sarasvati: (bite me)
So this chart has been making the rounds lately. It's a flowchart of female characters in the media, and essentially how the majority of them suck because they're not "strong women."

They seem to have real problems defining exactly what a strong woman is, however, because one of their questions is, "Does she represent an idea?" What exactly does that mean, anyway? Are they trying to get across the concept of something like the "wise old sage" kind of character, or something like that? A glorified plot point? Someone from a tribe of all-female warriors who hate men? What exactly does "representing an idea" actually freaking mean?

I wonder, then, if I pass muster as a "strong female character." Let's see.

Can she carry her own story?
Yes, but only if you mean that my life is my own story. Of course then I can carry it, but only because once I'm dead, the story's over. If you mean whether or not someone can plonk me into a wonky situation and expect me to be the protagonist and lead everyone to glorious victory, then hell no!

But for the purposes of this, let's say that my own story is my life. So yes, I can carry it.

Is she three-dimensional?
I'm long, broad, and wide, so I'd say yes to that one.

Does she represent an idea?
Since I have no idea what this mean, I'll say no.

...Maybe they mean "ideal."

Does she have any flaws?
Do I ever!

Is she killed before the third act?
Well, I'm still alive, and given that I'm not precognitive, let's just say yes to this.

Congratulations! Strong female character!

Yay me!

I think I'd be more proud of this if I had any idea as to what they meant by some of their questions. Oh, and if it had any basis in fact. Stick me in any story that you'd see on TV, in a movie, or in a book, and no, I'm not strong. I'm actually rather forgettable. I don't say that with the intent of fishing for compliments. I'm just being honest as I see myself. I'm rather shy and reserved, prefer to keep my own company, prefer reading or playing video games to doing just about anything else. I knit and sew, I can't fight, I don't talk back much, and when I get in arguments I often get quite emotional and end up crying because I'm so frustrated at not being able to properly express myself and for making the other people angry.

Throw that into the equation, and I'm the very opposite of a strong character. I'm a weak nerdy little forgettable person who's probably just in the story to make the other characters look better by comparison.

Doesn't make me any less of a valid person, though.

But let's assume, for argument's sake, that I answered differently to any of those questions, because I kid you not, answering the way I did is the only way to get to being a strong female character according to that flowchart. So let's assume I answered differently, and see where I end up.

I may have played a lousy double agent between factions of my friends in high school, but those days are in the past, I've grown. I would say that at the moment, I'm not a villain.

Is she mainly a love interest?
Nope. I'm single, and likely to remain that way for a good long while.

Is she part of a team/family?
This is so ambiguously phrased that it's hard to answer. Am I part of a family? Yes. I have parents. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, and a remaining grandparent. But I'm not on any team, or close organization of friends banding together for one purpose, so let's just say no to this one.

How does she feel about babies?
I hate this question. Why? Because of my choices. I can have one, want one, or not want one right now, which has the implication that I will eventually want one, or that I do want one but know that this isn't the right time of my life to have one. The closest option is the last one, though in actuality, I don't want children at all. I don't much care for them, I find it awkward to interact with them, it bugs me when people go on and on about how cute babies are, and I know I'd be a lousy parent because I have too many of my own issues to deal with.

I guess this is supposed to represent that female characters in media, if they aren't automatically "strong female characters" by fitting some nebulous definition of a few vague terms, always want or have children at some point in their lives, and that there's no representation for females who don't want kids. Of course, there are actually such characters out there, but this chart chooses to ignore that option. Probably because it doesn't prove enough of a point.

But since the closest option I can apply to myself is that I don't want them right now, let's follow that path.

Does she get pregnant?
Oh hells no!

Is she in a horror story?
Not in the classical sense...

Is she violent?
I can snap at people sometimes, sure, but I'm not what most people could consider violent.

Is she nearly perfect?
By what standard? But given that I admitted that I have flaws already, and a lot of them, then no, I'm not nearly perfect.

Funny, isn't it, how the same thing, when phrased differently, can have such a different effect. Do I have flaws? Yes. That gives me one point, so to speak, toward being a strong female. But express that same thing if I've said that I can't carry my own story (I could say that legitimately, because at some points in my life it's only been through the help of others that I'm still alive to be telling you all this), then the meaning becomes totally different.

What is her flaw?
I'm looking at all the options here, and the closest one I can come to is "Cat Lady." I'm not a ditz, a klutz, an attention whore, a spoiled rich girl, a slut, a sassmouth, and so on. For all my diversity, for the talents that I do have and all the roles I could play depending on what the story is, I get relegated to being a cat lady.

Not that I'm complaining, hugely. I get to stay out of the way and enjoy life with my kitties. Of all the ending that flowchart could have led me to, this is probably one of the least offensive.

The chart also does some serious oversimplification of characters, too. Tsukino Usagi, also known as Sailor Moon, gets relegated to being the Adorable Klutz. Never mind the large amount of character growth we see in her over the years of the anime and manga. Never mind that despite being terrified very often, she still manages to stand up and stop evil things from hurting people, and that she's saved the world a few times. The entire show is named after her. If you look at her as a character, she actually passes muster for the "strong female character" role. She carries her own story, she's got flaws, she's 3-dimensional (she has layers, and shows a lot of growth as time goes on, even if she's somewhat flighty and lazy at times), she doesn't represent some idea or ideal, and she's not killed before the story ends. Yay, she's actually a strong character!

But to acknowledge that would make the whole flowchart fall apart.

According to the flowchart, there's only one very narrow way to make a strong female character. A villain can never be a strong female character. Somebody in love can never be a strong female character either. Or possibly they can, since that stuff isn't even brought into question until after the prime questions have been asked and answered. But the implication is there. If you're not the protagonist of a story, you're not a strong female character. The only way to be strong is to be the protagonist, be flawed (but not too flawed, or flawed in the wrong way, because admit it, a female protagonist who screams at the sight of spiders isn't going to be called strong for very long, no matter how many times they save the world)

For crying out loud, Molly Weasley's on that flowchart and being the Team Mom. The woman who flipped a bitch when one of the bad guys tried to hurt one of her kids, and who caused fans for miles around to cheer when they read that scene in Deathly Hallows. She's Molly freaking Weasley! The woman who helped raise a large family of intelligent and successful children on less than most people would find comfortable, who's a force to be reckoned with inside her family and out, and anyone who's read the books will know that she's the one who really wears the pants in the family, so to speak. If she's not a strong character, then I don't know who is!

Strength comes in many forms. The woman who willingly has a large family because she enjoys having children around, who raises them well and who enjoys her life, is stronger than me because I couldn't stand that situation for more than 10 minutes without wanting to tear my hair out. The high-powered CEO who sacrifices friends and family to reach her goals is stronger than me because I don't have the tenacity and drive to sacrifice those things. The girl who does Tae Kwon Do every Saturday is stronger, and so is the woman who knits 2 really awesome and complicated fancy lace shawls each week. Strength comes in all forms, and you know, I think it would do some people a world of good to learn that instead of dismissing all those females who don't fit into a very small box that pleases only a percentage of the population.

Oh wow, doesn't that sound familiar...

In a nutshell, these people clearly have no idea what a strong female is.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Know what really grates my cheese? People still referring to homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice." Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine ones sexual preferences being really comparable to the specific way in which one lives. Living in a microhouse and growing all your own food is a lifestyle choice. Always dressing and acting like a fairy when you leave the house is a lifestyle choice. Getting all your clothes from Dumpster diving expeditions is more of a lifestyle choice than being gay, for crying out loud.

When did "gayness" become an entire lifestyle? What exactly is this lifestyle? Is there some kind of philosophy behind it? Did I miss a memo?

It gets on my nerves particularly because the very same people who call it a lifestyle choice (and thus make the assumption that all gay people live in ways so fundamentally different from so-called normal people) wouldn't call heterosexuality a lifestyle choice. It's still a form of sexuality, after all. Shouldn't it thus be given the same distinction?

Well, in the minds of most of the people who are still calling it a lifestyle choice, really, heterosexuality is the norm and thus there's no need to remark upon it by giving it some kind of distinction beyond "they way things should be."

There's also the implication that, in reducing it to nothing but a choice of lifestyle, all gay people are making an active decision to live the way they do and to be the way they are. They made a choice. Sure, they may have felt urges and desires for as long as they could remember, but the very second they thought to themselves, "I"m gay," they made a choice. A choice not to be themselves, mind, but a choice to live a different way. (You know, doing all sorts of deviant things like going to work, paying the bills, buying milk at the corner store...)

The assumption is also that in making that choice, they made the wrong one. And that making the choice to be heterosexual is just as easy as making the choice to wear black pants instead of blue, but those sinful homosexuals are too selfish and lazy to make that choice, and prefer living a life of evil instead.

This also discounts any examples of homosexuality demonstrated in nature, and I'm not just refering to dominance mounting here. I guess all those penguins and cats just made the choice to be sinful and Godless. And let's not even mention the level of hell reserved purely for bonobos!

There are so many implications carried by a seemingly innocent phrase, and not a single one is flattering. Hearing people say things like, "Yes, I have gay friends, and I disapprove of their lifestyle choice but I still love them," makes me grind my teeth and bite back the question as to whether these gay friends also happen to be public nudists or something. That would be a lifestyle choice. Being gay is just...

The problem with talking about this is that I can never quite decide what being gay, or bi, or ace, or any flavour of sexual preference really is. It's not exactly a choice or a decision, except in the decision that each individual makes regarding whether to pursue the urges that they feel or to try to ignore them. I wouldn't say it's genetic, since to the best of my knowledge, they have yet to discover the gay gene (or the bisexual gene, or the asexual gene, etc), and the fact at any point in their lives, anyone could suddenly have a flash on inspiration that tells them, "I like men/women/both/none," kind of acts against that. Would it being a mutation, or would it be something that could randomly get activated at any point? There are theories, but no real solid facts. Interesting statistics, but nothing definitive and predictable.

The best I can come to is that being of a non-heterosexual orientation just is. It happens. Whyever it happens, it happens. But unless someone can define the gay lifestyle, I don't think it can be called a lifestyle choice.

Some will, of course, define that lifestyle as being one in which a man enjoys having sex with another man. (Ever notice how it's men who take most of the flak here? It's like most people are content to leave homosexual women alone, for some reason. Unless the woman is bisexual, of course, and in that case she's just seen as a slut, or in denial of something...) But see my comments regarding calling heterosexuality a lifestyle choice for my counter to that. Aside from what's done in the bedroom (or wherever you happen to do it in the privacy of your home), what makes their life different from anybody else's? And to draw that fine a distinction is like saying that a person who reads mystery novels has a fundamentally different lifestyle than a person who likes to read memoirs.

I'll take things to a more personal level here. I'm asexual. It's a non-heterosexual form of sexuality, and therefore, by the standards of some, completely wrong and evil. But nuns and monks are fine, because they're just celibate. It's okay to feel horny, I guess, so long as it's toward the opposite gender, even if you don't do anything about it. Oh, except for the sects of various religions that teach that even that is wrong... Hmmm, looks like nobody wins here.

Okay, I got off track a little there. Let me get back on it.

My point is that ultimately, I don't want to have sex. I don't find much appeal in it. In terms of what's just seen on the surface, how am I indistinguishable from somebody who's just single at the moment? It's not like I make it a point to walk down the street yelling about how I don't want anyone between my legs, and most heterosexual females don't walk down the street yelling about how they can't wait to next spread their legs for a man. Stick the two of us side by side, examine our lives, and the differences you notice will not be ones relating to sexuality, I assure you.

But regardless, to some people, my preference is the wrong one. I made the wrong decision and should just learn to love the cock. How am I ever going to be a good wife and mother if I don't work on getting a man? I should stop being so lazy and selfish and just admit that I'm really a lesbian in denial.

Or... something. I guess. For all the sense that all makes.

But my sexual preferences, or lack thereof, is not my lifestyle, nor did I choose it in the way these people imply. Same thing with anyone who's homosexual, or bisexual, or pansexual, or-- I don't know, there are a hundred and one words to describe all the subtle shades of sexuality in the world right now, and I don't know them all. And to be just discarded as somebody who made the wrong choice, whose very way of living (even though it's the same way hundreds of thousands of people who are living the so-called right way do it) is an affront to others, is incredibly insulting.

Maybe people think they're being gentle when they call it a lifestyle choice. Maybe they think it's more polite than just saying, "You're doing it wrong." But it's on the same levels as saying, "People who are that way." It's putting a barrier where there ought not to be one, making sure that there an us-versus-them mentality to keep everyone seeing only the differences and none of the similarities. It's an insult. It's just a more subtle one than words like "freak" and "degenerate" are.

But given that the implication is the same, I can't help but wonder if the people who use such gentle terms are only doing it to make themselves feel better. They get to feel superior to those who'll just come right out and call a gay man a degenerate, but they get the rest comfortably knowing that they've done their job of expressing their distaste of something that's not really their business.

But if you say "person who lives an alternative lifestyle" to be gentler when what you really mean is "disgusting pervert," maybe you should stop and actually think about what you say before you say it. If you can't handle saying what you mean, then why are you trying to say it anyway?
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
This person has pledged that for each comment she gets to this post, up to 500, she will donate a dollar to a few organizations dedicated to helping GLBTQ youth. A few others have joined in and said that if she reaches this goal, they'll donate money of their own. The count is currently at $650 that could be donated to helping, and more comments and donations keep pouring in.

This is amazing. Even if all I can do is comment myself and help to spread the word a little, I'll do it. It took me 30 seconds to write a comment. It was possibly the most worthwhile 30 seconds I'll spend today.

The rash of teen suicides lately has disturbed me profoundly. The bullying these people endured, for no reason other than they they had an attraction to the same sex (sometimes even just potentially had an attraction to the same sex) is absolutely disgusting. There aen't many people I will wish ill upon, but the people who perpetrate this kind of utter bullshit should be punished, and punished severely.

This is a sore spot with me. I pretty much spent my life being bullied in one form or another. Not just because of my sexual orientation, though accusations of such did play a part in my torment.

Bullying, and what I endured. )

Why do bullies get away with stuff like this? Because nobody stops them. People counsel the victims to be more understanding and more sympathetic. Teachers have lost the authority to punish students half the time now, even when it's obvious that they're doing something terrible. Because people who are bullied a lot tend to stop crying out when they learn that nobody's going to come and help them.

Then, of course, there's the fact that some adults don't turn a blind eye to bullying, but go and watch it as a form of entertainment. Rei told me about an incident he saw uptown when he was in high school, where two students were beating the crap out of each other, and sure enough, other students had gathered in a circle to watch. But adults were in that circle too, watching in fascination or cheering on the fighters. Not trying to break up the fight. Not trying to get help. Standing and watching. Encouraging.


