Do the work that is before your hand to do.
There is enough work for everyone, and enough hands to get it all done eventually.
I grant the right under Creative Commons for anyone who wishes to repurpose this text for their own use when contacting their elected representative.
Dear Senator Markey,
In light of recent allegations and ongoing concern about foreign meddling in the U.S. Electoral process, and in light of concerns that President-Elect Trump may, in effect, be influenced by a foreign power--and in light of ongoing problems with the incoming administration regarding Hatch and anti-nepotism law violations--I strongly support your efforts to use every legal means to vet such appointees of the incoming administration as are subject to Senate confirmation, and oppose those who are unfit for duty.
We believe in you, Ed. You have our voice. Be loud with it.
Hint: It's not by developing successful properties and making a long-term killing off rents, fees, and providing services.
It's not by creating wealth. It's not even by running successful casinos and getting suckers to forget that the house always wins.
It's by getting other people to invest money in a project, slapping his name on it, making a huge fuss about how great it is using his (to me inexplicable) charisma and salesmanship, siphoning off as much cash as he quickly can, allowing the project to fail, writing it off at a loss, and allowing his creditors to take the bath on it--including small businesses that could ill-aford such a loss.
(Fun fact: the Mob put that hit out on Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel because he didn't prevent contractors from siphoning money and materials out of the Flamingo Hotel project, did you know that?)
Long story short: his business partners take a bath, and he walks away with his pockets jingling (though they don't jingle as much as he claims. That roll of hundreds is fluffed out with newspaper cut to size, metaphorically speaking.) There's a reason he can't get a loan from a U.S. bank anymore; as a result, there's pretty good reason to think a bunch of his projects are funded by members of the Russian kleptocracy.*
So some people can learn how to avoid a con artist after he's hit them once. But apparently, 46% of U.S. voters can't spot a scam even when the evidence is right there.
...well, it is really hard to break up with a gaslighting abuser. You really start not knowing what is real, and you start to feel like it's all your fault. And this is how con artists work, too. You need them! They're going to give you the break you really deserve, that you somehow never got before!
He's a great businessman, right? He's going to build the U.S. economy. It's going to be HUGE, because this time will be different or something?
Did you know that Trump has already charged U.S. taxpayers $1.6 million for his Secret Service detail to fly on his plane with him? Or that his campaign paid his own businesses close to ten million dollars?
Guess who the business partner is who's getting their pocket picked this time?
Based on the rule that whatever Trump claims his enemies are doing, it's what he's up to himself, I'd say his businesses were failing again ("failing New York Times") and this time he had nowhere left to turn, because he'd bilked his way around the globe. I'd say that the election was rigged--rigged in the sense that it was influenced by a Russian-backed hacking and disinformation campaign. And I'd say that this man who ran, laughably, against "insider corruption" is about to depose the Grant administration as the most corrupt in U.S. history.
My only question at this point is whether sometime between Dec 19th (when the electoral college confirms the vote) and Jan 20th (Inauguration day), the Russian intelligence apparatus releases information to delegitimize the election and with the goal of making the U.S. completely ineffectual in containing their adventurism due to internal strife, or if Putin tries to run Trump like a hand puppet for the next four years.
They must have something really juicy on him, too, because he's stuck by his oligarchic allies so far, and this is a man who has never once hesitated to throw an ally under the bus the instant it suited him.
Yep. This is gonna get ugly, and not just because we're staring down the barrel of a bunch of freshly empowered homophobic, misogynistic white supremacists.
Hold onto your hats.
17 November 2016
Governor Charlie Baker
Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Baker,
I am a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a registered voter therein. I am writing to inform you that I, along with many of your constituents, am extremely concerned about your call to wait and see, to give President-Elect Trump a chance to prove himself.
Meanwhile, the President-Elect's surrogates, such as Carl Higbie, begin the work of arguing the case that one of America's greatest modern shames, the detention of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II, constitutes a legal precedent for the forced registration of Muslims in the United States.
