Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fictional potions and real-life consent

Trigger warning: examples of rape apologism and discussion of what, within the Harry Potter universe, is basically a date rape drug. (Although it's obviously a fictional universe, it raises issues that do pertain to the real world. So I just wanted to include a word of caution if that might remind anyone of real-life trauma.)


Today I was thinking of the whole concept of love potion within the Harry Potter world and how many issues it brings up. What would happen if somebody slipped it to a person who was already in love with them? Would it cancel itself out and cause that love to disappear? Would it make no difference? Or would it just add a desperate, miserable element to the feeling that was already there? Also, would it work if given to someone who wasn't attracted to your gender? And if so, would anti-gay wizards exploit that in order to promote "ex-gay" therapy?
I wonder all those things about the concept of a love potion, as well as the way it would undermine the foundation of consent. J. K. Rowling recognized that factor, which was why it was always presented as a very harmful and destructive potion. She emphasized that it didn't really create love, as genuine love can't be replicated or artificially formed. Whenever a character drugged someone with it, it induced a desperate, unhappy, and insatiable obsession. I imagine that it was probably a heavily contested substance within the Harry Potter world. Whoever marketed it would probably argue that it didn't compromise your agency because you were consenting while under its influence. Those who sought to outlaw its sale would reply that you weren't acting of your own volition, since it altered your mental state and you didn't even agree to take it—it was always slipped into your food or drink, specifically because the person knew you wouldn't otherwise be interested. The marketers (and probably the wizarding community's version of gross, predatory pick-up artists) would disingenuously respond that nobody really consents to falling in love, anyway—that your own brain chemicals basically impose it on you. Protesters would rightly argue that at least the natural process isn't instigated by an outside source who is deliberately acting against your will.
            I was telling Mike about this and he felt the same way. Then he said, "See, this is why you were never invited to Hogwarts. Because you'd go in and start pointing out all the problems with their social norms."

Friday, February 27, 2015

The false willpower of extreme self-denial

Society often admires people on some level for imposing oppressive regimens on themselves (extreme asceticism, excessive religious self-denial, etc). Even if we wouldn't practice it ourselves, we often see it as a sign of strong discipline. But it often indicates a lack of willpower, if less restriction would lead to a total loss of control. We all have to make some sacrifices that will pay off in the end, but there is such a thing as pointless sacrifice. It's a way of subjecting oneself to needless suffering, which is neither reasonable nor healthy.

Mascots and respectability politics

There's a popular criticism of marginalized groups: "If you don't want to be stereotyped, then don't be a stereotype." I used to parrot that mantra when I was younger, but now I hate it. It places the onus of preventing discrimination on the people who are being discriminated against. It assumes the abuse and disenfranchisement they face must be based on their own behavior, whether or not the speaker would go so far as to say they "deserve" it. But people in positions of power, both social and financial, are always looking for excuses to step on the hands of those below them on the ladder, and those underneath them are not there of their own volition. People invested in maintaining privilege—which does not mean preserving the luxuries they have, but aggressively denying those same advantages to others—will stereotype and dehumanize those they see as inferior, regardless of how hard the ones they're targeting try to seem "respectable." If they can't find a reason to stereotype, they will invent one. And even if somebody of that group does match a negative caricature and is rejected on that basis, it's still completely unfair to believe they are at fault for their entire group being attacked and dismissed. To believe that is to make the individual into the mascot of their whole group. Seeing one person as wholly representative is deeply harmful in itself, whether they're regarded as a positive or negative symbol. But if someone is determined to find an unflattering mascot for a group, then it shows they were already committed to stereotyping them harshly, long before they actually found a person to confirm their prejudices.
              A related thought: many privileged people seem to think they're not bigoted as long as the stereotypes they assign to disadvantaged groups are blamed on "cultural problems," rather than biology. But saying that a disempowered group is to blame for their own struggles because of a "cultural problem" (within their own culture, rather than the dominant one) is really no less bigoted than saying they're genetically inferior, because the former explanation entails the belief that all of their problems result from their own choices. It's saying that the populace in question has a collective attitude problem.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Life on the Spectrum