I hate bullying. I hate bullies. People can come up with as many excuses for the bullies as they like, say that they're scared or insecure or lonely or that they were probably bullied themselves once. But that does not erase what they do to people. That doesn't mend wounds or heal scars. It doesn't stop anything. It just convinces the victim that even the adults who are supposed to help them care more about the bullies than the bullied.

Then there's the fact that often things get overlooked in children what would be reported to the police in adults. Physical abuse, mostly, but also harassment of various kinds. There's a wonderful line from Mercedes Lackey's Burning Brightly that expresses this sentiment very clearly. I can't remember the exact quote, so I'll paraphrase a little but it's something like, "I mean torture, not pushing around. We'd call it torture in adults, and I see no reason to call it any less in children."

Because let's face it: if an adult was walking home and two slightly younger adults came around the corner and threatened to beat them, that's cause to get the police involved. If heavy or sharp objects were thrown at an adult by an adult, that could be reported to the police and the perpetrator would get quite well punished for it. Sexual harassment is cause to get the police involved at any point, but it often gets overlooked in younger people unless an adult is involved. Anything else is just "kids being kids," even if the end effect is the same.

That's why I want to speak out, not just against the bullying of GLBTQ youth, but against bullying in general. Nobody deserves it. Too many people overlook it. It causes as many scars as a knife does, only most of the scars caused by bullying are the kind that nobody looks at because they're psychological, emotional. I survived being bullied. Barely. If I'd cut deeper or taken more pills on that first suicide attempt, I wouldn't have survived bullying. Many people would have contributed to that death, none of them once thinking that it would go so far because to them, it's all fun and games.

My pain, somebody else's pain, was a game. It was fun. It was funny.

It's not a game. And just because I'm still alive doesn't mean I came out intact on the other side. The habits these people got me into have yet to be broken down. I don't know if they ever will be. Some things are so deeply ingrained that they're completely a part of me now, like my crippling social anxiety and my frequent inability to speak to strangers unless I exert a lot of willpower and suffer for it later.

Their games have ended. My life has not. And even if I still suffer for it, even if the memories still hurt, I've found the strength to speak out for those who can't. Not just the people who tragically took their lives because they saw no other end to their pain, but those who are so used to silence, so used to nobody paying attention unless it's to hurt them. For them, I speak. For them, I stand up. And for them, I listen when somebody else may not, because I know all too well what it's like to have my please for help fall on deaf ears.
sarasvati: Greyscale image of the Digimon Kaiser. (kaiser-mode)
Yesterday, I got a phone call that consisted of nothing but a recorded message saying that I should call so-and-so at such-and-such number. No company name, nothing regarding what the call was about. I figured it was a scam and just hung up.

They called back today. I called them back. Turns out it was somebody looking for my mother. A Google search of the number brings up references to a pushy collections agency that was looking for my mother in the past.

Last time, I gave them her number and told my mother they'd be calling. She later told me that she called them back, pretended to be me, and told them that whoops, "I" just remembered that the number I gave them was my mother's old phone number and I didn't remember the new one.

I told my mother that under no circumstance was she to commit fraud in my name again.

I've confronted her numerous times in the past about all her creditors and collectors mysteriously getting my phone number when they try to call her. The calls from her bank were one thing, because we bank with the same company and we have a joint account so she can easily transfer money to me when needed. (Must remember to change that to a single account soon...) So I can almost see how they could have made the logical leap to call me, because my name and number are attached to an account she also has access to. But they called a lot. After being told repeatedly that this was not, and never had been, a number at which she could be reached. It wasn't until I left them a message threatening legal action for harassment that they stopped calling here.

Then companies started calling for her which I had no connection to at all. Like these collection companies. Who shouldn't be calling for her at all if she actually did what she said she did and filed for bankruptcy. She says she doesn't give out my number. I can't believe her.

I can't even give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that these companies are looking in the phone book and calling everyone with the same last name as my mother, because the home phone number is listed under Rei's name and not mine. There's no way they should be getting my number and thinking it's a way to contact her unless she's the one giving it to them.

And lying about it to me. She dodges credit card companies and collectors all the time. I've seen her do it. She took her name off her answering service, screens calls, and sometimes even answers the phone and says they called a wrong number. I wouldn't put it past her at all to give them my number in an effort to hold off having to deal with them for another day.

I don't know why. She knows very well that I won't stand for that.

But this collector has her number now. She can deal with them.

But the real kicker came when I looked through my emails after having sent her that message. She sent me one saying that she noticed I had money in my bank account now, and could I please pay her back some of the money I've borrowed over the past few months.

The money only went in today. It's money I've been waiting about 2 months for, is my tax return, and I need it for rent and groceries because I have no other source of income until I find a job. She is often heard to brag that it takes only one of her paycheques to cover her monthly expenses, and the second paycheuqe is hers to do with as she pleases. (It doesn't please her to pay off her credit card bills, of course.) But she asks me within minutes of the money going through if I can pay her back the $80 she apparently so desperately needs. That $80 I owe is slightly more than I get every 2 weeks from EI, that I have to make stretch for groceries when we need more than that anyway.

It drives me nuts that she can't see that I'm in a lousy financial situation here. All she sees is that I miraculously have money, and that she wants it.

... She just called me, actually, and swore that she hadn't given my number to anyone. She sounded angry that I accused her. When I reiterated my evidence that she had, that there's really no other way for people to get this number to contact her (pointing out that the number's listed under Rei's name, for example), she suddenly sounded more contrite. I said that it was obviously a collector because they didn't leave a company name and so couldn't be dodged as easily, and pointed out that they should be calling for her at all if she'd filed for bankruptcy, and she sounded even more contrite. Especially when I told her that I was sure it was the company who called last time when she pretended to be me to get them off her back.

She said she'd call them and sort it out and even threaten them if they keep calling me. It isn't her who should threaten them. It's me who should threaten her. She admitted to causing fraud in my name before. She's a known debt-dodger, a known liar. Hell, I could have charged my own mother with invasion of privacy when she insisted on opening all of my bills years ago because she "was curious." She has no sense of boundaries and little sense of decency and responsibility, I'm sad to say.

I really hope that she's telling the truth when she says she's not giving my number to anyone. But I really can't see any feasible way that all these companies would get my number and think they can reach her here.

[Edit] - Oho! She called me back to let me know how that call went, and how irate she got with them about how they can't keep calling me, etc. She asked them where they got my number in the first place, and apparently they said that she gave it to them, though she followed that with the stunning rebuttal of, "But there's no reason for me to have given you that number."

Yeah, because saying she has no reason completely means she didn't do it.

What I was particularly interested in was her comment of, "I don't use you as a cover anymore." Anymore?! That sounds an awful lot like an admission to having done it in the past, and unless she's talking about the time she pretended to be me, that means she just admitted to having lied not only to various credit companies but also to me.
sarasvati: (bite me)
Post roundup of an issue involving a guy who makes about half a million dollars per year complaining that it's just not enough to live on and that he's just barely scraping by.

... There aren't enough desks in the world to hit my head on.

According to this link, this person's budget breakdown is as follows:

* $60,000 in student loan payments
* $40,000 is employer contributions to 401(k) and similar retirement savings vehicles
* $15,000 is employer contributions to health insurance
* $60,000 is untaxed employee contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles
* $25,000 building equity in their house
* $80,000 in state and federal income taxes
* $15,000 in property taxes
* $10,000 for automobiles
* $55,000 in housing costs for a $1M house
* $60,000 in private school costs for three children
* $35,000 in other living expenses

So right now, this guy sets aside the same amount of money per years for cars that Rei makes in that entire year and has to live on because I'm unemployed at the moment.

When I was employed, and making a good percentage above minimum wage (and I'd like to stress that by "a good percentage", I mean about $3 per hour more), we were together still making less than what this guy puts aside for "other living expenses." And we were living well. Not great, but certainly much better than we're doing now. His "other living expenses" (which may or may not include things like food, I'm not sure) covered our rent, bills, groceries, bus passes, medications, various debts, and still left enough at the end to allow us to rent a movie now and then or buy a video game and treat ourselves to a $40 restaurant meal every once in a while.

Oh, let me be more specific. His "other living expenses" would allow us to do all that stuff and still leave about $10000 spare at the end of the year.

Oh yeah, he's totally just scraping by, isn't he? He makes around 20 times what Rei and I made together each year! 20 freaking times! If I spent a single month earning as much money as he does, we could live better than we do now for over a year.

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby.... [W]e have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive. If our taxes rise significantly... the (legal) immigrant from Mexico who owns the lawn service we employ will suffer, as will the (legal) immigrant from Poland who cleans our house a few times a month. We can cancel our cell phones and some cable channels, as well as take our daughter from her art class at the community art center...

Most working Americans have two cars? How are they supposed to do that on the average income of $50000 a year? That's still a lot of money, by my way of thinking, and if we were making $50k a year Rei and I might invest in a car, but certainly not two, even if I could drive.

They only have a few hundred dollars each month to spend on nonessentials? Oh noes, poor them. Maybe they should clean their own damn house and cut their own damn lawn! Oh, but that would punish the poor people they hire to do those things for them, and we can't have that.

I'm sorry, Mr. Jackass, but when you're earning almost half a million dollars each year, you can afford your taxes. Nobody's forcing you to live in a fancy-ass house. Nobody's making you send your kids to a private school. Nobody's making you buy a new car every year or two.

His yearly income could allow around 30 single people to live in modest but comfortable apartments, eat well, pay their bills without trouble, and even have some left over for debt or splurges as the situation requires. (Of course, that's only if you ignore the advice given by financial experts that one's rent/mortgage should be no more than 30% of your total income... Honestly, though, if a person's making $15k a year, they can probably afford a $400-500 1-bedroom apartment without much trouble, if they're careful.) He is supporting 5, possibly 6 people (likely 6 since I can't see why he'd be paying private school tuition for his new baby) on what could easily support 5 times that number on a more modest budget and yet still let those people live comfortable lives.

He claims not to be rich. By the standards of over 90% of Americans, he is rich. He's just too busy sticking his head up his ass to understand that the majority of people do not live like him, cannot live like him, and probably wouldn't know what to do with all of his money if they had it!

I also love his comment: We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school. "Look at me, paying such high taxes to support worthy causes like public education. Which I clearly look down upon and think of as crappy because I 'care' enough about my children's education to send them to private school." Maybe if you took the $60000 a year you use to pay for private school and gave it to public schools instead, public education would get better for more people than just your kids.

I really despise people like this. They remove themselves so much from the majority of the populace, live better than most people, and then claim that it's just not good enough. No, what's "not good enough" are the rising unemployment rates, the economic waste because people are forced to live beyond their means just to pay the bills, the way this man doesn't even see the masses gathered below him who are crying out for just a few of his table scraps because what he throws away without thinking could make all the difference to somebody else.

As I said on [personal profile] torachan's journal, I dare this man to walk up to anyone who's homeless and hungry because they can't find work, and tell them that he knows what they're going through, that he feels their pain, that he's just like them.

Math rant.

Sep. 22nd, 2010 01:54 pm
sarasvati: Greyscale picture of Kido Jou, studying at his desk (study)
Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth.

Some good points are made here, but it also makes a few assumptions that are blatantly unfair.

The person speaking clearly favours the traditional method of teaching, and that's fair. Personally, I find those ways to be the most effective too.

Because that was how I was taught them. It only makes sense that a person will be more familiar with the things they're taught than with the new concepts that come along afterward. The entire video seems to be targeted to parents who want to help kids with their math homework rather than how the kids themselves actually learn. ("Cluster? What's a cluster?") I'm sorry, but that shouldn't be the big concern here, that parents don't understand the methods a child is using to learn. And obviously these terms have to be expained to the children somehow, so how hard would it be for a parent to look it up and follow along from there?

Just as the new ways are not always best, it doesn't mean that the old ways are. There's room for improvement and change in just about everything.

She does make some points about kids not coming out of math class with a sufficient grasp of the material being taught, and I agree, sadly, that this is true. I think that there are more things at the root of this issue than a few teaching tools, however. She demonstrates using books that are being used in only a few schools, but it seems to me that educational standards are declining all over North America, and that includes schools that use a more traditional method of teaching. The fact that a lot of North American parents don't treat school as an educational experience but rather a government-sponsored babysitting service is a big problem. Lack of motivation of the students is another. Low attention spans caused by the sound-bite/social-media generation.

One thing I had issue with in this video was her demonstration of a question in one of the books, which asked a student to show two ways in which they solved 36/6. She says that a child who simply writes in the answer will not be given credit for their work. The answer is not good enough.

I wonder if she never went to school and took math tests where students did not get credit for questions that only gave the answer without showing their work. I know I did. The reason for that was because teachers couldn't trust students not to have cheated. It's one thing to memorize the answers to a test. That doesn't show you've learned enough to understand what you're answering. This bothered me sometimes because I often ended up knowing the right answer without knowing exactly how I knew it. In trying to muddle my way through the algorithm needed to show my work, I'd arrive at a different answer and it would be wrong. But it would have also been wrong to just put down the right answer, so I was often in a catch-22 situation.

Of course, I had some truly crappy math teachers in high school. In grade 11, the teacher loved to yell at the class that we should already know what she was trying to teach us because it was grade 10 math. According to her. I wish I'd had the guts to stand up and ask her why, then, was she teaching us grade 10 math at the end of the grade 11 year...

Anyway, personal gripes aside, when you get further down the mathematical road, people are asked to show their work, to show holw they solved the equation to prove that they didn't cheat somehow. Getting kids to start early on that, to show that they have a grasp of the concepts they're using, isn't too much to ask for.

I can see another benefit to asking students to show their work in two different ways. It may be time-consuming, but it helps to eliminate mistakes. If you get two different answers using two different algorithms, you know you've made a mistake somewhere. Get it wrong when you only have to show one algorithm, you may not know you got it wrong until much later.

It also allows for students learning better in different ways. The Trellis method the video scoffs at actually helps a friend of mine to not fail more than once. Not just failing a test, mind. Failing an essential class that would require her to repeat a whole year of school. Someone taught her the Trellis method and her grades picked up incredibly. It may not be the most efficient method known today, but for some people, it works. And if a person arrives at the right answer in the end (which is often what is wanted by the people who claim that basic math concepts should be taught by rote memorization), then where's the harm?

The Trellis method also nicely condenses longer equations into a neat box when a student is required to show their work. Oh noes!

I admit I have a problem with the teachers' guides saying that math isn't a big deal because it can all be done by a calculator anyway. That is, sadly, the way the winds are blowing, and honestly, a math textbook shouldn't be saying that it's okay to reach for a calculator every time you can't figure something out. There's a problem there that needs to be addressed, yes.

