12 December 2007

Wherein my head explodes and I have to crawl back into bed

An Iowa Republican has introduced a bill that would legislate the importance of Christmas.

As Space Cowboy says, if Christianity and Christmas are so all important to a majority of people in the world, why do we need the reminder? Do we really need Congress to acknowledge that Christianity is one of the great religions of the world? Maybe I could make some heads explode by reminding people that Christmas does not necessarily fall on Jesus' birthday, and that our Christmas traditions are derived from the pagan celebration of Saturnalia in an attempt to allow early Christians to celebrate their faith free of persecution. You know, back when Christians were actually persecuted.

As an atheist, I have every reason to believe people like myself are persecuted every day. However, I'm not whining to Congress to get atheism recognized through legislation, although that doesn't seem like a bad idea at this point.

11 December 2007

A bad week to be female

This week brings to my attention two horrific stories about brutal gang rape. Have a barf-bag ready.

First up, a judge in Australia has ruled that a 10-year-old aboriginal girl "probably agreed" to have sex with the nine men who brutally gang raped her. No punishment for the rapists. And she's standing by her decision. You know, just to show everyone that women can be misogynists, too! Honestly, I don't see how anyone with a shred of intelligence and/or empathy could possibly come to the conclusion that a 10-year-old could possibly know what was going on in a situation like group sex. This was not group sex, this was a gang rape. Men don't "have sex" with little girls; they rape them. I'm sure some relativists would argue that Australian aboriginal culture is vastly different from Western culture and that we have no business going in and telling them how to live life. And for the most part, I agree. Until people start getting hurt, such as the case with female genital mutilation. There are absolutes in this world, people. And little girls should not be getting raped just because their culture condones it. It still isn't right.

Next, Jamie Leigh Jones was working for KBR in Iraq when she was drugged, then gang raped and assaulted by her coworkers. If that weren't brutal enough, KBR (yup, that KBR) locked her up in a shipping crate, denied her medical care, and told her that if she said anything that she would lose her job. She finally convinced a guard to lend his cell phone so she could call her father back in Texas, who set in motion the rescue of Jones by the US Embassy. What really gets me is that the prosecutor (I know, I know, he's the good guy, but still) in this case claims that KBR had fostered a "boys will be boys" atmosphere that allowed the rape to happen. My problem is, why do we still chuckle and shrug our shoulders whenever someone uses the phrase "boys will be boys" in these situations? How about "boys will be sociopaths" or "boys will be criminals", which is much closer to the truth? But clearly, KBR had created an atmosphere of lawlessness and misogyny, which, when mixed in with the violence of war and occupation, created a perfect storm to allow this to happen.

Just goes to show you that womens' bodies are still acceptable cannon fodder in the war for dominance.

I weep for these two.

06 December 2007

More Like "Puke" Presents

So, there's this new trend called "push presents" that I learned about via Jezebel. Basically, a man gives his baby-mama an expensive piece of jewelry for birthing "his" child.

Gag me with a spoon.

I understand that the idea behind this is that the father doesn't have to go through nine months of weight gain, bodily distortion, stomach problems, incontinence, swollen hands and feet, mood swings, blah blah blah, so he shows his appreciation by throwing an expensive bauble into the mix. First off, women who don't want to bear children shouldn't be doing it, and second, isn't it a little stupid to spend money on jewelry when you're going to have expensive medical bills followed by the huge expense of raising a child?

Here's my idea of an awesome "push present" (and really, who thought up that godawful term?): how about the baby-daddy support you during pregnancy by not drinking, eating healthy, taking up some slack around the house while you're miserable. And then after the baby comes, take an equal share in childcare? That would be so much better than a damn ring.

02 December 2007

Enjoy the Silence? Please?

I'm really late getting to this Salon post, but I've been out of town and I'm just now getting caught up on my blog reading. Having a cold allows you to catch up on your reading. The article came at a very appropriate time of year: the holiday season. The article is about a movement in Britain, called No Music Day. As the graphic will show you, for one day no music is played, and we forget how pervasive background music has become in our everyday lives.

I am a music lover. I've played piano, cello, violin. I've been a classical ballet dancer, which requires a certain musical ear and appreciation. I love all types of music, and can even appreciate the art in tunes I don't particularly like. I am a music lover. But at this time of year the music that fills out everyday lives starts to make me a little stabby.

I used to love Christmas music, even though I'm not a religious person. To me, they used to symbolize an exciting time of year filled with friends, family, homecomings, good food, and gift-giving. The first time I'd hear a holiday tune in a store or on the radio, my heart jumped a bit at the anticipation of the holidays, that it was finally here. Then one Christmas after college I worked part time in retail to make some extra money. And I now have a strong aversion to holiday music. Working eight hour days listening to the same hour-long loop of Christmas music started making me a bit delirious. At night, while trying to fall asleep, I couldn't get the music out of my head. As I approached the shop for my shifts, I could hear the music wafting out of the front doors, and I would fill with dread.

Now, everywhere I go, I hear that dreadful noise, and it just puts me in a bad mood. I realize that this is a personal issue, but I've also noticed that just about everyone I know feels the same. Christmas music is no longer special or exciting, it's almost a hassle you must put up with for the last two (3? 4? Do I hear 6?) months of the year. I guess I'm just a scrooge. But this is something that needs to be examined more closely. In the name of consumerism, we have cheapened one of humanity's greatest artforms: music.

30 November 2007

Thoughts on Reconstructive Surgery After Mastectomy

I've written before about my experience with a breast tumor, having it removed, and specifically telling the surgeon that I did NOT want reconstruction on my breast other than a tidy scar.* I'm really very small chested, 32A, and while my adolescence and early twenties were difficult, I've come to appreciate my itty bitty titties. So, when faced with the terror of possible cancer, I just wanted it out of me as soon as possible. Some friends thought it was silly of me not to get implants, because I would be knocked out anyway, spread out on a table with my boob cut open. Honestly, I didn't want to live life with big boobs. I'd worked so hard to accept my IBTs that I didn't want to throw it away. Not to mention that my recovery from a lumpectomy would be difficult enough without bags of saltwater sloshing around.

Following the Twisty Faster philosophy, I have since found myself disapproving of women who have reconstruction after a mastectomy. If I were to find myself getting a mastectomy, I probably wouldn't get reconstruction. I feel like women place too much importance on breasts because the patriarchy tells them that their value is wrapped up in their fuckability. People are so offended by boobless women because they force people to think about women as human beings who have feelings, struggles, illnesses, and probably a lot of other qualities we can't gather just by looking. I'm reminded of the movie "Pieces of April" where the mother, who is suffering through chemotherapy after a mastectomy, shows the senile grandmother a picture of her topless after her surgery, which was taken by the son. The grandmother is disgusted at the photo, which the mother treasures because it was taken by her son and quite beautifully done. The mother was proud of her son's talent and love, and the grandmother was just disgusted that she would put her booblessness on display.

I thought that women should be proud of mastectomy scars, and that they should show them so that people weren't so shocked to see a boobless woman. But today, reading Amanda's post about an article on the Details blog, I read a comment by Mnemosyne that really made me reconsider:
If you’d had, say, your ear removed because of cancer, no one would think it was bizarre for you to want to have something that at least vaguely resembled what had been there. But breasts have been so sexualized that some people have gone too far the other way and declared that replacing a missing body part is bowing to the patriarchy.
You know, she's right. If it were any other part of my body, I would most likely want reconstruction. If I lost my nose, or my lips, I'd want to have them rebuilt. If I had a giant chunk of flesh taken out of my body because of melanoma, I'd want to have reconstruction. So why was I so critical of breast reconstruction? I think this is what happens when body parts are sexualized -- we rebel against this sexualization by denying them existence. Is this a rational response? I don't know. I applaud the women who protest bans on toplessness by going topless, just to prove to people that breasts are not sexual by nature, but have been sexualized by our culture. We have internalized the sexuality of breasts so much that we even joke about babies loving the boobs.** What we forget is that babies love the boobs because they are the natural food source, not because they're pretty. It all boils down to the fact that sexualizing body parts is harmful to everyone and should never be taken lightly.

