Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things that upset my mood.

This is what I see every time I leave my apartment complex.

It's an advert at the bus stop across the street.

For those who can't see clearly (not the best pic, I looked all over for a better quality image, but eventually just took a picture with my cell phone) it's an advertisement for the U.S. government's Small Step program, and it features a close up of a person's stomach, with the navel replaced with one of those blow-up nozzles you find in beach balls, and this fat stomach is literally deflating.

Above it says, "Small Step 89: Snack on fruits and vegetables. Lose your love handles at [the small step website]".

This irritates me every time I see it. And I see it all the time. It is a huge poster, and it's the first thing I see whenever I decide to go out.

It irritates me because it promotes weight loss and I'm opposed to the idea of changing eating or exercise behaviors with the intent to lose weight and opposed to the idea of correlating weight with health when those connections are scientifically bunk (expect a long post on this eventually).

It bothers me because it's extremely objectifying of fat people, to treat them like some inflatable device. Not to mention incredibly demeaning.

But what bothers me most of all is that it was paid for by the government.

My tax money went into that ad. This is a government program that the government is endorsing. Government endorsed fat hatred and bad science and continued myth.

Restricting natural body diversity should not be in our governments agenda.

Promoting health? Sure. I have no problem with my government endorsing snacking on fruits and veggies (though I would appreciate if they did more to make sure those were available and affordable, but whatever).

But I do have a problem with government telling me to lose my "love handles".

I love my love handles, thank you very much.

And you're the government. I don't appreciate you taking any stance on my love handles at all. Seeing as they're mine and a part of my body.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Happiness (and the pursuit thereof)

I talk a lot about my Mormon upbringing. It seems whenever I explain my positions on anything, I feel a need to bring it up. When I explain how various world circumstances make me feel, it's there. When I elaborate on my beliefs and my basic understanding of the world.

I am not Mormon any more.

And, here's the thing, I didn't hate it when I was.

I really didn't. I loved most of it. It made me feel excited and special and part of something bigger. It gave me context in which to think about the world in that was easy to understand and simple to explain.

And I'm not here to tell you why I don't believe any more. There are lots of reasons. They are personal and sometimes entirely logic based, and other times very much based in things more intuitive. And they don't just explain why I don't believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they are why I don't believe in God (which is not to say that I think the idea of an afterlife or undiscovered forces are impossible, I just think if such things do exist then they exist without a God behind them, and when it matters in my decisions then I act on the premise that they do not - which includes acting on the premise that this is the only life I get and when I die I'm done forever).

And here's the thing I really want you to understand.

I'm happy.

I feel the need to say this because among many religious people, and my mother especially, happiness is treated as this measurable commodity. More importantly, it is treated as a measurable commodity that can only truly be achieved by a close "relationship" with their particular god. Other people, even if they look happy, can't really be happy, because they don't have that particular brand of religious practice.

My mom would say it during passing conversations in the kitchen. "Honey, I just want you to be happy, and I think this will lead to your happiness."

She would say it when issues of gay rights came up. No matter the science, logic, or facts I would use, she would fall back on God, and her proof was always, "They just don't seem to be very happy or lead very happy lives."

(And this was, of course, always treated as a direct result of their lack of God, not, you know, the discrimination they daily face or anything. You know, that discrimination my mother was validating and adding to in the mere saying of that sentence.)

She would say it about celebrities, about "wayward" extended family members, about basically everyone who wasn't as God-fearing as she.

And when my mother would tell me that she just wanted me to be happy, and I would respond with, "I am happy. I'm happier than I've ever been." she would always say the same thing.

"You don't seem very happy to me."

Of course, living in a home where your ability to believe (or not) freely is daily challenged, where you constantly have to skirt around in conversations and try your hardest to keep your tongue -- in the middle of that, maybe I wasn't.

But that's not all of it. It is probably true that I have been more sad and dower since my path away from the church. In fact, almost certainly. And not just because it was hard to go against the way I was raised. I have definitely been sadder than I've ever been before during and since that journey.

But, and I repeat,

I've never been happier.

