Archive for January, 2014

Enforced gender roles, and why they need to die

Posted in Goddamn feminism again, Me stuff, Rants with tags , , , on January 31, 2014 by idnami

When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to have toy cars, GI Joes, short hair or a room that wasn’t pink, because I was a girl. I had to wear pretty things and play with dolls and act like a little lady. This despite the fact that my mother had served in the military, refused to wear a dress and was all in all a terrible role model for traditional femininity. The pressure to be girly abated somewhat as I grew older. This was possibly due to her dawning realization that years of encouraging my Barbie fetish was placing her in real danger of having a little fashionista to support. I think she was secretly relieved when I embraced heavy metal, ripped jeans and band t-shirts in junior high. She didn’t express her gratitude very well however, and went around drawing crosses through all my pentagrams.

I also wasn’t allowed to phone boys, despite one of my best friends being one. I was supposed to wait demurely for him to call, even if I had an important question to ask about an assignment we were working on together. I eventually won that battle when I pointed out that my bad grades would be all her fault, and get with the times already, Mom!

If these things seemed really stupid back then, they seem straight up absurd to me now. Why was she telling me that I had to like pink and ruffles and shit “because you’re a girl” when she clearly didn’t? Why couldn’t I have toy soldiers “because they’re boy toys” when she used to wear combat boots? Why in fuck’s name was a boy supposed to read my mind and call me when I wanted to talk? Why was she equipping me for a future she herself had rejected?

Because she made some assumptions about my potential based on my gender, assumptions instilled in her as a little girl being forced to wear pink ribbons, and for a long time retained them even in the face of contrary evidence. And we all do it, all the time, and we need to be aware of this. Some of us have worked hard to root out our assumptions, but I think it isn’t possible for most of us to entirely escape the habit. When you are daily barraged by deeply ingrained social thinking habits, it’s really hard not to take them on. And when you don’t happen to fit the mold, it’s really hard not to get pissed about it. And guys? Very few of us fit the mold.

In case you’re thinking this is me going off on a feminist rant, I’m about to go to bat for the dudes too. My aforementioned boy-bestie stopped playing with me for a week one time because of the merciless teasing of the other boys after they caught us playing with my dolls. The fact that we were drowning the dolls in a puddle in the schoolyard while pretending to be badass evil giants didn’t change this a bit, and he got humiliated for it. So we switched to pet rocks that we drew faces on, and he built an entire house for them out of cardboard which he delighted in decorating. And it didn’t stop there. By puberty he had developed a great love for Madonna and made a series of videos called MaJohnna: The John Ambition Tour, in really bad drag. And now he’s a gay rights activist who successfully sued the pants off a preacher for gay-bashing in the church newsletter. Which I suppose goes to show that if rotten little third-grade bullies call you gay, they might be right. And that’s fine. So why do they have to be jerks about it?

More than once I’ve been told that sexism and gender-based privilege/disadvantage is mostly in my head. Oh yeah? Tell that to the trans folks of Reddit. It occurred to me that the only people who would have a really clear understanding of the way gender is perceived in society are people who’ve lived both sides of the question, so I asked. And yes I used Reddit. Don’t judge me.

The answers I got were a pretty insightful look at the specific issues each gender faces. The men said that they had an easier time finding work in engineering and mechanical fields than they had previously, as well as better service in places like auto parts stores. One guy said he had a gender neutral first name and as soon as he started referring to himself as Mr. Kelly Smith (as opposed to just Kelly Smith) on his resume he got a lot more callbacks regardless of the type of job he applied for. However they also found that people were less friendly to them in general and that they felt under a lot more pressure at work. One guy who worked in call centers both pre and post transition said that angry customers held back on him a lot less as a man.

The women who answered said they felt validated and frustrated at the same time. Validated because the guys holding doors open for them and helping carry their stuff was proof that the world now regarded them as female. Frustrated because they were treated like children, taken less seriously, talked over in conversations and objectified in a way they’d never imagined.