           One of the last things people learn about me is that I’m on the autistic spectrum.
            When I’m telling someone about myself, that’s usually the last fact included. It’s not that it isn’t important. It’s just something I usually omit because once people know you’re near-autistic, it reshapes their whole perception of you and you start to be defined by that context.
            I was born with NLD, or Nonverbal Learning Disorder. It’s similar to Asperger’s Syndrome, distinguished by only a few divergent traits. I have only ever met one other person who has it. NLD affects everyone differently. I’ve searched in online groups for others who function in the same way, but so far, nobody else’s version seems identical to mine. I’m not saying this to sound like some pretentious, unique snowflake. If anything, it would be great to find someone whose case I could relate to.
            While I can’t explain what living with the disorder is like for everybody, I can describe how it is for me.
            To imagine how I’ve spent most of my life, try to remember the drunkest you’ve ever been. Not giddily tipsy, but crashing-into-walls sloshed. You’re easily distracted yet struggle to multitask. You get lost all the time and can’t drive. A short leap looks like a mile’s trek, and a stranger’s silence sounds like a prime opportunity to treat them to stories about your most awkward first dates and complain about your bacne. This is hyperbolic, but it’s how I felt throughout all my years growing up—without the influence of any substances.
            My disability was first identified in fourth grade. I was desperate for a diagnosis so my teachers would know it wasn’t my fault. They’d get frustrated because they thought I was smart but I couldn’t follow directions. Despite my knack for writing, I wasn’t allowed into the gifted program. They only included kids who had straight A’s in every class.
            I was clumsy in many ways. Synchronized dancing in theater camp was a hilarious nightmare. I was hapless at sports. I once managed to stub my toe while my foot was three feet above the ground.
            The social clumsiness was a lot more painful. I had no verbal filter. Ideas were constantly bursting into mental subthreads, as if my brain were the original Reddit—including the trolling. It felt like word bubbles appeared above my head and would pop unless I filled them in immediately. I expressed thoughts with little to no awareness of how cutting, excessively unabridged, or just plain weird they were. Other kids teased me, but they usually wouldn’t take it too far in my presence. I could eviscerate them with comebacks that left everyone laughing. People seemed to laugh at me and with me in equal measure. I had trouble keeping friends. They rarely confronted me directly, but I’d hear what they said to each other. They called me a ditz and an airhead. They said I was always seeking attention. The last judgment was true, although a lot of them were doing the same. They were just less obvious about it, so my lack of subtlety allowed them to point at me and direct peoples’ notice away from their own similar behavior.
It wasn’t until I was twenty that my head began to clear. The spatial disorientation, obliviousness to my surroundings, and struggle with transitions is still pervasive. But my social awareness is now sharper, and sobering up to it was mortifying. I began to profusely apologize to those I’d offended in the past, handing out regrets like street flyers. Eventually I came to stop over-apologizing and strive for more balance.
            Others have told me I’m insightful. That might be true, but I’m not perceptive. It took me years to grasp the distinction.
            My consciousness does not exist in a linear and uninterrupted flow, but in snapshots with vacant spaces in between. In childhood I used to think of them as “blank-outs”; those lapses in which my brain briefly freezes and buffers. It’s like living within ellipses, jumping along islands instead of walking a continuous strip of land.
            This also means my mind doesn’t create an internal map of my whereabouts. When out in public and trying to find my way, it’s like I’m spinning and perpetually dizzy. This makes me a prime target for predators who notice I look lost and try to coerce me into their cars.
            For all of these reasons, I cannot move freely throughout the world. Instead I navigate through cyberspace, imagination, and ideas. I travel in stories and songs, with words as my compass. My husband says I seem to experience language in entirely my own way, and it’s true. Words are their own dimension. They’re like an additional sense.
            Because most of my journeys are not physical, my artistic and aesthetic taste is vivid sometimes to the point of garishness. I can’t surround myself with muted colors and grayscale music. I need atomic glitter bombs and guns that shoot rainbows. I need songs that flutter with caffeinated beats. I crave whatever makes ears tickle, eyes pop, and hearts roar. Maybe people with more external adventures prefer to settle into a mellow existence in between. That’s completely understandable, but it’s too low-key for me.
            People expect me to have more tattoos because I’m so stimulated by visuals. I don’t need them. I’m made of images and phrases and stains which I carry under my skin and express when I choose to. So is everyone else. Many of my most creative friends are inked, and I love getting lost in the stories of their designs. I just prefer to keep my skin a blank page.
            Some friends jokingly ask if I’m tripping when I write like this. I’m not inclined toward drugs. Maybe it would make little difference if I did use them, because either way I’d be surfing on brain chemical waves, but it’s already intoxicating to inhale words and pass them on. To snort colors and patterns. Inject musical notes. There is no withdrawal and it costs you nothing. It’s all free, and it frees you.
            When I did smoke weed for the first time, it was a very strange experience. I said I didn’t feel anything but then proceeded to talk for two hours. I explained, in minute detail, exactly why my brain felt like a cupcake (because I was rising above my usual state like a cake in a pan, my head was inflated with light, fluffy thoughts, and I was over-baked).
            These types of mental vacations might make up for my inability to physically navigate if NLD didn’t also affect my career options. Because I can’t drive, and public transportation has to be planned so carefully, I have mostly been limited to working from home. I’ve only recently branched out. It can take me five hours to learn a simple bus route.
            Doctors can’t discern my IQ with normal tests because there’s such a chasm between my spatial and verbal intelligence. I spoke in full sentences at nine months old but couldn’t tie my shoes until third grade. I can explain how a color looks and feels to someone who has never seen it, but I have to count on my fingers for simple addition. Sometimes language can be a zero-sum game. Once I’m locked into its dimension, words are all I see and I stumble over everything else.
            When people hear that someone has a learning disability, they often assume they’re developmentally disabled. Years ago my dad was driving me to school and he wanted to park closer to the building because I could only recognize the location from one side, even though I went there every day. He told the parking lot attendant I had a learning disability and asked him to let us through. The guy appraised me as if I were a small child and said, “Can she get herself inside?” I was right next to him, but he addressed my father. As if I couldn’t answer the question.
            This is the backdrop of my life, and it will be for as long as I live. But as distressing, discouraging, embarrassing and infuriating as these struggles can sometimes be, I don’t think I would exchange them for a chance to be “normal.” NLD may be a disability, but it’s my disability. By blurring my vision in certain areas, it’s helped me see so much more clearly in others. And it’s allowed me to show others what I see, to share a communal vision.
            NLD may have been delivered to me in a heavy box which I often find myself caught inside. But in the end, it still came as a gift.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The shallow end, or why religious fundamentalism crushes creativity

