Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reflection and resolution

Hey friends! I just blogged for 31 days in a row! And holy crap is my brain a pile of mush.

Today is that last day of my mission to blog every day in the month of November. I'm half elated and have relived. I won't lie, it's been grueling from time to time, but also quite exhilarating!

It became abundantly clear that I have no shortage of ideas. I don't think I had a "winner" every day but I was shocked at how easy it was to find a new thing to focus on everyday. Of the five drafted posts I'd accumulated as a cushion before started this project I only had to use two. And that is even with getting pretty sick for a couple days.

Because I had a daily practice I felt more and more confident about telling people "I'm a writer". I loved having a concrete project to talk about.

I loved having the daily rigor of an hours-long writing obligation. But it did get in the way of making plans and all too often had the side effect of being a great excuse to not leave the house. Most significantly my plans to apply to grad school took a significant hit. I hope to get back to them this December. So I can be absolutely done, send them out, and then never think about them again.

Also I like the outdoors and miss it (see yesterday's post!).

So I'm gonna try an experiment wherein I continue doing some of the best parts of this challenge, but in a way that still leaves room for having a life and getting sick.

I've come to a soft resolution about my daily writing practice which will hopefully help me maintain some rigor but still give me a break now an then.

I newly resolve to write at least 1,500 words every weekday (2x my usual), 750 words (morning pages) on the Saturdays and Sundays, and I will blog at least three times during each 7 day period.

Hope this works!

Friday, November 29, 2013

I should climb more trees

This morning started out with very little promise. The ache I'd hoped to sleep off last night still clung to my ankles and seemed to have doubled in the crook of my hip sockets. I lazed about for most of the morning, made a huge bowl of oatmeal, and only ate half of it.

Seeking a change in scenery I took a shower and decided to make my way to the library.
On the walk there I dreamt up a list of topics I'm looking forward to dipping my pen into:
  • The negative affects that being sick (consistent intestinal distress) has had on my sex life.
  • What it's like to feel my capacity drain and become too weak to run errands.
  • How the last thing we should ever need is forgiveness.


BUT the library was closed today (on account of it being a holiday). So I proceeded on to Lake Merritt  to write the old fashioned way, still fully intending to write about heavy depressing topics. Not two full blocks away from the library's closed doors I came upon a situation in need of adventuring.


Last weekend, a windstorm tore through our Oakland neighborhood and felled Lake Merritt's 150 year old eucalyptus tree. Despite the caution signs it became a community playground. The ache in my joints and abdomen gave me a moment's mouth-twisting hesitation and then I jumped in.

I tightened my pack, slipped my boots off for optimal traction, and then I started to climb.

          

There was something magic in it; the danger of falling somehow very charming. In some ways nature has always been my favorite "bad boy". The air smelled of happy sweat, vinegar, and a surprisingly small twinge of eucalyptus.

***


I've climbed to a welcoming perch and am watching the children and a few adults crawl over its downed pale appendages. Although wood is not the most accommodating of seats and my body demands to be re-arranged avery 5 minutes, at this wise intersection of branches, I feel more comfortable than I did in bed or even with the shower's warmth pouring over me.

This tree is very strong medicine for my body. Cradled eight feet up by the tilted blond branches, I am a child. All my frustration drains.

My concerns dwarfed by the smell of open soil and the confusion of newly horizontal ants. The gift of last week's violent winds is deeply healing. Its gravity a tilted reminder of just how decadent the weather is today. Low 70's and kind sunshine smiling on my stockinged feet. Ducks and cormorants dive and bob for their lunches. This is my paradise. Finally, I'm truly excited to be in the Bay Area.



***

I stayed in that tree for two hours. Several families came, climbed, and left while I was there. I climbed around on unstable branches fell a few times, dirtied my clothes with sweat and tree-skin, and got some well-earned scratches on my arms. I considered staying longer. But the groceries I came out for were still at the supermarket waiting to come home with me.

I slipped down gratefully and smiled as wide as the sky until the sun went down.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks: A list

It's a little hokey and a lot sentimental but today instead of a regular post
I thought I'd give myself a bit of a day off for the holiday. Instead of a full on post I've decided to list some things I am deeply thankful for (I will continue to add to this list throughout the day):


  • The family I was born into, they taught me kindness, simple joy, and give me more love then I'll ever know what to do with
  • The family I have chosen, who trust me more than anyone else to be myself, no matter how messy and confusing
    • My partner Strand, without whom I'm not sure how I could fight through my health problems, who's love makes all the hard conversations worthwhile.
    • My friends, who are too varied and wonderful to account for in a single list

  • Regular access to good food and a good kitchen
  • Cycling/Bikes
  • The energy and inspiration to write 
  • Poetry
  • My colleagues, fellow poets, novelists and writers of all types, who give me such magical support
  • My failures, which have taught me so much.
  • A good pair of boots
  • The financial flexibility to travel and make drastic changes in my diet
  • Adventure
  • Bathtubs
  • A body that lets me know pretty instantly when something hurts or is wrong
  • Ibuprofen
  • Lotion
  • Cuddles
  • Empathy
  • Life changing teachers
  • Lists and the calm they bring me
  • I've finally reached 50,000 (two days early woot!)


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

STEM and Sexism

I'm an poet, writer and by almost all cultural counts an artist.  But I'm also an occasional scientist. A significant portion of the people I befriend and surround myself with are have either scientific or tech related jobs or are very serious science geeks on their off hours. 3 of the last 6 people I've dated work in STEM fields. I love being surrounded by them and through them educating myself about the world around me and how I interact with it.

Suffice to say I have an vested interest in STEM fields and communities. And because I care it's important for me to say that STEM fields and communities have a gender problem.

I've been lucky enough to find people who've been warm and welcoming but more importantly are as disturbed by STEM's gender problems as I am.



Earlier this month I wrote about how dismayed I feel at the sad fact that women doing science STILL seems so novel and strange to most people. Women are active participant in the STEM communities and projects, but are being actively discouraged this participation.

The percentage of women going after degrees in tech fields has actually declined since the 70. any who leave STEM fields cite the constant sexism they face.

This is a real problem and I am grateful to those in the STEM fields who have to courage to speak up and call for the necessary changes.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poetry, Polyamory, and Intimacy

Moving to a new city with my partner has been hard on my emotional health. It's hard to be away from my old friends and distant from my other romantic partners.

I feel strangely hesitant to even talk about this because it feels like I am bragging or something but few things satisfy and nourish me more than intimacy. Having many loved ones nearby (be they friends or romantic partners) contributes greatly to my emotional stability. Right now I only have access to one person to share such intimacy with. It's less than I am used to. Don't get me wrong it's still an incredible gift and I am extremely grateful, but I want more.

I realized this last night after going to a poetry workshop. Which might sound a bit strange but I've long felt poetry as a shortcut to intimacy. This easy access to intimacy is part of why I am a poet and the reason creative processes appeal to me. They calls up a sense of closeness and empathy that strangers are usually not likely to otherwise share.

Poetry is my hunger for intimacy, or at least one of the ways I hunger for it.

Sharing artistic feedback, like I was lucky enough to last night, calls for levels of honesty and vulnerability that have become more rare in my life lately. I got more from that round of sharing and feedback than I'd thought possible.

This is partly because I aways forget how powerful I find working together with other writers. But it wasn't just that, I was reminded of what different intimacies tastes like.

I love my partner a lot. Our intimacy is unique, dynamic, and creative, but is always has a similar flavor. And I crave other flavors. This doesn't necessarily mean that I need to have a bunch of romantic relationships at all times, but that I prefer a variety in my diet of intimacy (which can come from friends, family, or even fellow poets and writers).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Human = Human

Today I read this heartbreaking and fantastically honest article about poverty, disability, and value. Seriously you should read it!

Every op ed piece I read defending food stamps or other benefits bend over backwards to point out the majority of recipients are employed. The majority are good people. Good people work.
But I do not work. I am autistic, and being the autistic I am means I am real world, social model disabled. I do not work because I cannot. There are a dozen hypothetical ‘what if…’ or ‘should be…’ scenarios in which I could hold down a job, but that is not my reality.

Work and the willingness/ability to work is a shitty metric for how to value a human being. Actually scratch that, trying to ascribe value to humanity is fraught and dehumanizing.

