29 March 2007

Greetings from sunny Florida

I'm back home, basking in my love of Florida. I used to say I hated Florida, but now that I've lived away, I've begun to really appreciate the eclectic culture, the water, and the colorful people. (And, come on, it gets really old seeing only white people all the time.)

Yesterday, as I was riding in the car with my mother down a particularly clogged part of the interstate that buzzes right through town, it hit me. Mom was cursing the heavy traffic, going five feet then stopping, but I was looking out the window longingly at the different types of people, the historic buildings, the billboards advertising local theatre productions. This is my home. It's dirty, loud, tacky and clogged, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm thinking about getting one of these for my car.

27 March 2007

Nothing says "morals" like gay-bashing and eating meat!

Via Pam, I learned that at UNC-Greensboro the College Republicans are staging Morality Week. In front of the library.

Honestly, I have no problem with groups like College Republicans, and feel they have every right to express their political concerns as any other group. Anti-choice? Fine. March against reproductive choice. Pro war? Go ahead and have a recruiter; hell, enlist yourself!

But when these groups spout hate speech, I have a problem. One of the events is called "Straight Pride Day" which is an obvious hijack of a similar event held by homosexuals. What we have here are folks who are so skeeved out by "teh butt sex" that they claim homosexuals are shoving their lifestyle in everyone's faces. They often ask, "Why can't you just keep it to yourself?"

My answer: Try keeping your heterosexuality to yourself. Don't wear a wedding ring. Don't hold hands with your spouse/partner. Don't put pictures of your spouse/partner on your desk. Don't change your name after marrying.

See? The list could go on and on.

But I'm actually used to this kind of hate speech, even if it does make my skin crawl every time. What bothers me is the PETA BBQ.

When I saw this, I was confused, and thought that there was a mistake. But in this case, the College Republicans did something just so clever, wouldn't you know. PETA stands for "People for the Eating of Tasty Animals". Get it? It's so funny, I forgot to laugh!

First off, what the hell does this have to do with the Republican platform? Is their new target vegetarians? Are animals getting in the way of their agenda? I'm really confused.

Second, well, it's just gross. I eat meat occasionally, and I don't think I could eat the BBQ that they served at such an event because it would remind me of why I don't eat meat very often. Are they really going to sit around and talk about how tasty that pig or cow is? That just sounds morbid and boring.

But now I've had a thought! Maybe this event will turn more people off meat, and produce some vegetarians, even if just part timers! Now, that would make me laugh!

26 March 2007

Taking back our streets

I know, I know, I said I was taking a vacation, but I had to put in a plug for a new blog, Don't Be Silent. Read Golden Silence's intro post here. It's DC based, but I think we can all identify. Even myself, currently living in a town with a population of less than 7,000.

I really hope that this tide of anger at street harrassment continues, and that society starts to hold these creeps accountable. I refuse to feel like I can't walk the streets of my town safely and comfortably.

Homesick no more!

I'm so excited, because in about 28.5 hours I'll be boarding a plane back to my hometown in Florida. My cousin is getting married on Saturday, and I thought it would be a great excuse to head home and see family and friends. Needless to say, I probably won't be posting until I get back next week. (Tuesday to Tuesday, I got a total deal on the tickets!)


23 March 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

I'm going to start a Friday Cat Blogging series, just like many of my other favorite bloggers.

Here's the first installment:

I really hope I don't break the scale!

Spring in my Step

I think winter is finally leaving this part of Virginia, which means it's time for my favorite season. Spring! The daffodils are blooming, and tulips are shooting up green. Forsythia is glowing yellow. The pansies have perked up after a harsh winter.

And it was 80 degrees today. Ahhhhhhh. It's nice to have my windows open again, and not have to dread going outside. I bought some pansies, johnny-jump-ups, and ivy today to pot tomorrow.

