Jan 23, 2017

Women

I made the sad mistake of debating the various virtues of the Women’s March in the comment section of someone’s Facebook wall the other day. To quote a very famous man: Sad.

I should know better as it moves into the petty squabbling that is apt to characterize and belittle what is really going on in a more broad fashion. It is hard to focus and facebook tends towards a certain trolling tone that implies idiocy so broadly that one gets…umm…emotional, and fails to make a point, as one argument blends with another and my natural instinct to give credence to other reasonable points comes off as weak.

So below, up for debate, but not ridicule (which is to say, if you are going to dismiss a point outright, feel free to use words we can all understand and relate to) is my take on the women’s march…

It was awesome. I want to just end the analysis here. I wish I could. Over 3 million women around the world mobilized to show their power and their ability to unite and demonstrate peacefully. The is huge. Yuge. And worth of awe. Period.

That being said, I’d like to discuss the conversation around whether it could have been better focused or had a clear point…
First off: I think the fact that I have gotten into arguments over this point with more than one person is indicative, is in and of itself, that there might have been a clearer list of demands. However, I think we might be conflating two very different issues if we just think a bit deeper. I agree that a movement should have a clear and cohesive message.I think clear asks make for clear response.
THAT being said: I think “stop treating us like second hand citizens” is a clear enough message, given the CONTEXT. The context being: blatantly sexist platforms from the republican platform, the election of a man who makes sexist and arguably violently misogynistic statements, the appointment of key staff that have a history of creating disadvantage in the form of blocking women’s healthcare, the selection of a VP who has a horrific track record when it comes to women’s health and rights…I think this constellation of recent occurrences associated with the election create a broad context that would be belittled by focusing on specific legislation. Which is to say that I don’t think there was any real question of the point of that March. I think implying there is a both insulting and gaslighting. Much like broad reaching and systemic racism, sometimes there is a bigger point that just one law.
But I think understanding the clear message is predicated on an believing the message has merit. The REALITY is that many many women feel like this country, with the election that just transpired, is poised to make a horrible u-turn back to a place where we have less rights and where we feel less safe. Period. And I think this is based on what we are hearing people in power say and what we have seen them do. The real subtext of questioning the point of the women’s march is questioning the legitimacy of the complaint. And that is a much darker conversation.

THAT being said. Why now? Why that day. Why not wait for something truly horrifying? Why not last week? Last month? Last year?
And yes, for that I have two comments: You might be right. Maybe 12 months ago would have been better. Or when Trump picked Pence. Or who the hell knows when. Maybe if this march had gotten the vote out we would all be way way happier. Oh hindsight. 
But, you know, I am a big fan of not letting perfect be the enemy of good, and I think it is useless to spend time pondering when the exact perfect moment is to make a broad “WHAT THE FUCK” demonstration. I will say this: a galvanizing piece of legislation may add focus, BUT waiting to start until that action runs the risk of both allowing the gradual erosion of rights waiting for the “big one” and also risks starting too late. It also legitimizes language and subtext during the lull and sends a message of apathy. Plus we can (and SHOULD) march again. And I think there is a strong and undeniable power to making the first thing our new President sees, in office, is one of the biggest protests or marches in history. Showing that more people will show up to that than his inauguration is a statement, and a big one. It was as good a day as any, basically.

That being said, I would also like to discuss the relative power of the march, to which I can only say: time will tell. Tea Parties gathered and demonstrated and changed the way the republican party worked. They made a fringe group seem bigger and more relevant than they are and I would argue that loose message snow balled. The women’s march was much much larger. And if the marches, the demonstrations, continue, if they follow up with galvanizing multiple generations around specific legislation or appointments, combining that with a “we are watching and next time we will make sure to vote” comments, then I think it is incredibly powerful. In and of itself, making our current government question how apathetic we truly are has power, as we have shown. But I do think what follows is just as important.

