dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")
Introduction

A definition of privilege by [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu from How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk:

"Privilege" is a term of art that means the automatic, unsought, often-unacknowledged, and unrejectable advantages that accrue to favored groups in society. People may have one kind of privilege while not receiving another. For instance, while I am not white, I am heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, young-looking, upper-middle-class, and not overweight—all of which give me advantages over people who do not, or are not perceived to, share those characteristics. Again, since privilege is automatic and unsought, having it does not make someone A Bad Person (TM).

"Your privilege is showing" generally means something like, "you have made the unconsidered and erroneous assumption that your advantages are shared by everyone else."

What This Means to Writers

The issue of who can tell a story is huge. What happens when creative license and imagination meets real life people dealing with racism, sexism, ableism, sexualism, and other prejudices? A lot of science fiction authors were confronted with this immense issue during RaceFail 09. I highly recommend looking through some of those links, as I cannot do the topic justice in this space.

The Point of This Today

I stumbled upon a link to While a hostile relative re-writes my life: 'Who is, and is not, my family' by Leslie Feinberg on my LJ "friends of friends" page yesterday. I read it and then thought about it for more than twelve hours.

One of the issues sticking out to me is how Catherine Ryan Hyde is using her estranged family member to bypass the issue of her privilege. By claiming her "transgender sibling", she is claiming a right to the story that would otherwise be challenged. She is claiming to have authority on this topic that she doesn't have.

It appears that the Catherine would have every reason to know that Leslie Feinberg would not want her to tell Leslie's story. Leslie writes that "... [Catherine] argued with me for hours that the story of the Tutsi people in Rwanda is hers to tell. Her statements about the peoples of Rwanda were so racist, so apologetic for colonialism and imperialism, that I informed Hyde at that time that she was no political kin to me." This suggests to me that Catherine knew, or at least could have figured out, how Leslie feels about those in more privileged conditions speaking for "The Other". Also, the two of them were completely estranged: "I restated my request for no further contact from these living biological relatives." There is no indication that Leslie's permission to be used as a marketing tool was ever sought.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is claiming that she is entitled to tell this story, which would be problematic even if she had invented the characters wholesale due to the issue of a cis-gendered author speaking for a transgendered character. But setting aside whether or not she ever should have written this novel, she was definitely not entitled to steal Leslie's right to tell the story by telling it instead, nor was she entitled to use Leslie to claim authority of her own.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
This week, the Canadian federal government proposed to review the wording of the national anthem. In particular, they were considering returning the phrase "true patriot love in all thy sons command" back to the original words "thou dost in us command" in the spirit of greater gender-neutrality.

The dog was wagged; the news coverage of the possible change overshadowed the budget discussion, and the public outcry that followed gave the government good reason to back down on the proposal.

Words do matter.

A game of "one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn't belong":

1. Some of those people are pregnant.

2. Some of those humans are pregnant.

3. Some of those folks are pregnant.

4. Some of those men are pregnant.

"Men" isn't gender-neutral. Neither is "sons". It is true that our national anthem could be more inclusive.

But - and it's a big Conservative butt - we're just talking about changing one phrase in one song. Instead of pay equity and a complete national daycare program - things that could create real changes for real Canadian women - the Harper government wants to spend money debating a word. Or, they don't, really. Perhaps I am cynical, but I think they achieved exactly what they were aiming for: they distracted from the budget and made an empty gesture towards equality, and they changed nothing.
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
I swagger when I wear a tank top. It's a tight white tank top with wide shoulders; the kind often called a "wife beater", but I don't call them that because that's an ugly name, though I understand where that comes from because wearing one does give me a sense of bravado. When I wear it, I swagger, I stand with my legs further apart and with one hip out, and I take up more room on the bus. A tank top brings out my inner Tough Broad.

I'm restless today. The weather's nice but cool - sunny late summer meeting early Autumn - and the Tough Broad wants to go.

