Sexy Geekery

Oh my great garbanzo, friends and internets. My summer class has started (that is to say, 20 hours a week of class, 30 hours a week of work (I’m just slicing off 5 and calling it sick time), and countless hours of homework) and I am OVERWHELMED. However, my field experience starts next week, so at the very least, I will be able to start providing you with some interesting reflections on public summer school here in Boston. Later in the summer, I’ll also be serving as a [paid!!] teaching assistant for another BPS summer school program, so brace yourselves. This blog is about to take a decidedly scholastic bent.

Till then, here’s a brief snippet to hold you over. I haven’t even had time to open my Google reader in days, but luckily, I have friends who send me links to the rad stuff that I am missing. This particular gem of an article comes from Dave, who writes over at the BARCC blog. You should check it out, and drop BARCC a donation nugget while you’re there.

Anyways, The Sexist has a great interview with awesome ladyblogger Courtney Stoker (who you can bet I’ll be checking up on in the coming days! Err, maybe “weeks”) all about being a lady geek.

I’ve alluded to my geekery before, and I’ve started and discarded about fifty billion posts on feminism and cosplay and the deep schism within me re: feminism and cosplay. I love cosplay, I love geekdom, I love D&D and comic books and videogames and hugging stormtroopers. I have costumes that are arguably “sexified” costumes.

As she says,

This is where some geek women find their acceptable place in geek communities, because even the most sexist of geek men is going to be okay with women being around as long as they’re dressed up like sex objects. Too often, women in geek cultures are only welcomed if they are decoration, sexy versions of the the things geek men love, not equal participants or fellow fans.

It stings a little because it’s true. I’ve felt that way over and over. I notice, consistently, the difference in reception I get between the variety of costumes I wear–the more skin I show, the more likely that people will be enthusiastic to see me, no matter how high quality any other costume may be. I’m consistently discouraged from doing non-sexy costumes, let alone engaging in crossplay (cosplaying a character that is of the opposite sex) without transforming it into a “femme” version.

I have a big long rant about this, and I’m sorry I don’t have the time or energy to write it up, as this is a highly nuanced issue, and my above paragraph makes it sound very black and white, and makes geek dudes sound way worse than they are.

The issue is something that Courtney mentions–can any of this be reclaiming of female sexuality and femininity, which is pretty much not allowed to exist on its own terms in scifi? I feel like the opportunity is there. Women can be sexual, and even in a “mainstream sexy” kind of way, on their own terms. It’s so hard to define so much of this, though–where are we are genuinely enjoying this, and where are we enjoying the attention? (Because yes, attention can be fun.) I find this relevant because it’s an issue I have when dating–I have often considered punching a boy in the jaw for pushing too hard for me to buy “sexy” undergarments, even though it so happens that black lacy skivvies delight me. Just, like, let me buy them on my own terms, dude. Do I feel hypocritical? Sure. Does it change the fact that one motivation (and often different shopping location) makes me feel skeezy, while the other doesn’t. Likewise, can one girl wear the same costume and feel both of those feelings? Of course. Can two girls wear the exact same costume and one be motivated by feminism and the other by self-objectification? I don’t see why not. Does this become a tangled mess of how do we define and how do we express? Oh fuck yes.

Cause part of me doesn’t give a rat’s ass how much we can discuss the woman-power of Princess Leia saving Han and then choking the shit out of Jabba, it doesn’t change the fact that wearing the metal bikini is gonna get you objectified. But… I love that woman-power side of Leia. I love the brazen courage it takes to wear that freaking bikini. But…

But but but. Even my non-overtly feminist friends seem to deal with the same but-but-buts when we talk of being girlgeeks. Sometimes it just seems easier to settle for being an object than to get driven out of fandom. Sometimes, you even internalize it.

Read the interview. Courtney Stoker is an exceptionally well-spoken lady who makes some awesome points, and I cannot wait to read more of her stuff. Check out her blog here: http://austintotamu.blogspot.com/

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06/29/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Reshape Your Reality–Fight Back Against BP!

So here’s an awesome article on nine ways you can stand up against BP. A lot of them should be easy, particularly for those of you in the Boston area or similarly shaped areas (IE easy access to locally grown food, great bike infrastructure and passable public transit, etc).

The hardest, in my mind, is the “use less plastic” one.

I’ve started really inventorying my plastic usage since the spill, because that was the biggest thought for me. I’ve always tried to minimize how much I use my car, I eat vegetarian, I love buying local and organic, etc (and, as I said, it’s pretty easy to do these things in my area, so I had some assistance). The list gets really long–my frozen veggies and my bread come in plastic baggies. The vitamin water I drank this morning was in a plastic jar. My cosmetics are in plastic containers. The power adapter I bought for my laptop the other day came shrouded in several tiers of plastic bubble (I literally had to get out a knife to get into it because scissors weren’t cutting it, no pun intended). When I make a supply order for my office, everything comes shrouded in plastic and floating in a GIANT box full of inflated plastic air bubbles, no matter how small of an order we placed (seriously, who packs these boxes?).

