Archive for February 2012

Depression ruined my vacuum cleaner   Leave a comment

People with depression sometimes get really good at hiding their symptoms.  I guess I started when I was kid.  There is a real pressure in the kind of Christianity I grew up in to be OK. You don’t have to be perfect of course, some minor struggles are allowed, like gossip or gluttony. You can even struggle with forgiveness if something particularly horrible happen to you, but there is this tyranny of OK that must be obeyed.   It’s not OK to be depressed.  There is a stigma against mental illness in normal society, and particularly against depression.  People who’ve never been there think that depressed people need to just buck up and get their shit together.  This is unusually true about the church because so many of the promises in the Bible about the “peace of God” and such.

So I started hiding my symptoms when they started showing up around the time I started middle school. I didn’t trust my parents or my parents church to deal with me or my symptoms the way I needed (a decision I have zero regrets about 20 years later) and I just hid it.  I was honest about it with my wife and later my daughter. (I figure having a dad who answers your question honestly when you ask “Daddy, why can’t you get out of bed today?” is less scary than having one who lies to you about it or does it in the first place) but in general, mostly no one really knew, or if they knew had any idea how serious it was.  I thought I did such a great job “functioning”.  I wouldn’t call it living really, just functioning, but now I am not so sure.

Yesterday I vacuumed the living room.  As usual, the vacuum cleaner barely worked. Irritated, I took it at apart.  Low and behold, all three filters were clogged, the hose was clogged in two places, and the beater bar was so covered in hair it looked like a legless ferret. Half and hour and 2 gallons of hair, lint and funk later, it works great. When you’re depressed, you feel like everything is broken, no one cares, and nothing really matters. Because everything I did felt pointless and shoddy, those feelings about the experience of vacuuming didn’t stick out from any other feelings I had. I felt that way about the work I put into relationships, school, music, and employment…why would housecleaning be any different?

I wonder how much this is going to help me with things like college?  Instead of being surprised I’m not going to fail in every single class I take, maybe the doubts I have about that class will be uniquely meaningful, and I’ll do better?  Regardless, at least I’ll have clean floors.

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The poster child strikes back   Leave a comment

Today I read this blog Survival Sex, by Holly P.

This part really resonated with me

This is the kind of thing that I’m reluctant to talk about, because I worry that it hurts my credibility as a sex-positive person and especially as a BDSM-positive person.  It fits too neatly into a narrative of “she’s fucked up and that’s why she does freaky shit.” I don’t think that’s true–I was freaky before this, I know freaky people who weren’t abused and abused people who aren’t freaky–and I also don’t think I should care so long as my freakiness isn’t hurting me now.

But I’m wary of the “damaged goods” pity-smear, of being reduced to my traumas, and sometimes it silences me.  I don’t want to make this blog into a narrative of “ex-child-prostitute/emotional abuse survivor/sexual assault survivor has promiscuous and painful sex!”  Every part of that is technically true but it’s not my story.

And this just hits me like a truck.  Why do we do this? By we I don’t mean homo sapiens, though at some level it probably is true for all people, I mean “us”.  I’m not sure how to precisely spell out what the rules are to belong to this group, I only that I know I am in it.  I know we all do this.  I know we are all terrified of being the poster child for atheism/feminism/polyamory/alternate sexuality etc., not so much because of our shitty childhoods but because of how we fear others will respond to them.  Here’s some identifiers I find that ties this little group together:

Identifier 1:

Bad childhood.

Holly’s was awful.  I was never exposed to abuse even remotely like what she talks about.  My parents were not particularly physically abusive (to me), they weren’t even, per say, emotionally abusive.  I will stress here, as I always try to do when I talk about this, that they did their absolute best.  It’s just their best was subtly destructive, like corrosion.  Religion brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others.  In my parents it brought out both.  I think Christianity served as a moderater and brake to some of their more intense craziness, but at the same time modern Christian teachings like a “personal relationship with Christ” and “end times” got all mixed up with their own delusions of grandeur and paranoia to make my childhood a terrifying and insecure place.  Teaching an 8 year old how to kill people with a garrote or that police and psychologists (the two kinds of people who can help you)  are part of a demonic new world order hell bent on controlling your mind or sending you off to the gulag is simply not OK.  (Note: I love and respect my parents. They really tried. They just fucked up on that one.)