But we do it every day in examples just like Bridget cites above. We do it every time we try to figure out if someone is a good/bad person. No one, however different or amoral they seem to be acting, can ever fail at being a person. I admit that there're people who's humanities I have trouble relating to because of my personal ethics and energy levels. But my failure to recognize their humanity doesn't mean they're not still very human.

Value and humanity have nothing to do with each other. A human is no more or less a human because of what they can or can't produce or do. When we treat people's capacity for productivity as a metric for value, we dehumanize and erase people who produce less.  Treating productive people as if they are more valuable is how we get the idea that so called geniuses are allowed to be assholes, or the notion that famous artists (like  Roman Polanski) should be absolved for their abuse & dehumanization others; as if the value of what they produce in some sick calculation, outweighs the humanity of those the abuse/dehumanize.

I've written about the falseness of work's supposed dignity-bestowing qualities. Reading Bridget's article today really hit home to me how misguided it is to think that "jobs, jobs, jobs" is the best and only answer to the problems of poverty.

Financial independence through "honest work" is too simple and inappropriate a goal for feminism or any other anti-oppression efforts. It throws people like Bridget under the bus completely and ignores unpaid forms of labor (like parenting). It also devalues community and family interdependence which have long been an invaluable survival resource for many poor people.

Jobs are not the (only) answers to the disempowerment of women (or any group). Employment fails to address the complexity of concerns faced by people who are unable or even unwilling to "work" in the traditional sense.

I'm personally at the intersection between sick and difficult to employ. I don't have the physical energy to work most jobs full time. Specifically I don't have the energy to work in most forms of education, direct action politics, social work, or customer service which are the only things I am qualified for/interested in. In addition to the problem of energy I also don't want to work full time on someone else's dream, even if it is a dream I believe in and want to collaborate on.

I have a regular commitment to and faith in my creative process as a writer. Writing is one of the few things I do consistently have energy for. I am sick today and still working on it. But it is work, albeit work not currently ascribed much value by our society.

My ability to do writing work consistently doesn't make a me a good person or even a good writer. It demonstrates my commitment and consistency (qualities prized by capitalism and the culture of productivity). And I don't deny that there is an impulse in me that encourages pride such consistency, but consciously, intellectually I know that the amount and quality of work I do has absolutely nothing to do with my worth as a person.

I'm still the same amount of human and that shit is invaluable.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Soupsgiving

Thanksgiving is coming up, and writing about poverty yesterday inevitably brought up realizations about how much I value things in my life, and how joy can live in such simple things.

The weather is beautiful. It's slightly chilly, but during the day needing nothing more than a hoodie or a flannel to keep decently warm.

I've been absolutely loving the bright and breezy Bay Area November. Every day I'm shocked to see the sun is still shining and that the days are still so long.

I'm from Seattle and right now up there the sky is awash with frozen oysters and dead nuns. The ground frosts over every night. I'm certain that the absence of its drear and cold have improved my mood, but even in this perfectly SF serviceable weather, some cavern of my heart still aches with the chill.

This morning at the grocery store I felt the tug of root vegetables. I dreamt of soup steam and now this afternoon I'm stewing up a warming broth. It seems a funny contrast to the loving sunshine streaming in the windows, but the smell is delicious and rich with comfort.

Winter is the season for soup, and I don't need it to be cold to boot up my rituals of comfort.

So tonight joy will be broth. The garlic will soft and eventually I will add the tender of mushrooms.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Being Poor is Part of my Culture

Privilege check: There were some things my family didn't have when I was growing up: new clothes, fresh vegetables, access to the internet, cable tv, etc. but we always had an adequate amount to eat, our house held in the warm and out the cold, and even though it was cramped with six of us, my family was (and still is) a loving one. We also had a loving network of friends and extended family who shared resources with us when we needed. I am endlessly thankful for all these resources. Because of them, I didn't really know we were poor until middle school and I realized that "cool" was something my parents couldn't afford (esp since my dad's business just went under). The comfort of love went a long way. I was poor, in my mind I still am, but, when it comes to my family (both blood and chosen) I have always been fortunate. Being poor taught me how to recognize and respect this fortune.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Selfies

A day later than everyone else, I just finished reading Erin Gloria Ryan's Jezebel piece on selfies.

While I understand her skepticism, as someone who wishes to one day have gain and maintain a following partly through promotions, I recognize selfies as part and parcel of having a public persona.

There is an unfortunate tendency for women doing self-focused or self-promotional activities to be labeled as shallow or bitchy. Women aren't the only ones using the internet as a promotional tool. And they are far from the only people doing it excessively. Part of me agrees that self promotion in general on the internet has gotten out of hand. But really, what do you get when you pump your youth with confidence, college education, and then stick them in an environment where there's not enough jobs for us all. 

Ryan says:
Retaking a photo 12 times until your chin looks right is in no way analogous to asking your boss for a raise.
You know what? I am my own boss, and sometimes when I feature at events a good photo means a little bit more cash at the end of the night. But really? So few of my immediate friends are in positions where they can even consider asking for a raise. We're not not asking for that raise because we lack the stones, we know the money ain't there. Nobody is fucking promoting us. So we got bored and started doing it ourselves.

If the reckless abandon of self promotion is really such a big problem why not go to the root of it? Why not ask harder questions about why young people feel so driven to turn so much of their lives into self-promotional efforts? Really, selfies are not the problem here.

I personally, rarely take selfies. I usually get bored 5 shots in when I realize it's hard to take a flattering photo of myself. But when I do, it's not just because I want people to like me (I do), but sometimes, it's the best way for people to know more about me. And it can help me promote my work. I am a writer and I am hard-pressed to admit it but sometimes a photo demonstrates what my words just can't. This is excruciatingly clear today, 22 days into this blogging project and I want to quit.

Text reads:
Today I'm struggling to get out of the house.
Today I am struggling to get to finish a sentence.
Today it seems even making a list isn't easy.
Today I am sick,
but I don't know if I am sick because I'm stuck in the house,
or if I am stuck in the house because I am sick.
I've written 2,000 words today & not a jot of them and good at all.
But I keep going. And today part of my keeping going is showing you how I feel.

tired and a twinge disillusioned
Yes this is a pretty picture, but being pretty is not the point (for me). This photo is honest and speaks about me, my mood, and my tastes. But it took me about 10 failed pictured to get to even this one overexposed, smudgy-mirrored, ghost-chin-y picture. 

To me the selfie provides a really good metaphor for the fact that most of the time when we try to represent ourselves or our ideas to other humans, we fail the first 10 times at least.  A calculatingly shot selfie is no more or less artificial than the first 'ugly' frame shot and discarded. It just feels closer to true for the person taking and sharing the selfie. (just like the 1,600 words I wrote before this).

Unfortunately truth and beauty are culturally linked in our brains. I'm all for divesting truth from the oppressive concept of beauty, I believe we can all be more than just hunger for beauty and approval. But more immediately than that, I want to respect the truth that someone is choosing to share with me when they post a selfie.

Yes the people who take selfies often do replicate narrow oppressive beauty ideals. Yes those ideals and the way they are taught and enforced are fucked up. But this issue is bigger than selfies. Calling people who attended to their appearance and are complicit in beauty culture "shallow" is needlessly divisive (and I say this as a plaid wearing, make-up rookie). 

The markers of beauty culture are not the root of issue. A thin person is not personally at fault for a fatter person's insecurity. One person's beautiful selfie isn't what's going to make someone else feel insecure. That insecurity comes from the learned habit of comparison and self-sabatoging criticism that we teach everyone (but especially girls when it comes to appearance). Through selfies, we are only seeing a symptom.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I don't need to be jaded to do good work

In radical conversations I've had other activists let me know that they're shocked by my 'optimism' and that soon I too will become jaded like them. I am surprised every time this happens. I think I can sort of understand from whence this cynicism comes. It comes from burnout and overwork and years of frustration. Activism is frustrating work and doing it in unsustainable ways over the long term can create this cynicism.

Part of the reason I can't be jaded is because I need the work I do to be satisfying and sustainable. Now before you go calling me decadent and depraved for saying so I need you to know this: I have a non apparent disabilities that affect me whether or not I am working. I need my work to be satisfying and sustainable or else my personal disabilities will make doing them impossible very quickly.

