Monday, September 22, 2014

Running Away to a Commune!

Okay, that was a joke title. More like "diligently researching and carefully selecting what will hopefully be an appropriate commune."

You see, my son will be born soon. I want him to grow up in an atmosphere that I've always wanted to be a part of, growing up; people and children co-existing and interacting in a loving, supportive environment. I've always wished for a place to belong. A sense of community - family. A place of peace and comfort. Where communication is abundant and screaming is rare. Knowing and negotiating expectations, mitigating disappointments. A place of dancing, musicality, and joy. Where people don't feel excessively bound to cultural norms to the point of sacrificing their own dreams or desires to do what's merely expected of them, but they can flourish. I hope it is a growing experience for me, and I know my husband will learn quite a bit. Dahlia has been in a basic state of pure excitement, more or less, since I told her I was pregnant. Since she's 7, and happy about new things, I'm sure the transition will be much easier than some of the other ones we've been through, and there will be kids on the other side of this one. I have favored communal living since I was a child, and in fact, I've lived in a couple of them along the way (either hackerspace-type anarchist communes in Chicago - with the likes of Jeremy Hammond and his twin, Jason, or in the shared estates/homes of relatives). Always temporarily, as I was just "too busy" to make the commitment to moving there for a longer stay. I like the idea of working in a collective - doing new and strange, difficult and bizarre things.  I've always just joined up in things and made stuff happen, rather than swimming through the bureaucracy of the corporate world in its current iteration - and then left when the projects ended. But I'm ready for the longer haul, now. And more than willing.

I don't consider myself a hippie, at all. Despite this, I am hopelessly in love with drum circles, festivals, being barefoot, incense, tie-dye, henna, hemp products as viable building materials, being a vegetarian for the love of animals, making jewelry, moon cups, camping, homeschooling, essential oils (especially coconut, which is in all of my company's products!), occult stores, DIY-ing as much as possible, basically everything except free love and pot - but if you engage in that, cool. I'm not bothered; it's just not my thing.

Probably the main reason I cannot, in good conscience, give myself a title from Hippiedom, is because of my political alignment. I'm an anarchist, right, but not that kind. I'm the free market variety - the black sheep of the anarchist movement. I think monetary exchange for both the management and production of goods and services, as well as the purchasing of those products by consumers as a pretty cool option. I'm not saying it always works perfectly, or that it's The Best System Forever, but I'm just saying I support the idea (in a stateless society, of course!). But, before you start making assumptions, I would like to inform you of three things about myself, all of which are true:

  • 1. I do not support Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or anything Tea Party related. 
  • 2. I do not believe in a system that supports the eradication of any type of anarchist (or other system of choice), anarcho-communists or -syndicalists, -socialists or anything of the sort. However, I've heard other sorts of anarchists wishing they could ban my ideology, which kind of hurts my feelings, actually. I believe in the freedom to choose your own community, based on your desires and shared ideals, if that is what you want, regardless of setup. People should be free to make their own choices, even "bad" ones.
  • 3. While I am fine with libertarian brutalists (though not a fan), I would not personally practice or adhere to basically anything they believe, in a "versus humanitarian libertarian" way. 
So how can a proponent of capitalism or similar adjacent system possibly be okay within a socialist commune? Easy. I like sharing, and finding common ground. My common ground is that I like to live among people, I love farming and/or gardening, production, business, sustainability, and creating good times. So do the socialists of the communes. As long as we're not quibbling over possible details of a far-off stateless society, we'll get along brilliantly. I don't usually like to quibble. The only brand I enjoy is gentle volleying with my ulra-utilitarian husband over the merits and importance of aesthetic beauty and art in the lives of every human being. He's science. I'm art. Sometimes, like over MC Escher, we meet in the middle!

So I'm checking out a bunch of communes now, mostly in Missouri (though I haven't discounted other places), and hopefully I'll be able to find one that's great for our family. I'm kind of nervous about the embarkation process, but I'm starting to view it as a similar sort of thing my ancestors went through in coming to America from Jordan/Jerusalem/Czechoslovakia/Moravia/Austria (depending on the line). A whole new world, a whole new life. That sort of thing. Cross your fingers for us!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hookin' Ain't Easy.

