly. I want that kind of behaviour to do as much damage to the troll as to the victim, because, apparently, hurting someone is not enough motivation to stop. Perhaps self-preservation will be a start.

These sorts of studies also explain away trolling behaviour by the security provided by anonymity - that people say mean things to each other online that they would never say in person, because they don't have to see how their words affect people.

This is another way in which my behaviour is different from "trolls". Because I will say these things in person. I will tell you what I think. One of two things happens in real life, however. Either my tone gives a clearer indication as to my motivations, intentions, and emotional state and reduces the confusion that so often happens online where people mistake what I'm saying for something "mean"; or I am actually saying something "mean" and I know it will hurt you, but I'm saying it because you need to hear it - exactly the way I do it online.

So, yes, people can hide behind the anonymity of the internet & say and do things that they wouldn't do in person. This is unacceptable. And yes, people say the things they do because they don't have to deal with the reactions of the people they are hurting. This is also unacceptable.

But this is WHY I say mean things on the internet. I am not allowing people to get away with saying something mean without consequences. I am not allowing them to remain ignorant of the reactions they are causing. And I am not doing or saying anything that I wouldn't also say directly to that person's face. I am the person who will tell you that your ass looks fat in that dress because that's a shitty question to ask someone and a terrible way to trap people who care about you, and you should feel the consequences of putting someone in that awful position. And I won't just say that your ass looks fat in that dress, I will TELL you that I'm saying so because I think it's a shitty question to ask someone and a terrible way to trap people who care about you. So that you know.

When I go through TSA, I opt-out of the body scanners on principle, which requires them to give me a pat-down. I insist that the pat-down be held in public, in front of everyone (including anyone who might have a camera on them) where they have to be held accountable, and when they ask about medical conditions, I tell them (honestly) that I have endometriosis and I'm on my period, so I'm bleeding & my breasts & groin are sensitive to the touch. If someone is going to make me uncomfortable, I'm going to make them uncomfortable right back. I have ALWAYS gotten professional pat-downs without any inappropriate touching (other than the fact the pat-down itself is inappropriate), and some were downright ineffective in their effort not to be "inappropriate".  I also pack sex toys in my luggage, which grossed out a customs agent enough that she stopped searching my bag & waved me through.

When people ask me a rude & personal question, I will tell them the answer. That always makes them uncomfortable, and I say "don't ask questions you don't want the answer to". I intend to make them feel as uncomfortable as they made me feel. I will respond, and you will not escape my response.

I am not about "radical honesty" where you have to just "toughen up" and "grow thicker skin". In fact, I'm about the opposite - of developing thinner skin so that you care more about what you're doing to people. I am about making people develop more sophisticated empathy so that they don't do the kinds of things anymore that result in someone telling them off. If someone is telling you off, then you've done something that crossed the line. It's no longer about being "honest", it's about you being a jerk. You've hurt someone. And you need to know that you've hurt someone. And you need to feel bad about it.

Filed under "it's OK to be intolerant about intolerance".
7th-Dec-2012 08:32 pm - Open Letter To Advertisers
Super Tech, strong, feminism
Picture this...

The screen fades from black to show a man sleeping in bed.  His eyes pop open.  Cut to another man bouncing out of his bed in his pajamas.  Cut to yet another man running down the stairs.  Show a series of different men all acting like children on Christmas morning, running to the tree, tearing open the presents, and all finding Craftsman tools, or Makita, or Dewalt, or Black & Decker, whatever.  The men are excited, behaviour has regressed, this is the best thing EVAR!  Some voice-over says something witty about getting your man what he really wants this holiday season: a set of their tools.

Dear Advertisers of Manly Stuff;

I don't know if you know this, but I'm a woman and I like tools.  Seeing ads like this on TV around the holidays makes me feel excluded from the very things that I love.  It's like when I was a kid and saw commercials for my favorite toys, but there were no girls playing with those toys, even though I knew lots of girls who liked those toys.  Since there were no girls on the commercials and no girls on the packaging, the adults in my life refused to buy me those toys because they weren't "girl toys".  But I loved them!

Commercials like these don't just make me feel excluded.  They make me think that I am deliberately unwanted.  Oh, sure, when it comes to money, you're willing to cater to the women.  But you make our tools less powerful, smaller, and pink or purple.  I want my industrial yellow, 15-bajillion hertz Dewalt power drill, not some frilly purple drill with flowers on it that doesn't even have enough power to screw in my picture hardware.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I don't hang pictures.  I build shit.  I fix my car.  And I don't mean that I change tires (although I do).  I've rebuilt my own carbuerator.  I built the shed out back.  I've installed load-bearing walls.  I operate heavy machinery.  I have all the best name-brands and a better tool collection than my father - a manly man who taught me how to use a circular saw and to hunt deer and let me steal sips of his beer when mom wasn't looking.  I have multiple tool chests for different kinds of work, and I have specialty tools just for certain industries that your average guy won't have.  And, here's even more of a shock, I also like cooking and sewing and men.  And (are you sitting down?) I'm not the only one.

Maybe tool purchases by women only make up 10% of your sales (although I don't believe it's that low for a minute, but let's say for the sake of argument).  Would it really kill you to throw in a single woman in that holiday morning montage?  A girl amidst the dozen men who tears off the packaging while wearing fuzzy pajamas with snowflakes on them and finds a black and blue Kobalt power drill or air compressor or something - a good, powerful tool that matches her fuzzy pajamas - and who shakes her fists and grins and gives her husband a bear hug in thanks?  Just one?  You can even make her blonde and young and pretty.  At this point, I'd settle for a token woman.

Maybe you're afraid that the big manly men won't want to buy that brand of tool if you suggest that women like it too.  But maybe you'll win tons of loyal female customers to make up for the handfuls of chauvanistic pricks who refuse to buy a good tool just because some chick also knows it's a good tool.  Most men won't stop buying something good just because they find out that some women like it too - in fact, they probably won't even notice the woman in the commerical at all, because they probably never noticed her absence in the first place.  But word will spread that you are including women, and not pandering to them, and women notice that.  They'll go out of their way to buy YOUR brand when they need a tool, especially if you're the only, or the first, brand to do this.  If you ever thought men cornered the market on being brand-loyal, you've never seen "loyal" until you've treated a woman customer like a person, listened to what she wanted, and offered her a quality product without assuming she wouldn't be interested or doesn't understand or must be buying for her husband.

Throw in a female in your advertising - make me think that you appreciate my business, because I appreciate your products and want to buy more of them.  Only I won't if I think I can get better service from another company, and the next generation of women won't if they continue to get bombarded with messages that say that your products are not for them.  Don't girlie-up your tools, don't make tools - or commericals - exclusively for women and leave out the men.  Just include us.  That's all we're asking for.  Treat us like human beings first, paying customers second, and only like women if you have a shot at the parts that make us women.

A Woman Who Likes Tools
photography, Self-Portrait, personal

I noticed something interesting about myself today.  Everyone makes snap judgments and assumptions when they first see people.  These are based primarily on stereotypes, either that we pick up from society or that we develop over time with experience.  They are never accurate 100% of the time, but for most people, they seem to serve just well enough to justify holding on to them.  And by "well enough", I mean that most of the time, even our inaccurate assessments don't get us killed, so if it feeds our confirmation bias or affirms the consequent, that seems to be "good enough".  So when I talk about one of my snap judgments, don't think that I'm not aware of the problems with snap judgments.

smileypantsOne of the things I judge people on is their smile in profile pictures.  Profile pictures, especially on dating websites, are usually the pictures we post of ourselves that we think shows us at our best - for whatever definition of "best" is.  Maybe it's when we think we're the most attractive, or maybe we think it illustrates our personality, or maybe it shows us doing something that we are passionate about and we want the viewer to know that we are passionate about it.

