Archive | February 2014

“But Not All ______ Are Like That!”

Welp. This is about as close to the discussion I was having today is. I spent a few minutes absolving myself instead of thinking about how to fix a problem.

The Belle Jar

I see this happen all the damn time.

Someone describes the actions of a privileged group of people and how these actions, purposefully or not, encourage the marginalization of a less-privileged group. Most often this description occurs within the context of trying to explain to the privileged folks how this dynamic is hurtful and oppressive. The hope is that the privileged group will listen to the marginalized person, examine their own behaviour, and try to do better in the future. The reality is that the person doing the explaining is nearly always met with a chorus of, “but not all men/white people/straight people/cis people/able-bodied people are like that!”

Look. I get it. You, whatever privileged group you happen to fall into, are a good person. You want to remind the marginalized group that you view yourself as an ally. You want them to know that not everyone is against them…

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Online Dating

I’m an introverted adult. I have a professional life and I don’t just bum around in bars or at the union or the library or wherever else I used to frequent as a student. As I get older, there are fewer and fewer options for clubs and activities with people I don’t already know. Consequently, I don’t necessarily meet a lot of single girls, so I have tried online dating. I actually met my last girlfriend through OKCupid, and we had a long term, fairly good relationship for two years before things fizzled. I sort have talked about her before, but short recap, after two years I wanted to get married and she didn’t, and so she decided to end it. It sucked. Prior to that however, I had managed to go on several first dates, this being 2010 and 2011, usually if I wanted to, every weekend or so I could meet up with someone new for drinks or bowling. Just recently I’ve actually considered trying to meet someone new in earnest and I have had very close to no success. At first, I was under the impression that I was doing something wrong. Maybe my e-mails are too cookie cutter. Maybe my profile isn’t very interesting. Maybe I’m actually just ugly, that’s possible too. When I actually arranged a date, I ended up getting stood up.

I told my sister that, her response was to blink at me and say “People actually still do that?”

Anyway, it had seriously started to get me pretty down. The somewhat classical trap for the intelligent and resourceful is to consistently assume that because you are resourceful and intelligent, failure is solely your own responsibility. You didn’t do it right, or maybe you just need to be better, you still aren’t good enough. This is a dangerous and self destructive line of reasoning. Quite frequently, this will, in fact, not make you reach higher goals. It will actually outweigh any or all achievements that you do make with a looming sense of doubt and the knowledge that whatever you did, it will never, ever be enough. That’s shame, and it is a weight around your neck while you are drowning.

Then however, I saw this article about a man who posed as a woman on the same dating site I was using and it greatly altered my perspective of what was happening. (Yes, it’s a Gawker site. Sometimes they do good stuff.) Tl;dr: A guy from Reddit had similar woes; the imbalance between eligible women and eligible men on the site should make it easier for women, they have a huge selection of men competing for their attention, and they get to pick the cream of the crop. Wonderful, no? Well, turns out, that large pool of men is full of ginormous assholes. A guy who bums around the internet consistently and has been to the cesspool that is 4chan’s /b/, the guy running the experiment should have had relatively thick skin. He lasted only 2 hours before the deluge of obscene and desperate messages forced him to delete his account.

My lack of progress finding new people to spend time with was now cast in a very different light. There is a ton of dangerous themes at play here. The bizarre entitlement of the dudes who start by fawning and immediately switch to borderline criminal desire when they don’t get what they want immediately is disturbing. The fact that anyone, let alone a large number of people, are that vulgar and insulting to strangers bothers me to a great extent. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around. Someone like me, with (what I’d like to think) are reasonable expectations for online dating, are operating on the basic assumption that a woman on a dating site is looking for the same thing that you are, they are interested in meeting some new people because they have busy lives and society isolates us a little more as we get older. I approach each new person with the same level of respect that I would provide any stranger, that they are another human being with thoughts and feelings and rights, and that if we share that we can start a conversation and try spending time together. Apparently that assumption is bad, and somewhat naively idyllic. In truth, there is a very vocal group of people operating under the assumption that because they are on a dating site as a man, they can immediately treat others like meat, and when they don’t immediately get what they want, they start to abuse people. As a linguist, I am acutely aware of the power that words have on people. Each one of us is endowed with the limited power of mind control; words are processed largely autonomously by the brain, and they activate associated memories and sensations. If by saying or writing words that you know will result in a physiological effect like nausea or revulsion, it is equivalent to physical assault.