Being religious was so small. The happiness and the sadness were both so small. And so stupid. (Sorry to the religious, but that's how it feels in retrospect)

It was stupid. That happiness and sadness.

Because what made me happy and sad when I was really devout? The struggles and successes? Were small, and mostly fictional.

And I don't mean fictional as in "God is FICTION BWAHAHA" I mean fictional in that the problems I was facing and overcoming weren't real problems.

The convenience of the particular religion I was in was that it took all the real problems and shoved them away or justified them. Gays don't have equal rights? Good, God approves. Women making less money? Well women and men are different and women are needed in the home anyway.

And on.

So all the big problems became Not Problems. We only had to kind of fight to keep the status quo (which is easier than fighting for equality and change by miles), because certainly none of those things needed to change.

And in their place we were give little problems. Little problems or non problems that were then treated like Big Temptations, which we could then celebrate avoiding. Like Swearing! Oh, those cuss words are going to come in and corrupt your mind! Don't use them! And rated R movies. Don't watch them, they are Inappropriate! And immodest clothing. Keep your shoulders and abdomen covered, ladies!

And then a leader would come up to you and ask, "Did you avoid these temptations?" and you would say "Yes!" and then he would say, "Good job! You have an excellent relationship with God!" and then I would be happy. In my small, stupid way, I was happy. And the biggest things that made me not happy? When someone said a swear word around me, when people were mean or gossipy, or when I couldn't find a pretty enough 'modest' dress for the formal.

That was my happiness and my sadness. And I look back on it, and while I recognize it, and remember it, it feels stupid. Stupid and small.

It is true that I experience a greater sadness these days than I ever did before I became a ally to equal rights and an activist for the causes of justice that exist out there. It's true. I am frequently not happy.

I cried yesterday morning when I saw the final results of the Prop 8 vote, and learned that thousands of Americans would have a basic right stripped away from them. I cried and cursed the people like my mother who felt such a dire need to protect their small, stupid version of happiness. I was more sad than I had ever been about anything when I still believed in the LDS church and its teachings and followed them without question. (granted, that last time that was completely true, I was probably about 13 or 14).

But, and here's the thing, the thing that makes up for all of it.

When we make even the tiniest dent in the battle for what is just and right,

When I start to see the tiniest glimmer that things are getting better in the world,

It makes me so much happier than I ever was when I believed in God.

(Note: this is not to suggest that belief in God and this happiness are mutually exclusive, but merely to explain why belief in God is not a necessary prerequisite for happiness, as so many would suggest, and how one particular and popular brand of God actually completely disabled my potential for happiness)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


...some of the celebration pouring out in the Castro district of the city, as it's known. A place near and dear to your heart, Chris Matthews.

Matthews: Certainly me, having written for the papers out there it's-

Maddow: That may not all be celebration if it's in the Castro and we haven't got the results of Prop 8-

Matthews: Well yeah, Prop 8 is uh, Prop 8 Look I wanna say something. I was once at a Human Rights Campaign meeting in Philadelphia, a dinner, and Barney said to all the people there, a lot of them gay, he said, 'You know, things are changing' and they are. Because even in California where this is probably gonna go down tonight, this proposition, or rather pass, that's gonna basically throw back same sex marriage, if you look at the numbers it was like 4 to 1 against same sex marriage just a couple years ago. And now it's gonna be a much closer vote.

Maddow: I think the thing that's hard, and again, there's only 22 percent in and Lord knows what's gonna happen here, but the thing that is painful about the California vote if it goes this way, for gay Americans, is that this is an existing right. That, in the wording of the measure, it's very blunt, it's asking Americans...asking Californians to rescind a right that already exists. And that sort of language, that sort of blunt's not, you know, 'The sky will fall if we approve gay marriage'. Gay marriage has existed in California and Californians have seen that the sky hasn't fallen. And to have...For gay residents of California to have their fellow citizens vote to take away an existing right that they have that has caused nobody any measurable harm...I think will be a bit of a body blow on what will otherwise be...a...a satisfying night for a liberal leaning community.

Rachel Maddow looked extraordinarily sad in that video.

And now?