So when I see snapshots in a profile picture (in other words, not a professional photography session, but something someone snapped at a party), I have to wonder why they chose that picture.  Is this what they think their "best" looks like?  What does this picture say about them?  There are a lot of things a snapshot picture can say about a person, but right now, I want to focus on the smile.

A person's smile tells me a lot about them.  Again, I recognize that it might not be telling me the truth.  I do not let a 5-second glimpse at a photo dictate how I will think about that person forever and ever and the smile in one, or even a handful of photographs is not the only thing I use to judge people.  But nevertheless, this is what a smile tells me about someone.  

A close-lipped, tight smile, especially one that is turned down at the corners, puckered in at the corners, or has an otherwise "uncomfortable" look to the smile, tends to make me think that he is inhibited, fearful, or has low self-esteem.  A posed picture with a smirk or subdued, quietly dignified kind of smile doesn't do this.  A snapshot where he is aware of the camera, had time to smile, and looks like he "chose" to smile, and consequently chose a smile that says "I'm uncomfortable right now, please hurry up and take the picture" makes me think that he is not very open or secure.  Having a series of pictures where all the smiles are this one only reinforces my presumption.

But a wide, exuberant, showing-teeth smile indicates, to me, a person who is a happy person in general, who was caught in a moment of happiness, and who is not afraid to show us that he is happy.  This is a smile that goes all the way up to the eyes, which are crinkled and squinty.  It tells me that he is more concerned with how he is feeling right now than how he looks, and how he feels is wonderful.  Which makes him look wonderful to me.

An open, exuberant smile shows happiness and confidence to me.  It doesn't mean that he never has self-doubt and never has bad days.  A tight smile indicates a lack of self-confidence, and it's that confidence that is really attractive to me.  I want to fill my monkeysphere with people who embrace life, who are fearless, the Whole-Hearted people that researcher Brene Brown talks about in her TEDTalk about vulnerability.  I don't mind people who are reserved, or quiet, or even shy - social skills and energy requirements are not a part of what I'm talking about right now.  I'm talking about an overarching life philosophy - a worldview that sees the universe as something exciting and wonderful and wishes to experience as much of it as he can.  You can still be introverted or shy or publicly reserved and have this worldview.

My own experience has created a stereotype in my head, which I use to make snap judgments about pictures, that tells me this smile and this worldview are correlated.  The more pictures a person has with either type of smile, the stronger this correlation is.

There are a lot of people out there with advice for how to make your profiles "better", to increase your odds of attracting a partner.  I don't tend to find those very helpful.  Sure, I give netiquette advice too, but my advice is less about how to raise your profile hits and more about how not to be a jackass and insult or piss other people off, and by extension, you will probably find more success if you're not being a jackass online.

But I don't find these "get more hits on your profile" advice columns very helpful because they don't take into account the fact that we all want different things.  Sure, I can start taking pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror or looking up at my cellphone, and I can shorten my profile and not rant about feminism and sexism and polyamory and atheism, and that will probably get me more hits.  But what about the quality of those hits?  I'm not trying to gather emails like I'm collecting stamps, I'm trying to find those specific people who will get along with *me* and to stop wasting my time with all the wrong guys.

The trick is not to just up the numbers - that gets tedious really quickly when it's all the wrong people.  The trick is to attract the *right kind* of person.  Efficiency over quantity.  You don't need a hundred hits to find "The One", especially if all hundred are incompatible.  You just need the right one.  In order to find a partner, you first have to become the kind of person that your Perfect Partner would want.  Then you have to find a way to communicate that you are that person.  And one of the ways we communicate who we are is through the pictures we choose to post of ourselves on our dating profiles.

So, I won't tell you all to go out and change all your profile pictures to better "improve" your online dating success.  If you don't share my values, then you won't want someone like me to be attracted to you.  But *if* you want a partner who appreciates excitement and has enthusiasm for life, one possible way to attract him or her is to show your own enthusiasm in your profile pictures.

I find I have this same presumption for women's pictures, but since I am not interested in dating women, I never really put it together like this.  I knew that I have some friends who I think are beautiful women, but who consistently smile in a close-lipped, tight smile that I think is not as attractive as their candid, exuberant smile.  Their whole faces just light up when they are genuinely happy, and that's far more attractive, IMO, than having the perfect makeup or perfectly sculpted cheekbones or hiding their teeth.  I'm always just a little bit disappointed when I see a beautiful picture of them that has this "I'm not really smiling" smile because of how much more beautiful I think their happy smile makes them.

But today, I got a notice from OKC about some guy who liked my profile.  I get a lot of those, but I haven't actually checked OKC or read my email in about a year or more.  For some reason, today, I decided to see who he was.  I liked what he had to say in his profile, but when I looked at his pictures, I notice that my interest in him dropped (I read the profile before I look at the picture, and sometimes I don't look at the pictures at all).  So I spent some time figuring out why that might be.  It wasn't until his very last picture, when he had that open, exuberant smile, that I figured out why.  In all his other pictures, he just looked uncomfortable, even though he, technically, had a smile.  And I found myself getting turned off by his discomfort.  But his happiness in the last picture rejuvenated my interest.

So, don't go out and change all your profile pictures.  Use the pictures that you think communicate best who you are and show what you want your prospective date to see of you.  Just keep in mind that people who highly value fearlessness, openness, vulnerability, enthusiasm, happiness, and embracing life may be more attracted to people whose pictures convey those same traits.  And one of the ways those traits are conveyed is through an open, genuine, uninhibited, toothy grin.  

I want happy, passionate people who embrace life & aren't afraid to try new things in my monkeysphere and I have begun learning how to relax and be myself in front of a camera so that my pictures reflect that part of my personality too.  I look for people who smile widely in pictures when I'm interested in considering whether or not someone could be a part of my monkeysphere.  

But if your profile picture has duck face, you are automatically disqualified as monkeysphere potential.

Related articles: - Some Thoughts On Courage - Some Thoughts On Choosing Relationships

18th-Nov-2012 06:23 pm - On Being A Dick
Bad Computer!, anger
I can't tell you how much I hate the phrase "Don't Be A Dick".  I greatly admire & respect Phil Plait & Wil Wheaton, who have made that the catchphrase of the Nice Guy Skeptical Movement (TM).  I will go so far as to say that I even happen to agree with their point - that people don't tend to change their minds when you're insulting them, so if we want to change someone's mind directly, we shouldn't call them names on the internet when we disagree.

The reason I hate the phrase is because it is subjective.  There is no criteria for what being a "dick" means.  So it gets used every time anyone says anything that anyone else disagrees with.  Sure, we can point to examples where one person is clearly being an asshole, clearly being antagonistic, and not at all interested in dialog and an exchange of viewpoints.  But that's not usually under debate by either side in the DBAD debate.  

To clarify: Don't Be A Dick is not when you complain about someone doing something harmful and you call him out on it, like calling the sexist asshole who fired a movie reviewer for daring to write a movie review about Snow White because it propagated "alpha females and beta males", a sexist asshole.  You're not a dick for calling an asshole an asshole.  Don't Be A Dick is also not when you complain about a person holding a harmful, offensive, or dangerous position or worldview, like the fucktard who thinks children should be killed for disobeying their parents and calling that person a fucktard.  You're not a dick for being appalled by someone's harmful and offensive worldview.  Don't Be A Dick is not when someone says something sexist/racist/bigoted/offensive and you try to tell them that it was sexist/racist/bigoted/offensive and they shouldn't do that - you are not a dick for trying to eliminate racism/sexism/bigotry.

Don't Be A Dick is when you hold some position or make some claim, and you are told, sometimes by someone who actually agrees with you, to adjust your delivery so as to not offend the people who disagree with you without necessarily changing the message.  This is when you say "you're being racist" and someone says "you are correct, but you should say it nicer, without using the "r" word, so that he doesn't get upset and he will be more likely to listen to you".

