Seasonal Exhaustion

The holiday is pretty much directly upon me. This weekend I have Christmas with my family. We are going up tomorrow night.

But I don’t feel super merry. In the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin. Like butter spread over too much bread.”

It has been a long and tumultuous year. The world has continued to terrify me with its ability to be random and cruel while simultaneously delighting me with the warmth and full hearts and adorable cat photos that I have found within it.

Normally at this point in the season I am wearing a festive hat and bouncing around the house to Christmas music like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not doing either of those things. And what’s weird is that I don’t really care to.

I think the weight of everything that has happened this year has just hit me all at once. The deaths of black women, the burning of black churches, the police brutality, the trans lives that have been lost, rape culture, the everyday harassment that comes along with being femme on the internet or on a street or wherever. Shit, some asshole even killed a lion.

I’ve talked before about the exhaustion that comes from dealing with social justice stuff all the time. The compassion fatigue that we all can feel merely from having access to the internet on a daily basis.

It wears. It takes a toll.

I’m not in a place right this second where I can talk about how to cope with that toll. I’m in it. I’m just looking forward to going home tonight, slapping on some Christmas music and faking it as if I’m going to be making it while I mix up some holiday cookies.

We cope. That’s all we can do sometimes. And I’m just learning now that it’s OK to just cope. To breathe into whatever we’re going through and to be not 100% for a while.

That’s actually a pretty good Christmas gift for me to give myself, now that I think about it.

 

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Harassment: A Rant

If I haven’t made this clear before, harassment is a thing that I care pretty deeply about. I care about it because myself and other femme folks that I care deeply about face harassment on a daily basis simply for the act of being outside. Or being on the internet. Basically, we are punished on the regular for daring to enter areas where other people might have contact with us.

It’s not going to stop any time soon. I know that. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about it.

So here’s some stuff to think about when harassment comes up in conversation.

1. Don’t belittle our concerns.

I legit do not give a flying horses enchanted hooves if you have had your ass pinched by someone before and you thought it was sexy. Good for you! I’m glad the threat level of someone grabbing your ass is so minimal that you can think something like that is some kind of adorable, sexy joke. Odds are, if someone is complaining about harassment, it’s not a joke to them. It’s certainly not a joke to me. And your insistence that it’s somehow funny will result in the sound of me charging up my eye lasers.

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No one will be spared.

2. Don’t act like it’s a compliment.

I don’t know how many times I have to say this before it finally sinks into the heads of the general population.

HARASSMENT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT.

Not now. Not ever. Having someone harass you when all you want to do is talk to your friends on Twitter or walk to the shops or get on a bus is not fun. It’s not something that people list as a turn on on OkCupid or FetLife. I cannot say that I have ever heard of an instance where a stranger telling a woman she’s got tits he’d like to use as basketballs resulted in a full and frank discussion of their likes and dislikes followed by an hour long hump at the local Motel 6.

3. Don’t tell us we’re being “too sensitive.”

Not for nothing, but I’m a pretty hard ass bitch, all things considered. Yes, I love puppies and bunnies and I cry at touching films, but you would be hard pressed to find a social situation that I would balk from on a given day.

That said, there have been days where I did not leave the house because I couldn’t put up with the harassment I was experiencing. I would sit in the house and wait for Frankie to get home so that I could go out with someone that presented masculine and be left alone because I was already “spoken for.”

Being exhausted and freaked out at the constant litany of harassment that one faces on a daily/weekly/whateverly basis is not a sign of sensitivity. It’s a sign of being human. If you got a sunburn every time you walked out the door, I bet you would spend more time with the shades drawn, wouldn’t you?

4. Shut the fuck up and listen when people talk.

Seriously. Just shut your mouth and listen. When people who experience systemic issues like sexism or racism or whatever the topic of the moment is, you can learn a lot by just keeping your mouth shut and listening to what they have to say. The world isn’t the neat little thing that you think it is. Your point of view is just one of TRILLIONS. Try opening your ears and you will be surprised at how enriching the things you find out will be to your life.

