Sunday, 3 August 2014

One more reason why I need feminism

Let me state first and foremost for the record that I go to Club Abstract simply because I really like to dance. I like the atmosphere there, I like the music, I like a few of the regulars (the others I simply don’t know, but we casually nod to acknowledge each other’s existence). Abstract is my place for catharsis. It’s a place I like to exercise. Yes, I fully acknowledge that going out dancing is an excuse to get some cardio. I don’t just sway and bounce with my feet planted on the ground. I really move. 

So now that I’ve established that the only reason I go there is because I like to dance and because it makes me happy in my “soul”, it should be pointed out that I do not, under any circumstances EVER go there to meet men or to “pick up”. Yes, I recognise that a bar is common place for this activity. There might be a certain underlying expectation that if you are not there “with someone” then you are fair game. I know at least one of you will have a field day with this notion and I look forward to it.

So here we have a (cue self-esteem) fit woman who knows how to move to a rhythm attending an establishment where alcohol is served — and the general notion is that no one wants to leave said bar alone — who has the full intention of leaving this establishment alone. And sometimes I might dance with a small group of strangers because that’s just what the atmosphere creates and a good time is had by all, but I’m still going to leave that place on my own.

I’m no dummy, I know there is a possibility that someone will hit on me. And I won’t lie, sometimes I see a good looking man and acknowledge this fact, but then I go back to dancing because “OMG I love this song” (I say that in my head a lot), and dancing is what I came here to do. So when someone does make an attempt, say dancing up to me or with me I just turn away and keep doing my thing. I take up more space so they can’t get closer. Sometimes they follow me around for a bit until they get the hint. 

The guy I encountered last night and his friend did not get any hints. Thing 1 did the dancing trick, it did not work, and he was any thing but subtle about it. I simply ignored him. While I was sitting out a couple of tunes for a break his friend (Thing 2, I guess) decided to sit next to me and casually chat about the music then mentions his friend who “likes me”. I quite clearly curled my upper lip, made a face and said “yeah, I noticed that.” he laughed like he got it, patted my knee and went back to Thing 1. 

About five minutes later (long enough for a smoke, and then was “close-talking” to me: ew) Thing 2 is back wondering why I’m still not dancing. I said I was waiting for the right song to come up and that was the honest truth. Thing 2 mentions that Thing 1 would like to dance with me and maybe he should get him to come over. Again, clearer this time, I said “no, don’t. Just don’t.” he laughs again and goes back to Thing 1.

A song comes on and I don’t know it but the beat is inspiring and it gets me out of the plain view of Thing 1 and Thing 2. I go back to the dance floor, carefully avoiding where these two were lurking. I find my groove again and it’s even better, very fluid. I pick up a couple of glow sticks and it’s even better. Yes, I think to myself, THIS is what I came here for. Then Thing 2 is standing in front of me and shouts “I see you got your groove back”, and I just scowled and muttered “yes, now get out of it” and turned my back, shooing him away. Not 30 seconds later Thing 1 is back in front me with this big smile wanting to dance. I just stopped moving and stared at him and shook my head. He left. 

Yet another 30 seconds later (this is starting to ruin my groove, but I’ll channel my frustration to get it back, don’t you worry), so right after this Thing 2 is back he slowly circled me, clearly not dancing and looked me up and down with that look that I can’t quite explain to those who haven’t experienced it. Like I was prey. Like I was just a challenge. It’s a look that sort of said. “I like it when they fight back”, and not in a fun consensual kinky way. It was posturing, pure and simple. And I was not going to tolerate it.

Abstract is *my* place. It is my safe place. It is like a home away from home with a much better sound system. I stopped dancing again and gesticulated clearly with words loud enough to be heard over the music told him to simply “Go. Away.” Which of course was met with the expected hands in the air, “I’m just trying to have a little fun and this woman is being mean and irrational by not playing along” expression. More than a few people on the dance floor noticed this exchange.

They finally went away after that, and I was able to resume my groove and it was cathartic and wonderful, happy ending I guess. Maybe I could have been very clear and to the point about it from the start. I could have used my words, but in a place where you can hardly hear yourself think, words are not really an option until you have to shout and gesticulate at people. I think at one point I gave one of them the finger with a glow stick weaved between my fingers. In a place where you can’t be heard, you have to use something else. 

