Taking Laughter for Granted

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I am not a person filled with energy and a quick and sharp wit. I don’t provide the world with an abundance of entertainment and perspective on how immense the possibilities of human experience are by being able to flip everything over into something passionate and moving. I haven’t pushed myself to create the greatest possible art to touch as many people as possible in deep and forever changing ways.

When I get the depressed, and when I think of death, it seems like such a small sway in pace and perspective to the mediocrity I’ve settled for that it doesn’t strike me as severely or quickly. I’m useless to society at large, which I guess has put me less at risk.

Anybody who’s laughed in the past 35 years has been touched by Robin Williams. We’ve been so moved by the laughter and excitement he’s riled up in us, and we didn’t know how severely the pendulum swung. Motherfucker. The greatest tragedy is the greatest comedy plus death. Actual death.

#FeministsAreUgly

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As the tale goes, the #FeministsAreUgly hashtag on Twitter was started by @cheuya and @LilyBolourian facetiously. Both are feminists and neither is ugly – not that it matters.

Discussions about feminism eventually get to the heterosexual, gender binary politics and stop there – because men feel a threat to their physical pleasure and reduce anything further women say to a lack of getting cock, or something along those lines. (Not ALL men, but enough excessively vocal ones to be maliciously hostile and harass any woman wanting to have a say. Sit down, guys.) This heterosexuality is linked to a standard of beauty that is woven into the patriarchy – but that doesn’t necessarily make it an enemy of feminism.

Women should do things for their own pleasure and comfort, including the option of dressing to please their own aesthetic tastes and perhaps sexual arousal from looking in the mirror. As an effect of patriarchy, heterosexual women have the advantage of being able to see sexual attractiveness in other women, and themselves, without their heterosexuality being questioned. Yes, that’s patriarchy, and it’s to the disadvantage of men. Join us, men who want to pose sexily in front of the mirror for their own entertainment and not be emasculated or have their sexual orientation put under scrutiny. We are fighting the same fight.

In fact, I can defend my use of makeup and fashion not only as for my own pleasure in defiance of serving the male gaze, but also as an egalitarian value I’ve held for my entire life. It’s documented back to the age of 14 when I was putting makeup (albeit goth) on male classmates on a band trip to Regina, Saskatchewan, and I had been advocating that for well over a year. I’ve always maintained that men could use their faces as canvasses and learn the art of tricking the eye. I will defend any man who does so as not sacrificing any of his self-determination nor any of his sexuality or attractiveness to women.

I’m not attractive to everybody and I’m unattractive in a general sense some of the time. I can make ugly faces as cited above, but I can quickly reassemble myself into a sociable expression. We’re all multifaceted characters. Many women picked up on the #FeministsAreUgly hashtag and confidently posted selfies of their appearance – images of themselves that they respect and believe are worthy of representing who they are. The myth that feminism aims to destroy the concept of beauty needs to be tackled before confident girls and women distance themselves from ideas that empower them to assert their agency. Hostility towards femme, traditionally beautiful appearances only further reduces identities to gendered characteristics, and that isn’t feminism. There’s beauty privilege, without question, that often parallels ableism or classism and racism as well (*cough* “exotic”), but that’s in the depths of this rabbit hole I’m only describing in vague words at this point.

Indeed it’s a very messy rabbit hole – but we should be comfortable decorating it as we please. For our comfort and enjoyment and to please ourselves.

Cisgender Heteronormativity and Why We Should All Learn Those Words

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All of the masked or blatant bigotry of our relatives who live a far enough distance to see rarely have become manifests of Facebook timelines. This cuts back on the number of chain emails that nobody under 50 ever wants to see in their inbox, but the content is not quite as easy as checking a box and clicking “delete” before even opening the message. There’s the option of hiding certain people from our timelines, but their comments on posts of people we don’t hide will show. We can skim past them and mostly ignore them, but the meme images -likely stolen from uncredited creators, written with incorrect spelling or poor grammar, or just factually inaccurate propaganda to reaffirm existing prejudices -will stick out, and we’ll be drawn to them and all the horrible things they have to say. People will share articles and posts from pages they follow that come with an attached image and synopsis that our fast reading eyes absorb even though we don’t try. If you have older, bigoted, or just ignorant relatives on Facebook, you cannot avoid this.