So here’s my suggestions on how to cut back:

  • Obviously, recycle. There’s lots of plastic we can’t avoid, so be sure to recycle it. Also, recycle your glass, cardboard, and paper while you’re at it. Oil isn’t the only resource we should be thinking about responsibly.
  • Try to avoid heavily plasticized products. IE if you have the opportunity to buy something in less plastic, or even ideally non-plastic, packaging, go for it. I’ve been a big fan of Lush cosmetics for a long time (fair labor practices, a large assortment of vegan products) but I found out that they recycle their packaging, so if you bring it five empty containers, you get a free face mask. What a fun way to promote recycling!
  • Order less off the internet. I love internet shopping, but let’s be real–there’s the packaging, the shipping, etc–so it gets wasteful. Besides, we should support local jobs in our communities!

This is only a start. I know there should be more, but this is what I’ve come up with.

Back in my first ever class on feminism, at the tender young age of eighteen, my professor explained to us the relationship between environmentalism and feminism. While I’m still not sure that I’m jiving with the crunchy cuddly idea that the Earth is symbolically female and thus when we rape the planet we are symbolically raping all women (meh), I DO comprehend the idea that respect for life, understanding that we aren’t entitled to every goddamn thing we want, and valuing sustainability and personal responsibility does reflect how we treat one another as humans, which is feminist. Call it cheesy, but I think it’s true. If nothing else, if you have any intention whatsoever of ever having kids or knowing someone with kids or loving an animal with a really long lifespan, you should care about the faith of the planet.

The option of emigrating to Mars is looking less and less likely, so I guess it’s time to shape up down here, amirite?

06/25/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Moar vagina gaming

Oh my god, it is for real and there is a trailer and it is HILARIOUS.

Condom-hatted marines! In vaginas and “bottoms!”

I AM SO EXCITED.

06/24/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

On Policing Your Own Womb

So, here’s a thing–what if birth control, like the pill or what-have-you, was available over the counter?

It’s an interesting thought. I come at it from many angles, but ultimately, I have to go with “oh hells to the yes, yes please!”

First, let me review my concerns. I worry about the effects of hormones on women (as I’ve written before about my issues with HBC) and all the side effects that they might not be expecting without a doctor warning them. I worry about women picking the wrong birth control without experimenting with different choices. I worry about women getting on birth control and then throwing condom use to the wind. I worry that with access to birth control over the counter, women will stop going to the doctor without needing to get their prescription refilled.

Well, to be honest, so few doctors really chat up their patients about the side effects of birth control, and I hear all too often about doctors being unable to try different kinds for a patient who is suffering severe side effects. If it’s broke, fix it! But I hear constantly about problems with doctors who are not supportive and informative and helpful (for the record, I have been incredibly lucky to have an AMAZING gynecologist, so my early GYN experiences were all fantastic, or at least fantastic as such things can be. Now that I’ve been on a different insurance plan for the last three years, I miss my GYN and the office staff so very much–they were truly gems. If you’re in the southwestern Connecticut area, I cannot recommend enough that you check out The Center for Women’s Health in Stamford). So, to be honest, I don’t actually think that the majority of women will be missing out on that much by not having to go through a doctor. Sure, there’s cases of awesome-sauce doctors and nurses, but it’s just not the majority. Most women would probably do better researching on their own.

Because of that, I DO worry that women will stop going to the doctor. I myself haven’t gone in several years, because I am so utterly unenthused about my new PCP and GYN now that I’m on my work insurance (it blows, btw). Since I have an IUD, I don’t need to get a prescription refilled. I’m sure that there are better women than I out there, but there’s a lot of women that hate going to doctors, especially ladypart doctors. I have friends who, due to not being sexually active, have never had a pap smear in their life, or have only had one. While I am not a bastion of righteousness in this, as I am guilty too, ladies gotta see doctors. I do NOT like the idea of using access to birth control as a way to enforce it, though. I think doctors shaping up and providing better experiences to their clients would be nice. (Again, man do I miss the Center for Women’s Health!)

I worry that access to birth control will stop women from using condoms, but you know what? I think that’s unfounded. Women who aren’t going to use condoms probably won’t use them regardless of whether or not they’re on birth control, and even with doctor warnings and office visits, a lot of women who go on birth control get rid of condoms nonetheless. Safe sex is something we have to make into a cultural norm, widely supported, and taught in schools. It’s something that the male partner should also be participating in–just because a woman is on birth control doesn’t mean that a dude should immediately try to dodge wearing a rubber, y’know? The impetus is on both parties, since both are at risk. This is an issue unrelated to birth control, rather, I simply worry that easy access to birth control would make the problems our society currently has that much worse. However, that’s foolish, to restrict something on account of fear, particularly when the problem is only tangentially related.

Moving past fears, I think this would absolutely be a step in the right direction for sexual health and reproductive freedom.

When you get right down to it, it is stupid that if I wanted to go on the pill, I would have to go ask someone else for permission.