Try as they might, these Two Wild and Crazy Guys (because they were older and clearly out of place so that’s what they reminded me of) did not ruin my evening. In fact they offered me an excuse to be even more assertive and even a little aggressive. That’s not my preferred method of venting, but I’ll take it. 

This is why I need feminism. I’m certain that I don’t need to explain any further to my friends and regular readers exactly why this is a good example of why I need it. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

I wish we didn't have to get angry about this anymore.

I read an article today on the BBC about the shooting in Santa Barbara over the weekend. It was a related article about the social media reaction to the event. I think y'all know how I feel about the incident itself if you've read anything I've written at all. I'm only just barely holding back my ranting, why I don't know. It's been done, I guess, by other equally eloquent bloggers.

There was an image embedded that showed a Tweet with a reply from the kind of person that Mr. Rodger would have agreed with wholeheartedly. The reply itself is what got to me, it really did. I actually felt kind of shaken and sick to my stomach after reading it. And it takes a lot to do this to me.   I can't copy and paste it here, it's just too horrible. Here's a link to it if you really must know. It's the first example in the article.

I lead a happy little life where I've never been physically, sexually assaulted. I don't like the fact that I could say I'm lucky for that fact. I shouldn't feel lucky about that. Never having been raped or beaten, should just be a fact of life for every human being. Luck should have nothing to do with it. Period. End of story. I would feel lucky if something exceptional happened to me like winning the lottery. Not having been raped and/or beaten should not be so exceptional that I should have to feel lucky.

I've used the hashtag #YesAllWomen. It's still completely valid. I can say I've never been overtly, physically or sexually abused by men, but I've certainly been treated or looked upon differently because of my gender. So no, not all women have been abused, but we have all certainly been made aware that there must be something fundamentally wrong with our gender and how each one of us chooses to embody it.

Yes, it's true that not all men are like Mr. Rodger and that Asshat that posted the comment linked above. It would be foolish to think that everyone using that hashtag assumes that all men are boorish, ignorant, sexist and misogynistic arseholes. I know there are men out there who are fully capable of being decent to other human beings regardless of what's between their legs etc. Decent human beings do exist. I swear. I have to believe that there are more out there than just the ones I call friends, it's what gets me through the day.

I've recently encountered the very same entitled attitude that Mr. Rodger used to justify his heinous act. I'm glad that those who've behaved that way towards me were mostly harmless. I assume. I hope. I recognize that I'm able to say this from the safety of my side of the keyboard/screen. If you read my last post you'll know how I feel about men with entitlement issues (they are owed exactly nothing from me and women in general) same goes for the notion of being in the "friend zone". I had a guy tell me he wasn't interested in getting into the "friend zone". Well, you won't be getting into any kind of zone with an attitude like that. I responded to tell him that my friend zone was pretty amazing and it's his loss. And it was the nicest thing I could have possibly said. I just didn't see how unleashing a giant feminist rant about entitlement and my right to choose what sorts of relationships I have with people to be useful. I know a message like wouldn't even get a cursory glance.

I wasn't even going to write about this. It's been done over and over, like I said, by equally eloquent bloggers from all over. But is it not worth it to keep talking about it? To keep it on people's minds? To keep those that need to know aware? "Can't stop the signal, Mal"...

Is it working? Are we making any progress? Sometimes I don't think we are. I can't foresee a wide-scale change in my life time, even now we creep ahead bit by bit. I often forget that I'm part of a marginalized group. The largest umbrella of marginalized people, half the world's population and I forget this because I have it pretty good in life, but I'm still a woman. Which means there's always going to be someone out there who only sees my anatomy, someone who will judge me for the choices I make, or what I wear, how I wear it and what size it is. Someone who will imagine me naked or what a good fuck I'd be. There will always be someone who doesn't think I'm capable of doing certain things because I have a woman's body, or that I'm not smart, genuine, geeky or modest enough. There will always be someone who will think I'm a bitch because I have opinions. There will always be someone who will readily try to shame me for embracing who I am.

