Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why Feminism? (Part 12)

But He was Such a Nice Boy...

This comment at Twisty's reminded me that I still had a few more chapters in my Why Feminism? bit, so here goes.

Guys like freeman can proclaim they are "feminist" and “nice guys” all they want. I know exactly what nice guys are capable of. I know what even wonderful, loving, amazing guys are capable of. I know that hiding behind the “nice guy” label is just that – hiding. I know that the only truly nice guys are the ones that understand that we are all flawed, we are all human, and that being "nice" may be the default fucking setting, but it is also not only a daily choice, but often a daily struggle in this fucked up world of ours. I know that actual nice guys don't feel the need to proclaim this and they don't mistakenly presume that the "nice guy' label excuses their actual conduct.

Not so very long ago my brother and I were driving somewhere and we were talking about calling guys out on homosociality. Not in those words, but that was the gist of the conversation. He was saying that I just didn’t understand how hard it is to be that guy, the guy that calls everyone else on their shit. That I was expecting too much. I think about that whenever anyone says that women who “cry sexism” (or minorities who “cry racism”) are just “playing the victim.” I think about it when certain vocal figures, in the blogosphere and the public sphere, call themselves champions of the people. I wonder if they know how hard it is to be the person whose choices are not to go along with bullies or be bullied, but to be bullied in silence or be bullied worse because you dared to say “NO!” I wonder if he still doesn’t understand how hard it can be to simply say “no” sometimes, even to the people you should be able to trust.

I understand that people make mistakes and I understand that getting things done means making compromises. I’m not judging people simply for making compromises. I just can’t help but cry “bullshit” when people claim to be heroes – heroic underdogs even - and then make excuses for not standing up to bullies, or expect gold stars for simply being a decent human being. I understand being scared, because I am too, but a word of advice: like everything else, it gets easier with practice. The more you put it off, the harder it will be.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I (heart) Jack Zipes

Because, seriously, anyone who can argue in a scholarly manner that the traditional Grimms and Perrault version of Little Red Riding Hood is a victim blaming story of rape, just plain kicks ass.

Terri Windling has a shorter, milder, version of the argument here. Included in the essay is an example of The Grandmother's Tale that is believed to be the precurser to the version that we know today. It makes for a very enlightening contrast.

did I mention that I love working in a bookstore?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sometimes Customers

.....are fantastic.

They are adorable toddlers who follow you around babbling words you can't understand, cute little kids too afraid to ask for help in getting the books out of their reach, eager readers looking for something to keep them entertained, teachers searching for books to tempt even the most relectant readers, parents with questions about storytime, or even just normal, reasonably civil adults wanting to pick up some random or popular book they heard about.

But sometimes customers are the rudest people I have ever known - including myself, and since my temper and naturaly anti-social nature can turn me into a spectacular grump, that's pretty damn rude.

A woman came up while I was at the information desk and asked if we had the book about Hillary Clinton. Since, as anyone involved in politics or who has worked in a bookstore knows, that's rather like asking if we have the book about cooking healthy meals, I asked her which one she meant. She wasn't sure and seemed confused that there was more than one, or that I didn't automatically know that she wanted that one - or something.

I asked her if it by Hillary Clinton or by someone else, if it was about something in particular about her, could she remember the title, etc. She didn't know. Any of it.

She thought it might be recent. So I reorganized the list on the computer by most recent publication date. While I was doing this she babbling in a way that made it seem as though she was confused as to why I couldn't just take her to the book. Since it is reasonable to assume that I could take her to the section that would have all of them in it, at least, I explained that the Hillary Clinton books are actually in several different places, not just biography, since many of them are actually about Current Affairs, etc. In fact the most recent one was a Humor book called blah blah blah, would she like to look at that one?

No, it wasn't humor. I don't just, you know, know of a Hillary Clinton book? (huh!?!) No, I know of some pop....There wasn't one that just came out? I explained that the humor book was the one that just came out. No, no, I she meant were there others. No, I'm looking at the list of most recent books and that's the only one that's actually recent. There are lots more on the list though, would she like me to read the titles and see if she recognizes them?

No, she calls her boyfriend/husband/whatever that she's picking the book up for without sparing me a word or glance - except to ask me the title of the humor book again. She starts asking him questions about the book, all the while saying things like "she can only look them up by publication date or something" (what!?!) and "she isn't being very helpful" all the while gradually turning away from me. She gets mad at one point when I correct what she's telling the boyfriend/husband/whatever about the publication date thing - maybe she though I was butting in, but I was relatively polite about it ("well, actually..."), and I was really hoping the person on the other line could help, so I wanted to make sure he/she had the right information. She talks for at least half a minute more without looking or talking to me - but still standing at Information like she needs help. Eventually she just walks off, still talking on the phone, without a word or glance in my direction.

I turn to my coworker once she's out of earshot and say "some people!"

"Yeah," he says "I was about to slap her myself for you."

(To everyone saying to themselves - "that's why I like to look the books up myself!" I very much agree with you. However, if we let Ms. Rude Idiot look up her own books, she would never be able to find them herself, even if she had actual information, and would always leave the store believing that we didn't have the book she wanted, even when we did, because she would never believe that we could possibly do a better job of finding it than she could and so, unlike you, she would never ask for help. So we make her. Unfortunately, we can't make her without making everyone.)

Please Explain

I'm watching the newest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and I'm wondering, if....

the Bennets live in Hertfordshire,
Lady Catherine lives in Kent,
and Darcy lives in Derbyshire....

then what the hell are Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy doing at Stourhead?

I mean, I get that movies are really shot in all kinds of places - Stourhead just seems a little, I me. Rather like saying you're not in San Francisco, even though you go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Yes, there's a lot of people that won't recognize it, but it's a fairly distinctive looking place, so the people that do, really recognize it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We (fail to) Report - You Decide

Some things make me so mad that I either can't find the words or I seem to find all of them at once and can't organize them into a coherent argument.

The appalling situation of women in Africa is one such "thing" - most especially when it comes to the often half-hearted and misguided efforts of government and health companies to deal with African women's growing vulnerability for AIDS.

So, at the moment, all I have to say about Dr. Sock's excellent question (via Chris Clarke - sitting in for Dr. B) is that the answer, of course, lies in the assumptions and narrow-mindedness that are all too common.

Last fourth of July I had to choose between exploding and making a scene or leaving my Aunt and Uncle's picnic blanket at my town's annual Fourth of July celebration because - while god forbid that a reporter provide some background on a story - the conservatives in my town felt no shame in turning what was meant to be a recognition of achievement and inspiration into another opportunity to tell the kiddies "no sex before marriage!"

Some members of the local Rotary Club had, quite laudably, raised a boatload of cash to help a group of African girls who were either infected with AIDS, or who were at great risk for infection. When I heard this I was ready to forget any negative thing I had ever said about conservative "community' clubs and began wondering if I had enough on me to donate a few dollars if they started passing the hat around.

