textualdeviance: (Default)
So, in assembling this photo collage for our adoption agency profile, I went looking for pics of the two of us.

A while back, my mom gave me a CD full of pics she'd had stored--old family pics, a bunch of stuff from her camera, etc. I'd not gone through them--my mother takes tons of pics and most of them are pretty repetitive. But I wanted to see if there were any shots she'd gotten of us that I hadn't seen.

I did find some interesting pics--not of us, but of the rest of my family. Some interesting old ancestor pics, and a few of me and my dad. There was a little bit of "huh. These are my people, I spose." Not nostalgia, really, but wondering whether there might be any merit to including them as part of my family now that I'm adding a child of my own.

And then I opened a folder called "great pics." Which was full of all sorts of horrible racist "jokes." Like really, really horrible ones. So horrible I don't even want to describe them.


Given that we're still considering a transracial adoption, and may well end up with at least a mixed-race child, I just ... I wanted to throw up, quite frankly. The idea of exposing my kid to people who would think that kind of hateful garbage is funny is nauseating.

The weirdest part is that there's already a PoC kid in my family. One of my cousins on my mom's side has a daughter (now a teen) whose father is half black/half Japanese. She's gorgeous and sweet and a nice kid. And I wonder exactly what the rest of the family says behind her back. I know that my late grandfather, on seeing her first pics, said something to the effect of "that child's going to be black!" in a horrified tone. But beyond that, I'd not heard anything. She's featured in plenty of family pics, etc., so it seem like she's accepted, but who knows what people really think or say when they think they're in like-minded company?

And honestly, if having a POC grand-niece hasn't cured my parents of their racism, will having a PoC grandchild help? I doubt it. I'm guessing my dad probably won't be around much longer--not long enough for my kid to really know him. But my mom may even outlive me, so I'm going to have to find a way around that. If my child and her birthfamily--who will be part of our family--aren't white, how are my parents going to handle that? And what will be the effect on these new family members whom I want to feel loved and welcome, to know that the extended family of the adoptive parents is so awful?

The obvious solution--and the one I've been operating from for quite some time--is to simply keep my family at a distance, so their toxic hate doesn't affect me or the other people I love. I already have PoC friends, and the idea of having my family around where they can say stupid things to them is horrifying to me, so that's just not an option.

But when it comes to my kid, there WILL be questions. She'll have birth grandparents, and with luck, those will be good people, but we won't be able to give her that experience on our side. Trying to explain to her why we don't see our bio families is going to be excruciating even if she is white. She'll have to understand, for instance, that we're not out to M's family because their religion doesn't allow them to accept us the way we are. And that's going to be hard enough to deal with. She'll otherwise be surrounded by all sorts of queer and queer-friendly people, so she'll know that we and the people we choose to have around believe it to be perfectly normal, natural and worthy of support. She'll know that the vast majority of people in our lives believe in voting in a way that supports human rights. But there will still be this one segment of her adoptive family--a big one--that doesn't, and I'm lost for how to explain that to her in a way that won't mess with her head. She'll know about homophobia, of course, but to know that her own family is part of that problem? Depressing, to say the least (just as it is for me.)

And then to add racism on top of that ... I just. Ugh. We ourselves can be role models to counteract the homophobia. But we don't have the framework around race established well enough to offset that, and I'm terrified of not being able to give my PoC child enough support in that area.

Generally speaking, we already believe in the idea of chosen family, and adoption is just a part of that. We'll be establishing the idea that family is the people who love you, regardless of whether they're legally or biologically related. And, out of necessity, we'll have to explain that sometimes the people we're legally or biologically related to aren't actually family. We'll have to make it clear that just because DNA or a piece of paper says someone is connected to you doesn't mean they love you. Love is demonstrated by actions, not words, and people who have not chosen to act in a loving way aren't qualified as family. But there's SO much cultural framework built up around blood family that undoubtedly this is going to be upsetting for her, and that breaks my heart.

I'm dreading the moment--and there will be one, I know it--when my kid realizes that there are people who don't like her--or even hate her--because of her skin color, or because her parents aren't straight, or because her mom's fat, or because she's adopted, or because we're not religious, etc. And it'll be even worse if it's not just random strangers who dislike her, but people she's legally related to. I will likely choose not to really expose her to those people, so she won't develop a bond with them and thus be hurt even more by their prejudice when she discovers it. If they're effectively strangers, that revelation will sting a lot less.

But it's still going to hurt, and I'm still furious that my kid is inevitably going to suffer just because there are so many ignorant, hateful, small minded people--some of whom I have the misfortune to be related to.
textualdeviance: (Default)
Thought experiment:

-Gender (like race, orientation, etc.) is a key part of who someone is, and shouldn't be ignored in an attempt at equality.
-It is, however, a cultural construct. It's not something you're born with, but something you develop over a lifetime of both cultural/social influence and personal choices.
-Therefore, the gender identity one has, and wishes to be recognized by others as a true part of oneself is likely to be different for each person. It's not a given, for instance, that every woman wants to look pretty. That may be a part of a given woman's gender identity, but it's not a hard-coded aspect of gender identity itself. Because there is no such thing.
-Because some gender-coded traits and behaviors are negative, that means that if one chooses to embrace those things, one may well be criticized for them.
-And therein lies the wisdom: recognizing that being criticized for a given negative gender-coded trait/behavior isn't the same thing as bias against one's gender identity in toto, or against the idea of gender or gender identity in general.


Criticizing how someone chooses to express their gender identity isn't a criticism of all people who have that gender identity, nor of the idea of gender identity itself. So yes, I CAN tell a teen girl that spending more time doing her hair than she does on her studies is stupid. Being mindlessly vain isn't a defining characteristic of all teen girls. The ones who choose that as part of their gender identity don't get to hide behind the idea of gender identity itself to avoid criticism for that choice.

