Monday, November 16, 2009

Rain on the Parade

This is a post dedicated to the people that ruin it for everyone.

I know at least 10 women, off the top of my head, who have been assaulted with sexual intent or raped.

I know two women who lied about being raped as a way to get back at a man for rejecting them.

I know four people who were so seriously mentally ill they had to be institutionalized for their own safety.

I know two people who pretended to be mentally ill so others would stop demanding they apologize for cruel things they did.

I know ten racial minorities who have experienced violent racism.

I know one who lied about discrimination so she could humiliate a coworker.

I know these ruiners aren't talked about.

I know we police and counter-police and re-police ourselves so hard. “Everytime I screw up, I put women back at this company.” “Every time I can’t “act normal”, I prove that mentally ill people can’t be integrated into the public sphere.” “Every time I eat a certain food, I reinforce stereotypes about my racial/ethnic/cultural group.”

I know those things aren’t true, and I force myself to believe. I force myself to believe that everyone turns a report in late, that even “normal” people aren’t always normal, and you can eat whatever the hell you want. I tear myself apart over it.

I know that I hate, hate, hate the people that I “have to make up for”. I hate that lazy woman coworker for making me look bad. Every time I look into my boss’s eyes I can see him thinking how all women act like that. I want to strangle her, screaming, “STOP REFLECTING ON ME” and I want to strangle him for forcing me into this mental category with HER simply because we both share a vagina.

I know I hate him for making make up for her deficits and I hate her for doing that as well. And I hate myself for allowing them to do this to me. And then I hate them for making me hate myself. And on and on the cycle goes.

This post is about those people. Those people that ruin everything. Those traitors who kick our legs out from underneath us. Those surprise enemies. Those entitled people who take our threadbare rights and use them as a doormat.

I know that when I say that women under-report rape and women are unjustly treated like liars, I think of the ten. And every time I say this to someone, they mention the two.

I don’t know what to do about that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Act On The Internet: Commentor Edition

How does one comment on a blog? Phrases like “safe space” “courtesy” “privilege” and so on are often thrown around, and most people just give up after a while, and conclude there’s some sort of line that you know you’ve crossed when you see it. I would like to outline how to comment (and respond to comments) appropriately on a blog. Including mine. If you do not follow these rules--NO MATTER WHAT--you are an obnoxious excuse for a human being, and a troll. Go back to your bridge.

Let me begin by saying I belong to a livejournal community called customers_suck. This community is based around how customers are EB-- Entitled Bitches/Bastards who think they are somehow *special* and deserving, and that employees are automatons meant to service them in whatever way they want, regardless of physics or their actual job.

I also belong to bad_service, another live journal community dedicated to people who are customers who have been treated like so much annoying offal, often lied to, stolen from, and abused, much like the people in customers_suck, only on the other side of the coin.

Here is the key to how not be a jerk on the internet: act like this is a store. Act how you would in a store. Do you swear and scream at cashiers? Do you tell customers that only idiots don’t know what the number seven meal is? Are you confused by menu boards, or, alternatively, are you ready to strangle the next idiot who asks you what come with a Value Meal? (protip: FRIES AND A FUCKING DRINK.)

I will now use an analogy. Please follow along.

Imagine you are a customer at a delicious burger restaurant. Unsure of what you will receive, you tiptoe to the counter, place your order, and are given a delicious burger. You take it to your table, and consume it.

It is disgusting. You hate it.

You do not run up to the counter screaming at the cashier. You do not call your friends to walk into the store and scream at the cashier. You do not even call the cashier names based on the cashier’s personal appearance, race, religion, sex, gender, partners, or country of origin or immigration. You calmly say, “I do not like this burger. X, Y, and Z, are the reasons why.”

And the cashier might be apologetic and get you a new one, she might try again. But if you do not like this one also, perhaps it is time to frequent another burger joint. Perhaps you need to stay the hell out of this restaurant, and shut the hell up about how much you hate the burgers and how THEY MESS IT UP EVERY TIME OMGWTF!!! This attitude gets you nothing. It makes you an ass. STOP COMING HERE.

The cashier might tell you, “That is how we make them here, with Special Spices!” Now, you might want to ask what are the nature of these Spices, and how did they come about getting these spices, and what evidence they have these spices are good.

If the cashier takes an attitude with you, snapping her gum and rolling her eyes, clearly not caring, and you just want to take that gum out of her mouth and STICK IN HER EYE-- maybe you should leave. Warn others the burgers suck, and so does the service. And don’t go back. Don’t taunt the cashier, don’t make assumptions about why her attitude is bad, and for gods sake, don’t try to lecture her about her attitude right there standing at the counter. It won’t work. It never works. In the history of man, has bitching out an obnoxious cashier ever made a better person? No. It reduces you to the level of a two year old. STOP IT.

The cashier might listen to you, asking questions in a pleasant eager or annoyingly over-eager way. Direct her towards other delicious burger places that have better spices. Perhaps she will tell Corporate and the burgers will get better. Perhaps she won’t. Come back once or twice to see if it better. Even ask, and if it doesn’t improve, write it off as a dead loss and go to the place down the street.

This is the customer side of How To Act On The Internet: Commentor Edition. It has clear rules, no fine lines, a simple, clear way to behave when you don’t like what you read at a blog.

How To Act On The Internet: Poster Edition, to come soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Knowledge, and who has it

There's something I've noticed in the feminist community.

I've noticed it with various place, various people, and I feel that if I name names and events, people will focus on that event instead of on what I'm trying to address.

There are a lot of feminist issues out there. There are even more womanist issues. There are points and counterpoints and milestones and setbacks. There are heroes, icons, villians, bloggers, movers, shakers, and trolls. And there is no way for any person to have even the basic knowledge of all of these issues, or to know the best way to address it. Not. Possible.