This is not an addictive drug. It cannot be used for recreation purpose. It is not, when you get right down to it, a controlled substance. A much more intense form, Plan B, is already available over the counter. Why is it that we can only get the emergency option, that generally really fucks with a woman’s body? Why can’t we just have access to regular, routine, preventative options without having to jump through hoops, potentially have to search for a non-judgmental doctor, etc?

This is no different than any other simple medication. Aspirin is more dangerous the birth control pill!

Why is it that we are not allowed to select for ourselves how to manage our reproduction? Men can buy condoms (hell, women can too). Why can’t we buy the pill?

As I’ve written before, I’d love to see less emphasis on hormonal birth control, but that’s my personal politics. It is far more important to me that women have many options, and access to the full range of them, than that they adhere to my politics. They can decide for themselves how they want to manage their bodies. But first, they need to be allowed to decide for themselves.

06/23/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Vegan Weekend Warrior: The Reckoning

Great success!

The Vegan Weekend was a great success!

I ate really well and felt really good the entire weekend. Everything I ate was freaking delicious and satisfying. I didn’t really struggle with any cravings (I hate when I eat a meal and then only a little later, I feel like my blood sugar is crashing). It was, over all, a great weekend for food. Plus I biked almost 30 miles, got some sun, bought about 15 pounds of fruits and veggies at Haymarket, did some sewing, watched some Farscape, and did some serious cleaning in my apartment.

Anyways, here’s a rundown of what I ate:

Friday: breakfast of coffee with chocolate soymilk, pecan praline granola; lunch of a banana, green tea, and a protein bar; dinner of pan seared ginger teriyaki marinated tofu, red quinoa, spinach, and orange-infused dried cranberries, a glass of wine; late evening snack of a vegan ice cream sammich (om nom nom!)

Friday night dinner!

Saturday: breakfast smoothie of a banana, a kiwi, vanilla soy milk, and flax seeds, a slice of toast with apricot jelly; lunch of salad, raisins, and cranberry juice (okay, that was kind of lame, but I was volunteering at a blood drive (I gave blood while dressed as Princess Leia. I live a very normal life) and it was catered by Olive Garden. I needed to eat SOMETHING or I was going to pass out from giving blood, but salad was the only option. Olive Garden isn’t exactly what you’d call veg-friendly); dinner of vegetable ratatouille, ciabatta, lemonade; dessert of vegan gluten-free almond cupcakes with chocolate almond frosting.

Cuppycakes! Bad photography!

My cupcakes were a huge success. My sister is gluten-intolerant, so I wanted to make something she could eat. I adapted the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, adjusting to make them a little more almondy because I like almond, and likewise with the frosting. The frosting was chocolate “buttercream,” and was the only thing I was really worried about. I mean, I swear by buttercream frosting.

I have to say, after these cupcakes, I will probably never make normal buttercream again. The frosting was so rich, so creamy, so delicious… We had a ton of leftover frosting, and we kept just taking fingerfulls of it because it was SO GOOD. My sister said it reminded her of chocolate mousse. Oh it was so good.

The cupcakes were a wild success–even after I told everyone they were vegan, everyone still went back for a second. I consider that a win!

Sunday: late brunch of Chesapeake tempeh cakes and iced coffee; dinner of pasta salad with wilted spinach, corn, and sweet onions, tossed in a nayonnaise/mustard/balsamic vinegar/herbes de Provence sauce, and a Blue Moon summer ale.

OMFG CAKES

I got the tempehcakes and remoulade recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen, and you guys, IT IS SO GOOD. I have a ton of leftovers (those three little cakes were more than enough to power me through the day and 15 miles of biking and adventuring) which are currently in a tupperware in my office fridge with sliced red pepper, spinach, and some pitas. I’ll be eating tempehcake sammiches for lunch for the next two days. Fuck yeah.

Those were SO DELICIOUS. I strongly believe that everyone should make them and experience them because holy shit, they had to be one of the more wonderful things I’ve eaten in my life.

I love food. I love food that is creative and exciting and filling and healthy and conscientious of the world we live in. This weekend, I successfully enjoyed all of these things, with a particular elevation of my conscientiousness. I really enjoyed it. I loved the process of preparing my food, nibbling the veggies while I worked, the wonderful smells in my apartment, and I loved how good I felt eating everything.

I’m hammering out my exact food philosophy, but I have a feeling that within the walls of my apartment, it’s going to be more and more vegan (I have some cheese and eggs right now, and I’ll use them up because I can’t abide being wasteful, but I doubt I’ll buy more). I suspect that when it comes to going to friends’ houses, I’ll be fine with holding to vegetarian considerations–I know too many people who are grudging about even that much, and I’d rather slowly expose them through sharing and positive feelings than being militant.

Anyways, I had an awesome weekend. I’ll be back to talkin’ gender and layin’ the smackdown soon, but expect a little bit of reflection on foodie-ism as this continues. Just as where we choose to spend our money is part of everyday activism, so is what we consume in the literal sense.

I leave you with a photo of my beautiful Haymarket haul. This is what $12 will get you on a Saturday morning, except then you have to bike home with it all on your back. As it turns out, that is heavy. X-TREME GROCERY SHOPPING, yo.