So no. I don't need to be jaded.
I am dead set against being jaded. My long term survival depends on avoiding the repetitive stress of cynicism. 

I'm not going to be jaded but I am going to continue finding more specific and radical things to take issue with. This doesn't mean I won't be angry or that my anger will be worth any less or be any less powerful. I strive to apply my anger as strategically as possible. I recognize anger as a powerful tool to make change but the bitter of cynicism can make us insensitive to how it affects those we apply it to. This insensitivity can make work faster but it also makes it hostile and sloppy.

Being optimistic takes my time and my energy and it makes the necessary good work slow. But its the best way I've found to keep my compassion intact. I'm not going to do it faster if it means moving forward without acknowledging the humanity of those who don't work with me.

Whether they benefit or oppress us, we all live inside the same systems, to approach anyone as if they are not worthy and capable of your collaboration is elitist and needlessly divisive. 

What jaded people see (and perhaps misunderstand) as my optimism isn't as simple as they think. Before I begin any sort of strategic politics I accept the failure of that act before I begin it. I never feel entitled to the success of the things I write about or go into. I hope for it. I'm frustrated when I am misunderstood. I do fight my ground but I see that in the act of doing so I also give way my right to success. Bringing an idea outside of my head invites its failure and even while locked in a well reasoned argument, I try to remember and accept that such failure is a possibility. Because my worldview and brain function are different from everyone else's.

In my mind people who are jaded or cynical, just can't handle the failure of the things they believe. They aren't leaving room in their worldview for people to have have difference experiences and come to different conclusions. And believe me. I understand this I have been there and am there with them when I hear someone who is saying something or doing something I find absolutely atrocious and dehumanizing. My immediate reaction is to write them out of my world. But, when I can, I work to undo such erasures.

There is difference between accepting the possibility of failure cynically, or with an open heart. Someone who is jaded comes into whatever they are coming into with the full expectation and bitterness of not getting what they want. The person who accepts possible failure with an open heart comes forward with full knowledge that their efforts may fail, but in contrast to the jaded person, they are at peace with the idea that they might not get what they want and still view the endeavor as worthwhile and valuable.

If I can't ask for things to change without accepting that I might not get what I want then I am not ready to move ask. If I move forward without accepting the potential failure of my actions, disappointment can become toxic. It takes time to reach this level of acceptance. I don't work on all of the projects I want to because of it. But I take more time with my politics because they need room for optimism and failure. My politics need room for all humans and all possible humanities.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

And I'm reminded how lucky I am. I am lucky to know the trans people I know in my life and I am extraordinarily exceptionally lucky that all of my trans friends are still living.

Today is about those we have lost and on this blog I will speak a very few of their names:




It's important for us to culturally own the absences of these people as the deep loses they are.

But for me, because I've been so lucky to not lose anybody I love, today is also the day I think about the trans friends/family I know and value and love and miss. I make damn sure to feel grateful that they are still around and, if appropriate, let them know that I see, in some part, how fucking hard it is and that I am SO FUCKING GLAD that they are still here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Misunderstanding and creativity

I have amazing and loving friends who know exactly what beautiful and inspiring things I need and send them to me on a nearly daily basis.

I've been sick for the past few days. Yesterday I thought I might be getting better but this morning I woke up with the mysterious and alarming symptoms of a concussion. I don't think I hit my head, but for the first forty minutes I was awake today I experienced something like aphasia. I forgot and couldn't understand certain words. I could read the words in a sentence but I couldn't understand them or how they fit together to form complex thoughts.

I felt terrified without immediate understanding.

Luckily, without even knowing I might have this problem one of my dear friends sent me this comic.



When I finally got to reading it, and in between paranoia about strokes and meningitis, I started to be okay with the the fact that I didn't know words as well as usual. One of the places I find the most stability and comfort is in language and my ability to use it. I was terrified this morning by having lost some small measure of that.

I still have a headache and probably am not thinking as clearly as when I am 100% healthy. But that doesn't mean I can't create or should stop working altogether. I might slack off a little bit today and only meet part of my writing goal. But I can still show up. Because I don't have to know everything or really even know much to write.

There's this piece writing of advice that I can't stand being thrown around.

"Write what you know."

Now believe me, I understand the importance of research and inquiry (especially for nonfiction and novel writers) and making publishable content accurate to reality. But I learn the most when I write about things I only half-know or know an astonishingly little about. This type of writing is never guaranteed to produce anything substantial, however it presents the most exciting risks and often leads me to a sort of digging deep that I don't reach by sitting down with a known plan in mind. (this is especially true for poetry)

I certainly had other things on my mind this morning (namely frustration and fear) but now that I'm on my way to some semblance of wellness I do wonder, what might have come out of me in my state of nonsense.

I used to be really uptight about what ideas I thought were a good enough to write about. These restrictions kept me from writing poems more than a few times a month. While this mistake probably stopped me from writing some bad poems it also stunted the development of my craft.

These days, barring emergencies, I show up everyday to write despite my bad feelings. Somedays a screen's light is too harsh for my eyes too look at and I let my phone record a spoken outline of my ideas or I just cobble together a collection of what I find to be touching inspiring or upsetting and make notes. But I show up for my craft for at least 10 minutes every day. And it's usually not pretty.

I guess what I'm saying is that the writing process doesn't always look cogent, or knowable or smart. It's hard work to unlearn the erasure of creators methods which are often mired in long and intuitively rich periods of misunderstanding.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In it, but also against it.

Recently in the zine Moonroutes I found this passage by Jackie Wang:



As a white, lower-middle class, gender-and-otherwise-queer, I'm struggling with how to remember to "Live in it but also: against it". As I fill out my applications for grad school part of me hungers for legitimacy; to be let into and recognized by the system. For an artist/writer such recognition is often crucial to financial survival.

But I will to work to ensure that my hunger for "success" is equaled by my hunger to understand "the hidden brutality" that my life depends on. I know that my ability to further my craft has been enabled by the resources I've personally been afforded. Such resources have not been given to others (who have creative and critical capacities just like I do) as a means of systematic silencing/erasure. I don't want to forget that I am lucky to have the chance to TRY and be heard. If I forget I will become more complicit in the oppression that I am living in.

Part of being "in it but also against"  for me it means remembering to trust that the people dehumanized by our culture are no less capable of creating incredible artistic and literary content than I am.

It's arrogant of me with all my privilege to assume I'm above oppression just by knowing that it exists. I need to actively talk about who we are leaving out and who has been left out historically.

When we leave out the historical and current realties of oppression the context is incomplete. Any art viewed or created without acknowledgment of how it fits into the oppressive systems of our culture is missing context. I can't always fight under the simple, safe, and vague banner of "equality". Sometimes I need to be against something. Because I am never not participating in the status quo.

There is a danger in thinking about equality for the less privileged in oversimplified terms. When those of us with a particular privilege talk about equality one of the things we are talking about is equalizing the distribution of that privilege and extending access to people without that privilege.

When those in power are afraid of sharing the privilege of deciding what is and isn't going to be part of our cultural future we/they end up replicating the current status quo. There may be a(n appropriated) veneer of marginalized culture in order to bill such efforts as progressive and "for equality", but the exclusion of oppressed voices is still happening under the surface.

Nowhere is this gatekeeping more flagrant than in the creative/artistic world. An unfortunate side effect of capitalism is the misconception that good art can only be created in environments of excess. While there is some merit to Virginia Woolf's Room of One's Own in terms of people needing subsistence and access to seclusion for gaining and maintaining  mastery of artistic craft, it's foolish to think that good art is only produced the privileged.

To think that depth of experience and expression are only possible for people who's experiences include privilege further dehumanizes marginalized people and can even serve to justify the current dehumanization they suffer.

Those of us already privileged by the status quo who seek to end this and be advocates for equality need to remember that those we are advocating for aren't likely to want the exact same privileges we have. We should also remember that those we extend resources to aren't likely to use our now shared privileges in a way that is familiar or comfortable to us.