And finally, the question of: was it a march or a party or just a great big feel good outcry. I don’t think there is a simple answer an I don’t know that it matters. Characterizing it is a party is just a way to delegitimize the complaint. Personally, I think of it a lot like like I view gay pride, which is a big ol’ party…no denying it…but it is also inherently political, in that it is grounded in a unifying desire to make it clear that a group that understands they are repetitively discriminated against still can’t be held down. It energizes the group in question but also creates a presence. This movement understands it isn’t just one piece of legislation (although there are very clear big ones) or just one right, but a variety of things: from failure to convict murderous bullies to the right to marry that continue to serve as a reminder that their safety, their rights, and their abilities to just do what a lot of other Americans take for granted are continuously threatened. Similarly, a bunch of women saying “hey, this is so big that we can’t just focus on one thing” is a pretty big statement.  

Which is to say, I think the women’s march was a big beautiful great big start. And also kind of sad, because I think it is acknowledgement that at this point we expect it to be coming from every side: more expensive and harder to access healthcare and family planning, a glass ceiling that just got passively reinforced, a clear statement that reporting sexual assault (and assault in general) isn’t worth it, tax laws (ehem, head of household) that affect single mothers most poorly, and in general a spin that blames those least fortunate for the sins of those most fortunate, creating a tail spin of squabbling that only serves to reduce everyone’s rights, across the board.

Am I being histrionic? I am sure anyone who thinks so also will not understand this point.

Because WHY we are questioning it is my entire point. We aren’t arguing about whether the women’s march had a point. We are arguing about whether it was timely and necessary. In that I find such a huge chasm in belief that I doubt facts and figures could dent resolve. And there ARE facts and figures that women experience barriers men do not. I could share them, but I can’t imagine what effect that would have when over half the human race could affirm that they are experiencing discrimination and you would still dismiss that as petty or irrelevant. 

Nov 25, 2016

that greenpeace stare (or how I became bad at networking)

There is a look someone gives you when they don't especially want to be in a conversation and are fairly convinced that you are about to trap them, possibly for minutes on end, in just that.

We have all seen it before: awkward, slightly terrified, skittish and a little cagey. It is the look of perfectly well meaning people who don't want to be rude or unkind, but are suddenly unable to escape an especially boring conversation with a person they have little true interest in.

I think the most obvious example is the look pedestrians get when they have missed the street light next to an especially aggressive canvasser who is selling something they don't particularly disagree with but also don't want to donate to or discuss. For this reason, in my head, it has become the green peace stare. It is a look usually accompanied by a human creating a bullshit excuse of why they need to be not there.

I first noticed it in high school, when geeky students with a poor understanding of social cues would answer an innocent question at excruciating length, sentencing the querier to sit through this extrapolation as they hemmed and hawed and danced around like a toddler that had to pee but wouldn't admit it, I then also began to notice it on the face of popular people whenever anyone they didn't want to become too associated with would take up too much of their time. As if they could see the possibility of social acceptance slipping away with every moment they wasted talking about this unhip band with this sad little nobody.

Maybe you have never seen this look ...maybe you just don't care, but it is the look that made me want to avoid approaching anyone, in my youth, EVER for fear of meeting that politely horrified reaction.
I mean seriously, you only have to see that reaction once to feel both sorry for the person giving you that look as well as incredibly sorry for yourself.
No thank you. I'd rather be alone.

And so I was. A lot.

Somewhere in college I came out of my shell. Less people seemed annoyed to have to speak with me, and conversely I approached people more. Maybe I was more interesting, maybe youthful sexual energy meant some were more apt pretend I was interesting ...more likely I was just a bit tipsy and tuning out the expression, when it appeared. I guess I'll never know, but I didn't miss it.

But I also never truly got over it, and as a result, while not shy, I became...permanently uncomfortable approaching others.

Alas, I will never be a politician and am a horrible salesperson.

