What Have Gender Roles Done for You Lately?

That song, “Be Our Guest,” from Beauty and the Beast popped into my head earlier. Leave it to Disney to glorify servitude.

Life is so unnerving, for a servant who’s not serving

He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon…

What a load. It just goes to show the lengths some people will go to to assuage their guilt about treating their fellow human beings as less-than. No doubt, the myth of the happy prostitute or the glamorous fashion model sprang from a desire to soften the objectification of these women.

Objectification is not only acceptable, it’s desirable. The glamorization of these lifestyles serves as a sweet treat to entice girls and women into the unmarked van of exploitation. Once inside, they’re anesthetized against pain or discomfort with the soothing balm of praise and attention and heavily rewarded to ensure their return.

models

Furthermore, they’re convinced that their actions are completely voluntary and that they need and want to do what they’re doing. Of course, if the highest status a woman can achieve is sex symbol then why wouldn’t she choose that?

miss-america

Women aren’t the only ones who suffer from this type of manipulation. Men are made to believe that the highest status they can achieve is a position of power over another. Vulnerability is reduced to weakness and made so undesirable that any show of it must be snuffed out. These attempts come in the form of completely manufactured ideals of masculinity and denigration of anything seen as feminine.

manly

Femininity is associated with vulnerability and weakness. Men who present as feminine are labeled “fags,” and demeaned. Homophobia is sexism at its core. Men who perceive others as a threat to their dominant status will rape or even kill to reassert their dominance and deny any sense of vulnerability. Women perpetrate this type of violence too although it’s most often directed at themselves, children or other women. Abused people are much more likely to abuse and/or accept abuse from others.

abuse

Escape from this system of abuse does not come from ignorance or denial but from recognition. This type of worldview may feel threatening (“stupid”) or it may make sense.  However, I encourage all readers to take a deep breath and just as the question:

Who does this serve?

The converse of which is:

Who does this hurt?

When you buy products or consume media that reinforce narrow gender norms, who does it serve? Is someone, besides you, profiting? And who does it hurt? Is it possible that something that feels good might hurt somebody else? If you quickly come to a “no” answer, ask yourself why you need to hold on to that. I’m not asking you to change your views or your behavior, just question them.

objectification

 

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Toilet Paper and Other Necessities are Now Taxed

Wouldn’t that be ludicrous? If the things we need to survive like food, toilet paper and medicine were taxed? Well, it happens, but only if you’re one of the unlucky.

Yes, if you’re part of the group whose needs are not as important as the other, you might have to pay sales tax on something you need, something without which you would surely miss significant amount of school and work, without which you might have to stay holed up in your bathroom for weeks or even months out of the year! Good lord! How could anybody be allowing this to happen? Who are these people that have been deemed less important than others and what is this thing that they absolutely need??

Well, if you get a period, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about and if you DON’T, you better listen up because if they can tax tampons, they can tax toilet paper! A period is just as involuntary as a bowel movement and we all know what it’s like to be shit-out-of-luck when you have one and realize there’s no toilet paper. Well imagine how you’d feel if every time you took a dump in a public place, you had to pay 25-50 cents for the toilet paper you needed to clean yourself up? People who get a period are expected to pay for these types of necessities, why shouldn’t everybody else?

This is exactly the issue described in an article by The Nation writer, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf in Why Are We Paying Sales Tax on Tampons? Bleeders and non-bleeders everywhere are asking this question and if you think it’s not the same, just imagine only taking a dump once a month and when you do, it lasts 2-7 days and you need a way to still have a life while that’s happening. Got it? Congratulations! Your imagination still works and it’s a good sign your empathy may be intact too! Go, you!

If you think that shit is whack, I encourage you to stand with your fellow humans and take action. Whether you get a period or not, join one of the groups mentioned in the article or if you have access to tampons and pads, leave them in public restrooms for people who need them! I’m certainly not saying you should steal them (wink wink) but really, that shit should be WAY more accessible than it is. Fight the power and have a lovely day!