Practically advocating for people with less privilege means imagining and accepting uses of resources that differ from current or even currently imagined uses. The only way to forge a more equal world involves trusting in the creative and critical capacity of the oppressed. We must see shared privileges/resources not as a cost or even a sacrifice to the future of equality, but as a simple an necessary act of collaboration. In such sharing resources simply and freely it mean surrendering any expectations previously held about how such resources might be used. Equality won't look like what those in power think it will look like.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Feminist Analysis of Carrie: Violent Projections of Womanhood (MEGA SPOILERS)

I watched Carrie for the first time this October.

I was alone. And I was ready to be scared.


I was not scared. If anything I was creeped out. Not by the film itself but because it's exaggeration of the violence that women face reminded me of the reality of how difficult it is to be a woman sometimes. And how strange and difficult and lonely it is to be who you are in a world where you have no (real) support and your peers are vastly more privileged and comfortable than you.

A lot of people will think upon viewing Carrie will find a sympathetic character in the gym teacher, Miss Collins, but I don't think she is a actually friend to Carrie. In fact I find her to be a faux-ally. She doesn't reach out to Carrie out of compassion. She reaches out to her to encourage and enforce the her own roll as benevolent teacher and the role of Carrie as a blossoming adolescent. Miss Collins needs Carrie to be successful socially because she see herself as being validated by doing so. She approaches carrie in a passive aggressively predatory manner, trying to make her better fit into her social group, and make her into the "girl" that she is nostalgic for. She is attracted to the an idealized version of Carrie and is not actually interested in the person that Carrie is.

In the beginning of the film when speaking to the principle about slapping Carrie in the shower Miss Collins says "In that moment I knew why those girls wear doing what they did and I just wanted to smack her."

Despite her friendly approach she is still trying to force Carrie into a role. In the infamous pigs blood scene Carrie recognizes Miss Collin's falseness and "sees" her gym teacher laughing along with everyone else. Like all of the women in this film Miss Collins feels the need to discipline ridicule or change Carrie because of her failure to live up to what she considers normal and acceptable for the role of woman.

To an excruciating and delightfully acted degree Carrie's mother projects the expectation of innocence and virginity onto Carrie. The girls at school project the expectation of teenage normality onto her. The gym teacher is complicit in this although she works her butt off to make Carrie's mandatory assimilation into her version of womanhood as comfortable and humane as possible. Kind but ultimately misguided.

Carrie is a whipping girl, a repository for every other female characters expectations of womanhood. The array of the projections she suffers are often delivered violently. In the literary sense I'd argue, that the heightened adversity she suffers from these projections is the violent crucible from which her powers to arise (much like a superhero is often motivated by tragedy/abuse).

For this reason I view Carrie as a parable about the horrific consequences of women willy-nilly projecting their impossible expectations onto other women. I love this film specifically for it's unique focus on relationships between women. Yes it is violent but the relationships between woman often are (one of the ways the patriarchy maintains itself is by pitting women against each other). And some of my all time favorite movies demonstrate this (Mean Girls).

Call it misandry if you must, but I also find it very funny that all of the men in this movie are inconsequential. Their characters basically only exist to serve the aims of the female characters seeking to undermine Carrie. It's a deliciously strange reversal of how genders are usually represented in film. The women and their twisted motivations drive this film.

Carrie is often billed as a revenge flick and honestly I think that's an oversimplification. Carrie doesn't burn down the school, flip the car, and bring her house down because she wants to get revenge on all of people who have violently projected their crap onto her. She does it because the world as she knows it is a terrible horrible place where if you don't live up to people's expectations you get ridiculed and abused.

She burns the world to the ground because she's had first hand experience after experience of just how fucked the world is. She isn't in it for revenge, this move is a murder suicide story.

In this sense it's telling that Sue, the only survivor of Carrie's rampage, never spoke directly to Carrie and felt actual remorse about the shower incident. Sue made no attempt to change or solicit anything from Carrie at all. The only person in the film who gave Carrie anything without expecting her to fill their ideal role of womanhood was the person allowed to survive. Although she is left haunted by what she witnessed, as are all of us who live in a world were women are pitted against one another for not living up to skewed and violently enforced ideals of womanhood.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

No-home Sickness

My partner and I are currently between cities; in the process of leaving Seattle and finding a new city. Our roots are raw and recently cut. It's hard to be without a real home. It's even harder when I get sick.

I'm sick today and I was sick yesterday. I thought I might not be for a full 12 hours. But i was wrong. I suited up in an unapologetically dapper ensemble and took my sweetie out for fancy french food. It was excellent except for the vapid couple sitting next to us prattling on about the pounce of internet speculation. Though even through that my companion and I enjoyed exchanging mutually disdainful looks.  My partner tweeted about his fears and cynicism surrounding the tech culture and ruthless gentrification in San Francisco.



Neither of us want to live here but the job might be the right thing for my partner. So for now, we tolerate it.

After dinner and the 3 tablets of acetaminophen one of the waitstaff was kind enough to give me we left to go to a party. It was a party hosted by my partner's employer and the second one of this type that I've been to.

I had great conversations and even remembered a lot of people's names this time around. I was having a good time but found myself a bit lonely.



My partner was doing some "work" (having private conversations and bolstering confidence of students and coworkers). This meant I had less access to him and  ended up talking to people I didn't know very well. I don't mind this, but it takes energy.

And I like the people my partner works with and for. They are friendly and think well of me. This is apparent in every interaction I have with them. But the conversation fatigue set in much faster than I'd anticipated. But I miss the ease of a crowd that include people who're already my friends. A social slight completely unintentional and certainly indiscernible to anyone but myself  started me down a spiral of thought about how I don't belong.

One of the funny on-topic things I'd tried to put forth didn't fly and was passed over in favor of input from a community member. In that moment my joviality came crashing down. I made myself some tea and crawled out to the fire escape to spend some time alone. It was restorative but even then I felt my muscles shuddering softly in fatigue.

It took us an hour after that to leave. The long good byes were very long. We got wrapped up in an engaging but ultimately draining conversation about health insurance (which only served to remind us of how very uninsured we  currently are). I knew I was tired when we got out on to the street. I let my partner talk as we walked toward the BART station. I wasn't really listening and found myself grateful that one of my partner's friends accompanied us and that they conversed while I could concentrate on walking.

When we got on the BART I felt good to be away from the party (crowds can be an big energy suck) I felt almost normal, minus the slight nausea and high sensitivity to the hot stuffy  atmosphere of the train. My partner and I spent the whole ride back to the East Bay barely touching staring sappily into each other eyes. I was grateful for this elongated moment of emotional intimacy.

Unfortunately the instant I stepped off of the train I felt my energy crash again. On the escalator up to the terminal my partner stepped up to embrace me and I said "No. Too close."

The escalator up to the street was out of service so I had to climb the steps. The first two seemed fine, but each of the 25 or so after that seemed to threaten me with upheaval. I had to stop at the top and rest for a moment to make sure I didn't hurk.

During the seemingly endless four blocks from the BART station to our for-now-home in oakland I had a hard time walking and talking at the same time. The poet in my tried to consolidate what I was experiencing "I feel like a ghost".

My lungs worked half time, even the slow steps I took shortened my breath considerably. I felt my heat beat like an echo. The lag in my body's transmission of sensory information made legs clumsy and inarticulate. My marrow turned heavy like mercury in my bones. Last night was the first time I've ever asked a loved one "will you help me up the stairs?" If I'd had any energy left to feel I might have felt ashamed. But all I had room for was frustration and effort.

I wish I could just talk about just one of the three things that happened to me last night. My sickness, my social anxieties, my partner's bitter fears about career/location/health insurance, but all three happened in a drawn out mixed up progression that left my heart exhausted and my body ghostly.

This afternoon there is a part of me that thinks "maybe I shouldn't have gone out last night." It was extremely spoon-expensive and nearly drained all my bodily resources. I had no idea how fully it was going to take my energy. But ultimately I'm glad I could and I'm glad I did make it out last night. I'm lucky to have had the small burst of energy I did. And to have the energy I richly enjoy most of the time.

Fancy clothes and fancy dinner, flirty party conversations were worth the risk and the cost. But it's important for me to talk about that cost. At the end of the night I was a wreck. I needed my partner to help me up the stairs and into bed. I didn't have the energy to empathize with his fears about my health or our future I could only ask for tea and help taking off my clothes.