(This post brought to you by my being so damned tired of clueless women arguing that it's sexist to call them out on their shitty behavior, just because said shitty behavior is supposedly feminine.)
textualdeviance: (Default)
Am slightly obssessed with this topic in the last few days in the wake of John Scalzi's not-gonna-say-"privilege" post about privilege. (This included two of my own followups on my quasi-legit blog.)

Need to actually do paycheck work today, but thought I'd throw this out as a mental exericse on the topic:

All other factors being equal, who's going to have it harder in life:

An MTF, who had the advantage of male privilege as a child, but the disadvantage of expressing characteristics of the underclass gender


an FTM, who had the disadvantage of being female as a child, but the advantage of expressing characteristics of the dominant gender?

Obviously, each person will struggle merely due to being trans, but does the extra shitstorm that comes with being a "girly" boy (as opposed to a tomboy, which is something relatively accepted) erase all other privilege that boy would have had merely for having boy bits and being identified as a boy by others for most of his childhood? Does the fact that FTMs often have male-coded traits/behaviors that enhance power and self-sufficiency (vs female-coded traits/behaviors that enhance dependency and submissiveness) give him a boost?

There are, of course, several living-room pachyderms inherent in this topic--essentialism, for instance--but assuming that femininity/female sex = cultural disadvantage and masculinity/male sex = cultural advantage, does that actually translate to advantages for FTMs before they officially transition? Or would the expressed-gender advantages be rendered moot by the perceived-sex ones?

There are, of course, personal reasons for wondering this. Sometimes I think being a tomboy made my life significantly harder, because my culture violently enforces femininity (though not quite as overtly violently as it enforces masculinity for boys), but it also made my life easier in some ways, because my nature aimed me toward an economic-self-sufficiency-centered life instead of a economic-depdendency-centered one.

Hm. Something to think about.
textualdeviance: (Babies R Us)
(Fair warning that I probably won't respond to comments--not up for a debate. Just need a rant.)

So ... that Time cover, with the breastfeeding toddler? Ugh. Ugh in itself, yes, but also ugh for the shitstorm it launched (as they knew it would--way to up circulation numbers in a declining market, folks!)

This is one of the reasons I'm dreading becoming a parent--especially an adoptive parent who won't be breastfeeding, and who will be working at least part of the time while her kid is still pretty young. The Natural Parenting!!! Brigade is downright viral at this point, and it's virtually impossible to avoid them. Breastfeeding is the most visible of their wars, but they're all over everything related to kids, from conception to birth to grandparenting. According to them, if you're not a biological mother physically attached to your kid from (at least) birth to kindergarten, you're a Bad Person.

Which, of course, is bullshit. Bigoted against fathers, adoptive parents, same-sex parents and mothers who have no choice but to work, yes, but also bullshit, too. Yes, there are some benefits to breastfeeding, baby wearing, etc. ad infinitum, but they have yet to produce any reliable, peer-reviewed studies saying kids who aren't constantly attended like this are suffering.

And in fact, looking at the college-age kids who were raised like this 20 years ago, a lot of them ARE suffering. They're so used to having mom (and occasionally dad) holding their hand 24/7 that they don't know how to do anything on their own. They don't know how to find information on their own, they don't know how to get a job or do their own schoolwork or pay their own bills or do their own taxes. They sometimes don't even know how to travel around their own city. When I did my recent college thing, I was absolutely astonished at the number of kids there who didn't even know how to do basic research, and whose attitude toward education was that it was just a piece of paper so they could get a job outside of the service industry. They're so pampered that they're actually offended by the idea that they should expend any of their own effort to get something they want: they're plagiarists, pirates, etc., and actually get upset when told that no, you have to work for that, and don't get to crib off of someone else's work. (And don't get me started on the ones who think that people who worked hard to get an education don't deserve more respect--including more respect for their opinions. Yes, kiddo, that dude with the geology doctorate DOES know more than you or your high-school dropout Aunt Sadie about carbon dating. STFU.)

I shudder to think that these kids might someday be running the country (or, as is more likely, that my own generation and the one before it are going to be stuck wiping their asses when we should be retired, because they're incapable of taking on the responsibility.)

The entire goal of parenting is to produce a healthy, sane, self-sufficient adult. Yes, that means being there for your infant when she needs you, but it also means teaching your little bird how to fly on her own. If you're not letting her fall sometimes, and learn how to pick herself up and start over again, you're not doing your job. Absolutely, you need to protect her from serious harm, and if you're too busy fucking off on your own whims to notice when your kid really does need you, you're not doing your duty. Parents who ignore their kids or let them come to major harm under the idea that they're "toughening them up" make me want to scream. But if you're playing human hamster ball for your kid, trying to ensure that she never even skins a knee, you're doing her a grave disservice. Your job as a parent is to teach your kid to fish, not just hand her a rod and expect her to know how, and not just give her fish so she never needs to learn.

Some of the problem here, of course, comes down to essentialist feminism. It's one of the few areas in which hardcore religion and hardcore hippies come together: the idea that a woman's natural purpose is birthing and raising children. Women raised to believe this also come to believe that being a mother is the core of their identity, and when they start sensing that their kid doesn't need them as much anymore, they panic, and start getting clingy. Some of them react by having another kid--making sure they have a dependent babe in arms as soon as the older one is walking and talking. Some of them react by trying to keep their kids as dependent as possible for as long as possible.

And no, this is not good for the kids, no matter how they try to spin it. More than anything else, kids need stable, adult role models in their lives. They need to see examples of people who are self-sufficient, fully formed people. If your entire life and identity is centered around them, and you have nothing else, then they're not learning that. (Not to mention that you're also setting yourself up for a serious crisis should you ever lose your source of financial support. If the only thing you know how to do is raise babies, you're completely screwed if your meal ticket goes away.)

