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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The times, they are a-busying!


I haven’t mentioned this before, but I am starting up a soap business with my husband. An unshakable creative beast, I am constantly trying to force Rick to try new things. New foods, new music, new art projects, new shows, new books, new facial hair, new everything. I take his staunch perpetually-the-same mountain and chip away at it until he agrees to try whatever I think he should experience. Sometimes this is a beautiful bonding experience, and sometimes it gives him a nightmare or two. On rare occasion, he’s been greatly upset and taken the indignant “how could you do that to me?!” stance.

You see, he has difficulty with the “looking stupid” aspect of newly honing a skill. Whereas I don’t generally care how moronic I sound for asking 7,367,231,846 questions, or doing rather goofy shit while I’m getting my feet wet… my husband? Not so much. Rick wants to know, he wants to know NOW, and he wants to have been expert level approximately fifteen years ago. I dance around and occasionally sing in public. Rick would rather die. He’s getting better, though. Nowhere to go from rock bottom… except up!

So there was a moment when we were in Michael’s and I suggested that I’d teach Rick how to make soaps. I started checking out the inventory of melt-and-pour kits, Dahlia quietly (but passionately) singing to herself, and offered my knowledge of the aesthetic approach, rather than the technical aspect. I wasn’t so much interested in making SOAPS, so much as I wanted to convince my unwashed husband to make something pretty that would also be handy when scrubbing a layer of crud and cheese off of his underberries and other assorted limb-y, appendage-y things. Something he could be proud of, that would also make him potentially smell dandy.

I was shocked at his response: “this is ridiculous. A waste of money. I bet we could make soap for much cheaper than this melt-and-pour shit. This is CHEATING!” I cocked my head, volunteered that I had no knowledge of how to make soap from scratch, and I even sort of vaguely-yet-noncommittally noted that because I had no idea, it was probably the sort of thing better left to factories. Factories that produced melt-and-pour soap, duh. No human has ever made soap with their HANDS. What is this? The paleolithic era? Do we have to start washing our loincloths by the Euphrates? Husband, are you drunk?

But then he used the Almighty Google Machine (even with a bad signal, because Michaels is a signal-sucking vortex for some reason, get WIFI already!) and found a recipe. He announced that it only took a few ingredients, and that we could do it. Fine. Go ahead. Try to get all socialist-uprising and try to take back the production/manufacturing world better left to machines! GO AHEAD, DURRUTI. Rebuild your pile of ashes, with the help of pure, unadulterated spite. So I conceded (simply because he challenged me, and you should know I turn into a monster when challenged) we began to buy all the things, and embarked on the beginning of quite a journey.

And I’m serious when I call it a journey. At this point, we’re only a month and a half into making soap, and we’re already laying the groundwork for a great business. We’ve found out all kinds of neat/horrifying/crazy/anomalous information about cosmetics and detergents, from carcinogens in hand soap to shea butter’s weird anti-aging properties. Did you know coconut oil gets rid of lice? I mean, really, doesn’t it have better things to do with its time? We’ve discovered that everyone we know (only 15% exaggeration) has skin ailments, afflictions, and conditions. Today we met an herbalist named “Shoebocks” (pronounced “shoebox”). My husband’s pored over legal codes and policies for retailers and I’ve decided to re-teach myself ACCOUNTING. Now, I’m by no means an idiot, but I can’t keep the numbers 4 and 7 straight, so I would like to say, again – into the microphone – this is quite an interesting journey.

And it keeps getting cooler, and more (eu)stressful, and it’s really fun to watch it develop.

If you want to buy some, check out our blog, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook, here’s the information!

Three points of congratulation if you can possibly guess what our business is called…
(I know it will be very difficult to do so.)
Open-mouthed smile

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Maybe My Grandkids Will Appreciate Me!

WARNING: This may sound judgmental, but that's because I'm a bit miffed about it.

If you've ever felt like an outcast in a mommy circle, welcome to my life. Here's where I am situated in an outdoor picnic gathering: I make the rounds, saying hello and introducing myself, noticing that half of the moms are either staring at my nose ring, or trying to fathom my eclectically bohemian-inspired fashion choices. The ones who aren't, are being helpful and offering my daughter a burger, to which she loudly inquires "IS THAT REAL MEAT? I'M A VEGETARIAN!" and proceeds to stare down all the omnivores with the fervent judging eyes of a PETA volunteer (which I maintain isn't my fault, since I don't do that!). Between glares, my darling progeny is forcibly introducing herself to the inevitably shy children with whom she shares toys. It's mandatory that they report their names or Officer Dahlia will find ways of making them talk. I encourage her to give them personal space.