We're both scared about the future and uncertain about what we can handle and what will sustain us. Cobbling together hard limits and expectations form the world around us is nearly impossible. But we're working on it. Together. For that I am endlessly thankful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Feminism In Action's Open Mic was magical! (a review)

Last night, at a Feminism In Action Open Mic at the Delores Park Cafe in SF, I got up in front of a crowd of complete strangers and read a section of a freewrite/poem.

video


I felt some measure of security in that the room was full of self professed feminists raising money and awareness for domestic violence. A stranger to the Bay Area, I arrived early and an hour before the person who'd invited me. The venue was packed wall to wall with people. I stood for most of the performances I leaned on a wall near the bathroom and tried not to feel like I was in the way

The people at this event were all stripes of gorgeous. So many good looking queers and my goodness I wish I'd had the gumption to talk to more than a few of them. More than once during the music and poetry I would glance around the room hungry to watch the way people enjoyed and accepted the sounds into their bodies. En mass this collection of humans was exceptionally lovely. This audience was trusting and open and I knew it would be a delight to be in front of.

I had a couple printed off, toiled over poems in my pocket. A poem about being a fish and a poem about how animals navigate using the moon. Now don't get me wrong, I will stand the fuck by scientific poems as being poems of the people. But Graciela, the MC for the event was so thoughtfully insistent about addressing all the performers by their preferred gender pronouns that changed my mind. I did something raw and wild instead. I knew I had to read some of the words I'd drafted about gender and pronouns that very morning.

I am ashamed to say I spent several of the sets half listening frantically editing the freewrite on my iphone so it would be more cogent and have the ending I wanted. Despite being wrapped up in writing there were some unforgettable moment that made me snap out of the obsessive act of editing. The heat and unabashed to resistance to gentrification, racist/sexist/classist oppression kept pulling my eyes up from my own work. Again and agin I was reminded back into the shared discomfort of solidarity.

Even though I was too nervous and unfamiliar to join in, it warmed my heart to watch the small contingent of folks makeshift a dark grinning dance floor during one of the musical sets. The love was so apparent in the room that it overflowed and the streets I'm sure got messy with its healing. Even halfway down the block as I left I could hear its joyous laugher moving like honey in the air.

It was the most fun I've had in a crowded room this season.
I say well done to the organizers and I hope they pulled down a butt load of money last night.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Body is a Metaphor: thoughts on weight loss and gender

I lost 15 pounds since I started a restrictive diet experiment six weeks ago. 20 pounds total since this spring. Even though I've been tweeting and speaking publicly about the effects this diet has had on my health overall I haven't talked about my change in weight. Partly because I don't want to be buried under a barrage of accolades.

I don't want to be congratulated on decreasing a number society has so inexplicably tied to my worth as a woman. Even when I tell people about the weight loss in private I make certain to include that the reason I've dropped weight is that the diet I've started for health reasons has me eating less.

I've been consuming an average of 1,500 calories per day. For my size and level of activity this is probably too little. I've also been spending more time alone which for me means a decrease in appetite.

But the thing I'm especially unlikely to talk about is the satisfaction I feel about losing weight, I can't deny that some part of me still buys into the less is better mentality. But the rise warm feeling I have about the small changes in my body is more than just a reflex of learned attractiveness.

I'm pleased because the only parts of me that I've noticed as discernibly smaller are my breasts and my thighs. I'm delighted that my belly has stayed decidedly paunchy. I enjoy having breasts but lately I've been fantasizing about having smaller breasts tighter to my chest. Breast that I could have at least some success at pressing into a straight line.

I've considered buying a binder for this purpose, but the tightest sports bra I own does a pretty good job already. And I worry that a binder wouldn't do any better and that bra. More importantly I worry a binder would kick up my acid reflux even worse than my sports bra does. The heartburn makes me sweat nervously. This makes the sports bra itch. I want to wear button-down and tie without having to disguise awkward lumps with patterns and loose fits.

I like my clothes to touch my body and show off the stability of my barrel chested square torso. I'm scared that if I keep losing weight my belly and waist are going to become more concave.

It's been a year or more since I stopped trying to define my waist. I still have a few fabulous belts for showing off my high waist. Which is sometimes want to put on but mostly not. But the desire exists.

I'm both afraid of and desiring the loss of my belly fat. If the fat stays I know I will enjoy its benefits of balancing out my torso. I will more easily look masculine. But I also know I will miss wearing pretty belts and lose out when the urge to do so strikes and they don't fit anymore.

It hurts me that perceptions of gender aren't flexible enough for my expressions to seem genuine. I didn't mean to write about my gender but writing about my weigh makes me worry that I am not trans or genderqueer enough and that I should just commit to expressing my masculinity exclusively.

But I still like being feminine and I'm angry to tears that the vast majority of people I meet & even know and love won't be able to see me as truth of the delicious fluctuating mix I am.

Changing my diet has changed the way I relate to my body. It's seemingly impossible to think about such changes without triggering thoughts about body gender, perception, and presentation.

The categories of recognition and representation society offers me is an array of compromises, each limiting and inaccurate. My body's given me one such compromise in the form of my digestive health. Finding ways to be both satisfied and nourished on this restrictive diet sometimes serves as a painful reminder of how my identity is impossible to balance and communicate is a way that nourishes me.

I know I can't ever fully know my body with all this stuff in it: food, fluids, the bacteria that is more numerous than even my own collection of cells.

I'm comprised of many things. I often wish I had more body more bodies than I just this one.
The experiences of trans people are often laughed off and oversimplified with a joking or oversimplistic reference to being “trapped in the wrong body”. It's not funny to me. It's actually peculiar to me that so many people are so settled with just the collection of cells that they've got. Have these people never been sick or felt the pressure of an insurmountable ache?

It's not urgent or acutely painful but I feel nostalgic for a body this is as changeable as my mind both consciousness and subconscious. Dysphoria isn't a joke. It only is peculiar, but I'd be willing to bet it's more common than I think humans allow ourselves to realize. It happens to children whose parents call them inside and tell them to stop being to be dinosaurs.

Writing about all this stuff makes me think about the literally transformative power of metaphors. The audacity of assigning identity or meaning to anything is just an illusion. One we can take back at any time we choose.

The task of communicating our being is an impossible and obsessive dive through language, projection, and prediction. Anything shared between humans is a metaphor and it's metaphors all the way down.

This body, these words, they're just a metaphor. I am who I am independent of the meanings I or anyone else decides to make up about them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Robopoetry

Sometimes the writing doesn't turn out the way I want it to. This has been happening a lot in the last few days. I've still been able to eek out a few post and some serviceable content, but it's been feeling a little thin lately.

Probably because I am focusing a huge chunk of my brain powers on grad school applications. But also because I have poetic itches that need some scratching.

it's been a long while since I posted any poetry on this blog but today and last night poetry was what ached for my attention.

This is an unfinished snippet of a poem I arranged and translated using a silly but very fun facebook status generator.

The generator itself pulls from all the things I've posted on fb in my 6 year tenure on the site.
One of the things I noticed is that the robot inside this generator had a hard time making sensible phrases and words. It often suffered from verb/noun confusion. At first this frustrated me but then I realized with pride that it was probably confused it because I use diction is some pretty unpredictable ways. Ways that are sure to trip up most simple robot poets.

Only about 1 in 5 of the statuses generate made much (poetic) sense but I harvested them all the same. It's drafty of course but here you go:


While listening to some android poetry
I dual meaning through the morning.
Sleeping with my laptop,
despair can be effectively duped
by a conscious effort toward not wearing pants.

I tried to sneeze but had to yawn instead.
I don't want to do
I won't ever
let you know I'm performing.

I don't want to come
but soon the road came tripping down,
broke the unfocus
I accidentally wrote
Thursday instead of silence.

but before I start to feel
I'm playing with ice cream and wine,
Skirting dignity, I sleepwalk
into a ridiculous relationship.
Find a way to accommodate
marriage and its shelf life
with the compounded cost of water
and ginger garlic broth.

He is a potluck on lonely Friday
has love left over, 400 extra bones
and a fantastic insight into how this
grammar is all sides.
Got love thinking that
You should come

But apparently my bicycle had other plans.
I'll be an uphill smile on Saturday night:
pasta,
cheese,
some peppered broccoli,
and to be home;
but sometimes
I just need to be a poem.