Huh. That’s the nicest thing that I’ve said this entire post. That was fun, wasn’t it? Honestly, though, I’m done being nice about this ever to anyone. I used to do this thing where I would try to explain why it was that this was an issue and how and all the sociological things and let people into my head to see my fear but honestly, it’s too much work. Fuck it. If you can’t take a slight re-direction in the form of me telling you not to be a shitheel when people are expressing fear and concern, you can kindly fuck off directly into the largest body of water you can find. Because fuck you.


And if you doubt for even a second that this stuff happens all the time. You can read other things that I’ve written about it. Here. And here. And also here, here and here. And that’s just the shit that warranted a blog entry.


The Final Adventure

Tonight Frankie and I are going to close the door on the old apartment. After she’s done work, we have to go and paint the walls of the old place.

Once this is done, we will leave the keys for them to pick up at their leisure. And thoroughly photograph the place so that no one can try to deny us our security deposit. We had the whole place professionally cleaned yesterday, so it looks amazing.

I’m really excited to never have to drive into that neighborhood again. Even yesterday taking out the trash was such a headache. It’s so nice to not have to drive around the block for an hour in order to just come home or drop off groceries.

The new house is really coming together. We have almost unpacked every box except the stuff in the basement that are going to live in their boxes anyway.

Settling in feels good. Living in a quiet neighborhood in a beautiful house feels even better. I don’t get woken up in the morning to the sound of drum lines or cheering while people are running marathons on my street. It’s bliss.

Cross your fingers for me that the painting goes quickly and well.

Moving: Settling In

We moved in on Sunday!

It’s been so great unpacking and getting used to our space. We are still miles away from being totally done. There are boxes everywhere, but at least the kitchen is totally done and ready to ring in the holidays.

I’m looking forward to Christmas already. One of the best things about the new place is thinking about settling in and getting some hyggee going on in the house. I am thinking big rugs and warm lighting and candles.

It’s time to cozy up and craft!

Day Three: The en-itchening. Moving. And other minutiae.

Day three of tattoo recovery for me is the day that things stop feeling like sunburn and start feeling like dry, itchy skin.

So that’s just a joy to deal with. Not that I’m bemoaning my quick healing powers, but the itching is no fun at all.

We spent Frankie’s birthday having brunch, perusing used book stores, and buying video games. And then playing them until three in the morning. All in all, time well spent.

Today there will be bowling. Which I will attempt despite my itching back and current inability to wear a bra in public. The things we do for love.

This week we really need to get a large chunk of our packing done. We have two weeks until the move as of today. It’s always amazing to me how my procrastination works. It goes like this most of the time:

Step 1: Resolve to get a thing done.
Step 2: Start that thing and get a lot done.
Step 3: Get distracted and wander off.
Step 4: Count the days until the thing needs to be done.
Step 5: Do the rest of the thing at the last possible moment.

That is how moving has been. We have a bedroom full of boxes which are mostly books from the game room. But we haven’t done any packing since that first day. I mean, it’s good that that stuff is done, but we really need to buckle down and put things in boxes basically every night this week if we are going to avoid packing like maniacs the night before, which nobody wants to do. We certainly don’t want to be those people who pack while the movers are there. That’s unacceptable.

I’ve really been enjoying writing in my blog everyday for the NoMo challenge at Yeah Write. I hope you all have been happy to read what I’ve been putting out there.

On being afraid all the time.

I used the Companion app to walk myself home last week with a virtual companion.

I resented every moment of it’s presence in my pocket. Even though it was helping me. I resented it’s existence. Even though it made me feel safer.

I resented it because I needed to be made to feel safe rather than feeling safe naturally.

I left my brother at Broad Street and told my phone where I was going. I told it to tell my girlfriend if anything happened to me.

On the way home, in the space between street lights, I turned to see if anyone followed me.

Shadows lurking at a corner up ahead, a group of four, sent me walking across the street to avoid an unwanted situation. When I passed them a block later, they proved to be three teenage girls.

From a distance, every shadow is menacing.

I remember being younger, in high school, a friend asked me to walk her to her door from the car that was dropping us off, down her dark street in Port Richmond.

I don’t know what she thought I would be able to do if we were threatened, but I agreed, and walked her to her house in my combat boots and pleather jacket, trying with all my might to ooze the type of confidence I had seen men saunter with.