So yeah, this is a problem. A big, ugly, widespread, universal problem that gets reinforced every time someone says, “Man up, pussy.” Take a look at that phrase and see it as the insidious and telling statement that it is. Man UP, because you are acting like a clearly inferior person of the sort that has a vagina. Elevate yourself above that weak and emotional vagina having-like state and be a man, which is clearly a better, stronger, smarter thing to be. Bro.

Truth. Also truth? Betty White never said this.

The more trans people come out, the more I realize that gender isn’t a binary, it’s a spectrum, and it really has fuck all to do with what’s in your pants. Much like intelligence, competence, strength and aptitude has fuck all to do with what’s in your pants. So get your mind out of my goddamn pants! When the same person with the same qualities, same intelligence, same skill, same mind and same soul gets suddenly treated as inferior because she grew a pair of tits, we as a society have a very long way to go.

So let’s go there. Don’t shame men for “feminine” traits like feelings. Don’t call assertive women bossy. Don’t make your son feel weird if he happens to like playing with dolls, and if you don’t want your daughter to grow up with a deep suspicion of things mechanical and a crippling phobia of driving that persists into adulthood, maybe just let her play with the damn toy car. Maybe we can evolve into a society of well-adjusted persons who aren’t limited by our genitalia.

Yeah, that’d be nice.

Life with a lazy eye

Posted in Me stuff with tags , on January 7, 2014 by idnami

eyes

It’s not just my ass that’s lazy.

As a toddler, I constantly had so many bruises my mom thought I was a hemophiliac or something. She finally got scared people thought she was beating me and took me to the doctor. Turns out I walked into things all the time because I couldn’t see properly. There’s a reason my family nickname is Grace.

I wore glasses from the age of two but the lazy eye wasn’t discovered til I was six, and I spent most of first grade with a patch over my other eye in an attempt to correct it. It didn’t work, and now I’m kind of weird looking. This does not stop me from getting all the dudes.

mememeBecause I’m hot.

A lazy eye, or Amblyopia, means that the brain doesn’t fully process visual signals coming from one eye, forcing the other one to work harder. This causes the “lazy” one to gradually develop a massive inferiority complex (see how YOU feel if people call you lazy all the time) and eventually just despair at the sheer futility of it all and stop trying, or, in my case, to become a terrifying secret weapon. More on that later.

So I have two eyes that will never look in the same direction no matter what. My right eye always drifts a little bit up and to the right. If I make the conscious effort of focusing with my right, the left one wanders off to the left and the world becomes a dull, blurry mess because now neither of them are doing their job. My favourite explanation for this is as follows:

Small child: Why are your eyes funny?

Me: They got in a fight a long time ago and haven’t spoken to each other since. When one wants to look at something, the other one takes off in a huff.

Small child: What? That’s stupid! How can your eyes fight?

Me: Look kid, I don’t know what was said and it’s none of my business anyway. Talk to your shoelaces next time they untie each other and see if you get any answers.

Small child: …

Usually only little kids will ask the question so directly. Most adults I interact with will eventually ask, but in an apologetic, self-conscious manner. Usually the question is, “Um… look. I don’t mean to be rude, or embarrass you but… um… which eye should I be looking in?”

I think this question is amazingly polite and brave as they are concerned enough about making eye contact to risk bringing back memories of childhood trauma and humiliating mockery by cruel kids in my school. Eye contact is very important to me, so kudos to them. Nonetheless I’m sometimes tempted to pretend I don’t know what they’re talking about and fake a bewildered panic attack when they insist I look in a mirror.

The answer of course is, “The one that’s looking at you, dumbass.” Because if the other one is looking at you, bad things are probably about to happen. More on that later.

Only twice ever has anyone, including the mean kids at school, said anything rude about it. One was a coworker’s meathead boxing instructor. He didn’t say it to my face but my coworker (a douche) gleefully quoted him as having said, “Oh, she’s got one of them googly eyes. Tell her to let me know if she ever needs it punched straight.”

Well I never.

I calmly responded, “Let him know that next time I see him I’ll slap some respect into his fucking ugly head.”