How could anyone not smile at a picture like this:

22 March 2007

Bell's Palsy, The Chronicles, Part 7

It's been awhile since I've written about the BP, because I have not made much progress. When I last wrote, it was day 21 of my BP. On Tuesday, it had been 6 weeks since my BP struck.

I'd been feeling sorry for myself, again, because I wasn't making any progress with my facial muscles. My mouth is getting every-so-slightly better, in that it moves a tiny bit when I try to smile. But my eye is still bothering me a lot.

I've been using an eye ointment because it keeps my eye lubricated much longer than regular eye drops. I decided yesterday that that may be slowing down my progress, because my eye may be getting lazy by not having the need to blink. Last night I decided to use regular eye drops. When I woke up, my eye felt fine, and it was nice not to have that blurry vision and greasy feeling around my eyelid. So today I wanted to see what would happen if I kept the ointment out of my eye.

It was a long day. I don't think my eye is closing as well as it was, and there is a constant burning sensation. Sometimes, tears suddenly well up, and I shed a tear. That's uncomfortable when talking to a student. "No, I'm not crying, I promise!"

Maybe my springtime allergies are kicking in, but my eye is really burning, which in turn makes my nose run. Gah!

I'm leaving for my cousin's wedding in my hometown on Tuesday, and I sure hope I'm doing better by then.

It is day 44 of my BP.

A Lesson for the Men

Not that any of the four people that read my blog are men, but just in case.

A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, I was walking home from (of all places) the hair salon. There's a stretch of road that's a little busy before I get to my apartment, and I usually avoid it with a shortcut, but construction has recently blocked that shortcut. I'm forced to use the busy stretch of road.

As I was walking this stretch of road home, not once, but TWICE, I was whistled and hollered at. I was wearing baggy jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers. My hair was wet, because I don't like having my hair blowdried, and in a scrunchy. No makeup. No jewelry. Minding my own business.

I was quite unnerved by being harassed by drivers as I was minding my own business on a gorgeous day, walking home and enjoying the sun. I told one of my male friends about it. I asked him if he had/would ever do anything like that, and he said no. But then he said something that really pissed me off. He said, "Hey, at least you're getting some attention. I don't get whistled at, and I'd be really flattered if some girl whistled or hollered at me from her car." So I asked him why he'd never whistled at a woman walking down the street, and he answered that it isn't a great way to get a date, and that he's not a jackass.

Ah, but he IS a jackass in another sense. (I do love him dearly, but he's far from a feminist, as interpreted by his insisting on calling women "girls". I intend to bring him to enlightenment.) This is the problem that men have with the whole unwanted attention/street harassment conundrum. Clearly, what happened to me was street harassment. Why? Because the men who whistled and hollered at me were not paying me a compliment on my appearance or trying to let me know that they are interested.


These men were very clearly asserting their power by intimidating me. As I noted before, I was not dressed provocatively. In fact, I was dressed rather sloppily, for comfort only. I had no makeup on to draw attention to eyes, lips, etc. I should also note that I was completely lost in thought, probably looking down at the beginnings of spring flowers popping from the ground.

I hear some of you asking, "But, QuiteContrary, what if this man was really into you, warts and all?" And in return, I have a question for you. What do you think you'll accomplish by whistling or shouting obscenities to a woman walking down the street? Do you really think that I'll swoon and start chasing after your car? Has that worked for you in the past?

Probably not.

Which brings me to my point that these acts can only be interpreted as acts of intimidation. No man ever harasses a woman walking down the street (whether they are in a car, walking past, or sitting on a bench) thinking it's a successful way to get a date, or even compliment a woman. They are simply exercising their patriarchal right to treat a random woman as an object and intimidate her, simply because she has the audacity to be seen alone in public.

A few months ago, while visiting a friend in Washington, DC, I was alone at the National Gallery of Art. I was examining a painting, deep in thought, when I suddenly felt a presence behind me. Okay, someone had personal space issues. They were probably from another country, where personal space is not a huge issue. I can deal with that. Then I felt something hard on my lower back. I knew immediately it was that asshole's dick.