Digest that for a moment. Those disturbing words are (to me, just are) very close to physical assault. A not small group of people in a population that is looking for companionship try to initiate relationships with physical assault. How and why is this even possible that these men think that that is socially acceptable?

I still feel down, but now for an entirely different reason. Where I was convinced I wasn’t good enough, the backlash of this culture undermined my self esteem, it may have to do with the fact that I am in a minority of people that approach this whole prospect with respect. I am folding up paper airplanes and tossing them out the window at people I think are interesting and then sad when they don’t respond. What I didn’t realize is that those paper airplanes with notes written on them have to fly over a tremendous ocean of shit and abuse only to arrive with a pile of other paper airplanes full of razor blades and poison. That’s just a horrible state of affairs for everyone, and a very solid example of how anti-feminist thinking and attitudes among men really hurt men just as much as they hurt women. Why is it hard to approach women as if they were just another person, just like you, for such a large number of people? Do they never ask themselves how they would feel if they were approached that way? Is there that little empathy in people?

Food for thought.

Star Trek

I decided to write a post about how to not be afraid of posting regardless of who is reading what. I promptly then started not posting. Well let’s fix that.

Kansas City is home to Planet ComiCon, which is apparently becoming more and more of an important thing. People have talked about it, but I have never been a comics person. However, I found out this year that William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, and Wil Wheaton will be in attendance. This seriously made me giddy for a bit Monday evening. That is very much the kind of nerd that I am, and I sat for a while and thought about exactly why I was so excited to see a couple actors at a convention for something I don’t really care about.

I never liked comic books. Super heroes didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. It was difficult to get into, and felt like a boys club that I didn’t really fit into. DC was by far the worst, they have a stable of established characters, paragons of good and hyper manly to the point of being boring. Recently in movies and collections I see that they spend a lot of time “darkening” these characters, as if making them more edgy and sad would make them more relevant. That sort of just muddies the message they are sending further. Marvel was always a little more interesting, their heroes consisted of a bunch of rag tag misfits barring Captain America. The first comic I really loved was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which is far and away from the normal comic book fair.

Star Trek, however, had me hooked from the time that I could form memories. The major themes were always of inclusion, it didn’t have the walls to entry like comic books did. It wasn’t an exclusive club. People wanted you to be there, because in the Federation, everyone had something to contribute, big or small, regardless of gender, skin color, creed, or even species. And that really meant a ton to me! Maybe more now than it did then. Understanding that gender is a spectrum instead of binary, that might be why I never felt like part of the comic club, but felt more comfortable there beyond the stars. As a youth and a teen, I don’t think I felt any different from anyone else; generally alienated and acutely aware of what made me different from other people, which we realize, as we get older, is absurd. Sure everyone is different in several cosmetic and superficial ways, but in the core of people, we are mostly the same. We have the same needs, similar wants, all we want is to feel accomplished and appreciated, to live with some comfort, and share our thoughts, lives, and bodies with others, with variations in specific tastes and preferences. Watching those adventures each week on the Enterprise gave us a glimpse of a world where that was embraced, where everyone can come together to accomplish much, much more then they could have alone.

I watched both the documentary hosted by William Shatner where in he interviews each captain, and the Trek Nation documentary hosted by Gene Roddenberry’s son. It really amazes me just how much a silly TV series means to not only me, but possibly millions of people. We all watched those heroes, who were just normal people, we all saw how much they meant to each other. The characters all being of radically different backgrounds and opinions came together to form families. Star Trek changed lives. It was really interesting to watch each actor talk about how at first they didn’t like the attention, how they didn’t like being conflated with their character on TV, bit as they saw that their show actually made people’s lives better, even if it was just giving them a hopeful feeling that there is a place for everyone, it was meaningful. They had done something good.