I want to grab my keys and a twenty dollar bill and walk. Walk out. Walk until my feet are sore and the sun has dipped below the tree tops, then stop and spend all twenty dollars on whiskey shots in a bar that plays Tom Waits too loud. Tell anyone who tries to buy me a drink or strike up a conversation to piss off. Keep walking.

What do you do when your other self – your wild self that only comes out when you wear those boots or hear that song - tells you that you are too domesticated, too tame, too content?

Keep swaggering.

I need to hang my laundry.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
It's not really a commuter bus because it is going against the flow of traffic, but there are two men in business suits on the bus, complete with laptop cases. One is silently lip-synching along with his MP3 player, complete with toe tapping and occasional air drumming. The other, with no headphones in sight, is quietly singing something that sounds like a country song, though I can't distinguish the words. I wonder what they are each hearing.

--

They got on at the same stop, but they obviously just met each other.

I can't see the younger of the two new passengers very well from where I am sitting, but I can hear her. English is definitely her second language. She seems to be in her mid-twenties.

"What do you do?" she asks the other passenger.

"I'm a writer. Well, I pay the bills using the sex trade, but I want to get out of that. It's shallow. It's just all really shallow."

"How old are you?" I don't think she understood the part about the sex trade.

"I'll be fifty-four next month."

"You have lots of tattoos."

"It's something I can give myself that no one can ever take away. I've lost a lot, but no one can take my ink."

"Are you a boy or a girl?" she asks bluntly.

"Some of both. Not really either."

"No, but, what are you really?"

"People always want you to be able to tick off either A – female – or B – male. I'm C – all of the above."

"All of the above!" the girl is delighted. I don't think her questions were meant to be rude; I think she's just honestly curious.

--

I noticed the Japanese mandarin box when I got on the bus because I love mandarins and they aren't in season right now. I didn't notice anything else odd about the box until about a couple of blocks later, when the contents started mewing.

The woman opens the box and removes a tiny orange kitten. She holds it close to her chest and it seems pretty content to stay there, but it cranes its head around, staring around the busy and noisy bus with big curious eyes. It doesn't seem scared at all, but it occasionally says "mew" loudly – well, as loudly as something the size of a medium-sized East Van rat can – as if to greet the other people on the bus. The woman holding the kitten tries to quiet it:

"Mew!"
"Shhh."
"Mew!"
"Shhh."
"Mew!"
"Shhh-shhh."

Shushing a cat works about as well as asking it to heel, so it continues to mew and she continues to shush until I get off the bus and walk the half block to my home.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
W.I.F.E.: Wash – Iron – Fuck – Etc. I saw this on an icon today. And I am doing laundry again. And my mother called Russ her "son-in-law" again.

I'm a good third-wave feminist. Well, I'm a good theoretical feminist. Or a good feminist in theory. Anyway, I know it is possible to be a wife without being the kind of woman they always make fun of at [livejournal.com profile] domestic_snark.

But... Russ' Mum, when she catches him doing something like leaving his socks on the floor, says to me: "Well, he is your problem now." He is now mine to train, or to pick up after if I fail to train him adequately.*

My mother is a full-time wife and mother. She keeps an impeccable house and cooks a good dinner, to be consumed as a family at the kitchen table, every night. I thought I could avoid triggering that image of "wifedom" by not marrying Russ. We would live in blissful partnership. No wedding, no contract, means no expectation, from him or from myself, of being a good wife.

But, I am the one in our relationship that cares how the house looks, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and tidying. I am the organized one, so I do the bills, schedules, and meal plans. I am not very strong or handy, so I cannot fix the caulking in the bathroom or fix the living room fan. Russ is better at talking to contractors and electricians then I am. And I don’t drive, so I don't know how to change a tire or check the oil.

Russ does do the cooking and cleans the bathroom, but otherwise our housework is divided along very conventional gender lines. That's not how it was supposed to be; I'm a feminist. Skills be damned – I should be re-finishing the deck while he does the vacuuming.

There was a StatsCan survey back in July that the media tended hail as proof that "more men are doing housework", as if there was suddenly gender equality in household matters. What struck me was how little equality it actually represented. The gap is narrower, but we've got a long way to go:
The proportion of men who did some housework daily rose from 54% in 1986 to 69% in 2005. The proportion of women who did daily housework held steady at 90%.