*My father, always the joker, was sitting by my bed as I was coming out of anesthesia. The first thing he said to me was, "Wow, they made your boobs huge!" Not. Funny. But so typical of my father's sense of humor.

**I'm really thinking of those stupid "Look Who's Talking" movies, which I refuse to link to. Talk about reinforcing gender norms!

08 November 2007

Lifestyles of the Rich and Pathetic

Via Jessica, this New York Times story was not fit to read over lunch, but I did anyway. Big mistake. *burp*

Summary: Really wealthy people with powerful careers hire a woman to plan their lifestyles. Clothes, social activities, living quarters, even friends. All of her clients are men, she's had only one female client, and it sounds like she only got help finding a place to live. Quite honestly, getting help finding a place to live is not such a bad idea, especially if you're new in town. And double especially if it's New York City, but I digress.
Most of Ms. Storr’s clients are single and too preoccupied with work to organize their personal lives, she says.
Isn't your personal life a pretty important part of the rest of your life? Aren't you missing out on a lot when you have someone else plan it for you? Are these people just so socially inept that they can't deal with social stuff and have to hire someone to make it a little easier?

Not really. Money quote:
He calls her an outsourced wife. “The nice thing is that when I ask her to do something, she gets it done and there’s no negative feelings."

In other words, he'd love to be able to boss around his wife, but that uppity bitch gets in his face, so now he pays someone to let him boss her around. Got it. I once dated a guy who used to bitch about all the things he had to do for himself (pick up drycleaning, grocery shopping, post office, regular daily stuff) and say that he needed a wife. When I corrected him and told him that what he really wanted was a personal assistant, he came right back and said he'd rather have a wife. Because they're basically free, and you can fuck them after a long day of bossing them around. I dumped him a few days later. I can't believe it took me so long.

At the end of the piece, we see that one of her clients is still lost:
Mr. Peik looked pleased but slightly out of his element, as if observing a diorama of his New York life and trying to figure out where he fit in. “It’s been a really fun night,” he said. “It didn’t feel forced and didn’t seem like we were the reason for Allison having a party.”
Really? Did he say that with a straight face? Here comes my chicken salad on rye . . .

01 November 2007

Is Bell's Palsy a Feminist Issue?

Hearing recently that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has Bell's Palsy, I was pleased to see her write about her experience in Alternet. Her story is very matter of fact, like much of her writing and other commentary, and I am proud to be in such good company. The story also had me asking an important question: Is Bell's Palsy a feminist issue?

After last week's post about the woman who wrote to Cary Tennis asking why she deserved Bell's, I've been thinking about it a lot. (A flare up in my residual spasming contributed a little, too.) So I've been talking to friends about it, and they have all said that they are amazed at my will to keep living my life as normally as I could through the worst of it. To which I have to answer, "Why would I stop living my life as normally as I could? Isn't that what we are supposed to do during a non-life threatening illness?"

One friend really brought it home for me. She said that it would devastate her, even though she saw me in the worst of my paralysis and didn't think I looked all that bad. But she feels uncomfortable leaving her house if her hair looks bad, or if she has a zit, or if she feels fat; how could she possibly brave the world with half of her face seemingly sliding off? For me, it was a no-brainer. My life couldn't wait for me to get over what was essentially a cosmetic condition. (Of course, that caught up with me when my facial muscles started to burn with pain and my ear became inflamed. There is a reason that the doctor tells you to rest!)

So, are we pushing women too far toward perfection? Are we too judgmental of imperfect women? Even my father will make insulting comments about women on TV who have a crooked tooth, asymmetrical eyes, or a big nose. I feel like my Bell's Palsy was a chance for me to face the world and force people to value me based on my personality, my intellect, all that stuff that really counts. I also realized that some people, complete strangers, were offended by my imposing my lopsided face on them. I got some of the rudest "Smile, dammit" comments I'd ever received. It all reinforced the idea that women are still considered decorative in our culture, as objects to be gazed upon, as if I were required to perform for men at all times. And I simply could not do that with Bell's Palsy.

I hope that most people with Bell's Palsy would take it as much in stride as possible, like I did. Unfortunately, after the Salon letter last week, I know that is not the case, and that there are women who are devastated by what is basically a temporary paralysis that is never life threatening. Vibrant women should not let facial paralysis cause emotional paralysis. I hope that someday, women will not be put under impossible pressure to maintain impossible beauty, and that they will embrace the flaws that life has given them. After all, my smile will always be wonky now, and my right eye will always close when I saw certain words. Such is Bell's Palsy, and I refuse to hide under a rock just to make people more comfortable.

Bell's Palsy Sufferers of the World, Unite and Take Over! ;-,

26 October 2007

PTA Butt Sex?

So, over at Jezebel, they have their usual "Crap [Something] From a Dude" and today it's an eBay listing. But in the comments, there are actually two discussions going on:
  1. PTA bake sales
  2. Surprise anal sex
It's just unbelievably awesome.

Friday Cat Blogging--Forbidden Love Edition

"Oh, painted flower box, nobody must know about our love. I shall kiss you and caress you, mwah mwah mwah!"

And speaking of crazy cat ladies, I am totally addicted to this site: http://www.omgkitty.com/

How can you not fall in love with that face? Is it wrong to be so in love with a cat I've never met? I need therapy.

25 October 2007

Xmas comes earlier every year, doesn't it?

In honor of the War on Christmas, take a listen to Zuzu's adaptation of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

And speaking of the War on Christmas, according to Wonkette, WorldNutDaily claims it has already begun. Fine. So be it.

I have a theory on why there are so many suicides around the holidays. It's because people get sick and tired of Xmas! Seriously, folks, there are commercials on the radio and decorations in the stores already, and it isn't even Halloween yet. I know that I start to get a little antsy after a couple of months of carols and Santa. Oy.

Really? This again?

So Mike Huckabee has trotted out the tired claim that because women have so many abortions, we have to import illegal immigrants to do jobs we don't have enough people to do. Right. He's apparently been hanging out with Tom Delay.

Any time this argument comes up, I wonder how many illegal immigrants the speaker has employed either directly or indirectly. And I'm sure that Mike would be more than willing to take that field picking job away from an immigrant. Way to conflate arguments.

My Itty Bitty Titties

So, yesterday I wrote about how vain some people can be in the case of illness. I still stand by what I wrote, by the way. In fact, I feel compelled to write a post specifically about "reconstructive surgery" after mastectomy.

I've got itty bitty titties. 34A's, to be generous. At no point in my life have I ever contemplated implants, although I have been less secure than I am now in my womanliness because I lacked giant mammary protuberances. I've always scoffed at women who got implants because it was like they were putting a Band-Aid on a lost limb. They never thought about why they were doing it, and were always surprised when the world didn't magically turn into a perpetually sunshiney place. Well, duh. I could be rather smug about the love of my itty bitties, in fact, and I probably put a lot of people off.

One thing that has always bothered me, however, is the utter lack of unpadded bras in my size. I probably don't need a bra, but in my professional life I don't want to risk anything. But just try to find a bra with an A cup that isn't padded. There ain't any. So, I buy the padded ones. And try to have a sense of humor about the Nerf balls strapped to my chest. Apparently, someone out there, probably a man, assumes that women with itty bitties doesn't want to have itty bitties and would naturally want a padded bra. Okay, that's completely silly, but it's not the end of my world.

Where I get insulted is when women have reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. Nowadays, it's a given that women will have reconstruction when they have a mastectomy. From what I've heard, it's damn hard to convince your surgeon that you don't want implants, because, hey, why wouldn't you? If I came to the point where I needed a mastectomy, it would suck, surely. Physical rehabilitation must be a total bitch, and recovery has to be a hundred times worse than what I went through with my lumpectomy. But come on! You're not dead! Celebrate it!

Many women feel like they will lose their womanhood with their breast(s). Really? So, the fact that I have (basically) no breasts to begin with makes me a non-woman? Seriously? I have 20 years of menstruation in my past that would beg to differ, thank you. I'd never really thought about this until my surgery. I'd always loved my boobicles, because they didn't prevent me from moving freely, they were comfortable, and most of all, they were healthy. When I realized that they weren't healthy, I started to hate them. At least the one with the lump. My good friends, who I'd watched grow up, had betrayed me and tried to kill me. I was pissed.