Sir, Massachusetts takes great pride in its history of being at the forefront in the struggle for liberty and civil rights. We were the second state in the Union to abolish slavery; we were the home of President John Quincy Adams, who argued for the freedom of the Amistad rebels before the Supreme Court; we were the home of his mother, Abigail Adams, who argued for the right of women to vote from the inception of the Union. We were the first state to offer the full protection of the law to same-sex marriage.
Boston is home to the Freedom Trail; it is here that the first shot of the American Revolution was fired. It is the city that responded to a gross act of terrorism, the Boston Marathon bombing, with strength, courage, and the rule of law.
Our Constitution, written chiefly by President John Adams (there's that family again) is the oldest functioning written constitution still in effect in the world. It served as a model for the United States Constitution, and the Declaration of Rights it contains serves as a model for the first ten Amendments to that United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which most Americans hold sacred.
That Declaration of Rights contains the following words:
Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
Article II. It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession or sentiments, provided he doth not disturb the public peace or obstruct others in their religious worship.
Governor Baker, I call upon you to adhere to the founding principles of our Commonwealth. I call upon you to follow the basic dictates of human beings of good conscience. I call upon you for a display of character and valiance in keeping with the better history of Massachusetts, and the legacy we must strive to preserve.
I call upon you to join in leadership with the Legislature of the State of California and the Governor of the State of New York, and to publicly disavow any such attempt to shamefully and illegally detain American citizens and legal immigrants on the basis of their religion and culture alone.
That cowardice, sir, is beneath us. Do not shame us before the world. Let us again be a model for the nation, as we unequivocally say no to racism, to fascism, to bigotry, and to fear.
A lot of you are really scared right now.
I get that. I'm scared too. I'm scared in the way that tells me that there is no safe space in the world for somebody like me. That my civil rights, my freedom of speech, my very personal safety are under assault.
We feel homeless, hypervigilant, and downright panicky.
Some of you have never felt scared in this particular way before, and don't know how to manage it. It's new, because of the way the kyriarchal system we live under has previously insulated you from this kind of existential terror.
For some of us, though, it's old hat. We have coping strategies. We have the knowledge that we've been through this kind of existential terror before, and we made it, and the world got better after a while.
(This is how it works. Remember when you feel that despair that we are fighting from a foundation now. We have to defend the hill, for certain. Our forbears in the quest for civil rights for all had to build the damned hill, often out of their own bodies, and then fight their way up it.)
So here's what's important. We who know this feeling of terror and despair, who know how to live iwth it, work through it, dig in and hold the door--we need to be as kind as we can manage to our allies who have not experienced it before. We need to remember that in the long run that experience will increase their empathy. It will make them better allies for us as well.
We need to understand that it's going to take them a little longer to process their despair and grief and fear than those of us who feel the anxiety spike and go "Well, this again."
We need to, because we need them right now. We need all hands on deck, every last one from ship's cook to cabin girl.
We need compassion for each other, and we need to set aside our differences and work together against a greater threat--to our civil liberties, our freedom of speech, our very personal safety. We cannot afford to be cut out of the herd group by group, set against one another on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, ethnic affiliation, moral purity, or anything else.
These guys have been feeling that same existential fear, you know, and they're not used to it either: the fear that their way of life is vanishing, that they are losing power and influence and control. It's an existential battle to them, and they think they have to destroy us or drive us underground again in order to continue to exist.
These guys hate us all. And if we do not hang together, we shall surely all hang separately.
Representation is important because everybody needs to see themselves reflected in art. It's validating. It tells us we have a right to exist. And more than that, it tells other people we have a right to exist. And the important thing is not that any one artistic version of a member of an under-represented or habitually erased group is perfect, because it's impossible for any single character to adequately reflect the experiences of an entire group of people.
See, the funny thing is, it turns out that people of color and queer people and women and genderqueer people and disabled people... we're not types. We're not categories. We're individuals with certain characteristics and we may have very different attitudes and philosophies and relationships with those characteristics.
So, saturation matters. We need a lot of stories with different kinds of people in them, and not just a token stereotype, one per book or movie or TV show.