I don't want anyone to pay me
I don't want to be tough.
I am a cheesy avocado pariah
I am ham
with 400 extra bones.

Soon the road tripping down
is going to rip open
the sky with dreamfilled trigger fingers.

Kneebloom bruise
punctured by goosebumps soothed
purple in my defense
I was sharing her semimetaphorical
box. Serious ache for nourishment
but she can't come

from your flying dreams. Lately,
you wake up gravity. Still
drowsy but using only one syllable words.
"I'm not crazy I'm just coping.
I don't want to get more deeply into tomorrow."

Suddenly the road came tripping down
turned around and cut up
my bicycle had other plans
it turned my stomach and my literary crank.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Disclosure: I've fucked up and I'm still learning how to do relationships

Yesterday one of my friends wrote a post about his history within the culture of "gaming" women and pick up "artistry".

I appreciate his narrative and others like it. But I also realized how that often when we talk about relationships going wrong we only talk about the mistakes on the part of the men in those relationships. I recognize the trend of relationship violence being men-to-women. But that is a trend and not the whole story. My friend's candor in his discolure inspired me to go through my own romantic history and identify the sexist, abusive, and manipulative behaviors I've engaged in as a woman.

Today I wrote many things that are too personal to share on this blog. What I wrote contained numerous details of my past and present relationships. Enough to compromise the anonymity and emotional well-being of the people I share(d) relationships with.

Instead of posting the whole thing I'm just going to share some of the insights I came to:

  • Essentially I drove headlong into relationships with the secret agenda of "make me lovable!"
  • Initially these relationships would seem absolutely spectacular. I would suddenly seem like a whole person. Everything would be shiny, happy, and gloriously intense. Each of these loves felt as if they "completed me". It was so novel to me to be seen as a whole person that seeing myself this way made me feel kind of high.
  • I was much less likely to say "no" to someone I was dating because I framed all their attentions toward me as loving.
  • At my most insecure anything that took my partner's focus away from me immediately kicked off a spiral of thought that always ended up in the same sodden conclusion. I saw myself as unequivocally unlovable and deeply unimportant. It didn't matter what it was that took my partner's attention or how earnestly they'd professed their love to me previously. I was convinced in some part of me that I was unlovable. That part of me still exists (current/recent partners will corroborate this).
  • Because of my own insecurity, I've been clumsy, and I'll say it, abusive in some of the ways I've sought validation from my romantic partners. I would come on strong. The words "LOVE ME" streamed so loudly though my veins, I couldn't listen for other people's boundaries. I've violated boundaries because I came into interactions seeking only to be validated. And for that I am so so sorry.

    The ultimate takeaway here is that I used to (and sometimes still do) let my insecurities lead me into relating to my partner(s) in harmful manipulative ways. I'm working on this. The first step is owning up to my failures.

    I pride myself on the work I do to be more intentional and ethical in my relationships. But that pride doesn't mean hiding or never mentioning my mistakes. While crafting this post I experienced a strong impulse to defend my past transgressions and then compare that to the actions of others, or frame it differently, so that I might not come out sounding so bad. But really that's the "not enough" insecurity talking. I know now that I don't need (your) love/approval to be "lovable" (I'm a human and therefore lovable). And honestly it doesn't matter that my bad behavior was "not that bad" it matters that it was harmful and that I want to do better.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    A word about social constructs

    I want to caution people from talking too much about problems as they are sources from social constructs. It's alienating to those who disagree and it also takes conversations about humanity to a strictly philosophical level that does not address the nitty gritty real world concerns and oppression and suffering that people face from the enforcement of social constructs.

    Yesterday I had a chat with a new friend about whether or not gender itself is a social construct. I used to believe that it was but now experience plenty of doubt about it. I recognize that a lot of the specifics of rigid gender roles certainly are socially constructed but gender itself  (as I am constantly realizing) is complex.

    Gender and gender roles are markers used by systems of oppression and those that enforce those systems. Erasing those symbol of oppression (if possible) does nothing to directly combat oppressive behaviors

    One of the things we also discussed was a world without gender. In all honestly, this sort of world is appealing to me. But it seems naive on some level. I don't want to slight my friend by saying so. I also find claims that race or class should be abolished naive.

    I am skeptical of spending too much time thinking about a world without damaging social constructs. I don't think it's impossible to reach at all. But envisioning and working toward the goal of a world without certain social constructs is work I'm not practically or ethically interested in doing. I'm much more interested in doing work that more directly reduces the very real everyday harm caused by the enforcement of social constructs. The goal of abolishing supposed social constructs like gender roles is not a practical solution to the harm caused by gendered oppression. Especially if those "constructs" provide the scaffolding for people's identities.

    Part of this has to do with what confronting ideologies and social constructs means. Changing social constructs requires that everyone change their minds and ways of thinking. I respect the individuality of people, which means I respect their allegiances to social constructs (even if they are not constructs I subscribe to, like say religion). This doesn't mean I condone any dehumanizing behavior people might ascribe to their constructs but I respect social constructs as the legitimate components of identity.

    Saying we should work to abolish gender roles or religion or race essentially says to people who consider these things to be vital parts of their identity that they need to abandon and rebuild their identities. And maybe in the future people will, but you know what? Today, in my world, asking people to drastically change and reshape their identities to fit my utopia seems not just impractical but deeply insensitive and even supremacist.

    Social change also takes time. And mistakes. Lots of both. If certain social constructs are in the end missteps it's not going to just take more than just an acknowledgement of them to remove their effects.

    There's an additional danger in focusing too much on the absence of social constructs. It can often lead us to think that the removal of social constructs is as easy as acknowledging that such constructs exist.

    Social constructs are deep seated in our subconscious, which our conscious minds hold little to no immediate power to change. Changing the subconscious, whether it's of the individual or of culture at large is a long difficult process of changing thousands of micro habits of thought and action. When I say "social change takes time" this is exactly that I mean.

    I consider myself a normal human (despite my many abnormal attributes) and it's taken me months and years to reach minimal deconstruction of certain social constructs in my mind. The reasons oppression based on social constructs are not very easy to eradicate because social constructs are much firmer and deeply rooted on our brains than most of us realize. Our knowledge of a social constructs doesn't itself mitigate the way we internalize & project that construct. Knowing about social constructs doesn't stop those constructs from affecting us constantly.

    For instance:
    I am a generqueer/genderfuild person. I try to keep my or other people's genders out of the conversation if gender is irrelevant to our interaction/topic.When telling stories about strangers I use the pronouns "they/them" or say "that person". But my making the gender(s) in such stories neutral is something I do after the fact. Whether I disclose it or not I am constantly making split second assumptions about other people's genders. And my own.

    I work at acknowledging these assumptions with language like "the person I perceived as fe/male or masculine/feminine." But I can't stop my, very human, subconscious survival tactic of making snap judgements about my surroundings and social environments.

    What stops me from imagining a world without gender roles or race is the knowledge of my own inability to change they way my subconscious has learned to reflexively sort people into socially constructed categories.

    I think the denial of these snap judgements is one of the most dangerous risks of putting too much faith in the abolition of social constructs. I've witnessed this denial in many supposedly progressive spaces. The denial of internalized subconsciously oppressive judgments run rampant in the white male dominated spaces. (like say groups of the tech savy, and those interested in science/atheism).

    It's not uncommon in such spaces to be ridiculed for calling out sexism or racism with the defense: "if you're seeing it, you're the one being racist/sexist."

    This comes from the assumption that conscious knowledge of a social construct absolves the knower of its effects. It puts too much stock in what we can control with our conscious minds (which science has repeatedly shown to be less than we think!). It allows those that have knowledge and education about social constructs to think that they are above its influence. Which is dead wrong. This is how we end up with purportedly progressive people saying that we're "post-racial" or that a code of conduct isn't necessary because a "culture of respect" is enough to prevent gendered violence and harassment at tech conferences.

    Knowing about social constructs gives us some information about how harm is caused and can be used to build ways of being that cause less harm. But knowing about them, and even being in a community of other who know as well is only half of the work. Whether we know about them or not the harmful aspects of certain social constructs are still inside all of us. It takes more than just knowledge to reduce harm. It takes the constant work of self-interrogation, deconstruction, and the imagination and rigor needed to build new habits of thinking and doing.