There’s an idiom I especially love: “Religion is like the public pool: Most of the noise comes from the shallow end.” In hearing the description of the shallow end, I immediately think of the Religious Right. By this, I don’t mean religious people who happen to also vote Republican. I mean a particular and highly recognizable subset of the pious crowd: Those who are aggressively anti-gay, anti-sex (except in very specific, procreative circumstances), and anti-science. Those who believe anyone with a different outlook, even within their own religion, is going to hell. Those who burn Harry Potter books and believe Halloween and rock music are genuine threats to society. Those who want to instill their beliefs through law as a theocracy. Not all Republicans have this perspective by any means, nor do all who identify with a religion. But those who adhere to this worldview almost always merge it with conservative politics.
This group insists that anyone who rejects religion does so out of a reluctance to be good. The truth is that many reject religion because this boisterous and seemingly all-pervading subset clings to such an arbitrary definition of “good.” They think you can’t be good if you enjoy secular entertainment. They say your goodness is defined by dressing conservatively, believing the “right” theological statements, trying to convert others to your religion, avoiding all manner of drugs and alcohol, never swearing or enjoying more ribald humor, and avoiding sex before marriage (especially if you’re a woman). To me, and to others who cannot relate to this mindset, these factors have nothing to do with your goodness or worth as a person.
I got into Christianity for a while in my early twenties and tried to fit into the evangelical mold, but I always felt like an unwelcome outlier. This was because I’m bisexual and don’t feel a need to apologize for it; because I do not believe in hell and see it as an abhorrent concept which is antithetical to any kind of a loving god; because I didn’t see anything wrong with living or sleeping with my husband before we were married, nor with getting drunk or smoking a bowl once in a while; and because I love fantasy and punk rock and just about any alternative scene. This left me as a misfit who was seen as “double minded” and hellbound. I think that any god that exists could not possibly be so petty, like a popular kid ousting someone from their lunch table. Those who argue with that reasoning say, “No, God accepts everyone as long as they meet his standards!” But the whole mentality of “I love you the way you are, now change!” makes no sense.
The conservative evangelical subculture is particularly oppressive for creative people. They seem inherently hostile to artists, whether our drive manifests in music, visual art, or writing. Sure, the Religious Right will utilize those skills when they can be used to promote their perspective, but any coloring outside those lines is looked at askance. They’re quick to interpret artistic works as “witchcraft.” They see co-creators as God’s competition, which is why they demand that you credit all your work to their god. They especially see secular fantasy and mythology as competition for their own lore. People of this group will tell you they’re “sheparding” (ie: micromanaging) you for your own good, but it’s really out of self-interest or a commitment to preserving the status quo. Many of them don’t realize these motives, even when they’re acting on them.
           They rule you with an iron fist hidden inside a plush glove.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Unconditional love vs. unconditional trust