However, the speaker spent most of the time not talking about the girls and women they were helping, but about how lucky "our girls" are - which would have been slightly annoying even without his definition of "lucky" being overly narrow. He mentioned the "ABC" approach to dealing with the AIDS crisis - but only really talked about the abstainence. He got all teary eyed about how sad it is that "these girls" don't have the opportunity that "our girls" have to say no sex before marriage. The fact that the "B" stands for "Be Faithful" and that married African women are are especially vulnerable to HIV infection, was apparently not worth mentioning. If it had, been, I'm sure he would have completely ignored the fact that "our girls" have the right to abstain before marriage in part because they also have the right to say "no" in marriage. After all, it's all about the no sex befor marriage, it's not at all about the right to say "no" - full stop.

The link above appears to be a (now defunct ) site created in connection with the CIA's "Mapping the Global Future/NIC 202o project (the link is to google's cache). You can download the final document here.

One of the quotes that I found particularly striking from the background paper was this:
In Kenya and Zambia, data reveal higher rates of infection among young married women (age 15 to 19) than among their sexually active, unmarried (female) peers. These studies found that the rate of HIV infections in husbands was higher than in the boyfriends of sexually active single teenage women. Women in marital relationships were also more frequently exposed to unprotected sex.

grrr...I don't know why the link isn't working, but I think it must have somethig to do with it being a google cache of a downloadable word doc. I'll see what I can figure out.

This is What I Get....

...for being perpetually oblivious and a born procrastinator.

First, I can only go to the second day of The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books because I didn't realize it was this coming weekend until yesterday and I'm scheduled to work on Saturday. Which means no autographed copies of No, David!, Alice the Fairy or Good Boy, Fergus!

Secondly, I couldn't get tickets to either the teen lit panel or the "Feminism and Identity" discussion. :(

I'll just have to see if I can snag a spot that day.

I did get tickets to the event that Sara Vowell will be at and another one about publishing, though. (Yay!) And, hey, I'll need some time to get books signed and wander around, right?

Two Home Runs and a Foul Ball

Gilmore Girls

Rory finally telling Daddy Dearest exactly where he can get off: Home Run. I cheered so loudly I think the nieghbors heard me.

Veronica Mars

Dear Rob Thomas,

We all knew it was going to be bad the moment Logan opened to the door. Making Veronica pour her heart out for so long was pure evil. And I mean that in the best way possible.



Foul Ball

To the TV executives who complain about TiVo and it's knock-offs messing up the revenue system of free TV by letting me skip commercials: either stop complaining or stop pre-empting my shows with baseball games and then resceduling the regular programming for 1 am in morning. It makes it rather hard to not use the DVR and it makes me not like you.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Heroine's Discovery

Being the lover of theory and patterns that I am, I've always found Joseph Campbell's description of the hero's journey to be illuminating and fascinating.

However, there always seemed to be something...incomplete... about it that I couldn't quite put my finger on. (Beyond the obvious: that people are too complex and varied to be explained completely by simplistic theories.) The fact that most of "our' myths are based on the doings of men seemed a likely cause, but I could never really quite see the missing piece itself.

So, my metaphorical ears perked up when I read Carol Gilligan describe the myth of Demeter and Persephone as a myth about women’s' psychology and the relationships between men and women.

I'd already heard Bettelheim's theory that fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty are myths about female adolescence (among other things) - a theory that always made perfect sense to me, and yet such stories also struck me as decidedly wrong in their portrayal. When Gilligan mentioned Bettelheim's theory, then spoke of the myth of Demeter and Persephone as representing "the elusive mystery of women's development" I could start to see that missing piece hiding inside her words. When she then went on to contrast traditional views on moral development with her understanding of women's moral development, its shape became clearer.

"[I]f the secrets of male adolescence revolve around the harboring of continued attachments that cannot be represented in the logic of fairness,” Gilligan writes, "the secrets of the female adolescence pertain to the silencing of her own the wish not to hurt others...[and] the fear that...her voice will not be heard." The differences in these experiences, while hardly prescriptive for either gender, are nevertheless striking in their prevalence throughout western culture. Gilligan theorizes that the cause lies in part in each child's relationship to their primary care giver - a relationship that is in turn shaped by the gender roles that require that this person be female. While boys’ experiences tend to follow a pattern of early detachment followed by a lifetime of learning how to make connections, girls’ experiences tend to center around a world of ever-present and continuous connections to others that must somehow make room for the individual.

The problem with Bettelheim's theory is not that such stories are not about female adolescence, it's that they are stories told by observers of the process, not participants. Female adolescence may be a time of increased passivity and lassitude, but only on the outside. Internally girls are waging war with themselves. They are continually struggling to subdue their own "selfish" desires while at the same time trying to "disentangle [their] voice[s] from the voices of others and to find a language that represents [their] experience...and sense of [themselves]."

A part of why I find this so fascinating is that, at one point last year, I attempted to chart one of my favorite childhood stories, A Little Princess, in terms of the "hero's" journey. Partly because I'm that much of a nerd, and partly because I had vague notions of rewriting the story. It always felt like I was forcing the story to fit Campbell's pattern, even though the rise and fall of the plot fit nicely into the journey's outline when considered separate from theme.

I'm realizing now that my problems in doing so were rooted in the parts of each that I could not make connections between: the themes of Campbell's monomyth and the Sara experiences in a world of women. Much like the way Sleeping Beauty's slumber - devoid of dreams and nightmares - is an incomplete representation of female adolescence, the hero's journey - rooted in psychology that assumes the male experience - is an incomplete theory of the meaning of story and myth.

Despite their disclaimer that they consider the word 'heroine" to be "demeaning and inappropriate" because it is the "diminutive form of "Hero"" this site not only cites mostly stories with male protagonists, their description of the hero's journey is still centered around the male experience of adolescence:

First the initiate faces separation from his own, familiar world. Once separated, he undergoes initiation and transformation, where the old ways of thinking and acting are altered or destroyed, opening the way to a new level of awareness, skill and freedom. After successfully meeting the challenges of the initiation, the initiate takes the journey's final step, the return to his world. When he does, he will find that he is more confident, perceptive, and capable, and he will discover that his community now treats him as an adult, with all of the respect, rights and privileges which that status implies.

A Little Princess however, is only peripherally concerned with "respect, rights and privileges." Like the story of women's development, it is mainly a story about connections and about carving a space out for oneself within them. The thematic importance of Sara's abandonment by her father is not the loss of "[her] own, familiar world", but that in losing her father she loses herself. Her banishment to the "right-hand attic" is symbolic of girls’ rejection of self - not of the "reality" of ones separation from others . Sara’s journey over the threshold and into the attic not only immediately strengthens one of her friendships, it results in a change in the type of connection she has to others, not a severing of them. The trials she faces do not "[open] the way to a new level of...skill and freedom" nor require that she confront her ego, instead they force her to acknowledge that her responsibility to others includes a responsibility to self. Nothing is more indicative of this than her dealings with Miss Minchin. While boys may learn physical skills, such as how to fight dragons with swords, Sara learns to resist Miss Minchin by displaying even more audacity than she had ever done before. Her deeper understanding of the truth that she cannot stand up for others without standing up for herself is what gives her the strength to make moral choices with regard to others. Sara’s return from the underworld does not center around achieving freedom from Miss Minchin, it is about other’s acknowledgement of their responsibility to her.