I moved forward. So did he. I went to the next painting, so did he. And he quickly returned to the same position. I exited that room and went to one with a rather nasty looking guard. So did he. And, well, you can guess where he decided to stand. The guard did nothing, even though I know he saw it, considering we were the only two people in the room.

I was terrified.

And I was fucking pissed as hell.

Remembering that I'm tired of being a victim (which I'll write about in a later post) I swiftly turned around, looked him straight in the eye, and asked loudly, "Do I know you?" Luckily, this was enough to send him on his way.

But this proves my point that the motivation behind these acts of harassment are not to compliment a woman or try to get to know her. It is an anonymous intimidation technique. There have been several stories going around the feminist blogosphere about this sort of thing, and I think every woman can identify. And before you try to defend these truly sick fucks by saying that the women you know appreciate this sort of treatment, let me tell you that either you are lying, or the women you are referencing are lying. It's not flattering, it's fucking scary.

08 March 2007

It's International Women's Day

Yay. We get a whole day. Men get 364 days, but we can celebrate our day. I think I'll treat myself to some chocolate and red wine through a straw. But first, I'm going to Blog Against Sexism.

A group on my campus (I can't remember who) gave out long stem roses to all of the female faculty and staff. Which was nice, but wasteful and ineffective. (Neither I nor my assistant took one, just because we're crazy feminist bitchez like that.) I hear that there was a coffee and dessert table in the campus commons for the female employees, as well.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to have social events with other women. There's a women's faculty group on campus that has great socials off campus, and I always try to go. It's important for women to be free of constraints like caretaking, leering men, feminine speech and manners. We need to be as honest and personal as we feel necessary, which is only comfortable around other women.

I'm just disappointed that roses, dessert and coffee were the only programming. It felt almost like a bribe, "We'll give you some sugar and caffeine, so you can't complain we didn't do anything for IWD!" Where are the poetry slams? The art exhibits? The feminist theory discussion groups? The rallies? This is the perfect day to expose people to the real lives of women, and the real hardships we face as we navigate the workplace while raising our children and husbands, as legislators try to deny us the right to our own bodily autonomy. (I've always said that no man I know could ever be a woman for even a day!)

Many people say that feminism is over, sexism doesn't exist at all. Fuck that. Sure, we're "legally" equal to men, but we still have lots of tiny revolutions left. Shakes Sis had a great post today, and this passage sums it up perfectly:
That we've (mostly) achieved equality under the law and some semblance of sexual liberation doesn't mean sexism is, like, so over. It means that those were the easiest things to accomplish.

The rest is a fuckload harder.

Compared to, for example, eradicating all use of feminine terms to convey weakness, fear, vapidity, or other negative qualities, changing the law so that women can't be fired just for being women was like waving a magic fucking wand—and that's the reality of battling sexism that too many people fail to see. The really endemic, intrinsic sexism expressed in a million "little" ways is what perpetuates inequality—the kind of inequality that makes some guy at the hardware store talk to me like a three-year-old imbecile, but talk to Mr. Shakes like an equal.
And to all the men who accuse feminists of being too hung up on the "little battles" rather than the big ones, I say this: try having your ass grabbed, or getting winked at by your boss, or told to make a pot of coffee by one of your colleagues. Try watching your male colleagues get grant money and promotions more than you, but do half the work. Try having complete strangers order you to smile as you stumble through the last part of your day, in a haze because you've worked 9 hours with no lunch break and have to do some errands before you finally get to go home, just to have more shit to do before you can relax. If you can relax. Try having your government try to punish you for having sex.

Just try it.

02 March 2007

Girl, Interrupted

I should be thankful that I'm not this girl. While I bitch about my BP, this girl has truly had her life interrupted. But at least, after five weeks, her life is back to normal.

Smile, dammit!