And actually, finally seeing yourself as a protagonist or a significant character in art is a tremendously empowering experience. Seeing yourself reflected makes you feel real and noticed, and it's important.
Finding yourself in a story for the first time is like looking into a mirror and seeing that, at last, you exist. You take up space and you are real. It's incredibly exhilarating just to know you're not alone. Not the only one. And that other people see you and acknowledge that you are real.
I think a lot of straight white guys don't understand this because they have never not seen themselves. They have no experience with being marginalized, pushed out of the frame, unpersoned. There's five or ten white guys to every black guy or woman, and let's not even talk about the representation of queer, trans, Asian, Latino, or disabled characters... or any other even more vanished groups.
And if you haven't never seen yourself, it's very hard to understand how disempowering it is for other people not to see themselves in art.
So they don't get why people get excited to find a character they identify with, and might like a book or a movie just for that reason. It's not political correctness; it's not pushing an agenda; it's not judging a story by whether it reflects one's politics. It's being happy to find a place where you feel welcome and understood.
And that's part of what everybody looks for in art. It's just harder for some of us to find it, so when we do, we get even more excited.
Black people are not used to seeing futures on TV where they just exist. Women are not used to seeing worlds where we make up 51% of the fictional population. (We make up 51% of the real world population, so why is there exactly one woman with speaking role in some entire galaxies?)
And those men who are very used to not just seeing themselves, but dominating entire narratives--well, some of them are really great about it, once they notice what's going on. Some try to fix it and make room for everybody.
But some react defensively, angrily: some see it as chipping away at their space when other people get some too. Rather than realizing, "Hey, this feeling of there not being a place for me hurts. Maybe I shouldn't do it to others!" or thinking, "Hmmm, maybe this thing isn't for me, but there's stuff over here that is for me!" they angrily oppose the existence of the thing that challenges what they perceive as their right to exist.
It's just that for the rest of us, it feels like they are insisting on their right to dominate the conversation. Even in corners where nobody asked for their opinion. because we were making our own fun.
The thing is, art is a big tent, and it expands to include everybody. It's not a zero-sum game, especially in the current era of easy content flow around the traditional gatekeepers. The existence and success of Karen Memory does not mean fewer sales for Pat Rothfuss (and Pat knows this: he's enormously supportive of other writers.) It means, rather, that fantasy appeals to a wider range of readers--and a lot of them will like both.
It's also an unfair burden on the marginalized to expect them (us) to carry all the water of representation. I believe in reading widely, challenging my own default narratives, and reading stories by writers who are not necessarily speaking to or from my comfort zone. I believe in supporting writers who have come to science fiction through nontraditional routes or from nontraditional backgrounds. But I also believe in presenting diversity in my own writing. Because the world is diverse, and in writing that I am just writing the world I experience.
The true world.
So if you're feeling nervous that you might never get to be in the spotlight because somebody else is, don't be. At the very worst, you'll have to share it, perhaps. Or we can set up a lot of spotlights and shine them around.
I believe the future has a lot of different kinds of people in it, and it will expand to make room for us all.
Phew. Okay, now that I have your attention, I actually have something important to talk about, which is this:
FEBRUARY IS INTERNATIONAL STOP HITTING YOURSELF MONTH
I know this is true because I just declared it to be so. It's the shortest month, anyway, and it's already four days old, so you're getting a deal even if it is a leap year.
See, here's the thing. A lot of us, women especially, are really well-socialized to put ourselves down, denigrate ourselves, steep ourselves in self-loathing.**
This does triple duty in preventing us from fixing our own lives and also from changing the world for the better. Because it is exhausting for us, and it's exhausting for our friends, and it's a bad model for others.
Think of all the emotional energy you've devoted, over the years, to self-loathing. Think of all the emotional energy you've devoted to supporting beloved friends who are perfect in every way except they keep slashing themselves to ribbons. Think of everything you could have accomplished if you hadn't told yourself that you weren't good enough, that you didn't deserve anything, that you'd better play Paul Atreides and destroy the thing you really wanted because it was the only way you had any control over it at all.