That's 3 bunches green onions, a pound of baby spinach, a half pound bundle of fresh basil, a pound of bananas, three lemons, a pound of ginger, 4 sweet onions, 3 red bell peppers, a box blackberries, a box of raspberries, and four limes. We're gonna need a bigger fridge!

06/21/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The Weekend Vegan Warrior

I’m embarking on an experiment this weekend. I have basically zero actual obligations for once in my goddamn life, and I feel fantastic about it. Tomorrow I’m volunteering at a blood drive (and giving blood! It’s finally been long enough since I last got tattooed/pierced/traveled out of the country that I can do this!) and then going to my sister’s house for my father’s birthday/father’s day celebration.

I’m bringing a batch of gluten-free cupcakes, as my sister recently developed a gluten intolerance. She’s also historically had lactose difficulties, and I prefer soy milk anyways, so I have a shiny copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (by the same ladies who did my favoritest cookbook, Veganomicon. Check out their ultra-rad website, The Post Punk Kitchen). So, I’m bringing vegan gluten-free cupcakes. Is it possible to get anymore touchy-feely “oh wow, you are clearly a liberal who lived in Cambridge for just a little bit too long”? I don’t know!

But I’m going to try. My experiment: this weekend, I shall be vegan.

I’ve been vegetarian on and off since I was in eighth grade. I really LIKE being vegetarian, even though yes, I do miss meat (I think that is a common misconception–a lot of vegetarians really enjoy meat! It is delicious! But similarly, I really enjoy punching people in the face when they irritate me, but I nonetheless do not do it). I’ve recently been working at steering myself back toward vegetarianism, and it’s going well. I like it.

A weird observation, however: part of the reason I got away from being a vegetarian is my concerns about inconvenience. Not to me–I genuinely love tofu and tempeh and can eat a bucket of raw vegetables for a meal and be incredibly satisfied. I prefer Nayonnaise over mayo (that shit is gross, yo), and any other number of things. However, I don’t like to be the burden. I hate feeling like when I go to someone’s house, they are going to feel obligated to make sure that there is “something Cuppy can eat.” At a wedding a few weekends ago, everyone was piling the chicken and steak on their plates at the buffet while I spooned up the mushroom ravioli. A caterer asked, “Vegetarian?” “Yes.” “Oh, so you’re why we had to bring this stuff.” I know I’m not the only one who ate it–I saw other people with the ravioli–but there was a momentary flash of guilt of, “Oh my god, my friend had to add an entire dish to his wedding catering just because of me!”

And of course, there’s the pointed comments. “Well, we were going to go to XYZ restaurant for dinner, but we have a vegetarian coming.” “For every animal you don’t eat, I’m going to eat TWO!” “I’m going to eat this hamburger right in front of you.” Uh, yeah. Okay. What’s your point?*

And the more I linger on the fringe of being a vegetarian–not putting the label on myself, but simply ordering the veggie burger instead, or ignoring the platter of meaty appetizers at a party–the more I see the weird way we are about them.

If you aren’t one of them, it seems like you’re against them. This isn’t a blanket statement, but it’s a pretty regular trend. If I go out with a group of friends and I order the vegetarian option (say, a veggie burger), I will get mocked. If I make dinner for people and as they’re praising how great it was I toss in, “Yeah, and it was vegan!” they will respond by either saying, “How dare you TRICK me into eating that stuff!” or “Yeah, well, it’d be better with meat,” or both. (Cause yeah, I totally tricked you! You never would’ve eaten… pasta… and… vegetables…) I’ve had people tell me that I’m weak because I choose not to eat meat, I’m a wimp, I’m girly…

Wait, what?

Yes. Eating meat has become GENDERED. And also sexualized!

I’d really like to dig up some images or websites to go with this, but I feel like I can’t be the only one to have noticed this. In the same way in which girls who play videogames are fetishized, girls who eat meat are fetishized. There’s this huge backlash of now when women are asked what their favorite food is, there’s a huge push of “ugh, I hate salad! Give me a bacon double cheeseburger any day!” and so on.

My best guess is that this is a backlash to all the dieting restrictions thrown at women. A woman who shamelessly loves a bacon double cheeseburger is a woman who is not tied to the social mores of what is and is not appropriate for her–she eats what she wants, and, one may extrapolate from that, enjoys all of the hedonistic pleasures of her body. (Personally, I prefer cannolis to bacon double cheeseburgers when it comes to hedonistic pleasures.) There is something, well, sexual about a woman indulging in eating, and eating excessively.

Is abstaining from meat viewed by the male gaze as similar to abstaining from sex? If you don’t know that I’m eating a veggie hotdog, is my consumption of a phallic symbol any less “hurr hurr hurr”-inducing than the girl sitting next to me eating an actual hotdog? Does knowing that it’s vegetarian remove the sexiness from it?

I don’t know. But the more I stand around NOT labeling myself as a vegetarian, the more I hear people’s candid remarks on it. For all that I will get mocked and harassed for being a vegetarian, there’s a lot that they don’t say straight up. Vegetarians are painted as being repressed, joyless people. They’re no fun to bring anywhere. They’re buzzkills.