I am just too keenly aware of all of the moments when people would rather be talking to anyone, or even no one, rather than being trapped with me. And while sometimes I can ignore it, usually out of my own act of charity and a little bit of pride, as I have gotten older I am becoming more familiar with that look again. I could go into the details of why I suspect this is so (a litany of details to do with my declining physical appearance, mundane daily routine, and propensity for serious conversation) but I will only bother to truly elaborate by saying that having a child has fished out a whole other group of people who now give me this look: those without children who are convinced I am about to bore the shit out of them with stories of my child.  What stuns me most about these people is that I invariably do just that: because like someone unable to avoid looking at the elephant room that is always the only thing they ask about.  Rinse rather repeat.

And I am still not sure what to do about it, other than politely spare such individuals the discomfort of such an experience. Which is sad, because it keeps me away from meeting those who are perfectly happy to sit in a corner at a cocktail party and discuss with equal comfort boutique shoes and health equity.

I'd like to say it is their loss but I think we all know the real story.

Jun 22, 2016

The biggest mistake I make, time and time again, is letting myself bond too quick with especially charismatic people. 
It is a common mistake, it is why people become rock stars: because they care capable of letting large amounts of people feel, inexplicably, “close” to them, even though they have barely met, people become attached.
I am not that bad, I understand that total strangers, despite a winning gaze or haunting lyric, don’t really understand me, and more importantly, that I have no idea who they are. And I don’t believe charming people I have met only a handful of times love me based on a good conversation.
Where it gets hazy for me is the middle ground, these semi frequent acquaintances who have a piercing gaze, who listen closely, who have a cultivated and attentive manner that allows me to feel that giddy sense of intimacy that is should be reserved for true connecting but is nonetheless elicited by the sense of undivided attention and affirming eyes. That fucks my shit up.
I think in order to understand this there might need to be an undercurrent of, shall we say, awkwardness in your past. Perhaps a less than robust history of quick connections and easy rapport. And as someone who is, despite a tendency toward gregarious and overly (nervous) chatter, actually pretty shy and insecure about social interactions, “connecting” with someone still feels like a rare treat. To sit and gab for hours effortlessly, to have moments of sharing that feels natural, is such a novelty to me, especially with someone reasonably available within my social circle that I immediately imagine a friendship closer than might actually be warranted. I imagine that a rare chemistry is fueling these moments, not the mad skills of a social butterfly. And what I always forget, without fail, is that those who have such a winning personality, those that have a way with people don’t understand, is this very assumption, because they experience this with most, if not all, of the people they interact with, reserving true close friendship and intimacy for those who they have a long demonstrated history of trust and caring. Which makes sense. Because that is the basis of close friendship, not a handful of generally pleasant interactions spattered over time.
And as one can guess, this generally leads to disappointment, on my end, at least. It leads to completely unfounded feelings of rejection. Like a jilted lover I find myself yelling “but you said you would love me forever!” after the platonic equivalent of a successful one night stand and some sweet talk.
And, of course, this has other even less desirable effects: to an increasing sense of shyness, a tentativeness around forming friendships, an evolving tendency to never take the lead in forming social attachments, as I don’t want to assume anything, don’t want to put pressure where it really isn’t deserved. And it leads to self doubt…did I really just bond with that person? Or do they just have social skills?
Also, to be only fair, I realize it isn’t okay to reject, across the board, or dismiss, charismatic people based on the presence of that trait. That is like refusing to love beautiful people: ultimately a poor and self-defeating strategy.
So the only safe tact to take is to very tentatively build expectations, and to remind myself of how few things are truly personal in this world. To reserve real love and expectations for those with a demonstrated history of interest, with an ongoing indication of investment, and to let that spiritual sense of love and connection be more of an accompanying motivator, that an actual impetus. The proverbial cherry on the Sundae, not the meal itself.
But, like I said, it is hard. I am a thirsty creature.