But then I had my surgery, and follow up exams proved that I was cancer-free with no need for radiation or chemo treatment. Wahoo! So I can't understand how a woman going through such a life-threatening situation could be so focused on such a trivial part of her personhood. Honestly, before my surgery, I was all, "Hack those fuckers off! I don't care! Hack 'em off!" I don't identify by my boobicles. No woman should. As Twisty proves, you are still powerful without them, and you can still change the world.

24 October 2007

Suffering from Bell's Palsy

I know I haven't written in a long time, but I've been kind of wrapped up in other things and not very motivated to write. But I saw something in Salon that really sparked me. I've been out of town for the past week at conferences, so I'm really late to this, but this letter writer who has Bell's Palsy is absolutely flipping her shit. She doesn't want to leave the house. She's trying to figure out what she did wrong to deserve such a horrible fucking tragedy. She's wondering if the universe is giving her a message.

Oy. It really pissed me off, so I was happy to go to the letters section to see how other people felt. I'm bummed that comments are closed, because I would have given her a lopsided mouthful! The letter is just dripping with arrogance and privilege. Bell's Palsy sucks, big time, but it isn't the end of the world. There's excruciating pain, it's hard to eat or drink anything, your eyes hurt like hell, people make rude comments and you make babies cry.

It seems like this person is most concerned about the last two symptoms. Here's what I say: Fuck it. If someone is so offended by the sight of your slightly contorted face, then they have a real problem and I feel sorry for them, because they must go through life getting offended by everything. And I make babies cry anyway, so I don't even know if my Bell's made it worse or if it was just my charm.

If she were upset over the pain and inconvenience, then I could sympathize. But even as I was suffering my intense pain from Bell's, I never felt sorry for myself. (Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.) Other people felt VERY sorry for me, like my mother, and all I could say was, "At least it's temporary. It's not killing me. Get over it!"

I'm reminded of my brush with boobicle cancer. I had a lump, I had a mammogram, doctor told me it needed to come out, and I was under the knife the following week. Everyone felt so sorry for me, wondering how I would manage with a mutilated titty that would most certainly be unattractive to possible suitors, and going through a divorce and all I didn't want to feel unattractive, did I? Again, oy. The surgery sucked, big time. I couldn't move my right arm for a long time. I still have stabbing pain in my boob, especially in cold weather. I had to wear a binder type bra while I was healing. And yes, I have a scar. But I'm not ashamed of it in the least. It's a sign of my present health, which I may not have right now had I not gotten that scar.

That's what I don't understand about women who get breast implants after a mastectomy. I've had really small boobs all my life, so having a mastectomy wouldn't really affect me aesthetically. (Physically, pain wise and ability wise, is another story. It's an incredibly difficult procedure to recover from.) So it kind of pisses me off when women in life-threatening circumstances still have the ability to decide that they don't want to live like me, flat-chested and happy.

This has turned into a long rant. Maybe it will get me blogging again. But things like this just really spark my fire. People just aren't grateful for what they have and need to wallow in self-pity, and I have no patience for it. Bell's Palsy girl: leave your house, grow a sack, and get a life! You're going to be a mother soon! Don't pass your neuroses to your child!


21 July 2007


As if I needed another reason to be terrified of College Republicans, this has been making the rounds:

I know people like this. They seem to be too afraid of an original thought that they just parrot the party line. This video reminds me of something I noticed around 1998-99, while I was finishing college. After spending 4 years (shut it, I was on the 5 year plan!) in classes where formal and informal debate was encouraged, I was shocked to see that professors started to shut down discussion because of a few belligerent students.

Folks, these are the Republicans of today. They do not engage in debate, but rather shout down anyone with a different idea with ignorant catch phrases, not thinking about what they're really saying.

One look at those bumper stickers at the beginning is all you need to know.

Friday Cat Blogging Vintage Edition

I know, it's Saturday, get off my ass! Today's pic is of Miles a few years ago, back when we lived in Tampa. It's still one of my favorite pictures of him.

Barboursville Cabernet Blanc

A little late with the wine blogging, but I've been without a computer until yesterday. This week's wine is Barboursville's Cabernet Blanc. Rather sweet, but yummy. I don't think this is a regular offering from Barboursville, but I live in Virginia, and we have the best wines! The price was good, about $15. If you ever come to central Virginia, I strongly recommend visiting Barboursville Winery, as they have some of the most sophisticated and interesting wines in the region.

13 July 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Miles loves his scratching post so much that he often cuddles with it.

Stubby sunning his belly in my parents' backyard.

10 July 2007

Planned Obsolescence

I haven't written much lately because my home computer has been acting up. It finally died this weekend, prompting me to take it to a repairperson. They person informed me that my 4 year old laptop could not be repaired because there are no longer any parts available for that model. A 4 year old computer. As a side note, I was telling someone just 2 weeks ago how great it was that my computer was still running very well at its "advanced" age. Irony is a bitch.

After scrambling my money around and purchasing a groovy new MacBook Pro, I was talking to my mother about my computer dyying. "Isn't that a new computer?" she asked. "Not really, it's 4 years old." "That sounds new to me." "You don't know a lot about computers, then." And on and on. But I got what she was really saying.

Things don't last anymore. TVs, computers, cellphones, coffee makers, major appliances, anything plastic, bras, shoes. Buying a quality item means that it will last for ten years instead of five, if you're lucky. This is planned obsolescence in action. Basically, manufacturers create goods that will last (or be supported) for a limited amount of time, after which the consumer is compelled to buy a new one. You never see TV repair shops around because the manufacturers don't want you to get your 15 year old set repaired. They want you to replace it with a newer model, which is supposedly better than your old one. The problem is that the newer model, which more technologically advanced, has more opportunities to malfunction, and warranties are only 1 year usually.

Not only is this frustrating for consumers like myself, who must have a home computer in order to fulfill my professional and academic responsibilities, but it is also bad for the environment. Think of all of the TVs, cellphones and dishwashers hanging out in landfills everywhere. Think of the toxicity running off into the water supply of the local town, which is usually an impoverished one without the political capital to fight against it.

I also think that, since Americans are raised to become good* consumers, we are conditioned to always want the newest and the best, even if our current product works fine. I have friends who buy new cellphones when a new one comes out, even though the one they have works just fine and still has a lot of the cool technological features. They just want to have the latest cellphone. Even I, in my purchase of my new laptop, was enamored with all the bells and whistles of the model I finally purchased. Although, it would have been nice if my old laptop could have held out for a couple more years.

Advertising plays the biggest part in this. I've often thought that advertisers are some of the smartest people in the world, if only because they know how to manipulate huge numbers of minds at once with just 30 second spots on TV. And they have done it, especially with new technology.

* Meaning, the more money spent the better, not necessarily responsible consumption.

06 July 2007

A good idea, in theory

Maybe not in practice.

In my opinion, a case of wine would be better, not some crappy Bud Light. Ah, well, it's still funny as hell.

05 July 2007

"Freedom isn't free"

I've seen this plastered upon car bumpers before, and I've seen it on conservative t-shirts, and I've heard conservatives bleat it out when they realize they don't have a chance in an argument. Most notably, when the Patriot Act (the first one) was being hammered out and bandied about the political discourse, lots of righties were using this phrase to justify the dismantling of civil liberties in order to be free. I always thought that was a bit of a circular argument, but I also realized that you just can't reason with some of these folks.

But, after my previous post, I'd like to present this phrase in a different way. No, freedom isn't free. In order to be free, you have to accept that some people are going to take advantage of the system. For example, soldiers coming home from Iraq missing limbs or with serious mental injuries will be (ideally, but not always) qualified for disability benefits. This is because someone thought it would be a good idea to not be an asshole and to help out the people who protect our country and might just boost morale and lessen some of the burden a soldier had to face. It's just doing the right thing. But at some point, someone is going to take advantage of that system. Maybe several someones will take advantage of that system. Conservatives would like to claim, as they do when arguing against national healthcare, that because someone will be able to take advantage of the system that the system should not exist.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the system in place and have my taxes go toward helping a lot of truly needy people, in addition to a handful of leeches, than dismantle the whole system so that everybody suffers.

