Friday, April 30, 2010

Blogging Against Disability Day

Today, May 1st, is Blogging Against Disability Day.

I am technically disabled.  By "technically," I mean that most people who know me don't know that I have an autoimmune disease, and that people who do generally wouldn't consider it a disability.
Certainly, in terms of the way that I have a disability, and the ways that other people do, sometimes, I feel guilty when I think, "I've got something, too."  But then I remember when I was a college freshman and I felt guilty claiming the identity of sexual assault survivor.

I struggled a lot with the feeling that I was an imposter, as if what happened to me not only wasn't really sexual assault, but also wasn't even that bad at all.  I sometimes worried that I was just clinging to the identity as a way to feel connected to the anti-violence movement, as a way to say, "Hey, I know what I'm talking about because I was assaulted."  I also fell into the incredibly unhelpful and pointless habit of comparing and competing, i.e. "Well, my assault wasn't a rape.  It only lasted a few minutes.  It's worse for other people.  So-and-So is much more entitled to the identity and the activism than I am because So-and-So was brutally assaulted at gunpoint by an abusive partner," etc. ad nauseum (for the record, if any of my acquaintances have been assaulted at gunpoint by an abusive partner, I'm not aware of it; I made that example up).

But now, instead of falling into that spiral, I stop myself.  I remind myself that because it could always be worse (after all, I'm Jewish; that's sort of a motto), even for someone who was brutally assaulted by an abusive partner at gunpoint.  Comparing and competing doesn't change the fact that no assault, however "minor," is acceptable.  Just because I don't have PTSD doesn't mean I can't stand up and say, "This isn't okay, and I was a victim."

Part of my healing has been using my experience as the gateway to my activism.  I don't know how involved I would have gotten in feminism and anti-violence if I hadn't realized my survivor status, but now that I know it, I don't shut up about it.  And while I do wish that I had never been assaulted (it wasn't exactly FUN, people), I now need to use this experience to do the most good that I can.  And one thing that's useful about my assault is how fucking innocuous it seemed at the time, and still seems to some people now.  And so I explain the assault, I match it up to the definition of sexual assault, I say how it made me feel--still makes me feel.  And I make it clear: something you thought was harmless, if uncomfortable, was actually sexual assault.  It happens more frequently than you thought.  It's not something that happens only rarely, and only to people you don't know.

And so while I'm able-bodied enough to get to work without a problem, to do my work without assistance, and to generally pose as a "normal" person, my abilities are somewhat compromised on a regular basis.

There is something wrong with my calves, although I'm not sure what it is.  They seize up often, even from powerwalking to make sure I make the train.  Running aggravates them about 70% of the time, so I have difficulty running on a regular basis.

My vision is incredibly poor.  I'm not legally blind, but contact lenses are expensive (as are glasses lenses), and my eyes are frequently irritated.  My vision is so poor that I can't drive in glasses because I have no peripheral vision.  I can't afford surgery.  Impromtu sleepovers are pretty much taboo.  During my first year of college, I had to stay in the hospital overnight on short notice and did not have my glasses.  The doctors told me that they didn't have a contact case or solution I could use (?).  If I hadn't thought to ask for liquid medicine cups and some plain saline solution, I would have been screwed.

I have an autoimmune disease.  If I don't take (specific) antihistamines every night, I break out in hives, or worse, I get major deep tissue swelling.  While I've never had difficulty breathing because of the swelling, the back of my mouth has closed off, preventing me from speaking, eating, or drinking, and sometimes I can't walk, can't use my hands properly, or can't open my eyes.  When I say specific antihistamines, I mean that many antihistamines don't properly address skin swelling, others are simply ineffective, ones like Benadryl give me serious jitters and prevent me from sleeping, and others, like doxepin (also an anti-depressant) actually knock me out for 15 hours at a time (if I take one during the day, I don't exactly black out, but I don't remember everything I did that day).