Jun 11, 2016

I don’t understand why it is that the world is suddenly so much more encroaching. I am finding this election cycle weirdly demoralizing and intensely frustrating.
I mean, it isn’t like I haven’t seen ludicrous candidates elected, offensively lacking in empathy and deeply at odds with my way of thinking. It isn’t like I haven’t seen propositions pass that limit the rights of those I hold dear, limit my own rights, limit all of our access to the basic human necessities
But somehow, somewhere, this one got in deeper.
It is like watching a reality TV show where you like so few of the contestants that you can’t even get enthused to defend them in the face of such overwhelming odds. It is realizing that you do not share this aversion with most of the humans that surround you daily. It is, in short, alienating.
And it is personal. I have made a living trying to expand access to basic services for those most marginalized by society. I have seen the margins skitter and move. And I have seen legislation move with those margins and I am finally seeing some alignment between needs and funding and policy. And that could all go away, and knowing, closely and deeply how that will look is nothing short of nauseating. If those allowing their privileged version of individualism truly understood they would oppose it to, but we are so caught up in the competition that fear of being voted off the island keeps us from seeing that the island is more than big enough to house us all, peacefully.
And also, it is personal. I mean, I am a woman, a mother, a religious minority by some standards, a friend, a human.  Some of the things being thrown around make me feel immediately threatened. Not in some climate science very obvious you would have to be an idiot to see we are ruining  our planet way. More in a “ I want to build a taller fence because I fear for my general safety and worry that my child will be victimixed by racist xenophobic sexists who are now empowered to act on their violent dangerous ways”. More in a how can anyone not understand that a bully and abuser looking to take more away from those he sees in his way by any means possible puts us all in danger way. But ALSO in a climate science way because I don’t like imagining end of days being during my lifetime or even my childs lifetime.
But also, it is personal, in a more removed philosophical way. Because I don’t’ believe people are bad or stupid, but I do think that too large a majority of our society has been slowly led to believe that our bootstrappin legacy necessitates pitting one of us against another and ranking in order to justify personal success. Which is to say, if you believe our society is so fair and just that anyone can succeed on their own merits and that anyone who doesn’t is being punished for those flaws.  Well, lets just say there are about 3 things in that sentence I powerfully, deeply disagree with. Intellectually, emotionally, morally. Even as the most pragmatic and unidealistic human I understand the recipe for success maintaining that belief in direct conflict to the evidence holds.
And so it is making me sad and exhausted. Stunned by the blinding emotion everyone is wielding in the space that well honed idealistic intellectualism should enhabit. Horrified that our leaders are this filled with hubris, cynicism and selfishness.

constant craving

I have wasted time nurturing desires that will not satisfy

like a musician who was taught fame, and not skill would make him happy, who spends time chasing bits and pieces of attention, making album covers instead of albums tossing rocks into a pond that would happier filled with rain and with a stream from the lake nearby

but it is hard to not want what others desire not to give you, and even harder when we are encouraged to chase dreams that were never best ours to begin with

and yet encouraged we are...dreams, mountains, skills, love...we are told we need things that we do not, we are raised to want what is not right for us because it comforts another to see us chase.
I don't think it's malice that creates this unkind cycle, but merely insecurity, as there is comfort in watching other want what we too want, no one wants to be lonely, even in their desires

all I know is that chasing anything you are not apt to get, or perhaps will not satisfy if  delivered, be it fame or skill or, more often money or love just creates a craving that will constantly build more hunger. it digs holes in our soul we can never fill. it is the thirst that feels like hunger, the unrequited love we can't quite quit, even when we know that is all there is




May 26, 2016

the fox news title read: does Trump have a problem with women?