On my way back from her door, I passed an alleyway.

Shadows separated from the shadows of the alley wall, growing larger as they drew closer.

“Here, kitty kitty,” one of the shadows whispered. Menacing.

Heart in my throat, I bolted down the street to the safety of the car and jumped in. I imagine I looked like an action movie stunt person. I told the person in the car to drive.

A short distance down the block, the alleyway gave birth to lurking shadows. I sat in the car, shaking.

We anchor ourselves, we of the femme persuasion, to safety zones. Our apartments, the brilliance of night-erasing street lamps, the arms and company of friends. We anchor ourselves there and stretch to the ends of tethers, hoping that we will not be cut loose.

We need apps to walk us home. Because walking home is not safe.

We send texts to let family members know we are alive. Because they worry otherwise.

The world outside of our safety zones is not a safe one. We careen from one into the other, traversing the intervening space as quickly as possible. We plan the shortest routes.

When people tell me that gender equality is over. When they say we don’t need feminism. I ask them to explain to me why, if that is true, I am so terrified to be on the streets alone at night.

You can’t take the sky from me: Harassment edition

So immediately after I got that horrible phone call on Monday, I called public safety and got someone to come and take a statement from me. Once we realized that the person calling was from inside my university, my HR rep got involved and hooked me up with someone in the Office of Equality and Diversity here on campus.

My meeting was this morning. It’s gorgeous outside, if you haven’t noticed, so I grabbed my coffee and headed over, enjoying the sights and sounds of the bustling campus. I left my headphones in my desk, true to my promise to myself to live my life unfettered by blockades meant to keep the world at bay.

Walking into the building for my Equality and Diversity meeting, a man from Dannon Water was coming out with a large cart full of empty water bottles. I held the door for him, joking when he thanked me that I didn’t have nearly as much on my hands as he did. He laughed. His smile was wide and white in his face. A handsome guy. Mid-20s. The sort of person that I usually avoid locking eyes with because I am afraid of what comes next.

I patted myself on the back internally for being brave enough to interact with him and breezed by.

As I passed him I heard him grunt and say “Damn, girl.” Immediately I felt cold rage rise up in me. I wasn’t hot. Wasn’t ashamed. I was furious on a level that could not be contained. As the door closed behind me I spun to see him still staring at the area where my ass was a moment before.

I opened the door again.

“Are you fucking serious right now?” I said, eyes burning into his face.

He blustered and stuttered. “Uh, um, I, uh… I was looking at my phone!” Outrage and shame and disbelief played on his face. He knew he was caught. And he could not believe that I had pinned him so quickly. Could not believe that I was calling him out to his face.

I said, “No you weren’t, now get in your damn truck.” And I slammed the door behind me.

I am living out loud, assholes. Watch out.

This body is not for you.

On Monday afternoon my work phone rang, as it is wont to do. I answered it.

“Good afternoon, College of Engineering.”

A man’s voice answered.

“I just have to ask you a question.”

My stomach sank a little at the tone in his voice. I have had these interactions so many times before that I feel like I respond to cues that I could not possibly articulate to you. I knew, in my gut, that he was about to be disgusting.

“Sure!” I said, trying to maintain my chipper phone demeanor. “How can I help you?”

“I just need to know what color your panties are so I can jerk off.”

My face and neck were suddenly hot and crawling with shame. I snarled “go fuck yourself” into the phone line and hung up.


 

Friends, I am so tired.

When I walked home from work on Monday I felt so strange. I had my headphones in. No music playing, as usual. Just a condom against the world. A prophylactic to allow me to ignore people when it suited me. When men yelled things at me from cars or “mhm’d” their way past me on the street.

I listened to the muffled sounds of the world around me through the plug of my headphones. I could barely make out the sounds of birds in the trees at the park. The sound of my own footsteps seemed so far away.

I felt so fucking sad in that moment. Here I was, muting the world around me just so that I could create a barrier against harassment.

I took my headphones out.

I listened to the unfettered sound of the world around me and smiled.


I spend so much time trying to protect myself from harassment. Sometimes, in the summer, when it is too hot to cover my body entirely in cloth, I will stay inside until I have an escort. Other times I will wrap myself in jeans rather than a short skirt in order to avoid the possibility of leers and comments.