And the thing is, that self-abnegation shit is all lies. Really it is. 90% of women are not nearly as awful as they think they are, which is a statistic that I made up on the spot.
(05% of all people are actually horrible people, but the horrible people never think they're horrible, which enables them to be as awful as they are. I'm not talking to those people here. They're already not kicking themselves.)
So I'm speaking specifically to the non-horrible-person cis-female self-kickers when I say: the thing is, when we kick ourselves, when we marginalize ourselves, when we erase ourselves, when we look for evidence everywhere of failure and ignore the evidence of success, when we reinforce those toxic opinions of ourselves... we're not just hurting ourselves.
We're totally hurting ourselves, because we believe the horrible things we say about ourselves, and internalize them, and we feel like we have no right to have desires or take up space or want things, especially if they are things other people want too. And the thing is, yes, sometimes life is a competition. And sometimes you lose.
You don't accomplish more by holding yourself to an impossible, inhuman standard. You don't have to slash yourself to ribbons over it. That's actually not healthy.
And when we do it, we're hurting other women too. (All other women, not just cis women.) Because we're reinforcing the cultural expectation that women will be self-effacing and self-denigrating. That we'll step out of the way and make room. That our only value is in how useful we are to others, and that we'll go meekly to the ice floe when we're not immediately useful anymore.
And often when we try to quit kicking ourselves, our friends seem to kick themselves even harder. Which reasserts the social norm that kicking yourself is the way it's done, and also models self-kicking as a behavior pattern for younger women. (I also think there's a whole complex of toxic behaviors that tie in here, such as guilt-tripping and manipulation, because basically what we're doing is institutionalizing ourselves, and robbing ourselves of agency, and there are well-documented toxic ways that institutionalized people behave when they feel like they have no control over their lives.)
So obviously, we all need to quit hitting ourselves AT THE SAME TIME for this to work!
I'm not saying there's no room for self-improvement in anybody, mind you. I know I sure as hell have room in my life for personal growth. It's why I have a nice therapist I talk to on Monday mornings, after all. But I am saying that savaging yourself over it doesn't actually produce that growth.
Anybody who has ever had a dog will tell you that you don't actually get results out of any given organism by beating it silly. You get them by rewarding the behavior you want. Positive reinforcement works. Abuse just makes a creature neurotic and less capable, not more.
And since we're adults here, we are responsible for our own training. Quit hitting yourself.
A major watershed in my adult life was the moment when coffeeem, with the sort of profound wisdom a big sister occasionally hands down, said to me, "You wouldn't let anybody talk to me the way you talk to yourself." It literally changed my life, because she was right. So why do we regularly talk to ourselves in ways we wouldn't ever talk to our friends?*
So here's my challenge for February of 2016. I'm going to quit kicking myself. If I screw up I'm going to figure out why it happened and try to fix it. If I do something positive I'm going to give myself a sticker. In fact, I'm going to give myself a sticker every time I'm tempted to cut myself and don't.
So there. No kicking yourself.
And no autocannibalism either.
**(I fully acknowledge that I'm not equipped to speak directly to the experience of transwomen, and I don't wish to be exclusionary. Also, I know that some men also experience these feelings, but they seem less prevalent. Men are more often socialized to believe they deserve to exist and want things.)
*And if you do talk to your friends that way, you're one of the horrible people, and this post is not for you.
You will not know what your mothers and your grandmothers knew;
you will not know how they fought with no true hope for their own salvation.
You will not know how they cursed and kicked to make a better world.
A world that would honor
your mind, your ambition, your desire
to be something more
than a servant, a subject, a decoration.
How they clawed and they
fought to build a world where
you could be human.
You will not recognize their grief and
pride when you stand up,
and accept what was impossible for them as your due.
You will not recognize it.
You will not remember it.
But you will live it.
When you fight for your own
daughters and grand-daughters,
and see them one step higher on the spiral.
One step closer to unquestioned,
How tall is the stair?