It breaks my heart that we have to keep saying it. Over and over. That this is a point we have to keep making because some unbalanced fella isn't getting it. Because tragedies like this keep happening. And it makes me sad that once the hype is over and the hashtag fades into obscurity again, we'll have to start all over. Until it happens again.

Of course I hope it doesn't. And it shouldn't ever happen again, but I'd be lying if I told you it will never happen again. Keep talking about it, keep being who you are, ladies. You don't owe anyone anything. But you owe yourself everything.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Zero Obligation

Holy moly folks, I'm back. For how long? Who knows. I had many different topics come up in my absence, but I never found myself with the time to just sit and write. Not coherently any way. Life kind of gets in the way of ranting and raving about my unpopular opinions. And there's certainly a hell of a lot of crap going on in the world to rant and rave about these days. Today's topic is comparatively tame.

Today we talk about the often difficult to navigate world of online dating. I know. Maybe it's trivial, but bear with me. I think I have some pretty good "thinky thoughts" on this one. If you can't stand another pro-feminism, child free by choice discussion this is probably not the blog post (or blog) you're looking for *jedi hand wave*.

I decided this spring that it was time to get back at the dating thing again. I have no regrets about my last relationship, it was what it was and now it's a great friendship that I plan to keep for as long as possible. I had two accounts, one on OK Cupid (OKC) and one on Plenty of Fish (POF). The OKC account had been dormant since early June of 2013 and I'd hidden the POF account around the same time when I decided that the fella I'd met was someone I wanted to keep around for a while.

This Spring I decided to just quietly "unhide" myself from POF. I'd had some limited success with it since this is where I met Dr. Robot Science (my quaint online nickname to respect his privacy). Even if that relationship didn't last romantically I'd still had more success with POF than OKC. And so it was the first one to have the cobwebs dusted off it.

Within a month I'd managed to arrange three dates and successfully go on two of them. The first one, I initiated, the second was initiated by the other person and the third I initiated again. Date number one was fun, but I didn't see us having much in common. I regret to say he failed a few of the geek litmus tests I'd set for him. Nice guy, just not what I was really looking for. I was honest and polite about declining a second date. It was all very civil.

Date number two seemed to have everything in common with me, it was almost as if we were separated at birth and if it weren't for some bizarre school zoning rules we probably would have gone to the same elementary school. He was extremely polite and very complimentary. Something I'm not used to and honestly felt a little uncomfortable with. Once is nice (haha, oh noes please don't stroke my ego!"), but there was more than one until it made me a little uncomfortable. At first I joked and laughed it off. We never managed to reconnect and we've since lost contact through neglect.

Date number three didn't show up. Date number three seemed engaged and interested and even messaged me the day before to say he was looking forward to it. He didn't show up. I finished my beverage at the cafe and went home after a half hour though it was readily apparent to me that he wasn't going to show up well before that half hour was up. I decided to just enjoy people watching and sipping my drink. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, maybe something happened? An accident? Other plans came up, maybe there was a message that I missed before I left the apartment. Either way I wasn't upset or worried about it. When I came home I found he had disappeared. Like he was never there, account deleted and no record that we'd ever exchanged messages. So I couldn't even send him a note to tell him what a fantastic date I'd had all by myself. This incident wasn't entirely what spurred me to obliterate my POF account (accidentally typed POS which would also be accurate), but it was the nail in the coffin. I've gone back to OKC just recently and I'm still pretty new and shiny there hence the need to re-evaluate how to deal with this sudden popularity.

This is not the worst of my experiences. I had an encounter with a fellow who warned me that posting photos of myself on a dating site was a bad idea and my photos could end up on some pornography website if I was not careful (assumption number one: I'm a naive woman who needs his advice about internet safety). He included a link to a picture of himself on Photobucket. Because having a photo of yourself anywhere else on the internet than a dating site is totally safe... I glanced at the photo and read the profile and decided just to ignore it. A month later I get almost the same message this time "asking/demanding" my email address for us to exchange photos. English was clearly not this person's first language. I responded this time saying I did not wish to provide my email address. I was civil and direct and did not elaborate (and this is a point I'm building to, I promise).