And just like internet interactions as a whole, you cannot use the medium through which they’re spreading their backwardness to explain to them what’s wrong with their behaviour. There’s scant a thing as effective internet debate to genuinely educate somebody and change their mind, so anything you say will be turned into a personal argument. Nobody has to actually read what you say in its entirety, if at all, before assuming their place in rambling the same position you’re calling them on. You have to be a very patient educator to get anywhere – even just convincing them to post less crap.

I will divulge minimal details of the story that links this to the title: a relative of mine who’s vocal about LGBT issues posted one of those dreaded images with text on it. It wasn’t an ignorant one; it stated facts that everybody should know, about the origins of gay rights movements and why there is no comparison between a gay pride parade and a straight pride parade. A mutual relative of ours, in the wee hours of the night, went on a multi-comment grammatical nightmare of misspellings, poor and insufficient punctuation, rambling non-sequiturs, and drifting off into irrelevant territory. There were pouts of victimhood for straight people who don’t like the term straight or wanting to be distinguished from LGBT people. There were I-know-a-gay-person (or at least someone presumed to be gay based on stereotypes and whathaveyou) excuses. There was defensiveness on how LGBT rights somehow seek to invalidate heterosexual marriages. A lot of these statements contradicted each other. The relative who posted the image eventually responded with “…I think you’re entirely missing the point.”

Caricatures of old people with homogenous social circles and no awareness of cultural change aside, there is a lot about the diversity of sexual and gender identities that escapes most people. There’s a significant blind spot covering the concept that difference goes in both directions. “Normal” is still too often used by people who are heterosexual or cisgender – especially the latter, which is a newer concept and makes people think about their own selves more than they’d ever be comfortable.

Heteronormativity is a scarier word than heterosexual. Even where acceptance of the LGB in LGBT is lacking, people are willing to use “heterosexual” to describe themselves as “not homosexual”. But the “heterosexual” they speak of is still synonymous with “normal”. It’s understood as more “natural” than same-sex attraction, and how things have always been and are largely meant to be. To have that view challenged is a punch in the face of people who stick their face in places uncomfortably close to unwelcoming fists of people who are not being listened to. Learn the word, and the meaning behind it: heteronormativity is a social concept that dictates people are straight until proven otherwise. Children are straight until they grow up to be gay. Animals are straight unless someone catches two males of the species fucking (two females are just sharing childrearing duties among their group). Heteronormativity is the background that nobody has to pay attention to. If there are two extras in a scene flirting with each other at another table in the restaurant, they are going to be heterosexual. If they were same-sex, that MUST have something to do with the plot. Otherwise they wouldn’t have put it in there, right?

Cisnormativity is even more deeply embedded, and it will take a lot of sitting and absorbing for most people to learn what this means and accept that it’s there. I am a cisgender woman; despite all of my off-path characteristics of not wanting romance, marriage, children, a beautiful garden, designer purses, or flowers every February, I still reflect on my identity and see that it matches my biology. I’m comfortable with the female traits of my body, and I don’t see a fundamental gender conflict with how people perceive and gender me and what I feel at the very base of my self. That is a privilege. I don’t constantly struggle with every mention of my name or when feminine pronouns are used. Being cisgender is part of my identity. It’s not the default or “normal” that most people see it as. Even those who want to be accepting and encouraging of trans* people to become their best might be sympathizing from the wrong angle. Treating it as an illness, instead of viewing it as a divergence of personal growth, excludes the use of the word “cisgender”.

If straight cisgender people were more aware of these blind spots and the barriers they reinforce for LGBT people, they wouldn’t get so outraged or say such prejudiced things on social media. Instead we’d, well, have to shake our heads at every other problem they are blind to. I was going to list a few examples, but I wouldn’t stop myself in time to maintain your attention. We have so many products of ignorance to disassemble. Just by recent example did this particular one come to mind. As a cisgender straight woman it doesn’t follow me everywhere I go, but every so often it pops up on Facebook.