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Until Tuesday

Sometimes I start thinking about election day, and how uncomfortably close so many important issues are, and how much time I've put into it, and how important it all is, and I start trembling.

Vote. Please.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Synchronized Presidential Debate

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Thanks to my brother for passing that along.

Obama Wins!




whew, that was close!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008



And, because of the upcoming election, and me getting all worked up about how Prop 8 needs to get voted down in the lovely state of California, say hello to Wanda Sykes.

Hey, remember a year ago when Dumbledore was outed?

We should totally celebrate the anniversary of his outing by making gay marriage legal.

*Wizard Pride*

In which I say, "Fuck Off."

There's an interesting article over at the Guardian that points out the disparity between "big think" books as written by men vs women. Namely, that men seem to have written more or all of the popular ones, and women have not.

Now, this is actually worth pointing out. I think it's an interesting point, and one worth reflecting on.

But then the article goes on to discuss the why of it.

Julia Cheiffetz, [writes] "It is hard to know whether women are better at telling stories than propagating ideas (I'm thinking of Susan Orlean, Mary Roach, Karen Abbott), or whether the intellectual audacity required to sell our hypotheses about the world simply isn't in our genetic makeup."

Emphasis added. And oh yeah, fuck off.

But! I tell myself, that is just a quote within the article. One the author, Alison Flood, will look at and then dissect and disregard.

But I've still got the nagging feeling that there's something to this, that men are more likely than women to want to pin their ideas down, to package them neatly within the confines of a paperback with a catchy title. Or maybe that's just my feminine intuition.


What's terrible about that is that she admits in the paragraph before that

only a fifth of UK economists are female, and only 7% have made professor. You don't need to be an economist to work out that this kind of disparity will lead to fewer female economists writing books. And it's not just economics, recent figures suggest that across the whole of academia only 17.5% of professors are women.

See. And here's the thing. I don't think that has ANYTHING to do with women just "not being wired" towards educating themselves or expressing themselves.

I think things like this, this and this might have something to with it.

Maybe it has something to do with stories like Rosalind Elsie's, where you can discover the double-fucking-helix and then someone else gets the Nobel prize.

Maybe it's like Liss pointed out here.

this country is seriously fucked to the everloving hilt with misogyny when you can be a woman eminently qualified for the most important, most respected, most difficult job in the entire nation, and one of the most important, most respected, most difficult jobs in the entire world, and still be reduced to a "white bitch" by some wanker on CNN without anyone batting an eye—because, ya know, some women are "named that" for a reason.

Or maybe it has something to do with making 1/3 less pay for the same amount of work.

Maybe it's not that women are wired to just sit back and tell stories and let the men folk deal with all the "big thinking" type books.

Maybe it's that women are first taught not to be big thinkers, and the ones who make it past that and actually become big thinkers anyway? Are steadfastly ignored, ridiculed, regarded as "uppity", or their ideas swiped aside as "cute" and then copied and reprinted garnering lots of respect for someone else who happens to be more penisy.

Maybe it's just institutionalized sexism.

Or maybe women just aren't big thinkers.

I mean it's not like I read any big ideas from women on a daily basis or anything like that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Little Dream I Have

I grew up Mormon. If I hadn't stopped being Mormon two years ago, this would have put an end to it pretty quick.

I'm ashamed of my former religion (though very proud of the members who are campaigning for what is right).

I would also be lying if I didn't mention that I'm a little resentful of the way I was brought up because of that religion.

I saw a post made by my sister-in-law in her family blog about her campaigning for Proposition 8, and it made me unbelievably sad.

Then, when coming home from grocery shopping, some friends and I passed the LDS Church Institute off of our local campus.

And I said, "I wanna go get a bunch of 'No on 8' posters and banners and stuff, and just completely cover that place with them. So many that the whole thing will be covered in 'em! And it would take a forever to take them all down! And then I'll be like 'Take THAT repressed childhood!'"

And my friends said, "Good luck with that."

Here's the thing, I know it wouldn't do any good. Immature tactics like that aren't going to impress anyone or change minds. I wouldn't be helping my cause.

