Thursday, January 22, 2015

Different, just like everyone else.

There are certain ways I interact with my husband that not everyone understands. For example, I try to ensure that we both receive a 50/50 ratio of everything. If we're sharing a meal, I make sure I split it perfectly evenly. Back when we had separate bank accounts, I would always make an effort to take turns paying for our outings. He'd pay for one night out and I'd cover the next. He jokingly calls me "the relationship accountant." Others think this is weird when they hear about it. Mike says most people assume that this behavior only starts when someone is planning to leave a relationship or trying to build some kind of case against their partner, to prove they're being shortchanged. My motivation is the opposite. I do it to make sure he's not getting any less than I am; that I'm not unfairly benefitting.
Another factor of my relationship with Mike which is hard to explain is the way that we're so different in terms of hobbies and interests and general mannerisms, but we often feel like the same person. Once in a while we'll react differently to something and he'll say, "I just had one of those weird moments where I realized we're not the same person." That never becomes more apparent than when one of us is trying to eat the other's food. Nothing reminds you that you're separate entities quite like vying for the same resource--which is another reason why I try to split everything down the middle.
Outside of my marriage, there is also a way I interact with men in general that not everyone will understand. Forming new friendships with men can be tricky because I'm often afraid they'll think I am interested in them in a non-platonic way. A lot of women have told me they experience this anxiety, but my reason is different than the one I've heard from others. Other women have said they're hesitant about this because the men are usually interested in them, so they don't want to send out a false signal of reciprocation. For me, I almost never believe a person is interested in me unless they outright say so. Maybe this is naive of me, but it's how I operate. So my fear of a hypothetical man thinking I'm into him or am trying to start some sneaky extramarital affair is not due to a belief that he'll want to pursue that; it's due to the fear that he'll get uncomfortable or freaked out by my (falsely) perceived interest. It's weird. I'm bi, so it would make sense to also worry that female friends will make this assumption, but I never worry that women will get this impression from the get-go. Maybe because heterosexuality is usually taken for granted? I do worry that they'll assume I'm attracted to them once they know I'm bi. I don't think, "Oh, what if she's bi too, and she likes me, and thinks my disclosure is an invitation?" Rather, my thought process is, "What if she wrongly thinks I'm hitting on her and gets uneasy?" It's the same concern I have with men.
This entry isn't in any way meant to present me as special and unique or to cast "most women" in the same light. I'm just talking about certain things I've experienced that I'm not sure others can relate to. If any of you can identify with this, I'd be curious to know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Islamophobia and racism

Many will say that anti-Islamic sentiment is about objection to the religion, rather than about racism, because Islam is a religion and not a race. I used to say the same thing. But while Islam itself is not an ethnicity, it's closely associated with brown-skinned people and therefore Islamophobia involves a lot of racial profiling. Islamophobes tend to have a much bigger issue with race than with the actual beliefs of extremist, fundamentalist Islam. If they genuinely had a problem with the misogyny, homophobia, and justification for violence that exists in the fundamentalist sects of pretty much every religion, then they would have an equal objection to white fundamentalist Christians who hold those same attitudes. And yes, I know that not all Christian fundamentalists are white. Bigots usually excuse the white ones, though, or at least grant them far more leeway.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The contradiction of religious accountability

It always struck me as strange how, within conservative religious thought*, people are told they can be damned by their own actions but cannot be saved by them. That philosophy grants humans complete responsibility when it burdens them, while revoking it when it would afford them credit. It stems from the belief that people are inherently worthless and deserving of divinely sanctioned harm unless they embrace the religious structure. That outlook, when applied to oneself, will make someone incredibly neurotic. When applied to others, it makes them annoying at best and a moral monster at worst.

*By "conservative religious thought," I don't mean people who are politically conservative—although there certainly can be an overlap. I mean people who are religiously conservative. One can be religiously conservative but politically liberal, or the inverse.