Partially, that ignorance is built on privelege. The privelege of being white, or cisgender, or make or middle class. But part of it is based on reality.

I feel that most of the feminist bloggers I read do their very best to read up on the issues, be knowledgible about what they post, respectful of the people they're posting about, and open to improvement and criticism. And that is just about all you can ask from someone, in reality.

I see, over and over again, female bloggers trying to support or bring attention to an issue, only to get nasty, exasperated backlash from those most intimately involved in that issue. I see female bloggers turning around and bringing that same attitude to male bloggers. I see them turning it on each other.

There's a continuum with a fine line in it. There's one end, where someone is just reeking with self-satisfaction and privilege, opening a hand to help out these poor folks that don't know enough to come in out of the rain, and since they're so weak and stupid, they should let mama blogger talk for them, and God forbid they dare to say a word about what she says.

And then there's the other end, where a blogger does just about everything they can to educate themselves, demand a respect for the issue, defers to the those most intimately involved, and is STILL castigated for not doing it right, usually with the double whammy of, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE ME" followed by "A ROCK WOULD BE ABLE TO SEE HOW OBVIOUS YOUR FUCKUP IS." You can't have it both ways. Either your understanding of the world and experiences in it is self-evident, or it is not.

I've done this to people. A specific example I can think of is poverty--so many talking heads talking about the children of teenage mothers, and never actually talking to the child of a teenage mother. I remember talking to someone once about his support of Ronald Reagan and the social policies enacted during his presidency. I lost my mind. "Do you have any idea what it feels like to be so poor, you can't afford jelly? Do have any idea how close we lived to the wire, how it feels to know that your baby daughter needs surgery and so do you, and there's no help, and you hope to god that you can make the bills? DO YOU?!"

And the person said no. And I replied, "WELL, MAYBE YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT THAT."

Now, how the fuck was he supposed to know that? If he'd said yes, I would have called him a damn liar. If he says no, I'm going to yell at him for being ignorant. The only way he could have avoided being bitched out by me is to have gone through exactly the same life events, or to have put hours and hours into research on rural poverty in the United States in the late 1980s, especially as affecting single mothers, as well as the kind of cutbacks that university programs were undergoing and the pay wage for those who are employed as caretakers in assisted living facilities.

In other words, there's no way he could possibly have known all that. So why did I get angry for him not knowing that? What did I really expect? Do I really think that every person in the US should have this kind of knowledge? I'd sure like it. But it isn't possible, it isn't feasible, and it isn't even reasonable. I have to educate people. Everyone I meet who talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to educate. And that's a SMALL task. I can't even begin to imagine how it would be to undertake educating people about a basic facet of my identity, or trying to assert my humanity and dignity.

It must be tiring. It must be frustrating and exhausting and dehumanizing to have to say the same damn thing over and over to people that you really thought knew better. But the process of education is a never-ending one. And if, for once, your education does not fall on deaf ears, then please speak. They're doing the very, very best they can. Don't be grateful to them. But at least acknowledge that meeting you halfway does not constitute a personally failure on their part. And wishing that they were already on your side does not constitute a failure on yours, either.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Driving when I was 17 got me into college

Cars are a mark of privilege. Cars are money, time, a certain skill set. Cars are status. And for me, cars are a scholarship to a private college.

I got my driver's licence rather late. Most people in middle America get theirs shortly around the time they turn sixteen. I got mine two months before I turned seventeen, the summer before my junior year of high school. There are several reasons for this-- I moved in from out of state, so I went to the end of the Driver's Ed class list, and a late August birthday, to name a few. But was allowed to drive my mother's car for two years.

During those two years, I joined the creative writing club at my high school. The club was small and most of last year's members had graduated. This proved to be a huge problem due to the fact that no one knew how to run the school's creative writing magazine. I was "volunteered". I had a car. I could stay fours hours later every day after school and come in every weekend.

Thanks to my car, I got such titles as Chief of Staff, Creative Writing Club President, Editor of the Creative Writing Club magazine, and so on and so forth. As The Big Cheese, I felt it was my duty to submit writing to every single contest I could find in the state. And I won. I won a lot, actually, which gave me a long string of awards to tack into my titles.

Now, don't get me wrong. I worked hard. I stayed after school four hours a day and came in on the weekends for this magazine. I took an independent study class to write my stories and my poetry, and I sweated blood over every word. I lost sleep and sanity and hair over this club, and I'm proud of every moment of it.

But it was my car that allowed me to do that. Without my car, I couldn't have even joined the club-- I had no way to get home. A friend of mine had no car and ended up with no extraciriculars, no scholarships, nothing special on her transcript. And she didn't get to go to college. Her parents couldn't drive her anywhere--they both worked, and even if they didn't work, they were broke. They lived miles out of town and couldn't afford the gas to come and get her an hour or two after school. My privilege, my car, got me into college.

18+ driving laws work well in countries that have public transportation, that have small school districts, that have families that live in the same area for generations on end. There's a network. Suburbanite kids are privileged. They have parents that can put a priority on driving the kids to soccer, driving the kids to ballet, driving the kids to tutors. 

There's a reason that the "soccer mom" is unemployed. Someone with a job can't spend hours dragging around kids. 

The only students that will be able to continue to participate in after-school activities are those from duel-caretaker families where one caretaker works either part-time or not at all. And those kids, for the most part, are the white, wealthy, privileged ones. The poor kids, from single parents families, or duel-worker families, will see their chances for college slip away in a bout of car exhaust. 

This is the beginning: Mission Post

This blog is intended to reflect thoughts on a variety of issues, from the personal to the worldwide, with a focus on Women's Issues and American issues with occassional forays into other places and wherealls.