But to get annoyed because the book spends some pages teaching students how to use a calculator? My math books had those, at least sometimes. Partly so we could learn how to use them as a time-saving tool, and so we could learn how to use them properly in the first place if we ever needed them. But calculators were not allowed during tests, which meant that to pass the test in the first place we had to know what we were doing.

Maybe this rule has been relaxed somewhat in recent years. It's certainly possible. It wouldn't surprise me. I know that there are far too many cashiers who can't figure out correct change without their cash registers or a calculator to tell them, true, but let's look at the big picture here. Those people range in age groups from those who've just graduated high school to people about to enter retirement homes. And everything in between. Which means that there are still a lot of people taught the traditional methods who can't apply math to everyday life either. I don't hear traditional methods of teaching being blamed for why a middle-aged person can't subtract $9.57 from $20 and come out with the right answer.

Poor math skills across all age groups are why people who work at stores will often just give out the answers to skill-testing questions on contests, rather than let the customer muddle it out for themselves. So many people get it wrong, and those questions are designed to be fairly easy.

To me, this is the same problem that was encountered when "New Math" started hitting schools. I looked up some stuff on New Math. Some of it was needlessly complicated, by my way of thinking, but other bits, fascinatingly, were the very things that I learned in school myself. Take a look at this video parodying the way New Math taught subtraction. That's the way I learned it. But this was so revolutionary at the time that apparently a lot of people couldn't make heads nor tails of it. Particularly the parents, of course, who were taught things a different way and were resistant to change.

Multiplication, from what I saw of New Math, was taught involving concepts like getting 4 groups of 3 things per group in order to figure out 4x3. That's the way I learned it too. It's a good way to teach the concepts behind what's going on when you do more complicated equations later, and some people have an easier time grasping abstract concepts like numbers when they're presented in a visual and tactile way. I was also taught a bit of rote memorization for my times tables, but not very much, and the grouping method allowed me to see what I was working with. It made it come together in my mind so that I actually understood the question instead of just giving the right answer.

Remember the problem I meantioned earlier with sometimes knowing an answer but not knowing how I knew it? Especially in high school, which was where that problem really kicked up, we were taught the formula, made to apply it to problems, then moved on. No explanation of what the numbers in the formula meant. No real clue of what we were doing with them. It must have been assumed that we all either knew it in advance or that the meaning didn't matter. Likely the latter (given that once you passed the learning of basic concepts, no teacher I had ever really bothered to explain the subtleties of even the new concepts we dealt with), though that makes having to show the work even more annoying, because even solving the problem in steps didn't have to be understood so much as just written down in the correct way.

I personally don't see a problem with introducing a few new problem-solving skills to students. If their parents don't understand it, then perhaps they can learn it instead of complaining about it. It's commonly accepted that all children learn in different ways, and that to expect each child to have the exact same learning potential as every one of their peers just doesn't cut it. (At least, that's the philosophy here. Other places, not so much.) Where one child has a skill with words, another may have a skill with numbers. So where, I ask, is the harm in showing a few alternate paths to the same destination, so long as the children understand how they got there in the end.
sarasvati: A picture of a cabbage with the words, "Cabbages, cabbages, barely even human" across it. (cabbages)
It probably hasn't escaped some people's attention that author Elizabeth Moon said some particularly idiotic things about Muslim-Americans recently. Reading her words, I had to conclude that she did have some good points. Unfortunately, they were buried in a deep hole that was rapidly filling with xenophobic crap the longer she went on.

One of the loudest (actually THE loudest) voices on the panel blared at one point "The business of business is profit." Well...yes. But that doesn't mean that the business of business is smart, or useful to the country, when business is granted the rights of a citizen but not the responsibility.

Because citizens have another business, besides whatever pays their rent...the business of a citizen is the welfare of the nation.

In this, I can agree. I've actually been giving a lot of thought lately to the concept of what makes a good citizen. Is it just somebody who goes through life paying their taxes and not complaining much, or is it someone who picks up trash off the street to make their area look just a little bit nicer? Is it the person who owns a string of million-dollar companies and thus gives jobs to countless others, or is it the person who fights hard to get a good government in power?

I don't think there's a way to ultimately define what makes a good citizen, because there are so many variables. For some people, being a good citizen might just mean not making waves, being content with the lot they've been given. For others, it involves something more. And that "something more" cannot possibly be the same in every case.

I think a lot of people understand their rights at citizens better than they understand their responsibilities, because all that's talked about here are rights. You have the right to do this, the right to do that, but I don't recall, at any point in my life, ever being told what actually gives me those rights, other than residing in the country that supports them. It's a screwy thing, too. I'm not a legal citizen, but a permanent resident. From that, I have the rights that every Canadian citizen has, except the right to vote in government elections. All I have to do is live here. Hell, I don't even have to work here to get free health care, even though the health care is only "free" because of tax money.

It's screwy. But before I go off on a tangent about this, suffice it to say that the definition of what makes a good citizen, as well as the responsibilities and rights of a citizen, aren't exactly clear. If we're going strictly for legalities, we'll just say that a citizen is somebody who was born in a country to parents who reside there, or someone who passed a test and got a citizenship card.

It does not matter how: a parent who conveys to their children the responsibility of citizenship--that the world is not their bowl of cherries, but everyone's bowl of cherries[...] (Emphasis mine)

Pay attention to this line, because she seems to have forgotten it later on in her post.

She later gives a list of things that make a person an "unsuccessful citizen." This list includes things like anger, selfishness, cruelty, and outsourcing. No, seriously, she says outsourcing. It takes away local jobs and gives them to somebody else. Hey, I can't disagree with her that outsourcing seriously sucks for locals, especially because it's often done by companies who are already making it big but who want to cut down on expenses so that they can claim they have higher profits from one year to the next. It's greed, essentially. But yup, regardless, she flat-out says that outsourcing makes one a bad citizen.

I find that amusing. Not ironic. Just amusing.

This nation was founded with an overt appeal to universal rights of mankind--those stated (but not stated to be all) being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Universal... so long as you're not one of those pesky Muslims who refuse to integrate into American society, that is. Her universe must indeed be a very small place.

Any society depends on contributors, not just takers...those who grow the crops of food and fiber, those who make the tools and those who use them, those who bear and support and teach and train the young who will carry on the work as adults. Society must benefit them, not just those who skim off a profit from their work.

Agreed, but only agreed out of context. See, she starts off her post by throwing in a lot of patriotic ramblings in order to eventually indicate how unpatriotic Muslims are. Making an "us versus them" mentality, with no real evidence behind it, but she's banking on the fact that no person who agrees with the essence of American patriotism would ever disagree with anything else she says, not when they're included in the same discussion. She makes the blanket statement ("A good citizen is someone who works hard for the wellbeing of the country"), makes an assumption ("Someone working for the wellbeing of the country is somebody thus properly integrated into that country's society"), makes a statement regarding a particular ethnicity and religious group ("Muslims who express openly that they are Muslim segregate themselves and thus are not properly integrated into society") and then draws her final conclusion ("Muslims are not good citizens.")

I took a class in logic in university. We dealt with all kinds of logical fallacies and how they're used to dupe people into agreeing with things that make no goddamn sense. It doesn't take a genius to recognize the fallacy in her argument.

Which brings me, on this particular day, to the aftermaths of 9/11. And, in line with that, the vexed question of the Islamic memorial site and the responsibilities of immigrant citizens in general.

Apparently she's confusing a community centre with a memorial site. It's going to be a Muslim-friendly version of the Y, for crying out loud! Oh noes, how dare we give those Muslims a place to hang out, congregate with people who share their interests, participate in community efforts, and incidentally enjoy a place to pray as they please! Why, that's just unAmerican!

Yeah. The sarcasm tastes bitter on my tongue.

We have always had trouble with immigrants (the native peoples had the most troubles with immigrants!) Every new group that landed on the shore was greeted with distrust (and often responded badly) until it showed that it was willing and able to contribute something those already here wanted.

Yup, 'cause all European immigrants totally ended up giving in to the demands of the people whose land they were taking. She makes another appeal to sympathy here ("See, I acknowledge the plight of those who have non-white skin.") But then she pretty much blows that out of the water by making the second statement. It's pretty much true, I'll grant you, but it seems to me a bit off that a person wants to appeal to those who came before her and then demands her rights as white overlord and ruling class of America. Can't have it both ways. Either the Muslims are doing it as wrong as all the white folk who came and settled on already settled land, or the previous inhabitants of a land don't mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things.

I can imagine the offense that a lot of Native Americans might feel at her comparison to their situation through American history.

Public schooling was viewed as a way to educate immigrant children into the existing American culture--to break down their "native" culture and avoid the kind of culture clashes (between religions and national origins) people brought with them from the old country. Refusal to send children to public schools was once considered a refusal of the duties of citizenship (this changed in the '60s/'70s, with the white flight from public schools as an attempt was made to create racial balance.) English-language-only instruction was one method used--there was to be one language all citizens understood, so that anyone from any background could communicate with anyone avoid the tight little enclaves that people naturally retreat to because it's more comfortable. Was this ideal? No, but in a couple of generations, nearly all immigrants' grandchildren were able to speak English, even if their kids dropped out of school.

... Where do I start with this paragraph? I mean, really. Where do I begin? She's pretty much saying that the ends justify the means here, no matter how much crap people had to endure in the process.

Is America the Borg collective on acid or something? Assimilate or be destroyed?

I'm half expecting a line about how if people don't like things then they can just go back where they came from. Oh, sweet naivite. If only it were so easy to get enough money to pack everything up and fly to another country and find work all over again, just because the people who live where you also live don't like the colour of your skin or the way you dress or which deity you pray to.

The point here is that in order to accept large numbers of immigrants, and maintain any social cohesion, acceptance by the receiving population is not the only requirement: immigrants must be willing and able to change, to merge with the receiving population.

You'll notice how it's pretty much only a small percentage of Muslim immigrants who ae lobbying the US (and other countries) to adopt Sharia law. The rest seem pretty happy to go about their lives, working, raising families, and so on. If they still carry traditional dress and practice a non-local religion, big freaking deal. 10 to 1 they're doing things differently than they would in other countries simply because the society is so different.

Immigrants adapt in many ways, more ways than a lot of people realise. The problem comes when people stop seeing the similarities and only see the difference. I'm from England. I still speak with a British accent (to my family, that is, because habit and shame still make it feel wrong to use my original way of speaking with any Canadian or American). Culturally, I am Canadian, almost completely. But if I were to speak in my British accent all the time, all of a sudden people would see me as someone foreign, no matter how I acted. Any little inconsistency would be magnified. Any little deviation from the norm, even if it's just a quirky personality trait, would suddenly be called attention to.

Right now, to people on the street, I'm just some random loner who wears a lot of black and is overweight. Open my mouth to tell them the time, and they don't think anything of it. Speak with my British accent, and that's when the crap begins. It doesn't matter if I have integrated almost seamlessly into Canadian society. Let one tiny piece of identity through that is identifiable as "not from here", and suddenly I become foreign. No looking beyond that.

There's a reason that shame and habit still force me to hide that accent. Not only was there the crap that I went through at the hands of idiot schoolchildren, but even now, if I mention to anyone that I was born in England, I suddenly get bombarded with questions about what it's like to be British, what the country's like, say something with your accent! Never mind that I moved here when I was five and have only been back for holidays and am no expert on the culture. I become the epitome of British to everyone else, a damn novelty, and I have to suffer their questions until they become bored. They go away, and only when they get over that weird novelty do they remember that oh yeah, I'm me, and that I'm just as much me as I was before they knew where I was born. They couldn't tell before, because they have a blindness to the everyday.

There's nothing wrong that with in theory. But when it reaches proportions like this, where all people see are differences because they forget how to see similarities, then yes, there is a problem. Elizabeth Moon complains that all these pesky foreigners don't blend in enough as to become invisible, and that makes them bad. She doesn't see the ways that they do blend in, that they did change and adapt to their surroundings and circumstances. She's looking at what's leftover, declaring it different, and declaring it bad.

But in a multicultural society like ours--and it has been multi-cultural from its inception--citizens need to go beyond nature. That includes those who by their history find it least comfortable.

She's referring to non-Americans when she says this. She doesn't seem to make allowances for the fact that multi-cultural means "many cultures", which boils down to many different groups of people expressing aspects of their native culture.

Citizens need to go beyond nature. They need to stop being so paranoid of outsiders, as she mentioned is human nature a few paragraphs ago in her post.

Whether a group changes its core behaviors and values after immigration or not, it must--to be assimilated later--come to understand the culture into which it has moved. To get along, it must try not to do those things which will, sure as eggs is eggs, create friction, distrust, and dislike. (Emphasis mine)

Hear that? If you're different, stop it. Do your level best to be the same as everybody else.

*sigh* You know, one of the reasons that people fear and dislike and distrust strange things is that they're not used to them. Give a child a new food and they're almost certain not to like it, whether or not they've even tried it before. It's the same, sadly, with adults who have grown up and ought to know better. But the way to promote understanding and familiarity is not to hide those things that make us different. It's to accept them, to express them, to teach people about them. It isn't to lock them up in a closet and pretend they don't exist.

With attitudes like this, it's often no wonder that ethnic groups tend to segregate themselves when emmigrating. The culture they move to claims to greet them with open arms, but then in the next breath turns around and tells them that they have to get assimilated as quickly as possible so that their differences don't make anybody else uncomfortable. (What happened to life being everybody's bowl of cherries, huh?) In order to be themselves, to express themselves and bit of the familiar culture they came from, what choice do they have but to create pocket groups in which they're more likely to be accepted?

A group must grasp that if its non-immigrant members somewhere else are causing people a lot of grief (hijacking planes and cruise ships, blowing up embassies, etc.) it is going to have a harder row to hoe for awhile, and it would be prudent (another citizenly virtue) to a) speak out against such things without making excuses for them and b) otherwise avoid doing those things likely to cause offence.

I'm guessing she's ignoring the large groups of Muslim-Americans who did speak out against those attacks.

Also, I don't see America taking its fingers out of all the world's pies because they're offending people elsewhere. Nope, I quite often see America go, "Well fuck you, we'll do what we want, because we can."

It's a lot to ask that because some radical extremists from your religion blew up some buildings and acted like cocktards, for you to no longer wear a hijab in public or, heaven forbid, construct a community centre where you can be yourselves in private. There are people who object to Islam's very existence! Does that mean all Muslims should convert, immediately, as a protest to a bunch of jackasses? Even if their religion brings them comfort and is doing nobody any harm.