And maybe this is only me, but I started to associate it with how I used to feel about being a female. In high school, I used to proudly announce that “I’m NOT girly. I’m not like all those OTHER girls!” I took it as incredibly sweet when my boyfriend would tell me how unfeminine I was. I feel a swell of pride when my dad jokingly refers to me as his son.

Basically, I had so internalized that it was BAD to be female and feminine that I took great pains to establish that I was not like that, via renouncing my feminism. I had completely internalized the idea of what femaleness is, and it is bad.

I was even told at certain points that I was allowed to participate in certain things–attending autocross events, or LAN parties–because I wasn’t “really a girl.” I was admitted into a special club.

Does anyone else think that is enormously stupid? Because I do.

But I get the same affirmation–when I don’t speak up about dietary wants or needs, when I just go and eat wherever, I get propped up that I’m a “fun girl” because I don’t get obsessive about needing to have access to a salad or whatever. Because now apparently my gender has predestined my meal plan.

Look, I eat vegetarian for personal reasons. Just because it works for me and makes me happy doesn’t necessarily mean the same is true for you. I appreciate some open-mindedness (why yes, if I cook you dinner, it will be vegetarian!) and some sensitivity (how about we DON’T go to dinner at the All-Meat Uber-Meat-o-rama Meatfest?) but you don’t have to change yourself and I am NOT judging you.

I think PETA and the nose-in-the-air-pro-veg-bumper-stickers-on-our-Prius crowd has mucked it up a little. Sort of like people abruptly become deeply defensive about owning a car when they find out my primary transportation is a bike, people become really adamant about loving meat and defensive about that love when they hear me call myself vegetarian. They become really defensive about all their life decisions when they hear I’m a feminist.

Is it subconscious guilt? Do people recognize that using a car as a primary method of transit in Boston is wasteful? Do they get that they probably eat way more meat than they need to satisfy their body’s requirements for protein and nutrients? (And that their meat is likely not produced in the greatest way? I actually have a huge eco-friendly boner for people who care enough to buy only small amounts of locally produced, fairly raised, grass-fed meat. Now that is social responsibility and gourmand-love coming together!) Do they get that they probably passively endorse misogynist behavior?

I do a lot of wasteful shit too. Hell, I occasionally prop up “patriarchy,” or whatever you want to call it, because dudes, I like wearing thong underwear sometimes. I’m no flawless angel. So… I’m not judging. But I guess everyone thinks I am? I don’t know. I don’t understand why what I eat, where I shop, etc, is such a big deal to people. Why is how I curate my body so offensive to you?

But anyways, this has been a way, way longer entry than I ever meant. I meant to just throw out one or two cute little comments on why I’m experimenting with veganism for the weekend. Basically, I’m pushing my own boundaries–I know I can be vegetarian and enjoy it, but I’ve let myself be pushed around by external forces. So I’m challenging myself to be vegan for an entire weekend. It’s going to be tough (I have a brick of parmesan in my fridge right now), but I think it’ll be good for me. It will push me to get more creative in my cooking (I’ve fallen into a rut, and vegan cooking uses such fun ingredients!) and it will remind me of how simple it is to be a vegetarian. It’s not hard for me to live my regular life–including social life–and be a vegetarian. Vegan? A little harder. So I’m going to spend this weekend of lack-of-obligations in treating myself well and spoiling myself.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to the farmer’s market before I head out to the blood drive. I can’t wait!

I’m really, really looking forward to this weekend. I don’t know to what extent being vegan will stick with me, but I know I want to commit to working more veganism into my diet when I can. I want to keep my vegetarianism going strong. I hope this weekend brings about some positive changes in my life. I’m excited!

Also, I’ll share some recipes and results at the end of the weekend. You don’t have to be vegan (or even vegetarian) to enjoy good food! 🙂

*I get that people do this under the assumption that it will distress and horrify me. But dude, if you’re supposed to be my friend, why do you feel like it’s funny and cool to do something that you think might be borderline traumatizing to me? (I know a very sweet vegan who would be brought close to tears by that behavior, and people know it but do it nonetheless. People who are supposedly friends.) Why will you respect my choice of clothing, or what career path I have selected, or where I choose to live. Why is what I choose to eat so offensive to you?

06/18/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Team Motherfucking EOWYN

Bitch, I will cut you.

I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy DVDs disturbingly often. I know them inside out, forward and backward, and I love the soundtrack, so whenever I’m doing something but want some background noise, I often throw it on.

Every time Eowyn is on the screen, I pretty much drop what I’m doing to pay attention and get a little choked up. I am not exaggerating that I get tears in my eyes when she declares to Aragorn that what she fears is a cage, or when she grabs Merry and pulls him into the saddle to ride to battle with her, and definitely when she rips off her helm and declares, “I am no man!” I don’t suppose anyone who reads here knows me well enough to know that basically nothing (excepting several bottles of wine) makes me cry. The fact that I feel emotion over this is big.