So, yeah, freedom really ISN'T free. But not in the way you think.

On healthcare and bootstraps

After Micheal Moore's SiCKO came out, the blogosphere has erupted with all sorts of reviews, mostly positive. Check out Pam, Amanda, and Jill. Of course, the always predictable trolls are out in full force in fear of a national healthcare system. And they're trotting out the same predictable argument, once you distill it down to it's pure form: that healthcare if a privilege and we're a nation of individuals who can pull up by our bootstraps.


I actually used to believe the latter portion of that statement, that you could become anything if you just worked really hard and didn't get into trouble. Maybe in the not so distant past that was true, to an extent. You know, back when a high school education could still land you a job that payed a living wage with which you could afford a house and mortgage, a car, and support a few kids, maybe even send them to college. In modern times, this is simply not the case, and it's highly possible that it never was the case. "Bootstraps" are part of the American mythology. Successful people like to remind everyone that they got to where they are by working hard. I've no doubt they worked hard, but at who's expense? A white, middle class male born in this country automatically has more opportunity than a white, middle class female born at the same time, or a black middle class male. They've got a head start, yet nobody wants to acknowledge that because it destroys our precious national mythology.

To put this more simply, a child (male or female) born in a white middle class family has a built-in safety net that ensures they will do well in life. This is, in fact, my case, even as a woman, so I will explain how I have benefited from being born into a white middle class family. Because my family is well off, I had the opportunity to go to a good public school in a good neighborhood. I lived in a nice house, where I didn't have to worry about pests or unhealthy conditions or rampant crime that would detract from my education and development. I could concentrate on my homework after school, and even participate in ballet, because my parents were financially secure and didn't need me to put in any time at a job to help the family out. When it was time for college, and there was never any doubt that I would go to college, the money was there. I was able to spend my college years focused on my education (whether I did that or not is an entirely different post) rather than working three jobs to scrape tuition money together. Whenever I got sick, my parents' health insurance helped tremendously. Whenever I had car trouble, my parents could help me out. Even after college and into my professional life, I'm confident in the safety net of my family. Going through my divorce, I had the help of my family to avoid becoming homeless and broke. I think we can all imagine the course my life would have taken had I not been born into a white middle class family. I could have pulled on my bootstraps with all my might, but I still wouldn't be where I am today.

Most recently, I had my family's help with my bout of breast disease. I was unemployed at the time and in the middle of a bitter divorce. My then husband was in the process of withdrawing my health insurance, so when things starting to get diagnosed, I freaked out. My father, because he has the financial power to do so, employed me in his law firm to work from home so that I could avoid a gap in healthcare coverage. No, I didn't do a lot of work because I was dealing with a serious disease, but I made sure to make it up to him. And I was covered for the duration of the illness.

If I had not had that opportunity from my father, I would be paying off medical bills for the rest of my life. Or, worse yet, no doctor would have touched me because I wasn't covered, and that little lump would have developed into cancer. Even if I were to pay for my medical expenses out of pocket, I would never be covered for breast disease by any insurance company in the future. It's already scary that I'll never be able to have individual (non-employer) insurance if I decide to freelance, because who would cover a woman who was diagnosed with breast disease, a precursor to cancer, at 29, without charging outrageous premiums?

I can't wait to see SiCKO. I'm a Michale Moore fan, I'll admit it. He's hyperbolic at times, but that's what it takes in this country. Subtlety doesn't quite get through thick skulls. And the next time I hear some libertarian wanker whine about having to pay a few extra dollars a month so that the entire fucking country can have good healthcare*, I'm telling my story. I've worked hard my whole life, and I STILL got sick! It's not fair!

* Healthcare is a basic human right, and we need to start framing our arguments in this way rather than in an economic way. If the technology exists, everyone deserves quality and timely healthcare, just like everyone deserves food and water and freedom from torture. Oh, wait . . .

04 July 2007

I'm not patriotic

I've never felt the rush of patriotism on the Fourth of July like others profess to feel. To me, it's a day off from work, a good time to cook out with family and friends, maybe go to the beach, and watch some fireworks. If anything, it's more of a celebration of summer.

This year, I'm feeling decidedly unpatriotic. There have been too many atrocities committed throughout the world in the name of freedom that it makes me nauseous. I love my country, but like an unruly child, I expect more of her. Shame.

As I enjoy my day off from work and some yummy summer food and fireworks, I leave you with this quote by Garth Ennis:
I like this country, Jesse. I like baseball and whiskey and Mom's apple pie-- not my mom's apple pie, but you know what I mean-- and the Stars and Stripes, and John Wayne, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

And I like the myth of the place. The myth of America: that simple, honest men, born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right.

Under harsh light it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.
Yeah. I get it.

03 July 2007

Review: The Assault on Reason by Al Gore

What did I do during my summer vacation? Well, lots of stuff, but one thing I did was read Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason. I’m such a dork, in fact, that I pre-ordered it from Amazon. It was a very interesting read, although, like An Inconvenient Truth, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. Gore does a huge service to Americans who are not as interested in the nitty gritty of policy as I am, and sums it up in simple and accessible terms. Not to say that average Americans need to have these things dumbed down, but that most people are too busy to familiarize themselves with the nuts and bolts of the constitution, policy, history and science.

The main thesis of Assault is that our democracy is in a steep decline because as a society, we have lost our ability to engage in a public discussion about the direction our country is taking. The main culprit is television, according to Gore, which I completely agree with. Television is a very passive medium from which to gain information about the world. It is also the main source of news information for Americans, with its ubiquity and ease of use. There are no special skills necessary for watching television; in fact, children are taught from birth how to “use” the television for person enrichment and entertainment. Gore states that, because watching television is a passive activity and one which the watcher cannot easily debate with (with an audience, at least) that our democracy is suffering. People are no longer engaging in political debate, and the days of town hall meetings and letters to the editor are considered quaint by those shaping policy. Gore considers the high point of democracy to be the rise of cheap printing; namely newspapers, leaflets and pamphlets. As printed material became more widely available and cheap, more average citizens began to read and participate in the political discourse. Newspaper sales are lagging now, which means that when a person writes an editorial or a letter to the editor of the newspaper, fewer and fewer people are responding to it. And, much like television, newspapers are owned by huge conglomerates that are hard to infiltrate with a dissenting opinion.

As I stated before, I agree with this, but I also think that Gore could have gone a bit deeper. His main thesis that atrocious things are happening in Washington because people don’t debate anymore is a strong one, but I don’t think that the media are the only culprit. In fact, it may be just a symptom. Why else could our society be so disengaged from the policymaking that often affects daily life? One thing that I’ve noticed in the past decade or so is the American ideal of “rugged individualism” run amok. In the early days of the republic, and during Western expansion, individualism was a proud feature of our culture. The idea that Americans are so tough and can pull themselves up by the bootstraps is a romantic visualization of the past, promoted by history books and movies. To some extent, this is true, but nobody ever considers how unbelievably hard life used to be, and how many people didn’t make it. So, we carry that individualism into our modern day lives. The nuclear family is the epitome of family life in this culture. We all live in our cookie cutter houses with a white picket fence, spouse (opposite sex, of course), 2.5 kids, a dog and a cat. (I realize that this isn’t the case for most of America, but I’m dealing with the generalization that Americans like to put forth.) We are so pressured to leave our families behind in order to create families of our own, and then we are shamed into ever asking friends, family, society for help when trouble comes. We drive to work in our cars alone, work in an office or cubicle alone, and use the self-checkout line at the supermarket. Instead of going to the bank teller, we withdraw cash at the ATM. Instead of talking to a colleague or friend, we send email, text, or instant messages. In sum, we are very detached from our fellow human beings. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the actions I just outlined; I often take advantage of ATMs and self-checkout lines myself. What I am saying is that we, as a society, are forgetting how to speak to each other about important matters.