Daniel in the lion's den... Does anyone else see the similarities?

When an Islamic group decided to build a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack, they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people.

At or near. I wonder if she knows which. It's not at. It's relatively near, but to claim that something five blocks away is an offense is like saying that nothing can ever be there again because it's an offense. Put a new Starbucks in that radius and it's offensive because it implies the commercialization of the event.

Oh wait, Starbucks is American, so it must be okay. *facepalm*

Also, still not a memorial site. Community centre. Big difference.

Not only were the attackers Islamic--and not only did the Islamic world in general show indecent glee about the attack, but this was only the last of many attacks on citizens and installations of this country which Islamic groups proudly claimed credit for.

The Islamic world... That's a very broad term. Are we talking about the extremist groups that orchetrated the attacks? Or are we talking about every single Muslim across the entire world, regardless of skin colour, country of origin, country of residence, or language spoken. Because it seems to me that a lot of Muslims were fucking appalled by what happened.

Sadly, there were people who thought that what happened was awesome, who condone the attacks, who gleefully rewatched videos of dying people as the buildings crumbled. But that was hardly everyone. That was a minority of Muslims. You cannot say that the general majority acted in accordance with a minority group when they didn't.

This is like saying that all Christian sects are mysogynistic and cruel in their treatment of homosexuals. This is true for some, but not for all. But sadly, the minority often gets painted as the majority because they're so damn loud about it.

That some Muslims died in the attacks is immaterial[...]

Yes, she went there. She really fucking went there.

I know--I do not dispute--that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could.

I believe she did dispute that, when she claimed that the Islamic world in general happily approved of the attacks. Maybe she means "many" in terms of numbers only, but not percentages. And I guess the opinions and feelings of those Muslims are as immaterials as the ones who lost their lives in the attacks too.

But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism.

...*facepalm* There's a reason that such actions have been increasing lately. It's because too many jackasses see Muslims as an open free-for-all in terms of abuse! Yes, other minorities get a ton of crap too, but Islamophobia is big these days, and is getting a lot of attention because, much like with the 9/11 attacks, a bunch of very vocal fuckwads are making things extremely difficult for them. That shit spreads. It spreads fast. And what can be done about it but to try to nip it in the bud, or give protection where protection is needed?

She's acting here like a synagogue attack would receive no notice from law enforcement at all. It's not like someone would call in a bomb threat to a synagogue and be told, "Sorry, we'll just have to let it blow up because we're escorting a Muslim woman across the street."

Know what else is targeted for vandalism? Fucking everything! But there are only so many law enforcement officers, and they have to go where they think the biggest threat it. The fact that so many are focused on protecting Muslims likely means that there's a real threat going on, not just some unnecessary mollycoddling.

Muslims fail to realise how much forbearance they've had? Yeah, they've really had it easy these past years. What with the increasing jokes at their expense, the increased vandalism, the racial slurs shouted at random Muslims just walking down the street, the way some Americans act as though they're better than anyone who happens to be wearing Islamic-style clothing just by default. Yeah, they've had it so goddamn easy.

No, actually, a bunch of innocent people have been unjustly tortured, verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically, because of what an extremist group did. Please tell me how that's okay, Moon. You seem to have all the answers here.

Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

Okay, I'm going to be the pot, and I'm going to call the kettle black for a moment. Christianity? Also has a violent history. Very violent. For a religion that preaches tolerance and love and peace, it's sure been behind a buttload of deaths for the past, oh, couple of thousand years.

I thought Christianity was also supposed to be big on hating the sin but loving the sinner? When did that change? When did it become so wrong to pray for the souls of your enemies?

When you look at only one side of an issue, it's easy to justify your beliefs. I'm baffled as to how she can say she's read to Qur'an but cannot see that it's got some good stuff in it about peace and love and tolerance too. Has she read the bible and looked at the history of Christianity too? Or is this just another case of blindness to that which is different. Willful ignorance, paying attention only to the parts that fit her worldview and discarding the rest.

Hmm, doesn't that also sound familiar?

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E....(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.) So I don't give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don't get it.)

Might help if you weren't calling Muslims bad citizens by virtue of the fact that they share a religion with a bunch of violent extremists... Besides, you're not just talking about one long-along historical incident. You're talking about something very recent, a sore spot to a lot of people, and essentially saying that all Muslims now should hide that part of themselves so that you can feel more comfortable. You're saying you won't give that lecture, but you will give this one. You'd appreciate people not giving you a lecture in return.

...Are you about to leave the Internets forevar, too?

The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...

Many people have wondered how she feels about white Americans who convert to Islam because they feel it's right for them. I, too, wonder this. It seems like she thinks the two things are antithetical. That a free woman of the West would never dream of even thinking that Islam might be the religion for her.

That no free woman of the west would ever subjugate herself to a man. Oh right, there are a lot of Christian American women who practice modesty and humility and obedience to men because they feel it's right. Is that as reprehensible? Or is that okay because it's Christian. Or American.

I ask because I honestly want to know. But I can't ask her directly, because she deleted all comments on her post and locked it down so that nobody else can say a word on it. I found out about this too late to read the comments, so if she addressed that, I don't know about it.

(Funny, she said that one of the signs of an unsuccessful citizen was somebody who doesn't accept the consequences for their actions...)

I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom.

She says it outright. Muslims believe things that make them unfit for citizenship. It's not just about association with extremist groups. It's not just about being different and not quite fitting it. It comes down to their kooky beliefs. Their unAmerican beliefs. Which, I'm inferring by that statement, ought to be removed from them to make them fit to be citizens, even if it takes away from their personal freedom.

Daniel, are you back in the lion's den again?
sarasvati: (bite me)
Ban on gay men donating blood in Canada deemed legal.

Oh fuck no...

In a nutshell, the Canadian Blood Services claim that the risk of spreading HIV to the general populace is just too high to allow gay or bisexual men to donate blood.

Yup, you read that correctly. That's what they think.

The assumption, I guess, is that all gay and bisexual men engage in unsafe sex all the time. Condoms? Pfft, what would a gay man use a condom? It's not like they need to worry about pregnancy.

Oh, right, this isn't 1980 anymore, and we actually know more about STDs now. (Or STIs, as is the preferred PC term, because the word "disease" was deemed too distressing for people and we now have to call them "infections.")

I can understand the cause for concern, I really can. It's not exactly an unknown fact that unprotected anal sex has a higher risk of transmitting HIV and other such pathogens to the receptive partner, provided, of course, that the penetrating partner is positive in the first place. That area's pretty much designed for a lot of absorbtion, after all. But they're acting like that's the only way to acquire it outside of blood transfusions and street drugs. Like straight women can't get HIV from an infected bisexual or even straight man. But you don't see them prohibiting women from donating blood.

Aitken added that the impact is not "in the same league" as a blood recipient being asked to accept lower safety standards.

Nobody's asking them to lower safety standards. It's simple. Change the question on the form from, "Are you a man who has had sex with another man since 1977" to "Are you a man who has had unprotected/unsafe sex with another man since 1977?" There, safety standards just as good as before, and can actually allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

What's to stop them from lying? Nothing. Nothing stops them from lying about their sexual orientation and sexual history, either. Except the risk of lawsuits if they're discovered, that is. So it's a real damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. You either hide part of your identity or you lie about it and risk getting sued for the part of your identity that you hid.

There's an example of such a lawsuit in that article. Canadian Blood Services had sued blood donor Kyle Freeman, who lied about having had sex with other men, and the court has now found him liable for $10,000 for negligent misrepresentation.

Note how it doesn't say whether or not Kyle Freeman was considered a risk beyond beying a man who had sex with a man. Nothing about him being HIV-positive, or any of his partners being HIV-positive. Nope, he engaged in some form of gay sex, and that was worth suing him over. Yes, he committed fraud, and yes, that was the wrong thing to do, but for crying out loud, at least make it so that the risky are getting punished instead of everyone!

This especially irks me because of the article's later list of people who can't give blood.

— Being the sexual partner of someone who has tested positive for HIV or who has contracted AIDS since 1977.

— Accepting money or drugs for sex since 1977.

— Sharing needles or taking street drugs by needle, even once.

— Being born in or living in the following countries since 1977: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger and Nigeria.

— Having had sexual contact with anyone who was born in or lived in the aforementioned countries since 1977.

Basically, people who are seriously high risk of having HIV, or who already have it. They're essentially classing a gay male as being on the same spectrum as people who do illegal drugs.

It's an indefinite ban, too, because of "current scientific knowledge" of HIV and how it's transmitted. But they're ignoring a lot of sociological data such as increasing awareness of the disease and how it spreads, and increasing condom use in gay sex. Even if both partners were not HIV-positive, and they did it safely, those people can not ever donate blood in Canada. Because they're dirty dirty homos who participated in a high-risk activity with no actual risk involved.

Especially when you consider that you only get a temporary ban on donating blood if you're the sexual partner of someone who participated in high-risk activities... unless you're a guy that had sex with another guy. Women who've had unprotectd sex with men who had unprotected gay sex and actually contracted HIV from it can donate blood after a wait. (Providing that the HIV isn't showing in their systems, of course, because that would auot-ban them.) That's the real kicker, I think.

And you can say that such a thing is a low-risk category all you like. I agree with you. I think it's a higher risk category, though, than two uninfected men who've only ever had safe sex with each other.

I guess it particularly irks me because I'm not allowed to donate blood, because I've spent more than 3 months in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996. Yup, because of the Mad Cow scare, I can't donate blood here. But here's the crazy thing about that. I could have been raised a vegetarian and thus have no risk of having contracted that particular disease, but am still not allowed to donate. Someone who had a 2-hour layover in Heathrow Airport and ate a contaminated burger can donate. I could have been in a high-risk area engaging in no-risk activities, but they look no further. I lived in England for 5 years during that period. I'm banned. As if my mother, who donated blood for years before one day suddenly finding out that they no longer wanted hers.

I know that they need to identify as many possible risk factors as they can and eliminate as many of those as they can, but some of their rules seem designed to be in place so that they can complain that too few people give blood. They have really strict rules in place that they claim are not based on social prejudice, but allow another high-risk category to go on through after a short period of time.

Relatively short, anyway. Short compared to never being able to do it.

I can appreciate their concern, but it seems to me that there are better ways to do it. Like paying attention to sociological data too. Implementing more elaborate questionaires.

They do pay attention to sociological data in some places, though. There's a perma-ban on anyone who's used street drugs intravenously, but only a temp-ban on someone who took pills orally. Using needles is a high-risk thing... if you're using used needles. Which, as Rei pointed out, most users of street drugs usually are. Otherwise the risk would be the same as oral consumption, after all. They make assumptions, as they have to in some cases, but they make the assumptions using data that isn't strictly medical and biological, as they do when it comes to the whole "gay men spread HIV" thing. Sociological data is being cherry-picked here. They use it in some places but not in others, and I can only assume one of two reasons for it:

1) The people in charge don't want to spend a weekend making a more detailed questionnaire for potential donors to fill out, giving a better indication of a person's actual risk category. Or

2) There's an actual prejudice against homosexuals that cannot be admitted to because then people would get in shit, but they're hiding behind the fact that it's technically not illegal to refuse to allow some people to donate blood. They can refuse anyone they like. A misogynist in charge technically could refuse to accept blood donations from women, if they liked, and it wouldn't really be illegal. But nobody would stand for it, even if they rationalized it by saying that straight women were in the next-highest risk group to contract HIV and they couldn't take any risks.

Nobody would stand for that, and bullshit would be called so quickly. Better measures would be put in place to ensure that women could donate again and that only those who were actually identified as being high-risk couldn't.

Come on, even I can think of better ways to properly identify high-risk homosexual men than by banning them all.

Should we ban victims of rape from donating blood, because rape is less likely to be done safely and thus they're at a higher risk of spreading any disease they may have caught from their raper? What about any woman who's had a miscarriage, because there could be something undiagnosed but bloodborne that could have caused it? Or what about anyone who could answer yes to one of those questionnaires given to people who've been diagnosed with cancer, which sometimes include questions like, "Do you frequently use a cell phone?" After all, if they use a cell phone, it might increase their risk of cancer, and we can't risk spreading it to somebody else.

Didn't bloody think so.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Why books by women aren't serious.

There are some interesting points brought up in this article, and while I can't say it was startling to read the facts and speculations contained within, it was something that I don't consider that often.

The comments, though, were what got me thinking the most. Particularly this one: I judge books by their covers. I cannot abide by silly, frivolous cover art with shopping bags or babies or big sunglasses or god-knows-what-other-things-that-men-think-women-love. I instinctively ignore books with these sorts of covers at the book store/library because, most of the time, I am not looking for a silly, frivolous book.

Part of the problem with female authors in general getting less acclaim is this. Not that attitude (though I admit that it doesn't help), but the way women's lit has become such a popular thing these days. We're entering a stage in our society where it's easier for women to not keep their mouthes shut about stuff that's on their mind, and yet there's still a pretty clear line drawn between the masculine and the feminine. Thus it's getting easier for women to write about womanly stuff, and there are women who want to read it.

This is nothing new, of course. I'm willing to bet that Jane Austen's books had more of a female audience in mind than a male one when they were written. Books writting by women for women are out there in the same way that books written by men for men are.

But here's the thing. Because of increased interest in feminism and identity and being PC, it's getting to the point where it's actually more culturally acceptible for women to write books for women than it is for men to write books for men. Men writing manly books, with no real attempt at putting in a strong female lead or anything that might interest your average woman off the street, get accused of being sexist. On the flip side, plenty of books by women exist that involve beautiful women who have a real interest in clothes and shopping and sappy romance, and where the male lead exists as little more than a pretty body that the main female can sleep with, and such things are not called sexist. They're called empowering, they're called revolutionary, but they're not called sexist even if they have nothing in them to appeal to "typical" males and everything to appeal to "typical" females.

But that's okay. It's part of society's obsession with retroactive payment. Men had their time in the spotlight. Now they have to sit down and shut up until women are done being in the spotlight for just as much time and in just the same ways, and heaven help any man if he thinks that equality should mean actual equality.

This isn't the case for everyone nor everything. But it's an increasing trend, and one that I don't like to see. It's now okay for women to do the very things they hate men doing, and it's okay because women didn't spend all of history doing it. Oppression is still oppression, exclusion is still exclusion, and sexism is still sexism no matter which side it's coming from.

Stuff like that is why I disgree with the statement that there is no such thing as chick-lit. Sure there is. There are books written solely to appeal to young girls, young women, bored housewives, or anything with a vagina. Just like there are books written for young girls, young men, or husbands. It doesn't mean that men can't like books intended for women or that women can't like books intended for men. But a book usually has an intended audience, and if that audience happens to be specifically women, then why can't it be called chick-lit?