There are 2 times when I see this catchphrase being used:

1) Nice Guy Skeptics talking philosophically about tactics for converting people to skeptical or atheist viewpoints, but not giving any specific examples or pointing any fingers.

2) When one person says something that another person finds offensive, regardless of how the original message is phrased or the intent of the speaker, simply because the offended person doesn't like what was said, and the original person is told to change how he phrases things without changing the message, as if that would fix the offense.

There is no clear-cut way to determine when one is being a dick or how to avoid being a dick, when these are the 2 instances of use for the phrase.  I admit that I can be an asshole.  There are times when I lose my temper and I have ceased having a productive conversation and have resorted to expressing my anger without using that anger as a tool to motivate others.  One such noteworthy exchange is when I asked, and then demanded, that someone stop tweeting at me & demanding that I engage with him in a religious debate, and after he refused to stop, I spent the next 2 days tweeting nothing but insults at him to get him to block me.  I was not being productive or trying to have a dialog, and there was never any illusion that I was.

But then there are times when I just state something, not even an opinion sometimes but a statement of fact, and I am accused of being an asshole, a dick, "aggressive", mean, bullying, etc.  If I happen to say something, and someone out there on the internet doesn't like the statement, whether it's an opinion or a fact or even when I sympathize with them, I will be accused of being mean and of hurting someone's feelings, or worse, hurting "the community/movement".  Confidence and pragmatism are often confused with arrogance and aggressiveness, especially online.  Someone who seems confident to me will seem arrogant to someone else.  How do we know which one is correct?  Most likely, the answer is both and neither.

Take the most recent post, for example:

Natalie Reed
@Joreth @RichardDawkins @michaelshermer Why are you sharing Justicar's nasty, petty little video and tagging it "shared by Natalie Reed!"?!


Joreth ‏@Joreth
@nataliereed84 I'm not, the automated online make-your-own-newspaper is. It sees what links ppl posts & aggregates them

Joreth ‏@Joreth
@nataliereed84 Please do some research before you get angry & start falsely accusing ppl of things. I have no idea what you're talking about

Joreth ‏@Joreth
@nataliereed84 I didn't watch the video, I didn't choose that particular link. If you posted it, picked it up

Joreth ‏@Joreth
@nataliereed84 But I'll be happy to remove you from the list of respected skeptics & scientists who provide news & links to twitter


VixenVivienValentine ‏@vae_victae
@nataliereed84 does automatic aggregation of links. Since you posted that video it attributed that to you. It's not @Joreth fault.

Joreth ‏@Joreth
@vae_victae I did try to tell @nataliereed84 that, but she seems to prefer to jump to conclusions & get angry at supporters. Shame.


VixenVivienValentine ‏@vae_victae
@Joreth indeed a shame. While I understand your aggressiveness to her, I feel that maybe if you had responded differently it'd be different


Joreth ‏@Joreth
@vae_victae I'm not sure if you read my responses to her, but I was the opposite of aggressive. 

It's hard for me to even see where someone could have interpreted what I said there as "aggressive".  Natalie asked me, angrily, why I was sharing some video and associating her with it.  I told her, immediately and clearly, that I wasn't doing so and I explained about the link aggregate service.  I didn't cuss, call her names, or use emotional language.  I was also limited to 140 characters.

Some of you will remember another post I made a couple of years back about the forums, in which someone made an offensive statement. I and a couple of others pointed out the factual inaccuracy of the statement & the offense in making it, several people responded angrily & emotionally, those on my side again pointed out the inaccuracy (calmly, I thought), and then those on my side were accused of being angry and hurtful, apparently without irony to the original angry and hurtful comments that prompted our responses.  Only after I lost my temper at being insulted, did my posts get deleted, but the original offensive posts never did, nor did the insults that caused me to lose my temper.

Then there are the numerous times when someone just doesn't like me personally, and they will disagree with me no matter what I say, even while I am agreeing with them.  We end up in this "duck season / rabbit season" argument where they say something, I agree, then they argue with me over it.  For instance, someone posted something not too long ago about Unicorn Hunters that was derogatory.  Someone else jumped in with "I see nothing wrong with unicorn hunting, because I do this thing that is totally not unicorn hunting".  So I said something like "it doesn't sound like you are the kind of jerk that the OP is talking about, so don't worry about it".  And they proceeded to defend their right to call themselves Unicorn Hunters and insist that unicorn hunting isn't bad.  I believe my response was something along the lines of "I'm trying to explain to you why you're not an asshole, but if you want to keep insisting you are, I'll stop defending you".

tacit gets this all the time too.  The Polyamorous Misanthrope once made a blog post that was, essentially, the exact same kind of post that tacit makes.  Or maybe it was even a re-post of his, I don't remember.  One of her followers complimented her on the post, and she responded that it was the same thing that tacit always says.  They replied that they can't stand tacit.  She posted on tacit's page that she doesn't understand why people like her but don't like him, because she says the same thing, and in no less of a blunt, holds-no-punches sort of way.  Same message, same delivery, yet people like her and don't like him.  Sometimes there is no helping this.

This, by the way, is primarily the problem happening in our Congress at the moment.  The Republicans in office are doing their damnedest to disagree with Democrats, even when the Democrats agree with them.  They seem to want to disagree on principle, not because they actually disagree.  Consequently, we have one of the most fucked up Congresses ever in our history, with decisions being made to the detriment of our country, deliberately and intentionally, out of spite.

Then there is when I, fairly regularly, post exchanges where I am accused of having some emotional state that I do not currently have, and I have posted several examples of the differences between a calm difference of opinion ("what you said was incorrect, here is the evidence") and an emotional outburst ("you fucking shithead! I hate you!")

And yet, every time I have a difference of opinion to someone, regardless as to how calm I state my position or how much to the facts I try to stick or even, on occasion, when I try to be conciliatory, I am accused of being the one to have some emotional outburst, some angry reaction, some feeling that I am not feeling.  

So I strongly disagree with the whole "Don't Be A Dick" meme, not because I disagree with the underlying premise, but because I think it is subjective and, ultimately, futile.  If people don't like what you have to say, someone will think you're being a dick no matter how you say it, and having this ambiguous, undefined moving goalpost of "dick" that we're all supposed to follow won't change that.  

I can try to hold myself to a certain standard of exchange, but in the end, we all usually feel justified in the position we take (or if we change our minds, then the willingness to change further confirms our own opinion of ourselves as being Good Guys), and besides that, the phrase "Don't Be A Dick" is a message from one person to another, not a personal standard.  It's not like edwardmartiniii's Bue Button project - a reminder to ourselves to hold ourselves to a standard that we, ourselves, set.  Don't Be A Dick an admonition from other people that you are not behaving the way THEY think you ought to behave.

As an aside, even though edwardmartiniii's Blue Button is intended as a personal standard, even that gets used as a weapon with which to bludgeon those with whom people disagree.  In some other disagreement that I had online that I don't even remember the details of, some friend of his told me that I needed a blue button for daring to hold a position that the commenter did not hold - again, people trying to tell others how to behave, and mostly surrounding "tone", not actual behaviour - completely contrary to the spirit of edwardmartiniii's Blue Button, which is about protecting one's community from bullies by making a personal vow to stand up to bullying when one sees it and explicitly not trying to "stop other people from being creepy".  In fact, telling other people that they need to wear a blue button is, again explicitly, against the rules for how this concept is to work.