At 19:56, Thaddeus Russell starts discussing prostitutes. Here I begin to realize something: it strikes me as strange that sex workers are considered "lower class" by most american women, either as a "last resort" profession, or a "pre-med profession" - either way at the expense of (or a prelude to) doing something "more worthwhile"... but historically prostitutes and brothel-owning women were walking firecrackers who would kick anyone's ass that tried to hold them to an unfair moral standard. The idea that a woman who owned herself and her body could make a profit from the products or services involving it was revolutionary. These brave women endured such hardship and turmoil, and now people have the audacity to trivialize their role in the turn of history in favor of women. I find it supremely ironic when women who dress in a revealing fashion (cleavage everywhere and short everything) will complain about prostitutes taking the "easy" job - and they're being "just whores." These hypocritical ladies, too, capitalize on their body's attributes - but do not charge a premium for it, and then dog the wise ladies who do make such a decision. I am not personally a prostitute, if you're wondering, I choose to be in a monogamous relationship with my husband - but I come from two generations of "street-walkers" on one side of my family and never understood the stigma. I've worked for and been involved with both the NCSF and SWOP-Chicago. I have written scathing articles about the johns registry in Chicago, and I've worked extensively with sex workers to try to ease up some of the unfair treatment they suffer at the hands of "well-meaning" law enforcement (who do more harm than good). In the end, if you are a consenting adult and someone wishes to buy a sexual experience from you, that is nobody's business but the two people in the transaction, and nobody should say anything about it. Period!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rape Culture is REAL: except as how it's portrayed.

The thing I've been hearing lately is the debate over whether or not Rape Culture is actually a thing. I contend that it IS a thing, just not in the way it's being portrayed. When reading an article on the American Humanist Association's website (found here), I happened upon a few comments underneath, most of which were rebuttals of the existence of rape culture in its current iteration. And with some of the comments, I agree... the AHA's article was entirely one-sided and left out an ENTIRE GENDER'S WORTH of people who experience rape. I was awestruck how terribly narrow the feminist scope of rape culture was. My comment was the following:
"Rape culture DOES exist, but this article systematically leaves out an ENTIRE gender that experiences rape - and it's just as trivialized, just as acceptable, just as yuk-yuk-yuk worthy. If my husband went into a police station and told them I raped him, he wouldn't be asked what he was wearing, because it wouldn't get that far; he'd be laughed out of the police station. THAT is rape culture.  
The fact that BOTH SEXES, all gender expressions, and all accounts of rape are so thoroughly scrutinized (or ignored entirely, depending on the plumbing of the victim), and the abusers are excused for their crimes is insane. 
If my house was broken into, and I was asked why there wasn't a forced entry - so I admitted to having left the door unlocked, the assailant wouldn't be denied criminal charges. They would still be convicted. Because that's a question of invitation, someone enters the threshold of my home, uninvited - they are automatically charged with a crime. If they enter the threshold of my vagina, uninvited, they are charged with a crime only under certain conditions. Invitation, not access, is the "consent" of both situations - but in practice, this is not true for rape. THAT is rape culture.

This is NOT and SHOULD NOT BE an issue for feminists, it should be an issue for ALL proponents of a peaceful society wherein sexual crimes are held in seriousness, as they would a home invasion, regardless of sex, gender expression, orientation, anything. If you don't have a right to bodily autonomy, under all circumstances, you don't have any freedom whatsoever."
And I absolutely stand by my comment. Male on male rape is another example, the "trope" of altar boy jokes and other sorts of justifications, excuses, and minimizing of the magnitude of sex crimes is rampant. Sex is almost never a crime unless it's a man in the bushes hiding to get a woman. But is it a crime when it's a sexually repressed priest entrusted with the care of young boys, or an angry housewife manually stimulating her husband's genitals against his will? What if the female teacher is hot? What if the lady was just baby-crazy? How often is rape downplayed as an inevitable result of the culmination of factors, rather than met with horror and punishment? THAT is rape culture, ladies and gentleman.