Why I’ve Got to Go On an Internet Diet

In general, I don’t believe in dieting; I do, however, believe in being conscious of what you’re putting in your body. That goes for media too. I expose myself to varying amounts of media at different times. Sometimes, all I consume are books and movies. Sometimes, I’ll read the “news” (it’s rarely new information). And sometimes, I’ll take in a few blog posts. Of course, there are times when I do all of the above in a constant stream of meaningless sounds, words and images and eventually I want to blow my brains out.

Yesterday, I read a couple of articles on theguardian and a pictorial on boredpanda. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The first article was about how mindfulness might be making some people “ill.” The author talked about peoples'(including her own) experiences of mindfulness meditation triggering traumatic feelings and memories. Instead of delving into why this might happen for some, the article suggested that mindfulness, NOT PAST TRAUMA, might be the culprit. The culprit of what you might ask? Scary feelings! That we haven’t been taught to question, accept, or cope with! AAAGGGHHHH! In a culture that offers up introspective practices as some sort of anesthetic to dull the pain of an existence in which your worth is measured by how much you contribute to the GDP, of course you’re going to be disappointed when mindfulness does not offer the quick and easy fix you might have hoped for!

From this article, I bounced over to one about how older women are being under-utilized in the work force. The author sought to convince readers (maybe potential employers) that older ladies were still great at multitasking, more caring and “less self-centered” than they were in their younger years. Sooo…..older ladies are willing to sacrifice more of themselves for others? They’re less self-centered so maybe they’ll accept less pay for more work! Older ladies are a precious resource just WAITING to be exploited! Score!

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a pictorial on boredpanda that supposedly showed how war veterans that had lost their limbs could still be “sexy.” It featured numerous (mostly male) amputees, slathered in oil, giving their best “sexy” poses for the camera. Some of them with the weapons that may have taken off those limbs! No, it wasn’t done ironically, the guns were supposed to be sexy. Not even a bored panda could look at this crap and think it was anything worth consuming. Where do I start with all the denigration this article represents? The people pictured with their limbs blown off were devalued when they were considered expendable in war, they probably had to devalue the other side in order to feel okay about blowing them up and after being blown up themselves, they’re reassured of their status as objects by being sexually objectified. Don’t worry, you can be a sex object no matter how you look! Objectification for all!

Needless to say, a piece of my brain atrophied and I am now on life support and typing with a straw but it’s for the better–makes it much harder to click my way into another brain aneurysm any time soon. Ta!

Against Apathy (To my favorite gamer/addict)

Hate is not the biggest threat today, it’s APATHY. You are what’s wrong with the world. Do you know how kids keep getting molested in the Catholic Church? It’s not because The Church is so powerful and the rest of us are just helpless victims–it’s because everybody’s turning a blind eye and pretending they don’t see what’s happening. APATHY! Do you know how Kitty Genovese died? It’s not because the murderer was super stealthy or because nobody was around to hear her scream–EVERYBODY heard her scream, they just didn’t do anything about it!

The internet, the “news,” your f***ing iPad/phone/etc., alcohol, food–they’re all opiates people use to numb-out. We’re all a bunch of addicts, sucking down whatever we can to numb the pain of existence; numb the pain and everything else too–even the really great stuff! The Jaded Masses. Nothing impresses us or excites us except the worst of the worst or the best and the brightest. We want saccharin-sweet and shit-your-brains-out spicy! Black or white, no shades of gray, no subtlety–that shit doesn’t even register on our jacked-up nervous systems. We’re f***ing spent.

Everybody’s looking for the next best thing, the fastest, most expensive, newest, greenest, locally grown, high-tech fix for their ravenous addiction. Well you can have it because I’m not buying it. You know why? Because you can’t take it with you, not any of it. When you’re on your death bed, all that BS is not going to be at your side, comforting you in your last moments before all fades to black. When you’re sitting on the toilet and you have a heart attack (from the years of neglect and abuse you put your body through) your iPhone will NOT perform CPR and Suri  is NOT going to hold your hand until the medics arrive!

All you’ve got left is yourself and you’ve been the worst companion imaginable–you may think you’ve been answering your own needs and desires by pumping yourself full of the crap I mentioned earlier but while you were numbing yourself to the external world, telling everyone and everything to shut up, you silenced yourself as well.