Thanks to my vision problems and my autoimmune disease, I can't stay over somewhere on a moment's notice; I have to know in advance.  Thanks to my calves, I can't always keep up with everyone if we're in a hurry, and efforts to improve my cardiovascular health (as diabetes runs in my family) are stymied in that department.  These might not seem like major disabilities, but I do think that it's important for me to share them.  Because even though it could always be worse, and these might not seem important, what we consider "normal" isn't normal for everyone.

I can't just take up running like everyone else (I was in excellent shape when my calves stopped functioning).  I can't just sleep over at your place.  I can't just wear my glasses while driving.  I can't just take Claritin.  I can't just eat every food I want.  I can't just play with Sculpy clay and expect to be able to use my hands the next day.

So when someone explains that they can't just take the train to work because it hurts them, or they can't just run across the intersection during the short walk signal, or they can't just park a few spots farther from the main door of the store, I understand that there's nothing wrong with them.  They're like me.  We're normal people, and just like all normal people, there are some things we can do, and some things we can't.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take my contacts out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Men Who Hate Women

I just read Men Who Hate Women (released in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  I read it on the recommendation of my mom, who said she had trouble getting into it, but that she loved it.  I had no trouble getting into it, but I didn't like it.  At all.  And I'm still struggling to figure out why, although I've got some ideas.*

Spoilers will follow.  This is important.  The only reason I even finished the book was because I wanted to know what would happen.  So, there's a chance that if you know what happens, you will not care about reading the book (or you'll read it and finish it, and you won't be able to say, "Well, at least I know what happens").

The reason why I'm choosing to refer to the book by the English translation of the original Swedish title is two-fold.  First of all, I don't like when titles are changed in translation for no obvious reason; I think it's culturally dishonest unless there's a great reason (i.e. the title doesn't translate well, or the equivalent becomes offensive, etc.).  Second of all, I think that the actual title of the book more accurately reflects the content of the book.  The book isn't about Lisbeth Salander, the actual girl with the dragon tattoo.  It's about men hating women.  Or it's sort of about that.

This book is not about sexual violence, or even the underlying societal forces that condone sexual violence.  It's about solving a mystery.  It's about getting revenge.  It's about this totally cool guy named Mikael Blomkvist who practically has no flaws, even when he's in a no-win situation.  AWESOME.

There's plenty of sexual violence in the book.  The book is divided into parts, and each part begins with a brief statistic about sexual violence (in Sweden; the book is by a late Swedish journalist and takes place in Sweden--makes sense).  Lisbeth Salander is assaulted and then raped twice by her court-appointed guardian.  Gottfried Vanger not only assaulted and murdered women for no clear reason except enjoyment, he also raped both of his children and inducted his son, Martin, into his kidnappy, rapey, torturey, kill-y ways.  In fact, that's what drives the mystery of the novel: why did Harriet disappear?  Well, to escape her rapey abusivey murdery brother, who might tattle on her for killing her rapey abusive murdery father in self-defense.  Awesome.  And to top it all off, the first bad guy presented in the book, Wennerstrom, who we KNOW is corrupt even if our hero can't prove it at first, is also an abusive, woman-hating piece of shit.

But like I said, this isn't a book about sexual violence.  It IS a book about men who hate women.  But it teaches us nothing, comments on nothing, and makes no sense.

Martin and his father are portrayed as sick freaks, not normal people.  Considering that PLENTY of "normal people" hate women and/or commit sexual violence, it's dishonest to portray sexual violence as something that's done by insane, obviously woman-hating people.  Mental illness doesn't cause violence.  Hating women is something that's taught and societally encouraged.  Wennerstrom hates women, but it's presented as part of his heartless business dealings.

I believe that Mikael Blomkvist hates women, too.  I mean, he sort of sleeps with every single one he meets.

Mikael Blomkvist is a fictional character.  I'm okay with that because no person like that could ever exist.  He solves every problem, including ethical ones.  He's totes okay with just being friends, but yeah, let's have sex.  He's an all around nice guy when it comes to sleeping with women.  Awesome.  I mean, at one point, it's explained, in one sentence, that he's a bad father (it just says he's not a good father, end of story).  But his daughter is portrayed as understanding, and he still gets along well with his ex-wife.