One of the other things that irritates me about their justification for this is their citation of the practices of "traditional cultures." OK, 1. Cultural appropriation sucks, and 2. You don't live in that culture. You're not training your kid to hunt and gather. You're supposed to be training your kid to do the modern, urban equivalent of that. Kids in traditional cultures virtually never go far from their families/tribes of origin because they don't need to. Kids in the modern first world aren't going to have their families within reach every time they need something. If you want your kid to eventually have her own job and apartment and to pay her own bills, then she needs to start by learning how to walk and talk and feed herself on her own.

As we've been preparing for the adoption, I've run across some pressure to adopt special needs kids or ones who have other challenges. I've been told that if I'm not willing to raise a kid who needs constant attention for years on end, then I shouldn't be a parent at all. I've even been told that because I eventually want to kick my kid out of the nest in 20 years, that I'm probably not suited to be a parent. And that's just ... mind-boggling. Martyrdom through parenthood is NOT a noble, morally superior thing, and wanting to be a separate person in addition to being a parent doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. On the contrary: it means you're mentally healthy. Living your entire life through your kid? Yeah ... not so much.

Right now, I'm watching my mother-in-law slowly dying because she sacrificed her own health for the sake of getting pregnant 10 times, and raising a bunch of kids. I've watched that family suffer because she had no job skills and didn't work and therefore can't get social security and had no health insurance of her own. I've watched HER suffer because she bought in to her religion's insistence that she submit to her husband's decisions, and therefore didn't know how to cope when he turned into a raging tyrant. I'll be damned if I'd even consider ruining my life--and my KID'S life--by doing that shit.

So, no: I would never have done natural childbirth, because it would've put my health and safety at risk. I won't be breastfeeding (even though it can be induced), because I'd have to go off critical meds to do it. I won't be co-sleeping, because there's a high risk of smothering my kid, and because I want to actually have sex with my husband in that bed. I won't be baby-wearing all the time because my kid needs to have some time on her own to do her own thing--and so do I. I may at some point use the services of a nanny or au pair because I have somewhat limited energy, and it's not fair to my kid to be cared for by a zombie, plus there will likely be times I'm working from home, and need someone to mind her so I can focus. I will be--gasp!--leaving my kid with a sitter sometimes so we can go out to nice restaurants and R-rated movies and other places where squalling little ones don't belong.

Of COURSE I'll be feeding her and loving her and being there for her when she's scared or confused or just needs to cuddle. So will M--hi, she'll have another parent! He counts, too! I'll even be staying at home for the first 6-12 months, when she needs that kind of constant attention. But I won't be living my entire life as if my kid is the only thing in it. I want my kid to eventually have her own life that doesn't center around being a baby machine. I'll be damned if she's going to see her mom do that.
textualdeviance: (Default)
Been thinking a lot--well, more than usual--about discrimination and bigotry and other such things lately. Most of this has to do with the controversy around the HBO show "Girls" which is pretty much self-deprecation porn for pampered, white urban hipsters. (See my quasi-legit blog for more babble on that.)

Have also been thinking about my own stuff on this. I tend to focus mostly on the three big things--size, orientation, gender--I get the most crap for, but there's really quite a lot of other stuff, too.

In particular, I've been thinking more about my various health crap, and reconsidering whether I need to think of myself as someone with disabilities. I've avoided that concept for a long time, because I've always thought it was presumptuous to think of my "minor" issues that way when others suffer so much more, but ... dang. I really do have one hell of a laundry list of stuff that gets in the way of having a normal life. I've managed quite a lot of it, and am considerably more capable now than I was 10 years ago, but I still do have some very real limitations. Now that I'm wearing hearing aids (as of yesterday's fitting for them) there's one more to add.

Authentication failed: Access to services denied )

It sucks that there are so many areas in which people can fall through the cracks. If you're able to help yourself even a little, people assume you don't need any help at all, and that's just not right. You shouldn't have to be completely fucked in life in order for people to want to help you. Of course the people who are completely fucked need help, but so do people whose fuckedness isn't entirely complete. Someone earning minimum wage still needs help to get by even though they have a job. Just being able to stand and move your legs doesn't mean you can climb eight flights of stairs to get to a workplace.

I realize that if I start thinking of myself as a person with disabilities, there may be people with more serious ones who think I'm being obnoxious about it. But I suspect the reason they'd think that is that they've come to believe that justice and aid are limited commodities, and therefore only the people who need them the most ought to be helped.

But I don't think that's the case. In terms of how we manage social services budgets, for instance, yes, we need that kind of triage. But the reason that's so fucked is because the people holding the purse strings have for decades tried to convince us that unless you're entirely incapable of caring for yourself, you can do your own bootstrapping. Our concept of charity is completely bass-ackwards. We give handouts to the people who are in desperate need, and then don't actually do the hand-UP aid necessary to help people help themselves. Somehow, the teaching a man to fish principle has been completely lost, and our culture only supports those who have their own fishing fleets and those who can't even hold a rod. That's so incredibly broken.

It unnerves me that I'm so conflicted about thinking about myself this way. I've obviously been pickled by the same poisoned brine as the people who would deny me help. But I can't exactly expect them to change their minds about me if I don't change my mind about myself. Maybe if I stop expecting myself to do things at the same level as people who don't have my limitations, I'll become more confident about asking others not to have the same expectations of me.
textualdeviance: (XKCD Complicated)
Just had a moment of shaking my head sadly at something Elijah (yes, that one) retweeted. And in the middle of responding to him about it, I kinda lit on a little epiphany. Mostly about politics, but it can apply to other things, too. In a nutshell: when you're young and have a crapload of energy, a year seems like forever. And when you're righteously indignated by something, you tend to spend every ounce of that energy trying to correct it RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT.