I refuse to wear sexy clothing when I am going to be taking public transportation.

At work, when people say weird or inappropriate things, I freeze.

I refuse to be this person any longer. I refuse to act as though I am afraid.

I have taken my headphones off.

I will wear my short skirts whenever I please.

And everyone at work had better be prepared for me to go full-on feminist killjoy on them when they tell me I should smile, or call me “sweetheart.”

I am officially done muting the beauty of the world around me and curating my behaviors in order to make it so that these jerks do not see the chinks in my armor.

I’ve had enough.

The culture of womanhood and silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about rude assholes on the train.

Hear me out.

The other week I was riding home and the train was packed in that way that lets you know just how much junk is in the trunk of everyone around you. It was so packed I couldn’t even look at the book I was reading, so I gave up and stowed it for the 15 minute ride to work.

Next to me was an impossibly tiny woman. She had to way 100 pounds and she was shorter than me at 5’4″. Standing in front of her was a guy wearing an enormous backpack. The backpack was so big that she was physically bending her body backward to avoid being punched in the face with it.

After I stop or two I couldn’t stand it anymore. I tapped the guy on the shoulder.

“You’re punching her in the face.” I said.

“What?” he said, taking his headphones out.

“Your backpack, it’s punching her in the face. Could you take it off or something?”

He turned to look at the woman next to me. The words that came out of her mouth flabbargasted me.

“No no. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”

I gaped at her while she and the guy went back and forth for a second. He said something maybe taking the backpack off. She came back with more “don’t worry about it”s and “I’m fine, really”s. Until eventually he just turned away again and put his headphones on. She went back to doing backbends.

The whole time I just wanted to shout: “How is this FINE? It’s not fine. He’s ACTUALLY HITTING YOU IN THE FACE WITH HIS BACKPACK! He offered to take it off and you just polited him into continuing to PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE. Do you like doing backbends? Is this your fucking YOGA STUDIO in the morning? Jesus tapdancing Christ in a clowncar, what the actual Hell is going on here?”

Ahem.

But I didn’t say any of those things. Instead I nodded tersely, smiling like a cadaver when she thanked me for interceding. Fuming, I watched her limbo her face away from the looming black mass of his backpack for three or four more stops. When my stop arrived I stomped off the subway and stewed about the interaction for a good hour. Because I am the Empress of the Land of Not Letting Things Slide.

For those of you who don’t know me in person, who I am on the internet is much akin to who I am in “real life.” I’m loud. I’m direct as all hell. And I speak my mind pretty much unfiltered all the time. I get that from a combination of my mom and my dad. My mom is not a woman with whom to fuck. My dad’s contribution is mostly the swearing.*

So I’ve been stewing about this lady for about two weeks now (don’t judge me). Every once in a while the memory of her face, twisted away from the encroaching backpack, will rise up in my mind. And I keep wondering why it makes me so angry.

I think that women are generally socialized to be quiet and to adjust our behavior in accordance with the expectations and environment around us. I have seen so many women be silent rather than offend the people around them.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen so many men vomit words at me as if my ears and attention are things to which they are somehow entitled.  The good guys of the world seem to have some kind of filter (either in-born or trained) that keeps them from saying dumb things. Or they just genuinely do not have horrible thoughts to articulate. But in the case of the rest of the male population, they seem to believe that everything they have to say is important. That they must produce and enliven the space around them with the things inside their heads. Which is why manspreading is such a huge fucking deal. It’s also why I have so many conversations on a daily basis that involve men telling me shit I never needed to hear.

“I don’t like that lipstick you wore a week ago.”

“Women don’t really want to make money, that’s why the wage gap exists.”

“I’d like to fuck you blue.”

“You’re probably a dumb ass fucking whore anyway.”

The generally accepted socialized female response to the above comments is something along the lines of smiling, laughing, and letting it slide. We have all done it. It’s just easier, most of the time, to let that be what we do, rather than having a fight. Because when we do speak back, when we speak up, the general response is shock and anger.