When you compare stories like A Little Princess to the hero's journey they fit the pared down structure as easily as anything else, but when you start to ascribe monomyth meaning to the thematic elements of girls' stories, something often seems a bit off-kilter. This is because, while men's and women's experiences are hardly strictly divided along gender lines, the stories that epitomize girlhood in our culture, like girl's moral development itself, is often a mirror rather than an imperfect copy of the "typical" boy's journey that we accept as the norm. So instead of looking for the rejection of ego, one must look for the acceptance of self. Heroines are not tempted by selfish desires, but by the seduction of refusing responsibility for one's actions in a world where reality is grounded in relationships and autonomy is a myth.

Why the Personal is Political

(I doubt anyone reading this needs to be reminded of this, but an debate over at Pandagon got me thinking about it. So here's my ideas put into words, because that's the best way to work through and remember them.)

Having finished In a Different Voice, I'm now skimming through parts of Reviving Ophelia, which I've read before.

In the second chapter Dr. Pipher writes that

What girls say about gender and power issues depends on how they are asked. When I ask adolescent girls if they are feminists, most say no. To them, feminism is a dirty word, like communism or fascism. But if I ask if they believe men and women should have equal rights, they say yes. When I ask if their schools are sexist, they are likely to say no. But if I ask if they are harrassed sexually at their school, they say yes and tell me stories....If I ask who has more power, they say men.
(emphasis mine)

In one comment at Pandagon, asfo_del said (with regard to focusing on "the minutiae of sexist behavior and language"):
Look at the results it has accomplished: How many young women today refuse to identify as feminist? Yet being a feminist means, at its most basic level, that you think women are just as worthy as men. How can someone say they’re not a feminist? It’s tantamount to saying you think you, a woman, are inferior. But our movement has so turned off these women that that is what they are willing to say just to distance themselves from us!
(emphasis mine)

The contrasts between these two statements are interesting to me because both speakers are trying answer the same question, but they have very different answers. In the end, both conclusions are simply the result of observation, not scientific research. However, the second is a purely personal observation, made mainly (one assumes) from observing the limited number of people the speaker has had contact with. The second speaker, while undoubtedly not an impartial observer, has nevertheless based her conclusion on interactions with at least scores, perhaps hundreds, of adolescent girls and young women over a series of decades.

As I argued at Pandagon:
Young women do not refuse to identify as feminists because of what feminists have done, they refuse to identify as feminists because most of what they have learned about it has been through institutions that uphold the patriarchy. They’ve mostly been taught the bad, and much of the good was either ignored or presented as an inevitable footnote to “the larger struggle.” Women’s contributions, feminists in particular, are often marginalized, completely ignored, or shown as misguided - as if all the gains that were made were made despite feminists, not because of them.

In this sense the “minutiae” are essential because, by pointing out the cracks in what others call reality, one calls into question the larger picture that relies on all of these little “realities” as it’s foundation. That was the big push of second wave feminism. Since everyone experiences things differently though, the trick, as others have discussed elsewhere, lies partly in maintaining the social connections that discourage people from accepting the “othering” of women and feminists.

Amanda, with her usual insight, states that "Blogging is a pretty good echo of the consciousness-raising groups of the 70s, it seems to me. That’s a strength, not a weakness." She argues that conversations about language and other "little things" are useful in certain situations. asfo_del admits that "discussion is [not] unimportant" and "It’s not just the movement, obviously" that is responsible for feminism's negative image, but also argues that that Amanda's post about the phrase 'the sex act" and the heteronormative assumptions that go with it are not useful - that they do more damage than good

I disagree. It is important to remember that the girls Dr. Pipher discusses in her book are not "willing to say [that women are not as worthy as men]." They distance themselves from feminists not only because "feminism is a dirty word" but because "they are likely to say [their schools are not sexist]" despite the fact that their own experiences contradict this. The sexist experiences of these girls - these mostly privileged girls who have never once questioned their right to vote, drive, or pursue a career - are, for the most part, "the minutiae of sexist behavior and language." They reject feminism not because they see it as wrong, but because they have been taught that it is no longer needed. Feminists are therefore outside of the norm not only because they see monsters lurking everywhere, but because they cannot even see that they already lie vanquished.

In order to reach these girls one cannot simply point out biased language and behaviour, because they do not see that as threatening their basic rights. Neither will it work, however, to focus on "the big picture" issues - like the wage gap - because they do not see the sexism around them, and so attribute such inequalities to other factors. Instead one must show the connection between them. One must point out the obvious contradiction of saying that their schools are not sexist, but then admitting that their textbooks make sexist assumptions and that their peers sexually harrass them. One must help them see the paradox inherent in denying the need for feminism, while at the same time believing both than men and women are equal but that men have more power.

The personal is political because the political affects the personal. Second wave feminism gave us a greater appreciation for this by illuminating some of the ways in which our assumptions about people also affect political debate. While feminism must, indeed, look beyond "the minutiae of sexist behavior and language" we cannot ignore the ways in which the biases they hide are the foundation for everything else. In reaching out to others and in refining our own understanding of the world, we cannot forget one or the other, nor the fact that they are interconnected.

We cannot abandon the "little things" for the the "larger" issues - or vice versa - because it is the connection between them that makes feminism resonate. Neither can we abandon one or the other simply because potential allies may be frightened off, to do so is to reject what makes us feminists. Instead, all we can do is learn to navigate such unfriendly waters carefully.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Feminism? (Part 11)


Whenever anyone asks if there are any women out there who haven't been victims of sexual violence I start to say “yes, me” but somewhere in the back of my mind, the monster under my bed is still there, taunting me. I can’t say “no”, because I’d never be so rude or insensitive to compare what happened to me with actual rape; but I can’t say “yes”, either, because I know my deepest scar is not the six inch one down the center of my chest.

I needed to know why I couldn’t let it go. I know that certain idiots would say it’s because I’m in love with victimhood, but they don’t know how hard I’ve tried to pretend it never happened. They don’t know that until last year, I’d never told anyone any of it. Until now, I’d never told all of it – or even the most important part. They don’t know what it’s like to share everything with your friends, from shampoo to secrets, everything but this one....thing. They don't know that I have yet to say the words out loud. They don’t understand how deafening your own silence can become.

Reading and listening to women who have survived sexual violence as well helped in some ways because I felt less alone. I could see me in them and I felt less crazy. Their words began to explain what the normal discourse surrounding sexual violence couldn’t answer: why something as simple as a peeping tom (even a persistent one) would affect me so. In the mainstream media, sexual violence (at least the kind in which the victim deserves sympathy) is usually portrayed as unspeakably evil, but this wasn’t about unspeakably evil acts being done to me - it was about a betrayal of trust and a denial of dignity.

And yet, nevertheless, it was unspeakable.

It has always been partly due to my brother’s age and vulnerability as much as anything else that I stayed silent. Telling my friends meant telling them his secrets. Even in the vastness of the internet, talking about this is dangerous. My brother knows people (besides me) who read Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister. Hell, he knows several of the “A-list” bloggers - and they know him. Even if I only posted under my real name in the comments at Pinko’s or Angry for a Reason, I’d be betraying his trust just like he betrayed mine.