Cecilia Vanger is presented as practically hysterical.  Harriet's privacy is invaded, and of course she's glad about it.  Mikael and Henrik Vanger agree that it's silly how women aren't allowed to have any power historically in the Vanger company, but it's not ABOUT that.

The whole book is about men, with women as victims.  With women having no power.  Except for Lisbeth Salander, who also would never exist.  And even she falls prey to Mikael Blomkvist because he's just so perfect.  It never makes any sense that she would even open up to him in the first place.

In sum, don't read this book.  It's not very good, and it misses the point.  And hating women is something that goes without commentary, without healing, without anything deeper than Lisbeth Salander acting wildly out of her own impossible, non-existent character.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And it's bad because ... ?

It's a question I've had for a while, and I don't seem to ever get a good answer.  Why is it so bad to be fat?

No, really, it's a serious question.  Why is it such a bad thing?
Well, it's bad because being fat means you get arthritis and high blood pressure and diabetes and heart disease and high cholesterol ... right?  Except I've been fat for a while (hell, I even have three unrelated chronic inflammatory diseases--all in remission, none related to weight--and I still don't have arthritis), and I don't have these problems.  In fact, I got my blood test results back a couple months ago, and they're the kind of results you buy on the black market (yes, I'm sure there is one for blood test results).  So, clearly, my weight is not impacting my health in a negative way.  My cardiovascular health is great.  I can even run a couple miles.  You wouldn't be grilling me about my cardiovascular health if I were skinny, would you?  No, really, you know that there are not-fat people with cardiovascular problems, with diabetes, who can't even run a mile.  But you're not bothering them about their health.

So why do I need to lose weight?

Oh, right.  As a fat woman, as opposed to a fat dude, I won't attract a guy unless I'm teh skinnies.  Never mind that I've had several boyfriends and hook-ups.  Never mind that not every woman even wants to date men.  Never mind that our patriarchal culture likes to tell all women that we're not good enough--if I'm finally skinny enough, my boobs won't be perky enough, or my hair won't be smooth enough, or my feet will be too big.  And how am I supposed to make my feel smaller?  And never mind that it's insulting that ONE facet of my appearance, my weight-shape, should be so important when it comes to my entire appearance.  So it doesn't matter if I have great hair, beautiful eyes, smooth skin, straight teeth (another obsession of so many people).  It doesn't matter if I'm pretty because pretty matters only when you're skinny.

And, of course, my worth as a human being, since I have a vagina, is measured by whether or not Average Joe will want to fuck me.  Regardless of whether or not I want to fuck him.  Or whether or not I care what he thinks.  Regardless of whether or not I graduated from a top university.  Regardless of whether or not I'm working on some serious research.  Regardless of whether or not I'm a caring, generous friend.  None of that matters because I'm Fatty McFatterson, and until I lose weight, I am just NOT a normal, contributing member of society.

Especially if Average Joe doesn't want to fuck me.

You might think I sound bitter.  That's fine.  I mean, wouldn't you be bitter after a lifetime of being told that You Are Not Good Enough Until You're Skinny?  Especially when you are more than just your BMI--the most ridiculous, unscientific way to assess health if there ever was one?  You might think that because I'm bitter, I must be biased and therefore wrong (or--gasp!--trying to defend why it's OKAY for me to be fat!).  That's not fine.  I'm talking about my lived experiences--my life, what happens to me, how that affects me.  To say that this makes me biased is just sort of weird--after all, who knows my life better than I do?  And if I say, "I'm healthy and I'm fat and I'm happy, all at the same time, and since this doesn't affect you, leave me alone," then what the hell is your problem?

"It's just so gross when I see someone who's obese."

Oh, get over it.  It's just so gross when I see someone walking down the street with a Yankees hat on, and they obviously have more control over that than I do over my weight.  If it upsets you so much that people like me have the NERVE to be fat (because none of us have ever caved to pressure to go to the gym and eat nothing but salad--or even not eat at all, and obviously exercising a lot and not eating ALWAYS makes you instantly and forever skinny), then you need to consider going to a therapist.