And sometimes we do fight back. But sometimes it is easier, as a woman, to do what is expected. To shrink into the background. To let them have the space. Because sometimes you just want to make it through your day without having to justify your existence to some asshole strutting his stuff in a shitty suit.

The fact that the decision to be silent is the more convenient and safe option in a lot of cases depresses me. Here, have a poem about shrinking women and the impact of silence and smallness.


*I love it when my dad tries to call me out for cursing so much. He’s always like “Do you have fuckin’ curse so much?” And then I just give him the shade that is my “are you fucking kidding me?” face.

GoT Spoiler Alert: Rape

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I would call it a spoiler alert if we didn’t all know that it was coming. It’s not so much a spoiler alert as it is a given. Which is depressing.

I should preface what follows by saying that I did not watch the recent Game of Thrones episode wherein yet another decent character gets raped. I didn’t watch it for the same reason that I have not watched the show so far: because I have already done enough harm to my psyche by reading the books. Why on earth would I want to watch again the unsatisfying non-conclusion of hours of torture and severing of limbs and heads and moral compasses? At least a book doesn’t let me hear every excruciating detail of what is being described to me.

It was around the time when Reek came on the scene that I had to put down George RR Martin’s endlessly tormented series and never pick it up again. I did this for several reasons. First of all, after reading four books in the series, I was starting to get really irritated by the torture that was going on, both emotional and physical. Second of all, the description of what was happening to that poor man was egregious and overwhelming in so many ways. It was easily the worst thing that I had read in the series. And finally, and most importantly, I knew there wasn’t going to be any pay off.

Now I know what you’re thinking, we don’t always need a Hollywood Ending where the Hero gets revenge on the Dude Who Wronged Him. And I agree with you. And denying the hero that chance is fine. It’s good, even. Challenging the easy outcome in works of fiction is a really good, powerful thing to do. My problem with GRRM is that he has written over 5,000 pages of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the chief theme seems to be that the bad guys are going to just kill and fuck up everything that you like with no discernible consequences. I mean, yea, they might kinda be worse people afterward? But they still have money and power and they still keep using it to destroy everything that you love. And after 5,000 pages, that tactic is draining, disheartening, and honestly makes me never want to read a word written by the man ever again.

Needless to say, the combination of GRRM and rape-happy HBO did not leave me thrilled at the prospect of the television series. I watched the first episode or two because I, like many people, could not resist the lure of the lush fantasy world I had invested so much time in being projected on a screen so that I could really see it. I will also admit to being drawn to garbage television, because that is a very real thing in my life.

Needless to say, I was not surprised in the least when they decided to rape Sansa in the show. I mean, how else were they going to make sure that she suffered? Having her father beheaded in front of her and his head paraded around by her sadistic and insane fiance wasn’t bad enough, clearly. Neither was being publicly beaten and humiliated by that fiance. Or being accused of murdering that same dude (which, to be fair, I totally would have actually done). Or having her uncle creep on her. Or being nearly thrown to her death by her insane aunt. Nope. A real strong female character is made strong by the introduction of a man’s penis forcibly inside her. Nothing more, nothing less.

The problem that I have with rape as a plot device is that it feeds into this idea that women need to suffer a specific type of trauma in order to become heroines. They cannot be considered serious contenders unless they have been broken and dehumanized by other characters first, which is, to me, totally unacceptable.

On top of this entire pile of issues with rape as a plot device, the idea that a woman has to be changed into the best version of herself after being brutally violated by a man lights my blood on fire. Like oh, wait, she can’t have just gone through some serious shit, she needs to have a dick inside her before she really decides to play the game. It all goes hand in hand with the idea that women are somehow fundamentally changed – and by “changed,” I mean “devalued” – when they lose their virginity. Which is, of course, horse shit of the highest order.

And if rape isn’t being used in order to destroy a woman enough so that she can be justified in her role as a cut throat contender for The Big Plot Thing of a given story, it’s being used in order to motivate a male character to kill other men so that he can be a contender for The Big Plot Thing. So women are either raped into being cutthroat contenders, or raped as a plot device to anger men enough into making change happen.

Good. Great. Glad we covered all of that. And you wonder why we need feminism.

TL; DR: Rape as a plot device is lazy, played out, sensationalist, ratings-hungry bullshit.

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