There is a quote that I can't find, so I can't give you the exact wording or proper attribution.  But it says, essentially, that there is no nice way to tell someone that they wasted their entire lives on a lie.  Which is, essentially, what one is saying when one claims that religion & the god myths are not true.  But it's even less world-shattering than that.  There is no nice way to challenge any belief that a person holds strongly, whether it's something as deep and profound as our purpose in life or as ultimately unimportant as who is the best football team in the NFL (seriously, I watched this argument nearly come to blows last week when a customer at Little Ceasar's asked the cashier who her favorite team was, and he, shall we say, did not agree).  

If the other person has a strong emotional attachment to their position, you can try different tactics to get through to them, but, ultimately, you are telling them that you think they are wrong and they have an attachment to the belief that they are right.  Because some positions are, by their very nature, mutually exclusive - you can't hold one without simultaneously believing the other is false.  If you think the moon is made of green cheese, then, by necessity, you have to think that anyone who thinks it's made of rock is wrong.  Even if you refuse to go so far as to use the words "they are wrong".

And sometimes, with some people and some tactics, it won't be a big deal.  If you think I'm wrong to have been a fan of the 49ers back in my sports days, I won't really care, unless you try to attack me over it.  And then, I'll only care that you're attacking me, not that you like the Steelers (that's still football, right?).

But other times, with other people, and other topics, the tactic won't matter - especially if part of their position is that *you* are A Bad Guy for holding that position in the first place.  Someone, sometime, somewhere, will think you're a Dick, and if we insist on flying the DBAD banner, we will forever be derailing into the Tone Argument, when we should be focusing on the topic under debate.

And I am fucking sick to death of having the motherfucking Tone Argument or having people tell me that I'm feeling things that I'm not feeling, especially when I have gone out of my way not to lose my temper or devolve into yet another flame war.  Your feelings are your own, and just because you have them, it does not mean necessarily that I am the reason you are feeling them.  There is only so far anyone should be expected to go to make *you* feel better about what they're saying.

If you don't like my message, then you don't like my message, but for the love of all that is good in this universe, STOP fucking derailing the argument into whether or not I was properly conciliatory when I said that thing that you didn't like.  Maybe I wasn't being a dick, maybe I wasn't being aggressive or rude or mean or an asshole.  Maybe you just didn't like what I had to say, or maybe you had an emotional reaction to the topic and misunderstood what I was saying, or maybe you don't like me personally and it doesn't matter even when I'm agreeing with you.  And maybe the message is actually something worth being a dick about - maybe the message is something that the messenger ought to be angry about or posting in angry, emotional language.

Just please stop telling people when they should or should not be angry, stop accusing them of being angry (or any other emotion) when they have said that they're not, and stop this bullshit meme about "don't be a dick" - it is a totally subjective standard that cannot possibly be enforced.  Even the honorable Phil Plait & Wil Wheton have gone into "dick" mode when they were sufficiently pushed, and they will defend those times as "but that's different!"  

Yeah, it's different - a different perspective.  When it happened to them, it was either justifiable, or they salvaged their opinions of themselves as Nice Guys by later admitting that they were wrong.  But when it happens to someone else, that someone else is being "a dick".  Just like when you cut someone off in traffic, it's because you're in a hurry, but when that guy does it to you, he's an asshole.  

We are all "dicks" to someone else, and there are times when it doesn't matter how you phrase it, holding the position that you hold makes you the "dick" and there are no collection of pretty words to make the other person see it otherwise.

(if it doesn't start playing at 3:50, skip to that point - that's the only part that's relevant)

1st-Nov-2012 12:53 am - On Happiness And Comparisons
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I noticed something tonight. Well, I've noticed it before, but a couple of separate incidents just clicked. There's this great picture floating around of a guy who built a power loader from the Aliens movie and put his baby inside for Halloween. If you haven't seen the movie, it's hard to describe, but it's basically a giant robot that a person wears as a "suit", so they can lift and move really heavy things. So the parent is dressed as the giant robot, and the baby is in the front, in the "cab" of the robot where the driver would sit. It's totally adorable and he wins at both Halloween and parenting.

Anyway, the costume isn't really the point. Kevin Smith posted it to Facebook with the comment: "Every once in awhile, you encounter someone so talented and ingenious, you feel like an utter failure in everything you've ever attempted or accomplished. I am but shit when compared to whoever made this amazing Halloween costume."

I probably would have overlooked this comment, if it hadn't been for another conversation I had with an ex-boyfriend about 4 years ago that stuck in my memory, bugging me.

I was over at his place, but we were doing separate things, as I often do with partners when I start to spend a lot of time with them (I love you guys, but my shit doesn't get done by itself!). It was nearing bedtime, and my preferred pre-bed routine is to watch TV to relax and kind of shut off my mind a little because I can't sleep with my mind racing, as it tends to do pretty much all the time. It was in the middle of a Dancing With The Stars season, so that's what I wanted to watch that night. As you all who read my journal regularly know, I'm passionate about dancing. And when I'm passionate about something, I want to share it with my partners.

I don't have to share everything with my partners - it's OK if they don't have all of the same interests as I do. But I want to at least expose them to the things I'm most passionate about. It's less about getting them to like the same things as me, and more about wanting them to see me when I'm enjoying something I'm passionate about. I think it's a good window into who I am as a person, and I want to give my partners every opportunity I can to get to know me in as many different contexts as possible - for a more complete picture of who I am.

So, as I usually did when the subject came up, I invited my then-boyfriend to watch the show with me. He resisted, and I pressed, lightly, I thought. Then he said the thing that I haven't been able to forget all these years.

He said that he didn't want to watch the show because they were so good at what they did, that watching them only made him feel bad about himself. Keep in mind that he has never, to my knowledge, even tried to learn how to dance, nor has he even expressed any interest in it. I've known lots of guys who were interested in dancing, who wished they could dance, but who believed they could not learn - who said that they tried at some point and just couldn't. But not him - dancing never seemed to be anything he was even the slightest bit interested in doing.

There is a fundamental difference between me, and Kevin Smith and my ex-boyfriend. For people like them, being in the presence of brilliance, of the extraordinary, of the exceptional makes them compare themselves to the fantastic and tally up all the ways in which they fall short.

But for people like me, being in the presence of brilliance, of the extraordinary, of the exceptional inspires me. When I compare myself to those who are better than me at something, I do not see how substandard I am by comparison, even though I am realistically aware that people are better at things than I am. When I compare, I become inspired by how I can improve. I start to wonder what I can do to move in the direction of that brilliance, of that extraordinary, of that exceptional.

If I know that it is just something beyond my reach (I will never be a competition dancer, for instance), I don't feel bad for having failed to reach a bar that I was never going to grasp in the first place. I feel inspired and hopeful just for living in the same world as that brilliance, as that extraordinary, as that exceptional. Because they add beauty and value to existence, and I benefit from that. I don't have to "measure up" to their standards to benefit from the wonders that they bring to this world. We are all better off for having those exceptional people exist. It is not necessary for me to equal their excellence, I am still better off for their existence.

And that is a core difference, I think, between people like me and people like my ex. That core difference is, I believe, at the heart of why my life will always be awesome and life for some people will always, in their view, suck, or be difficult, or be hard, or be devoid of happiness, or have only the occasional moment of fleeting pleasure in the sea of misery that is life.

That's a quote, by the way, from the ex. He did not believe that happiness existed, and that happy people were simply deluding themselves, ignoring all the pain and misery that is life. He actually said to me that he does not experience happiness, only the occasional moment of fleeting pleasure and that life is misery.

It was a very strange epiphany that day, when I had the realization that I was the optimist in the relationship. I have been nicknamed The Killer Of Dreams by another former partner because of my habit of seeing the downside in everything. Every grand scheme he came up with, I injected what I called a dose of reality to explain why his grand scheme wouldn't work. He hated that. I'm always the pessimistic one, the one who can find the flaws in the plan, the one who automatically says "no", regardless of what the request or suggestion is, and who only says "yes" much later, after I've had a chance to work out all the details and come up with a backup plan to the backup plan.