But then--and this is the sad/frustrating part--eventually it becomes clear that revolutions don't usually create results, and definitely not overnight. You look at all the energy you spent trying to fix things, and look at how little seemed to have been changed in (what seems to you like) a very long time, and you get dejected. And then apathetic.

In the worst cases, people then decide that if all their effort was for (seemingly) naught, then there's no point in expending any effort at all. They end up like those sad, bitter people who sit in front of their TVs and bitch about poor sports refereeing, and never bother to vote because they think it's a waste of time.

In the REALLY worst cases, people end up as nihilists, and start merrily destroying everyone else's lives just because their own didn't come with sparkles and porn stars by the time they were 25. If they didn't get what they "deserved" and "worked for", then dammit, no one else should get anything, either. Gnarrh!

The problem with this, of course, is that it's not just sad to see people wasting a perfectly good life being bitter and hateful, but the ripple effect of their go-eat-worms tantrums actually makes it worse for everyone else, and even harder for the rest of us to work within existing structures to create lasting, sustainable change that benefits everyone.

There's always a moment of awakening when you're young. When you're old enough to get your family blinders off and see the world for what it really is, but young enough to still feel relatively powerless to create change, there's a serious shock to the system. Depending on where you are at the time and what personal injustices you've suffered, the next step is usually going completely apeshit on whatever group or system you've decided is ultimately repsonsible.

What influences you get around this time can shape your politics for years to come. Read Ayn Rand? You're going to assume that you're one of the Special People who are being beaten down by the drooling masses, and either go full-on misanthrope, doing your best to make everyone else's life miserable, or drop out of the system, thinking that, as you're so incredibly special, your absence will undoubtedly make a statement. (Hint: you're not, and it doesn't.) If you're poor, the overall political landscape where you're at will lead you to either blame government or blame capitalism. (Rarely, some folks learn to blame both, and even more rarely, a few very bright people figure out that the real problem is the marriage of capitalism and government, which should be separated as cleanly as church and state.) If you're in a marginalized group, you can easily end up angry at and suspicious of anyone who even remotely resembles those who have oppressed your people, and end up isolating yourself.

Whatever your particular quirk, though, personal injustice + charismatic cult leader = rageflail. And, when the rageflail has spent itself, and one sees so little change, the disillusionment sets in. Next thing you know, midlife crisis, substance abuse, your kids think you're messed up, blah blah.

The moral of this story is probably something along the lines of tortoise and hare, but I don't necessarily agree that's the only way to create lasting change. Personally, I've found it most effective to do life in a series of hardcore sprints, with long rest periods in between. That may be my ADD talking, but hey, it works for me. Whichever method works best for an individual, though, the principle is the same: don't burn yourself out expecting to create large-scale change overnight. If you keep working at it in useful, practical ways, either slow and steady, or in bursts, or whatever, change WILL happen eventually. Eventually, you'll turn 40, look back at where you came from, and say, "Whoa. Holy shit. Nine years ago, having gay sex in Idaho could get you life in prison, and now same-sex couples are getting married in several states. Who knew?"

Keeping your spirits up when the inevitable setbacks occur is hard, definitely. But if you factor that in, and also factor in your own rest periods to rebuild your strength, eventually, you'll get there. Two steps forward and one step back is still a step forward. I truly believe that, outside of a few true sociopaths (many of whom have disproportionate political and/or economic power, dammit) most people really do want to see the world become a better place. Not just for them, but for everyone. Where the problem comes in is if, in our frustration at that not happening how and when we want it to, we either stop making any effort, or start throwing our anger and frustration into destruction.

Which, of course, will just end up disillusioning more energetic kids down the road.
Feb. 8th, 2012 02:42 pm

It's a sin

textualdeviance: (Faith Healer Lee)
Even though my conservative religious upbringing was comparatively mild, and ended when I was 12, I think I still have some lingering fuckery from it even now. In particular, I have ongoing wars with myself over anything I enjoy, especially food or leisure-related stuff, because I still feel like it's sinful/wrong/immoral to indulge in something pleasurable without paying for it with subsequent pain. Bleh.

Realized this because I was just thinking about the Puritanism involved in the anti-gay/anti-abortion crowd, and how their greatest fear is the idea of pleasure without painful consequences. Poke the "but the baybeez!" anti-abortion arguments, and you'll get to the root of it: believing that the pain and risk of pregnancy and birth is a just consequence for a woman's sin of enjoying sex. (Some will even put it in so many words--birth is a woman's burden because of Eve's sin. Bleh.)

But even among the non-religious, there's still a lot of lingering Puritanism of other kinds. In secular society, we've mostly accepted the idea of consequence-free sexual pleasure--we're down with contraception, pre-marital sex, etc. But we seem to have transferred that idea that pleasure is a sin onto other things. We can't rail against Lust, so we're railing against Sloth and Gluttony instead. (And Greed, but that's a different thing, as there are consequences beyond oneself for Greed-inspired acts. Same with Wrath. Envy is more or less victimless, unless it leads to stealing, and excessive Pride just makes you an asshole.)

Practical advice v. moral righteousness )

Now, the practical stuff still applies, of course. Saving for retirement, for instance, is a smart move even entirely unconnected from ideals of morality, and too many rich people don't understand exactly how connected their bottom line is to the well-being of the working class. Sometimes indulging in short-term pleasures can have exponentially worse long-term consequences, and shooting yourself in the foot in some sort of ill-advised rebellion against people telling you what to do is just stupid. But if you've already done the practical analysis, and know at which point you need to stop before you hurt yourself or someone else, there's no sense whatsoever in denying yourself pleasure just for the sake of doing so. Live it up.

Of course, some people will get on your case for this. Some have so committed themselves to such righteous suffering that it makes them furious to see someone who isn't also doing the masochism tango. They also consider your wanton displays a cavalcade of temptation for them to sin. Why else would half those Family Values sorts get caught with their pants down?