Looking only at "core housework", men’s participation went from 40% to 59% and women’s dropped from 88% to 85%.

Russ does core housework every day, so he is part of the 59%. But when did I become a conventional, traditional woman doing "woman’s work"?

And just a quick look at the wedding industry reveals how old-fashioned we can get about marriage. When a woman gets engaged, perfect strangers will congratulate her as if she's just won some sort of contest, without knowing anything about her husband. British journalist Jemima Lewis: "If [the bride-to-be] is defensive, it is because she has realized how little the condition of womanhood has changed – and how antediluvian her own instincts really are."

When I took my minor in Women's Studies, I had little patience for the theorists who claimed that it was impossible to have gender equity within marriages and that we would have to create children in test tubes before we could be treated as equals.~ Though I still don't agree with them, I do see their point: I am a feminist; I have a university degree and a full-time job; and I was raised to believe that I can be anything and do anything – I should be the poster child for an non-traditional relationship. And I still change the bed instead of fixing the drywall.

Third-wave feminism, to speak very broadly, tends to be about choice: for example, women can choose to stay home and raise children, or choose to work. But what of the choices we seem to make that aren't really choices at all, such as to do the vacuuming because your mother taught you to, while your partner fixes the fence because his father taught him to. Am I making a deliberate choice to be this kind of wife and partner, or am I caving to my social training?

I'm going to go fold my partner's t-shirts.

*This isn't a slight against Russ, or any sort of hint that he needs to behave any differently then he does (really, sweetie). That is just what his mother is saying to me.

~An Internet cookie for anyone who can name that theorist – my mind is drawing a blank.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
I do laundry once a week: three or four large loads one after the other, in cold water with biodegradable, allergen-free detergent. In the spring and summer, the t-shirts and towels flap in the breeze over our deck. In the winter or the rain, everything is hung in the basement. Our house's electrical system won't support a dryer.

Today, I stood on my deck in the warm morning sun. I hung a sheet; the wind swept it out like a tent. Then I pinned up socks in neat matched pairs – little knit couples to flutter around the sheet home.

Though I'm not married, at some point I became a wife. I thought that it snuck up on me; that it happened in little steps over the five years that Russ and I have been living together. I started becoming a wife when I picked up his dirty socks, when I took charge of the bills, when I referred to his mother as "mother-in-law", when he started having to ask me where things were around the house... but there was still a defining moment that solidified those other moments and transformed my role.

I don't actually remember the exact moment when I crossed the line between when I was not-a-wife and when I was a wife. It is only important in retrospect. But it comes down to laundry.

For our first four years together, Russ and I took our dirty clothes to someone else to wash. About every two weeks, we'd hand over big heavy of bags of clothing and a credit card, and the next day they would come back: the bag full of neatly, but unfamiliarly, folded items and the credit card bill a little bit heavier.

With our own house came our own washing machine. I like doing laundry, and my writing keeps me at home evenings while Russ' activities frequently take him out, so it seems natural for me to take over the task of keeping clean clothes in our closets.

I balance a basket of wet t-shirts on one hip, get the door with the other while gently pushing one of the cats out of my way with one foot. Russ' t-shirts are mostly black and jewel toned. I turn them inside out and try to hang them out of direct sunlight, to prevent fading.

On the deck of our first house, sometime during the hanging of the first load of laundry out of our first washing machine – it was probably work clothes from the renovations – I became a wife. Now I need to figure out how I feel about that.
dreaminghope: (Default)
When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don't know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.
And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.
(Dar Williams, When I Was A Boy)


I never was a tomboy. I've always been a girly-girl: delicate, tidy, scared of getting hurt, not wanting to be dirty.

I didn't climb trees. I didn't get muddy or grass-stained, or catch bugs, or whatever it is boys do. I don't even know what boys do.

I feel like maybe I missed out.

When I was born, they looked at me and said
what a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.
And when you were born, they looked at you and said,
what a good girl, what a what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.
(Barenaked Ladies, What a Good Boy)


I've never been strong.