Eowyn… She is my character. She is who I rally behind, when LOTR, while brilliant, is a giant sausage fest. Who else do we have? Arwen? Oh please. I want to gag every time she comes on the screen. And then there’s what’s-her-face that Sam has a crush on but can’t talk to. Ah, superb, another “female as reason to fight” trope, and might I add that I don’t think she actually SPEAKS in the entire trilogy?

LOTR was written by a stodgy white dude long ago. I don’t begrudge it anything because it is AMAZING, and I love it. I’m not here to whine about the lack of ladies in LOTR, because I don’t care. (And in the films, Legolas and Aragorn look like ladies at the end anyways, cause it turns out that they are only manly when they don’t shower. So, whatevs.)

What really touches me is the humanity at the end of the story. There’s a moment in the film when the four hobbits are sitting around a table in the pub, holding their beers in complete silence, just looking down, while the world goes on around them. Beautifully done. And Frodo, Frodo can’t move past that table. He’s forever broken by what he experienced in the war; in leaving with the Elves, he is metaphorically killing himself.

In college, I read The Things They Carried, another instance of me crying. (It was awkward. I was sitting out on the grass of the university lawn by the pond, and crying like a baby. I think I scared some tours.) Frodo, and to a lesser extent the other hobbits, were all suffering from PTSD from the war. They were not the same, and Frodo would never readjust, so much so that he chose to leave his life.

I believe that Eowyn should have had a similar experience. She not only went to war and nearly died, but she was so determined to do so that she had to do it covertly. She triumphed greatly, but she also lost a lot. She saw and experienced deeply powerful things.

I am dissatisfied with the fact that she returns to “normal” life only to go, “Oh sure, I’ll just settle down and be all happy-sauce with Feramir! Yay, babies nao!”

NO. Eowyn has defied gender norms, defied her society, defied her family, and both won and lost greatly. I cannot see her, afraid of cages, settling down and going, “Well, I got my dose of valor. Time to be a homebody!” No. She CANNOT just settle down and be fine with that. She’s experienced too much. She’ll either wise up and run off before that happens, or she’ll find herself going stir crazy and eventually, like Frodo, “opting out” of her life.

And just like that, I have solved the conundrum of what will happen to my heroine in the sci-fi novel I’ve been working on for so long.

Dead white guys: sure, they’re often overrated, but on the other hand, they also gave us LOTR!

06/17/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

What We Think We Need

I’m selling my car. For the first time in my life, I am not going to have regular access to a car. I bought my first car when I was sixteen, only a few weeks after getting my license. Since then, the only time I haven’t had a car within a few blocks of me (street parking can be a bitch) was the semester I spent in Paris, where cars are delightfully unnecessary. Well, I’m making that step. I’m selling my car, buying some removable panniers for my bike because my messenger bag just isn’t cutting it for grocery shopping, and just accepting that Amtrak is the only way to visit my mother now.

As little as four or five months ago, I would’ve vehemently protested that I NEED a car. It’s possible that in four or five months, I will feel that way again and I’ll end up buying a car. But who knows. I want to try. My goal is to go a full year before I consider whether or not I will purchase a replacement vehicle. I think that’s a good window.

So I was really excited to see, in a chart over at Sociological Images, that Americans have actually lowered their rate of viewing cars as a necessity. (That was an awkward sentence, sorry.)

The chart lists 14 high-dollar, “first world” items and asks if they are luxuries or necessities. From 1996 to 2006, the rate of ranking a car as a necessity has gone down by 2%. Everything else has increased.

I’m actually surprised at the low rate of responses for things like “home computer” and “high speed internet.” I’m genuinely astounded at how LOW cable TV is–considering how pop-culture and celebrity-centric our culture is, you’d think that cable TV would be essential for far more people.

I would be curious to see that chart for the last couple years, though, as with the recession, I would imagine that things have changed. Or at least I would hope that they would.

My standards are biased–the wiring in my apartment is so awful that I literally cannot have air conditioning, because it would pop the circuit, unless I turn off everything else in my apartment (unplugging the fridge is up for debate). I live here not because I enjoy the charm of living in a shithole, but because it’s what I can afford. So when people tell me that they can’t live without something, my thought is generally, “Yeah, sure, til you can’t afford it. Then you might be surprised!”

On the other hand, part of what drove our economic crisis was the concept of wanting something you can’t afford so badly that you THINK you need it. No one NEEDS an Escalade. No one NEEDS a Coach purse. But conspicuous consumption is just such an ingrained part of our society that luxuries become necessities and people go deeply into debt in order to maintain the kind of lifestyle that is thought to be “needed.”

So where would we stand now?

Has tough economic times changed our perception of “necessity,” or are we still basing our priorities on debt?

I would also be curious to see regional necessities, and perhaps some regionally-slanted options (for example, in the Boston region, “access to the T” would be a valid thing to rate as necessity or perk, whereas in a rural area, public transit is probably not even an option. I, however, consider access to the T to be much more important than air conditioning in my home or car. Someone in Florida would probably disagree with me).

What we need, what we consume… it’s always interesting stuff.

Anyways, my right eyelid has been twitching for most of the afternoon which is WEIRD and IRRITATING, so I’m just gonna go ahead and stop this here.