More recently, a random dude at a bus stop at 8 am walked up and said, “Hey! Whatsamatter with your eye?” He then spent the next 10 minutes stammering apologies, because I expressed my low opinion of his manners and looked at him with it. Poor guy. I’m really not a morning person.

I generally don’t feel self conscious about it, though it does get annoying when I get tired, as it tends to drift further and people begin glancing over their shoulders to see who I’m talking to. It’s an odd beauty mark of sorts and I’ve discovered thanks to a Photoshop experiment that my face doesn’t work at all without it. If you think I look weird with one eye staring off somewhere to the right, both eyes straight is downright creepy. I’ve noticed a tendency to accentuate and draw attention to it. I part my hair on the right and my makeup always turns out just a little more perfect on that side.

As a psychic, witchy type person it’s a very appropriate feature to have. Back in the good old days it was considered a “witch mark.” Though arguably anything was considered a witch mark back then if they wanted your property bad enough. However it does lend visibly to my mystique. And strikes terror into the hearts of all who would oppose me.

That’s the fun little bonus feature to my so-called “disability.” People find it disconcerting as fuck when I look at them with it. I don’t know why, since it really limits my ability to see, but occasionally when I need a status boost in a situation I’ll instinctively switch cameras and stare a person down with my dead, expressionless, vision-impared right eye and they will lose their nerve completely. I’ve made large, threatening men back away slowly simply by looking at them. I once won a sparring match the same way. I saw his facial expression change, his shoulders drop and his confidence drain in a split second. It’s incredibly satisfying when this happens. Sure taught that guy at the bus stop not to make rude personal comments to strange women.

The only person not affected this way is my boyfriend who loves it and gives it kisses and will occasionally cover my good eye and talk to it, which is strange but very endearing.

Not only that, but I have excellent right-side peripheral vision and I can, no shit, see around corners. I use them independently in a way that would give a normally-sighted person a screaming headache. This makes me fucking awesome.

Of course, my depth perception is for shit and I still walk into things all the time, but everything comes with a price.

Getting better at getting better at doing stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 2, 2014 by idnami

2013 was the year maturity finally descended on me, like a heavy blanket. I don’t know what it was, but on my 36th birthday I felt that I left childhood behind, or that adulthood caught up with me, or something. Anyway, I started to feel like it’s about time to take some shit seriously.

I’ve never been a terribly methodical person. I tend to accomplish big, audacious things in fits of blazing inspiration, intuitively dancing my way through a project, never exactly knowing what I’m doing, just that I have a vision that demands to be manifested. And I’m damn good at doing things that way. I’m good at leaps of faith, problem solving on the fly, dodging obstacles that loom directly ahead with Jedi-like reflexes. I’m good at daring creativity, tempting fate, getting my way.

Maybe more like Cat Woman. Yeah, that’s me right there.

What I have not been very good at is building things that last, being consistent, thinking ahead and making long-term plans. This is the shift in thinking that has begun to signal my emergence into grown-upedness, in that I’m actually starting to gravitate towards long-term goalmaking rather than my usual spectacular flash-in-the-pan style.

Of course, it occurs to me that this shift may itself be a flash in the pan, another of my big ideas that will become a momentary obsession until I get sidetracked by another big idea and let it fizzle out. Give me another month and I may be writing that I am selling off all my stuff and moving to a third world country to help build roads or something. But, for the time being, I am toying with and meditating upon adopting some better thinking and planning habits. I read this article on goals vs systems, and I think it is a good approach to what I’m trying to do.

So, everyone gets all retrospective and self-examinatory at this time of year. I tend to avoid that kind of thinking, and never make New Years resolutions because they are really made to be broken so what’s the point? But, having had the benefit of a nine day vacation with a pretty even mix of socializing and total solitude, drunken partying and quiet contemplation, some basic changes to the way I operate have started to appeal to me. So, here is a list of my intentions for the upcoming year. Not resolutions, not goals, but intentions. As I will, so mote it be.

#1. Stay focused on education. 