Identifier 2

Wickedly smart.

Holly got her bachelors degree at 19.  I’m not that smart, or at least not in that way, but I keep getting smarter. As I get better I can put less and less of my energy into dealing with my emotional problems, and I get smarter.  I wonder if I had started therapy at at say, 9 and antidepressants around 20 or so where I could have gone with my life.  My ACT score was high enough to get me into MIT, but I never applied, because I knew I’d have an emotional break down sometime in the first year. (I was right, too.)

Identifier 3

Sexual different

It’s like we just can’t be hetero normal.  The sexuality of this group, whatever this group is, tends strongly towards polyamory and polysexuality with a dash of S&M thrown in.  Whatever kink there is, we have it.  Now, there are hetero normal people in this group, but they tend to be the exotic other in these circles.  I’m not sure if openness attracts weirdos or if weirdos attract openness.  For this reason there is a strong approval of feminism, and affirmation of homosexuality, transgender, etc.

Identifier  4

Religiously different

Our religion tends towards two extremes: relativist pantheism and militant atheism.  If you think about it there is very little functional difference between between saying there is a little bit of god everywhere or there is no god anywhere, because in either case, no one thing, person, or idea, is more or less sacred in comparison to any other thing, person, or idea.

Identifier 5

Freakishly high need and ability for communication.  This is acquired because being really smart means being really alone until you learn communicate with people who aren’t as smart as you.

This is my theory:

Intelligence is largely inherited, so a smart adult was a smart child. The great story of civilization is largely one of mass delusion.  Highly intelligent abused children have to confront the bullshit of society’s delusion at an earlier age than most people. In fact, some people never confront those delusions.  They pat themselves on the back for catching delusions that are engineered badly on-purpose so they can feel good about catching them, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and never move on to the 300 level courses, like theism, American exceptionalism, and gender binary.   We, whoever we are, have the intelligence to see the strings that hold the puppets up, and the intelligence to think “Well if that treasured belief is a lie, what about X, Y, and Z?”.  That’s how we end up as feminist, atheist, polysexual, polyamorous, folk.  And we have to communicate with others about it, because we have a huge need for communication, hence…we seem to have more community with our fellows than other hobbists (like say, model train builders) seem to have with theirs.  This why so many conferences and blogs.

None of this answers the question of “Why are we so afraid to be the poster children of the movements that give our lives so much meaning?”  I don’t know.

The Patriarchy from the one of the most privileged men on earth   Leave a comment

When I first stared studying feminism, the way some feminist authors wrote confused the hell out of me, so this is me trying to explain a feminist concept in really simple words.  Apparently these things seem to confuse some other men too. Observe this little Q and A from yahoo answers:

Q. What is the Patriarchy anyway?

A. “Evil patriarchy” is a lie that feminists made up and use as propaganda to justify hatred against men & boys.

Huh…well that’s total bullshit.  Let’s try the aptly named iblamethepatriarchy.com

Patriarchy, which invisibly persists as the world’s most popular social order, is a really bad scene based on an oppressive paradigm fetishizing dominance and submission. Benefits in this culture of domination are accrued according to a rigid hierarchy at the top of which are rich honky adult males and at the bottom of which are poor female children of color. Within this hierarchy, women, regardless of race or any other status markers, constitute a sub-human sex class. I Blame the Patriarchy endeavors to expose to feminist scrutiny and critique the many schemes and gambits — legislation, adjudication, media, medicine, culture, religion, Oprah, tradition, etc — through which the dominant culture controls the sex class and sustains the global humanitarian crisis that has ensued as a result of its ceaseless violence.