06/16/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

More Than Just An Oil Slick

The BP oil disaster. I can’t even begin to express how heartbroken I’ve been over it. It seems like every time I turn around, the situation is getting worse. There’s more oil, the flow can’t be stopped, the oil is reaching the shoreline, animals are dying…

The worst part, to me, is this feeling of complete helplessness. I looked into going down to Louisiana to help with clean-up efforts along the shore, and BP is refusing all non-local volunteers in order to avoid having to provide shelter. Beyond going down to Louisiana to help clean up, I can’t think of anything else I can do–there’s no action I can engage in to help stop the flow of oil, to staunch the leak, to hold in what’s already there. My planet is getting destroyed, my world is going to hell, and there is nothing I can do. But if nothing is done, the oil is going to go around Florida and make its way up the coast and out into the open ocean.

If you look at the image in that article, the distance that the oil is spread is huge. That’s an enormous amount of coastline. Even just all the ecological damage being done to the Gulf is huge. And here’s the thing–we get a lot of food from the southern regions of the US, and the oil is going to impact that. It’s going to get into the water, get into the plants that the animals will eat, and come down as acid rain. This spill isn’t just impacting the fishing industry; it’s impacting everything.

And now it’s worse. Again. Now it’s going to have reproductive effects. Feministing gives us a heads up that there are chemicals in both the oil and the dispersants that can impair fertility, or influence the development of a fetus. This spill is literally shaping our next generation. It will have effects that will trickle down for who knows how long. Like radiation from Chernobyl, the spill is altering us.

You don’t have to TOUCH the oil to feel the effects. This is much bigger than a potential increase in the price per gallon at your local gas station. All that stuff I said about how the oil and its related chemicals will travel through the entire system? Yep. That means you’ll end up eating or drinking those chemicals. It’s hard to say exactly how far those reproduction-mangling chemicals will travel, or how common or severe the effects will be. But do you really want to play Russian Roulette with this kind of thing?

I wish I had more of a sense of what we can do. For now, I’m working hard at trying to cut back on my use of all things oil-related, but a lot of this is hard–what do I replace my plastic kitchen trash bags with? When I buy bulk drygoods at the market, I have no option except to put them into the plastic baggies they provide (bringing containers from home would alter the weight measurement at the register) . Bread comes in plastic. Toothbrushes and razors in bubble packs. Seriously–think for a second about how much of the stuff you throw away is just packaging! Stuff that isn’t reusable, or recyclable, or anything. I recently saw a bag of chips that came in a compostable bag and I almost squealed with excitement. Unfortunately, my current living situation doesn’t allow for composting (my grandmother has been composting for as long as I can remember, and my sister does too. I’d love to join that bandwagon!).

For now, I’m doing my best to think about how I interact with the world around me–how to cut back on waste, how to be more energy efficient, and so on. Building good habits now will help keep those behaviors going even after the BP disaster is “over.” It’s never too late to start changing our ways to try to prevent history from repeating itself. There may be nothing we can do to stop what’s going on now, but we can do what we can to stop it from happening again and try to stop other disasters that we can’t currently imagine.

Remember, just because we think nothing will happen and we think we’re ready doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. After all, BP thought there was no possible way things could get this bad.

I want my future back. I am still waiting on my jetpack, dammit!

06/15/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The Crotchal Tyranny!

Fear me, for I am the High Queen Crotchula, Withholder of the Sacred Vaginamancy!

So I have had this article sitting open in a tab in Firefox for a while now, waiting for my brain to be ready to be coherent about it. I am, honestly, failing hard. It just blows my mind.

It is an article entitled “Reasons Women Withhold Sex.”

First, let’s talk title: withholding sounds evil. You withhold rent if your landlord turns off your heat. You withhold food if you’re a prison overlord from a horror pulp in the 40s. You withhold services.

I am going to say this, and I’m only going to say it once:

My vagina is not a service.

Astounding, right? Anyways, moving on.

Reason 1: She’s pissed.

A HURR HURR DURR. I see someone has been working hard on this one! Yep, sometimes, when angry at a significant other, we do not get turned on. It’s true! Just like sometimes because there are other things in our mind we do not want to cook, or balance our checkbooks, or solve multivariate calculus equations. Sometimes, the things that are urgently on our mind ARE URGENTLY THERE. So it’s hard to think about other things–including sex.

Reason 2: She’s asserting herself.

…because you are such a jackass that you have shown her the only way she can possibly hold ANY power is through her vagina. Good work. You dug this hole for yourself, so I’m just gonna stand back and laugh, okiedokie?

“If there’s one area of a relationship women think they have control over, it’s sex.”

Truly, it is positively INSANE for us to think that we have the right to decide whether or not something is put inside of our bodies. Consent–it’s totally just a figment of a crazy little woman’s imagination!

Reason 3: She’s manipulating you.

“When no other methods of getting what she wants are working, she might resort to revoking your sex privileges until you agree to what she’s after.”

Now remember, boyfriend, you can only play with the toys if you behave yourself and eat all your vegetables! …Seriously? Seriously? Can we please grow up here?