But my silence is a betrayal of another kind. It means betraying my twelve-year-old self and all the girls and women (and boys and men) who have suffered as I have, or worse. And I can’t do that either. So I post this pseudo-anonymously and hope the shit doesn’t hit the fan. That people either don’t figure out who he is or are smart enough to not care. That he, or our parents, don’t stumble upon this and get angry with me for simply talking about it.

I speak because it is the silence that does the damage as much as the act itself. It denies me of my own dignity and voice and allows society to ignore or condone such acts.

I speak because, knowing how difficult it is for me to do so, I understand that many cannot yet speak for themselves, and so I try in some small way to lend them my voice.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Random Musings on Voice and Debate

I am currently reading Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice and I'm having a hard time putting it down. Or rather I should say I'm having a hard time not thinking about it because I keep switching from being completely engrossed in her words, to experiencing little epiphanies that must be worked through and written down right this second in case I lose them.

So here's one of them:

Gilligan at one point talks about "Heinz's dilemma" - the question of "should Heinz steal the medicine" if his wife is sick and he can't afford it - and how girls and women often react to this question in ways that do not fit into normal psychological standards of moral development.

She explains that this is because while boys and men hear "should Heinz steal the medicine?" girls and women often hear "should Heinz steal the medicine?" The differences in the questions lie in the different assumptions each listener brings to the question. Boys and men assume the mode of action and debate whether action should occur. Girls and women assume action and debate it's form.

I found this all terribly interesting the first time I heard it described in another book (on how girls and boys learn differently) that I read in high school. But as I reread Gilligan's description of her findings, it occured to me that there are all kinds of questions of public debate that this idea could be applied to (that is, after all, her point), and I wondered if it would help explain the gender gap in politics more concretely than simply the assumption that women are more progressive. So, here is my attempt to work out how this affects the abortion debate:

should abortion be legal?

should abortion be legal?
assumed: that abortion will be regulated
questioned: if abortion will exist

Yes, it seems rather nonsensical at first to suggest that a question which is asking if something should be legal assumes by it’s very asking that it will be regulated. Really, the assumption is more that it can be regulated. However, anything that can be regulated is always subject to regulation, even when no rules about it exist. One does not, after all, propose to pass laws about when one may breathe or the color of the sky. The simple fact that the question about regulating abortion is not absurd in the true meaning of the word (as opposed to rhetorical: “should reading be legal?”) means that the question is assuming that the action being discussed is subject to legal judgment, even in the absence of explicit laws. Therefore the question is not asking if the act in question should be subject to regulation, but to what extend the act should be regulated.

In this sense the question is really asking if there is a way we can regulate it out of existence and whether or not that is a useful result. While it is an obvious truth that one cannot regulate anything out of existence, the goal of making something illegal is always to limit the act in question, thus the possibility that one may approach annihilation of the act, if that is one’s goal, is nevertheless present. So the question becomes, as it always does in American politics, one of competing rights and privileges. Is abortion a right or a privilege or something else altogether? Do others have rights and privileges which may interfere or be negatively affected by a woman’s choice to have an abortion?

should abortion be legal?
assumed: that abortion will exist
questioned: if it will be regulated

This question, however, assumes that the act being discussed can affected by regulation in only limited ways – in doing so it leaves open the possibility that regulation is not only ineffective, but absurd as well. When the act in question is abortion, as opposed to smoking marijuana, for example, it is undeniably true that regulation is absurd in certain instances. When it comes to smoking marijuana, one may simply choose not to act, but once one is pregnant, some action must be taken. Furthermore, pregnancies will end, no matter what actions a pregnant woman may take – so some abortions are quite literally impossible to regulate in the way the phrase “being legal” implies. (The fact that we pretend that miscarriages are not also abortions only confuses the issue, because while the emotional and intellectual process is different, the physical result is the same, and it is physical realities that are subject to regulation, not emotional and cognitive processes.)

In this sense, abortion is neither like breathing nor smoking marijuana. Instead the question is asking not only whether or not abortion can be regulated at all, but also, in instances where regulation is not absurd, if explicit regulation should exist. The conjunction of these two questions is important because, once the first possibility is raised, it informs one’s understanding of the second. Knowing that there are times when regulation of abortion is absurd brings into question the practicality of regulating it even when it is not.

While it is not universally true that men will hear the first question and women will hear the second, women's experiences with their own bodies, most especially with regards to the fact that they are more likely to see pregnancy as something the the woman participates in, makes it more likely that they will hear the second. Men's lack of understanding of these experiences, and their reliance on the patriarchal narrative that casts the man as actor and the woman as the recipient of his action, makes it more likey they will hear the first.

Which I guess is just a fancy way of supporting the argument that most pro-lifers see pregnancy as something men do to women.

Why Feminism (Part 10)

Girls Will be Girls

That voice inside my head that used to tell me that I was overreacting never really went away, although now it usually just tells me that it’s far past time to let it go. It was a big deal at the time, but not anymore. It’s not like I was molested or raped, and it feels weird having my story sit alongside the truly horrific ones at le lyons.

But then I stop and remember one silly, but frightening fact: I didn’t stop checking the windows, or underneath my bed, until several months into college.

It wasn’t a gradual stop. One night I was glancing in the closet and under my bed before getting undressed, like I always did, and I finally realized what I was doing. And I never did it again. When my otherwise wonderful self-defense instructor warned us a year later to make sure our blinds were closed before dressing, even though almost no men lived on campus, I gave her a silent “fuck you” and ignored the vast majority of her “how to avoid rape” speech.

I spent my entire teen years checking for monsters under the bed. Monsters that I knew existed. Monsters that were far worse than anything I ever imagined as a child. I refuse to do it again.

I am a feminist in part because my brother, my sweet, adorable little brother, became a monster once - and I needed to know why. It drives me nuts when people say that feminists hate men and think they are born to be evil people because I know that I became a feminist in part because I love my brother so very, very much and I know that he was - and is - capable of not being a monster. He wasn’t one before, and he isn’t one now, but he was one once upon a time.

A part of me can understand that so many people think that the angry, man-hating straw feminist is all that feminists can ever be simply because I remember myself when I first began to identify out loud as a feminist and I was so very angry. I was angry with my brother, my parents, everyone.

But mostly I was just confused and frustrated. My parents love me. My brother loves me. My parents may not be radical feminists, but they are staunch liberals with strong feminist leanings. My brother is far from perfect, but he was, and still is, a loving, caring person. Even at the time he was more of a feminist than most of his classmates. So how did this happen?

Somewhere deep inside, I wasn’t buying that boys will be boys explained it all. I, after all, wasn’t obsessed with Newsies simply because it was about kid power or selling newspapers. I also began masturbating when I hit puberty at age nine and I had my first orgasm by fourteen (and I have a feeling it would have much been earlier if I hadn’t been so fucked up at the time – depression kinda ruins one’s sex drive). Since I’ve never even contemplated doing what he did, I smelled a rat. A big one. I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.

I understood that part of my brother having ADD meant that he has poor impulse control, but mine wasn’t so spectacular either. Besides, there were all kinds of things he did manage to keep from doing, so why not this?

In the end, I submitted my story to le lyons' effort to fight sexual violence not only because I found writing this theraputic, but because all of my efforts to find answers to these questions of "why?" have illuminated the connections between my experiences and those of girls and women who have suffered from more explicit sexual violence.