Cultural bulimia )

The thing many (including yours truly) need to learn is that as an adult in this earthly life, you don't get gold stars for being a martyr. Yes, some folks are still true believers in the idea of earning heavenly Brownie Points, and will continue to deny themselves any pleasure in order to make a sadistic deity happy. But if that's not your personal theology, why let your behavior be driven by what boils down to the same motivation?

Of course there's some courtesy and compassion involved. It's rude to grossly enjoy oneself in a way that rubs it in the face of others who are suffering. But, assuming you're not being a mocking jerk, if you didn't have a hand in that suffering, and what you're doing has no bearing on whether it will end? Go to it. It's not inherently mean to indulge in a passion for painting just because some are blind. If you got in their face and said, "neener neener! I can see all these cool colors and you can't!" then sure. You're being a total dick and deserve a slap. But the mere open enjoyment of something you love is not a mockery of those who don't have that thing. Enjoying a pint of ice cream doesn't mean you don't care about starving kids in third-world countries. Driving to work because you get claustrophobic on buses doesn't mean you don't care about global warming.

What it all comes down to, I think, is this: for most of us, life kinda sucks fairly often. Unless you're born into every privileged class imaginable, you're going to suffer on some level. And because there's so much suck in life, why on earth would you voluntarily increase that suckage if there's no benefit to doing so aside from some vague sense of moral purity? The only people who will be impressed by such wholly voluntary suffering are assholes, sadists and control freaks. They are not worth it.

And on that note: I think I'm going to go take a nap. ;)
textualdeviance: (More You Know)
Thinking further about abortion-related issues tonight ...

IMHO, the difference between progressive and libertarian thought comes down to this:

Libertarians assume that if government/society (and, occasionally, religion) simply gets out of the way, everyone will be free to make whatever choices in life make them happiest.

Progressives know that without a public framework in place to ensure that everyone, no matter where they start in life, has access to every choice available, there is no such thing as true freedom of choice.

We are all created equal. But we are not all born equal. )

As the bumper sticker says: no one is truly free while others are oppressed. And if we continue to allow this oppression under the idea that overreaching authority is the only thing standing in the way of everyone being free, happy little clams, we are shirking our responsibilities as human beings in a civilized society.
textualdeviance: (More You Know)
An awesome friend had an awesome poster idea this morning, so I made it:

Clicky to embiggen

textualdeviance: (Default)
What with this whole KomenCorp/Planned Parenthood funding debacle, I'm seeing an uptick in folks talking about abortion. Most of this is sensible, of course--I try to stay away from places where people think women are obligated to go through pain, misery and the risk of death for the sake of an amorphous clump of cells--but I've also seen a bit of the "oh, abortion is such a tragedy" sort of thing, too.


Abortion is NOT a tragedy.

You know what really is a tragedy?

-The fact that contraceptives aren't 100% effective, healthy, free, and readily available to anyone who wants them.

-The fact that so many girls and young women think their sexuality is the most or only valuable thing about them, or who are afraid to say no to sex they don't want, or to ask their partner to use contraception.

-The fact that so many boys and young men think that marriage and fatherhood are inherently weak or uncool, and that sexual conquest without respect for their partner is a badge of honor.

-The fact that we don't immediately remove children from abusive homes, and lock up sexual predators for good.

-The fact that sex education is incomplete, wrong, or utterly nonexistent for millions of kids because we've allowed religion to trump science, and because we treat sex as something inherently dirty and immoral.

-The fact that we don't have universal health care which would improve reproductive health across the board, and also ensure that women facing an unintended or complicated pregnancy don't choose abortion solely because they otherwise couldn't afford the medical costs.

-The fact that many poor women choose to abort solely because they can't afford to raise the child.

-The fact that we have a horrible cultural split in how we see mothers: as either saints or demons. We create a cultural standard in which mothers are revered beyond any other role a woman can play, and then wonder why so many girls and young women choose motherhood before they're ready. And then, when they have gone down that path, if they didn't do it the "right" way, we call them lazy sluts, leeching off the government.

-The fact that adoption is a minefield of both cultural stigma and overly-complex (and expensive) bureaucracy, making it incredibly difficult for women who want to choose that to find waiting families. (Seriously: don't get me started on the horrific class divide involved; so many girls/women adopting out only because they can't afford to parent, and so many parents of modest means unable to adopt because they can't afford it. Gross.)

If we weren't such a borked country, the number of abortions would be next to nothing because the number of unintended or problem pregnancies would be next to nothing. But because we are so borked, it's ridiculous to call abortion a tragedy when it's quite often the best solution under far-more-fucked-up circumstances. Abortion will and always should exist, because there will always be circumstances in which it's necessary. But for the love of FSM, why can't we fix all that other stuff that has the rate so damned high to begin with?
textualdeviance: (*headdesk*)
Sometimes, I really wish more folks on my side of politics would realize that there's a limit to negotiation and seeking consensus. Obviously, diplomacy is the first thing we should try in most situations, but we also have to have a plan for what to do when that fails.

For a political movement that claims to be based in empiricism and reality, we seem to have a really hard time recognizing that some people simply cannot be reasoned or bargained with, and that seeking compromise with them will always be futile.

And because it's so very critical to make political progress that helps people in crisis, we really can't afford to waste our time faffing around with people who have absolutely no intention of ever working with us in good faith. The more we try to seek consensus for its own sake, the more people suffer, and the more damage is done to our future.

I'm still gonna vote for him next year, because FSM help us if any of the assorted assweasels and sheer lunatics on the GOP side get in, but I really think Obama's biggest failure was squandering the Congressional majority he had, because he was earnestly (and naively) trying to negotiate with people who were never going to do so.