Discovering that university-level education on pretty much any damn thing I could want to learn is available for free online  absolutely blew my goddamn mind. I’ve always wanted to study English Literature, and I found a major course of study on it. But here’s the kicker: it costs nothing, and therefore if I’m flighty and uncommitted I lose nothing. Don’t get me wrong, this is great! But the problem with a butterfly like me being handed an absolute mind-boggling smorgasbord of free, open education could mean I do nothing but dabble and never get anywhere. I started English, and then realised that I could also take French, which has been a goal of mine for years since I wasted my high school opportunities in that direction by paying no attention whatsoever and flunking spectacularly. But wait! If I take Philosophy as well then I can have WAY better arguments with my friends who study it. But… holy shit! Business Admin! that’d be useful wouldn’t it? And… and… and…

Dude, you’re a writer. Stick to English. And French. And just do the Philosophy minor maybe. There are only so many hours in a day and you still have to sleep. I will commit to at least 1 hour of study, at least 5 days a week. Yeah I know it’s not much but some of us have jobs, and other stuff we want to do, like…

#2. Commit to better nutrition and fitness.

This sounds dangerously close to a resolution but I tend to go in cycles. In the summer I’m extremely active. I bike at least 2 hours most days, eat fresh, healthy foods, drink lots of water, etc. In the winter I become a lazy, self indulgent bastard. I cannot (will not!) tell you how much butter I’ve managed to go through in the last week alone, never mind all the cookies, roast fowl, heavy desserts and cheese. God, so much cheese. I’m not sure when I last ate a vegetable that wasn’t cooked in duck fat or a fruit that wasn’t encased in cake or pastry. Or bacon. Bacon wrapped apples are amazing. And so is chocolate covered bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

I love you, too.

I generally wind up spending the first half of the summer working off the previous winter’s pudge, and this year is going to be more challenging than most if my current waistline is any indication. The snow won’t be melting anytime soon. So, not with the goal of losing weight, but of incorporating better habits as a lifelong lifestyle, I’m going to simply look for ways of moving more and eating better. The goal being that if I still want to eat an occasional bag of chips I won’t see the evidence accumulating to an unmanageable degree. I will dance more, walk further, swing the goddamn kettle bell until I can go up to a heavier weight, eat salad, drink water and so on. And I won’t push too hard to place undue pressure on myself to achieve, since whenever I do that I always burn out and wind up backlashing by sitting around for a week and a half with a bunch of cookies in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

#3. Write more.

If you scan through my blog it illustrates really nicely how flighty and inconsistent I can be. I’ll write things in clusters, lose my motivation for a month or two, then write again on wildly varying subjects. Impressively, I appear to have gained a following somehow. When I look at my site traffic it has increased a lot in the last year, steadily except for the massive spike when one post went viral, which would have been neat had I thought the writing was actually any good. But now I average about 40 hits a day when I haven’t written anything new lately and a couple hundred when I have. Not bad! But I want more. Lots more. So I have to hone my craft, write every day even if I don’t post it, keep on with my English studies to improve my skills and give me new ideas, and publish a new post at least every two weeks without fail, every week if possible. And shamelessly self-promote, which means getting better at using social media besides Facebook.

So these are my plans, not only for the coming year, but forever. This is a scary proposition for a commitophobe like me, but I think I can handle it. Eventually I will finish English and be fluent in French. Then maybe I’ll learn Spanish or piano or winemaking. But my biggest intention is to avoid becoming distracted by every shiny thing that twinkles by. There will be days when I say “fuck it” and watch cartoons instead of working out or go dancing instead of study, cuz dammit I’m not that grown up, and never plan on being. This is not commitment to some boring old concept of self-improvement so much as focusing on the things I love (books, writing, getting read, looking good in a short skirt) and getting what I want out of life. Not what I’ve been told I should do or have but what I want. And I’ll do it on my own terms. They’ll just be better, smarter terms. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes. Weekly, or close to.

Unless I move to Australia and take up surfing.

Fuck it. Yeah. Totally surfing.