Human Again

I don’t have any deep insights or sage advice, but I want to do my part and blog against heteronormativity, so instead I’ll share a story with you all about the night I started to care about gay rights.

I watched the Academy Awards from start to finish for the first time my ninth grade year. Not only had Beauty and the Beast (one of my favorite movies at the time*) been nominated for Best Picture but the Disney animators had done a special segment in which Beauty and Beast were to announce the winners of one of the Oscars. I was still in my “I’m going to be an animator for Disney!” phase, so there was no way I was missing this.

The biggest shock of the night (for me) was not, however, Beauty and the Beast losing (sniff sniff) out to Silence of the Lambs, it was learning that the man who was responsible for all of those wonderful lyrics in Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid had recently died of AIDS. Well, actually, I suppose you could say it was learning that he had died of AIDS and that he had been gay.

I had no hate for “teh gay” in ninth grade. Kids were not yet using “gay” as a synonym for “lame.” (At least not as far as I knew). I felt no real sympathy for non-straight people or interest in gay rights either. Ellen had not come out Rosie had not come out. Rock Hudson had come out years earlier, but I had no idea who he was. No one I knew was gay. Or, at least, I didn’t know of anyone who was gay.**

The only thing I really knew about gays was that gay men*** were at high risk for AIDS and a lot of them had died from it and were going to die from it. I knew this because I was in 6th grade during just about the only time in history that America has had mildly decent sex education for a significant percentage of it’s pre- and early adolescent students. In 1989 people were still scared shitless of AIDS, and people had been scared long enough to develop and implement a few sensible prevention strategies. Among them was sex education for children before they were likely to become sexually active. So, along with our brand-spanking new D.A.R.E. training, my classmates and I went through a several week course (parents were able to opt their kids out) on reproduction, sex, the various various ways to practice safe sex****, and what we could get if we didn’t practice safe sex.

Well, ok, that wasn’t all I knew about gay issues. I also knew that homophobes were stupid. I knew this not because I thought that being gay was ok, normal, or acceptable. I honestly thought very little about it. I knew this because, as part of our sex education course, my class watched a made for TV movie about Ryan White. I learned from watching the movie that the parents who were mean enough to call Ryan names in his own front yard tended to call him things like “faggot.” I didn’t need my teacher to point out to me how stupid this was. Furthermore, I had gone through major surgery myself in 1979, which meant I had just barely missed being at risk for contracting AIDS through transfusion - the same way Ryan White got it.

I knew that Ryan and I had something in common, but I felt only sympathy for, not connection to, the blurred faces of the terminally ill gay men in the video they showed us at school. That night though, when Howard Ashman’s “longtime companion“ took the stage – dressed all in black except for his bright red ribbon - to accept the award for best song, I finally had a face to go with all those blurred out pictures, and a small part of how I saw the world changed in a subtle but extremely significant way.

At the time, I saw Belle and, yes, even Ariel, as very feminist heroines. Punky was no longer on the air, Buffy did not yet exist, and Disney’s newest princesses were a lot better than their old ones (shell bras notwithstanding). They had nothing on Charlotte Doyle or Jo March, but compared to everything else on television or in the movies (for kids, I mean - this was the year of Fried Green Tomatoes, Thelma and Louise, and Silence of the Lambs), a heroine who reads incessantly and another who defies her father simply because she’s so damn curious***** seemed practically revolutionary. The lyrics the characters sang helped a lot in forming my opinion of them as feminist heroines. It’s hard to listen to

Bright young women
Sick of swimmin’
Ready to stand
several times and not see unsubtle hints of feminism, no matter how much heteronormative propaganda is thrown in for good measure.

That night, though, I began thinking of the implications of lines****** like
I don't see how a world that makes such wonderful things - could be bad.
And later, what it must have felt like to write songs like The Mob Song:
We're not safe until he's dead
He'll come stalking us at night
Set to sacrifice our children to his monstrous appetite
Kill the Beast!
and Human Again:
When I'm human again, only human again,
When the world once more starts making sense
knowing that one would almost certainly die soon from a disease that far too many people thought of as God’s punishment for being gay - a word many people are unable to differentiate from pedophile.

When Disney announced years later that they were extending health benefits to gay partners (and I consequently learned for the first time that they hadn’t before) I wondered what it must have felt like for Bill Launch to stand up there and accept an Oscar for a song his loved one had written – even as the company that had made money off the song acted as though such relationships either didn’t exist or weren’t worthy of respect.

When the idiot of the day complains about the campiness of Spongebob Squarepants, and warns parents not to let their children watch the show because it promotes ‘alternative” lifestyles, or when the Baptists began their boycott of all things Disney because the company finally extended health benefits to partners of gay employees, I always wonder if any of these people have ever really listened to the part in Beauty and the Beast where the mob cries:
We don't like
What we don't understand
In fact it scares us

I rather think the answer must be "no."

*I regret to inform you that you will never hear stories about my punk rock days. I am a complete geek, through and through.

**Turns out my elementary school vice-principal was gay. Which I did sorta suspect at the time since I knew that he had a male roommate, but lived in a big house up in the foothills and so likely didn’t have a roommate for financial reasons. They now have a ranch together in Montana. I kid you not. :)

***Lesbians seemed to be completely invisible

****Dental dams were not mentioned however, which is further support for Amanda’s argument.

*****Ok, yes, she was curious about a boy. But still, she was curious before the boy came along, too.

******This line is spoken, not sung, but it is spoken close enough to the beginning of one of the songs that it’s hard to imagine that whoever wrote the words didn’t mean for them to have larger significance.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I am a Mean, Evil, Terrible Person

So, I was reading a couple of Madeline books at work today to a bunch of kids and there was this one girl who kept asking all kinds of questions as I was reading the story. Which, in and of itself, was cool. This is storytime, not school; the kids are allowed to ask questions and interject comments as long as they are on topic and not too disruptive. I often ask questions to try and get the kids thinking and I'll even sometimes make sure they answer. It helps them become better readers and it makes storytime more interactive and therefore more fun for them (which also helps make them better readers).

It was cool until we got to the part in Madeline and the Bad Hat where Madeline tells Pepito that she isn't sorry at all that he got hurt because he deserves it for being mean to the cat. (A vengeful child is our Madeline, but a just one as well.) That was when the little girl - who looked to be about first or second grade, maybe kindergarten, but I doubt it - asked "There was a cat?" in a decently loud voice.

I turned and looked at her, and without thinking replied 'Have you been listening?"

Because, for those of you that haven't read or don't remember the story, the previous pages had been pretty much all about how Pepito had been dragging a sack ("What do you think is in it?" had been one of my questions to the kids) that made all the dogs in the neighborhood follow him (Madeline's teacher assumed it was food) and when he opened it up all the dogs descended upon the poor cat that had been trapped inside and Pepito was been caught in the middle (Darwin award, anyone?) and ended up needing to be rescued by Miss Clavel, Madeline's teacher.

Realizing what I had done I added. "There was a cat in the bag, that's why all the dogs attacked Pepito," or something like that.