People tend to think that if you love someone unconditionally, then you're obligated to trust them unconditionally as well. But while love may not always be "earned," trust definitely is. I've heard it said that the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. It's true, but if they proceed to betray your confidence, you're not obliged to continue to trust them out of love. That can turn into enabling.
              I'm not referring to romantic relationships. That type of love, while incredibly strong, is often built on the way your partner behaves. And even if the love itself is unconditional, the relationship isn't entirely so. I'm thinking more along the lines of family relationships; people you didn't choose to bring into your life but need to establish boundaries with, which can sometimes mean limiting or ending contact. Standing up for yourself does not mean you no longer love them.

The subjectivity of forgiveness

Forgiveness is complicated, personal, and different for everyone. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, I would say that nobody should try to pressure or rush anyone else into forgiveness. It might take a long while—and there's no "correct" or prescribed time frame you need to adapt to. It's also okay if there's never a point when you're able to forgive an action or a person (also, people and their actions can be separated and forgiven at different times). It isn't an obligation. If anybody tries to convince you that you owe it to them after they've done serious harm, then they're not genuinely remorseful and probably haven't changed.

The social etiquette of dreams

It always seems awkward to tell somebody you had a dream about them, unless they're a person you're really close to or the dream was hilarious. I wonder why this is. After all, we have dreams that feature casual acquaintances all the time. All it means is that they crossed our mind—and that, in itself, is not considered a particularly revealing fact. So why are dreams regarded as more private?
On a related note, it's also awkward when somebody tells you that you did something really hostile or rude in their dream. Are you supposed to apologize? What can you say, "I'm sorry your subconscious representation of me is such a jerk"?


I wish everyone knew all the incredible people I know--and didn't just know them, but understood what makes them so wonderful. It would be great if everyone could see the people I care about in the same light. Not so they'd all agree with me, but so they could derive the same enjoyment. The same goes for all the music and stories and series I'm moved by. And in turn, I wish I could know all the beloved people and things that everyone else holds close, and to see them all the same way others do. Then again, the act of appreciating everything would cancel itself out if one of the things people enjoy is misanthropically hating on stuff. So go figure.

Standing up to homophobia, and what *not* to do

When someone is harassed because they're assumed to be gay, and they have neither confirmed nor denied it, one of the most misguided ways in which others try to defend them is by vehemently insisting that the person in question is straight. The intent may be protective, but it reinforces the idea that being gay is a terrible thing which has to be denied. When calling out harassment, it's important to direct the focus to the perpetrator's behavior rather than to their target's orientation.
Another mistake is to flip it around and tell the homophobe, "Well, you must be gay. Why else do you care so much?" When that's said in an accusatory way that's meant to make somebody defensive, it also expresses the idea that being gay is wrong—whether or not that's the intention. That, and it obscures the fact that there really are straight people who are committed to making anyone miserable who is either gay or perceived to be. The majority of it is not some self-sabotaging effort orchestrated by closeted folks. In implying that it is, people absolve heterosexual homophobes of responsibility.