Celebrities and social issues

This is a thought I've had before, so I apologize if I've posted about this previously.

I've noticed that posts and discussions about celebrities are often dismissed as trivial. While it's true that many of the topics surrounding famous people are the conversational equivalent of fast food, there have also been celebrities who have both intentionally and unwittingly sparked discussions on important social issues. Events in the lives of the Hollywood crowd have inspired conversations about addiction, asceticism vs. excess, women's rights, same sex marriage, domestic violence, and more. Unfortunately, many of those subjects have been presented in a sensationalized way, and not all of the dialogue has been productive. Sometimes it's been seized upon as an opportunity to air out ill-informed or even destructive viewpoints. As frustrating as that is, though, the same could be said for any topic or event. Anything that compels people to talk will expose some highly objectionable ideas, but it also sets the stage for in-depth and helpful insights to be shared. (The stage isn't only for acting.) For this reason, I'm not so quick to dismiss any celebrity-inspired talk as shallow. Famous people are often viewed as stand-ins for the rest of us. That can be objectifying, but it can also mean that we relate their struggles to our own. As long as we recognize the humanity of public individuals and are able to connect the trials they face to larger social issues in a way that facilitates progress, I don't think that talking about their lives is counterproductive.

The psychology of food pictures

Now, I'm not knocking or judging people who like to share photos of everything they ingest. Posting food photos is your legal right as a citizen of Facebook, seeing as the Declaration of Internetdependence grants us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of indefinite "likes." So if you want to show everyone what you're eating, go right ahead. But I have to admit that I don't quite understand the motivation. When we share photos of our meals, is it in memorium of the food? Is it due to the desire for a communal meal with all of our friends and followers? Is it to make others jealous and/or hungry? Is it to offer people ideas for what they, too, can consume? I have posted a picture of a bottle of mead, and it was because I know a lot of people who have never heard of mead and I want to spread the word (or image) so they can experience its incredible majestic deliciousness themselves. I haven't grasped the overall reasons behind this practice, though.
Also, maybe taking pictures of what we're eating is sort of like a Level 2 Selfie. A selfie is "This is my face," while a food pic is "...And this is what goes INTO my face!" It's like a selfie, but more in depth.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Angry pacifism

Some of the angriest people in the world are self-described pacifists.
               This isn't to say that anger can't be a constructive emotion. It can be a great galvanizing force if used to destroy something unjust and awful in order to build something better—which can be achieved if you don't become hateful and let it consume you. There is also nothing wrong with striving to be a pacifist. But some who say they're pacifistic are unwilling to acknowledge the more constructive anger they feel, because they've been led to believe that all anger is inherently negative. And with that denial, it can't be used as a motivator to protect the good in the world and fight for people who are disenfranchised. Instead, it often festers into a variety of ire that's harmful to oneself and sometimes others.