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Don't call me lady (pt.2)

    I REALLY want this shirt. (despite it's problematic use of "crazy")


    Last year right around this time I wrote about my relationship with the word "lady". Since then more of that relationship has unfolded. Consider this a part two of that post.

    In that post I cite the confining femininity and class status of the term as my reasons for no longer using it. There's more to that story now but first I have to disclose & summarize:

    I don't think it is always a classist term, nor do I think ladylike femininity is a bad thing in and of itself. But much of the the ladylike femininity I've often experienced or witnessed is a femininity the I have little preference to be involved in. I recognize that there can be power in claiming the term lady. But that power is not for me.

    Writing about this is scarier and closer to my identity than writing my post about "lady" last year. It's harder because I have personal stake, because it's not just my politics. It's because of my gender(s).

    I am genderfuild. My gender is both an adventure and an open ended question. I rarely know what gender(s) I will be when I wake up in the morning. Some days I don't even figure it out what I am. But I am lucky in that there are a few things I am certain I am not.

    One of the things I am NOT is a lady. When I am feeling like a woman or a girl, I am always a weird one. (If weird where a gender I might claim it). I'm closer to a a crone or maybe, tomboy, or something that has no name yet. I'm always too messy for lady, too frank to be demure, and the way I flirt (no matter what gender) often resembles that of a 15 year old boy.

    I have never really identified with the term lady (even when identifying exclusively as a woman). As a teenager I would often make the self deprecating joke of "really I just don't DO dainty". This phrase popped up after I'd spilled 3/4 of my oreo milkshake onto my winter formal gown. I said it first shamefully and as an excuse to my date after apologizing profusely (he had to drive me home for a change).

    I used to pine after the idea that I might be a lady someday. If I tried hard enough, if I behaved well enough, if I descended a grand staircase elegantly enough, if I held my body in just the right way, I could be a lady too. I even looked up and mimed charm and etiquette tips. Acting them out felt excruciatingly clumsy and forced.

    I wanted to be a lady because I knew that's what I was supposed to be. I knew that was what I must aspire to be. I noticed the people in my life, but specifically the men I dated back then, holding deep admiration for the women we'd identify are "real ladies". And I wanted that admiration an the respect that came along with it.

    In the last few years I've been so lucky to find a loving partner and community who support my exploration of my own weird gender. It's taken me a while. But with support, I've figured out (or maybe unlearned) a thing or two.

    The respect I garner has very little to do with how I do my woman hood or how well I perform as a lady. I realized, even before I came out as genderqueer, that people  were already seeing the way that I did my gender and respecting me for it. I did not have to subscribe to traditional gender roles to gain the admiration and respect. Some people still admire traditional gender rolls, but I am more interested in people who admire others for being themselves (in this case respect me for being myself). Those who don't respect and admire the way I do my gender are not the people who I'm going to choose to be my long term partners or friends/family.

    I want people to respect my weirdness and a lady is very rarely allowed to be weird. There needs to be room in whatever label I choose for me to be the very very strange creature I am. And the constraints of lady, while sometimes fun to visit are never a place I want to put down roots. I respect the choices of others to claim this term and even understand why it might be comfortable to people who're more intrinsically orderly and demure (or really just different!) than I am. But it's not for me anymore. And actually, it never was.

    Titles I prefer (most of the time):
    dude
    buddy
    friend
    warrior
    writer
    poet
    girl
    boi
    badass

    For more details on my genderfluidity you can buy my chapbook!

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    Marketing Feminism: I'm not buying it



    So I'm wildly excited about this.

    I support this project 100%. I think it is a vitally important development in safety and transportation. The critique this project has inspired has nothing to do with this product or its development (both of which I applaud). It has to do with marketing.

    If you watch the promotional video, which is masterfully cut and filmed you'll notice that it and the article I cite lean primarily on the novelty of "women doing science" to sell their product.

    I am wildly excited about this helmet as cyclist, science enthusiast, and feminist.

    In that order exactly.

    I am excited that women in technology are making fantastic products, but honestly I feel pandered to by their marketing strategy. I gives me big sads to realize that the idea of women doing good science is so alien to most people that it's actually considered an unexpected marketing idea. Women have been doing science all over the world for a long timeIt's not a novel thing folks.

    I appreciate the fact that Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin highlight the ways in which they faced sexist discrimination and I think their stories around it are important. But right now what's important to me for their product launch is their product information.

    You know what would excite me more than the 'shocker' that women are doing hard and concretely useful science? Actual specs on how this helmet works. I want to know if and how this helmet protects against neck injury and whiplash (something traditional helmet are notoriously bad at protecting from, but that this inflatable model looks like it might reduce). I'm curious about the tests run on it.

    In this case my practical concerns for safety as a cyclist trump my concerns as a feminist. Not everyone viewing this product will share my priorities, but putting the rocket of girl power behind this product's ad campaign implicitly sends the message that it's more important that women like this product than it is that it will save lives. Impracticality is not feminist.

    In general and in this case I am opposed to gendered/sexist marketing strategies. If this helmet's primary features are life saving ones (that make it safer/more practical than traditional products on the market) then all cyclists should be marketed to.

    Looking cute and girly is a wonderful thing but I'm sure it's not the top concern for all the cyclists who're interested in this helmet.

    As I mentioned before I am excited about this product. My irritation at its gendered marketing is only emblematic of my constant irritation with gendered marketing strategies in general.

    Since their advent of public relations marketers have been looking to get consumers to buy things through the use of psychology and manipulation. I think there can be ethical marketing strategies, but marketing in the US comes from a long history of such manipulation.

    The Hövding helmet's marketing strategy is to stimulate solidarity and support for the women who made it. They are selling the false feminist novelty of women doing science.

    I think solidarity & support for women scientists and entrepreneurs is excellent. I think giving women in science and tech fields more visibility is excellent. But neither of these things should be a marketing strategy. The use of feminism as a marketing device is unappealing to me. It limits feminism to those privileged by a capitalist society.

    As much of an anti-capitalist as I am, I delight in products that're both useful and considerate of their users in design. The Hövding helmet appears to be exactly that. But no matter how much girl power is pumped into its marketing campaign, buying one will not make me a better feminist. I want the marketing to stop telling me that it will.

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    No use for the obtuse (when writing about the less privileged)

    Yesterday I straight up walked out of a poetry reading on a college campus. I found the content of one of the readers repulsive and degrading. He was using "washed up" strippers and sex workers as props to create a post apocalyptic fantasyscape and that was not okay with me.
    I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fantasyscapes. But the use of sex workers as the primary prop to do so made me gag a little. Okay, a lot.

    Old white novelist guy this one's for you:
    First off newsflash: sex workers are people yo. Please don't use them, or assume that based on the services they provide that they as a group of humans can be treated as a stock of stereotypes to paint a more sleazy setting. You were probably thinking something on these lines: oh yea I want some sleaze, I'll just use some sex workers, they don't mind being used and dehumanized right? They won't mind or have any more thoughts or personality. It's their job to be used so they won't mind! Sir, fuck you. For your sake and for the sake of your readers I hope you learn how to write better in the future.
                                                                                      WRM
    In particular this guy's description of the older, desperate-eyed, drug fiend, stripper with "buckshot tits" who would kill you for your money or for drugs, was the moment I knew I had to leave. I couldn't take it anymore.
    On the bright side. Two women also walked out during the reading of this same piece.
    But both this reader and the one previous read content that leaned on cultures they knew nothing about in order to create bombastic "entertaining" content. The first white cis male reader opened his set with a poem called "Slaves" and featured prison imagery and language reminiscent of what I guess he thinks is the ghetto or prison.
    But his poem didn't say anything or reveal anything new or enlightening about the history of dehumanization forced on certain people in our culture. It did nothing to critique the prison industrial complex and the culture of captivity we've forced so many (people of color) into.
    Or maybe it did say something. Maybe I'm just not educated enough to have heard his critique. I guess in well off academic circles it's enough just to mention or hint at the forces which violate the lives of so many. Maybe I don't get such subtlety
    One of the reasons I am afraid that I will never understand or fit into academic or prestigious schools of writers is because I choke on the implicit. I have no use for the obtuse. I find it clumsy and grating when a poet or writer talks about those of lower status without acknowledging that they have an agenda.
    Some advice to those who wish to write about people who are more/differently marginalized than them:
    If you're going to talk about people with less power than you be clear, otherwise you are hiding the fact that your voice is more valued by society. When you are confusing or clumsy with these people's narratives you are reinforcing the exact same skewing of value by not clearly stating what you believe. By not writing about these people with their full humanity in mind (not just the affectations you've stolen from your stereotypes) you are erasing these people just by mentioning them. You are rewriting their stories over to top of their very real lives.
    And that is a big fucking shame.