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the feminist blogosphere again, this time with regards to those men, wreaking of entitlement issues, who will stop a strange woman on the street and order her to smile. Most of the discussion revolved around the entitlement complex that many men have, and how they act like royalty by demanding their servants (in this case, strange women) to perform for them. Which is certainly a great summation of the entire issue, and one I would not argue with one bit.

But I’d like to go a step further. In our culture, the smiling face is considered the most beautiful and the most welcoming. When someone is happy, we know it by their smile. When someone smiles at us, we take that as a sign that we made them happy. Therefore, when someone is smiling, it really can “spread joy” and makes those nearby happier.* When someone smiles at you, there is a feeling that something you did made that person happy, whether it’s the way you look, how you walk, what you said, how you smell, you get the idea. Most people agree that smiles are a good thing.**

There are large groups of men who still consider women part of the scenery. Any man who goes to a strip club, Hooters, or catcalls women on the street is one of these men. (Which is why I don’t date men who do this.) I’d like to add “men who view pornography,” but that would most definitely put all men in the category, and I’d like to leave my thoughts on porn for another post. When women are expected to wear makeup, do their hair, dress in patriarchy-approved clothing, shave legs at a minimum to be considered part of mainstream society, and men can walk around in sweat stained t-shirts and pants with holes in the crotch as part of normal society, there is a problem.

So, we women still have not gained the status of human being yet, we are still relegated to the company of the sofa, drapes, and ficus. Which brings me back to the “smile, dammit” bit. My thoughts on these fuckers? That they assume they have the right to visual pleasure at any time, and who better to give them visual pleasure than the sex objects they see all day? (I use the term “objects” consciously, because these men don’t see women as anything more than fuckdolls.) I think these assbags get a kick out of demanding a strange woman to smile and seeing her succumb because it shows that he has the power in that exchange.

Most of us women succumb out of fear, or out of outright dumbfoundedness. “Did he really just tell me to smile?” As a woman who has heard this her entire life, it is a great way to ruin a woman’s day. Before my feminist days, I thought there was something wrong with me, and that I was ugly in some way. It made me so insecure. And then I realized something: What if something was really wrong? So the next time it happened, I told the shithead, “My dog just died today, so leave me the fuck alone.”*** The guy was pretty speechless, and I doubt he ever ordered a woman to smile again. I did this a couple of times, in a few different situations. (For example, during a time when I was incredibly thin due to severe depression, people (mostly women) would comment on how thin I was, as if I had no idea. They actually asked me if I ate! Duh! So I started telling people I was on chemotherapy, just to jar them. It worked!) After dealing with these intrusive situations, I realized that the men were not concerned about me and my emotional state, as some “smile demander apologists” would say. If they were truly concerned about my emotional state, and I indeed looked upset, they would ask me if I was okay, or offer some help.

Until men as a gender get the message that women are human, with human emotions and human experiences, I’m afraid we are stuck with teaching them individually that women do not exist for decorative purposes, but as active members of the human species. I’d like to think that, every time I came back with a snarky response to a “smile demander apologist” that an angel got its wings and a misogynist had the epiphany that women are human. Is this a little thing? Sure. But it’s the little things that pile up and up and up until our shoulders break, and women everywhere start to feel beaten down by the patriarchy, ready to give up. All of these little things are related to how we are viewed by men, which is the essence of the patriarchy. If we didn’t correct the men who insist that the female secretary get his coffee, or the men who catcall the woman going to her first day at a new job, or the ever-present ass-pincher, we’d be stuck in a world that women don’t feel comfortable in. A world that would push women back into the private sphere and out of harm and aggravation’s way. I don’t want that. I’ll take my tiny revolutions.

*Except for those weirdoes who keep a permagrin, like my neighbor. In that case, it’s just creepy. People who are happy all the time worry me, as they seem like they could snap at any moment and end up shooting up a roomful of people.

**Disregarding folks from East Asian and other cultures, in which smiling can be a sign of confrontation, a rude display of familiarity, etc.

***My dog was, in fact, peacefully napping at home at the time.