You know, tell him/her about how you have this problem where you hate fat people for no reason other than you have problems :D

In conclusion: I'm fat, I'm healthy, I'm happy with my body, and I don't give a shit if Average Joe doesn't want to fuck me (I care more about fucking my boyfriend, as it were).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I still hate The Frisky

Hey, everyone!  The Frisky has 19 ways to feel more confident about your relationship!  Isn't that great?

Well, not "Hey, everyone," so much as I meant, "Hey, women in relationships with men!"  Because let's face it, heterochicks: every single suggestion is written with your significant other as a penis-bearing person, with the assumption that you are a vagina-individual.  Because everyone's in those kinds of relationships, duh, and men-people don't have to do anything to boost a relationship.  Men-people aren't really that INTO relationships, if I remember my Patriarchy 101 well.  But let's look at these 19 awes tips, yeah?

"1) Don't snoop unless you really have good reason not to trust him. E-mails and voice mails taken out of context can cause a lot of unnecessary heartache."

That's right, ladies.  I know how much you snoop.  And, I mean, you're allowed to do it if you have a good reason!  But stop snooping, you insecure chicks who always snoop!  (Assumption: Women snoop to see if they can catch male significant others cheating; does not suggest any sort of communication if one person in the relationship is worried about infidelity.)
"2) Give him a little friendly competition. It doesn't hurt for him to know that your tall, built, wildly successful artist friend from college periodically tells you you're the one who got away and it's the biggest regret of his life."

Because who needs honest discourse?  If you don't feel appreciated in your relationship, just hurt your manfriend by letting him know that you could maybe have it so much better.  Totally ethical!  (Intentionally hurting your SO because you don't feel appreciated is pretty much wrongitty wrong.)
"3) Skip the games and be up-front. If something's bothering you, tell him directly. Guys don't know what to make of it, and it shakes them up and gives you the upper hand."

Never mind that this tip totally negates the previous one.  Remember, guys EXPECT you to play mindgames, so if you don't play mindgames, it'll fuck with him (like a mindgame!) and it'll give you the upper hand ... in your mindgames.  (Always be up-front, even when it's something as simple as, "I've had a bad day today, and it would make me feel better if I got some attention."  Don't be up front so you can fuck with your significant other; that's dishonest.)

"4) Be confident in yourself. Finish your degree, apply for the better job or write that novel. If you have a good sense of your own self-worth, you'll be confident in your relationship."

Yes!  Because you should be doing all of these things for the sake of your relationship!  (You should be doing these things anyway; this is more of a life tip.  Value yourself and your time, and do the things you want to do.  Don't do it only because you want to strengthen your relationship.)
"5) Set some ground rules at the beginning. If you both agree that Friday is the night for hanging out with your friends separately, it won't be a conflict when he wants to play poker or you want to take a short road trip with some girlfriends."  (Nothing inherently wrong with this tip.  It's similar to being up-front; if you expect to see each other every weekend, and your SO feels differently, you want to get this out in the open before one of you is resentful.)
"6) Don't let the relationship progress too far without discussing major issues. Having children, religious differences, whether either one of you is willing to relocate for a job -- these can be land mines in the future."  (Also nothing wrong here; again, this goes with being up-front.  If you're reasonably sure that you don't want children, and your SO is reasonably sure that s/he does not, it's time to either figure out a compromise or consider ending the relationship.)
"7) Work out. It reduces stress and releases endorphins and makes you hot."

There's no excuse not to work out, ladies!  It reduces stress even if you're so busy you have to get up at 5 am to do it!  It makes you hot so you can be that trophy girlfriend for your hunk of manmeat!  And obviously, you all have time for it, you're all able to afford it, and your body is 100% capable of a full work-out!  Awesome.  (This is not a remotely decent tip; the underlying assumption is that you'll feel more confident in your relationship if your manfriend finds you more attractive.  This devalues women's worth with regards to everything except appearance, and it assumes that every woman, regardless of ability, income, number of children, number of jobs/work-school hours, etc. etc., is capable of working out.)