I think what bothers me the most about this statement is that sometimes it is actually TRUE. Bastions of rationality such as Cosmo encourage women to go on sex embargoes to get things from men, or to get their boyfriends to prove how they “really feel.” People, that is NOT the foundation of a healthy relationship! And in this article, the advice is to just give in and give her what she wants. How about instead of feeding a passive-aggressive cycle, you elect to be the mature one and see what’s going on and try to, y’know, communicate?

No, of course not. Why would we do that when we can continue to use our detachable genitals as bargaining chips? Just stick the ol’ vagina in a tupperware in the freezer till you need it.

Reason 4: She’s bored.

“She could be avoiding sex with you because she’s not enjoying it.”

Okay, article, good work. You have made a valid point. It turns out, dudes, that us ladies do occasionally become involved with you folk for reasons other than sex (it’s been years since I’ve done that, so don’t look at me). And word on the street is that when y0u care about someone, you put up with a lot of shit. Including your boyfriend’s unattractive beer gut, his lack of interest in foreplay, and the fact that he’s just not a good lay, if he even lasts very long. Truly, it is astounding the sort of sexual desserts women will exile them to because the guy is so great in other ways. So yeah, she might actually even actively dislike sleeping with you! But she doesn’t want to hurt your fragile penile ego, because we know how important the majesty of your dick is to you.

Scathing bitchiness aside, it’s true–sometimes couples don’t have sex often because the sex is unsatisfying. It’s the job of BOTH members of the couple to fix this. But dudes, as much as it might be painful to think, when your girlfriend is avoiding sex, instead of assuming that she’s manipulating you or trying to make a point about her power, pause to think when the last time you gave her orgasm was (and remember When Harry Met Sally. Faking: it happens). Think about to what extent you’ve really worried about her satisfaction, and think about whether or not she has been responsive. This is actually probably the BEST problem to have when it comes to lack of sex, because it means you’re not dating a bitch. This can be fixed without someone needing to be kicked to the curb. And fixing it can be FUUUNNN!

Reason 5: She’s tired.

Again, how astute. Yes, sometimes we just want some sleep. No, really. It happens. It happens to dudes, too! I’ve been turned down for sex by partners because they’re tired. It’s kind of part of the modern world–we work hard, we’re busy, we don’t get enough rest, so we’re tired. If you’ve never been too tired for sex, then either your sex requires very minimal energy, which is kind of depressing, or you have an easy life, and I would like to borrow it.

Although, a note from this section: “Or, you could be truly unselfish and devote your time entirely to her pleasure for one night, making her more likely to want to return the favor another time.”

Yeeeeeep. That about says it all. You don’t devote your time to pleasing your significant other because you like to make that person happy–you do it in hopes that it will be reciprocated in the future.

Fun trivia: when I’m with a guy, I like sucking his dick because I like making him happy. I’m not getting turned on by it because I’m gleefully thinking “Oh boy, oh boy, now he pretty much HAS to eat me out!” No, I’m thinking about how much I like satisfying my partner and how hot it is to hear him breathing hard and moaning. I really have a hard time believing that I’m the only one like that.

Reason 6: She’s cheating.

I can’t really argue that. I find cheating abhorrent from either sex, so I won’t even begin to make an argument for the woman in this case.

Reason 7: Playing games.

It’s a good thing I don’t actually own an xbox or Playstation, because I’d probably pass up sex pretty often so that I could try to beat that level. “Sorry sweetie, I can’t come to bed yet, I’ve decided to turn to the Dark Side so I’m using my Force powers to toss Jawas at stormtroopers. UTINNI!”

Oh. Oh wait, they don’t mean those kinds of games.

“Women withhold sex because men let them get away with it.”

Yeah, gotta keep those bitches in line. Don’t they know that vaginas belong to the MENS and that they can’t be ALLOWED to keep them away? Jeez. Next time your woman tries to deny you access to the vagina that is rightfully yours, squirt her with a bottle of water or smack her on the nose with a newspaper. When pets misbehave, they can’t be allowed to get away with it!

“It’s pretty clear it’s the one thing that most guys can’t live without and that they’ll do pretty much anything to keep it coming on a regular basis.”

Ah yes, the “men are slaves to their penises and have zero cognitive capacity beyond what their penis is kind enough to allow them” argument.

DUDE-FOLK. YOU HAVE BRAINS. I SWEAR. I KNOW IT. You aren’t just penis-transport-mechanisms. You have free will and the ability to think rationally and make decisions for yourself and all kinds of neat things! As much as I love the word “vaginamancy,” it isn’t actually possible for a woman to control you with her vagina unless you let her.

Please. Please stop this bullshit. I am so sick of hearing about how men are powerless in the face of sex and vaginas because they just WANT IT SO BADLY, and women are sex-hating man-manipulating lumps of frigidity.

I seriously do not understand why people continue to bother with trying to have relationships when this is the sort of bullshit that we are being programmed with. Everything about that article made me not want to be a woman, and not want to date a man.

Congratulations, Fox. I think you have turned me gay.

06/14/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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