But that wouldn't stop it from being immensely satisfying.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Very First Romance Film

Being in film school I am, of course, required to study a lot of film theory and history, which is kind of fun, even if a lot of the old movies we watch have to come with the disclaimer "By the way, this is historically significant, and technically well made, but also notably racist/sexist/et al".

So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw one particular film.

Okay, so some history. In 1872 Leland Stanford, who was wealthy and also probably bored, made a sort of "bet" taking the position that during a gallop all four of a horses hooves did temporarily leave the ground all at the same time. A lot of people thought this was impossible, so Stanford hired Eadward Muybridge who, with the help of John D. Isaacs, developed a system for taking several pictures in rapid succession with several cameras lined up facing a track. When the pictures came out if was found that you could sort of "flip" through them, and they appeared to be moving, and you could watch the horse gallop.

It was this that inspired the eventual invention of the Edison Kinetoscope, which wasn't actually invented by Edison, but he hired the guy who invented it to invent it (guy by the name of Dickson), so he got his name on it. Anyway. Getting from the Muybridge Experiment to commercial Kinetoscope use took a good 20 years, so now it's 1896, and there are these Kinetoscopes. You put money into them, put your face up to them, rotate a little handle and watch a short little movie. It was all the rage.

And in 1896, there was one particular actuary (that's what they called the little clips) that was the most popualar that year. Call it the 19th century blockbuster.

It was called "The Kiss"

And it looked like this.

Notice anything? Anything at all?

That woman is May Irwin.

And if you hadn't noticed, she is fat.

She was also very successful. A noted singer, actor, and comedian of the time. She was a popular and beloved performer. She died an old lady (well, 76, which is a decently long life) who was very rich.

As Wikipedia puts it,
"May Irwin's buxom figure was much in vogue at the time and combined with her charming personality, for more than thirty years she was one of America's most beloved performers."

Just another bit of history you can reference whenever someone tries to tell you that our current beauty standards are natural, inherent to everyone, instinct, an immovable part of history, or some sort of fact.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I do not like Sarah Palin. I despise Sarah Palin's politics. I loathe her politcal stances. I hate her anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environmental ideas. I am astonished that anyone thinks she could even begin to be qualified for VP.

Which is why I hate having to stick up for her.

But this?

Let's get this out in the open. This is sexist. It's possible it was meant to be ironic and intended to point out the ridiculousness and the sexism in people's refusing to question Palin's obviously poor judgment because they'd like to fuck her, but if so it was done very poorly. And somehow I don't think that's actually what they were going for. This is sexist. Whether it was intended to be ironic or not, intentions don't mean much when you're final product comes out like that.

Valuing or dismissing women based on their appearance and supposed fuckability is one of the oldest and nastiest tricks in the book. Responding with "LOLOL but you're ugly!" or "LOLOL pretty girls R dumb!" is so classic that women come to expect it. Diminishing women until all that is left is their appearance is a classic and foul tactic of the patriarchy. Saying, "Haha, you're just a fuckhole to me!" is the same threat and the same treatment that women fight off every single day and they strive be seen as human beings.

So I don't appreciate anyone thinking that the way to go after Palin is to say, "Haha, she's just a fuckhole to me!"

No matter how much I don't like her.

Because that doesn't just affect her. It affects every woman who attempts to achieve in anything. The argument goes both ways and can be used on both sides. Validating that agrument keeps it alive to use against everyone.

We can be better than that. We don't need to resort to putting women in their place to win a campaign.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quote of the Moment

[Y]ou know, every child Sarah Palin has had is one she could have aborted and didn't. Trig is going to grow into a whole human being just like her other children. The idea that he is *only* significant because of his disability, which in itself is only significant as a "tragedy" that shows how saintly "pro-life" Palin is, is so ableist it makes me want to puke every time I think of it.
- Sweet Machine, in the comments of this Shakesville Post

Right on, SM.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


News today is that Don LaFontaine has passed away. He will be missed. In his honor:

And now onto other videos.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If the Bush Administration was Your Roommate

Sorry (invisible non-existent readers, whom I love) about the lack of blogtacular stuff. I'm moving out of state in less than a week and working full time up until the day I leave, and so the blog will continue to be a bit dead until then. But then I'll probably wind up with a lot of free time for the first couple weeks when I get there, so that'll be better. But until then, here's a little something left over from 2004 to hold you over.