So when I discovered that I was actually an optimist, at least by comparison, the world started to look very different. If I had truly been a pessimist, I wouldn't have bought a 20-year old school bus and packed up everything I owned into it, and set off across the country with no job, no house, and only one friend waiting for me. I wouldn't have switched majors from my very respectable sociology degree with plans to start a counseling practice to the much less likely major of film, theater, & broadcasting, where I don't have a steady income, I live below the poverty line, and I frequently worry whether I can afford to eat that week. These are not the actions of a pessimist.

These are the actions of someone who believes in abundance. I believe there is always opportunity, I believe I have the skills to do what I set out to do and the ability to learn what I need to learn, and I have the confidence to be happy with my imperfect self and the life that comes with it. I will always be happy because of this outlook.

I don't mean that I will never experience sadness or pain or anger. Hell, anyone who has read more than this entry ought to know what a ridiculous idea that is! What I mean is that, if you look at the bigger picture, if you look over my life as a whole, if you ask me at almost any point during my life "is this worth it? Are you happy?" I would have to say "yes".

It's like, if you ask a married couple after 50 years, would they consider their marriage a good one and are they happy together, if that couple said "yes", it wouldn't mean that they never had a fight in those 50 years, or that they didn't sometimes annoy each other, or even that they didn't consider the possibility of leaving at least once in that whole time. But you can have those bumps in the road and still find the drive to be beautiful and worth the ride.

And, although this is definitely not a guarantee for every single person who feels this way, but I would wager that people who look at someone exceptional and see only their own failures are more likely to be people like my ex - people who see life as a sea of misery with only the occasional island of happiness. I'm not sure that one causes the other, but I do think you could do a decent guessing job that if someone does one, he probably will do the other.

I'd also wager that people who look at someone exceptional and feel inspired to be their best selves, regardless of whether or not they think they can also do that same thing, I'd wager that those people are more likely to see life as filled with opportunity and wonder, and therefore be happy in life.

And I firmly believe that people who see life as filled with opportunity and wonder are people who can do extraordinary, exceptional things. These seem to be self-perpetuating cycles. If it's an issue of brain chemistry, then I have no solution to offer. But if it's at all possible to change one's thinking, it seems to me that one way to live a life filled with wonder and opportunity and happiness is to seek out exceptional people and to be inspired by them to be the most exceptional version of oneself that one can.

I do not fear exceptional people. I am not intimidated by them. I do not compare myself to them and find myself falling short. I do not hate exceptional people. I do not envy them.

I admire them. I want more of them in my life. I am better for my exposure to them, even if that exposure is indirectly, like a celebrity whom I only know from TV and who does not know me. The world is better for having them, and since I am of the world, I am better by extension.

And that is why I will always be happy.
28th-Oct-2012 02:28 pm - Differences Between Believers
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
"This paranormal thing is fake. Here's the evidence."

Believer: Bummer! I hate it when the fake ones make all the real ones look bad!

True Believer: Shut up! You don't know anything! If you just weren't so close-minded, you'd see this Logical Fallacy and this Unscientific Anecdote proves it's real! And here! A flawed and poorly conducted study/investigation that I totally believe because it supports my belief, but your well-done & scientifically rigorous investigation I will dismiss as crap because it says something that I don't like!

Skeptical "Believer": Oh, hmm, well if I could be fooled by that one, I wonder what else I can be fooled by? I better go back and re-examine some similar events and look up this psychological trick they're talking about to see if the other events are real or I was fooled by those too! I'm disappointed, but I didn't know that they could do that, and that's pretty cool! And maybe a little bit scary.

I came up with this example after a recent incident on Facebook, where I explained to someone that a certain famous "haunted" house I used to work in wasn't really haunted.  Her reaction started off pretty mildly, but she eventually took to "schooling" me on the nature of truth and reality, and why her favorite ghost hunters were the Real Ghost Hunters who "debunk" the crap I was explaining to her.

As I said on Twitter, "debunk: I do not think this word means what she thinks it means".

I used to be a believer.  I was probably even the first kind of believer listed above.  But eventually I learned that I can be fooled.  And I also eventually learned that reality is far more interesting that the ghosts and goblins that I used to believe in.

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without believing there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Silent Bob Headbang, yay!, shiny, cool

These are awesome.  I've done several of these (like using binder clips on the edge of my desk to organize my cords), but now I have a whole bunch that I'm anxious to try out!

Visit the link for the whole list.  Under the cut, I've put the ones that I want to remember to try, just so I'll have a convenient place to find them again.  But I recommend just following the link.

The pictures here are just to remind me of what I want to tryCollapse )
13th-Sep-2012 09:11 am - Happy Step-tember!
Swing Dance, social events, dance
September is, apparently, "Step-tember" at the Enzian Theater (a local independent movie theater), with a whole month of dance movies & events. So I want to make September an annual celebration of dance appreciation!

I have 4 distinct inspirations from my childhood for getting into dance:

1) Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo - my very first dance movie and I actually learned to breakdance (poorly) because of it.

2) Footloose - which taught me that dancing wasn't just fun, it was inherently a celebration of life, in all its forms. Dance expressed joy, anger, sadness, love, passion, every emotion, and was a necessary form of expression for me.

3) Janet Jackson - one of the first female dance choreographers I had ever been exposed to, thanks to a summer day-camp in elementary school that offered a jazz class where we performed to one of her songs. I learned that there was a place in the dance world for women, not just as a pair of pretty legs, but as the creative directors and leaders in the industry.

4) Dirty Dancing - introduced me to partner dancing as something more than just "that stuff old people did at weddings" and to the concepts of courage, honor, and being yourself, no matter the cost.

Dance, for me, has always been more than just exercise or another chance to embarrass myself in front of my peers. Dance has always been about empowerment, about expression, and a metaphor for life itself. Even when I'm sore or injured, or having trouble getting a step right and looking stupid, I am rarely ever more alive than when I am dancing.

Happy Step-tember everyone! Go out and dance!
8th-Sep-2012 01:51 am - Intimidating? Who, Me?
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I blurted out to a friend that my most successful relationships were with people who found me just a little tiny bit intimidating, but who like that they're intimidated by me.  I said that hanging up some of my best targets (from shooting guns) over my bed is a pretty good litmus test for whether or not a guy is A) intimidated and B) likes it.  And so I've been thinking about what that means.

I want to be seen as fierce, strong, intelligent, complex, nuanced, capable, passionate, rational, and often right.  These are things about myself that I value the most, and so I want people to see them in me.  But I want for my partners to not just see these traits in me, I want them to admire, celebrate, and cherish these traits in me.

These sorts of traits are often described as "intimidating", especially when first meeting someone.  But when I say "intimidating", I don't mean "forboding" or "forbidding".  I mean they feel a sense of admiration that can maybe make me seem a tiny bit larger-than-life.  People often feel that way about celebrites or particularly accomplished people.  But as they get to know them on a more intimate level, those celebrities become people - they become fully-realized, three-dimensional human beings with depth and nuance and texture. Maybe the "intimidation" goes away once we get to know them, but if the reason for the initial intimidation is admiration for certain traits and not fear of them being scary (the other interpretation of "intimidation"), then I want that admiration to stick around after the larger-than-life shrinks down to complex-human-size.

I'm tired of men who claim to find me "intimidating" and, because of that, think that they are not good enough for me or that they can't measure up to my standards.  But I'm also sick of men who claim to desire strong, independent female partners only to get irritated at me when I do exactly those sorts of things that strong, independent women do, like argue my position or refuse to ask for help when I don't actually need it or sometimes take on too much because I think I can do it.