That’s why I’m so excited. I get to see the people that might have changed my life.

Beta Blockers

Now it’s coming to it. I posted that TED talk last week and I’ve been trying to ride that high, that elated feeling of knowing what shame feels like and being able to tell it “No, you can’t stop me.” with that thought in my head, I went to the gym on Valentine’s day, a day that had very special between me and my ex, and I refused to feel bad and made it through a 5k jog in 30 minutes. Fantastic feeling of accomplishment, I’ve never even been close to being able to jog that far, not even in middle school. The dopamine flooded my system, I didn’t even care I’d been stood up the night before and I went out by myself and saw some awesome metal bands!

OK, well, local metal bands. Awesome is probably not the right word.

image

… It was better than sulking?

It was alright. I managed to swallow my fear enough at one point in the night to introduce myself to a girl. I promptly became terrified. The shame had returned. It promptly plagued me the rest of the weekend. I found myself wanting to write an article, but the thought that there were people that actually follow my blog froze me.

What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m not actually interesting? Maybe I should just ghost away as if I had never even started.

“No, it’s just stage fright,” I keep telling myself, as I write this now. “You clearly have good things to say. You are taking interesting pictures.” But it just keeps coming back. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. In middle school and high school, I was pretty overweight, awkward, had horrible skin, and just generally wasn’t the best looking, but I performed in every play, in every band, and every choir I could, I tried out for each solo (and even got a few of them!) and I never thought twice. I performed in front of the entire school, all of my friends and all of our parents, and I never even broke a sweat.

So why now, at 27, a learned professional, who was the instructor of record of several classes, afraid suddenly of a bunch of strangers on the internet?

I realize, now, that this is important to me. That I want this to succeed, that I want people to come together to help each other and I want to make that happen. I started doing all of my hobbies and my art and my writing as therapy for the things that had gone wrong in my life. They made me feel like I was back at the helm of a life gone out of control, and I’m frightened now because I wrested the wheel back and immediately headed for uncharted space. I’m trying to build a community and I’ve never tried to do that before, and I certainly don’t have a road map.

Scary, no?

In theory, the only wrong course of action would be to say nothing, so here I am, having crawled out of my hole squinting into the sun to tell you all, “This is hard.” Let that nugget of wisdom sink in. Yeah. Savor it.

Other news, we played some board games this weekend, I managed to win both! We did some Lords of Waterdeep on Saturday night, and for some weird reason I don’t ever get sick of this game. It’s moving parts on the surface should be everything I hate about euro games, but something about the aspect of recruiting adventure parties to send out to do your bidding takes all of that away. Monday we played Euphoria, which while having a disturbing theme, is a ton of fun. Another Euro style worker placement game that I should hate, I think I actually managed to get the hang of it. I feel much less like I’m behind by two actions compared to games like Agricola. Which I hate with a fire. I hate to say it, but the standard version just wasn’t as fun as the Kickstarter version, even though the changes are all superficial. The little metal chunks for the bricks and gold just add a certain tactile enjoyment that little wood blocks can’t replicate.

Light Painting

I got stood up on a date tonight. I’m not doing awesome on this whole getting back into dating thing. But I did make a really neat piece of art before the evening went bad, check out this light painting! We only did one because I thought if I reloaded the wisk I’d be late for my date. The irony is not lost on me.

Secrecy, Silence, Judgement

I have made a new friend! April over at Modern Sex Culture reblogged one of my posts, and I wanted to thank her, so I sent her an e-mail and I told her that it’s very cool that she is talking about what happened to her and in general talking about things that are tough to say. She wrote me back and told me that there was a TED talk by one Brene Brown that discussed shame in culture, and I watched it, and, well, here watch yourself!