Every college philosophy class has That Guy (or girl)

In every college philosophy course, there seems to be at least one student who's completely engrossed in the topic and ends up hijacking every class discussion. This may be true for every subject to an extent, but it seems especially relevant to philosophy.
In a course I once took, there was a monologue-prone man who always did this and kept making jokes about Georg Hegel that nobody understood. In another, there were two students who would always play conversational tug-of-war. One was a hilarious stoner whose mind was constantly blown by the ideas introduced (he was basically a real-life version of the Keanu Reeves meme--and no, I don't mean he actually was Keanu Reeves). The other was a conservative Christian fundamentalist who was offended by most topics and heavily disapproved of Stoner Dude's enthusiasm. They'd go back and forth all the time.
And in the first philosophy course I ever took, it was me. I totally was That Person Who Never Shut Up. So, my apologies to anyone who was there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Popular defenses for bigotry, and why they don't work

Two of the most ill-informed defenses of homophobia, racism, and general bigotry: 1) "Why should their beliefs be challenged? What they believe is their own business and their own right," and 2) "What's so wrong with taking your own side?"
The first excuse might hold a little more weight if bigotry toward marginalized groups were entirely self-contained and didn't actually affect said groups. But in reality, these attitudes don't exist in a vacuum. They have a huge impact on the way members of privileged groups treat other people. It makes a difference not only in interactions, but also voting habits and laws. Additionally, it influences the way parents raise their children. Raising a child with bigotry not only perpetuates the cycle; it also has hugely damaging consequences if the kid happens to be a member of a group that the parents hate. An obvious example would be homophobic parents of a gay kid. And following up the "How is it anybody else's business?" defense with "They have a right to their own beliefs, so their opinions shouldn't be challenged" is based on a glaring misconception. It falsely equates having the right to your own beliefs with having the "right" to live one's entire life without ever hearing those beliefs questioned. Yes, people have the right to be as bigoted as they please, but it's still a terrible perspective. And the freedom of speech afforded to those of us who are averse to such bigotry means that we have the right to openly disagree.
The second argument, "What's wrong with taking your own side?", is less of an excuse and more of an outright attempt at justification. When a member of a privileged class decides to attack those who are unprivileged, they are not "taking their own side." They are targeting marginalized groups of which they are not a part. You can care about the safety and well-being of people in your own group without being hostile toward outsiders. But misogynistic, white supremacist, classist, and LGBT-phobic people always define themselves by their hatred of disadvantaged populations, rather than defining themselves simply by their concern for straight, rich, non-trans, and white peers (who are not being collectively oppressed for those traits, even if they have problems as individuals). And in calling that "their own side," they are the ones conflating white people with white supremacy, straight people with homophobia, men with misogyny, rich people with classism, cisgender (non-trans) people with transphobia, and more. It's ironic, because that's exactly what they accuse their critics of doing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Representation and racism

A pattern I notice in popular entertainment and public responses to it:
There's a TV show with a diverse or semi-diverse cast. Or maybe not even diverse; they might be all white except for one black actor. A white viewer complains that the show is "too PC" essentially because it's not entirely composed of white people. They accuse the show or casting director of "pandering" or "caving to political correctness”—again, because not every single face on the show is white. Said viewer speculates that the racial minorities on the show were only cast because of their race and couldn't possibly have earned it by being the best actors for the roles. They call it "reverse racism."
In response to being made to feel unwanted in mainstream entertainment, non-white actors and entertainers create their own spaces and their own shows which predominantly feature racial minorities because they want fair representation that isn't received with bigotry. They want to feel welcome and have fellow ethnic minorities feel welcome, too. The same white viewer who didn't want to see them in mainstream entertainment now accuses them of excluding white people and "separating themselves."
This demonstrates that there are some white folks who just don't want to see non-whites represented anywhere in media, whether it's within an integrated cast or in their own.
If you're a white person who wants to say that you'd never respond this way, then this analogy doesn't apply to you. But even if it doesn't, I'd recommend that you please not jump to the "not all white people" defense. It really doesn't help the situation.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The cycle

Raindrops on a window split apart and join together, mimicking both mitosis and its opposite. They depict life's origins. They show both the return to our beginnings and our separation from them as we forge new identities. Throughout our lives we stray from our roots and return to them over and over again.
Rains feeds the ocean, the subconscious mind, full of murkiness and unfamiliar things we come to recognize. The subconscious gives birth to conscious ideas, like aquatic creatures evolving to dwell on land.
               Both conscious and subconscious thoughts have life cycles. They're born, feed off of other thoughts, breed further notions, and pass on. Sometimes they're reincarnated as more evolved ideas and then materialize as more raindrops on the window.

My dreams are becoming more Freudian.