From the mind and editing skills of Matt Kresling: "If the Bush Administration was Your Roommate"

Watch in Hi-Res

Watch in Low-Res

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


In other Things That Are Awesome, RACHEL MADDOW IS GETTING HER OWN TELEVISION SHOW!!! Let us rejoice! Have some Rachel Maddow nostalgia from a half-year-ish ago.

Ahhh, the Primaries. Remember those? Those were the days.

Monday, August 18, 2008

They learn so, so many things.

I used to work in a toy store. Right now I work in a day care. The place where I work is pretty big for a day care, with 35-50ish kids there a day, aged 12 months to 6 years, and separated into classes based on age group. I usually work with the "transition" class, who are too old for the toddler/waddler class, but not old enough for the pre-school or pre-K classes. Think about 2 years old, as an average.

In both Toy Store Retail and in Day Care my favourite part is the kids. And in both my least favourite part is watching our socially created systems of oppression already having an impact on said kids. I can remember dying of frustration in the aisles of the toy store when mother after mother came in saying her son loved to play cooking, but didn't like pink, and did we have any toy cooking sets that were less feminine? I remember cursing whoever thought to split the educational section into a "boy" section and "girl" section, the boy section filled with microscopes and bug catching kits, and the girls section filled with jewelry making kits and hair accessory kits. And feeling disconcerted by box after box with thin white children's faces staring out at me advertising their product.

I left the toy store because I was taking extra credits in school. And then worked as a hotel night auditor and a freelance stagehand, and then I got my day care job, which is where I work now.

And, of course, the frustrations follow. All currently embodied in one little boy, aged about two. Or rather, in the reaction and interaction of others with this little boy. We will, for the purpose of this story, call him Don. Which isn't his name at all, but it works.

Now, first off, if you are truly an observant person, nothing will destroy more gender stereotypes and body stereotypes than being with a diverse group of toddlers. The one who eats the most is a tiny tiny tiny blonde girl, whereas we have to coax two of the big ones to even touch their food. All children, when given an opportunity, will play with a baby doll. All of them, when given a chance, will push a big toy truck around. And even if you do start to notice a trend, that trend says nothing about what to expect from an individual child.

And amongst these children is one particular individual child. "Don".

Don is a big baby. He is definitely among the heaviest in his class (though not necessarily the top). He's fat. Fat and adorable.

Now this has very little relevance to my big point except to say why I might have been defensive of him from the start. The very first time I set eyes on him, I thought, "Does he have a mental disability or something similar?" This was not based on anything but appearance. His unusually light eyes, small nose, and large forehead had reminded me of a lot of the kids I had worked with in middle school when I volunteered for the Special Education classes. It was an unfair assumption, and when no one mentioned anything I figured I must have been wrong.

Then it became apparent that Don is kind of a handful, and not for being rebellious. Because he is big, he can easily hurt the smaller babies just by laying on them (which is something he does frequently, but never, it seems, maliciously. It's like he just doesn't understand what he's doing and so just gathers in too-close proximity to whomever he latches onto, knocking them over and winding up on top of them). And when we give the babies instructions, he doesn't seem to understand, and so it's a hassle when we have to maneuver over to wherever he needs to be. And then when he eats, he doesn't really eat his food, he just mechanically and inefficiently stuffs it into his mouth, often creating a huge, crumby mess. He doesn't necessarily eat more than the other babies, but his method of eating certainly makes it seem like he does.

My reaction as I watched this unfold was a resurface of the suspicion that maybe he had something else going on, such as a mental disability, or just some leftover baggage from being in foster care. That maybe what he needed was a different sort of care than was available at our day care. That maybe our repeatedly getting upset with him wasn't ever going to help, because as far as I could tell his actions weren't on purpose and he didn't understand he was doing anything wrong.

The reaction of them women I work with was to give him a nickname.