Where women may feel as if they're weighed down by a barrage of body-image issues thrown at us from every conceivable direction, objectified, and treated as sex toys - men may also feel compelled to be emotionless tools for society to use. For every "she could lose some weight" you hear "he sucks at oral sex" - and for every "god, what a slut" you hear "be a man and do it." Men are not easily allowed the ability to be creatures of empathy, vulnerability, compassion, communication. They are told at every turn to "man up" and "deal with it" and that their emotions will scare women off because they will hate the idea of "mothering" their boyfriend. Despite the fact that they are also expected to listen to a battery of feelings from their girlfriends, conveniently without that idiotic "fathering" counterpart. Men are disposable army guys, stoic heroes, protectors of everyone who isn't male - and they can't ask for help. If a man is ever raped, the question of whether or not you can rape someone who is "always willing" comes up. Men are PURELY sexual creatures, right? Always wanting sex from everything, even apple pies! Uhh, if that's not rape culture, nothing is.

So, in essence, you cannot view rape simply in the scope of male-on-female-at-gunpoint, complaining about misogyny and objectification, without taking into account that this sort of thing happens to men as well - otherwise you're just pitting the sexes against each other. You're saying "YOU MEN ARE AT FAULT, AND WOMEN COULD NEVER RAPE," and that isn't helping anyone. Rape culture is not blind to genitals, and that is the problem. If we could all work together for a more gentle society, wherein rape is looked at as a heinous crime NO MATTER THE TERMS (other than lack of consent), perhaps rape culture could become a thing of the past.


Monday, March 10, 2014

On the Up and Upskirt.

As you can probably surmise, I have a daughter. I try to teach her to be tough and self-assured, independent and fierce when necessary. I don't frequently berate her or constantly tell her to be silent, though I do admit I overuse the phrase "good girl" - it's a habit I'm trying to break. I don't want her to feel that she has to quiet her voice to make room for "more worthy" voices. "Good life decisions" is a major mantra in her life. Sure, everyone makes bad decisions from time to time, but focusing on the good seems pertinent, here.

In the news lately, there has been an article circulating about a man who took at least one upskirt picture of a woman, was arrested and tried, but it was ruled legal that he had "violated" that woman's right to privacy. An outcry followed, people speaking vehemently about past experiences, train groping, etc. THESE MONSTERS, they declare, ARE EVERYWHERE! Now there's even a law banning the photography of "sexual" areas without a woman's knowledge. But even the official prepared statements about it are idiotic: "The legislation makes the secret photographing, videotaping, or electronically surveiling of another person's sexual or other intimate parts, whether under or around a person's clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person's intimate parts would not be visible to the public, a crime."

But who are these monsters? And what makes them monstrous? Are they violent predators who ram their be-camera'd fists up the skirts of women in order to procure illicit footage of their undergarments (or lack thereof?) - Mostly? No. They're people who *do* take pictures of boobs and butts, occasionally undies, but most of them don't go within a few-foot radius to get such pictures. Here's where my view gets unpopular: if it's in public, it should be fair game to photograph. I shouldn't have to potentially suffer from a law that says some lady's cleavage in my picture is punishable by law, especially if I realized it thereafter and attempted to conceal the picture (also written into the law). The fact that you wore something in public that you'd be ashamed was documented (from any angle, really) is an issue. Clothers' remorse isn't and shouldn't be a valid thing. If you're really that hysterical about your body being photographed, wear more clothing. That you wore a certain style of dress is okay - - until there's picture proof of it - - is questionable/sketchy at best. At worst it's hampering the creative expression of someone who wants to take a normal picture, but your buttcheeks ruin it. In the middle it's a creepy dude taking a physical snapshot (rather than a mental one, which shouldn't really be a surprise) - and you're upset about it.