He responded to ask if my response was "code" for no thank you or I'm not interested. He then asked if I knew that I could get a "junk" email for which I didn't have to care about what went to it (assumption number two: I don't know how to use the internet). I realized I could have been more direct, apologized for not being clearer told him he was right about the "code" and wished him good luck. Again, very civil.

Well. Wasn't that just the angry zombie bee from outer space that got in his bonnet? I regret blocking him immediately afterwards only because I could have copied and pasted the response here for social media shaming purposes (user names removed, obviously) but alas, I did not. So here's a summary with counter arguments:

I make decisions too quickly, I didn't even look at his photo and that's not fair.
Assumption number three: Interest, no matter how vague must be equally reciprocated. How dare I use my brain to quickly and effectively eliminate options I'm not interested in pursuing? How dare I be smart enough to make decisions for myself. The nerve, right? Well no. Just because you sent me a message on an online dating site I am NOT obligated to give you a chance. Just like if you'd insisted on buying dinner on a date I'm NOT obligated to have sex with you. Take your entitlement and stuff it.

I was a nice smart girl, but now he sees that I'm only good at writing stories and I'm just another of the loser women on that site.
Assumption number four: All women are liars and only like assholes. Apparently honesty and civility mean nothing. Again, dude needs to check his entitlement issues at the fucking door. Just because I very politely and directly said no to you does not suddenly mean I'm mean and stupid and a loser. It simply means I'm capable of making my own decisions. See note above about my complete lack of obligation to give you a chance if I don't want to. He really did call the women on the site losers, and I can see now why he's probably not had much luck. Speaking of which...

I need more luck than he does.
I'm sorry, but if this is how you handle rejection, you need far more luck than I ever will.

My photos should end up on some sort of pornography site to teach me a lesson.
Assumption number five: women need to be taught a lesson about being comfortable with their public image and shamed about sexual activities. What? I'm too stupid to realize that men like to jerk off to pictures of pretty women? Because I don't know how the internet works? Because I should be punished somehow for rejecting him? I wouldn't be surprised if he copied a photo or two himself to upload to such a site. Okay, here's the thing, random guy: I've been familiar with the internet for a long time now. I know that it doesn't really matter where a photo is located, if a guy (or gal, I'm open minded here) finds my photo *anywhere* on the internet and is turned on by it, he or she might just rub one out. And I don't give a shit. The same thing could happen if the same person saw me on the damn street or a cafe and go home to do the same thing. I am not going to police people's desires, turn-ons and/or need to masturbate. None of my damn business. If I was worried about such a thing, there would be no photos of me on the internet and there's a photo of my bare ass on the internet. Hell, I probably wouldn't use the internet at all if I was really worried about it.

Here's the thing, the point I promised I'd get to. No other experience in my life has taught me as thoroughly as online dating has that I am not obligated to do or say anything I don't feel like doing or saying. Yes, there's a certain expectation that if you've put yourself on an online dating site that you are there to look for people to date or have sex with or maybe even marry if that's your thing. There's a certain expectation that you will also be exposing yourself to people who you do not want to date. But there is no obligation under any circumstances where you must reciprocate communication or go out with just anyone who visits your profile or sends you a message. Or even to respond to their inquiry. No matter how polite or thoughtful it may be. Obviously people who are rude and crude shouldn't expect a response at all. This works both ways and it's turned my whole attitude around on the subject. I send out messages that don't get responses all the time, because — and I can't stress this enough — NO ONE ELSE IS OBLIGATED TO RECIPROCATE EITHER. I have no expectation that the person I'm contacting should respond in kind and want to go on a date with me. And even if we do get that far and they do something to change my mind, I have the right to change my mind. And not feel bad about it and so do they.

One thing that sometimes trips me up is that I feel bad for not reciprocating when I receive a message. Like I've somehow hurt someone's feelings. I've been there. It sucks, but I also get over it pretty quick. And now I have the added perspective of realizing that not only am I not obligated to bend over backwards for strangers I'm not interested in meeting/dating/having sex with, but neither are they.