Now, I don't feel bad for pointing out to the kid that she should have been listening to the entire story, not just some of it. In fact, I would have been doing her a even greater disservice if I had let the comment go. However, I am also quite aware of how intimidating I must be to six-year-olds, especially when I'm standing on a stage while I'm reading the stories.* There are a lot better ways I could have said that. Hopefully, next time I'll remember to say something more along the lines of "Yes, don't you remember the cat in the bag?" At which point the kid in question would have likely said "no" - but then I could have called on the other kids to fill her in. Which would have allowed me to both gently admonish Little Miss Oblivious and reward the other kids for paying attention.

But today - today I was a mean, evil, terrible person. :(

*I was standing and not sitting because one of my co-workers was standing on the stage dressed up as Madeline and I couldn't get around her to show the pictures to all the kids unless I stayed standing as well.

Why Feminism? (Part 9)

Bitch, with Honors

I graduated from high school and found myself at a small, very liberal, all-women’s college all the way across the country - for reasons that had a lot more to do with not fitting in throughout high school than anything else.

I came home that Christmas and was shocked to find that familiar routines and places no longer were. I came home with a semester’s worth of classes chock full feminist theory as only a women’s college can do it. I came home with a semester’s worth of female bonding and self-discovery.

I came home with my guns cocked and ready.

I don’t know how it started and I don’t remember much of what any of us said, but I remember a lot of yelling. I remember shouting louder than I ever had before. I shouted loud enough that my yelling alone shocked him. (Although I think the tears helped.) My voice was screaming all the “No!” s that had been hiding inside me for so very long and it was almost as if he could hear them in the loudness of my voice alone. I remember that it was never mentioned, but also I remember that what he did was sitting there in front of everything I was saying like a barrier or filter it had to find a way around or through first.

He was mad because all the girls were always doing better in school, all the teachers always thought all the boys were capable of bad things they never even suspected the girls of doing, and he was mad because despite all this, all everyone talked about was how to help girls.

I was mad because I had spent my entire high school years making myself invisible and he was part of the reason why. I was mad because all the “good” things girls were expected to be were never rewarded outside of high school – and all the things he complained about boys getting punished for, girls were punished worse for. I was mad because all this trust our high school teachers supposedly had in us never translated into any actual real power – in high school or out.

I was mad because the senior issue of the newspaper, the year I was on the staff, was turned into a bunch of rude descriptions of certain girls in school, and no one cared. Except the adults, who mostly seemed to care that sex was mentioned. I was mad because I was already starting to catch on, because of crap like this, to the idea that society only defines women’s sexuality by what (certain) men want it to be. Why else could use “you just don’t like having fun” as a defense against complaints from fellow students?

I was mad because one of my high school teachers had managed to convince me I was bad at math, and I still wasn’t sure how she did it, but now I knew she was wrong. I had the A+ in college calculus to prove it.

But most of all I was mad because he dared to compare having obscenities routinely yelled at you as you walked down the street to our high school having fewer junior ushers than daisy chain members. It wasn’t just that he was oblivious to the whole concept that maybe, just maybe, when one group is expected to be perfect in every way in order to stay safe from harm, it’s only logical that that particular group will have more straight A students. Mostly it was that if he still understood so little of what it felt like to always be judged by the size of your breasts, and to never feel safe simply because you have them, then he still didn’t really understand what he did to me. And that meant that he still wasn’t sorry, and that maybe he didn’t really care at all and never would again.

That was the first and last debate between us that I won, completely and unequivocally. Which was good, because I don’t think we could have been friends after that if I hadn’t. We began another uneasy peace the next morning, but this time it lasted.

I also started to trust my parents again, because that night my mom finally told my brother that he needed to shut the hell up and listen to me for once.

It was that night that I started to understand why this was all such a big deal in the first place, and that maybe I wasn’t crazy – or overly sensitive – after all.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Why Aren't There any Good Books for Pre-Teen Boys on Puberty?

While I'm not even going to try to all of dissect this* (via When Fangirls Attack) I would like to note that the author refers to Our Bodies, Ourselves as "voodoo pop."

Since it seems fairly obvious to me that The Care and Keeping of You is a direct descendant of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and since half the time the parents** asking me the question stated above tack on "like that American Girl book" at the end, I'd think the answer to the question in the title should be pretty obvious as well.

Anti-feminists and pseudo-feminists can rant all they want about brainwashing and radical feminists hating boys and men, I know who is really hurting the little boys that come into my store, and who is doing their best to help them - despite everyone else.

*I've been informed by a reader that the first link caused their browser to crash. It's rather large, so even if it doesn't it may take a while to load. It's a very long rant about feminism (and a lot of other things) by Dave Sim, creator and self-publisher of Cerebus, a long running graphic novel.

**I've said elsewhere that most parents asking me questions are mothers, and that when Johnny is having trouble reading, it's always the mother, never the father. Interestingly enough, I'd say about half the time I'm usually asked "the books on puberty for boys" question, both parents are present but the mother still usually does the asking.

Why Feminism? (Part 8)

I’m the Boss of You

Eventually it - he - stopped and life went back to normal for a while. Then my grandfather got sick and there were bigger problems than mine for the family to deal with – or ignore – as the case may be.

My brother spent most of my high school years telling me that he was going to run a big business someday and I was going to have to work for him. I wanted to draw for Disney? He was going to run it. I’m sure a lot of it was a result of his frustrations at being the youngest – and, quite frankly, being the ever-present punch line for certain older relatives who should have known better.

However, under the circumstances, I found his insistence that he was going to be in charge of me when we were older to be especially creepy. Besides, it never occurred to me to want to be my older siblings boss. Or the boss of all the kids that had ever teased me. I just wanted them all to go away. So I ignored him more and more.

He punched me once. Yeah, we fought all the time, but it had always been shoves and pushes, throwing and slapping. And we had always both been mad and worked up at the time.

He punched me in the stomach with his fist closed. His face and voice were angry but his body was calm. He warned me. He told me he could hurt me. I told him go ahead. I wasn’t mad, I was just hurt and confused, and I refused to show it. So he did. I managed to act calmly myself and keep from crying until I made it to my bedroom and closed the door. We didn’t talk for quite a while after that.

Why Feminism? (Part 7)

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

When I told my parents that he had never really stopped, they were mad - at me - for not telling them sooner. Only a little - upset, really, would be a better word - but still. I was just as shocked as when my mom had accused me of not living up to D.A.R.E. standards. Only this time I’d had time to think through how illogical it was for them to be mad at me for not doing something they had never asked me to do in the first place. Only I didn’t know how to tell them that, because they technically had asked me to tell them if it happened again. I hadn’t really believed them, though, partly because it was their actions, or lack thereof, that I had been listening to.

I must have said something, because I remember learning at this time that they had already taken him to see the pediatrician. I have vague memories of accusing them of not doing anything and my mom saying that wasn’t true, but that they didn’t feel (at the time) that I needed to know what steps they had taken. Another argument that I didn’t understand. Even when I didn’t get to know why my sister was grounded, I knew that she was. This time I already knew the why, it was the consequences that I couldn’t see or hear, so keeping secrets made even less sense. It suggested that the “steps” being taken didn’t include punishment, which in turn supported my fear that the only thing wrong about what happened was what he did, not what he did to me. I was crazy after all.