I've been thinking a lot about stereotypes and representation lately, what with Black History Month, and with seeing the banner art for Gotham Jazz, and Karen Memory entering the world, and various discussions going on elseinternets. And I've been thinking about representation of historically marginalized groups, and how they--we--tend to continue to be shuffled to the side of stories. Not just cast in supporting roles, but cast in the same, passive, extremely limited supporting roles.
Some of it is, I suspect, because we are presented in media with a world that is extremely whitewashed, masculinized, de-queered. People who are not white able-bodied kink-free hetero cismales exist in a marked state in Western media. We're liminal, and in media where we start to approach anything like the saturation we have in the real world, it looks like we're taking over.
You get this in professional groups, too. Many people start feeling as if a space is feminized when it reaches, oh, 30% female. That's less than one in three, just to reinforce the point.
I hear a lot of my colleagues saying that they write stories in settings that don't have roles for women, people of color, queer people. This, of course, ignores the fact that we liminal folks have been existing in non-liminal spaces since people started to choose up sides and wear armbands based on race, creed, color, gender identity, and sexual identity. We've been erased from those narratives, largely, or at best footnoted.
But if you tell me that you can't write a World War II spy thriller with gay characters, or women, or people of color--I'm going to have to assume that your research is pretty surfacy in order to have missed Alan Turing and Noor Inayat Khan. If you're going to tell me you can't have a black gunfighter in the American old West, I'm going to wonder why you haven't heard of Bass Reeves.
The thing is, people who are not the default, who exist in that marked liminal state, deserve to have stories told about us. We deserve to have stories told about us which are not strictly about the ways in which we are not the default, too! (Old joke about the Gay Agenda, which involves Bowling Night and PTA Potluck.) Which is not to say that such fiction can't acknowledge the challenges of the marginalized, but our challenges are not our lives.
And I've certainly learned that with a little creativity, with a little stepping outside the stereotype and the default, history and the real world--not to mention completely made-up fantasy realms!--are full of unexpected places for historically liminal characters to make very fine protagonists. Like, oh, medieval women--as in the work of Sara Douglass--or enslaved Americans, as in Solomon Northup's Twelve Years A Slave.
Which isn't even fiction.
This has the added benefit of telling stories that are a little less played out, incidentally.
tl;dr: Yes, Virginia. Oppressed peoples still have agency.
And there's no earthly goddamn reason why it's any harder for a white man to see himself in a black woman character--for that black woman character to serve as an audience identification character for a wide range of readers--than the reverse, except that she's been taught to do it since birth, and he's been told he doesn't have to.
elisem has made this charming homebrew old-school and absolutely useful bingo card derived from her recent experiences as a harassment reporter.
In light of recent events, I think it would behoove us all to take a moment out of our day to study these phrases, and eradicate them from our fucking vocabularies.
Except in certain limited cases of child rearing, incompetence, or danger to others, it is always an abusive act to interfere with the personal autonomy of another human being. We do not browbeat, threaten, cow, or manipulate our friends, family, and lovers into acting, believing, and talking as we wish; we accept that sometimes their opinions may differ from ours, and that they may have good reasons for their opinions, and that their reasons, autonomy, and intellectual integrity are as fundamental a human right as their bodily integrity.
This doesn't mean we can't argue with them, or even lose our tempers, or chose not to associate with them if they believe things we find odious and hurtful. It doesn't mean we can't set boundaries. It doesn't mean we can't point it out when we feel they're making mistakes.
It does mean that we respect their boundaries, and we don't assume we're better equipped to decide how they navigate their lives, relationships, politics, and identities than they are.
If I find myself policing my friends' behavior, perhaps the first question I should ask myself is, "What part of my own identity is so unexamined that I can't stand somebody else's choices making me question my own?"
This public service announcement has been brought to you by the letters W, T, and F.
So basically this is Fran Wilde's fault, because I was on a tear about it the other night and she told me I needed to write a blog post. So here's a blog post. (Does anybody even read blogs anymore? Tap, tap, is this thing on? "140 characters is all anyone will ever need.")
My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and--cod help me--Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there's an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend... and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she's obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.
And that's it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.