The result of this is that the large media outlets (television, radio, and newspapers) usually only focus on extreme opinions because they are sexier. We hear a lot about anti-choice groups and their shenanigans, but we rarely hear from folks who are more mainstream. We hear a lot about the anti-capitalist “freegans” but rarely hear from people trying to live a realistic but sustainable life. We are left with the impression that our neighbors hold extreme opinions because of the bumper stickers on their car.

An interesting phenomenon has been in the works with blogging, though. People are finding ways to become active again by connecting with others around the country and creating real movements. Disregarding my lack of enthusiasm for the nuclear family (anyone who knows me knows that I hate living so far away from my family and that I’m making progress to get back to them) I think that virtual relationships are our salvation for this political crisis. Gore mentions this only in passing in Assault, but I think as relationships evolve, we should pay more attention.

UPDATE: Amanda has chosen Assault for the next Pandagon Book Club selection. You can also buy the book there.

29 June 2007

Bell's Palsy Chronicles, Part 9

To look at me, you'd think I was almost back to normal. I saw an otolaryngologist about a month ago, to figure out what was going on with my ear, and he didn't see any damage. We concluded that it was just muscle strain that was affecting my inner ear, and that it would just go away. I hadn't lost any of my hearing, so that was a relief! But he did insist that I see an opthalmologist because my blinking was very labored.

The opthalmologist did a very thorough exam, and didn't find any corneal scratches or loss of vision. However, I still feel like I have sand in my eye. This could be from damage to the inside of my eyelid, but he told me to wait and see if it gets better before we investigate.

I've got most of my facial functioning back, and I certainly look perfectly normal. I'm still having spasms, mostly around my eye. That has to be the strangest sensation. I'm still using eye drops like crazy, and allergy season absolutely sucked. I'm still unable to purse my lips fully, which is the only highly noticeable symptom.

It's been almost six months since my BP.

Friday Cat Blogging

This is one of my mom's cats, Stubby, named so because of his missing tail. No, he isn't a tailless cat, he was hit by a car as a kitten and had his tail amputated. This was all before he came to us.

He just might be the sweetest, most affectionate cat ever. As soon as you sit down, he jumps in your lap to give you kisses. Oh, how I miss him!

And here is my little man, hanging out in the window listening to the birds. He hates this time of year because it's so hot. Poor baby. We'll have AC soon!

28 June 2007

Denying abortion as a means of controlling women

Via Jessica at Feministing, I read this article at Marie Claire. I know, barf. The only real "magazines" I read are Bitch and Southern Living. My coffee table is quite the conversation piece, but I digress.

The article is a personal account of one woman's experience with the abortion pill, Mifeprex. While this is a very safe drug to induce miscarriage, this particular woman had a horrible experience with infection and hormonal imbalance for months after taking the pill. Mifeprex almost always causes very uncomfortable cramping, bleeding, and some other side effects. But in my opinion, I would rather deal with these discomforts than have a surgical abortion, if only because I would rather be at home, with people I care about and trust.

As I was reading the article, I thought about how it would bring out the anti-choice zealots in full force to shame this woman for her "choices". (For a little background, the woman was about to be married, but had been a cocaine user during conception and for most of the month or so that she was pregnant, and made the admirable choice of not bringing an addicted and possibly severely disabled child into this cruel world.) After scrolling to the comments, I was proven correct. The first comment made my stomach turn. The commenter had chosen a medical abortion a few years ago, and still regrets it to this day. No mention of how it might be the pregnancy that she regretted, or the lack of support she received from her friends and family, or the fact that our society shames women who abort and induce horrendous guilt. In addition, she claims that "the idea of inserting it vaginally itself was the hardest thing". Really? Putting your fingers into your own vagina was really the hardest part of your abortion? Wow. I put my fingers in my vagina every time I menstruate in order to insert a tampon. Has this woman ever masturbated? Likely, no. Get thee a rabbit, and fast! But now I'm getting off topic.

The next comment gets into the writer's coke addiction. So predictable.

I do not think using an author who had a raging coke habit (at an age when she should have known better nonetheless!) was a wise choice.

At an age when she should have known better? Basically, what this commenter is saying is that s/he can understand if the author was a teenager, when they probably can't afford coke anyway. Not to mention that addiction is a bitch. How many meth/heroine/coke addicts out there are really enjoying their addiction? Not many, I can guarantee that. And we certainly don't encourage pregnant women to seek help for drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, we incarcerate them.

But then we hit the real nerve, abortion as birth control, in the fourth comment. There are some folks on the fence about abortion, who say it shouldn't be used as birth control. Guess what? Abortion IS birth control! Women aren't getting abortions for fun, despite what some of the more unhinged anti-choicers would like you to believe. When you get an abortion, you are deciding whether you want to give birth or not. Birth. Control. That means that proponents of "Natural Family Planning" (since what the rest of us participate in is so UNnatural) are also using a form of birth control. Even abstinence and non-penis-in-vagina sex is considered birth control.

In my opinion, there isn't a human being on this earth of reproductive age that doesn't (wish to*) participate in some form of birth control. What baffles me is why people think that abortion is so abhorrent a form of birth control. I get that it's icky, but so is every type of surgery. Is there really a myth out there that women have unprotected sex thinking, "Well, I'll have sex sans condom, and if I get pregnant I'll just get an abortion on my way to work one day"? Abortion is the last birth control resort for women, save the victims of rape.

Next on my list is the hypocrisy of the "rape exception" of most proposed abortion bans. This has become so common in the political discourse that it hardly stirs a reaction. However, it has always bothered me. By banning abortion, sexually active women are punished. By making an exception for rape victims, legislators are rubbing salt into the wound of the rest of women by basically saying that the reason they can't have an abortion is because they CHOSE to have sex, and weren't forced into it.

This is the proof that anti-choice policies are not really concerned with saving fetuses, but with controlling women. And this is what it's all about. Privileged men, so afraid of losing their power, feel the need to control women who dare to act independently. (See, street harassment, rape, domestic violence.) Scary.

* When I say "wish to" I am implying consensual sex. Rape and incest victims cannot choose birth control, unless they are using regular hormonal contraception. We cannot forget these victims whenever we talk about a right to birth control.

El Portillo Sauvignon Blanc

I'm back, bitchez!

And to get back in the swing of blogging, I'm enjoying a glass of El Portillo Sauvignon Blanc*, an inexpensive Argentinian white. So inexpensive, in fact, that it sports a screw top, which I didn't notice until I brought it home. Usually, I don't "do" screw top wine, so forgive me.

As I was wielding the Ginsu knife to open the bottle, I anticipated a sugary sweet and unclean wine. I was somewhat surprised by the clean flavor, although it is a little sweet for my taste. In other words, my father would love it!

I like my SBs to be a little tart, and this one failed to deliver. In fact, it only has the faintest of Sauvignon taste. It is uncomplicated, which, unlike most winos, I prefer. I like single, delicate notes.

In summary, of course I'll finish the bottle. Duh. But I've had better.

* The website is all Java, so it's really annoying. This also explains the lack of an image or direct link to the wine.

19 June 2007


It's been over a month since my last post. I've had some personal issues (everyone is fine) that I won't get into here, but I think I'll start blogging again next week. Lots of stuff cooking in my brain, and I hope to serve up an intellectual feast for the handful of people who read my blog.

13 May 2007

Letter to my Mom

Dear Mom,

It's Mother's Day, and every year I say it's a bunch of commercial crap that the corporatocracy has manipulated from the peace-loving observance it once was into a stomach-churning orgy of flowers, jewelry, and tacky cards. But then people start to talk about their mothers, without all the consumer driven hype, and I always get a little sentimental.

Historically, I've been with you on Mother's Day every year, but I've missed the past two because of moving away to an earthly hell. I'm sad when I see daughters out with their mothers today, knowing that my dipshit brothers, if they didn't forget completely, probably instructed their wives to pick out a card or send flowers, and will then show up at your house tonight wanting dinner. I'm sad because you aren't appreciated the way you should be: as a strong, frightfully intelligent, creative, compassionate human being.