I still have no issue with being polite and civil and respectful of the people that contact me. I have recently responded eloquently to tell someone I am not interested and gently pointed out that we are not compatible, even though I was NOT OBLIGATED TO. He has two children and would like to have more. I can't think of any other reason why he thought I would be a good woman to contact. He was not rude or crude in his message, and even asked for permission to flirt with me for a while. This is better than some of the messages I get. On the other hand, I know he simply didn't bother to read the profile in any detail and I should probably make the "no baby zone" message clearer, but it almost felt like my choice to not have kids wasn't being taken seriously. When it says I don't want kids, I really don't want them. It's not because I haven't met the right man who will change my mind. I just really don't want kids. No really. Women stopped assuming I'd change my mind a while ago, I don't know about men. But it's simply not going to happen. Period. End of story.

Responding so that I don't hurt people's feelings is a habit I will probably have to break. Since I am consistently contacted by people who have not bothered to take even a second to look at the words in my profile and there are a lot of them. The most important ones describing my preferred age range and the fact that I don't have or want kids. I should be more specific with this, particular aspect since not only am I not interested in making babies, but I'm also not interested in becoming someone's step mom.

I know from a friend's experience that being specific and blunt will not stop anyone I wouldn't touch with at 10-foot pole from contacting me, but at least they couldn't say I didn't warn them. Which is far more than should ever feel obligated to do.

Old habits are hard to break.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I have run out of shits to give.

This one is sure to generate hate mail. Think of me what you will. Call me on my privilege if it makes you feel better or more superior. For the record I'm a white woman whose mostly straight and I work hard for what I have and I blame no one for the things I don't have. And there's not a day that goes by that I'm not aware of and grateful for every damn thing I do have.

Compassion or empathy fatigue is a real thing and it's not just reserved for those who work in first-responder fields like paramedics, fire-fighters, doctors and shrinks. Everyone and anyone can get it. There's an adequate definition of it here thanks to wikipedia. In short, for those too lazy to click the link, means that eventually, after being bombarded with enough horror, trauma (man-made or otherwise), natural disasters, appeals for donations and petitions you will eventually stop giving a shit.

After enough changes to language to accommodate every kind individual out there, after enough political scandals and economic catastrophes and typhoons and earthquakes and social movements a person just stops caring. It becomes too much to deal with, they reach a saturation point.

And it's not to say that the movements and petitions aren't worth a person's time. Quite often a lot of good is accomplished through petitions and donations (when people look at where their money goes before forking it over). When something comes along (and something always comes along, every single day in my email inbox) that someone is truly outraged by a petition is started. It comes with a preamble aimed to get the potential petitioner's blood boiling so that they'll sign it and if they're blood boils long enough, they'll donate money to the cause.

Just about every petition I've bothered to sign online has eventually followed up, asking me to lend them money to accompany my slacktivist click of a button.  And I'm not joking. I get at least one email per day from a place like Avaaz or or something similar, sometimes I get up to four separate requests from different groups asking me to sign four different petitions in one day! Every. Single. Day.

Is it any wonder that I've reached the maximum number of shits to give?

A thought occurs. Just because I didn't sign the petition or even bother to let the preamble get my blood boiling, doesn't mean that I don't care about the rights of gays, or the rights of women in foreign countries, or the environment. I care about all these things. I don't need to be enlightened or have my mind changed. I forward those movements by being honest and living my life as if the very things we seek to change are completely normal things that should and in places already exist. For example, I live my daily life accepting that all humans are worthy of respect and that littering is too easily prevented to be a problem.

These two examples are just the most recent things to get dragged up onto my pinnacle of empathy fatigue.

Firstly that all human beings are worth of basic respect and dignity. I don't care how you identify yourself. I don't care for the labels that are constantly being invented and applied for every conceivable gender identity and sexual orientation that exists. I don't care to affix them on others, and I don't care to have them affixed on me. A person is a person is a person and we're all worthy of respect and dignity and a fair chance. Period. End of discussion. I've reached my apex here in that just about every form of discrimination that can be identified has a name and a social agenda. I disagree with the idea of demonizing people who are trying to make a difference in the gay community because they're not "doing it right enough" or because they're a human being and sometimes a dick to other people with their opinions. Part of the problem may be that this constant berating of all the ways that people are being discriminated against, or abused in a variety of ways, is something I already know and in most cases there's nothing I can do about it aside from what I'm already doing. I'm not the target audience for this kind of campaign and yet I find it being thrust at me time and time again. There are people who could benefit from knowing that there's a huge spectrum of orientation, and these people are the least likely to be the ones to seek out this information.