TED Talk by Brene Brown

This is really very great. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I wrote off a lot of my neuroses as guilt, as things I was taught being raised Catholic, and that in general it was making me miserable. The honest truth, though, is that whatever those guilty feelings were? This is actually shame. The constant lock in my brain of “You aren’t good enough,” and “Who the fuck do you think you are?” these messages that my chemically imbalanced brain sets on repeat man nights, this is shame. I don’t go through life with a lot of people externally shaming me, for which, I am extremely glad, because my internal mechanism has pushed me to thinking about no longer existing on occasion. I cannot imagine for a minute how miserable it must be for others, women especially. I’ll admit, I was brought up in a very socially conservative environment. Women were not to enjoy sex. Boys and girls were not to admit that they were curious about sex. God mandated through his servants that sexuality was a sin. Exploring a core facet of your human existence was a sin that would get you eternal punishment if you explored it before dedicating the entirety of your future to exploring with a single person, and only to the end of having children. On top of this, it was a gross double standard, looking back now, that was the end of the message. Girls, if you got pregnant, oh God help you, you are going to raising that baby and you are going to suffer and give up your life because you done sinned and sinned HARD.

Dear nonspecific higher power (look, I shamed myself into not saying ‘dear god’ without really thinking about it, its that built in) let’s think about how awful these messages are for a second.

First and most disturbing: A child isn’t a punishment! It’s not! It’s a time to grow up and become responsible, but its not a punishment! It’s a living breathing human being!And believe it or not, you aren’t stuck with it! I will say here that I am not keen on abortion while being pro choice; I respect a woman’s right to be in control of her body and certainly respect an ethical decision to not be able to provide for a child and terminating an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, but I also believe it’s a symptom and not a moral disease. It’s a symptom of refusing to teach children what sex is about and how to responsibly take precautions, motivated by shame! There are some pretty basic things you can do to responsibly explore the nature of your body that they refuse to teach young women SPECIFICALLY that they could use to help prevent them from having children too young!

God help a girl that is smart and responsible and realizes “Hey, sex is fun and is a neat thing my body does!” because that girl is a slut.

Keep in mind, the good old boys are usually pressured into sowing some wild oats in their high school years. Who exactly are they supposed to be having sex with if the girls are expected to never open up and explore their bodies? You better find someone that isn’t a slut, because sluts are inherently bad, so you better go force your way into a “pure” girl’s vagina.

HOW IS THIS OK? HOW DID WE GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE ARE SHAMING YOUNG PEOPLE INTO RAPE AND ACCEPTING THAT RAPE IS A THING THAT’S OK?

It’s mind boggling. I focused on sex here, because I have a background in human interaction and language, but this concept of shame is built into almost everything around us. You can’t ask for help at work because that would mean that you are a weak link, even if there is a dozen people with the same problem and that by discussing it you would all do better jobs. It’s utter madness.

Fixing it is so simple, too. You just have to realize that other people are people. They have feelings and problems just like you.

Secrecy, Silence, Judgement. They are the root. We strike at the root.

How To Undermine A Rape Victim 101

So I realize that I’m posting and reposting some pretty heavy stuff, but I’m a heavy kind of guy. If I hadn’t bought the wrong kind of steel wool, you’d have some light painting photos to break up this stuff about how to be a decent human being, but this is a good post, and goes over some important stuff that reflects what has been on my mind. Visit this article, visit this blog, it’s good stuff.

The Belle Jar

Trigger warning for talk of rape 

Preface the victim’s open letter about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father with a statement saying that he deserves the presumption of innocence. Always approach situations like this with the thought that the victim might be lying; remind yourself and others that the burden of proof is on her.

Insist on referring to the victim as the rapist’s “adopted daughter,” as if that mitigates what he has done. Using subtle language cues like this, imply that though it might be rape, it’s not really incest because the the rapist is not the victim’s biological father. Pretend that adoptive parents somehow feel differently about their children than biological parents do.

Like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, insist on your ability to differentiate between an artist and their art. As a spokesperson for the organization said, “The…

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The Day We Fight Back

There are major steps being taken to help end the mass surveillance of United States Citizens. The Good Doctor here would like to encourage you to take steps yourself to help us. Regardless of your thoughts on Snowden, current politics, or otherwise, the unchecked collection of data by the NSA is monumental and Orwellian. Each and every one of us is currently being treated like a suspect. This sort of life under glass is the first step in enabling the boot on the face of humanity forever. So come on folks, let’s try to end mass surveillance and tell our leadership that we will not exchange liberty for safety and complacency. Call or write your representative and tell them to do their job and represent their people and not their own interests.