I do hope, that if he gets reelected and we get some power back in Congress, he finally cuts the bullshit and starts doing what needs to be done, regardless of the bleating of people who lie about economic realities (among other things) for their own gains. We're already in incredibly dire shape because of their BSing about OMG SOCIALIZM!! and their continued insistence on the fairy tale of supply side economics (note to the clueless: business does not expand--aka hire new workers--in a demand vacuum!) People who are willing to drive businesses and the entire economy into the ground because they get short-term gains out of it are NOT sane enough to be reasoned with. (And likewise with people whose entire moral compass comes from biblical literalism.)

Reasonable people can disagree about a lot of things, especially on the details of how to go about creating positive change. But there are certain red flags that pop up to say, "Yeah, this dude is mad as a box of frogs" that we really, really need to pay attention to, so we can stop wasting time and energy trying to get them to see sense. People who have an entirely different definition of reality, or who obviously don't actually care about anyone but themselves and people exactly like them are never, ever going to work with us. We need to stop trying to get them to do so.
textualdeviance: (More You Know)
I can't help but think that so many cultural and economic problems would evaporate if we simply got rid of the idea that the best caregiver for children in virtually all cases is their biological mother, and that they need her to provide 90% or more of their care.

Think of how much easier it would be for fathers to care for their kids without having it called "babysitting" or otherwise being denigrated as unmanly.

Think of how much easier it would be for same-sex couples or single gay folks to be considered good parents.

Think of how much easier it would be to get children away from abusive or neglectful parents.

Think of how much easier it would be for women to get better education and job skills, and therefore financial independence.

Think of how much easier it would be for people dealing with infertility to get the services they need, including egg donation and surrogacy.

Think of how much easier it would be for adoptive parents to be considered a child's "real" parents, and for adopted kids to understand that they weren't abandoned or unloved by their bio mothers.

Think of how much easier it would be for a mother to be considered a good parent even if her partner or daycare provider is caring for the child for several hours a day.

It's not just sexist, but bad for children and families in general to keep clinging to the idea that the mere act of incubating a fetus makes you the world's best parent, and that that should subsequently constitute the entirety of your identity and sense of self. Not all women were born to be biological mothers, and not all biological mothers should be primary caregivers or parents at all. This has been borne out time and time again by solid research. So why do we still hammer on it under a completely false ideal of a woman's natural purpose?
textualdeviance: (Default)
In my head in the last few days is a whole bunch o' stuff about mean girls' terrorist tactics and people in oppressed classes idolizing members of such who have gained power via violence and other things (including things that further oppression) and people who feel entitled to abuse the weak and taxes being the dues we pay to live in a civilized world and goddammit libertarians are selfish, ignorant asshats who refuse to acknowledge the help they've had in life and ...

Butcha know? The sun is shining, I'm feeling pretty healthy today and I have other things I wanna do. The world can wait for my bellyaching.
textualdeviance: (Flamewars)
Based on a Slate article someone linked on Twitter ...

I think some pro-choice folks are being a bit disingenuous about their definitions of life. Truly, unless there's something biologically wrong, a fertilized egg is a form of human life. A very tiny, barely formed version, but yes. It's alive, and it's human, and barring the thousands of things that can go wrong with a pregnancy, it'll emerge as a separate human being in ~40 weeks.

An abortion, assuming an otherwise-healthy zygote/embryo/fetus, is therefore the willful killing of a potentially viable separate human being.

But you know what? I can live with that. Because I don't think every human life, in and of itself, is sacred. I think we should avoid killing if at all possible. I think we should exhaust all attempts at diplomacy before we engage in war. I think we should exhaust all attempts at rehabilitation before we serve the death penalty. I think we should do what we can to heal and mitigate pain and suffering before we consider euthanasia.

But I also think that the quality of life matters more (significantly more, in some cases) than life itself. And that includes the quality of life for those affected by the other human in question. If killing a dictator means the end of suffering for the thousands under his regime, then so be it. If the only way to save people from a guy on a killing spree is taking him down, fire away. If the only organ donor for a dying man is someone who can ill afford the risks of surgery for the donation, then fine. The guy dies. And if the only way a girl or woman with an unintended pregnancy will go on to have a healthy, productive life is by killing the embryo inside her, then go to it.

We are far, far too squeamish about death in and of itself, and spend far too much effort on avoiding it, when we should be focusing on improving the quality of life when we have it. Am I going to die sooner because I can't stand the severe pain and exhaustion that accompany hardcore workouts? Probably. Do I care? Not really. I'm mentally healthier than I would be if I spent hours suffering humiliation and pain in a gym, and that alone is probably cancelling out at least half the potential damage associated. I'm generally a long-range sort of person, but there truly are some things for which the shorter-term negatives vastly outweigh longer-term positives. Abortion, for the women who need to choose it, is one of those things.

I spose this is where my utlitarian sensibilities kick in. I want the best quality of life for the maximum number of people, and on some occasions, that does mean that a few outliers may end up getting screwed. And honestly, I have no problem with that. An embryo that may someday become a separate person does not have greater value in the world than the owner of the uterus that it's camping out in.

Which leads me to the other issue I have with prolife rhetoric: the fact that the majority of their efforts are concentrated solely on the pre-birth life of existing embryos, and not on the lives of people who are already born--even babies. You don't exactly see them lobbying for universal healthcare for kids, right? So if some poor urchin dies of a curable illness because her parents couldn't afford care, oh, well. But heaven forbid allowing her mother to have aborted the thing in the first place, rather than suffering through the agony of watching her suffer and die and not being able to do a damned thing about it. In the minds of the people who believe this is OK, they justify it by saying that the suffering of a child is proper punishment for whatever sins her parents committed--having sex, being poor, etc. So much for their championing of innocents.

