Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Discrimination - Kenneth Rexroth

I don’t mind the human race.
I’ve got pretty used to them
In these past twenty-five years.
I don’t mind if they sit next
To me on streetcars, or eat
In the same restaurants, if
It’s not at the same table.
However, I don’t approve
Of a woman I respect
Dancing with one of them. I’ve
Tried asking them to my home
Without success. I shouldn’t
Care to see my own sister
Marry one. Even if she
Loved him, think of the children.
Their art is interesting,
But certainly barbarous.
I’m sure, if given a chance,
They’d kill us all in our beds.
And you must admit, they smell.

** Kenneth Rexroth is my spirit animal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birth Announcement for Escher! (uhm, only 9 days late, no big deal).

Escher Aemilius Keorkunian-Rivers burst forth (quite literally) from my body at 7:46AM on November 2nd, 2014. He weighed 6lbs 14oz, and was 21" long. He was purple, covered in vernix (goop), and silent. This caused his normally very stoic father to damn near panic, as he considered the possibility Escher didn't make it through the birth process. I forgot to mention to him that babies are sometimes a cute little lilac color when they come out, and they don't immediately scream, as he wasn't present for Dahlia's actual birth.

The birth process started at Midnight on Halloween - well, actually, I had my membrane stripped a few days prior to birth, so that allegedly started the process, but for the purpose of inducing me, that started at 12AM on 10/31. I was sure we were going to have a Halloween baby on our hands, but he decided to wait 57 hours to be officially born. At 1:30AM on Day 1, I had a cervical softener (prostaglandin) put in place. After waiting 12 hours with no discernible progress, they inserted a cervical squeezer (one balloon full of saline in my uterus, one balloon full of saline outside of my cervix) to try to dilate me further. That started the contractions, but did not do much to dilate. Pitocin was added at this point, which made the contractions even stronger. Somewhere between 24 and 48 hours in, I caved and got an epidural (95% because Escher's heart rate was getting in the danger-zone every time I got a contraction, and 5% because the contractions were exhausting and seemed like they would never yield a higher dilation, only tiring pain). Ironically, this was the most painful part of the delivery, and in fact, I ended up crying, which is incredibly unlike me, as I am usually the bared-teeth warrior birther - but... I felt the needle scraping against my spine as it went in. The local anasthetic wasn't very helpful (or maybe it would have been even worse?). Apparently I was sitting crooked, which didn't make the process any easier. I joke the the worst part of birth is the IV and epidural, but, uhh, it's really not that much of a joke. I fucking hate IVs, and the actual procedure of being epidural'd. Contractions are bad, but if they weren't so long-lasting and exhausting to the point of not being able to push properly, I'd do birth au naturelle. I did get a catheter, though, which I love. Having to pee in a hospital is no easy task, dragging long IV carts along to the bathroom, navigating around wires and whatnot... it's all obnoxious and fragile. Not to mention the possibility of banging my IV port on random crap on the way to the water closet, which I did twice. Even recalling the IV-banging incident NOW is enough to make me shudder. I cannot express enough how much I hate IVs.

As I got closer to the birth point, they popped my water. There wasn't much to report, but I was in a haze and Rick was getting food so I don't recall exactly what they said about it. The epidural started to get weaker, and I started to feel every contraction again, which caused Escher's heart rate to become dangerously high - so they started to check my progress more carefully at the end. I was also fitted with an oxygen mask, which ironically made me feel like I was being very slowly suffocated. Since I had been in labor for a long time, they felt the need to add more water to my uterus, as I had gotten another dose of epidural fluid, so Escher's heart rate started to dip into the 90s. They figured the added fluid would help him (which it seemed to). The only problem with it, was that the fluid never leaked out of the catheter tube, so it just pooled in my uterus, on the bottom left side, and felt so intensely painful that I was sure my uterus was doomed to rupture.

About an hour and a half before Escher catapulted out of my vagina, I was asked to start pushing, just to see if I'd get further dilated from 8 to 10. Not much happened, so the doctor briefly left. She came back half an hour later, and announced I should start pushing. So, I did. Ten seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten more seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten final seconds of pushing. I had to remove the oxygen mask at one point, because I literally could not get enough breath to sustain my consciousness (the O2 wasn't being pumped into the mask fast enough for how I was breathing). For about twenty minutes, I had my legs up in the stirrups, but then my doctor informed me that I should drop my legs down and lay on my side. So I actually gave birth out of stirrups, keeled over to the left. Nurses held my legs, Rick held my hand, and Dr. Bernardo held my baby. An hour after the pushing began, Escher exploded out of me in a gush of amniotic replacement fluid, blood, and general gross. I pushed out the placenta shortly after, while he was receiving an APGAR score, and I was informed that I was one of the best, most patient patients ever. I'd never seen my husband look so afraid, but once it was established that the baby was healthy and fine, he was quite relieved.

And with that, Escher was born!

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.