Especially when you look at a book that has, say, a drawing of a pretty woman in a short skirt and stylish top, clutching bags from various stores she just went to, clinging to the arm of a very handsome man. The colours, of course, tend to be reds and yellows primarily, with touches of other colours for accents. Now how many people are going to look at that and think, "Must be a book for men," or, "Must be general-interest"?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

There's nothing wrong with writing books for certain audiences. I just don't think that so many people should complain about men writing "man-interest" books while there are so many "women-interest" books on the shelves. If women are allowed to read about shopping and getting married, why can't men read about racecars and tools and beating the crap out of stuff?

The problem does come in, yes, when books by men are taken more seriously than books by women, before anything else gets taken into account at all. It's a knee-jerk reaction and a stupid one, and believe me, I don't deny that. I'm one of those crazy people who thinks that a book should be judged by its content and not its author. (Weird, I know.) And there is a large disparity between male and female authors when it comes to well-received books. Sexism and prejudice do play a part in that, sadly, and I wish I could deny that, but I can't. It certainly isn't because men by default are better writers than women. I've read some awesome books by women and some real stinkers by men. What's in your pants doesn't determine how good a writer you are, and maybe it's time some people woke up and realized that.

Now, I'm not a woman, per se. But I have boobs and a vagina, and I have a serious dislike of sexism, so I'm going to assume that I'm just as qualified to make statements regarding this as the next person with boobs and a vagina. I wish that books by women would be taken more seriously, and it`s not solely because women write only unserious books. For that to be the reason would be like automatically assuming anything written by a man is doing to be full of blood and guts and bad lesbian porn.

That being said, there, though does seem to be a trend whereby women write the kinds of books that are described in the comment I quoted at the beginning of this entry. They don't only write those things, of course, but enough write them because they're popular that really, it's hard to see how such a book can be taken as seriously as a book that actually has general interest.

But I disagree with people saying that there`s no such thing as chick-lit, and that it`s terribly unfair for books written by women for women to actually be read primarily by women. Come on, that`s like complaining that the sky`s too blue on the clear and cloudless day you wished for. There`s dude-lit too, but for some reason it doesn`t get its own specual genre. Not sure why. Possibly because even though it`s freaking obvious by the covers, the description, and the writing, people are afraid of being called sexist if they state flat-out that they`re writing books for an intended male audience, filled with stereotypical manly things.

(Perfect example of the sexism thing being okay when it`s said about men but ultimately wrong when it's said about women? This article. If there was an article entitled, "What girls should wear in the autumn to not make us look idiotic," the backlash would be unbelievable. There'd be so much crap flung at the article within minutes that the servers would be screaming in fear. Even if it was meant in jest, people would be saying that unconditionally, such things should never ever be said as a joke because it offends too many people. But oh, it's perfectly fine for the very same thing to be said about men. And if a man gets offended at the implication that people think he exists only for the pleasure of women, well, too damn bad.)

Yeah, I know I probably haven't made myself too popular with this post, because I didn't immediately stand up and talk only about how underappreciated women are in literature and how the NYT should rave about a majority of women-authored books to make up for the attention men got in the past. But I can't do that. I like equality being equal, and I believe that there's a point where retroactive payment goes too far, and that some people like to get their panties in a twist. I won't say that there isn't a problem with sexism in literature, and I won't say that some reviewers don't need to get their heads out of their asses and learn that women can write general-interest too (or any genre of book, really). But people complaining that women real female-oriented stories -- complaining! -- just annoys the hell out of me.

There's male-driven sexism in lots of places, and I see it often. Video games that allow you to remove character clothes and in which the females are wearing undergarments that couldn't possibly support their breasts. Common media portrayals of females with unrealistic body types and the expectation that females must live up to those standards in order to be considered attractive. The idea that all women who are interested in sex are sluts but those who aren't are frigid. Believe you me, that shut is everywhere, and I hate it. I want to smack people who think that way, who act that way. I deal with a lot of -isms on a daily basis, and they blow.

But in the way that Twilight is not the next Great Expectations, I don't think that fluff books should be considered great literature, and that applies no matter who writes them! Maybe it's just that women tend to write more fluff books than men, I don't know. I haven't seen all of the statistics, but it wouldn't surprise me. YA lit seems to be female-dominated these days, or at least that's what all the bookstores in my area would have me believe, and a lot of YA is fluff. The romance section of most bookstores is bigger than ther history section, and I think that the 'general fiction' shelves are probably a bit more male-dominated, but in fairness, a lot of those are because there are some big name male authors who are pretty much a front for a gaggle of ghostwriters.

I don't think I'm saying things as well as I mean to, and there's a conclusion that I keep trying to draw from all this, but it all sounds like I'm apologizing for having an opinion that differs from what is rapidly becoming the norm. I'm tired of having to apologize for myself. I'm sure that a lot of fighters for rights of all kinds can relate to that problem. And once again, I want to stress that I'm not saying that there's isn't an unfair bias in the literary world. It probably doesn't help that most professional book reviewers for big publications are men. (A sharp contrast to the bookblogger community, actually, where the overwhelming majority are female.) But when people complain about books for an intended audience actually reaching that audience, and ignoring the fact that maybe men don't read that kind of book because they can't even relate to the characters (much like many modern women may not have an easy time relating to stories about burly beefy men tearing up the battlefield), I start to call foul.
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (sad)
It came as no real surprise to, for the first time, consciously understand why I spent so much of my life believing that even those whom I called my best friends were only merely tolerating my presence rather than actually wanting to be around me. At best, I considered myself to be just another tag-along in their social circle. At worst I believed wholeheartedly that they were only putting up with my presence so that they could learn humiliating things to laugh about later.

The reason for this is how my parents treated me.

This Friday, my father got back into the city and asked if I wanted to get together. I sent him a reply (this was through Facebook messaging) that I was free all Saturday and he could just let me know when we could meet up. He'd suggested a local BBQ festival might be fun, and I agreed.

No reply until evening, after I had spent the entire day thinking to myself, "I'll wait another hour and see if he calls. Just one more hour. Maybe he's sent an email." I didn't eat, because I thought that at any moment we'd be going out to eat tasty BBQ food. But that email in the evening said that ooops, he'd been busy all day, and maybe we could get together Sunday instead?

I suppose taking 30 second to call me would have been too much to ask.

My mother called today to express surprise that he and I hadn't met up. I told her I'd sent him a message on Friday and he didn't reply until Saturday, and that I had plans today anyway. "Oh," she said, "well he gave me something to give to you."

Yes, he spent yesterday with my mother. Taking her shopping. Buying all her groceries. Evidently planning to not see me today, really, if he went so far as to give something to my mother to give to me.

"Luck you," I said when she told me that he paid for her groceries. The bitterness in my voice was lost on her. She makes about $500 a month more than she needs. I make $500 too little.

Not the first such incident. The Pride parade was another great example. My mother said she'd come, and even march with me. Then she forgot all about it and made plans to meet up with my father instead. She later sent me an email saying that she must have underestimated how much it meant to me.

That all reminded me of the time last year that I was doing my first stage performance since high school, and she had told me she'd come. She didn't. She apparently spent too long on the phone talking to my father, then lay down for a nap and didn't bother to set the alarm.

But hey, she's willing to pay for a gym membership for me, right? That shows she cares!

Except that the only reason she did it is so she wouldn't have to go by herself, because she felt too intimidated to do so. If someone else was there with her, someone larger than her and therefore not as threatening as all the skinny people she wants to be like, then it's okay.

I'm a convenience item. They take it for granted that I'm going to be there when they want me to be and that I'm just going to happily go away when they've got anything else to do. And by "anything else," I mean such inconsequential things as spending half an hour at Starbucks drinking overpriced coffee beverages, which usually means that any and all plans with me are automatically cancelled, even if both things could be done in a day.

No, it's no wonder that I spent my life thinking that people only tolerated me and didn't actually like me. Even my own parents treated me that way. I'm a pretty little thing to show off. "Look at all she's accomplished, you must be so proud of her, you must be wonderful parents!" "I'm not going to be seen in public with you if you don't dress more nicely." I'm a display piece. Something seen and not heard, and only seen when it's for the benefit of other people. Other than that, I may as well not be here.

And they still can't comprehend why I spent over half of my life suffering from depression, alternating between apathy, half-hearted rebellion, and outright self-harm and suicide attempts. They think themselves good parents, and can't understand why I have so many problems with them and with what they do. They've given me so much, after all, that surely all the other piddly little things mustn't matter anymore.

Of course they don't. To them. I, on the other hand, get a slap in the face when I reach out for parental connections. I must just go on smiling and pretending nothing's wrong, that their slights and oversights don't bother me at all.

Rei's sitting across from me playing Dragon Age. We're not even looking at each other, and we haven't said much, but so far today, he's actually paid more attention to me than my parents have. And cares more about what I have to say and what I feel.

It's odd, though. Sometimes when this sort of thing happens, parts of me shut down and cease to feel. Protection, I suppose, because otherwise I'd probably burst into frustrated tears. But when this happens, Rei can rant for an hour about how lousy my parents are and how badly they treat me and how inconsiderate they are, and it always surprises me because it feels like he's more angry about it than I am. I'd be angrier, but it would just hurt me more.

But maybe if I let myself be angrier, I'd stop hoping that they'd eventually learn and remember that I have a schedule and feelings and ought to be considered as much as themselves. If I stopped hoping for that, then there'd be no real let-down when they didn't do as they said.

But I'm tired of crying. It's selfish, and probably backwards, but I don't want to have to work through this in order to not feel pain because they can't learn. I'd actually rather suppress it, squash it down and let Rei be angry on my behalf, than let myself sob one more time.
sarasvati: (angry)
I'm annoyed beyond belief at my mother right now. I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I applied for a job that sounded awesome. Data entry, overnights (4 nights on, 4 off), $13 an hour. Temporary, but hell, even if it's only for a week that'd give me almost a month's rent money!

So what does she do? She asks me for the link to apply for the job herself. Then deletes that message. I think oh, perhaps she realised that I need the job more than she does, since she currently has a full-time job that pays her almost twice as much as she needs (and yet she's still declaring bankrupcy because she can't curb her spending habits).

But no, today she called me to ask me the location of the temp agency that posted the job, because she wants to know before she sends them a resume.

I fumed. I reminded her that it was only temp work, and she said she didn't recall seeing that on the job ad. I checked while she was on the phone, and yes, it still is. Just temp work. Not guaranteed to last.

"Oh," she said. "That's a shame. When I saw that it was overnights, 4 on and 4 off, I thought, 'Yeah, I can do that!'"

"Yeah," I said in a flat voice. "So can I."

I don't think she got the hint.

She then asked me how many clips I had left on my bus pass. I told her 3, which will get me to and from the cat rescue meeting tonight and to the gym tomorrow. She offered to buy me another clip pass, which I agreed to, because why turn down what I need?

"That ought to get you by until your next installment of EI money," she commented.

Once again, I snapped. "That money goes on groceries. I can't afford to buy anything with it but groceries. I get $72 every two weeks!" I've told her this before, numerous times. It isn't like she doesn't know.

"Oh, how can anybody survive on that little?" she lamented. I fumed some more. She knows all this, though she acted like it was a terrible surprise to hear. I used to be frugal with groceries and get by on about $200 worth of groceries a month for 2 humans, 2 cats, and a bird. Now I have less than 3/4 of that money and have to somehow make it stretch to be enough, and it rarely is. I can't afford a bus pass. I can barely afford what food I manage to buy!

And she knows this. And still whenever I comment that hey, I applied for a really awesome-sounding job and I really hope I get it, she feels the need to try for it to, in spite of the fact that she doesn't need it at all and I need it more than I can fully express.

You'd think she was some competitive high school brat rather than my mother. Well, she acts 15 most of the time anyway, so I suppose that behaviour shouldn't come as a surprise to me.

So many times I've had to censor what I say online. I've been made to feel like hiding is the only way I can exist. If it isn't stalkers following me from site to site, or the worry of employers finding a single less-than-flattering comment about them, it's the risk of my parents finding out anything that they can use against me or for themselves. Now I feel like I can't tell anybody about jobs I interview for and have them wish me good luck, because if I so much as mention it, she'll try to steal the job out from under my nose.

I took a big risk in adding two friends from LJ to my circle here on DW. Not that I think those people would betray me. I wouldn't have added them if I thought that. But it's a connection, and it's a connection that I recoil from a lot because somebody else can trace me, find me, look at everything I say and force me back into that little corner where I have to custom-lock all my entries in order to say anything at all, or else disappear entirely and come back as some other online persona.

I'm starting to feel smothered again. I'm starting to feel like I need to hide and to cut myself off. It isn't just my OCD, I think, that makes me try to compartmentalize every aspect of my life, every hobby. In the past, I've had separate blogs for knitting, sewing, generic crafts, cooking, trying to be frugal, writing, book reviews, and personal journals. It's hard. Too hard, sometimes, to keep it all so apart. I fail a lot of the time. I wonder why I even tried.

Then things like this happen and I remember why I like every bit of my life to stay away from every other bit.

When I was younger, I had a dream about nonexistence. Sometimes a person was winked out of reality and went to a place called The Silence by its inhabitants. It was called that because silence was golden there. It existed out of time, and so I had access to books, games, everything from every day of every year that had ever been or would be. It was a numb place, very alone, where few people saw each other and fewer still communicated.

And when things were bad in my life, I'd summon up the feeling that The Silence gave me, and I'd be fine for a while, pretending that when I was alone in my room, I was there. I had eternity to be with myself, reading and playing and drawing and doing whatever I wanted because I was all I had and all I needed.

I know now that such a thing is a sign of deep psychologic problems. Entirely likely to be related to depression. But sometimes I still wish that I could be there, because when I wasn't real, I didn't have to hide anything. For once, I was free to be me, and I didn't have to worry about being found because I wasn't around for anybody to find.

All this, resurfacing because my mother won't leave well enough alone and always tries to selfishly prevent me from getting a new job by trying to take it for herself. And they'll hire her, too. Not because she's good at what she does. Not because she's reliable or competant. Because she's older, in that age group that's supposed to be reliable and competant, and I'm in the group of delinquants who drink and party every weekend and who can't be trusted. I have never been hired where she has not been. I have been rejected where she got hired.
sarasvati: Itsuki, from Fatal Frame 2 (thoughtful)
Ugh, feeling unhappily gross today. It's foggy outside and I'm stuffed up like crazy, with a rough throat to boot. Not a pleasant day. I should be doing all sorts of productive things, even while I'm sick. There are books that need reading and reviewing, I have I don't know how much writing that I need to catch up on, or I could even be wild and crazy and wash some dishes!