I still remember leaving the stilted conversation feeling as though I’d been wronged twice, first by my brother for treating me like a freak and not a sister, and then by my parents for not caring. I spent a year hating myself and all the people I’ve always cared about and trusted more than anyone else and he was taken to the doctor and I was ignored?

Deer in Headlights

Whenever anyone says something rude or stupid to my face, at work or elsewhere, I freeze up and can't think of a thing to say while I stare with my mouth hanging open at their audacity.

Which is why I love the internet, because it gives me a chance to stop and think. It also exacerbates my talent for rambling once I get going, but occasionaly I come up with good one liners that might actually be used in real life situations. More often I run across others making them, but since I don't think they'll mind if I steal them, and you are all welcome to use any of mine, here's a few for us all to remember:


From Diary of a Freak Magnet (via the 13th Carnival of the Feminists): When someone greets you with an innapropiate salutation (sweetheart, honey, etc.), greet them right back with another.


Whenever a guy interrupts an unrelated discussion to tell you are hot, or interjects similar sentiments at other innapropriate times, simply ask "Is that really relevant?" (As many slashdotters did).

When, because he can't answer no, even though the question is obviously rhetorical, he begins to say stupid things like:

"I don’t understand...I’m not allowed to think “Man is she hot and smart too!”?"

Explain that "Being distracted by attractiveness isn’t just a guy thing, but refusing to put a lid on it, in our patriarchal society, is."

When they start whining "but I was trying to treat women with respect" Simply reply:

"Do, or do not. There is no try."


However, as lost clown reminds us, when you run across yet another guy "sit[ting] with [his] legs as far apart as physically possible on public transport" please be kind and offer him some sympathy. Swollen Ball Sydrome must be painful as well as widespread.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why Feminism? (Part 6)

Grown-ups are Stupid

(a short digression)

The year before all this started in was in sixth grade – the last year of elementary school - and my class was one of the first in our town to go through the D.A.R.E. program.

I cannot overemphasize how much of a flop it was.

The officer that came to teach the class taught us two things: 1) when you get to junior high, other kids will offer you drugs – possibly in the hallways between class, and 2) there’s all kinds of ways to say no.

There was some explanation as to why one should say no – most of it involving a former gang member coming in and telling us how scary gangs are and how we should never join one. For the most part, though, the class consisted of “here’s all kinds of ways to “just say no” because once you get to junior high bad kids will try you get you hooked on drugs and ruin your life.”

A few weeks before school got out, and not long after the assembly in which we demonstrated all the D.A.R.E. ways to say no, a kid brought something to school. It was white, powdery, and in a plastic bag. He told everyone it was drugs.* The teachers finally caught wind of it near the end of the day.

That afternoon my mom asked me if I had heard about it from other kids. I said yes, and waited for her to ask me if I was offered any so that I could dutifully say “no, but I would have just said no anyway.” Instead she exploded. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?! I can’t believe you didn’t tell anyone! What were you thinking?! Didn’t any of you listen to your D.A.R.E. officer?!” I’ve rarely seen her face that red.

The problem was, we had been listening. We’d just been listening to what wasn’t said as much as what was said. We were told that there were drugs everywhere you turned in junior high and that our job was to say no when (not if) we were offered any. Not only were we never instructed to tell a teacher or a parent when we saw drugs (much less heard rumors about them), but the idea of doing so seemed illogical. They must all already know that the drugs are there – they’re the ones that keep telling us they are everywhere.

*it wasn’t, of course. And the ironic part of this is that since D.A.R.E. taught us practically jack shit about any actual street drugs, there’s no way any of us that hadn’t already been exposed to drugs could have known this, even though it was apparently pretty obvious. If we had known the kid was lying, the rumor never would have spread throughout the entire school and it’s actually quite likely that someone would have tattled on him simply because he was being such a dork.

I’d also like to point out that the fake drugs incident was the closest anyone ever came to offering me drugs until fucking graduate school. When you walk around giving off a weird combination of I’m invisible/Don’t fuck with me/Goody-two-shoes vibes, no one comes up and asks if you want to smoke some weed.

Why Feminism? (Part 5)

My Superpower was Invisibility

So I learned to check the window before I took a shower. I learned to look under the bed every morning and night. I obsessed about the crack between the sliding door and the doorframe.

I’d always been shy around strangers and quiet around everyone but close friends and family. That year I learned how to hide myself even when I was alone in my own bedroom.

Family life outside my bedroom became a constant war interspersed with temporary cease-fires. Everyone pretended, of course, that nothing had changed and that our new fights were no different than the fights we’d always had. Everyone pretended that I was vigilant about my privacy simply because I was a teenager, and that’s what teenagers do. I knew differently.

When we redecorated my old bedroom after my sister left for college, my windows were left without blinds for several weeks. I nearly had a panic attack – until my parents duct taped towels over the windows. I threw a minor tantrum when one came loose and I couldn’t fix it.

The two-minute rides to our grandparents’ house became pure hell. In a car with five seats, two parents and three kids meant one of the two youngest always sat in the middle back. When I was lucky enough to get the window I’d practically sit on the door. When I had to sit in the middle I’d make myself as small as possible and spend much of the ride either crowding my older brother or kicking my younger one. He would cry foul and I didn’t know what to do because he looked genuinely confused, as if he didn’t understand that I didn’t want to touch him, and why. Sometimes our parents would tell me to cut it out. Every time his arm brushed mine I felt ill; when it touched the sensitive sides of my breasts I thought I’d puke. I learned to squeeze my breasts together using my upper arms as shields.

I drew less and less because the most vivid images in my head were dark enough to prompt a visit to the psychiatrist. They were charcoal on gray paper and they were full of men and boys, of people I trusted, staring and laughing and looking at me with hate and contempt as I huddled naked on the ground.

My social studies teacher mentioned one day that such and such percentage of kids our age had already contemplated suicide. I had never seriously tried to figure out how to kill myself, but I had spent a not insignificant amount of time thinking things would be easier if I would. I wasn’t sure if that counted.

Somewhere in the middle of all this my parents got a fucking clue, and when they asked me if everything was ok, my instincts for self-preservation kicked in and I said no. We never got into details, and I’m pretty sure I downplayed how often it happened, but I told them it - he - had never really stopped.

13th Carnival of the Feminists

is up at I See Invisible People.

Why Feminism? (Part 4)

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t*

So after the first few times I told them.

They were upset, but quiet. They said they’d take care of it. I wasn’t told how. It stopped - he stopped. End of discussion.

Except he didn’t stop for very long - and then I really didn’t know what to do. I was becoming angrier and angrier and I was scared that my parents would be as angry as I was – and of what they’d do to him because of it. At the same time I was scared that they wouldn’t really care at all – they didn’t care enough to make it stop the first time, or yell and scream when they found out. Why weren’t they mad? I didn’t think that I wanted to live if they didn’t care as much as I did about how much he was hurting me.

That year, I think the only people that I was ever angrier at than him were my parents. No matter how much I wanted to keep him safe, I also thought he deserved to be hurt for what he was doing to me, and the only thing that hurt more than his betrayal was my growing belief that our parents wouldn’t care enough about me to give him what he deserved.