I always try to reason with you, that you're letting people take advantage of you, that you're letting people walk all over you, and that you need to look after yourself more. Because these are things that I refuse to allow for myself. That is the biggest lesson I've learned from you, how not to let those those things happen to me. I know you have some dreams, somewhere in your head, snuggled closely between memories of your children, for a long life's nap. I know you are too bright to have denied yourself dreams altogether, but probably thought that life wouldn't sneak up on you.

You are more than a mother. I wish Dad and the brothers could see that. I wish you could gather the courage to throw off the shackles that they've bound you in when you were too busy caring for them to notice. I wish you would one day decide that you were going to live a life for yourself.

I have a fantasy that one day, you'll call me and tell me that it's time to escape. That you've always known you needed to escape, you just had to find the right time. Then you join up with me and we raise holy hell. Whatever your dreams are (folk art? music? teaching? lounging by a pool drinking wine with a dog?) I would support you and encourage you. It would be scary as hell for you, but I would remind you that life is scary and that is what makes it worthy.

I have visions of who you used to be, before you were a wife and mother. I have a feeling you had a bit of a hell-raising streak, an independence that has since vanished. I hope it reemerges before you are gone, and I hope you can finally understand my fierce independence.

I love you, Mom, but I don't think I'll send this letter to you. I don't think you are ready. One thing I've learned from you is that you have to let people realize what they need on their own. I'm just waiting for you to realize. I love you and respect you more than Dad and the brothers do, because I know you are more than a wife and mother. You are a human being, and you are beautiful. You are my best friend.

I love you.

Quite Contrary

27 April 2007

Working for "The Man"

I work for "The Man."

Of course, as an academic librarian, I'm not working to make some godlike CEO a profit, since academic institutions are nonprofit. But I still feel like I am part of that culture of profit, slaving away at a job while giving little thought to my actual life. I talked with my mother the other day about this, about how we spend most of our waking hours at a job that we may or may not like. I admire self-employed folks who use their talents to support themselves. An artist has an opportunity to do what s/he loves and make a wage for it. Granted, these folks usually have to take a vow of poverty, but why is it that we are so afraid of simpler lives and automatically shudder at the thought of living on less?

With all of the talk about Linda Hirschman's latest New York Times article, encouraging women to go back to work after having children, I have been wondering if this is "the" answer to female equality. Some of the talk on feminist blogs has centered around how arrogant Hirschman's manifesto is, that many women do not enjoy their work and would rather stay home with the kid for a couple of years. Or that many women do not make high enough wages in the first place to justify a regular babysitter, so they are actually saving money by staying home with the kid for a couple of years. Or that many women really don't even have an option to stay home with the kid for a couple of years, because they are a single mother, or because they need the health insurance, or because dad doesn't make enough to support the whole family because minimum wage in this country does not equal a living wage. Is our current work model broken?

Considering someone like my brother, I think it is. At times, it seems to me that my brother is nothing more than a wage slave to his family. He has three small children, with his wife staying home to take care of them. She could go to work, but with the three kids, they would likely lose money in the process, and they see no point in working for the sake of working. That's a respectable choice. Nobody should be a wage slave. Not in this country, and not in 2007. But we all are.

I work in academia, and plan to do so after my radical life change. I am lucky, because college campuses tend to be more progressive, and are more flexible with family emergencies. It is not uncommon to see a professor's children running up and down the halls of an academic building or quietly read at a table in the library, something which can brighten up my day in an instant. But you would not see that at a for-profit workplace. There is a strict divide between work life and family life. Family matters do not belong in the workplace, yet we have no problems bringing work matters into our family lives. Blackberry, anyone?

Being a woman who wants to have kids someday fairly soon, this is something that is at the forefront of my mind, because the idea of this either-or choice scares me. I am lucky in that I will most likely have a family friendly workplace at that time, and will be able to combine a comfortable professional life with a thriving family life. But I think of the other women and men who are not as fortunate. Where is their safety net when the kid comes down with the flu and needs a parent to stay home and make sure s/he doesn't dehydrate? Currently, we don't have one, and the Hirschmans of the world don't really care. Because we should be striving for that cushy lifestyle that we see advertised endlessly on TV while neglecting time with family, or working our collective asses to the bone to outsource our childcare, for what I'm not exactly sure.

The work structure in this country needs to change. Don't force dads into the wage slave role, which in turn disengages them from family matters, simply because they are the traditional breadwinners. (Pay equity would be a good start.) Don't just give women the false "choice"* between a) staying at home and being castigated by feminists for "opting out" of the workforce or b) working and being castigated by fellow mothers for neglecting the children. Part of the solution is to drive society toward a less materialistic lifestyle of power-hungry over-consumption and to place more value on relationships with our families, friends, neighbors, pets. Make the public and private spheres less divided, and start to allow real life circumstances to be considered in the workplace. Not only will this make people happier and possibly cut down on anxiety and depression, but it will also make our way of life more environmentally sustainable. In the end, women will have a real choice about what to do with their lives. There are a whole myriad of other problems to sort out in the meantime, such as health care, living wage, and pay equity, to name a few. But change starts in the grass, folks, which is why I wrote this post.

* I don't think women really do have a choice, because cultural and financial pressures usually force women to make these "choices".

23 April 2007

Kids get caught, lie, planet somehow doesn't implode

This story is really hilarious, once you get past the utterly ballsy bigotry. Yeah, I could go on and on about the father's bigoted views of homosexuality, particularly those dirty lesbians, but I won't. That would be too predictable.

Instead, I'm going to laugh my ass off. It is so clear that these kids were looking for this book, or at least were goofing around the "naughty" section instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing. Which was looking for information on military schools. And what teenage boy isn't going to look at pictures of HOT LEZBIONIC SEXXX?

I'm a librarian. Granted, I'm an academic librarian, not a public librarian, but the gig works pretty much the same way. We have shelves of books which are catalogued and arranged in a way to make them easy for users to locate. Academic libraries usually use the Library of Congress Classification System, while public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System. So, there is very little chance that The Whole Lesbian Sex Book was shelved near the military education books. I'd say that this book would be shelved in the 600's, while the military books were shelved in the 500's. Close, but no, um, cigar.

Unless the book magically flew off the shelf and assaulted the boys into reading it, I don't buy it. And to think the father is just so outraged that his sons learned about a very real sexuality just tops it. I can guarantee that these boys knew what lesbians were, and probably what they did together, so Dad just seems to be grubbing for money and attention.

20 April 2007

I didn't think I'd react so strongly

As days went by this week, my reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings has grown stronger and stronger. I live about 50-60 miles from Blacksburg, which is close, but enough distance to feel insulated initially. I never feared for my safety or for the safety of my geographically local friends. To do so would be a waste of time and a waste of energy, because we can't live our lives in constant fear of what might happen.

By Wednesday, I was really starting to feel the anxiety well up in me, and was desperately hoping that my panic disorder would not be triggered. I think it was the fact that NBC had received the "packet" of materials from Cho that played a large part. Every time I turned on a TV, tuned a radio, checked my webmail, I was confronted with either a photo, video or audio clip of Cho and his painfully disturbed pleas for help. I was starting to feel overloaded, not with grief, but with anxiety.

Thankfully, a TV station out of Roanoke (which is near Blacksburg, but also broadcasts to my town, since we have no station of our own) made the excellent editorial decision to cease all broadcasting of Cho's photo, video, or writing. Not only did they pull these materials, but they did it for the right reasons: because airing these materials is painful for the community and is catering to Cho's desires and disrespecting the victims. I will be getting my news from WSLS from now on.

I don't get very emotional from events that don't affect me directly. I don't know anyone at VT, or anyone who lives in Blacksburg. I'm acquainted (barely) with folks who have children there, folks who are alumni, folks who have friends or partners that work there. None of them were victims, so I feel no real loss. So why have I missed so much sleep? Why did I have nightmares Wednesday and Thursday night about Cho's face? Why do I have such a strong reaction to the gun control debate currently circling the blogosphere?

I'm no therapist, so I don't know, I can only speculate. Maybe it's because I work on a college campus in a sleepy little town much like Blacksburg, so insulated from the evils of the outside world. Maybe it's because I've taught students who are very much like Cho in that they have antisocial tendencies, but I tried to see the best in them and let them be free citizens. Maybe it's because I know of a few mentally disturbed people who own guns, some of whom wear them constantly. Maybe it's because we can all identify, just a little bit, with the pain and frustration that Cho was feeling.