I am also sick of men who think it's "cute" that I'm all "tough chick".  Fuck you asshole!  And I'm sick of men who just want to protect me.  And I'm sick of men who tell me that they love me but don't really seem to like me very much because they ask me to stop doing things that are central to the very core of who I am as a person or, worse yet, who never ask me to change but who dump me for exactly the same reasons they said interested them in me in the first place.  

No, I will not give up costuming even though I make a mess of the house when I do it and you hate that.  No, I will not wear dresses more often, they're impractical.  No, I will not stop asking you to explain why things in movies don't make sense.  No, I will not stop ranting about sexism, theism, or monogamy.  No, I will not give up my cat.  No, I will not give up dancing just because you get jealous when I dance with other men.  No I will not refuse to work on the car to save you the embarassment from having a girlfriend fix it when you couldn't.  No, I will not stop swearing.  Even when there are kids around.  And no, I will not calm the fuck down.

I basically want for my partners to recognize those things about me that I value the most, and I want them to acknowledge how amazing and fantastic it is for a person to have these sorts of traits.  I want them to agree with me that those parts of me that make me awesome are, indeed, the parts of me that make me awesome.  I don't want my core values and personality-defining traits to be "tolerated", I want them to be revered.  Doesn't everyone?  And shouldn't everyone be able to find that?

I would like to point out that the traits that I want to be admired for, not tolerated, are not traits that I think everyone should value about themselves the same way I do.  If you prefer to think of yourself as someone who is flexible, caring, bubbly, creative, spontaneous, anything else that I didn't say ... as long as you admire those traits about yourself then those traits about you should never just be "tolerated", they should be revered.  Maybe "intimidated" is not the right word to describe how people feel about you, but the underlying philosophy is still appropriate - people should find those traits about you admirable and like you because of them, not in spite of them, maybe have just a little bit of "I wish I was better in those areas than I am" and to find exposure to you makes them a better person.
7th-Sep-2012 09:04 pm - The Straw Feminist & The Good Guy
Super Tech, strong, feminism
So I had a conversation with a friend a little while ago.  He's one of the Good Guys.  He doesn't need to be explained why a woman can say "guys, that made me uncomfortable ... don't do that" and the response to send her death & rape threats is a bad thing, why it wasn't her that "started it", how it was the MRAs (Men's Rights Activists - different from people who actually believe in equal rights for everyone, including men - those are feminists) who actually blew things out of proportion & escalated the event from a footnote in a video to a community-dividing schism.

But here's where the problem is (and it's not with him, he's just a symptom).  See, he and I had lost touch for a few years because he moved for work and has recently moved back.  So he missed my whole "feminist conversion".  So we've been talking a lot about feminist issues since we got back in touch, and how I feel resentful at being dragged into the fray and why I finally now identify as a feminist.  He wanted to know why I bother to identify as a feminist now if I didn't want to in the first place.  I explained that I always was a feminst, if you just looked at the definition, or maybe made a checklist, and compared it to my actual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

The problem was that I was misinformed about what feminism meant and how bad the problem still was.

This is exactly what my problem was.  I fell for the Straw Feminist bullshit.  I'm a Latina female who has always been some religious minority (not always the same minority, though).  My life should have been filled with struggle and hardship.  It wasn't.  Now, don't get me wrong, I had bad shit in my life.  But when it came to obvious gender issues, my biggest problem growing up was that my parents once admitted that insisting on a curfew even after age 18 was because I was their daughter, and if they had a son, he would have had different rules.  Although they never did have a son, so that was never tested.  My next biggest problem was that my dad wouldn't let me use his power tools.  So I bought my own and now my set is more awesome than his.

I grew up with fairly conservative parents, but in a liberal bubble.  In spite of being lower-middle class, I still went to one of the best private schools in the state, where they taught us age-appropriate, evidence-based sex ed, self-defense, and to excel in sports, academics, and politics.  I was awarded jobs easily based on my skills and experiences.  I was praised for being smart, even by the boys.  I was encouraged to play sports (just not football or wrestling) and I was told to put marriage and children on hold until I completed college and started a career, and THEN I was expected to keep my career after marriage & kids, the way my mother did.

In my liberal bubble, just as in the Straw Feminist tropes in media that the video talks about, I lived in a world where feminism was no longer needed.  Those brave women and their male allies had done their job.  We had achieved equality and, in some cases, we had gone just a little bit too far and now it was time to back off the throttle a bit and even correct some of the "overcorrections" we had made.

I did not need to identify as a feminist because I was an egalitarian.  I believed in equalty for all based on merit, skill, and interest.  I still do.  So I may have always been a feminist, but it was not one of my identity lables.  I am a lot of things, but not all of those things are important to my identity and my sense of self, so not all of those things make it to my list of identity labels.  I was born in the US, can only barely speak a few words of Spanish, and went to a predominantly white private school.  I tell people that I'm Latina when it is relevant to do so, but I don't identify as a Latina.  It is not part of my identity makeup, it's just a fact about me that happens to be true.  The "feminist" label was like that for me too - even if I hadn't misunderstood what it really meant, in my liberal bubble, the gender war had been won, so it was not important enough to my identity to attach the label "feminist".

But then I joined the skeptics and atheists communities.  And THEY made me a feminist.  Because I saw that we had not won the gender wars.  We were not "equal".  The place where I should have been the most safe, protected by reason and evidence, is the place where I was most threatened.  Oh, we have absolutely made progress!  We have wrested certain rights that have given women unprecedented power in our society.

But we're not done yet.

And this is what brings me to the story with my friend.  He is like me.  He strongly believes in equality for all, and if I present him with any sort of hypothetical situation, even if he thinks that we have currently solved that problem, he firmly, and without prodding, comes down on the side of feminism without knowing it's a feminist principle.  But because of this whole Straw Feminism problem, we had a conversation a while ago that went like this:

I was showing him some of my favorite geeky music videos (Felicia Day anyone?) and he asked "so, since you obviously like all this geeky and gamer shit, maybe I can ask you ... where are all the gamer girls?"  I said "what do you mean?  There are TONS of gamer girls!  Go to any gaming con & there are gamer girls all over the place!"  He said that when he actually plays his online multi-player games, the women are in the minority.  I told him that developer statistics of their user bases actually suggests that it's pretty close to 50/50.  He said he'd never seen that split.

I said "that's because the women are using male gaming names & not using their mics to avoid getting shit on by guys during the game."  He said none of the people he ever gamed with ever gave women a hard time.  So I sent him to Anita Sarkeesian's Wikipedia page, where he learned all about the rape threats & death threats and misogyny in gaming culture.

He had never seen it.  Probably because many of the women on his games were using guy names, so the one or two misogynists who were also on his game couldn't abuse them, and all the guys he chooses to socialize with are similar Good Guys like himself.  So I started telling him stories.  Stories of what women go through online.  Stories of men who Get It who have tried to post their own analogies so that the men who don't Get It could understand.  The schism in the skeptics communities.  I told him how we're finally seeing some response from game developers to begin talks about how to solve the problem instead of a couple of twenty-something male programmers who had a good idea & started their own company from it saying "well, he didn't abuse the TOS when he called you a fucking cunt & threatening to rape your skull is just game trash talk that doesn't mean anything".

When I reminded him that, just because he had never heard of it, that didn't mean it wasn't happening, but whether anybody knows of any given person's previous rape or assult experiences was directly proportional to how close those two people, he knew that.  I mean, I didn't have to explain it to him, he got it.  He totally grasped the fact that he didn't know how many of the women he knew had any sort of sexual assualt in their history.  And yet, because he was largely unaware of how many women he knew had some sort of sexual assault, he was largely unaware of how big the problem is.