I thought for a minute that Guardians of the Galaxy was going to pull off a subversion. They were so close. All they had to do was have somebody make the point that We Survived The Magic Radiation Because We All Worked Together, but no, it's the pure fucking light of Chris Pratt's Y chromosome that rescues the day again.
This is the part where I point out my love for Farscape, in part for not falling for this shit--in fact, for relentlessly subverting the Corn-Fed White American Dude Goes To Space And Brings American Values To The Natives narrative. In part by showing space and aliens driving Crichton nuts, and in part by surrounding him with endless competent awesome women.**
You know, I've taken a lot of responsibility in my life, and never once has it resulted in me becoming a Chosen One. I guess it's the lack of a broken chromosome.
Anyway. So tired of that narrative. Somebody please write me the book or movie where it turns out that the chick was the Chosen One all along?
*Remember Bulletproof Monk? Neither does anybody else, except me, and that's because it pissed me off. It's really fun to watch Toronto cosplay New York ineffectually throughout the movie, though.
**Also, one of my dearest friends and favorite people basically is Aeryn Sun, so yeah.
Because, well, yes. Not all men are predators. But every woman you know has had experience with men who are. Every woman. Me. Your mother. That lady in the upstairs apartment with the dog with the annoying clicky nails ALL NIGHT ALL DAMN NIGHT PUT BOOTS ON THAT THING.
All of us.
I'm not even talking about rape or threats of violence here, though of course that's part of it. It's not just being taught from an early age that we're prey animals, and we always have to be ready to fight or flee. It's that creepy fifty-something guy who tried to pick me up on a city bus when I was fourteen. The fellow writer who stared down my shirt after his third glass of wine. The mail carrier who pulled over to ask me out on a date, and when I told him I was married, argued with me. (Notice, I told him "I'm married," not "That's flattering, but no thank you." Because belonging to another man is safer than saying no.) There was the airport shuttle driver who bugged me for my phone number all the way from Hartford to New York, until another passenger entered the van.
That wasn't scary at all. Nuh uh.
I'm not saying that it's always inappropriate to pay a compliment. I was never offended by the guy who stopped me in the supermarket to tell me I had pretty hair and carried myself well, and it brightened his day--because he so patently did not want anything from me. He was complimenting, not coming on.
We can tell the difference.
If we're conventionally attractive, we're abused when we refuse to cater to men--when we don't want to be bothered when we're reading on the train or give them our phone number if they stop us on the street. If we're dyky or fat or old, we're abused for being ugly lesbo bitches, which is to say, not fuckable. Because being fuckable is the only excuse a woman has to exist, to these dudes.
It makes me fucking tired. It makes a lot of women tired.
And what you're hearing right now is a lot of tired women asking for a little fucking respect. If you haven't behaved that way, well then. It's not directed at you, is it?
If you have behaved that way?
Maybe this could be a learning experience, then.
Let's talk about the fact that Amanda Berry is a hero, and that she rescued herself, her daughter, and two other women from a horrible situation.
Let the record show that she did what she had to do, and if she hadn't, those four women would still be in that house.
Because the media seem to want to cast her and the other women only as victims, and that narrative is a lie.
Let's talk about the fact that Charles Ramsey is a hero, too. Because he saw a person obviously in distress, and he acted. And the fact that that person was white and female, and that he was black and male, living on a job as a dishwasher, and that his police record would be brought up afterward, definitely entered his consciousness; and he did it anyway. Because he saw a person who needed help.
That does not decrease his heroism. It increases it.
Let the record show that he did what he had to do, and if he hadn't, those four women would still be in that house.
And Ariel Castro might be getting away with it for another fifteen years.
And now I'm speaking here as an abuse survivor.
That Mr. Ramsey allegedly has a record for domestic violence is not beside the point; it is the point. It's people who abuse other people, and it's people who help other people. And people can learn better, or make a mistake one time and do something to repair it another.
Ramsey doesn't have to be perfect to be a hero. Berry didn't have to be perfect to be a hero. Michelle Knight was a hero when she delivered Ms. Berry's baby daughter, with no experience and no support, and she doesn't have to be perfect for that to stand, either. Gina DeJesus has no doubt done some pretty heroic stuff in the last ten years or so as well.