The greatest lie of the prolife movement is that they don't spend even an iota of effort on helping to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, which would prevent millions of abortions. If they really cared about those embryos, instead of using that caring as an excuse to moralize about the behavior of the girls and women carrying them, they would do everything in their power to make sure they never existed in the first place. They'd be working on foolproof contraception. They'd be working on universal mental health care. They'd be working to end rape. None of this screwing around with abstinence education. They KNOW that doesn't work, and yet they flog away at it anyway, because their real goal has jackall to do with life, and everything to do with controlling women's sexual freedom, either for religious reasons, or out of some twisted concept of encouraging "personal responsibility."

I imagine that there are some prolife folks who really are walking the talk, and doing everything they can to stop abortion before it's even necessary, and to ensure the health and well-being of the children who might otherwise have been aborted. But I'd be shocked if they constituted more than 5% of the number of people who describe themselves thus. And until those folks become the majority of the movement, I'm always going to call bullshit on any rhetoric spewed about the sanctity of those innocent zygotes.

Comments screened because I'm not interested in debating this topic. Any arguments to the contrary would simply make me reiterate what I've said above, and I hate having to repeat myself.
textualdeviance: (Babies R Us)
This rant about abortion rights is well worth a read.

I do have to quibble a bit about the adoption thing in it, however.

Most adoptive parents are pretty much exactly like us (on the surface): Infertile, childless, middle class or more, and yes, white. The race issue is a separate thing (and largely connected to issues of class and secondhand teaching of cultural identity) but I think the rest of it is key to understanding why healthy infants are the most wanted by adoptive parents. Simply put: Most of us are rookies, and we have no damned idea how to handle a kid with special needs. Giving one to people who are that clueless isn't just cruel to the parents, but to the child as well.

I have no doubt that some adoptive families want perfect designer babies. But most of us just want a kid who isn't going to die in five years, need constant care, torture the cat or never be able to leave home. Parenting is never easy in the best of circumstances, and throwing people in the deep end of Advanced Parenting just as a matter of principle strikes me as, frankly, pretty stupid. If the goal is for the child to be in a safe, healthy home, giving her to people who don't know how to handle her needs is probably the absolute worst thing you can do.

Do I know how to handle a baby born with drug addiction? No. Do I know how to handle a baby with brain damage? No. Do I know how to handle a four-year-old whose father raped her? No. Do I know how to handle a kid who's autistic, can't move or feed herself or will never learn how to spell her own name? No.

Could I learn these things? Possibly. Should I learn them on the job when doing that job well is so critical? Fuck, no. There are a ton of things that I could and likely will pick up as I go, including handling some mild special needs. Hearing impairment? Dwarfism? Club foot? Needs daily meds of some sort? Bring it on. I can handle that. Fetal alcohol syndrome? Severe attachment disorder? Not so much.

As I've mentioned before, I have a great deal of respect for those experienced folks who are not just willing but able to care for kids who have these needs. I ain't one of them. And neither are a heck of a lot of other adoptive parents. That doesn't mean they're selfish or vain. It means they're realistic. I'm not against taking on a child like that because I'm lazy or afraid she won't go with the drapes, but because I'm not so damned full of myself as to think I can take on anything and do a good job of it. I'm going to screw up enough as it is with a relatively healthy and resilient kid. Screwing up when the kid is already fragile to begin with would be disastrous. Not gonna go there.

Two other notes: )
textualdeviance: (Cascadia)
At the risk of irritating some ...

I admit that one of the reasons I love living in the PNW (the Western half, at least) is that we tend to be socially standoffish. We're exceptionally polite and compassionate, but not overtly friendly. It takes quite a long time to get a native (or near-native, like m'self) to warm up enough to socialize with regularly, and get close to. But the benefit of that is that once you do make it past the polite smiles and handshakes, the friendship you do get out of it is deeper and far more sincere than you might find elsewhere.

See, people are always talking about how legendarily friendly people are in the South and Midwest. They talk about how folks will bring casseroles to a new neighbor, chitchat in line at the grocery store, etc. People coming here from those environs tend to describe our local social customs as cold, at best, and perhaps even rude. (Our habit, for instance, of not RSVPing to social events until the last possible moment.)

But the difference is that the friendliness one tends to find in those other places only goes so far, because it's a custom borne of the safety of sameness.

Diversity counts )

So, yes, it's easier to feel isolated living here than it might be for people who easily fit in with the majority elsewhere. But the benefit is that the friendships we make here are much more satisfying than an insincere hug from some stranger in Texas might be. I've heard us described as the Northwest Mafia, and that's not entirely inaccurate. It's a damn hard time getting into a "family" but once you're in, you're in for life. Granted that if you screw up, that life's pretty damned short, but still. ;)

* )
textualdeviance: (Beardy Connor Not Amused)
(Inspired by some ongoing discussions about slutty Halloween costumes for little girls)

So tired of people assuming that being anti-objectified-sexuality means being anti-sex.

I wish there were an easier way to explain the fact that hardcore specialty porn is actually less damaging to women's sexual autonomy than dressing six-year-olds as sexy vampires.

90% of the women (and men) involved in niche porn are there because they enjoy the activities in question, have an exhibitionist streak, and like getting a bit of money to do something they'd be doing already.

90% of the women doing swimsuit calendars do them because they've been taught from birth that being a brainless, non-autonomous object is not just the primary thing they're good for and the only way they're going to make much money, but the ultimate expression of female sexuality.

And as someone who likes actual sex, and thinks every consenting adult ought to have as much of it as they'd like, that pisses me off.

I'm not against depicting women in sexual situations. I'm against a cultural definition of female sexuality that takes all the fun out of it for the women in question. If your primary experience of sex is laying there like a mindless mollusk while some guy uses your body as a sex toy with a heartbeat, you're missing out. And yet that's exactly what we keep training our girls to believe women's sexuality is all about.

I am not one of the conservative harpy brigade who wants to lock up girls in chastity belts until their wedding nights. I am not interested in "protecting" kids from the very idea of sex. I am interested in a model of sexuality that encourages autonomy, and a holistic sexual self-definition, because that's the only thing that allows for truly good sex.