But I'm not. I'm sitting on my butt playing Persona 3 (FES, because I recently acquired it in a trade), and maybe later I'll do some knitting while watching reruns of That 70s Show, but beyond that, I don't feel like doing a damn thing today.

Especially not important lifey stuff like going to the gym or getting groceries. That stuff can wait until tomorrow, after I've had a day of rest and tea.

It's funny, but Rei and I sometimes wonder why Cass does so much crazy stuff in her life. (I'm going somewhere related with this, so bear with me.) This past weekend, she got a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days, because she worked and went to a master screenwriter's workshop. This is not abnormal for her. She often does stuff like this, like pulling double shifts and then going out for some social drinking with friends, shorting herself of sleep to do so. Sometimes it gets to be too much and she'll take a bit of a social hiatus to compensate, but she's nearly always doing a thousand and one things, and we wonder sometimes how she manages to do it.

Then we remember. She, like Rei and I, are in the "prime of our lives" stage of things. We're at the age where we are supposed to be able to do that sort of thing to ourselves and not suffer much for it beyond needing a really good night of sleep once in a while. But because we have chronic illnesses to deal with, we can just barely handle having jobs and a few hobbies that aren't very physically taxing.

Makes me wonder what we could do if we were in really good health. If I lost weight and didn't have to worry about my heart and lungs going screwy and could get over the severe social anxiety. If Rei's workplace would give him a regular schedule so he could control his IBS, or if his social axiety stopped being so much of a problem too.. We could rule the world!

Okay, maybe not rule the world. But we could probably do so much more than we're doing right now, so much that people our age take for granted. We could have a massive cleaning blitz of the apartment, so we could pack things up and have them all ready for when we move again. We could do yoga the way we've been talking about for months. We could spend entire days outside without worrying about whether we're going to be in so much pain that we can't move.

We could pull all-nighters and write, or just hang around and play video games.

For so long, I didn't really think of my life as abnormal. Sure, I have some physical limitations, health issues I need to worrty about, social and mental issues that make some things more difficult, but I figured heck, this is what most people are like, right? My life isn't that different from Joe Random's life.

Then I really take a look at the most 'normal' person I know, and I really begin to understand just how much I can't do because of my health, and how much Rei can't do because of his.

Hell, doing a 24-hour amateur acting bit last year was a big thing for me, and I didn't even go through as much as some others in the group. I slept late the day that it started because I knew I'd be up late and wouldn't get much sleep. I spent the day not doing too much, to conserve energy. I slept for 5 or 6 hours that night, then was on the move all the next day until the evening, rehearsing and dancing and singing and then performing in front of a bunch of strangers.

(It's easier than you'd think for me to be able to act, in spite of social anxiety, because I'm good at getting in character. I become someone who's not me anymore. Let nobody tell you that RP sessions don't do anything for you!)

Most of the other people in the group had been going for a full day on the first day, as they had another performance they had to act in. Then they get little sleep that night, and are on the go all the next day too. I couldn't do that. I'd be tired and cranky and my lungs would be twitchy and I wouldn't even be able to give myself any caffeine because of the risk to my heart.

I didn't think about it much before now, but I got off pretty easy on that, even though it was hard. I couldn't do what the healthy people did. I know I couldn't.

It's not because I'm lazy. It has something to do with my weight, because my weight is probably aggravating my lung and heart problems. But being fat and lazy isn't the ultimate problem in me, though I'll bet that's what a lot of people see. I have conditions that prevent me from leading the life that others my age live.

Right now, I don't feel like I'm missing a hell of a lot. It's not like I'd do what Cass does, booking up almost every spare minute of my timeand then crashing when it all becomes too much. But I wonder what I could be doing if I was fully healthy, the way I'm supposed to be at this stage of my life. What might I have discovered that I love, but haven't discovered it now because I know I couldn't handle the experience? What might I have done that could make people go, "Hey, that's really cool and I wish I could do it"? Would I be tanned from being out in the sun and the wind more? Would I wear different clothes? Would I read less?

I wish I knew what I was missing. I wish I knew how much of what I'm not doing is something I'd actually do if I had the chance or the ability. Maybe I'm missing nothing at all. Maybe everything. I don't know, because I'm always sick and have to consider carefully just about everything I do that involves physical activity and the time of the day. (Getting up early makes my lungs twitchy and stands a good chance of screwing my gut up in a painful way.)

I guess I also wish there was a point to this entry other than just me ranting about what I can't change yet, or can't change ever.
sarasvati: Greyscale image of the Digimon Kaiser. (not on my good side)
I'm not even talking about waking up after only five hours of sleep to find my kitchen ceiling leaking (though that is also bullshit).

No, today I'm talking about my province's ridiculous labour laws.

We actually have some truly shitty labour laws in New Brunswick. But the one I'm really steamed about now is that it's technically legal in New Brunswick to have a person work 7 days a week, each and every week.

Here, it's the law to give a person 1 day off per week. That isn't a calendar day, though. That's just a single 24-hour period. Which means that a person can legally have a schedule that looks like the following:

Mon: 11 AM - 5 PM
Tues: 5 PM - 9 PM
Wed: 11 AM - 5 PM
Thurs: 11 AM - 5 PM
Fri: 11 AM - 5 PM
Sat: 11 AM - 5 PM
Sun: 11 AM - 5 PM

That gap between finishing work on Monday at 5 and starting the next shift at 5 the next day counts as a person's "day off."

And such a schedule wouldn't even put somebody over the 44 hours a week needed to get overtime, either.

Not sure if that's legal in every province. But the fact that it's legal at all anywhere here is a load of bullshit.

What surprises me is that more unscrupulous businesses don't take advantage of this. People would complain, but legally they'd have no recourse.

Never mind that such a schedule would be very physically and emotionally draining to most employees. Too damn bad for them.

There are others that bother me, too.

Also, under the "Equal Pay for Equal Work" rule, turns out that if two people of the same gender and do the same work but get different pay, and it's not because of seniority or merit wage increases, there's no right to file a complaint. So the person in charge of payroll could be giving more money to the person they want to bang, for example, and that's perfectly legal. There's only cause for complaint if there's a gender difference.

I guess they figure no one will ever discriminate against two people of the same gender. Or maybe that such situations would just be too hard to figure out and so let it be ignored.

I dread to think of the bullshit that would arise in cases of transgender discrimination. If someone who's mtf gets paid less that a woman who does that same work and all that jazz, how is that handled? To get the claim recognised, the trans person would have to claim to be male when they aren't, or else have the claim invalidated, even though it may be just as blatant and disgusting a form of discrimination.

Most employers, if you work into overtime hours, will pay you 1.5 times your hourly rate of pay for it. But it's only legal to pay you 1.5 times minimum wage for overtime hours. Someone who makes more than 1.5 times minimum wage as their regular hoursly pay therefore gets no additional compensation for working more than 44 hours a week.

Granted, right now working for $12.75 an hour sounds pretty freaking sweet, and I personally would have no complaints at making that hourly wage. (That much money could change my life around in under a year!) But (and it may just be my privilege showing here), it really burns me that the companies who actually give you 1.5 times your hourly wage for overtime hours don't have to do so, because it means that other companies can dick over their employees and squeeze many more hours out of them without having to pay them compensation for it.

I'm glad that New Brunswick no longer has the lowest minimum wage in Canada (that dubious honour now goes to BC), but even so, it's still freaking sad that here, a person working 40 hours a week on minimum wage can afford a bachelor apartment in a crappy section of the city, if you follow the advice of financial experts who say that one's rent/mortgage should be no more than 30% of their income. And I live in one of the cheaper cities in NB! In Fredericton, cost of living is even higher!

I've gone through too much crap with employers who think they can get away with illegal and immoral actions because they think that their employees won't know any better. Then it turns out that sometimes they do things that really suck that are still actually legal, and it feels like falling into a hole and not being able to get out again.
sarasvati: (bite me)
A drug for pregnant women that prevents lesbian daughters.

... Yeah, you read that right.

The theory behind this is that a tiny and inconclusive study in Sweden may have shown that this drug reduces the rate of girls being born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which other studies have linked to "ambiguous genitalia" as well as higher rates of homosexuality and "masculine behaviour" in females, and apparently some doctor in New York thinks that this means that if pregnant women take the drug, the chances of them giving birth to a lesbian get drastically reduced.

A quote from this doctor: "The challenge here is... to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody's wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother."

I think I'm going to go be sick now.
sarasvati: (angry)
Rei just told me about this Maclean's article, which has information from a new book detailing the true secrets to a happy and long-lasting marriage. As Rei read bits to me, I grew steadily more appalled.

The tag line here? "A lawyer and a therapist make it simple: stay single, ladies—until your 30s—and find great friends."

The article isn't really intended for males, which is the first indicator that this is unfairly balanced. The entire focus is on women to do everything to make a happy marriage. Men getting married? Well piffle, nobody needs to know what men think, or what part they can play in a marriage.

“your twenties shouldn’t be spent finding a man; your twenties should be spent finding yourself.”

Agreed... to a point. But if you find yourself and are comfortable with yourself by the time you're 26, find someone you love and want to marry, why wait 4 years to reach some arbitray number that other people have determined is the right age for you to marry. I have a problem with ages like this. As a great person once said, "You can measure cloth by the yard, and distance by the mile, but you can't lump men together and measure them by any one rule." Also, "some men don't have the sense at sixty that others have at sixteen." Ages are just numbers, and are not good indicators of when a person should or shouldn't do a thing.

They wondered what could be done to better people’s chances of having a successful marriage. “Here’s the key,” they concluded. “Don’t marry young. In fact, don’t get married until you’re 30.” Forget notions of marrying at 25 and pregnant at 28, they write. “Marrying young, before you know yourself and have a solid handle on your life, is a bad idea.”

I agree with the last quote, but disagree that marrying after your 20s are over is the way to go about it. Know yourself, yes. Know what you're bringing to the marriage. Reflect, ponder, decide, give it a load of thought, but what, I ask again, does age have to do with it?

I admit that a lot of people think they know themselves and then suddenly realize one day that they've been wrong all along. But this can happen to anyone at any time. I've read memoirs by women who state quite frankly that they weren't comfortable with themselves until they were middle-aged, or older. Is the next advice fad going to advise against marriage until you're "over the hill," then? Younger people stand a greater chance of being arrogant about their own self-knowledge, and believe me, I'm not disputing that. I personally don't advise that people get married right out of high school. But some people do that, and make it work, because they know enough of themselves, are flexible, and have learned to communicate.

Interestingly, this article does not stress the development of good communication skills. Possibly because that would involve the man doing something...

Spend your twenties investing in new friendships with women, they suggest.

Because women can only ever be good friends with other women, you see. Investing in friendships with men will do nothing for you in the long run. Just ignore them.

“You’re finally moving past the unavoidable high school and college drama into a place of maturity, where you can develop true, solid friendships."

And no friendships you made in high school will ever turn out to be true or solid. Which is why I totally don't live with Rei right now, why I couldn't ever trust him with my secrets, and why we never engage is deep discussions about ourselves and our lives.

Except that we do. And we met in high school. Oh crap, Rei mustn't be a true friend to me after all!

“Like it or not, your husband is not going to be able to tend to each and every one of your emotional needs. It will be disastrous for you to expect him to do so.”

True. But the sentence that appeared before that advises women not to expect their husbands to be their best friends. Why not? If two people are compatible in such a way, what's wrong with having ones husband be their best friend too?

Do people expect that their best friend will tend to each and every one of their emotional needs? I thought modern psychology advised against that anyway. What is it that therapists say a lot now? Something along the lines of not leaning on anyone, depending solely on yourself, not making any ties that you can't break at your convenience.

(I actually read professional advice along those lines only a year or so ago. Makes me wonder if that person had actual friends at all, or just some fairweather acquaintances to drink with on weekends.)

In your twenties, “you have ample time to spend in long, late night conversations with girlfriends.”

This, as we all know, magically changes as soon as you hit your 30th birthday. And applies to everyone in their 20s, too.

Do this, because “it is these friends who will remind you of who you used to be when you find yourself knee-deep in diapers and Disney character lunch boxes.”

In a nutshell, marriage changes who you are, and when you pop out the inevitable children and your life is taken over by them, all you're going to have are your memories. So make as many of them as you can when you're single, because those will be the best years of your life.

[...]if you’re still getting money from your parents, it’s time for that to end, they write.

The article doesn't make it clear whether the book is saying that accepting gifts of money in financial hard times is bad, or whether having your parents pay all your bills is bad. To that, I say that I'm sorry, if I feel comfortable accepting money when I'm broke, I'll do so. And I envy the people who may spend their 20s having their parents pay for everything. That ended for me when I was 15!

If you have eating issues, sort them out before you marry.

No ifs, ands, or buts. Fix all your problems, woman, so that your man doesn't have to be burdened by them!

The book cites a recent study in which 80 per cent of women said their negative body image was ruining their sex life; 67 per cent of men said their wife’s poor body image was a significant source of frustration for them, and had a negative impact on the happiness of their relationship.

From this paragraph, I have learned that a sex life is only applicable in marriage, and that a woman going through some serious crap has a negative impact on the husband. Not the wife. The husband.

Yeah, your partner going through serious issues isn't fun, and it has a negative impact on everyone's happiness. Everyone's. Not just one person. That's like me saying that Rei should just fix his crappy digestive system because it bothers me when he's in pain and angsting because he can't eat anything again.

Again, having never read the book, I don't know if it advises an open discussion of the problems being faced. With the slant on this book being that women should be self-focused and independence, I don't know if it suggests discussing the problem with their partner, or whether it advises the partner to address the issue with the woman. But from the following quote, I'd guess that the emphasis is given on husbands' complaints rather than actual action being taken: He went on, “I’m starting to lose respect for her as a mature adult. She’s acting like a teenager, always worried about how she looks.”

Mature adults never have problems, you see.

The book promises, “If you spend your twenties learning how to be a fabulous, stable, independent, fulfilled single woman, it will naturally follow that you will choose a guy to marry who possesses these same wonderful qualities.”

Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with saying that two people who are perfectly happy being awesome and single will naturally gravitate to each other and decide to partner and remove their singleness? It didn't cross anyone's mind that people like this may not want to get married, or may not choose men with these qualities? That's like saying that if I spend my 20s learning how to cook and clean and be a perfect 1950s housewife, then I'll choose a guy who also likes to cook and clean and be a housewife.

Note again the emphasis given to women choosing their husbands, as though the man has no say in the matter at all. A straight woman can choose any guy she wants, but it doesn't mean he'll want to be chosen.