Our absolutist cultural narratives do nobody a service. People do not have to be perfect and blameless to be worthy of respect and admiration; they only have to be trying.
And one of the effects of that absolutism is to tell survivors who are not perfect and blameless (and who is, and who who has been abused can see themselves as perfect?) then they are somehow villains too, or responsible, or that they bear guilt for what they've suffered.
Another effect is that people who are capable of making a change may not, because they are scared of how they will be perceived if they aren't perfect.
(As for Mr. Ramsey's drug charges: if you don't understand the interplay of race, class, and drug-law harassment, I suggest you do some reading, and understand that middle class suburban white people can get away with a lot more than some black guy from Cleveland.)
... ... ...
...because able Western white cis het male is the default. Because the viewpoint character being an able Western white cis het male totally doesn't inform the narrative, and has no influence in the way the world is presented, because that's the only viewpoint that really exists, and the rest of us are all flavor text. We're spices. We're here to be observed and consumed. To break up the monotony a little bit, or to provide an Issue that can be discussed in the course of the narrative. Because by writing crippled queer fat black Asian gay lesbian trans intersex non-neurotypical African Sikh Muslim Hindu Latino female whatever, we're sure as hell not reflecting the narrative, the experience of millions of real people who have a real existence and a narrative and a right to exist and tell stories and have voices and be heard.
And those people only can be in stories if they're their to illuminate some aspect of the crippled queer fat black Asian gay lesbian trans intersex non-neurotypical African Sikh Muslim Hindu Latino female whatever experience to the able Western white cis het male gaze****.
Because we sure as hell don't have our own stories to tell.
You know what?
I am reminded of the old joke about Heaven being full of parties, and Saint Pete giving somebody the tour so he can decide who he wants to hang out with. And when they finally get to the one quiet room, the new recruit is all excited, and is like, "ZOMG WHO'S THIS!?"
And Saint Pete says, "Shhh! It's the Westboro Baptists! They think they're alone up here!"
...screw those guys. I know where the party is.
I invite all y'all to mention in comments recent***** books by authors or with protagonists of diverse backgrounds that are very worthy of further attention.
Karen Lord -- The Best of All Possible Worlds
Caitlin R. Kiernan -- The Drowning Girl: A Memoir
Ellen Klages -- The Green Glass Sea
Saladin Ahmed -- Throne of the Crescent Moon
Charles Yu -- How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
(and many more)
***A brief digression. If you will bear with me, please let me explain a bit about my relationship with the term "politically correct." As far as I know, it originated as a critique of Stalinist policies in the 1940s, and "political correctness" was then considered to mean "in line with Stalinish policies." But I first encountered it in the radical lesbian separatist/feminist movement of the 1980s--which is my native culture and the reason I claim I can't actually write insider stories for anybody who still exists except elisem, Suzy McKee Charnas, and Elizabeth Lynn**--and at that point it was an ironic usage that referred to being in line with the kind of anti-male, anti-het, anti-trans rhetoric--the kind of doctrinal purity--that is today described by the term "radfem."
I own me a lapel button that reads "Politically Incorrect." I bought it for twenty-five cents at the New England Women's Musical Retreat in 1982. I was nine years old*.
I have not entirely adapted to the modern Right Wing/antifemnist/ usage of "Politically Correct" to mean "people who don't suck at compassion." I feel a little appropriated, to tell you the truth. And a little put out.
*My street cred. I shows U it.
**I went home again. It had turned into a convenience store.
****Charlie Stross calls these the 7Ps: pale protestant parochial patriarchal something penis people (ETA: "Pale Patriarchal Plutocratic Protestant Penis People of Power")
*****Let's say, this millenium
That we can't take ourselves seriously as athletes if we're wearing sparkly ruffles. And that it's okay to mock women who wear them.
To which all I have to say is, "Fuck you, ladies."
If you're policing another woman's clothing, you are a horrible person.