Sue me, but I mourn for the millions of women who have had very little good sex in their lives because they've never known there was something else out there. I mourn for the millions of women who think the only way to get laid at all is to tart up, catch some drunk guy in a club, and get exactly 30 seconds of aimless humping before he rolls over and snores. Oh, ye woeful women. Stop dressing up in a way that only attracts such useless lackwits. And for the love of fuck (literally) stop dressing your daughters that way, too.

Side note: Really also tired of the people complaining about these slutty costumes only b/c of the idea that they're just attracting pedos. Um, hai? Sexual predators don't need their victims to be dressed like that. Burqas don't protect women from rape, and slutty costumes aren't putting your kid on a platter for the nearest creep in a van (or, more likely, "kindly" Uncle Charlie.) What BOTH do, however, is rob the women/girls in question of a chance to have a good sex life on their own terms, because such practices teach them that their sexuality exists for someone else's control and pleasure, rather than their own.
Oct. 12th, 2011 05:48 pm


textualdeviance: (Whole Lotta WTF)
For the rest of the day, I, Texty, pledge to pretend that selfish, ignorant, hateful bigots don't exist, in order to prevent my head from exploding, and to keep from spamming a poor friend's FB with a righteous smackdown of a complete tool who's commenting on one of her posts.

So say we all.
textualdeviance: (Seattle Pride)
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I don't remember exactly what was going on that day, though I do remember waking up to a phone call from M telling me to turn on the TV. As nasty as the day was, however, the aftermath was far worse.

10 years ago, I was singing with the chorus and still had delusions of a professional career that direction; getting over a horrid breakup; enjoying my then-newish house and playing a crapload of Asheron's Call. I hadn't yet got into my first fandom stuff, and my intarweebs doodlings were limited to a couple of mailing lists, a sad little personal page and a few remaining forays into Usenet. We'd only had Fammy for a little while then, and Kitty Bob and Punky were just barely seniors. Penny was 6.

My own life has changed dramatically since then. Went back to school, bought a new house, tried--in vain--to get pregnant, traveled a lot, fixed some health issues, etc. Lots of big stuff. Virtually everything my life is right now is all because of things that happened in the last 10 years. I've left most of the rest of my life behind, now. And I expect a lot more to change for me in the next 10.

The rest of the country, however? Maybe not so much.

To be sure, a lot of good things have happened. There have been significant advances in GLBT rights, for instance. Even though we've also lost a lot of those battles--there are only a few states where same-sex couples can legally marry and adopt children--we've gained quite a bit of ground, too. And we did manage to elect a dark-skinned guy as president, and he's done some good stuff (though not as much as I'd have liked, because he was too busy trying to play nice with people who had no intention of doing so.)

But the aftermath of what happened 10 years ago also threw us off the track we'd been on in the '90s. We should have had a flourishing economy, a comfortable level of equal rights and major progress toward ensuring that our species still has a habitable environment in the future. Instead, we've thrown billions at pointless wars, alienated many of our allies around the world and so dismantled education that only 40% of Americans "believe in" evolution.

The jingoism that sprouted in the wake of the attacks got such a toehold in American politics that virtually the entire GOP has now been taken over by utter lunatics. No longer the staid, balanced-budget wonks of a generation ago, this new GOP order is driven by fervent faith: in religion, in Randian philosophy, in Friedmanite economic theories that have long since been disproven.

They've decided what a "real" American is, and if you don't fit that very narrow description, you're the enemy, and can legitimately be deprived of rights. They've advocated economic policies that emphasize short-term gain for the ownership class over long-term, sustainable growth that benefits everyone. They've turned education into a dirty word, and have made huge chunks of the population believe that "wasting" a few thousand dollars on a few public services cheats is a far worse crime than spending billions on finding better ways to blow people up.

In short? The terrorists won.

The point of terrorism isn't the destruction their attacks cause, but the lingering fear of future ones, and the chaos that follows that fear. In the last 10 years, that fear has so overtaken American culture that it has utterly decimated what our country was and is. That fear forced people to retreat into the supposed safety of sameness, and fed an ever-growing mistrust of anyone who wasn't immediately recognizable as an "us." That fear made us ripe for exploitation by people who had a vested interest in keeping us occupied by it so we didn't notice they were laying waste to the economy. That fear made us think there's absolutely nothing wrong with groping a 2-year-old child at an airport because, heavens, she might be hiding a bomb in her diaper.

Is this really the legacy that the people who died that day would have wanted to leave? Or, in our fervor to avenge their deaths, have we instead sullied their memory with destruction far greater than taking down a couple of buildings?
textualdeviance: (Beardy Connor Not Amused)
Irritating me at the moment:

-"Let them eat cake" attitudes.

If you're lucky enough to be in a position of privilege which means you've never had to experience a given hardship, please don't prescribe behavior to people who have.

-The implication that bigotry is just a difference of opinion, and it should thus be no barrier to making friends with someone, especially if you have other things in common.

Let me guess: You'd also suggest that rabbits ought to try to make friends with cougars just because they're both mammals, right?

-The implication that fighting for one's rights and complaining about discrimination means you don't care about anything else.

It's true that sometimes people get oppressed-person's-myopia, and that does consume their every waking hour. But chances are good that if all you see about someone is that they're (insert trait here), it's not because they're making a bigger deal about it than they should, but because YOU are.

-The implication that having a non-standard gender or sexual identity, and being open and honest about that, means you're obsessed with sex.

Yes, said folks may on average be more aware of and in touch with their own sexuality, but that has jackall to do with how much shaggery they think about/want/have. Yes, Virginia, there are celibate queer folk.

And for the cherry on top of this: The implication that having a big interest in sex is a bad thing, regardless of one's gender or sexual identity.


textualdeviance: (Default)

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