Last night I dreamed about an anxious mind taking the form of a haunted house. Each room was a separate lobe in the brain representing its own fear or memory. The doors that connected them were linked thoughts.
              I guess we do carry our homes around, but we don't always have to be stuck in the same rooms. We can renovate.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How NOT to respond to kidnapping and street harassment

Last week, two men tried to abduct me in their cars on my way to work. I take public transportation and have to walk a portion of the way, so that unfortunately allows a window of opportunity for predatory people to follow me. It wasn't the first time this has happened, but it was the first time I've been subjected to it on two separate occasions within the span of an hour. When it's come up in conversation, both now and in the past, responses have been overwhelmingly supportive. But once in a while, someone will say something that is completely off the mark or even harmful. So if you want to be helpful when a woman tells you that a man tried to abduct her in his car, please avoid saying any of these five things:

-"You mean he was just trying to pick you up, right?" No, I meant "abduction", not "being picked up." I know the difference, as do most people who use that word. Please don't try to correct someone who says that. Both of the guys followed me in their cars, drove alongside me and became very insistent about me getting in. I gripped my pepper spray and ran like hell. That's not a "pickup attempt." They would not respect my refusal. I have no doubt it would have become a physical altercation if they'd been able to come closer.

-"What were you wearing?" Not that this is in any way relevant to the topic, but I was wearing my work clothes. Specifically a puffy winter coat, khakis, and sneakers. Some people (including women!) are consistently shocked to hear that abductions are attempted when the prospective target is not, in fact, walking down the sidewalk clad in lingerie--although that wouldn't justify an abduction, either. I think people ask this question for one of two reasons: either to try to find some way it was your fault, and therefore something that can be avoided/controlled, or as a way to reassure themselves that it could never happen to them. Both those reasons are based on false assumptions, and neither are helpful.

-"It's because you're cute." I appreciate the vote of confidence, but this sounds like a way of trying to construe an abduction attempt as a compliment. It also may discourage some women from speaking up about their experiences in case it's interpreted as bragging. (Also, if it's seen as a response to one's appearance, then women who are often judged as unattractive may not speak up out of fear of being disbelieved.) Believe me, I didn't come out of this with a bolstered ego. I came out of it with my anxiety levels through the roof. My heart didn't stop pounding for the next hour.

-"Were they [black/Puerto Rican/any race other than white]?" This is possibly the worst one. Thankfully I haven't heard this in a while, but it is a question I've been asked in the past. Just for everyone's knowledge, a person of any race can be a predator. I've been followed by men of pretty much every ethnicity. But using someone's experience as a way to attack non-white people, rather than acknowledging it's something that's steeped in rape culture and can be carried out by any race, is extremely damaging. It seems to be another way to maintain a false sense of control over the situation, but this time with a heavy dose of racism mixed in.

-"Then how are we supposed to meet women if we can't pick them up?" or "What if he was just trying to offer you a ride? Maybe he was trying to be helpful." THIS IS NOT ABOUT "PICKING UP WOMEN" OR "BEING HELPFUL." THIS IS ABOUT KIDNAPPING. If someone does not see the difference between attempting to "pick someone up" and attempting to force them into their car, and if they don't understand why offering a ride to a stranger and then refusing to accept "no" for an answer is terrifying, then I have no idea where to even start. A lot of these same people are ones who would then blame a woman if she did give the guy the benefit of the doubt and was harmed. Also, if someone is sharing a traumatic experience, it is not at all considerate or appropriate to seize on that as an opportunity to ask them for dating advice. Seriously, what the fresh hell is that?

If you want to be supportive, the best option is just to listen and say something like, "That's awful" or "I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?" Fortunately, I have heard that response from many people. If you're somebody who would say that, then thank you.

For future protection I have pepper spray, an ear-splitting whistle, and I'm going to get bear mace if it's legal. Also learning to run faster. I might as well just walk around with a giant can of Raid and a sign saying, "You are a pest and I will control you!"

I guess that's about it for now. Rant off.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

There is no single self.

I don't believe in the assumption that people are always their "true" selves on the internet; that anonymity or the barrier of a computer screen grants us the freedom to unleash our full, authentic nature. Nobody has one singular self. We are multifaceted, and different facets are expressed in different settings. This is as true for face-to-face scenarios as it is for online discourse. Just because one particular side of someone is being conveyed, that doesn't mean the others are now invalid. They could all be just as real, even if they contradict one another. And sometimes a specific setting will push someone further into a direction than they'd normally go or incite them to express things they don't usually feel. It's not accurate to point to somebody in a specific scenario and say, "That's who they really are, and everything else they've ever said or done which contradicts this is just an act."