Wisdom: Being One Life Lesson Ahead

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Somebody at work regards me as an oracle of knowledge and wisdom, despite how many times I’ve tried to demonstrate to her just how extensively I’m not. She hears about how often I fail to follow my own advice but still somehow trusts me. I suppose it doesn’t matter how well I live up to my own standards if admiration of my character is of only secondary importance. To my benefit, telling her that we have a choice in how we respond to things, including our own emotions before they’re expressed outwardly, reminds me of what I need to put into practice.

(I still don’t live by my own example, or however you’d word that in a non-contradictory way.)

Part of the reason this person likes my advice is that I don’t turn it into a social conversation. Neither of us is a social person in the extroverted chit-chatty sort of way, and I don’t need to know details about her life as she doesn’t need to know details about mine. I use coffee in part to turn off my own inhibitions – the good ones that I treasure and value and wish I could use more – so I can appear to be social at work. When I started a new job I was intent on making it a place where I felt I worked, instead of a place I would’ve cried on my way to if I ever felt fully awake while getting there. This requires making conversation, and having something to talk about. It requires the people I work with getting to know me, and I already regret how far I’ve gone in revealing details. The best I can do with balancing my desire to keep everything siloed is to selectively reveal each endeavour to segregated and/or trusted contacts and withhold as many specifics as necessary for the conversation to still be anything of value. This coworker helps keep me in check by never giving her own specifics. To unlearn the habit of elaborating has been on my list for a long time.

It’s too late to undo the contamination between sectors of my life, and to take back the information I naively gave for free. However, it’s not too late to gradually lean back, and start to converse as indirectly as I can without appearing suspicious. That will be less of a problem at work than anywhere else – this is the least likely location for me to get drunk…when other people are around.

Lord, Give Me the Delusional Confidence to Think I Know What I’m Doing

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The world runs on a delusion that there is something objective about our structures that makes the rules work. We trust an “establishment” that we hold sacred, and where there are holes we pretend, and make it up as we go along.

Go ahead. Challenge that statement.

For people who cannot grasp this or bear to live with it, there’s religion – fundamentalist, literalist religion. Faith and community values can exist in a world where everything is merely a human-made structure and concepts are bound by the limitations of language, so not all religion and religiosity is incompatible with our very, very, very flawed reality. But for those who matter-of-fact know there is a hell for sinners, an invisible hand for the free market, or that Jesus descended upon the people writing the US Constitution and handed a gun directly into Abe Lincolns hands…there is no hope for them to see through the fragile glass on which we walk.

Anyway, this is my excuse for panic and anxiety at the notion that I may own a home one day. The concept that humans can own physical, space is a ridiculous start, but then there’s the idea of invisible “money”, and far worse the paperwork. Save me.

Things That I Would Do If I Had Time and an Attention Span

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  1. Read all of the books in my queue that I already own
  2. Borrow more books from other people and read them
  3. Borrow more books from the library and read them
  4. Go back and properly tag/categorize all of these blog posts
  5. Rewrite or delete a lot of these blog posts
  6. Get around to watching all of those TV series people tell me I have to see
  7. Listen to the past decade’s noteworthy music
  8. Practice writing until I’m good enough to get paid for it
  9. Work up the courage to submit writing to get paid for it
  10. Use getting paid for writing as a consolation for my anxieties over not making enough money despite the fact that I’m making more money than I ever have in my life
  11. Rewrite and delete a lot of the items on this list

The New Society Pages

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Back when not everybody was on the internet, we were in pocketed communities. There were people I could communicate with and tell things to about my life, directly and discretely, more or less. There was a pretty good chance news wouldn’t spread so quickly, and I always had somebody disconnected from the situation and the other spheres of my life who could and would listen and understand to a degree what I was feeling.

Now I need to muzzle myself from expressing things in general. Anybody can find it. I’m not talking about scandalous or embarrassing things; it’s often the tediousness, oversharing the mundane, or giving a ticker of live events that are not meant for play-by-play coverage. Smaller groups know the rules – it’s understood to what degree saying something is inviting advice; it’s a small conversation that accumulates in context and isn’t so easily joined by third parties.

The more thorough and open the network, though, the more people can pick up blips of incomplete information and chime in uninvited. It’s essentially dangerous to put anything of substance anywhere, no matter how casual in nature, unless it’s designed in the kind of newspaper announcement format that this has rendered obsolete.

The internet has become a much weaker social network ever since social networking came around.