Having read feminist bloggers for a couple years now, I get exactly what she is saying, and I agree.  However, for your average working class stiff, that style of prose can be a little thick. I think what’s happening is that feminists are social technicians, mechanics for the machine of society, if you will, and they tend to write like it.  Shop manuals don’t say “take out the doohicky by the wuttzit under that big round thing” because the whole point of manual is to give you precise instruction.  That requires a lot jargon.   There’s two problems though.

(1.) A lot of people think that feminist are at least peripherally motivated to make the world a better place.  Most people with a messianic mission put huge amounts of effort it making their pitch as lucid to beginners as possible so they can pick up more converts.  Feminism mostly doesn’t worry about that.  Feminism101 is great spot for that sort of thing, but IBTP says right on the about page “I Blame The Patriarchy is intended for advanced patriarchy-blamers. It is not a feminist primer.”  Jeez.  What’s up with that? Why doesn’t the author want you to get it?  If your a man, you’re probably thinking something to the effect of “If this is so damn important, why isn’t somebody helping figure out what the hell they are saying?”  (More on that later).

(2.) It immediately pisses you off, for several reason.  For starters, You can’t recall ever “fetishizing dominance and submission” and you don’t think women are “sub-human”.  Also, you just lost your job, you’re in debt up to your eyeballs and your piece of crap car is getting reposed.  If you have a spot in this rigid hierarchy that puts you at the top, why do you keep getting screwed?

So let me offer you my very simple explanation of the Patriarchy…

Q. You know how you work your ass off to make a better life for yourself, and maybe for your wife and kids too, and she got the kids in the divorce and you are paying for it, and you never seem to get ahead, and everything sucks?

A. That’s the Patriarchy.

Wasn’t that incredibly easy? Don’t you see why they get pissed of at the Patriarchy? Aren’t you on their side now?

Q. Buh, buh, buh, but, what about all that stuff about women?

A.  Ok, pretend you play major league baseball. You and your team are kidnapped by some kind of murderous, eccentric millionaire and taken to his private island, where you have to play football against the hometeam, a top rated NFL team, to survive.  Even though every single one of you is an elite athlete, you will lose everyday because you have to play football, even if the rules are enforced totally fairly on both teams.  In other words, even if the rules of the game are enforced fairly, those rules disproportionately harm those who the game wasn’t made for.  Everything the Patriarchy does to hurt you, hurts a woman in your place more, because it’s not her ‘game’.

Q. But why?

A.  That’s the stuff about hierarchy.   If you are rich, white, man your sort of the top rated NFL team in that example, the further you move from that, harder it is to compete.  A rich white woman probably has an easier time of the game than a poor white man, but  poor black man has it harder than poor white woman.   The absolute bottom of the food chain is a disabled black girl.  This is not my opinion, if you don’t believe me look at the statistics for every measure of quality of life, like likelihood of abuse or arrest for a noncriminal activity.

Q. But how?

A. Because money is power, and 400 people own more than 50% of the wealth on earth.  To put that in perspective, 0.0000000005% owns 50% of the planet, and 99.99999995% own the other 50%.  They make the rules, and they are all white males. (Again, look this up if you don’t believe me)  In creating a system that keeps their kids in the top 5* 10^-8 of society,  they created a hierarchy, and it goes like this (1.) Parentage (2.) Sex (3.) Race (4.) Age (5.) Sexual inclination (6.) Gender (7.) Ability.   I honestly don’t think they put the poor, female, black, 14 year old, gay, transgender, and disabled person on the bottom…it just worked out that way.  They fight hard to stay on the top and someone else has to stay on the bottom.  If they didn’t fight to keep the hierarchy, they could lose everything, so fuck the other billions.  The whole damn system from top to bottom is broken, because that tiny fraction of the population cannot possibly make good decisions for everyone else.