I see the problem this way: I'm already an atheist and I'm confident and happy about it. I don't need another confident atheist trying to keep convincing me to some how be more of an atheist and talking smack about other athiests who maybe aren't trying hard enough because they still have friends who are Christian or Muslim or Jewish. Perhaps I just dream about a utopia where people are just fucking nice to each other and no one needs to make anyone else feel guilty for the things they say, the beliefs they hold or the opinions they have the nerve to state. And we can still tell jokes and laugh at ourselves once in a while. Because life is hilarious if you look at it closely enough.

Secondly, the environment. Global warning in particular. Holy shit am I tired of hearing about it and being made to feel guilty about my existence's impact on the world. Okay, I'm a vegetarian, I drive a small car, I recycle, I don't litter, I don't let my bathroom faucet run while I brush my teeth, I don't drive my car from one end of a big box parking lot to the other to avoid walking across the damn enormous things and I do this to save gas and/or money. Not the environment. Yes. You read that right.

This is not to say that it's not worth while. I don't want to rain on the parade of those who say that every little bit counts. I don't want to claim that it makes no difference. I don't want to say that Global Warming is a sham. I don't want to tell you that recycling is a waste of time. Penn & Teller have already covered that. I'm not saying that Global Warming isn't a real thing, I just question whether or not it's entirely humanity's fault. This of course doesn't dismiss all the other ways that humans are fucking up the planet, but I'm not convinced that CO2 generated by humans and our gadgets is the major cause.

There's just as much evidence out there to show that the planet is warming because of the sun as there is evidence to say it comes from cars or cow farts. Though knowing that the sun is in one of it's most active periods does lend a lot to the sun-warming-the-earth theory. The planet is getting warmer, that's a fact I won't deny, but I am willing to think that it's not entirely our fault, I don't have the built in human sense of guilt about my existence that a lot of people (some of them religious) are raised with. I prefer sound, level headed research to fear-mongering and guilt tripping. Again, I think I'm just not the target audience, I already know better, Dear Media, stop badgering me.

I drive a small efficient car because I know that gasoline is a finite resource and I don't like spending any more of my hard earned dollars on it than I have to, because there are much more interesting things to spend it on. I turn the water off when I brush, and lights out when I'm not using them because I have to pay for that. I'm a responsible adult who lives on her own. Know what else is a finite resource? My income.

Friday, 20 September 2013

We have no choice but to make choices

Hello dear reader, if you're still actually reading. I know it's been a long time between rants. Turns out I've been too content lately to rant about things. Or I haven't. I haven't decided yet what excuse to provide to you. Or if I even need to give you one.

As you may have guessed, this one's about choice. It's a major influence in human existence. Decision making is how we all managed to get here, one way or another. It is something we will do from the day we're born to the day we die, voluntarily or not.

Evolution, and our daily experiences have wired our brains to make certain instinctual decisions. Some of us are able to look at them differently. Have a listen to this little gem of a podcast when you find the time (about an hour) or if you have lots of time read the book it relates to "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer (who has introduced me to my new favourite colloquialism for brains: electric meat). To sum up, over time some of our individual and collective electric meat have managed to find patterns and correlations where none exist, but seem to be a throw back to a time when we really need to know if that rustling in the grass was just the wind or something that could kill us. This is just one kind of involuntary choice that we make.

In this post I want to talk about the choices we voluntarily make, both consciously and subconsciously. Wait, how can a subconscious choice be voluntary? I have a point here, I promise. I'm not just referring to choosing not to breathe or make your heart beat, though you can choose to hold your breath or make your heart beat faster though exercise, but that's beside the point. Or rather it is the point. By holding your breath you choose to acknowledge the process you become aware of it and suddenly your power over it. You do have power over it, albeit only for a short period of time. If you hold it until you pass out, your subconscious will take the reins back.

I think we can do this same trick with subconscious decisions we make as a result of conditioning. So many people make choices based on what they know, what they've done, tasted, heard or were taught. Experiences easily become ingrained in our soft impressionable electric meat. Studies have shown that people have a very hard time changing their mind about a thing even after trying it a second time. I won't get into the biochemical reasons about why we cannot or have a very hard time changing our minds, I lack those credentials.