Perhaps that deep-down voice was silenced years ago, perhaps slowly over the years but at some point you became complicit in your own neglect, your own abuse. Your eyes longed for a sunrise but instead you watched the latest episode of I-don’t-know-what, you were hungry for nourishment so you choked down a protein bar as you rushed off to work, your joints ache but instead of stretching them or strengthening your muscles, you sit and click and sit and click and SIT AND CLICK SOME MORE! “Why does my back hurt? Why does my wrist hurt? I’m bored.” 

I WONDER WHY!!!!

Have we forgotten how to think with our brains and feel with our hearts and use our imaginations? All we know how to do is tune out. What can we do? Well, it takes courage but we can start by feeling something, emoting, SPEAKING OUT! Ask questions! Be angry when the situation calls for it and be jubilant too! There’s a lot of awesome stuff in the world that goes unnoticed because we’re too shut-down. And take a break from looking outside yourself to look inward–this is where real change begins.

 

Welcome to the (abusive)Family!

I was recently having a conversation with my older brother about society, family, life–all the big, important issues. We were talking about the media circus and exchanging ideas about the motivation for various forms of media propaganda.

During our discussion, I stumbled upon what I thought was an apt metaphor: Our society is like one big abusive family! After recently experiencing a horrifyingly abusive relationship and awakening to the truth of my abusive childhood, I learned that abuse does not involve a single perpetrator and a single victim.

In an abusive family, there are usually multiple perpetrators and victims. An abusive parent may have been abused as a child and those they abuse might also abuse others. Besides becoming more conscious of the patterns of abuse in my own life, I became more aware of the patterns of abuse in other institutions and even in society at large.

People who abuse others need help to do what they’re doing. They need victims to believe they are unworthy of anything but punishment and they need others to agree with that same belief or at least to be so scared that they don’t object. This was painfully apparent in the story portrayed in the movie Spotlight. Stanley Tucci’s character hit on something when he said, “It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to abuse one.”

Abusive people rely on their ability to distort the truth in order to wield power and manipulate others. Abusive parents will often turn siblings against one another in order to continue their abuse and use tactics such as gaslighting to make the victim seem crazy or like they’re the ones perpetrating the abuse. If a victim is in any way a threat to the abusive system, they are pushed out.

Abusers also use different tactics to pacify their victims into accepting or even asking for abuse. (Nobody wants to be abused but many are fooled into thinking they’re not being abused.) They will often find different ways to “pleasure” their victims with gifts, sex, drugs, job opportunities, money, compliments and the like. Victims of all ages are lulled into accepting whatever is dolled out afterwards.

We see this echoed in our popular media and news sources(I hesitate to separate the two). Might it not be in the best interests of the powers that be to skew the truth? People are much easier to control when they’re afraid. They’re also much easier to control when they’re stratified. Just like an abusive family, people who can’t see past their differences can’t unite in order to fight the real enemy. Likewise, people who are satiated and brainwashed are more ready to accept abuse.

Should we not ask who is profiting from our divisiveness, from our hate, from our fear and even from our entertainment? Are opposing political parties, other genders or other ethnic groups the real enemies? Are money, status or “likes” what’s really important? Is there another group that stands to benefit from these things? While we’re consumed with fear over who’s going to be the next president, who is infiltrating our country or while we’re thinking about the next technological advance or what we’re going to buy next, perhaps there is a more sinister plot being hatched behind our backs…..or under our noses.

Don’t be scared! That’s what they want. Or, if you are scared, don’t let it rule you. Pause. Take a breath and think, not just with your mind but with your heart and see if their isn’t someone that stands to gain from your fear or your pleasure.

 

The Cult of Beauty

“Big is beautiful.” “Real women have curves.” “Beauty at any age.” 

No matter what words you use, the message is still the same: a woman’s worth is defined by how she looks. I, like many other women, have been obsessed with my looks since a young age. My mother was always dieting and the highest achievement a woman could attain was losing a few pounds. I suffered an eating disorder for years but eventually decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I decided not to count calories or weigh myself and embraced the attitude of “big is beautiful.” I projected confidence and received lots of attention for my beauty and sensuality.

About five years ago, I had a severe bout of diarrhea that lasted much longer than anything I had experienced before. I got a colonoscopy and was prescribed therapeutic doses of Pepto afterwards. I received little to no explanation of the results of my colonoscopy or the treatment until about a year later when I was informed I had a form of colitis in addition to IBS–both chronic conditions.