So that's what I'm doing now.  This is why I have always posted my Online Skeezballs tag.  This is why I have always gone off on assholes on the internet.  This is why I rant about Couple's Privilege in the poly community.  People do not know.  People don't know how often this shit happens.  People do not know how much this hurts.  People do not know that what they or others are doing HURTS PEOPLE.  Every time I tell one of my whacked-out stories, someone, often a like-minded close friend, says "seriously?  That really happened?" or "do people really do that?"  Yes.  I am far too literal to resort to hyperbole very often, and when I do, it's pretty fucking obvious, like saying "a gazillion".  I also write this shit down right away because I'm terrified of misremembering or forgeting something and I cross-check with others to make sure my memories are as accurate as memories can be.  This shit happens and this shit hurts.  And people don't know.

And the reason they don't know is because we have been told, for generations, that nobody cares.  If we talk about anything from the status quo that bothers us, no one will do anything about it, except maybe try to make it our own fault.  At best, we'll be ignored.  At worst, we'll be attacked even more for speaking out.  Somehow, we'll be made to be the bad guy in all this.  So we just don't talk about it.  The first rule of Rape Culture is that we don't talk about Rape Culture.

When I first brought up the idea of Only Yes Means Yes, the single biggest criticism I got was that women never give a straight answer, so if guys waited around for a clear and unambiguous yes, then they'd never get laid.  Now, let's ignore the glaring fallacies and falsehoods in that statement and just assume, for the moment, that it's literally true - that women do not give straight answers. Women do not say yes, and women do not say no.

Did it ever occur to these guys why women don't give straight answers?  I'll break the Women's Code and explain why, just like I have always done for my guy friends when they get confounded by the mysterious species that is Women.  The reason why those women who don't give straight answers, don't give straight answers is because they are punished when they do.  A woman who says yes is a slut, but a women who says no is raped.

Of course not every single women who says no is raped every single time she says no.  But people do not take rejection gracefully, and it tends to make those of us who are smaller, or who have no fighting skills, or who have been told our entire lives that the responsibility for avoiding rape is our own, it tends to make us a little gun shy about rejecting people.  And if our personality is naturally to be quiet, shy, unassuming, or particularly sensitive to disapproval or hurting someone else's feelings, it's going to make us even more afraid to reject someone.  Most people do not give flat-out nos, not just women.  It is considered rude in our society to do so.  We do the "I'd love to, but..." and give some excuse that says that we are unable to, not that we don't want to.  But when it comes to women rejecting amorous advances, it isn't just the threat of being percieved as "rude".  It's the threat of bodily harm that often makes us afraid to say no.

Before you click on that last link, let me give you a trigger warning.  It's about a woman who had two children with an abusive man.  And when she turned down his marriage proposal, he killed her and both the children.  AFTER she reported him to the police.  AFTER she got a restraining order against him.  He killed her and the children.  For a rejection.

I've posted some of my own scary encounters.  There was the time a drunk guy hit on me and my two friends at a casino lounge and ignored every single rejection we gave him until all three of us pulled out our knives.  Then there was the guy who tried to "help" me put Fix-A-Flat in my car tire & also did not back off until I flashed my switchblade.  There's the uncountable number of dates I've been on, including just "hanging out with friends" where a "no" only got me Octopus Arms.

So when women are told, repeatedly, that our disinterest, our discomfort, even our fear, is irrelevant and unimportant, the only thing we have left to do is leave.  Or hide.

So if you want more women in your community, if you are a straight guy who wants to find a nice girl to date who shares some of your interests like gaming, or atheism, or rock climbing, or whatever, and you're looking around wondering where all the girls are, it is YOUR FAULT you can't find them.  If you are not actively contributing to the hostile environment (and if you're reading my journal, I'm going to assume that you're not, because those guys hate reading the kinds of stuff I write about), then you're probably not helping it either.  

And it's not because you're a bad guy.  It's probably because you didn't know.  Which is not your fault, but any time you have ever told a woman "oh, he's just an asshole, ignore him and he'll go away" or "I worry about you being safe, so here is a list of things that you should do to keep yourself safe" or even just didn't say anything when another guy made a derogatory comment (probably because it was kind of funny or probably because it wasn't funny but it was a joke and therefore not worth getting into a sexism argument over), then you contributed to the problem.  I know, you don't want to hear that you're part of the problem.  I certainly don't like hearing that I was part of the problem, and to this day I try to rationalize why, when *I* did it, I wasn't contributing to the problem ... when *I* did it, I had a Very Good Reason for it, and it didn't count when I did it.  You probably meant well.  Your motivation was probably because you thought you were actually helping and you wanted to help because you care.  I know, I get it.  But that's not actually how to help.

The first step is to call this shit out when you see it or hear it.  Tell guys that the joke wasn't funny, even if it kinda was, or that even though it was funny, it was still wrong.  Tell guys to stop insulting each other by using female or feminine insults (seriously, it shouldn't be an insult to "throw like a girl").  Point out that phrases like "that's so gay" and other gay jokes & insults is actually harmful to both men and women because of how it places feminine attributes as something that is negative and should be avoided.  When a woman complains about something bad that happened to her, don't tell her how to fix it.  Tell her that you're listening.  Tell her that you're here for her.  Ask her what she would like to do about it and if there is something you can do to help.  Offer to be her support if she wants to make any sort of official complaints and share with her resources where she will not be made a victim a second time for daring to complain.

And the second step is to start saying this shit unprompted.  Don't wait for someone to be an asshole in public before confronting him.  Start blogging or making Facebook posts about events you read or people you know.  An excellent tactic is to link to stories and other people's blog posts that are condemning some sexist action or assault, especially if you can get it trending on Tumblr or Reddit.  Don't link to assholes, crazies, and other fuckups - link to the people complaining about them.  That way, Google picks up the complaints and puts them at the top of searches and the assholes trying to defend themselves get buried under the fold or on second & third search pages.  You don't even have to write a blog post or confront one of these jerks yourself, just help make the problem more visible.  If you're at a party where it's socially acceptable to get a little political or talk about serious news items, bring this shit up and make it clear which side you're on.  "Dude, I read this HORRIBLE story the other day!  Can you believe this fucktard did this thing to this woman?!"

This is not about perteckting the wimmenfolk.  This is about showing your support and fighting for what is right.  I dated a 2nd degree blackbelt karate instructor.  If he were to get into an altercation while we were out together, he would have been totally capable of taking care of things himself.  He was bigger than me, stronger than me, and knew how to fight, which I didn't.  But I still would have helped.  I would have called 911 while he was too busy kicking the other guy's ass.  I would have kept the other guy's girlfriend from jumping in.  I would have cleared stuff out of his way if it looked like he might back up and trip.  Whatever, I would have helped, not because he "needed" my help, but because it would have been the right thing to do.  He and I were a team, we were on the same side, and I supported him.

That's what we need from everyone else, and I'm not just looking at the men here.  We really do need the guys to start speaking up, because the people who most need to hear these messages just don't give a shit about the women who are saying it.  If a guy hates women, it doesn't matter how loud us women are, he doesn't care and he won't listen.  That's what makes him a Bad Guy in the first place.

But women, if it is at all safe for you to do so, we also have to speak up.  I know that there are penalties for speaking up, I know that so often no one will do anything about it anyway so why bother?  Think of my friend above.  The Good Guy.  He's on our side, but he, like I, was just unaware.  It is not your fault that anything bad happens to you and you don't speak up.  But it could do some long-term good if you do.  Most women do not want to be "that bitch", they don't want to be the party downer, they don't want others thinking that all they do is complain about politics or feminism - they don't want to be that Straw Feminist.  BELIEVE me, I get it.