Those calling Cho a "madman" or "psycho" are only describing the troubled persona he manifested on Monday. This man was confused, in severe emotional pain, probably suffered from a psychiatric disorder, and was living in a society that values rugged individualism and shames those who reach out for help. Who among us hasn't felt like the world had turned against us? Who hasn't felt like we were suffering from institutional neglect? Who hasn't suffered grief? Who hasn't suffered a broken heart?

We can't, as a society, keep expecting people to solve these problems alone. Cho didn't have a good support system working for him. I have yet to hear about his family. He had no friends. Therefore, it is up to society to take care of people like him for the good of the rest of society. Right-wingers call that the "nanny state." I call it common sense and decency.

Friday Cat Blogging

You're getting very sleeeeeeeepy . . .

18 April 2007

"Partial-Birth" Abortion Ban Upheld by SCOTUS, Slippery Slope Predicted

This is just really fucking scary. From what I understand, through all the medical and legal jargon, is that this procedure actually doesn't exist. The anti-choicers have mangled the language of late-term abortion to appeal to those who romanticize the fetus, and the ban was written vaguely enough to create that slippery slope into a full overturn of Roe.

I was just talking to a friend the other day about how I think all anti-choicers are basically assholes. While he agrees with me and my stance on reproductive rights, he argued that some anti-choicers are good people. He was specifically talking about a woman he knows who had an abortion as a teenager, and when her family found out, they called her a murderer because they believe abortion is murder. (For the record, he is very close friends with the woman's brother, and grew up with his family and says they're otherwise good people. I've only met the brother.) My response was that, setting aside the argument about reproductive rights and when life begins, they were assholes for not being supportive of her. She made a legal decision. I'd like to stress that: LEGAL.

The anti-choice culture is not about protecting life, it's about controlling women. Rather than seeing this woman as a human being with what is possibly the most difficult choice a person makes, they simply shamed her for her "mistake". And they are assholes for it. I have an impossible time wrapping my brain around the idea that a person can deny science and not see the hypocrisy in the anti-choice rhetoric. If a blastocyst is a potential life that is morally wrong to terminate, then why aren't the morality police punishing women for flushing ova out of the womb by menstruating? After all, an ovum is a potential life, an even more solid fact considering scientists can now create sperm from bone marrow. What about women who cannot conceive because of a uterine condition? A blastocyst could form through natural fertilization and not implant because of a medical issue, and then just exit the body with the menstrual flow without a woman even knowing. By the anti-choice logic, these women should be punished for this. If you take anti-choice logic to it's conclusion, it means that non-procreative sex should be illegal. That would include the following: fellatio, cunnilingus, anal sex, sex with barrier/hormonal birth control, sex during infertile times (this means you, natural family planning gurus), sex in sterile couples, sex with a post-menopausal woman, and of course, homosexual sex. (Although the anti-choicers probably wouldn't have a problem making that illegal, either.) This sort of attitude may also mean that it will be difficult for a woman to have a tubal ligation, or for a woman to have a hysterectomy during her fertile years due to an illness. (Remember, the new ban does not make an exception for a woman's health.)

It is absolutely crucial for women (and men) to retain the fullest of reproductive rights, and not feel shamed for doing what is right for them at certain life stages. This ban has more repercussions than most realize. We must fight this!

Virginia Tech Shootings: The Misogynist Angle

There's been a lot of talk about gun control in light of the VT shootings this week. That's highly understandable, and it's a necessary discussion to have. I do not want to address that because I am terrified of guns. As a girl, spending the night at a friend's house, I had a gun pointed at me by an intruder that forced his way into the bedroom while we were sleeping. That pretty much turned me off from guns, considering there was no way to defend myself. So I am not going to address that issue here. (Others are doing a very fine job.)

I do want to address how misogynist this act was and how our society rarely acknowledges the danger stalkers present to their victims. Lifetime movies and romance novels will describe stalking as a form of flattery, often with the woman either giving in to pressure or ending up maimed/dead before anyone pays attention. Unfortunately, this reflects real society as well.

Part of what triggered the VT shooter was rejection from a female love interest. I have no doubt that it played a major part in his rage, acting as a tipping point in a life filled with disappointment, confusion, and despair. But these feelings do not form in a vacuum. Obsessive thoughts/feelings are a product of enculturation, or, rather, what you obsess over is determined by your culture. Our patriarchy sends a rather clear message to men that they deserve the affection and attention of the women of their choosing. Just read any MRA or Nice Guy's blog post or comment. Now that I'm reading reports* that the other victim in the dorm (aka "Stack") may have been the love interest's SO, I can't help but think that a hefty sense of entitlement was at play.

I'm quite certain that other factors triggered this rampage. Could the shooter have "snapped" in the same way if the situation with the love interest had ended differently? I'm sure he could have. But we have just seen, not only through the rampage itself, but through the violent writing and stalking behavior of the shooter, just how much he valued female life. That would be not at all.

Another point I'd like to make is that the campus and Blacksburg police did not deem a "domestic shooting" urgent enough to lock down campus. That sends a very clear message to victims of domestic violence, or, females**, that when a partner physically harms them it isn't as serious as if a stranger had harmed them. Some have argued that in a domestic dispute, the perpetrator rarely targets anyone outside the relationship. That may be true. But if the police had locked down campus, they would have had a better chance of catching the shooter because he would have had a much harder time escaping. What all of this tells me is that the police simply were not that concerned about someone DYING because it was the result of a domestic situation. He only killed his love interest, and apparently that doesn't count as a real murder. Because we all know the pain of unrequited love, right? RIGHT?

Sisters, we have a long way to go.

* I'm very reluctant to believe much about the personal histories of the victims, especially the dorm victims, at this time. Our media are too quick to get the story on the wire to really check facts, thus creating a vicious rumor mill.

** Before you send me a nasty message arguing this point, YES, I realize that men can be victims of domestic violence. However, the overwhelming majority of victims are female, and I am working with generalizations here.

16 April 2007

Tragedy in Virginia

Today has been a violent day in Virginia, as 33 people have been shot dead at Virginia Tech University. Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts.

13 April 2007

Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc

This week's wine is Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc. It's another reasonably priced wine (otherwise I probably wouldn't be blogging it) although a bit pricier than the Meridian. (Yup, still lusting after that one, and the local market is out!)

A bit sweet for a Sauvignon Blanc, but still enjoyable. There is a strong bouquet, which I can appreciate, but I'm not sure I want that with an SV. I'll have a Pinot Grigio for that. But, all in all, it's a delightful wine, and would compliment a fish or chicken dish well.

(Image from closdubois.com)

Friday Cat Blogging

Taking a trip? Ha! We'll see about that!

12 April 2007

Singledom, or Single-dumb?

I am a woman who is single. In fact, I'm a woman who has had a divorce, but consider myself more single than divorced because I don't want my past relationships to define me. I'm not sure I want my current relationship status (single) to define me either, but considering the fact that this status affects many aspects of our lives (think taxes, employment, social standing, insurance rates) I'm willing to use it in some cases. I don't mind being single. I don't mind not having a man in my life because I know the work and tedium involved in keeping one happy. (And, dammit, next time I refuse to be responsible for his happiness! *Furiously taking down notes for a future post*)

I mention all of this because there is a cultural construct in our society that favors coupled people over single ones. Or, more accurately, favors heterosexual couples. I have firsthand experience with this, especially since moving to Virginia.

The place I live isn't exactly rural, but it's a tiny town surrounded by rural areas. There's a definite downtown and definite suburbs, maybe even exurbs. While I'm most comfortable in large cities, small towns have benefits, too. But, one thing I've noticed is that this small town isn't friendly at all to uncoupled people. Many of the social activities are geared toward families, children, couples. People seem very isolated from one another, except in their tight-knit and seemingly impenetrable families/cliques. You can imagine how difficult it has been for me living here as an uncoupled woman who knows nobody.