Q. But how am I’m benefiting from the Patriarchy?

A. Not as much as you want and far too much at the same time.  You are correct that you are not a member of the illuminati of something, and you probably don’t have nearly the easy ride you might if you were farther up the food chain, but the fact is, you DO have privilege. Your position in society is better than it would be without it, and someone else’s (problem a woman, probably not white, and probably not in American) is worse.

Finally, I said I would answer why feminists don’t seem to take their messianic role to men very seriously.  Their messianic role isn’t to men.  It’s to women, hence the term…feminism.  The Patriarchy sucks for everybody, but it sucks much harder for women.  Over the years a lot of men have shown up in feminism and thought that what feminism was really missing more men…ie, that the problem with feminism is that it wasn’t Patriarchal enough.  I’ve found that if you support feminists because they are right, they are very positive and helpful, and you support them because you think you should get a cookie for being a man who supports feminism, they are quite dismissive.   It’s that “I should get a cookie” mindset that really pisses them off.  They tend to see it as symptomatic of that privilege I mentioned earlier…because it is.  Why should you get a cookie for thinking they should have the same opportunities you should?

Let me add a final one:
Q: But aren’t you writing this at least in part to get the approval of feminists?
A. Yup.  But I don’t think I’m entitled to it.  Privilege is thinking you should get something  just because.  I work on not behaving like an entitled ass whenever possible.

Andrej’s body is not controversial   Leave a comment

I’ve tried off and on through the last couple days to form some cohesive thoughts about a man named Andrej Pejic. He is a model brought to my attention by a friend after reading my last post.

He is seen to be very beautiful.  For sake of honesty, I have to say “seen” not because I can’t appreciate male beauty (I can) but simply, my tastes lie elsewhere, and I have to take other people’s word for it.   To me, there is something disturbingly callow and insipid about runway model, but if nothing else, I can see the statuesqueness of his face, and recognize that while my standard goes more towards Peter Paul Ruben’s, Andrej’s delicate shoulders do have a certain grace.

Something horrifying to me, however, is the how often his name is linked to the term “controversy” or “controversial”. If you google “andrej pejic controversy” you will find about 100,000 links.  Now many of these will simply make statements something like “Andrej Pejic was in a controversial advertisement.”   Since “advertisement” is the object of the controversy, that’s not really a big deal.  Controversy is a synonym of argument, and every advertisement makes (overtly or covertly) several statements or messages, any of which are open to argument.  But if you look very deeply into these things, you will find that a bit of linguistic slight of hand is taking place, and that while some of the articles are truly saying that controversy seems to follow Andrej, others are flat-out saying Andrej is a controversy.

If a person’s body is the message, then what is the counter message?  When existence is the point of an argument, what is the logical counterpoint?   I think the argument made by his body is “I also exist” and the counterpoint is “No, you don’t.”  Now there are two ways you can challenge an argument. You can bring facts, figures, notes, and evidence, and you can reason it out like equals, or you can just silence the arguer.  When technology has made it so the message can go out and echo long after the arguer has spoken, a simple gag in the mouth has to be replaced with censorship, and Andrej’s image has been censored.  Barns and Nobel blacked out a book cover that displayed Andrej’s pretty face and bare chest, saying “Well, people might have thought he was a woman.”

It’s an interesting case of censorship, because it was not the depiction of some vile act that was blocked, but a man standing in an open shirt.  Andrej’s argument “I also exist” was censored admittedly because B&N did not think their customers would enjoy the argument that human being who doesn’t fit socially constructed gender roles even exists.  But that’s only how you censor an image. If the existence of a person is the argument, how do you censor the existence of a person?