But I promise, if we all band together, the more of us who speak up, the easier it will be for us to speak up.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow.  But it will get better if we all pitch in to the best of our ability.
Purple Mobius, polyamory

I read an interesting article in Psychology Today. I'll be honest, I have dropped PT from my mental list of Websites Of Quality Articles. They are just another online blog site with dozens of bloggers of varying quality and expertise. They are certainly not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but increasingly they aren't even an interesting source of pop-psychology to provide food for thought - just a source of rage about how some people are able to obtain advanced degrees and be allowed to have a public forum for their views.

But occasionally I run across an article or op-ed that I like. This was one of them. It talks about respect. "Respect" is thrown around a lot in the poly community in a very particular way. I most often see it used as a defense of The Rules* by primary couples wishing to protect their relationship. The reason why The Rules are necessary, they might say, is because they need to ensure that the incoming partner respects their relationship, their primacy. This is, IME, the reason most often given when a couple does not want to admit to being insecure.

No, they might say, the Rules are not because I don't trust my partner! I trust him implicitly! It's other people that I don't trust! We have a rock-solid relationship! We are best friends! I know that he would never do anything to hurt me! So I am not dictating his behaviour, I am laying out the rules for her behaviour! We don't want anyone to come in and not respect our primary relationship and/or not respect me as his primary partner. So we need Rules to make sure she is respectful.

So let's talk about respect.

tacit has said, in many places, but in his most recent post on rules:

Many folks who claim primacy in a primary/secondary relationship often say they need rules because otherwise they don't feel "respected" by secondary partners, yet it's difficult to be respectful when one feels hemmed in, encircled by walls, and knowing that one's relationship is always under review.
In his previous post on rules, he says
"Respect" is a slippery, tricky word. It's kind of like "freedom"--everyone thinks they know what it means, but when the rubber meets the road, few folks actually agree on a definition.

To me, respect has to be mutual. If Alice is demanding respect from Bob's new sweetie Cindy, that can only come if Alice in turn respects the notion that Cindy is a grown adult with her own needs and desires, and she, too, deserves a shot at having a voice in the relationship. Imposing rules by fiat on other people and then demanding respect from those people is all the rage (I hear) among leaders of North Korea, but can feel a bit yucky when we're talking romantic relationships. ...

At worst, it sets up a relationship with a certain amount of tension and conflict baked in. If you see your partner's other partner as a source of stress, if you set up rules to govern that other person's behavior, then already you've started out on a basis of conflict ... there's an irreconcilable difference there. Someone's desire is going to get trumped, and you're playing the "respect" card to try to make sure it's not yours.

So this article had some interesting things to say about respect. And no, it is not a poly article, it's about relationships in general. In fact, it spends about as much time, if not more, talking about respecting one's children as it does respecting one's spouse. As I say so often, this is not a poly issue, this is a people issue. But I want to bring it around to poly specifically, as I see it played out in this Primary vs. Secondary deathmatch battle at Thunderdome, where the primary couple puts themselves in opposition to the incoming secondary partner and justifies the structure under the heading of "respect".

The author, Peter Gray, separates out love from respect. He acknowledges that some people make respect an integral part of their definition of love (like I do), but he sticks to his point that they are independent elements. Although I do not believe one can "love" someone if they do not respect them, I agree that "love" and "respect" are not interchangeable and can be discussed separately. One can have respect without love, for instance, even if one insists that love must include respect. I can have bacon without it being in a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, but I can't have a BLT without bacon, by definition - then it's just an LT sandwich.

Gray says that, if you accept the premise that love can exist without respect and vice versa, then bliss is what happens when you combine the two. But if he had to choose between them, he'd take respect over love.

It is useful, I think, to compare and contrast parent-child relationships with husband-wife relationships. In both of these, respect is absolutely essential for the relationship to work. Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. I think this applies as much to parent-child relationships as to husband-wife relationships.

If we apply this to the primary/secondary/metamour scenario, it sounds like this: To respect your partner is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. To respect your metamour/secondary is to understand that the other person is not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your metamour/secondary is a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help your metamour/secondary to acheive what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your metamour/secondary or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your partner is a unique individual and to help your partner achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your partner or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not.

This is the antithesis of everything that The Rules stand for in poly relationships. The Rules, as I am referring to them here, are about protecting from change and prohibiting growth of one person in a direction not necessarily desired by another person. The Rules are designed to make partners into an extension of each other and reflection of each other and to make secondaries into toys, pets, or products.

This is the exact opposite of that "respect" that these sorts of couples are demanding. When those couples that I am talking about refer to "respect", they mean it in the way that we all "respect" the law - by that I mean that we all follow a set of rules that someone else imposed on us without our input whether we agree with it or not because there are consequences to breaking the law, and we surriptitiously break the law when we think we can get away with it (seriously, if anyone out there thinks that you never break any law, like speeding or oral sex, either you are lying to yourself or you've never actually read every single law that affects your jurisdiction - some are inherently contradictory and some don't even apply anymore but were never stricken from the books). We are generally taught to obey authority for the good of society. But really, how much of that is "respect" and how much of that is a sense of obligation coupled with a fear of consequences? That may be an acceptable way to run a large society, but that doesn't sound like any way to run a relationship that claims to be "loving".

I don't "respect" authority and law. I recognize that authority & law have power over me and I recognize that a system of law and authority is beneficial for society (the individual points of authority & law are debatable, though). I accept this power structure, mostly, in order to get along with society, basically as a social contract - I don't hurt, maim, kill, or steal from you if you won't do it to me. That's not respect, that's an uneasy truce amongst people who don't know each other and don't have much motivation to care about each other.

But I also follow many laws simply by coincidence because I care and respect my fellow human beings. I don't need a law to tell me not to hurt or kill or steal from other people (as a matter of fact, there was a time when the law against stealing didn't do shit to prevent me from it). What makes me really not hurt or kill or steal from other people is a sense of compassion, a belief that we all deserve to live with dignity, an immense feeling of empathy, a passionate philosophy of personal soverignty ... in short, respect.

As tacit also says, if your partner truly loves and cherishes you, a rule is unneccessary, but if a partner does not truly love and cherish you, a rule won't make him. Just like with our secular laws, if someone really doesn't feel that sense of compassion and empathy towards the one they are hurting, a law doesn't tend to stop them from doing it. Never has a criminal seriously said (Facebook meme pics aside) "Man, I'm totally gonna kill you! What do you mean it's illegal? Oh, well, then, nevermind, sorry, forget I said anything." People who want to kill find ways to do it. Some of them become criminals who ignore the law, some of them become soldiers and cops who have the law behind them, and some of them become legal executioners who are specifically ordered to do it. If a partner wants to do something that will hurt you, he will whether there is a "rule" in place or not. If a partner honestly does not want to hurt you, he will do his best not to whether there is a rule in place or not.

The same goes for metamours. If respect is what you want, passing rules won't make anyone respect the relationship or the primary position. What makes a person respect that is all those other things I talked about above - compassion, empathy, consideration, acceptance, understanding. Those things are not demanded nor legislated. They are earned. And the best way to earn them from other people is to first give them to those other people.

Love is not all you need, nor all your wife or husband needs, and certainly not all your children need. We all need respect, especially from those who are closest and most intimately connected with us.

*The Rules are defined for this post as a set of restrictions or guidelines dictating the behaviour of other people, such as "you will not have intercourse with anyone other than me without a condom" and "no overnight stays".  Reciprocation and agreement to said rules are irrelevant to the definition of "dicating the behaviour of others".

This is contrasted from Boundaries, which are a source of information about one person that another person can use to inform his or her decisions, such as "I do not feel safe having sex with anyone who does not use condoms with all of his partners" so that anyone that "I" am dating can still choose to use condoms or not knowing how his decision will affect "I" and/or his relationship with "I".  

Many people use the word "rule" when they actually mean "boundary" and many people *think* they are talking about boundaries when they are actually imposing rules.

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