I worried just as much that they’d think that I was being silly for taking this so seriously. He was only looking. It was creepy that it was me he was looking at, but he wasn’t doing anything to me, was he? It was a bad thing for him to do, but it wasn’t bad because of how it made me feel, it was bad because he shouldn’t be looking at his sister that way. It was natural for boys his age to be curious, they told me.

Besides, it was obvious that there was something wrong with me. What boy wouldn’t be curious about a freak like me? My breasts were already bigger than most of my sister’s friends.

*Yes, another Judy Blume book. I actually read this particular one about the same time all this was happening, and it was the only one of hers that I had a hard time finishing. When I got to the part where the main character spies on his friends older sister while she's getting dressed, I had to put the book down from just plain shock. At the time, it just made me think there must be something wrong with me after all for taking this all so seriously, since obviously it was normal. Now, it's just evidence of the pervasiveness of all this crap.

What Would Mommy Say?

To give everyone (myself included) a break from bad childhood memories, I thought I'd share some toddler cuteness.


My parents went to my sister's for Easter. Apparently, Precocious had tons of fun hunting easter eggs. Unfortunately, so did the dogs - they ate two of them. Cuddles tried to eat his with the shell intact, because that's what babies do, and stained his face blue as a result. Not content with merely hard-boiled eggs, Precocious asked her mom when she could have some of the candy in her basket. Silly Mommy said "After breakfast" and nothing more. After breakfast the grown-ups hear someone rustling around in the easter baskets and go to investigate, thinking that it's probably the dogs. It's Precocious, eating the biggest chocolate bunny in her basket.


One of the days she was there, my mom was down in the basement alone with the kids and Precocious starts jumping on the footstool.

"What would Daddy say if he saw you doing that?"

"Stop jumping!" Precocious replies, as she jumps up and down.

"What would Mommy say if she saw you doing that?"

"Get down, please." Precocious replies, as she jumps up and down.

The kid must have a thing for footstools because the last time she was here she kept laying on ours and sliding face first down to the ground.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why Feminism? (Part 3)

The Pain and the Great One

Except he wasn’t a monster. He was my little brother. And I didn’t understand how he could do this to me or even why I suddenly hated the sight of him. Why I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. Why I went from pushing him only when he was being especially annoying to shoving him away anytime he got close enough to touch.

All I knew was that he was my little brother and I was his big sister. It was my job to keep him safe from bullies and teachers and parents.

I was bossy and sometimes mean; but I wrote stories just for him and I made presents to give him on his birthday. I held his hand and kept an eye out for strangers while we waited for our parents to come back out from the pizza parlor. The only time that I ever really stood up to the mean twins up the street was when they tried to knock him off his bike while he was speeding downhill. My earliest memory is of guarding his crib while our mother walked up the street to meet our older brother at the bus stop on his first day of kindergarten.

He was noisy and annoying but he used to give wet sloppy kisses when he was still in preschool. When we were younger, he’d almost always rather play My Little Ponies with me than play by himself.

We spent most of our childhood fighting loudly and violently one minute, then spend the rest of the day conspiring together on our latest adventure. We built a time-traveling Dolorian out of a cardboard box. We climbed the red hills beside the soccer fields - and got yelled at for getting our uniforms dirty. We pooled our paper carrier money and bought our own tiny Christmas tree just for us that year – the year the den became my bedroom and I learned that my parents stayed up until nearly sunrise every Christmas Eve so that everything would be perfect in the morning.*

He wasn’t a monster, he was just my annoying little brother. He couldn’t mean anything by it. He wasn’t going to do anything to me. He was only nine.

I couldn’t tell our parents, because you don’t tattle on your siblings - unless you are mad at them, of course, or if they are doing something to you. But mad wasn’t the right word for how I felt, and he wasn’t actually doing anything, was he?

It was my job to keep him safe from bullies and teachers and yes, even parents. Only I didn’t know how to do that and keep myself from going crazy.

*for those of you keeping track, this is also the year after the infamous last visit to the cardiologist. I moved into the den a few months later.

Why Feminism? (Part 2)


I had walked back into my room after taking a shower and was in the middle of getting dressed when I noticed him hiding under the bed. I was pissed, of course. I would have been only annoyed at him if he hadn’t messed up and stayed under the bed even after he realized I was getting dressed. So instead I was livid – and embarrassed. I yelled. He left – faster than a speeding bullet.

It didn’t occur to me until much, much later that he had timed it that way on purpose.

I would get out of the shower to find the bathroom window pulled down. (Can’t see through frosted glass). He would be perched on the tall planter beside the window, looking in.

I would find my blinds cracked open, and he would be outside, hiding.

And of course, always under the bed – like a childhood monster come to life.

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

The story of my life.

I started this on Monday for Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence Day and I just finished it a little while ago. When I started, I thought it would be a few pages long.

It's 14.

Once I started, I couldn't stop, and I didn't want to post it until it was done. (I'm still very nervous about posting it - you'll see why.) Since it is so very long, I'm going to post in in short chapters over the next few days or weeks, I'm not sure yet. I hope to fix my sidebars soon so that I have catagories, and make this it's own, but since I don't trust myself to do that anytime soon, I'll keep updating this entry with links to each chapter as it's published.

At least you all will have something new from me for a while, even if it is depressing.

Why Feminism?

Part 1: A Room of One's Own

Part 2: Monsters

Part 3: The Pain and the Great One

Part 4: Then Again, Maybe I Won't

Part 5: My Superpower was Invisibility

Part 6: Grown-ups are Stupid

Part 7: Do What I Say, Not What I Do

Part 8: I'm the Boss of You

Part 9: Bitch, with Honors

Part 10: Girls Will be Girls

Part 11: Speak

Part 12: But He Was Such a Nice Boy...

Part 13: Rape is a Weapon

Why Feminism? (Part 1)

A Room of One’s Own

It started one day when I was twelve. He was nine.

I had my very own room for the first time that year. My sister was leaving for college soon and our parents wanted her to have some time in her life when she didn’t have to share a bedroom with a little sister or a college roommate. So I moved out of the room I’d slept in since I was born and my parents converted the den into a makeshift bedroom.

My closet consisted of one of those metal organizers that you buy to put inside closets and my dresser was simply a bunch of plastic drawers. But it was mine. My adjustable artist desk sat between my half of the used-to-be bunk bed and the door to the hall. The frame around the sliding door to the living room (which was never opened) was decorated with wrapping paper that I had saved from my most recent birthday. Pictures cut out from the (very) few copies of Bop! that I had found the courage to buy were taped to the door. Christian Slater, NKOTB, Christian Bale, Cory Haim.

Yes, I admit it, I had (almost) no taste in junior high. (and apparently a thing for guys with "C" names)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"The Themes of ADD..."

"...inconsistency, and inconsistency again, creativity, provocative behavior, winning personality, varying motivation, exasperating forgetfulness, disorganization and indifference, underacheivement, impulsivity, and the search for excitement rather than discilipline."

from Driven to Distraction by Dr. Hollowell and Dr. Ratey

Aside from the "winning personality" (huh?) - yeah, that's me exactly.

So - sorry for the disapearing act.

I'd promise not to do it again, but there's a few other things I need to work on more - like getting my bills paid on time, getting a decent job, etc.

Thanks to everyone who kept checking in to see if I'd be back. I'll try to make the effort worth it in the near future.