It is barely even worth discussing, but it is a no brainer that Trump has a problem. He has effectively communicated his complete lack of respect for women in countless ways, ranging from his dismissal of their words, to the bullying belittling way he addresses even females he pertains to like. This is not news, as it is not new, and is not even, necessarily, hotly contested.
What is worth discussing is the lack of problem so many people seem to have with this. What IS an issue, what isn’t a no brainer, and what is sad and unforgiveable is the fact that a large population sees Trump, hears Trump, and follows him, not despite his despicable attitudes towards women, but with complicit support of these beliefs.
People ask: how can any woman vote for Trump?
I don’t know, how can any woman hate herself for gaining wait, or measure herself against her husbands success, or belittle another woman for being something other than a charming accessory.
The sexism, the passive violence against women is so ingrained in our society, so pervasive and often unquestioned, that a better question to ask is not how can anyone vote for this person, but how can anyone, of any gender, stand this kind of discrimination against half the human race?
And the answer is simple: many people, in their heart of hearts, even if they are taking strides address it, still view women’s as most valuable when they are a good accessory and subset companion. You see it in the most simple language: we “protect” women because they are “someone’s mother or child”. As if we need to justify the value of their human life in context to what they mean to a male. You rarely see a male’s value justified in similar fashion. You see it in the many ways rape culture actualizes: instructing women in the myriad of ways they might protect themselves, versus the obvious other solution: ingraining that violence is not an option, of any kind, to women.  And you see it in the way women speak to women as well, magazine upon magazine preying insecurities rooted the very notion that we are not earning our worth if we are anything less than delicious arm candy. And yes, we see it in the way Megyn Kelly went back to interview Trump again, cowtowing to his abusive and bullying language, and taking it like a champ, because secretly so many people believed she had overstepped her bounds by expecting respect, requesting rhetoric of equality and inclusion. The barely concealed subtext is clear: she wasn’t bullied or abused, she was punished, like a child, corrected, as she should have been, for challenging what many see as a given.
Look, I know this will all come off as across the board angry feminism to many, and I can live with that. And I actually do believe there are a great many who walk and talk a dream of respect and equality for the half of the human race consistly deprived of it. But it is hard to read essay upon essay of “why doesn’ Trump have such a problem with women” when the answer is so clear: because Trump is a product of a society that has the same problem. And that is why they accept it, and why they won’t even consider it when it is time to cast a vote. Because what he is saying is actually not nearly as controversial as we wish it were.

May 17, 2016

it is funny how you can un learn lessons and need to relearn them again

you might be stunned to find that I was not, as they say, popular in highschool. 

consequentially I spent a lot of time oscillating between actively not caring, angrily resenting, and occasionally trying to get people who just weren't that excited by me (and vice versa) to like me.

and so it was a revelation when I moved to Berkeley and found that I could fill a room with people who I actually liked and who actually liked me as much as I liked them
because when I moved somewhere that happened to have a wealth of people whose company I found stimulating, whose presence excited and inspired me, I came alive, and I became more interesting. I became more...me. The barely concealed shame I had in suspecting I was, at heart, an unappealing person, the shame that told me to conform, to hide my unique parts, to just shut the fuck up, or talk when I least should have, just dissipated. And I relaxed, And I felt loved. Even when the friendships were dramatic or stupid or had bumps and tragedies and long slow points, I still felt supported. I felt I mattered. At least to someone. Someones.

See...the thing about trying to forge intimate bonds around people that you just don't find stimulating is that it ...seems to kill your soul just a bit. every time. friendship is a two way street and odds are if you are straining to find them interesting, they are doing the same, and you can feel it and they can feel it and sooner or later you are stymied to picture yourself as anything other than a painfully boring or awkward person. it is a negative feedback loop with diminishing returns

understand, I am not talking the process of spending time around people who actually annoy or offend you. I am talking about compromises that are far easier to make. the girl next door or your boyfriends best friend or that girl who works with you. decent people who it seems you should like more than you actually do. because, the simple fact is that there are a lot of reasonably nice, reasonably intelligent people, who might even have the same interests, politics, mutual friends or zip code as you, who you just aren't ever going to love. friendship has a chemistry just like romantic love, and there are some people who make watching paint dry stimulating, while others can talk about your favorite subject until you want to gouge your eyes out

and so this lesson, to not fake friendships, to spend the scant social time you do have around people who truly make you happy to be you and happy to be you with then, while seemingly intuitive, is still a valuable lesson to learn.

and one I occasionally find I need to be studious about yet again, if I want to be happy

Apr 23, 2016

One of the weirdest parts of Portland, Oregon for me, and the thing I actually find most like living in Santa Barbara, or any other fairly homogeneous, mostly tolerant, is the quiet, sublimated and confused bigotry of a melting pot culture that is more a puree than a stew.