"8) Be affectionate. If he returns the affection, it'll make you confident. If not, it's time to find a new boyfriend who is affectionate."

Shower him with love!  That's the only way to get that bf to shower you right back.  You know, you're responsible for this part of the relationship.  And if he's not affectionate in the way you want him to be, dump him!  (People are affectionate in different ways.  If you're feeling neglected, talk to your SO.  That's not to say that you can't ramp up your own affection-displays, but there should be some mutual affection anyway.)
"9) Avoid the temptation to endlessly analyze details. If he wears the shirt his ex-girlfriend bought him, it may just mean that it's the only clean white shirt he has that day."

Because boys are dirty!!  Hehehehehehe.  (Everyone overanalyzes; it's not necessarily a girl thing.  It's often a hard habit to break; my favorite way is to catch myself doing it, and to tell myself, "Here's one little thing that happened that seemed like it could be negative.  But here are three little things that happened that seem positive.  And here are three HUGE, important things--meeting parents, planning future trips, etc.--that are definitely positive.  There's nothing to worry about.")
"10) Similarly, avoid discussing relationship issues with paranoid girlfriends. Paranoia is contagious and, before you know it, you'll be worrying if your boyfriend is cheating, because your friend's husband came home smelling of Angel when she wears only Poison."

Because all women are crazy paranoid, and no good friend would ever reassure you about an insecurity.  Also, don't talk to your friends for support!  (Friends are a great source of support, whether you want to gush about your SO or express a concern.  This is a stupid tip.)
"11) Have lots of outside interests apart from the relationship. When you start to feel insecure, it helps to have something else to obsess over."

Well, we all drop everything when we've got a boyfriend, so it's totes understandable that you have nothing to do except obsess over the poor guy!  (Don't people normally have interests outside relationships?  It's not healthy to drop everything even if you're NOT feeling insecure.  This tip also implies that women need SOMETHING to obsess over; plenty of women--and people--are not obsessive.)
"12) Present your best self to your partner and the world. Don't always go out dressed in sweats, and don't sleep in ratty T-shirts every single night. The old adage is true: When you look good, you probably feel good."

AKA look hot!  (No, when you FEEL good, you feel good.  And your "best self" can be more than just your clothing and appearance.  If you're feeling insecure about your relationship, this tip will only help superficially.  If at all.)
"13) Replace negative self-talk with affirmations. Every time you find yourself thinking, "I don't deserve this guy," change it to "I deserve a wonderful relationship and more.""

(It's worth mentioning that this tip is a reversal of the ridiculously bullshit assumption that a woman is lucky to have "caught" any guy.  That's good.)
"14) Don't let yourself become dependent. Know how to unclog the sink and change a tire. Skills are confidence boosters."

Because being a woman means that normally, daddy and hubby are the ones to do all the dirty work!  (You should learn these things even if you're single, unless you don't own a car, in which case, it matters less about the tire.)
"15) Let go of emotional baggage. If your grandma told you your sister was the pretty one or your dance teacher said you weren't graceful enough to be in the front row, it doesn't mean your boyfriend thinks you're homely or a klutz now."

Don't freak him out with all of your weird problems, ladiez!  (While it's a good thing to let go of your personal insecurities, it should be for yourself, regardless of your relationship status.)
"16) Be yourself. Trying to maintain a fa├žade is exhausting and confidence-eroding."

(Negating tip #12, or at least in my case!)
"17) Similarly, let him be himself. If he feels like you're always picking at him, he'll strike back and it won't feel good."

Because it's up to you to groom your man, but not too much!  Don't want to drive him away!  (This tip is common sense; the reasoning behind it--nagging--is stupid.)

"18) Don't compare your relationship to other people's relationships. The grass isn't always greener, and you never know what's going on behind closed doors."

(This is actually a good tip; a lot of my friends have been a bit secretive about major relationship issues.  It wasn't until I got out of a very unhappy sexual relationship that I learned that one of my seemingly happy friends was having the same problems I was.)
"19) Memorize his credit card numbers. You'll always have the capacity for really serious revenge."