“You will lose your taste for the long-on-charisma and short-on-character guys whom you found yourself drawn to like a moth to a flame."

Yup, because every young woman is drawn to that kind of guy in their youth. And if you still find yourself attracted to men like that when you're older, even a little, then there's just something wrong with you, and you're not as fabulous and independent as you like to think you are.

I dislike marriage guides that address only one side of the relationship. It's as though people have forgotten that marriage is supposed to be a partnership of two people (or more, if you're so inclined.) One person does not a marriage make.

Placing the emphasis for a happy marriage on one person means that there's a convenient person to blame when things don't go swimmingly. According to this article's highlights of the book, a happy marriage is caused by a woman being awesome and problem-free, and by a man... just being there, I guess. It's as insulting as the assumption that any woman is going to want to get married to an attractive man with a good job, and therefore all the man has to do is pick the woman he likes best. Like livestock at a fair.

More than a few people were commenting on the article by pointing out that this book was written by a marriage therapist and a divorce lawyer. Now, I'm not saying that they're biased here, but really, can you think of two professions that would benefit more if their own advice failed? Not saying that's the reason they teamed up to write this book, but it makes me chuckle a little to think about how suspect their advice must seem to so many people. "Follow this advice and your marriage will be awesome! Oh, it didn't work? Well, why not come to my marriage counseling sessions? That not working out for you? Well here, here's the name and number of a divroce lawyer I know."

There is no age limit on maturity. My mother's is now in her 40s, married young, had a kid even younger, and has the maturity level of a 15 year old. Rei's parents are in their 50s, married young, the husband was abusive, and they got through it and now have one of the most loving marriages I've ever seen. Divorce rates may be rising, but I think that has more to do with the idiocy of the partners rather than the age at which they marry.

It's funny how the emphasis on marriage and age has shifted in recent decades. Before, women were urged to marry young so that someone could provide for them and they could have many children. Now, in this western society where a woman doesn't need a man to provide for her financially, it's like everyone's going to the opposite end of the scale. Now young marriages are archaic and outdated and just plain bad, and waiting as long as possible is the best move.

This sort of mentality also screws over people in my age bracket who are reasonably responsible. A person in their 20s who's living alone (or with a roommate) could be assumed to be reasonably responsible, right? To live without any provider but oneself means that one must have a stable job, income to pay rent and bills, the ability to feed oneself with some ability. But no, now because more and more people are saying that I'm don't even have enough self-knowledge to consider serious long-term dating, I'm expected to go party every night and get drunk of my ass, and nobody takes people like me seriously.

I have enough self-knowledge to know that I don't want to get married, don't want to have kids, and have enough issues to deal with, thank you very much. I've known that since I was 17. I know to talk my problems out now, thanks to Rei actually being willing to work things through with me, and I help Rei work his problems through just as much.

It didn't take me reaching 30 to find this out. And it certainly didn't happen by me being alone. It happened because I made an awesome friend in high school who, despite the problems we've had, has been willing to stick with me through thick and thin and to help me and has been there for me to lean on when times are tough. Hell, I think I'd marry Rei if he were interested! And I've so far done just about everything that book counsels against.

Weird. It's almost like it depends more on the people involved than on some hard-and-fast rule.

Nah. Must just be my imagination.
sarasvati: (bite me)
Some of you may know that last September, I lost my job. It was a sudden loss. Sudden enough that I saw my boss that very morning and he said nothing except to find out if I would be home at a certain time that day. I told him I'd be out, and wouldn't you know, that's when he called me to tell me I no longer had a job because the company shut down.

Their clients got an hour's notice until the service was terminated.

The next thing we heard was that the company would not be able to pay us for the time worked between the last pay period and the closing of the company, nor would they be able to pay us any banked vacation pay.

Rumours started spreading about how they were trying to reverse the deposit of the pay from the previous pay period, too.

Some of us went to the Labour Board and found out that indeed this was bullshit, and that they had to pay us for not only the time we worked and our vacation pay, but also 2-4 weeks of pay-in-lieu since they gave us no notice of our jobs being gone. For me, this amounted to around $1300, give or take. There were some exceptions to that rule, of course, like the company having to close because the workplace burned down or something, but it was ruled that this case was not an exception and they would have to pay.

Especially because I have a quote from the company's co-owner that basically amounted to, "Yeah, this wasn't really sudden at all, and we sorta saw it coming since the previous November."

Then came the delays. First they hoped to get us our money by the end of 2009, then hopefully between January and March of 2010, then maybe by June they might have it.

They tried to sell off all of their assets to get us what we were owed, apparently. They tried to sell the part of the company that acted as an answering service to B&Bs across the US. Another company was actually interested, so they were given control of the project on a 3-month trial period. If they didn't feel it was worth keeping up with, then they didn't have to pay a cent and everyone would go their merry way.

Unsurprisingly, since all the B&Bs got an hour notice of service termination, very few of them decided to bother staying on. I think 10 out of the 150 inns actually stuck it out, and the new company rightly decided that there was just no profit in that. No money came from them.

This could have been solved by the owners declaring bankruptcy. Not only would that take care of the employee debt, but also their debt to Revenue Canada, since they were reportedly quite behind on their payroll taxes, too.

But bankruptcy would have prevented the company's owner from starting up a new company in her name. Which is what she did.

Today I got a letter in the mail from her, saying that despite her "best efforts", no, we weren't getting paid a cent after all this. She said her biggest mistake was not closing the company down when she first saw the problems, but that we should all take comfort in knowing that if she'd done the right thing then, we wouldn't have had 3-4 extra months of employment from her when he did.

Not that it mattered to me, since I was on stress leave for 3 out of those 4 months anyway... But I kid you not; that's what she said in her letter. Thatwe should be grateful that she screwed up and that we weren't out of work sooner.

What I want is to find a labour lawyer to look at this case. I know that the company was incorporated, which acts as a sort of insurance for companies. An incorporated company is a separate entity from the owners, and so if it no longer exists, neither do its debts. However, incorporation only protects again so many contingencies, and I want to know if this is a case where they're protected or not. If the company still owed money to Revenue Canada that had to be paid before the employees got their money, then there's a chance that their incorporation isn't going to protect them here.

In which case, I want to sue them for all they're worth. For theft and for fraud and for health and emotional damages.

There are labour lawyers in the city. The big problem is that I don't know if any of them do free consultations, and even if any do, I'll then have the problem of convincing them to work only for a percentage of what I actually get as a result of the lawsuit. But if I can't, then I'm basically SOL and the ex-boss wins, gets away with everything. She won't have to pay a cent of what she owes us because she was an idiot and can't manage a business properly.

I'll email some lawyers tonight, see if any are willing to at least give me a free consultation. If it turns out that I may have a case but none are willing to work with me on fees, maybe just the threat of being sued might make the ex-bosses cough up the money we're owed. Since I don't have a job and can barely afford bread right now, I know I can't afford lawyer fees.

But we'll see. One step at a time.

And right now, my step is into the bathroom. Again. This issue has stressed me into having my second gut attack of the day, and I don't see it letting up soon.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Sometimes the strangest thought-trains occur to me. I was sitting comfortably, reading Mori Kyoko's memoirs, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home, and I came to a passage about her grandfather walking through the rice paddies in Japan.

And then, unbidden came them memory of trying to converse with my father about something I was interested in: at the time, this was the Pokemon video games. I mentioned how the game was set up so that most often, random encounters only took place in tall grass.

He asked if I was sure that it was just tall grass. Confused, I told him that was what the game said, that was how it had been presented, and I didn't see any reason to think otherwise. He clarified his question, saying that he knew the game was made in Japan, so he thought that they were probably rice paddies instead of patches of grass.

I couldn't begin to wrap my brain around why this would have occured to him as a serious consideration. Did he think Japan didn't have grass? Did he think that all there was to Japan were the things that Westerners think of as "typically Japanese?" Rice, slanted eyes, chopsticks, kimonos, sayonara. Did he think that was all it took to understand the essence of Japan, of every Japanese person?

He denies that he is racist, of course, even when he calls the Chinese students "chinks." He doesn't mean the term in a derogatory fashion, so how could it be taken as such, he reasons. He will glare daggers at me if I say the word "nigger" in an academic or historical sense, but still talks about "damn chinkies" and eating "chinky food" for supper. It's okay for him to be this way, because he means no offense and so nobody should have any reason to take offense.

I can't expect much of this man. He is, after all, the same man who had a legitimate discussion with me about why he thinks the Bible should be a central book for every religion, because it teaches good ethics and has much to teach people. I argued that the same could be said for just about any religious book, which he dismissed as a valid argument because he hadn't read them and so couldn't judge.

He hasn't read the Bible, either, I should say. He's not religious, let alone a Christian. He's one who demands indeniable proof before he'll let himself believe.

He's the same man who insists that "soduko" is just another pronunciation as "sudoku", and one that's just as correct, because according to him, a 'U' and an 'O' are pronounced the same way in Japanese. He bases this on the band "Shounen Knife", and since he pronounces shounen with a short 'o' (as in 'hot' rather than 'oh'), then the same must stand for all words.

All these memories, triggered from a single line in a single book, a line that has nothing to do with racism or stupid parents or stupid people in general. All of it, from "rice paddies."
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
Through [personal profile] torachan, I came across this post by [personal profile] kaz, on the subject of disability and the curing of disability and how that relates to identity.

Reading it helped to give form to a lot of thoughts that I've been struggling to deal with for a while now.

I don't consider myself disabled. I consider myself challenged. I have problems, mental and physical that require some readjustments to my life, and even though they may make things difficult for me, they do not directly prevent me from doing anything. I can't, in all good conscience, consider them disabling, as I feel that comparing my problems with, say, the problems of somebody who requires a wheelchair to get around or who suffers from chronic pain is just doing them a disservice. Thus, I call my problems my challenges rather than my disabilities.

Moving on...

I've spoken to people, friends and family, about these problems before, and nearly always, the topic comes around to how they can be fixed. Losing weight to hep me breathe and sleep better, which will possibly take away pain and comprehension issues. Wouldn't it be great if there was some sort of quick fix to my problems?

The thing is, I'm not sure it would be so great. And I feel like a terrible person for thinking so. I feel that by not being enthusiastic about wanting to be rid of any issues I may have, I'm a bad person for clinging to them, like I'm somebody who wants problems just so that I can have something to complain about. If I don't want to be perfectly healthy in all ways and forms, then I'm malingering, I'm trying to be special, I'm just looking for sympathy and attention.

That feeling is worse sometimes than anything that my issues make me go through.

I'm not 100% sure that if some miracle cure was offered to me, something that could fix my lungs and heart and my eyes and my brain and all the senses connected to it, I'm not sure I'd take it. And people treat you like you're stupid and attention-whoring for it, but here's the thing: my problems are a part of me. I may struggle with them, but for the most part, they're a part of my life and I've learned to deal with most of them enough that I can lead a pretty normal life without having to resort to some drastic miracle cure thing.

I've worn glasses all of my life. I can't comprehend what it's like to see clearly without something to help. I take my glasses off at night, and in the morning I put them back on. It's part of my routine, it's something I've adjusted to just fine, and it's a hassle some people wouldn't want to deal with, but to me, putting on my glasses is no different than pouring myself a cup of water.

One night, a long time ago, something wonky happened that I can't explain. My glasses were off as I was about to go to bed, and so the world had returned to its mass of fuzzy blobs and blurs of pseudo-colour. Then I looked at the clock on the bedside table, one that was 6 feet away from me, and I could see the display clearly. No blurriness around the lights making up the numbers, nothing of the sort. Something that shouldn't be able to happen.

I panicked. I felt my face for my glasses to confirm that they were off, multiple times. I looked around the room at other things to see if they were blurry too, and how blurry they were. My eyesight had, for a brief period, seemed to recovera significant amount, and it scared me. Not because I love having to wear glasses and think they make me special, but because seeing anything clearly when my glasses weren't on my face was not something I did!

Imagine someone who's badly agorophobic and stays inside all day, working from home and paying the bills and doing all that everyday stuff that people do. Now imagine one day this person feels absolutely no fear at going outside. They're not about to burst into song and go gallivanting around the local nature park, no matter what happy-go-lucky media portrayals would like you to believe. They're going to sit inside and stare at the outside and wonder why this is happened now, all of a sudden, and what it means, and how they're going to cope with it because it's not normal for them.

Just the same sort of reaction somebody might have if they had never exhibited a fear of the outdoors and then suddenly found themselves unable to leave the house one morning.

Long-term problems mean readjustments, shifting things in life so that life can go on in spite of the problems that exist. Having those problems suddenly lifted requires as much adjustment as suddenly having those problems descend upon you. Your life needs restructuring again. The identity that you built for yourself around your problems (the things you deal with every day, remember, and so are no more weird to incorporate into an identity than enjoying going for a run every morning or knowing you like to drink coffee) suddenly doesn't apply, and you need to re-examine yourself and form a new identity around your lack of problems.

And people expect you to be grateful for this. Sure, you may be able to get up and walk to the corner store instead of using a wheelchair, or you may now be able to digest food indescrimately instead of having to have a specialized diet, but there are still changes that need adjusting to, and aspects of your old life are going to creep back in. How many times have new amputees tried to use the limb that's no longer there? How many ex-amputees who had arms grown back by medical science (or some such thing) leave that limb unused or favoured for the very same reasons?

Your life still changes, no matter what the cause of change is. It's hard to deal with. Change is hard for everybody, whether abled or challenged or disabled. Expecting people to be happy about a major life adjustment is selfish. You're asking them to be happy that they have to struggle to restructure themselves because they're not longer an awkward inconvenience, they're "normal again."

Identity is also about how people see you as much as how you see yourself. It blows if people see you as "the disabled one" and treat you like crap for it, but at some point, the disability becomes a part of your identity. Losing it means you lose a piece of yourself.

I have a character that I RP with Rei sometimes. This character is blind, has been so almost from birth. He's happy. He's well-adjusted, loves his life, is in a loving and caring relationship. Rei once suggested that it would be awesome to come up with some way for Nathaniel to get his sight back, and then seemed annoyed and confused that I wasn't all for it. Nathaniel doesn't want his sight back. He's happy being blind. His life works well around it. It's a part of him, and he's okay with that. The thought of having to learn to rely on a sense he doesn't even remember ever having scares him quite a lot, because it's so alien to him. But in Rei's mind, it was a problem to be solved, an obstacle to be overcome.

It had been. Just not in the way that Rei, and a lot of other people, expect.