I firmly believe that we can make our unconscious decisions conscious, voluntary ones. It takes work and it takes awareness. Sometimes it takes external assistance, at the start.

To make a choice we need to be presented with options. Sometimes there's only two choices, sometimes there are too many and we become overwhelmed, I know I've been "crippled by choice" because there were too many appealing options when faced with only being able to choose just one. This type of situation often leads people to regret their choice, because of all the other options they wish they'd explored. Everyone has their own filters for making choices depending on the situation. Some of those filters can be difficult to apply to a simplified choice. Friend or Foe? Yes or No? One or Zero?

We weigh the options and if there's enough time we work out the best out come for the moment and hopefully for later on. Some of us are really good at this, some of us are very bad at it.  And by that I don't mean that people are incapable of making choices, they're wired to. Some people just can't see the third, fourth or fifth (etc) options that exist.

Addicts and professional victims are prime examples.

Addicts continue to get their fix (regardless of what it is) for reasons they justified to themselves long ago and see no need to change. It could be habitual it could be a coping mechanism, it could be both. The most common story is that they drink and/or do drugs to help forget about some horrible thing that happened to them in their life either a long time ago or something on going. Over time, they chose to give up choice. Yes that makes sense, they chose to give it up by choosing not to be sober.

The lucky ones are those who managed to gain awareness, one way or another, and suddenly choice is restored, when it never really left them in the first place. They always had the choice, they just couldn't see it in front of them. They get clean they cut back and/or stop what they're doing. They choose to stop, they choose to seek help, they choose to remain sober. Every day it's a choice. The burden of choice.

The ultimate power of choice. For those who feel completely powerless in many or all aspects of their lives it may be easy to believe that they never had choices. That it's up to a god or an authority figure or the universe or higher power. There's that word again, power. Making choices makes us feel powerful. We regain some modicum of control over our lives, even if it's something as simple as what to wear. The bigger the decision the more power you typically have over your own life or everyone else's if you're in politics.

The bigger and more elaborate decisions you make the more in control you'll feel. I can only speak from personal experience here, but I've made some decisions in my life that were neither A nor B but G or N or Z. Even if those other letters were very unpopular and no one else in their right mind would choose. I've made choices that go against my instinct, that go against my experience, choices that poke sticks at old wounds, choices that some people don't understand. And the more often I do this, the more I feel like I'm in control of my own life. Because ultimately, unless someone incapacitates me I am the only one in control of my own life because I'm the only one responsible for it.

A professional victim may see the events of their life as beyond their control, as a result of outside influences only and require blame to rest solely on the shoulders of others. Sure, sometimes it is. Instinctively, no person consciously choses to be sexually, physically or psychologically assaulted. Not the first time. Sadly some folks get conditioned by repeat offences and start to choose the bad over the good either because it's all they've ever known, that they have no choice, and this infiltrates every non-choice they make from that point onward. Or they don't believe or know they can do any better. The reasons for believing they have no choices is as wide and varied as the choices they don't realise they have. It's an option they've never considered. It's not just choosing some other letter of the alphabet besides A or B. It's recognizing that there's a choice at all.

Not everyone gets to this point. Either to that point at which they cannot not see their choices or they don't reach that point at which they become aware that there are other options. Sometimes awareness does cut the proverbial mustard.

Many nights I chose not to write. I chose not to think. I chose to watch something or play solitaire or read comics. I chose the path of least resistance. It wasn't until recently that I was made aware of my choice to let my brain sit in idle for a long period of time. Tonight I chose to eat left over steamed broccoli and potato chips for dinner and I chose to write instead of do nothing or get some much needed sleep.

Which just proves that we can't always make the right choice or the best choice, but it's still a choice. Never do anything you aren't prepared to regret, something you cannot do without making a choice.

More on this to come I hope, when I next choose to shift my brain from idle into a useful gear.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Abercrabbie and Bitch

A lot of fuss is being made, and rightly so that the maker of Abercrombie & Fitch line of clothing is a horrible person and that I would say is absolutely true. Most are saying he's a horrible hypocrite because he doesn't fit the model of beauty and perfection that he so exclusively wants to cater to. People all over are making macros and memes that essentially say "Dear Pot, You are also black. Signed, Kettle".