All the maelstrom of venom spouted by women who purport "I DON'T WEAR THIS CLOTHING FOR YOU OR MEN OR ANYONE!" are not automatically allowed to dictate who can and cannot look at them, or for that matter, photograph their presence. There's not some holy magic force-field that they can shimmy up when they walk out into common areas of public, so if they're not comfortable being surreptitiously photographed by every conceivable angle for the purpose of "safety" and/or surveillance, but they ARE upset at potentially being jerkfodder for random internet trolls - perhaps they should change priorities, or maybe wear giant garbage bags and parachute pants with super-sexy ass-floss underneath; because after all, if you aren't doing it for anyone else, why does it matter if anyone else sees it, right? That you don't dress for me or men or whatever, doesn't mean we don't have to see you or interact with you. That doesn't mean we are banned from looking at you. So why does a camera's eye violate that space, but a human eye does not? Silly.

So I tell my child: if you don't want a record of something happening - don't do it! If you don't want a creeper taking pictures of you in weird angles and posting it online because it's embarrassing - don't wear such clothing. If these women walked around topless, would everyone have to avoid photographing anything with them in it, because they chose to foist themselves into non-nude society - for fear of "manufacturing pornography" charges? How narcissistic do you have to be to believe that someone doesn't have a right to take a picture with you in it, just because you exist and decided to be somewhere at a given time? Seriously?

That said, the tables are turned if someone does violate your bodily autonomy by shoving a camera between your legs. I am a firm believer in the proper application of stand your ground laws. If someone puts their hands between your legs to take an unsolicited picture, beat them within an inch of their life, and take pictures of their mangled bodies and State IDs to out them on the internet. Post their picture everywhere. Ruin their lives. Have no mercy, show no remorse. It is NOT okay to violate someone's right to their own body and all of the contents therein: that behavior should be punished severely on an individual basis. So, no, I'm not a rape-apologist or anything of the sort. I believe in pragmatism. Don't want your boobs on the internet? Don't show your boobs near a camera, and they won't go on the internet. Don't want someone to steal your bike? Don't leave it on the curb near a trash can. Don't want someone to steal your car? Don't leave the keys in the ignition and the door wide open. Don't want to be beaten half to death by an irate lady? Don't jam your hand up my skirt. It's pretty easy, I think, and this is the sort of motherly wisdom I wish to pass down to my adorable little skirt-wearing precious pumpkin pie daughter o' mine.   

Friday, December 6, 2013

That Toddler is NOT My Daughter's Boyfriend.

One of the unexpected consequences of the structure of society is that males and females are incredibly divided over matters of behavior and relating. When my daughter was born, I counted myself lucky that I had 13 years to figure out how to address the entire males vs. females divide. I was very, very, wrong.

Each and every time there is a family party, or a social gathering of any nature, where there are male children near my child's age  - someone inevitably says "Oh, Dahlia! How's your boyfriend? He's so cute, you might just have to marry him!" To be sure, at this point I am internally trying to stifle upchucking my Thanksgiving Tofurky. There are so many problems with this, that sometimes I can't even wrap my mind around someone's mental process that brings them to the point of awkwardly disregarding her childhood (this is especially pertinent when people tell her she looks "sexy" when she wears dresses. UGH!).

First of all, I don't want her to think of male creatures around her age as her only possibilities for pair bonding. It would be incredibly screwed-up and hypocritical of me to try to train her to be heterosexual, and since kids do not have expressed sexuality, any indoctrination about her "future husband" or "babies" would be exactly that. She may grow up to be a childless lesbian, and I don't want her to feel like she's betraying my stupid expectations of her, simply by living her life honestly. I don't name brand the type of car I expect her to own, and I haven't arranged a marriage/career/living situation on her behalf... so why should I do that about her relationships or procreation? Answer: I shouldn't. I expect her to do the best she can in matters of learning and education, promptly address her own problems in a dignified manner, and to be polite/mannerly unless someone gives her a reason to do otherwise. I don't have a husband picked out for her. I haven't frozen her eggs at birth to engineer the most attractive and fertile children. I may be a little wacky by today's standards, but not like that.