But I've also had some very blatant "single-dumb" experiences. The first was a dinner at a college administrator's house. I received an invitation in the mail, it seemed lovely, so I responded that I would attend. I understood that it would be a very small gathering, about ten people total. I was actually quite excited since this would give me a chance to speak with colleagues I don't interact with very often while probably eating a good meal.

I showed up at the administrator's house, eager for the evening's events, and was struck by what I saw as I entered the door. One of my colleagues was standing in the receiving room with an unfamiliar man. I'd never seen him before, and I wondered if he was a new professor, so I worked my way over to introduce myself. It turned out that he was the husband of my colleague.

Okay, that's odd, bringing your SO to dinner at an administrator's house. "Party foul!" I thought, imagining myself spilling the contents of my wineglass over her head. How unprofessional, right? As we talked, the rest of the guests arrived, each with a spouse. I started to get the hint, so I walked over to the host of the dinner and asked, "I didn't know we could bring a guest, how foolish of me!" I was thinking that I could have invited my (then) current flame, although I would hesitate because he'd probably be bored. "Yes, we have a list of everyone's spouse in our directory, so we invited them as well. But since you aren't married, we only addressed your invitation to you."

This next thing actually happened, I shit you not. The room fell quiet. The only reason my face blushed was because all eyes were on me, burning my skin. (In case you haven't noticed, I don't like attention and prefer anonymity.) Well, that, and the fact that I felt like a complete troll since someone thought it was appropriate to point out that I'm not married, and this is supposedly a bad thing. The colleague mentioned above broke the silence with, "I didn't know you weren't married." Thus began an interesting night.

When we sat down to dinner, I was the odd person out. Everyone was talking about their spouses, so I talked about my (then) current flame as though he were sitting at home feeling left out. I wish I hadn't done that. I wish I had the confidence to relish my independence in front of these people, who were so smug with the fact that they had someone to go home with and argue about the kids' homework/messy house/walking the dog/not being in the mood. Instead, I felt singled out, and bullied. The colleague quietly said to me, in a very passive aggressive way, "I don't think I could come to one of these things alone." Well, I can't imagine bringing a SO to such an event. Why would I bore him with the tedium of academia?

The second instance of "single-dumb" might be better classified as "singlism". Yesterday, I was looking at the website of a semi-local zoo. I clicked on the "Events" link to see if there was anything interesting coming up. There was, so I clicked on "More Information" to see about getting tickets. For me, the tickets would have cost $15. Not much. But for a "couple" they would only cost $25. So, if you happen to be one of the preferred "coupled" folks, you get a $5 discount on the event. I cannot see any reason why it should be cheaper for a couple to attend than for one person alone. I can understand advance tickets being cheaper, or tickets purchased online, simply because of the overhead required to sell tickets at the event. But is it really cheaper to feed a couple than it is to feed one person? Does the couple get a smaller plate? Or maybe they don't get salad or dessert? Somehow, I doubt it.

I know that many charity events sell tickets this way. I think it's repugnant. If I ever organize an event for charity, I will be strongly tempted to make the ticket for the single person cheaper than the ticket for the couple, considering that the single person probably only has one income to work with and has probably payed for being single in the past. (Okay, I admit it, I'd really just like to stick it to all those singlist assholes.)

To top all of this off, homosexual couples are almost invisible in many parts of the US. Do I think that the college would have acknowledged a homosexual couple and invited the SO to dinner at an administrator's house? Hell no. I know many people who love the homosexual folks in thier lives, but just wish they'd "get over it" and settle down with an opposite sex partner. Because, you know, being in a homosexual relationship doesn't count. You can't get married and have kids, and we all know that the planet needs more kids!

It's amazing that more than half of all women in the US are single, but we still treat coupledom as an ideal. Maybe when more than half of the men in the US are single, people will start looking at relationships differently, because THAT would be a crisis. Right? RIGHT?

08 April 2007

Bell's Palsy, The Chronicles, Part 8

As I stated in other posts, I was in Florida for a week for my cousin's wedding, which I was nervous about because I felt like I still looked weird from the BP. I'd had some progress, but my smile was still crooked and my bad eye looked like it was bulging.

When I met my mother at the airport, she kept studying my face, trying to see the BP. You know how mothers are, but I hadn't seen her since it started, so she was going by what my face normally looks like. She said that when I blinked, she noticed that my bad eye didn't blink as much. It was late at night, and my face was tired, so I decided to give it a good rest before really thinking about it.

The next day, after almost 12 hours of sleep, it was dramatically better. I don't know if it was because I was in a warm environment or what, but my eye was almost normal. My smile was another story, but the muscles were certainly strengthening. A couple of days later was the rehearsal dinner, and I was terrified. I was about to see most of my extended family and meet a bunch of people I didn't know. For better or worse, I tried not to smile too much. I wore my glasses so that a) people wouldn't notice my bad eye, and b) to protect my eye and keep it moist. Just about everyone in my extended family knew about the BP, and said it looked fine or that they didn't notice it. One of my brothers said he was expecting much worse, and told me everything looked okay. The wedding was the next night, and was much the same.

Friends of mine said they noticed a little something, but it was not ugly or disfiguring. Maybe they're a little more honest than my family? All I know is that, now that I'm back in Virginia, it seems to be regressing a bit. We had a very cold snap the day after I returned, and I wonder if that is making things worse. Maybe it's being at work again, staring at a computer screen all day. I'm not resting as much as I was in Florida, so I spent most of yesterday (Saturday) horizontal to give my eye a break. This week we're expecting warmer weather, so I'll see what happens. In the meantime, I'm exercising my smile and trying to blink my bad eye while holding my good eye closed. I may try some moist heat today.

It is day 61 of my BP.

06 April 2007

Love and marriage, or something

I think the topic of women and love has been studied to death, but I can't help my fascination. I know how some women feel. I met a man when I was in college, when I was 20 years old. He was two years younger than me, and was perfect for a scared little virgin like me. (To be frank, I dated a lot in college, and was known to be a partier, but was very aware of my sexuality and knew I wasn't ready to have sex, so I didn't.)

We totally fell in love, and after six months we slept together. And it was perfect. We stayed together for the next three years until I (finally) graduated, and then broke up. I was devastated.

I spent almost a year nursing a broken heart while pouring myself into grad school. I didn't date. I had zero confidence. And then my mother reminded me of something.

When I was a little girl, I never daydreamed about my wedding day or scribbled a make-believe married name in my notebook. My mother reminded me that my daydreams were about being independent, about having my own place and career. About living an exciting life where I was in charge. Remembering that really changed my outlook, and I realized that I could still have those things. The future, in my mind, was not tied up in a man.

Now, when I start feeling lonely, I stir up some of those girlhood fantasies (some involved an artist's life in London, others involved a dancer's life in New York) and take comfort. Do I ever feel lonely? YES! Do I ever suffer from a broken heart? Of course. In fact, just recently, I ended a several months long relationship with someone, and it hurt like hell and I really miss him.

The difference this time is that my pride and confidence didn't take a beating. I know I'll keep going through my life, and I'm making some major changes in my life soon which I might not have done if romance had clouded my vision. People ask me how I handled my divorce so well, and I tell them that I didn't define myself by my marriage or my husband, so I wasn't losing a part of my identity.

This past weekend, at my cousin's wedding, a female cousin (actually, the groom's sister) kept saying that she wanted to get married so badly. I finally asked her if she had someone in mind, a boyfriend, and she said she didn't. My heart just sank. I don't want her to wait for something that may never happen. Too many women put such value in marriage that they often don't care who they marry, just so he wants to get married, too.

And we wonder why marriages fall apart. I firmly believe that marriage changes the dynamics of a relationship. Ex and I lived together for a long time before we married, and we were perfectly happy just cohabiting. As soon as we were married, things changed, because we knew that we had submitted to an outdated institution that really wasn't right for us. I married him because that was what we were "supposed" to do if we moved away. And then all that indoctrination came flooding in. I forgot my dreams and ate up all the bullshit the media and society feeds us about blissful married life. What a crock. Weddings are only fun if you are not a participant.

Yes, it's possible that I'll get married again someday. But he'll have to be out-fucking-standing, and he'll have to be willing to sign a prenuptial agreement. I can dream, can't I?