Time-traveling and piracy

What if every single astronomically successful songwriter, author, or inventor is a time traveler from the future who ripped off someone else's idea, and we're living in the alternate timeline in which none of the original creators get credit for their work? (Then again, have they really been cheated if they didn't come up with it in this universe, and they're hugely successful from it in the other?)

Adults and the idealization of teen love

I used to wonder why adults tend to idealize adolescent love; why it's such a theme in media that there are basically whole book and movie genres about it. I now have a theory about this. Most people will say teen romance is unique because everything is happening for the first time, hormones are at fever pitch, and you feel everything so intensely at that age. That's part of it, but it's not the whole reason. It is also idealized because it's pretty much the only time in your life when you have a relationship that's entirely about getting to know each other and entirely about feelings. It's uninterrupted by real-life intermissions like financial budgeting and daily chores like managing a home or doing errands together. Things that can be mundane. Of course, sharing those parts of everyday life can be a great bonding experience in itself, and they make the partnership seem a lot more "real." But I think that's why teenage relationships are so memorable to people: because it doesn't feel real yet. It's still like a fantasy, but one that's being acted out by both parties. Not all adolescent couples are happy ones. Teen relationships can be terrible and sometimes even traumatic, and mature relationships are usually a lot better altogether. But the unadulterated quality of them (an accurate word, since they're not adults) is what makes them such a source of fascination.

A preference is not a double standard.

One thing that really irritates me is when somebody is accused of having "double standards" just because they're comfortable doing things with some people but not others. This doesn't mean they're denouncing a specific behavior altogether and then letting it slide when it comes from a few select friends. Rather, I'm talking about comfort with being teased or touched or engaging in particular types of jokes with certain people, but not interacting with everybody in the same way. That's not a double standard; it's only natural for most of us. No matter how extroverted you may be, there are certain things only a close friend can say to you. There may be some people who can run up and grab or hug you, but that doesn't mean you want just anyone to do that. (As for me, I would accept a hug from most friends and acquaintances, but I respect that not everybody wants one. I let them offer it first.) This is sometimes used against a woman when she turns down a man's approach. "Oh, so you'd let that guy buy you a drink, but not me? Such a double standard." A preference isn't a double standard. It's not hypocritical. You're allowed to be receptive to some individuals and not others. Anyway, if the person making that complaint did see that the one they're interested in is giving their number out to everyone or accepting every drink offered, they would most likely take issue with that, too. In that circumstance, one pretends to hate all "double standards" on principle, but is only upset when they're not the one who benefits. And that is a true double standard.

One-hit wonders, and the art of quitting while you're ahead

Fans are always disappointed when a band with great material stops releasing new music after about two albums, and the letdown is obviously understandable. But maybe it wasn't really a waste of potential that everyone was deprived of. Maybe the band was out of their best ideas and opted to end on a (literal) good note instead of fizzling and churning out mediocre music. They could have chosen to quit while they'd still be remembered at their peak.

"Family values"?

People do not genuinely care about "family values" if they only value one type of family. Media, politicians, and organizations that pride themselves on being "family friendly" are often blatantly unfriendly to those that are nonreligious, non-white, ethnically mixed, living in poverty, or consisting of same sex parents or a single parent (especially a single mom). Also, encouraging procreation is not the same as being pro family. You can support the decision to have children and care about the well being of families, but many people seem concerned with the former and not the latter.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Awkward matchmaking and gay friends

One thing I don't really understand is when a straight person finds out someone is gay and says, "Oh, my cousin/brother/friend is gay, too! I should set you up." I know that this doesn't come from a place of hostility. It's out of a desire to be supportive or helpful, but it is a little odd. Nobody has the same reaction when they find out someone is straight; maybe just because it's taken for granted. There are ones who do this with hetero single friends, but it's not as pronounced. Maybe because it's easy for straight individuals to find each other (whether or not they'd be compatible), so friends want to help those with a less common orientation find a match. But it's inaccurate to think two people would click just because they're both the gender the other is interested in. What would indicate that they'd have any other connection? If that's the assumption, it could be due to the (obviously false) belief that most gay people are similar, or that they can't be particular about who they like because they're just happy to find another non-hetero person at all.