Observe: The Homosexual Agenda. you will see that the Christian Right’s nauseating concept of the gay agenda is based entirely on censorship of existence.  They don’t so much have a problem with gays existing, per say.  They have problem with the argument “I also exist” that a gay person’s existence proves, and they demand that gayness, as a way of being, be censored.  Consider the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy,  the essential argument of which was “It’s OK to be gay as long as you hide it and lie about it.”  Or the now infamous “Don’t say ‘Gay’ bill” in Tenesse, the purpose of which was to “bar schools from presenting any prepared material or lessons about homosexuality to students before high school.”   Returning to more to gender matters, there is the case of the Macy’s employee who said “There are no transgenders in the world.” (Which must come as rather a surprise to the +100 million transgendered people on earth.) and refused to let a transgendered shopper use the changing room. But, you see, she doesn’t like their argument of “I also exist”, so she simply refutes it and expands on it, “No you don’t, and no one like you does out of 6.8 billion people.”

As Beth Ditto once noted about being a gay, fat, female rockstar…sometimes, something as simple as existing is all the message you need to piss people off, and in fact the only message you need at all.

The Future is a Transvestite   2 comments

I can’t control what’s on the TV at work.  The other night, someone decided that the best use of the 40-inch flat screen television the US taxpayers have graciously provided was the Saggies…or whatever the proper name for the Screen Actors Guild Award show is.  And I was struck by what Archer called …a certain thickness.

Observe Glenn Close here at the podium

 

So I looked it up and found out that Glenn Close has been getting more and more, shall we say “diesel” with each passing year. Remember her from back in the day when she had a long, graceful neck? Where did it go? My theory is, Glenn Close (who is 65) is keeping the dissipation of of old age at bay by weight lifting. As the skin losses elasticity, she’s bulking up muscle under it, and frankly, I’m both impressed and inspired. “Look this good at my age you will not” as Yoda said.

 

Viola Davis, on the other hand, is a bit younger at 47, and is also looking noticeably juiced. To a point, I am excited about this as a social development. Strength is feminine, and it’s good to have our narrow gender constructs challenged. But here is my concern: I see a lot of classism in Hollywood. Actors and actresses are aspirational figures, demigods nearly. I never hear it articulated this way, but the standard of beauty seems to be not so much attractive as simply expensive.

Once upon a time, you could simply win the genetic lottery. Now you must be rich as well as naturally gifted, as plastic surgery is not cheap, and endlessly postponing aging is a terribly expensive process. Women, as a rule do not have the same hormones that allow them pack on pounds of muscle the way men do. So now you must be genetically preselected to be beautiful. Rich. Genetically preselected to spend all day in the gym. (Self discipline is largely an intrinsic, rather than learned behavior). Finally, genetically preselected to respond to weight training with a photogenic results. (The health benefits of weight training are the same for everyone. The physical appearance is not.) So, in essence, these women are admittedly beautiful, but the expectation of a weight lifter’s body being added to the already extremely demanding standard of female beauty is probably not helpful to anyone but people selling books and magazine articles falsely claiming these women look like this because of learnable behaviors you can emulate, and not simply being highly deviant from middle of the gene pool bell curve.

So, if we keep layering on unattainable feature after unattainable feature, what is the future of female beauty? Male beauty. Plastic surgery is already the backbone of popular beauty. If we simply attach butt implants and breast implants to a man, we can side step finding women with those razor sharp cheek bones, developed musculature, and genetically unlikely fat deposit areas. A penis and the hormones and privilege it’s owner posses are the ultimate, unattainable “keep trying girls, just follow X,Y,Z and you can look just like actress A” accessory.

Maybe this is just a pessimistic leftist finding the grey cloud in every silver linning. Athleticism enters the standard of female beauty and transvestites become fashionable? What’s not to like? Perhaps. But there is an enormous difference between being fit because you love your body and it’s abilities and being fit because if you aren’t you feel ugly and worthless . There is an even bigger difference between choosing to make your body match your soul through surgery and hormones, and reshaping your body into something your soul wouldn’t recognize to make money.