"Fat Baby"

Now, personally, I don't think the word "fat" is an insult, or that it should be. It's a descriptor. And he is a fat baby. BUT - they are using the word to strip him of his name. In a way, to make him not a person. He's just the fat baby. And even when they use it "endearingly" it's still apparent that they are making fun of him. Or that they feel resentful of the fact that they have to care for this baby as well as the others. This fat baby.

And, of course, of all the big babies we have, this is the one it's okay to call fat, because have you seen how he eats? And he's not smart! He confirms our stereotypes! Never mind the other fat babies. They don't confirm the stereotypes, so they're not really fat babies. He's the fat baby. We don't like him, so he can be fat. Which is, of course, the worst thing you could be.

I need this job, and I'm about as low as it can get as far as the levels of power are concerned. I don't feel completely safe making a huge deal of this (despite the fact that I think it is a huge deal). So I, whether right or wrong, have made myself settle for a side mention of "Is that really necessary?" (which was patently ignored) and refusing to use this nickname myself.

And then there was today.

Today, Don came in with new shoes. His mother pointed them out as she dropped him off. Disney Princess shoes. It seemed pretty apparent that she was pointing it out so that we wouldn't think he had someone else's shoes on (trading shoes is a favourite pastime among the babies, basically every time you turn your back you turn around again finding that you have a puzzle of shoes to solve). She was saying "Yes. Princesses. Yes. These are HIS shoes."

My only thought upon hearing this was something along the lines of "Neat. Okay."

But, oh, those shoes. They became a topic of discussion today at work!

See, because I had missed the apparent scandal in those shoes. See, they're princesses and he's a boy! Which is, apparently, a big deal. Or so was explained to me.

"Look, look!" the other teacher in my class was whisper-calling over the manager, "Look! He's got princess shoes."

"I don't see anything wrong with that." Says I, ignored.



"They're not, like, Winnie the Pooh or something?"

"No! Look. Princesses!"

The manager makes a scrunched face.

"I don't see the problem with wanting princess shoes." I interject.

And then the manager said, not really to me, but to the other teacher, "I wouldn't buy him those shoes even if he wanted them. Because he's a boy!"

Oh! I see! That makes things clear.

The conversation ended there, because we were all pretty caught up in, you know, making sure the small mostly-harmless almost-helpless childlings didn't get themselves killed or seriously injured, which is rather time consuming. And that's probably for the best.

Because if it had been allowed to continue. Oh, the rage I had welling in me in that moment. I so wanted to scream at that woman. I wanted to scream so loud.

I wanted to yell

Don't you know what you're doing? Don't you understand? What are you saying with those shoes? Why is wrong for a boy? Don't you ever reflect on where this comes from?

See, he can't wear girl shoes, because they're for girls, and there's something wrong with that. But there's not something wrong with it if it's a girl wearing them. Just think this through.

There's something inherently wrong with girls' shoes. Boys shouldn't touch them. That's gross and weird. There's something wrong with girls' shoes. There's something wrong with dressing like girls. There's something wrong with acting like girls.

There's something wrong with girls.

Except, of course, for girls. Because feminine is the lower standard. And female is the lower sex. So it's okay for them, but don't you stoop there. Don't you dare. You might end up inferior, like those girls.

That's where this comes from. If girls want to act like boys, that's stepping up, so they can (as long as they don't get too ambitious or uppity, mind!). But for a boy to lower himself to their level! I never heard the like!

It's like when you learn that Spot can eat off the ground or from a dish, but you can only use a dish. Because you're better than Spot!

But these are people we're talking about.

And the people who are listening to you right now? The two-year-olds? They are so anxious to figure out the rules to this crazy mad world. And you're teaching them fast.

See, every afternoon when we comb everyone's hair to make sure they look okay for their parents? And we coo over the girls, calling them "so pretty" like it's the best thing they've accomplished all day (not, you know, their coloring or listening well or singing the ABCs)? They're picking up on that.

And those girls? They've already learned shoes. Remember, how the kids trade them all over? The girls started that. They hear us complimenting their adorable shoes every time we put them on them. They've learned that shoes are a part of "pretty" and "pretty" is important. They know it. Already. They know it.