I think this mentality is at the heart of all the "fat wank," too. People who have been overweight for their entire lives have formed an identity for themselves that incorporates being fat. Lately, it's become a lot more acceptible to be proud of who one is, in spite of problems. "Accept me for who I am, problems and all, or else you're just being a dick." But the world is still telling them to be different, telling them they have a problem to be solved, telling them that part of their identity needs to go away. It's not too surprising that people get their knickers in a twist over it.

I don't think that enough people see things like this as something that can be part of an identity without connecting that to the thought that people just like to have something to bitch about. They can't see something not of the norm and think that it doesn't need fixing. "That poor girl needs a cane to walk," thinks the woman who doesn't even think about the glasses on her own face. "Her life must be so dreadful to have such problems. She'd be happier if she was normal."

What about my identity has been built around my problems? Let's take a tally of just some of them, shall we? I won't mention my reasons for them. I'll just list the adjustments I make, which have become itegral parts of myself.

1. I don't go outside on very cold and dry winter days unless I have to.
2. I don't drink coffee or energy drinks. I allow myself a cola if I'm at a restaurant. I allow myself tea at home.
3. I don't eat spicy foods because they don't agree with me. I also don't eat potato chips late at night, and am careful not to eat anything in the morning until I've fully woken up.
4. I prefer communicating online to talking face-to-face.
5. I watch movies and TV shows with the subtitles turned on.
6. I drink a variety of herbal teas.
7. I need to save a certain amount of money each month, which varies depending on what kind of job I have at the time.
8. I try to take a short walk every day, but sometimes I stay indoors instead.

Oh noes, such terrible things I have to do for myself! If I just posted that list of things I have to do in my life, people would wonder what point I'm trying to make, and act like it's no big deal. Why even mention it? But tell them that it's because of health or emotional problems, and the tone changes, and that list becomes a sinister one, listing all the restrictions I have to make and detailing, subtly, all the things I can't do because of my problems.

1. I don't go out much when it's cold and dry because my lungs spasm and I wheeze and cough and have to fight for breath.
2. I limit my caffeine intake because I've found that it's a trigger for my heart spasms that make it, for a few seconds, sometimes beat as fast as 200 beats per minute.
3. Those diet restrictions are because I have some sort of digestive disorder that requires unpleasant trips to the bathroom as well as pain.
4. Social anxiety, sensory problems primarily relating to hearing and speaking, shyness, awkwardness around people seeing my Tourette's make my twitchy, and trouble making eye contact makes me prefer distance communication to the other kind.
5. Hearing comprehension problems mean that turning subtitles on makes the movie easier to understand.
6. I've found some herbal teas that can treat a lot of my problems, from chronic sinus congestion to the pain and problems associated with that digestive disorder. They're a damn sight cheaper than meds, and sometimes more effective!
7. Money gets put aside so I can afford the meds I need to take. The amount varies depending on whether my job gives me health insurence.
8. I walk to try to get exercise for my lungs and heart and to lose a little weight, but sometimes the pain from my infected ingrown toenail, or perhaps bad weather that my lungs can't handle, means I stay in sometimes.

There are other, more obvious adjustments made for my health. The infected toenail was so painful for a while that walking anywhere required a cane for balance. I need to carry my asthma meds in my pocket, just in case. It doesn't escape anyone's notice that I'm overweight or that I wear glasses. Sometimes I have panic attacks.

But I am me. My challenges are a part of me, whether you like or not, whether it's convenient for you or not. I am not looking for a "quick fix" to being myself. I am not looking to have to reorder some parts of my life, and some parts wouldn't get reordered anyway. I like the taste of those herbal teas. I don't want to go out when the air's cold and dry anyway. Spicy food burns my tongue. Walking's an enjoyable activity that I like to do. Even if I didn't have Tourette's or social anxiety or autism-like symptoms, I'm still shy and prefer keeping my own company, so I wouldn't go out and become a party animal.

That isn't to say that I wouldn't be glad to be rid of some problems. I'd love to not be in pain. I'd love to be able to be broke without wondering how long I can go without meds before my lips start to turn funny colours. It isn't all positive stuff that comes along with my problems, or they wouldn't be problems.

But it's not all so terrible. It's not all something that's waiting for a quick fix. Not all bald men have hair transplants or wear wigs. Not all people with bad eyesight get corrective laser surgery. Nobody thinks badly of them for those choices, even if it would "fix their problems." So in that vein, nobody should look down upon the blind man who's content with being blind, or the woman with Celiac disease who doesn't suffer any for having to eat a gluten-free diet.

Or the person smiling as they limp down the street leaning on their cane, laughing at a joke their deaf friend just signed to them.

I wonder, if people looked closer, how many people they'd see with problems. People they know, whom they see every day, and of whom they never would have guessed suffered from anything at all, because they're so used to making all the little adjustments that allow them to live normally anyway.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
[personal profile] torachan makes an excellent point that I can agree with so very much.

For me, text-based communication is so much easier than talking face-to-face. Why? Because of the whole "talking" and "face-to-face" problems. Both of those come less easily for me than for most, and it's actually been only relatively recently that I've learnt that actual terms apply to me other than "lazy" and "someone who just doesn't want to try hard enough."

I'm shy. I've always been shy, right from the get-go. I suspect that being made fun of extensively through my youth played a part in that, but I also think that issues other than the social played a larger part. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, possibly other disorders too. (I fit a large number of symptoms for HFA -- high-functioning autism -- though I've never had a definitive diagnosis.) Being around people is difficult for me. Meeting new people is difficult for me. Hell, sometimes going outside is difficult for me. I can get by, for the most part, and even engage in some awesome activities like stage acting (it's easier when I'm pretending not to be me), but a lot of day-to-day stuff remains difficult.

I think perhaps things like acting are easier to do than some people expect because I have to psych myself up, and people understand that. Few people understand or let me take the time to psych myself up to answer the door to receive a package, or ask a store's clerk where the canned soup is.

On a good day, I'm able to make eye contact with people I know well, and even some people I don't know. If this is trouble, I can usually get around it to some extent by looking at their nose or forehead, close enough to their eyes that few people notice. On a bad day, I can't even make eye contact with my friends.

Body language? Body language doesn't mean much when I can't even look in your direction.

And that's discounting my hearing and speech problems. Again, something I've only recently learned that terms even exist for. I used to say that somewhere between my ears and my brain, the sounds I hear stop connecting to any actual meaning. Now I know it's called APD, or auditory processing disorder. It's not a terribly bad one, but it does mean that I ask people to repeat themselves a lot. It means that sometimes I can't tell you're talking to me if I'm not looking right at you, because I can't distinguish your voice as something that needs attention from all the background noise that doesn't need attention. Sometimes there's a delay in me figuring out what you said, which results in my staring at you blankly for a moment, not wanting to ask you to repeat yourself because I might actually figure it out soon.

But I also might not.

Speech problems? Like a good number of people, I stumble a lot when I'm nervous. I'm nervous a lot when I talk to people, because of social and hearing problems. Yeah, it's not pretty. I think I form concepts clearly when I try to talk, but I have it on good authory that I often don't. I think I'm being clear, but much like how my ears and brain don't communicate well, sometimes my brain doesn't transfer things to my mouth as well as I'd like. Maybe I use the wrong words. Maybe I leave out a concept that I think should be obvious, but it isn't, because I said it wrong when I tried initially to establish it. It's frustrating for all parties.

I communicate much more smoothly online than anywhere else. Here, I can make sure I use the right words, reread what I write before anyone else gets a chance to see it, articulate how I'm feeling without wanting to turn into a quivering pile or jelly at the mere thought or trying to articulate how I'm feeling. I don't have to rely on my ears and mouth, but on my eyes. My eyes and brain communicate much more easily than anything else on my head!

Oh, and let's not forget the Tourette syndrome. Yes, I have verbal ticks. Yes, they're embarassing in public. Around close friends, I can laugh it off when I bark or squeak. In a crowded but quiet bus, however, when everyone turns to look at the person who just shouted a sharp, "Bark!" it isn't quite so easy to laugh off. Then I get nervous and agitated, and my head starts to twitch more, which earns me even more stares, and makes me want to lock myself inside and never go out again because it's too hard to be around normal people.

Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes even my hearing problems are funny, because I 'hear' people say strange things a lot. Know how sometimes you get some funny things out of misheard lyrics? It's like that, only with talking. Rei saying, "Vending machines hate me," became "Venetians hit me," and a joke was born. When I'm with people who understand, I can laugh.

Most people don't understand.

Online, I don't twitch. I don't make weird noises. I don't mishear. I don't have to open my mouth. I don't have to look anyone in the eye. I can interact within my comfort zone, and I can make friends where otherwise I might be completely alone.

Most of my fleshy friends are not neurotypical. They may not have the same issues as I do, but they understand what it's like to be screwed up, and make allowances for my own screw-ups. Rei has OCD as bad as I do. Mary's bipolar and has told me frank stories about how she acted when she wasn't receiving treatment, and has implied that climbing the walls of buildings is certainly no worse than occasionally making animal sounds or twitching in public. Cass doesn't make much allowance for anybody's problems, even her own, but at least is usually good enough to ignore outbursts and tolerate times where I don't want to be around others or interact much.

These things are a part of me and I don't try, online, to pretend that I'm somebody or something that I'm not. I don't try to handwave my problems. But online, they're not a bother, or at least not as much of one, and so I can experience the joy of meeting people and talking to them without the worry that they're going to get freaked out and go away, or that I'll mess up too badly and not be able to talk at all some day. I can bypass all that crap and just get to doing what I want to do.

And I wouldn't give that up for anything. Communicating online has given me freedom from worry, freedom from expectations that couldn't possibly be met in a non-face-to-face environment. It's given me the freedom to be me without having to fight through a morass of problems in order to get there first.

Denounce online communication all you want. But it's been a sanity-saver for some people, a connection they may not otherwise have had, a form of expression that come more easily than others.

Just because your brain works normally... I don't expect everyone to go around expecting everyone to not be neurotypical. It's neurotypical for a reason; the majority of people are that way. But some understanding is nice, when it's revealed that my brain, his brain, her brain doesn't work normally.
sarasvati: A picture of a cabbage with the words, "Cabbages, cabbages, barely even human" across it. (cabbages)
I finished reading James Rollins's Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, which is a young adult-oriented adventure novel that tries to balance history, archaeology, anthropology, and paleontology with a fantasy twist. In other words, should be the kind of thing that's right up kids' alleys, right?

And you'd be right... if you ignore the fact that females get shafted badly and that Rollins seems to be trying to be J K Rowling for only boys... and failing at it.

I wrote my review of it on my bookblog, but feel compelled to spread the word a little about the treatment of female characters in this novel. I really do wonder what was going through Rollins's head when he wrote this. If I'm feeling generous, I can say that he honestly thought that females would have absolutely no interest in reading adventure stories and so decided to pander to the opinions that preteen boys tend to have towards their female acquaintances.

At worst, Rollins is rather stupid and has a very low opinion of women.

There are some cases where I think that people complain for the sake of complaining, especially when it comes to the treatment of women in fantasy or fantasy-type novels. A lot of them admittedly do have women holding a lower station than men, which in most cases doesn't bother me because a lot of high fantasy is based on our own medieval period, which, surprise, had women hold lower stations than men. There are moments where this goes too far, but for the most part I don't have a big problem with that, and sometimes I think the people who kick up a stink about it are only seeing what they want to see.

Before anyone bites my head off about that statement, I want to say that it doesn't hold true in all cases. Some complaints are perfectly justified. But when I see people complain because [insert fantasy culture here] has people that worship a goddess and whose religion states that women are superior to men and where the women are strong and independant... but the complaint is that they're not protrayed as real women because they're not "womanly" enough (and by womanly, I mean caring about appearance and raising a happy family, and yes, I've actually seen this complaint before), then I call foul.

Anyway, back to my bitching.

In Skull King's Shadow, there's Kady, who is the main character's older sister. Kady, who is a cheerleader and a temperamental airhead who cares more about looking pretty for cameras than about her parents' legacy, who is pretty and cares about dating her school's star football player. She's compared with her brother, who is dedicated and picked on by bullies and is tortured by the disappearance of his parents, who is so intelligent that he even dazzles his teachers by giving long and detailed reports and proving their math theories wrong in class. Boy Wonder versus the Airheaded Twit.

They get transported to a strange world where, after being chased by a vengeful t-rex, Kady gets huffy that Jake can't do something to call off the dinosaur. She actually turns her back on him in a huff, and Jake rolls his eyes and says that's just typical of her, pretending a thing doesn't exist by not looking at it. Hello, you're being attacked by a fucking t-rex!

She gets taken in by some Viking warrior women, where she proceeds to awe them all with her amazing fancy swordwork, which is a display that her brother realises he's seen before in Kady's cheerleading baton routine. Because a baton is totally the same as a sword, as we all know very well. Kady also starts fashion trends among the Viking warrior women, because that's just what women do. They do fashion stuff that boys get to roll their eyes at because it's stupid and irrelevent to the terrible situation at hand.

Later, Kady teaches all those warrior women to do a cheerleading routine, all for the purpose of providing a distraction so that Jake can sneak away and do all the important stuff that heroes need to do. All of these Viking girls have French-braided their hair to match Kady's, because again, I guess that's what all girls do. Cheerlead and braid their hair.

Sure, there's another female around that gets to take part in the main adventure. Marika gets to do stuff... because she's got an obvious crush on jake and follows him around. But aside from being pretty and making his heart flutter with her wonderful emerald-green eyes, she doesn't have much personality, and seems to be there for the sole purpose of having a crush on Jake and occasionally filing him in on some cultural stuff.

There's a little Neanderthal servant boy named Bach'uuk, who has a more fleshed-out personality than any female, and who, aside from Marika, gets more feature time than any other female. Feel sorry for the little overlooked boy, who comes from a race that people use for slave-labour and are thought to be stupid. Poor little boy. Yes, feel sorry for him and all his trouble. Pay not attention to the vacuous airhead sister or the 2-D personality love interest. They aren't worthy of your attention. They don't need to have layers. After all, they're just there to serve the purposes of getting Jake to where he needs to be in order to figure out the riddles and be the awesome preteen hero.

This book wasn't written with the intention that anyone without a penis would read it.

It's pretty sad. I've heard so much about this guy's adult novels, heard that he's great at writing and weaving a story. I was even willing to give his other books a try in spite of the fact that the one I actually picked up a while back sounded like it was trying to go one step beyond The DaVinci Code in terms of complexity and conspiratorial mayhem. But now, I don't want to give this guy my time or my money.

I think the complaints are well-deserved in this case. I also think I may be the only one to see this, as just about every review I've read for this book praises the author and his writing, and doesn't seem to mind that females get shafted at every available opportunity.


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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