The unlearning process

It's amazing how many racist opinions are expressed by people who claim they're not "allowed" to express them. So many bigoted statements start off with, "Well, I'm not allowed to say this, but..." But they are allowed. They're not being censored if they're finishing the sentence without receiving one. People are abundantly vocal about those opinions at home and in bars and while shouting things from car windows and blogging in all caps, and you don't see them being swarmed by the SWAT team for expressing their ideas. The same crowd will swear up and down that the very bigotry they're expressing "doesn't exist" anymore. They do not understand that it exists in themselves and all the others who bluster about things they supposedly "can't" discuss (but always do).
I know that mentality all too well because I grew up espousing it. Not bullying people of other races or using slurs, but definitely having a huge white persecution complex while ranting about things I was "not allowed" to talk about. I thought I held such a bravely unique opinion, even though there were always other white people who enthusiastically agreed. It's an acerbic pill to swallow when you realize that racism is still alive and well and that it's largely because of the attitudes you cling to (not just you as an individual, but also many others like yourself). But if you have the power to contribute to harm, then you also have the power to help. Sometimes I screw up those efforts, and sometimes catch myself still carrying certain biases that need to be let go. That's all the more reason to never stop trying.
I think a lot of racist beliefs, particularly the myth that whites are being oppressed en masse by minorities, stem from a sense of powerlessness. It can be imagined, or it can be based on other factors (such as poverty, disability, etc. Those are genuine causes of disenfranchisement, but none of them are due to being white). While that is a horrible feeling, the prospect of accepting that you do have a certain amount of power can be terrifying. It means you're accountable for your actions and have a responsibility to use that power to improve things. Taking responsibility for the part one played in racism is not "white guilt." If anything, excessive guilt puts us on the defensive and keeps us from moving forward. The objective is to learn from it, share that knowledge with other white people who are unaware (either willfully so or just sheltered), and always be willing to learn from those of different ethnicities who face actual racism. Not to demand that they educate us, but to believe their experiences and give them priority in those discussions.
Almost nobody likes to think they're scapegoating an oppressed group, so they have to view the world through a mirror image. It allows them to primarily gaze at their own reflection without actually doing any reflecting. It causes them to see things backwards—they’re really the persecuted underdog while the other is the oppressor. And it appears full and tactile but is actually just a flat surface, two dimensional. Luckily, it can also eventually be shattered and allow them to see past themselves.
             I went through this six years ago when I was twenty-two, shortly after leaving home. I'm sure I still get a lot of things wrong, but this is one area in which the view is now far less obscured than before, and it's no credit to me. It's because of teachers and friends and books. It's because of the internet. It's because the scenery has changed. If you've experienced this, you know that sometimes the vision becomes sharp and stings your eyes, but it's worth it. You can't walk around with them closed after you've seen behind the glass.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Utopia is unattainable, but it's still worth the chase

About two weeks ago I posted this thought on Facebook: "I think that helping others (including people, animals, and the environment) is the highest goal, both for individuals and society as a whole. But sometimes I wonder what would happen to that goal if its ends were finally universally achieved? Would the helpers then feel a lack of purpose, or would they come to focus on protecting the new, better status quo? Would some people undo progress just for the sake of re-fixing it, like a firefighter who commits arson in order to put out the flames? By no means do I believe that the majority of humanitarians would respond this way, nor that this negates the importance of striving to better the world. Just wondering what would happen in a hypothetical scenario in which those aims were realized; if some who had structured their lives and sense of self around working toward positive change might then be at a loss for what to do. How do you think this would be resolved?"
This led to an interesting discussion with some friends. One of them said she believes that goal will never be reached, and that in a way, my post in itself shows why. Our societal problems can never be entirely resolved because we're in a constant state of flux and peoples' interests rival one another. I agree. I don't believe it's possible for society to reach a state in which all major setbacks have been fixed, so the thought is purely hypothetical.
I also believe that a perfect society is impossible because it's collectively composed of flawed individuals. This thought has been met with resistance when I've expressed it in the past. People thought that by saying a utopian society is unrealistic, I was claiming it's pointless to try to achieve it. That's not what I'm trying to say. It's still a worthy cause, since excellence is achieved when perfection is sought. Similarly, acknowledging the existence of barriers to success, such as structural and institutional oppression, does not equate to telling people to give up trying. To recognize those setbacks is not to tell disadvantaged people that their future is hopeless; it's to say there are injustices which need to be challenged and dismantled for the betterment of the world. It's a call to action; the opposite of advising them to give up. It's encouraging them to fight for themselves and for others.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The fallacy of "sexist men only hate women because they can't get one"