Strike at the root.

Update: It was brought to my attention that James Sensenbrenner Jr (R-WI), author of this bill, wrote the legislation that allowed for the collection of our data in the first place. I decided to continue due diligence and investigate this bill. I have read it and have decided to keep my link up. The wording of the proposed legislation enables actions that the ACLU and many other advocacy groups support for ending mass data collection and increased law enforcement transparency and public accountability. The PATRIOT act was a poorly worded, knee jerk document, and people make mistakes. People can rectify mistakes as well. Sensenbrenner’s moderate voting record is commendable in the current political atmosphere, and while I don’t agree with all of his platforms, I appreciate his ability to negotiate and to acknowledge that PRISM was far outside of the scope of what he intended and has taken steps to rectify the situation.

Metrics

A thought has occurred to me as I sit here data mining at work. I am searching through trends in education data and it brought me back here. I’m trying out Headliner.fm, a pretty cool site about community co-promotion; if we all agree to work together, we can all reach much more disparate bases of people who are interested in what we are writing, what art we are making, the worlds we are building. I frowned and I asked myself, why am I doing this? Who IS my audience? Are you really going to address the whole internet, Doc?

Well I guess it’s anyone that’s interested. So who exactly is interested? I know people coming through are looking primarily at my pictures. I have no delusions about that; I’m not a pro photographer, even though I want to be. I am hell of a hack amateur, and other photo bloggers are following and I hope that’s encouragement to continue practicing.

Miniatures gamers? Legit. I do know my stuff in that category. I am a fairly good painter and I keep an ear out for what’s new and what’s good. That’s a fraction of my posts, though.

This blog is turning into a platform about awareness. I’m doing my best to pay better attention to the problems in the world and as I learn, I’m sharing it with the internet. I don’t dare to presume that what I say here should be important to you, but if you are here and you see me talk about Net Neutrality, you might have a vested interest in it (cause without it, you wouldn’t be here). Mental health, sexual violence, and other rights issues may not seem like your problem, but you certainly won’t be worse for learning more.

So what does that really make me?

I’m an archivist.

I’m making a record of things, preserving them in pictures and words. I’m passing resources to people that need them. I’m connecting people to information. I’m facilitating awareness and enlightenment, enabling help. I’ve been in some very miserable and dark places in life, but I am returned from them, and now I want to help others do the same. The road is long and treacherous, but some that pass this way have documented their travels, written guides and maps. That is what I want to build. That’s what I want to make a community around.

So community, let’s talk about something else. Headquarters is an important and positive local resource. It previously was one of few 24 hour accessible crisis counseling centers and the only one in Kansas that answers the National Suicide Prevention hotline. Up until this past December, they had been answering calls anytime since 1969. Think about that for a minute. That is 44 years, 24 hours a day, that if things were not OK, that if it seemed like the only way out was to be dead, there was someone that you could talk to. A stranger that cared enough to listen to you, that valued you, and your ability to keep living. That is truly awesome.

Recently, the money for resources like this have started drying up, especially here in Kansas (Koch-istan) and on a national scale (Tea Party/”Libertarians”), and a combination of some internal problems with the leadership of the center, Headquarters has been struggling to keep their crucial service running. Their leadership has changed, so that they can start to grow and adapt to changing circumstances better, but that doesn’t alleviate the inherent problem that services that are pretty explicitly designed to prevent needless deaths, to genuinely save lives, are sorely under funded and under staffed.

Go visit their website for some more information. They can always use more volunteers to answer calls if you can’t help financially, man power is always crucial to non-profits and community programs as well. Get out there and help people, readers. That’s the audience I want.

Snow Day

Lawrence got buried in a good 8-10 inches of snow this week. The university decided to shut down classes for both Tuesday and Wednesday. Me being non-essential personel, also got the days off with the students! So I got a ton of sleep to make up for the fact that I haven’t slept at all […]