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    Finding Value in the Discomfort of Loneliness

    I've been spending progressively more time alone in the last year and acutely more time within the past two months.

    In September my partner started some contract work with a company in San Francisco. We'd been living together in Seattle for 2 years before this. In order to stay close I agreed to house and pet sit for some of my partner's relatives about 70 miles to the north.

    In the last seven months we lived together I was out of work and he was working a 40 hour week. I ended up spending huge swathes of time alone in our apartment.

    Being two hours away from him in Davis the loneliness is often very acute.

    I do have new friends but having only just met them there is not enough trust there for me to access the intimacy I crave when I feel lonely. I'm lucky that I get to see my partner on most weekends. We're only a train ride apart and for that I am deeply thankful. But the weekdays themselves can feel particularly lonely. It's harsh, but also extremely valuable.

    Have this gift of so much time alone has forced me to realize that my feelings of loneliness are not so much about wanting or need to be be around people or or to share m experiences with other people. My loneliness is a combination of my hunger for intimacy and my deep and insistent restlessness. The hunger was not a surprise. I love being with others, even when it's tiring and taxing on my system.

    But the restlessness was a shocking to me. Not that it should have been. People have been complimenting to drive and commitment for years saying things like "I don't think I could really work as hard on stuff if I were unemployed" and "I think you would really get a lot out of an artist's residency because you will sit down and face your craft." Less than two weeks into my stay in Davis I was riding my host's bike to Sacramento and back.

    It would be dishonest of me to say that I don't also feel drawn to just mire in bed all day eating microwaved quesadillas and watching back to back episodes of Columbo.

    But I need more than that and what being alone stokes inside of me is that fiery itch to pay attention to what my body needs to out. What words are lurking under the false control of my conscious mind? What journeys need journeying?

    I don't think I ever feared being alone except for along the lines of Marianne Williams



    In the past I've feared my restlessness (in which might be the seeds of greatness?). But now I try to run to it. It takes me to a place where I forget that being alone is not the horror our culture makes it out to be.




    I can even forget the hunger I feel for intimacy. For a little while anyway.

    In all honesty I probably started this daily blogposting business in some small part because I feel somewhat staved for intimacy. This forum allows me some sort of intimacy with the people who read about me and my thoughts.

    Last night I had two of my friends (one of them new and another one I've known a long time but only online) tell me they felt a little bit creepy reading some of the thoughts I posted. But the thing is I don't mind random people knowing about mental, emotional, and physical struggles.

    I'm certainly not against anybody who wishes to keeping such information private, but I wish there was less of a cultural taboo on talking about (mental/emotional) health problems. While I'm sharing primarily it because I want to, I also am sharing my stories of dis-ease and mental/emotional illness because I want to assuage the stigma people feel about their own health concerns.

    Also the filter of this blog, while quite revealing, still leaves me with most of my experiences and their details largely unshared. Even daily, this writing of posts is just a skimming off the top of what I experience and feel. Only I, alone, can dive deep down into my experiences and harvest the nutrients and rich texture of seaweed roots.

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    On Anxiety and Organization: Lists are my Medicine

    I have social and generalized anxiety. I occasionally suffer from anxiety/panic attacks. My stress level often has immediate and massive effects on my body. It usually starts with decision paralysis. For me the first signs of an anxiety attack are words like "I don't know", "I guess", and "whatever you want should be fine". Most of my friends will tell you that, despite how much I try to be a tough guy, I have pretty particular tastes and sensitivities when it comes to my comfort levels. When I am not in touch with these preferences I stop trusting my own senses. That's when my breath begins to shorten and the knots start tying up my stomach. Sometimes my heart will ache or feel pinched.

    I've used a lot of things to mitigate my anxiety in the past. None of them are actual medicine or where prescribed by a doctor. Often it's been foodstuffs. I find comfort in foods like cupcakes or cheese plates or toast (it's usually sweet but doesn't have to be).

    I started a very restrictive diet six weeks ago. One of the things I noticed right away is how often would crave certain food when I felt down. In some ways this makes sense. I'm the kind of person who will have some kind of mini-meltdown if I skip a meal or two.

    This new awareness of how I've used food to regulate my feelings made me start to wonder. What else am I doing to manage my mood and keep anxiety levels to a minimum?

    In the absence of consumable anti-anxiety measures (like of cheese, beer, and sugars) I've been noticing what I have been doing to maintain a healthy mood. Having direct online contact with my friends has been indispensable (my internet was cut for a mere 36 hours this week it affected my mood acutely). I also take walks and ride a bike.

    Though lately I've been biking less and less. It occurs to me that I always forget how much I really like cycling alone until I am actually out there cycling by myself. I feel power and resonance with the landscape. I feel confident and in control.

    Consequently this is also how I feel when I'm writing or editing something I've written (which also falls under the category of writing for me). And yes, free-writing regularly (every day) has also been one of the ways I manage my anxiety. Fortunately these days free-writing now feels like a reflex. I've been writing every day for more than three years. But I've only edited spurts when working on projects. The editing itself feels marvelous and in control and not the least bit anxious.

    When I'm editing I can feel as "in the zone" and electric as I've felt while jotting down the first draft of a striking poem. I feel just as resonant as I do when riding my bike a long way solo. But for some reason it is devilishly difficult to get myself to schedule and start doing either of these things.

    Why is that?

    Well the anxious parts of me fight viciously against the memory of how powerful, liberating, and healthy these experiences are. I used to think I was just not the type of person like to organize. But what I've come to learn over the years is that it's not ME that doesn't like to organize or prioritize (or at least not all of me). It's the anxiety that doesn't like it when I organize.

    I feel resistance to organizing my shit. Whether it be my actual physical stuff (my partner can attest to this) or the less physical more conceptual stuff involved in my life. For instance I have trouble showing up for physical fitness activities like yoga or bike rides unless it is made clear that there is going to be some social component. It's a battle for me to schedule things to do alone that enjoy, especially if they require me to be independent or decisive. This doesn't mean that I'm can't or don't enjoy being independent and decisive. I can and do. But my anxiety tries to convince me otherwise.

    It's tell though that even on the brink of an anxiety attack I am able to do simple non-demanding organizational tasks that combat my stress and anxiety. One of the more reliable methods of staving off an anxiety attack is to make a list. It's usually a to do list, but it can also be a random list; What groceries do I need? How many blue things can I think of? What countries have I visited, which ones would I like to visit? how many prime numbers can I list until I feel better?

    The fact that I find such solace in lists makes apparent to me how much I actually DO value organization. As the most stripped down, basic definition what is a list but an organizational tool? The tool of lists is often what I need to keep my anxiety levels down and my mind clear of self doubt and blame.

    A list provides me with an organization system, a way of prioritizing. It lets me know that as a human I can reliably identify what deserves priority. I can discern what matters to me and to my surroundings. A list is concrete proof that I can be trusted as a decider, me and my senses know what's what. (remember that my anxiety attacks start with the decision paralysis of not trusting myself).

    And really what is writing but constantly trusting your own instincts of organizing words and meaning? I take joy in choosing the right words or choosing the right idea. All writers do. But I have this force in me this anxious mess of untrusting. A force that even if, while I try to manage it, can derail and discourage me from taking the decisive actions I so enjoy.

    I'd love to end this post triumphantly proclaiming "and this is how I beat anxiety!" but the struggle is not like that. All of the above conclusions were slow to germinate. And while I know a few flimsy, but effective techniques for managing my anxiety and combating its effects, the progress is slow going and complex. This post, while empowering to write, is only an exercise in shining light on the mechanisms of my anxiety. A declaration against the conniving, invalidating, anxious parts of me, a message that says "I see what's going on here buster."