Let me explain, because this mostly seems to happen in liberal cities where everyone believes they are tolerant and loving and embrace culture, but what they really seem to appreciate is a casting off of strong beliefs for something that has a more decorative and celebratory nature: here you will find a variety of foods from a variety of cultures, reimagined, often, and made with ingredients that culture never even imagined. You will find pinatas and menorahs and prayer flags. You will find multicultural music fests but very few mosques and temples.

It is like the renfair of cultural diversity, cosplay for those who grew up with dominant paradigms but like exposure to truly diverse thoughts and cultures and beliefs. We love our punks, our kinda budhist vegan bike riding anarchists, our lesbian jews, our multiracial babies in ironic onesies. We like hues of cultures, but not chunks we need to chew on.

being a jew I often stumble into the center of this more squarely than some. being a "minority", or at least someone who carries a less dominant culture, but looks and feels and smells like the vast majority of beige christianish majority, it is often assumed, even if I outright state my lineage, that I carry the same trappings. and you know people say things around people they feel they have something in common with more unabashadly. so there is that. so I will say I am jewish and they will nod and say it's cool because that is an interesting culture to them that isn't too terribly different so doubt I don't think too much about it. it is a thing I do a few times a year and instead or in addition I get to have a menorrah or something. sometimes they even go a step further and imagine how cool it is to grow up free from the dominant religious paradigm that is causing such stupidity around the world

and I almost choke on my coffee, because the religious paradigm I grew up with includes segregation and women covered head to toe, and food laws so stringent you can never eat out and a full day without electricity and fasting and a variety of other things that are pretty intense and which I carry with me to this watered down and mostly assimilated day. they are me. I carry the beauty and the confusion and the frustration of coming from a culture that I both struggle with and defines me. but I know what it is, and it is a lot to chew.

the other day I read a post about a jewish mom who got an eye roll from a preschool when she asked if her child could bring matzoh for a week (no outside food normally) because he wouldn't be able to eat their crackers or bread or muffins. they made a surprised comment about her being that religious. they were, quite actually, being a public institution required to accomodate in some fashion. and suddenly the cuteness of the jewish kid who drew stars instead of crosses became something they regarded as an annoyance, because there were needs, it was real, he was different, and that was something they weren't interested in dealing with, let alone learning about.

and ofcourse, they didn't recognize it as antisemitism, any more than someone doesn't recognize they part of themselves that says they aren't racist, but rejects dress or slang or accents that are part of another culture. they are fine with skin hues and history, but they reject the actual belief systems and history of joy and oppression attached to that culture. that is problematic and inconvenient and requires a level of introspection of your own

I want to say I am fortunate that the way I carry my culture allows me to not experience some of the more overt racism we tend to express. but part of me carries an anger and curiosity towards those who cannot digest diversity in it's truest form...I think of it is cowardice, because what does it say about you if you can handle dark skin but you can't handle the culture and belief systems that someone carries with them if they are different than your own? are you nervous about loving someone with unique thoughts? does it challenge your own beliefs to experience someone fulfilled by others? or is it simply lack of exposure because even the most hodge podged and atheists societies carry strong and insular paradigms?

I suspect it is all of the above. most people mean well but find it hard to imagine that someone they love and respect has a wholly different mind and history unless they get to truly, personally express it.  and so I think it out job to sensitively remind them that cinco de mayo isn't a chance to get drunk on margaritas, and new orleans isn't all about one street and a party, and jews aren't a cute sideview of semichristian agnosicism, and there a ton of different asian cultures with radically different paradigms and they aren't just here to bring you good food.

there are things to be learned. and they need to be learned if we plan to move away from oppression, in all it's forms, including embracing something as abrasive as anything else: willful homogeneity.