A lot of people will say that misogynistic men are only hateful toward women because they can't "get" one, but I think that is largely inaccurate. While it's true that there are some men who can't seem to attract women and become very embittered and angry at the overall female gender in response, there are just as many guys who are romantically unlucky but are not at all resentful toward women. And, on the flip side, plenty of misogynistic men do date and have sex with women, but still have contempt for the female gender and deride all the women they sleep with as "whores." (In response to the latter sentiment, I will refer to this old adage: "If you think a woman is dirtier after you've touched her, maybe you should take a look at your own hands.") The fact that there are sexist men who are romantically successful doesn't mean that "women only go for jerks." It means a lot of those guys are probably skillful at hiding their attitudes for a while, or they might tell a woman that she's "not like other girls"--which could sound like a compliment at the surface, but is really an insult directed at women altogether. Additionally, there are also gay and asexual men who hold misogynistic beliefs. Their sexism is not due to an inability to attract women, as that wouldn't bother them for obvious reasons. And when people claim that misogynists only devalue women because they can't get a girlfriend or hook up with anyone, that is a way of blaming women for misogyny. Whether or not it's intended as blame, that's how it comes across. It's a way of saying that anti-female attitudes wouldn't exist if we'd just give in and date/marry/have sex with the people who hate us--which is a terrible expectation on more levels than I can even begin to describe.

I draw from time to time.

I'm calling this one "Where It Grows."
The tiny purple girl looks like she has dreadlocks, but they're meant to be plastic tubes instead of hair.
The ashtray sunflower is an image I've drawn many times over the years. This time I tried to make it look industrial. Juxtapositions between nature and technology have always interested me, and music is an important part of that. So much of it is formed with machines, but there is nothing more natural than rhythms. They're written by math, the omnipotent and impartial master whose formulas govern everything organic. We create things to imitate nature and sometimes damage it in the process. To draw is to recreate and remix, like visual DJing. Anything I make is inspired by what already exists, so I have nothing but gratitude for everything that allows itself to be depicted.
While it's expected that we'll harness and mirror resources, depletion is never the healthy option. Sometimes it becomes a power struggle which humans will inevitably lose. We'll never encase the sun in a lantern.

Nine years

Written December 29, 2014.

*   *   *

Yesterday was my anniversary with Michael O'Malley. We've now officially been together for nine years. Everyone who knows us sees us as an inseparable unit. As Davey said at our wedding, "If those two were any closer, they'd be like a fleshy Voltron."
It's funny and definitely true, but it's also true that we're very different from one another--and that works perfectly for us. It might seem counterintuitive how we can be such a great match when we have more or less no common interests. But what we don't share in interests or hobbies, we share in values, humor, and heart. Sometimes we disagree, but our deepest values are aligned. They always have been, even when our worldviews were completely different than they are now. We started off with complimentary mentalities and then our values changed together, so we still ended up in a mutual place. Mike and I have layers upon layers of in-jokes and can basically read each other's minds. We've seen one another through struggles I can never imagine facing with anyone else. All of our adventures spanning the past almost-decade have been shared.
Some of you may already know the story of the first time the two of us met in person, after months of talking from across the country. It was the date we didn't call a date. I had just turned nineteen and Mike was twenty-four. He showed up at my family's house, an Army tank-sized guy with an epic beard and a trench coat. My mom opened the door and announced, "Ginny, Hagrid is here to take you out!"
So I left with the real-life Hagrid. We went laser tagging and stopped at the Bridgeport Flier, where he made fun of me for barely eating. Then we hung out in his living room, where I decided to find out how many people could fit onto the couch at once. We piled ourselves, his two sisters, the dog, and two guinea pigs into a giant heap on the sofa and it nearly fell through the floor. He had to go back to Washington to finish school, but we talked every day for the next three months. Then I took a plane out to see him and we drove across the country back to Connecticut. Nine years later and we're married. We have a cozy apartment full of Keurig cups, psychedelic drawings, and the world's snuggliest cat. But wherever I go with him, I'm home.
Meeting Michael was finding my home. We share a whole world between us that we not only inhabit, but build upon each day. The greatest privilege I can imagine is to spend the rest of my life thriving in that sacred space.