Secondly, I don't want her to feel obligated to view boys as these creatures she has to be shy around, to alter her appearance for, or to feel generally disconnected from - instead of just as "other people." I want her to be friends with boys, to laugh and learn with them, to find out their inner workings, to relate to them. Basically I want her to view them the same way as she does girls. Because until she hits puberty and starts to have sexual feelings... she should! Potential friends, confidantes, partners in crime. Not just walking potential husbands. Ever since my husband convinced me that marriage partners should be friends as well as spouses, I've seen the value in that. I always sort of vaguely looked at people I was in a relationship with as begrudging add-ons, rather than my friend. It was too risky, in my estimation, to be friends with a lover. Too much to lose, I needed lots of separation. If you never have one male friend, can you start with your husband? Same with a wife!

And last. I don't want her to fall prey to the idea that men and women are totally different creatures with different "hardwired" brains who have acceptable bad behaviors because they're not able to do otherwise. It's not THEIR fault, it's not MY fault, our brains are wired differently! My husband HAS to cheat on me, and I *have* to nurture our children while he's gallivanting, because he's incapable. I cannot stop myself from taking comfort in romance novels and ignoring the sex drive of my spouse because I'm a GIRL, duh! Decisions? What are those, I can't hear you over the sound of my own vagina! In fact, I can't do anything except babysit and crochet because, you guessed it, I get my period every month. Poor husband will never stop being able to carry every heavy object in sight for me, because I need help. I'm his dainty little flower! NO ESCAPE. It's brain science. Womp womp.

So, the moral of the story is: if you see a girl and boy playing together, encourage them to find all the things they have in common. Don't pretend-marry them, don't make them feel awkward, and they're not K-I-S-S-I-N-G off in the hilly brush somewhere. They're two tiny incomplete humans who want to build a friendship, let them. Let them explore their differences instead of pushing it on them.

Boys will NOT be boys, and that's the shitty punchline for every sad joke ever told in a creepy misogynist narrative, and it needs to stop. "Oh, she's just a girl" needs to stop too. Don't alter your expectations for your children based on their genitals. That includes expecting them to date/marry/procreate with someone of the opposite sex, either. Let them live up to their own potential, not the potential you decide for them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

International Clown Week at Showmen's Rest!

My family has a deep, abiding love for carnivals and circuses. Every summer, bare minimum, as a child I would get swept away in the happy temporary euphoria of the carnival. I adore clowns. I'm the opposite of Coulrophobic. If I had it my way, I'd be surrounded with the circus all the time (albeit a non-animal one) - and probably drag queens/glitter/freaks. My family and friends are all down with me experimenting (costumes/makeup/hair color) with/on them, often with hilarious results:

These photos construct a small sample of goofy pictures I've taken over the years. Seriously small. But now I have some more to add from International Clown Week (this year and last!).

So, last year, Dahlia made her clown debut as "Patches" :) Which Susan (who organizes the festivities) helped along by announcing her presence! She also thanked me for my support, which was great!

I was so happy to see Patches (Dahlia) get some recognition. She's always expressed a desire to dress up as a clown and have her makeup done. At this point she's still very shy, but she is trying really hard to become comfortable talking to people. She's becoming quite a performer. She practices her clowning acts effortlessly at home, but sort of gets a touch of stage fright when she's in front of strangers. This year was better than last year, though!:

I'm sure there will be more to come. For now, I figure this is a good representation of the actual day. It's an incredible event, a beautiful (tear-jerking) ceremony, and it does a great job of honoring the people who lost their lives, and the continued place of a clown in the vision of a better world! 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Child/Whore Complex.

So, I put an appeal out to Facebook friends for a subject to cover for RMRK. I got back this from my mother: "The parents that allow their teenage daughters to dress like a whore - then wonder why their children end up in bad situations."

My response was:

That's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I applaud the parents who "let" their children express themselves and "allow" them to see the problematic culture at large who doesn't respond appropriately to an underdressed woman (the appropriate response is "leave them the fuck alone" - not, "oh let's rape that!") - but on the other hand I could see why utilizing sexuality as a child could be seen as a symptom of terrible self-esteem or the need for attention, because at a young enough age, sexual activity isn't a good idea. But either way, exploring your sexual power isn't inherently a problem, except that we don't live in a society that makes it a safe option. Dressing provocatively is just as problematic as dressing in traditional "punk" clothing. It isn't.