It's a good thing I was born a girl, as this kind of weakness is still OK in the "weaker sex", but would mean humiliation for a boy.

So we're sitting at a bar in Guadalajara
In walks a guy with a faraway look in his eyes
He says, "I got a powerful horse outside
Climb on the back, I'll take you for a ride
I know a little place
We can get there 'fore the break of day"
I said "In these shoes?
No way Jose"
I said "Honey, let's stay right here."
(Bette Midler, In These Shoes)


Sometimes I feel the feminine bits and pieces (high heels, bras, short skirts) as fun and sexy.

Other times they seem to be too literally the "trappings" of femininity.

Girly-girls don't have the kind of adventures where they jump on the back of a horse and ride off into the wilds.

And he says, "Oh no, no, can't you see
When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.
(Dar Williams, When I Was A Boy)


I wish I had a past where boys and girls seemed the same.

I think I'm going to start weight training this fall.
dreaminghope: (Default)
[Inspired by a man on the street who probably had no idea how his actions could be perceived.]

Many people, in particular female people, have been taught from childhood to fear strangers (even if you are statistically more likely to be attacked by someone you know). As a result, many women have a great deal of awareness of what is going on around them, especially while walking down a dark, mostly empty street alone, and they react with fear to certain actions.

So, to all the wonderful men out there who would never harm anyone except in self-defense, some tips to avoid frightening pedestrians (note, these are probably good tips to apply no matter who the other pedestrian is, but I've used "woman" because they are more likely to notice you and be frightened or at least unnerved by these actions).

1. If walking up behind a woman on a dark, empty street, try to avoid suddenly speeding up. On an overactive imagination, this appears to be you trying to catch up to them to do some harm.

2. If walking up behind a woman on a dark, empty street, try to avoid suddenly slowing down right behind her, as now you appear to be stalking her. Just pass her, with as wide a gap as the sidewalk will allow.

3. If walking up behind a woman, etc., and she suddenly crosses the street in the middle of the block, there's a chance she feels uncomfortable with someone she doesn't know following her on an otherwise empty street. For goodness' sake, don't follow her across the street! Now she's really going to think that you are stalking her! If you actually need to be across the street, wait until you are parallel to your destination and cross the street and go straight to the house, side street or whatever.

4. If you are driving down an dark, empty street and you need to pull over to look at a map, try to avoid slowing down as you come parallel to the only person on the whole street. We've all heard stories of women being pulled into cars; this is going to make us nervous, to say the least.

I have experienced all of the above by men who were probably just innocently going about their lives, completely, blissfully, unaware that their actions looked suspicious and dangerous. None of them did me any harm, but they did cause my pulse to pound.

I'm sure there are other examples; please feel free to add your own tips in the comments if you wish.
dreaminghope: (Sexy)
Last night [livejournal.com profile] misselaineeous and ED and I went to a fundraising party for one of [livejournal.com profile] misselaineeous's employee's theater group.

It was a Moulin Rouge themed event, so we all had an excuse to pull out the finery that usually only comes out for Sanctuary and/or Sin City. My (commercially bought) bustier is pretty broken - the thin plastic boning is now permanently curved in and does not really provide any support - so I was even more envious then normal of ED and [livejournal.com profile] misselaineeous's beautiful corsets. But ED and I are trying to meet tomorrow to get her started on custom-making me a corset, so that's all good.

We danced a bit, but the highlight was really the entertainment provided by the theater people: a goofy, 10 minute, rendition of Swan Lake by three men in leotards, an amateur burlesque dancer who kept up a funny running monologue about how unprepared she was, and a reverse strip-tease into a snow suit!

I love getting dressed up for things like this almost as much as I love going to them. In daily life, I wear lots of comfy clothing: t-shirts and sweaters, jeans, long skirts, walking shoes. I never really do my hair or put on any make-up. So it is fun to get all dolled up, put on some mascara and some heels. Last night I even wore my wig. Here's me as a red-head!

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February 2014

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