And we need to stop doing it.

He said we're fat, so we call him ugly. What are we, fucking five year olds? When was the last time that defence worked?

Yes it's a horrible exclusionary marketing strategy to openly say that fat and "uncool" kids have no right to wear the clothing you design (which is really just a t-shirt with screen printed or fabric labels on them that any one with enough gumption could manufacture). Yes, it's a cruel thing to say openly and a foolish move to think that the world will not react, but it has. And it has made the name popular in demographics that are not their target market. It's made his line of clothing a target for ire in every other demographic, except his target market. At least I hope his target market has heard the stupidity that has come out of his mouth. Because clearly, Mike Jefferies can't.

I would have a lot of bones to pick with Mr. Jefferies were we to meet and have an intelligent conversation. What he's said is disgusting and hurtful to a vast cross section of the western population. However, retaliating by calling him ugly and/or fat is not going to help this problem go away. I don't care what he looks like, someone that ignorant and/or cruel doesn't deserve to be preserved in our collective memory via the wit and humour of memes and shared FB photos (whatever that means). I don't suggest we turn the other cheek. I suggest we simply call him out for the hurtful words he has made very public and request an apology from him.

If we continue to do this — and by we I mean anyone who wouldn't fit in his boring clothing or are pissed that he's a jerk — we are only going to get the same message:  "Dear Kettle, Ditto. Pot."

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

"Men, you're less beautiful than you think"

If you're connected to the outside world in anyway, by either a television or the internet you've probably seen the Dove advertisement that proves to women that they are prettier than they think and they should stop being so damn hard on themselves. And yes, I'd love it if every woman could see themselves with the same eyes as those who love them. I'm a big fan of having self-esteem.

Shortly after this advert went viral all over Facebook, a parody was made for men. You can see it here, if you haven't already (and really I've only included the link to prove my point not to boost the view count on this thing). It's essentially the same video, but with the opposite message. In the original video women are shown a drawing described to a forensic artist by someone less critical than themselves. Through out the original video the women are describing themselves using the unflattering language we are all taught. For what reason I can't say, some sad attempt at modesty perhaps. They are shown how they describe themselves in comparison.

The parody shows men describing themselves as how they are. They are unabashedly kind to themselves. They are confident and honest about their appearance and are all easy on the eyes. They are also shown what they described themselves, they are also shown the drawings described by women who, in the video, describe them as "creepy" or having "rapey" eyes (I don't even ...  I don't want to even touch that one right now). The drawings they describe end up being 'handsome celebrities' instead of themselves and the drawings they describe are also not their faces but gross exaggerations of "ugly" people. 

The tag line at the end of the parody video? "Men, you're less beautiful than you think."

Since when is it wrong for both genders to feel good about themselves? Since when is it wrong for both genders to be confident and happy about their looks? Since when is it wrong for men and women to think they're nice looking? I understand how parody works, I understand that it's an exaggeration to make a humorous point. Well I don't find it particularly amusing.

The mere existence of beauty standards makes it hard enough for anyone, regardless of gender identification, to feel happy in their own skin. Some of us don't need Dove's misguided attempts at making us feel better and some of us certainly don't need parody videos telling men that they're over-confident and unattractive. Mainstream media is already doing this to the entire gender spectrum. 

There is already a razor fine line between being modest and over confident. Step over that line and suddenly you're a horrible, self-absorbed, and shallow. Too modest? People encourage you to feel better about yourself (maybe by buying whatever they're selling), but don't feel too confident or you could find yourself on the wrong side of that fine line and be criticized for thinking you're beautiful. Try not to cut yourself in the process. And for some people that is what happens.

I don't agree with boosting one gender and simultaneously bringing the other down a few pegs (even if it is all in jest). People (not men and/or women) need the same support. I don't buy into this idea that just because there's such a thing as the patriarchy that no man alive ever needs to be told that they're nice looking. I suspect that guys sometimes have just as many self-esteem and body issues as women do. Pretending they don't is only going to make it worse.