My symptoms caused me to lose weight, how much I’ll never be sure but my best guess is around 20 pounds. Before I resumed a somewhat regular diet, I endured months of starvation from fear of the pain of digestion and agoraphobia from fear of needing a bathroom if I left the house. My clothes no longer fit and I eventually started to notice the changes in my body: a visible spine, loose flesh, smaller breasts and a higher bellybutton.

I got loads of compliments from “you look great” from my doctor to “skinny Minnie” from an old coworker. I relished NONE of it. In addition to being miserable from the physical and emotional toll of my symptoms, I felt as though I was going through a second puberty, having to get used to  whole new body. I wanted to go through the process privately, without comments from the public.

Just when I thought I had achieved some measure of acceptance , I experienced a horribly abusive relationship in which I was degraded in every way. I was emotionally and sexually abused–needless to say, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

Six months out and I’m feeling much better. I pride myself on mental flexibility and the ability to change my mind about things when new information arises. While I can’t say that I am no longer defined by my looks, I’m definitely more aware of the pervasive brainwashing that goes on in our culture.

Women are first defined by their looks in relation to an unrealistic standard of beauty. They are then “liberated” by body acceptance and seek to “empower” themselves through exhibitionism–putting themselves on display. But is this really “liberation” from The Cult of Beauty? Or are we simply widening the scope of its grasp? When we are inundated with pictures of half or fully naked women (not men), are we really saying that we are not defined by our looks?

I used to see pictures of big, nude women or elderly, nude women and think, “Yes!” Now, I think. “Don’t worry ladies, you can be objectified no matter WHAT you look like!” Indeed, we still feel the need to take our clothes off before we can achieve “true acceptance.”

The Cult of Beauty needs new members. Are you a recruit? I know I have been. And I’m not immune to culture’s influence. I definitely think about what I look like before I exit the house. I still objectify other women when I look at them–it’s something I struggle with. I still objectify myself and seek approval from outside sources. But I’m also questioning all of it and that’s where our power lies. Always question the messages you’re given and furthermore, question why you need to believe them.

Declaration of Independence (To My Favorite Hypocrite)

I will not bow down to your god or make silent my own thoughts. You sneer at organized religion yet you make a god of technology. You quote studies like a holy-roller quotes scripture. You attend church as regularly as any “good Christian” but you do it every time you plug in and tune out. Every day, you ask your leader, Pope Internet, what to think and how to feel and don’t question anything as long as it starts with “www.”

You’re just as much of a sheep as the people you mock, you’re just too blind to see it. You’d probably die of exertion if you had to muster an independent thought! You’re no free-thinker if you need to be told how to think. Remove the word “actually” from your vocabulary because it doesn’t exist. Sorry to tell you, but your experience is no more important or real or valid than mine. You’re a stereotype of white, male privilege–the most defining feature of which is a non-functioning heart (deadened spirit, no empathy, etc..)!

Every time you open your laptop or you iPhone, you’re just like a f***ing cult member opening his damn bible so it can tell him how to think instead of looking in your own damn heart to show you the way. I’m sorry if my deviation from the rest of the flock scares you, I know feelings other than APATHY are tough. But if I’ve made you uncomfortable, good!

I’m changing my motto from “THINK” to “FEEL.” Go on, feel something, I dare you! That’s the true rebellion in the information age for no matter what you’ve been told, life fails to be life unless it’s lived.

We could all stand to learn something from stories like The Wizard of Oz: “Having a brain” is not evidenced by quoting others all day long, one of the best ways to know you have a heart is when it breaks, and true courage does not lie in your ability to frighten others but by acting from your heart despite being frightened and maybe, most of all, only you have the power to go home for home is not a place you find outside but the refuge of your own heart.

I know this might seem scary to you, what with your under-developed heart–indeed, you might not survive the night if we unplug you. So if you’re scared, count yourself lucky–there’s still hope for you. If not, don’t look to me to help you when the information stops flowing and you know longer know how to live. No wonder you get bored so easily–I would too if I needed to “boot up” in order to live my life. Still loading? “Life: Version 6.0?” Christ, at least admit you’re no better than anybody else.