My mother then put forth: It is not appropriate for a child - if you are an adult it is your decision to take a risk. Seems to me there are more people with sexual disorders now than ever before - if they "can't help it" is it worth letting your child express themselves. There are other ways they can be themselves.

To which I replied: Well, the point at which I noted it was experimentation was the negation of your assertion that they're "being themselves" - they are not being themselves, they're experimenting: seeing how their behaviors and outward appearance can change the reactions they get from people. If you are an adult, you are less likely to experiment with your appearance and therefore probably more settled in your ways: if you still dress provocatively, then you obviously enjoy whatever attention you get from dressing that way, but your experimentation stage is over.

We have an erroneous idea that men have no control of their sex drives and need voraciously to rape: I think that's a lack of sexual education in the masses. If murderers can refrain from murdering, rapists can refrain from raping. Not every person who has the desire to rape, does.

Even if you had a rape compulsion, a percentage of those compulsory rapists could act out their inappropriate urges with a practitioner of BDSM who fetishized nonconsensual sex. Yes, there are rape fetishists; people who agree to a sexual situation beforehand wherein they are basically abducted and raped (often with a weapon, as authenticity is necessary for them to derive enjoyment from it). There are also "gang bangs" where people will allow a large number of people to "violate" them, and they are very happy about it. There are quite a few places that a rapist could theoretically sate their rape-need with someone who wouldn't be damaged for life as a result. If more rapists knew that, there would probably be fewer rape victims. And more happy fetishists. YKINMKBYKIOK. [your kink is not my kink but your kink is o-k]. Education, end stigmatization, fix. Kids should be able to experiment with things safely, and it's our job as parents to facilitate that, if the child so desires.

And above all, there shouldn't be a rapist apologist attitude toward culture. It's time to change how we look at sex, not how we can possibly avoid being thrust into a victim-sphere every time we walk out the door.

So let's bring this back to personal level: if Dahlia wanted to walk out the door half-dressed when she turned 13 (or younger, theoretically) - I would do two things; first, I would have a lengthy discussion with her about why she is dressing in such a way that is considered inappropriate. Is there an underlying problem? Does she feel powerless otherwise, and needs an easy way to get attention? Is she just seeing how people will treat her? Does she not think she's dressed inappropriately? Secondly, I would go with her, so I could help her process the reactions she's getting from the general public. In light of those two things, we would also have a discussion about whether or not she's prepared to act on the expectations that come with dressing in a very sexualized manner. If so, it's birth control time - if not, she'd better reconsider the rough time she'll incur through gaining a reputation for "being" a certain way.

It was at that point I realized I should have just written this in blog form. Childhood sexualization is something that always left me feeling very "icky" (I even wrote a piece when I was 16 called "Potty Dancing for Skank Pants" about, how, if your child does the impatient crotch-grabbing "potty dance" because they're begging for skintight snake-skin pants, they're too young for such things!) - on one hand, we should NOT find it acceptable to sexualize children - but on the other side, there is apparently a niche filled by sexualized children, and so easily. There is an underlying problem in our culture, and thrusting children into a sexual spotlight before puberty is so crazy. However, children should feel safe dressing in ways that mimic their parents and/or peers without fear of being violated as a result. Perhaps some dirty looks or name-calling could be reasonably expected... but rape is a punishment fit for NO crime. 

From near-birth children are inundated with sexualized messages; they idolize sexually-charged icons, get impossibly proportioned Barbie dolls, people call children of the opposite sex their "boy/girl friend," there's a very obvious and unnecessary sex divide wherein members of the opposite sex are mystified into complete obscurity toward each other, and the messages of a majority of tv shows, songs, and other bits of art and popular culture are about sex and/or relationships. Sex sells, and it sells because the culture buys.

For my last point, if there really were a victim component to using sexuality vis-a-vis attire to gain power, looking down on girls who dress provocatively should be a no-no. That's like blaming someone with a binge-eating disorder for their diabetes: you can't simultaneously call someone a "victim" and also blame them for their plight. Pick a side, and help make the world safer for kids, rather than just buying the old "well they can't help themselves!" excuse.