It is at this point a few women start to complain about their husbands. My husband isn't someone I complain about. He's pretty rad, and there isn't an obvious gender divide between us. I spent most of my adult life identifying as a lesbian, so if I can keep the company of a man (let alone marry him, though he did partially take my last name) without smashing him like he's the embodiment of the patriarchy, he has to be pretty awesome. We have similar political ideologies, we're both fringe weirdos, we both like each other. No problem, in that regard. Then conversation will shift to the relief the mothers feel that they can get things done while the kids are in school. Where does Dahlia go to school? I manage to finish the word "homeschool" and there are either audible gasps or tentative "ohs." The quantification questions flood in a cacophonous din for ten minutes. Does my daughter know the alphabet? Actually, she can read. Does my daughter interact with other kids? She's taken all kinds of classes, from Ballet to Mandarin, and those classes happen to be populated with other miniature humans. Does it drive me crazy that she doesn't "go away" for a while? No, I like the fact that she's around me a lot, however, I don't require that she be by my side, always. By the time these evaluation questions die down, I've already felt a palpable tension about my lifestyle choices.

There will be a new issue for the moms to focus on; why Shrek is inappropriate for children under 13, how their children need a good "swat on the behind" once in a while, the latest boycott on, and a slew of other things I inherently disagree with. Dahlia's seen Shrek. Hell, she's seen the original Batman in all its Michael Keaton glory. She liked that film, and has watched it many times since. My parents took me to the midnight showing of Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was 6 years old, and I don't have prolonged nightmares about it. As for spanking kids, I volunteer with a well known coalition dedicated to freedom of sexual expression, so where I come from, corporal punishment is only okay to use on consenting adults. I view those one million moms as one million nosy crazies who have nothing better to do than make the world unlivable, unbearable, and frankly, awful. Children will survive beyond the harrowing psychological torture imparted upon them by video games, television, and banned books. As a bonus, if you keep a sense of humor about life, your child will grow up without a damaging sensitivity bubble that keeps them from taking risks, exploring the world, and talking to strangers.

If you, dear reader, are cringing from my words, chances are you're one of the moms who will never ask to connect with me on Facebook, deliberately taking other people out of the mommy circle to get their contact information, while looking over your shoulder to check that I'm not eating your heirs. I'm the stuff your nightmares are made of, THAT MOM who only exists to serve as a warning to others (Did you hear Dahlia coslept until she was FIVE?!), but my kid is so amazingly awesome it hurts, and I'm okay with infiltrating your REM cycles.

If you're laughing, we'll be friends forever.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Dissident Take on 4th of July: I like it!

Whereas most people I know who espouse similar beliefs to mine hate Independence Day, I think bloody revolutions of yore are exciting celebration fodder. For the same reason I love Bastille Day, I love the 4th of July! Dahlia and I adore fireworks and basically any explosion fathomable. We sit in awe, slackjawed, squealing YAY! and other ridiculousness. But we love that crazy stuff. Jack Kerouac's oft-overquoted sentiment sums it up:

So, it's obvious we love fireworks. And revolutions. But people who disagree offer the following: "well it established the State," "but this fucking country is so Imperialist," and "All this flag-waving patriotism bullshit sucks!"

True, it established the modern incarnation of the State (ish), but not /technically/ until the Articles of Confederation were ratified, in 1781, so there was a window there where there was no formal established federal government (and we didn't explode, anarchy *is* possible) - which is amazing.

Yeah the country's Imperialist, that's a result of having a State. It didn't HAVE to happen, but it did. <sarcasm> There wasn't Twitter back then, guys! </sarcasm> Wait, that’s only half-sarcastic. If we would have had technological infrastructure, we probably could have built a free society. The fact that a community of people who owned private property could still relay information about safety, dangers in products or neighborhoods, education, and other things would have been all the trappings of a capitalist-friendly society, or maybe even a communal one, and the Constitution wouldn’t have been written to “protect” us from the State. My relationship with the Constitution is a strange one, on the one hand I’m glad there’s a vague manual for What the Government Can’t Do (Other Than When We Shit on That) – and on the other hand it gives this illusion of freedom, under which pretense Americans don’t question the nature of the Authority they’re subject to.

Which brings me to my next point, the flag-waving patriotism and nationalism of "God Bless Our Divinely Mandated Country" is ridiculous. Throw away your flags, burn them, do whatever you need to do. In fact, my sentiment is summed up beautifully by none other than Howard Zinn: But there's no accounting for taste, it’s not the bloody revolution’s fault that the majority of mouthy Murican patriots are flag-waving idiots who couldn’t identify political theory if it bit them in their (m)asses. Who support mass murder, imperialism, oppression, violence, and all kinds of nonsense. Patriotism?

The actual act of revolution, how beautiful a concept, to overthrow an established order. ♥
And it’s always fun to blow shit up. Practice your Molotov cocktails. Prepare for another revolution!
You never know when you’ll be faced with freedom.