They know that, and now, today, you are teaching them that those shoes are "their place", and that it's embarrassing and wrong. But only for boys. Because, boys are better than their shoes.

They are learning it, but they are not old enough to properly examine it yet. They will not be offended. They will just put it in their categories. And by the time they are old enough to examine it, it will be something "everyone" knows, because it's the only right way. And "because he's a boy" will be all the explanation they'll ever need.

They are learning. They know already. You are teaching them. "Pretty" is the most important, and they know already that "Fat" is categorically not "Pretty". You're making it so clear to them already. They are figuring it out. "Fat" is the opposite of a compliment. They are making the connections.

And the boys know now that girl things are things that they can look down upon. Boy things are never looked down upon, by boys or girls. But the boys know now, there's something wrong with being like a girl. We can mock it. We can shun it. Ignore it. It will never be important. When they get older "throws like a girl", "screams like a girl", "girly" - they'll all be perfectly legitimate insults. I mean, duh. They're like girls.

And no one's more like a girl than an actual girl is.

As Sweet Machine so succintly put it

[O]ne of the great rhetorical tricks of patriarchy (...) is to define women’s value in terms of appearance, and simultaneously to define appearance as something so utterly trivial that only completely shallow and useless creatures — like, say, women! — would care about it.

I know they're learning it. I know because Danica (not her name), just a week ago, in the next class over, after she had her hair put up for the afternoon, I saw her and was surprised by her new pigtails. I said, "Danica, your hair is beautiful!"

And she lowered her head in sadness. Do you know what she said?

"I have black hair."

She was not referring to the color of her hair. She was referring to her race. It was an argument against my compliment, because, you see, she's already learned. She already knows. She doesn't have beautiful hair. She has black hair. And she's learned, those things must be mutually exclusive.

It was all I could do to keep from crying as I hugged her and told her she had black beautiful hair.

Danica is four.

These kids learn fast. They are learning so, so fast. Do you have any idea what you are teaching them?

If they were the shoes my son wanted, my son would get princess shoes. Because I don't want to be the one who teaches a child that girls need girl shoes to be worth something, but that boys are above them.

That there's something wrong with girls.

I don't want to be the one who delivers that lesson to anyone.

Why the hell do you?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am Time-Machine

My name is Time-Machine. My name is Jessica. Both of these things are true and neither name was chosen by me. But, when the nickname Time-Machine was given to me many years ago, I was anxious to use it.

To hide behind it.

I was excited that when people used it to talk about me, you couldn't tell from the name if I was a boy or girl.

I was excited that it sounded unusual and strange, whereas Jessica was boring and common.

I was still mad at my dad for talking my mom out of naming me Jennessa, because Jennessa is "uncommon" and studies showed that when someone is looking at job applications or tests, they are less likely to hire someone or give a good score to someone with a "weird name" (weird for white European Americans only, of course) . Not because I wanted the name Jennessa as much as because I was beginning, just vaguely, to understand that the reason "weird names" get worse scores for the same effort is because "weird names" are associated with lower class people and minorities. And without knowing the words for it, I felt that my father had given in to some weakness, and I was ashamed of that.

I thought with this new name, I would be a new me.

And so, though the nickname Time-Machine took me by surprise, I'll admit, I didn't do anything to fight it. May have encouraged it a little, after it sunk in. I didn't want to be Jessica. I wanted to be Time-Machine!

I was hiding behind it as much as I was embracing it.

I still embrace it. It's a good name. And it suits me.

But I'm not running away from Jessica anymore.

Because I am a woman. Because my experiences are common. Because I can't ignore that I was born into privilege if I want to make a difference about it.

And so, I am Jessica. And Jessica is Time-Machine. And I'm not going to run anymore.

(You can call me by Jessica or Time-Machine here. Though Time-Machine may be easier simply because that's what I go by elsewhere, and because it is conveniently less common (wouldn't want to step on any other Jessica's toes). Or, you can do like many friends and my siblings do, and call me Ka [pronounced "kuh" - like the last syllable of my name]. It makes me happy because my parents wanted me to be "Jessie" and I ended up with a weird name anyway. Whatever floats your boat, really.)