(In fairness, the blog providing the links took exception to the idea that women should police other women's fitness wear, and admitted that if she didn't think women running in skirts looked serious enough, she needed to change her idea of what a serious runner looked like.)
Seriously, it hurts my heart to see women who claim to be feminists policing what other women wear, acting as though the only way to be taken seriously (to take yourself seriously!) as an athlete is to butch out, and blaming women (and how women dress!) for sexist behavior.
Now, I'm pretty butchy. I wear makeup twice a year, and skirts as costume. (They don't feel like real clothes to me.) I don't own a running skirt. I probably wouldn't wear one, because wind resistance. Although leopard print is kinda tempting, I have to admit.
But I'm also a fat girl (by endurance runner standards) who runs and you know what? I run in compression tights, with my belly pudge clearly defined. Gonna police my body for that? Gonna tell me spandex is a privilege and not a right? Maybe I should cover up my thunder thighs with a running skirt! But wait, can't do that, it's too girly!
Can't wear yoga clothes to yoga class; somebody might see my not-stick-thin abdomen.
Oh, wait. I don't care. And yoga clothes are comfortable, and form-fitting means they don't get in my way.
Why are you assuming the woman in question is trying to look cute for men?** Maybe she's trying to look cute for herself. Maybe she's more comfortable with her ass covered up, rather than outlined in skin-tight compression shorts. Maybe her running fantasy is that she's a marathon-winning princess. Maybe she's wearing that orange ruffled skirt because it's fun and outrageous and eyecatching, and she likes the way it clashes violently with her lime green kicks.
This association of things associated with femininity (skirts) as "bad" is a layer of misogyny. It's as simple as that.
If a woman wants to run in a skirt, it's none of your business. If she has dreadlocks down to her ass, it's none of your business. If she wants to run in a padded sports bra? None of your business. No bra at all? Ow, chafing and bouncing, but none of your business. If she wants to run stark naked except for a pair of bright purple Sauconys and an LED safety headband? No business of yours!
If she wants to run in a burqa? Her business. Not yours.
You don't get to police her body. You don't get to police her clothes. This is what feminism means. It means we respect other women's choices.
I believe in feminism. Feminism means that I believe that men should not be infantilized, that they are grown adult people who can make reasoned choices. Which includes not being sexist because a woman (or hell, another dude) is running in a skirt. Feminism means that I believe that femmes are people too, and that wearing lipstick does not make you less of a person. And if you want to go to a bouldering competition in a minidress, more power to you.
I may have to go buy myself a damned running skirt just to show solidarity.
*These are basically spandex skorts with a compression short underneath.
**And if she is trying to look cute for men, or for a particular men, why is it any of your business?
It was also, not incidentally, misogynist.
In small ways, and in great. Mentioning that a character complains like a girl. Calling C-3p0 "effeminate" as if that were a bad thing. Illustrating and adding violence against women as a running gag.
You know what?
I do not actually think those jokes were intended to hurt me. I think they were intended to be funny.
And yet, they left me feeling like a bad person. They left me lying awake at night, wondering why people hated me because I happen to be female.
And I realized, they don't. The people who make these jokes do not realize that they make me feel bad, or wrong, or toxic simply for having been born female, or queer. They don't actually mean to make black or Asian or Latino or Middle Eastern people feel less human. They are just... made a little uncomfortable by difference.
And so they alienate it.
And they don't realize that they are alienating me. A human being. Somebody who will lie awake at night wondering why they hate her.
Tonight, I am watching the Oscars.
I have watched Seth MacFarlane make jokes about women and blacks as if we are not people with hearts.
I have watched Ang Lee and Samuel Jackson and Halle Berry and Shirley Bassey and Salma Hayek and a dozen others be beautiful and gracious, and I have to think--
--as Ang Lee said--
I still want to punch Seth MacFarlane in the face. A song about Meryl Streep's boobs? Really Seth? Where's the song about Ewan McGregor's dick?
I know you do not mean to hurt me. I know you do not mean to make me feel less than human.
But sometimes you do.
Oh, you do.
And you, Seth, are not the first one.