Tag Archives: community

Sound Reflection: Tell a Feminist Thank You

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Today there’s a hashtag on twitter #tellafeministthankyou – so I’m going to say a few thank you’s to people who’ve taught me, or who keep me writing.

Thanks to my mom, Paula, for raising me as a feminist.

Thanks to MTR, because talking about feminism in his office made me better at what I do.

Thanks to Kenna and Lillian, for editing me, for talking theory and genuinely helping me learn more about what I think.

Thanks to my husband for being more of a feminist than he thinks he is.

Thanks to Jo Jo, Sailor, Jenn, Amelia, and all the other feminist burlesque ladies in my life.

Thanks to Orli, Kate, and Mary for discussions of feminist theology on a range of religious backgrounds.

Of course, thanks to my readers – because without you I’d just be writing into the void.

Being a feminist is more than just holding beliefs on your own, but about constantly interrogating your own thought processes and challenging the things you think in order to further your understanding of gender dynamics in society. I think all feminists are served best by the communities they involve themselves in, and the conversations they start within their communities.

Who are you thankful for? Who has helped you become a feminist?

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Filed under Feminism, Personal, Sound Reflections, Uncategorized

ADA Accessibility And Burlesque

I write about burlesque and disability again for Pincurl Magazine!

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February 5, 2013 · 6:02 pm

Thoughts on Physician Assisted Suicide


They were twins. Both deaf, both cobblers. They never married, were very close to their families, and they spent their days together. They suffered from other medical conditions such as spinal issues, but the full roster of their illnesses is unknown to me. On December 14th 2012 they chose to use the right of Belgian citizens to voluntarily euthanize themselves. They did this because they were going blind as a result of glaucoma, and they could not bear the idea of being unable to see one another, or the idea of being institutionalized.

I am a supporter of right to dignity in death measures in the law; I believe that when people are suffering, when they are in pain, that they should be able to die rather than to suffer if they will not get better. To spare their families the pain of having to witness their death.

But I can’t get past the uncomfortable feeling that these men were choosing death over life. A life that might not be entirely unlike mine. Certainly the idea of being blind and deaf terrifies most people – but I am both. Neither are complete conditions for me, but I can’t shake the the fact that I am reading about someone deciding to kill themselves because they are like me. The story challenges my ability to be fully on the side of allowing people to use the medical establishment to help people die.

In Belgium the law reads as follows:

To make a legitimate euthanasia request, the patient must be an adult, must be conscious and legally competent at the moment of making the request, and must be in a condition of constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident, for which medical treatment is futile and there is no possibility of improvement.

The physician decides whether the disorder is incurable based on the actual state of medicine, and the patient alone determines whether suffering is constant and unbearable. The physician must have several conversations with the patient in which he ascertains whether the patient experiences his/her suffering as constant and unbearable.

The physician must inform the patient about their medical condition, prospects, and possible alternative treatments, including palliative care. He must consult another independent physician about the serious and incurable character of the condition. This physician does not need to be a palliative care specialist.

Taking voluntary euthanasia seems to me a little premature in this situation. Certainly it is tragic to not be able to see ones brother – the twins had lived together their whole lives, never having married. Not knowing the twins personally, I cannot speak to their quality of life, but for some reason I can’t help but feel that their life experiences may have contributed to their inability to conceive of a world where they could not see, and where they could not live without some help.  I feel like the more people with disabilities are encouraged to experience the world,  the world seems less bleak. I know that traveling has made me more confident about my ability to engage with the world, not less.

The first doctor who was approached to euthanize the twins refused them, stating: “There is a law but that is clearly open to various interpretations. If any blind or deaf {people} are allowed to euthanize, we are far from home. I do not think this was what the legislation meant by ‘unbearable suffering’.

It seems that the twins had more medical issues than simply the glaucoma, but I can’t deny that the idea of helping people commit suicide just because they are going blind or deaf is discouraging. There are so many people who tell me that they would just die if they couldn’t see – like I can’t. So many people who have said that they would rather kill themselves than not be able to hear.

We live in a world of possibilities, one where adaptive devices, medical changes, and opportunities to live normal lives are cropping up every day. The surgery I had at 6 months old  to give me the sight in one eye has improved vastly. I’ve met people who have had cataract surgery in the last year who see better than they did before the surgery. We can’t simply give up because we’re scared.

Since I was not in the situation myself, I can’t say if this was right or wrong, but I can say that it shook me very deeply, and made me question a lot of things about the way I live. 
I can’t help but be uncomfortable with this choice, but I can educate myself about the choice they made. There’s no changing their decision, but hopefully we all can strive toward making the options for people facing deafness and blindness less bleak, and more hopeful. I hope that if I do go completely blind, or completely deaf, or both that there will be options which do not include suicide. Because I don’t want to give up.

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The DSM is a Medical Text, Not a Plot Generator

I am tired of feeling like every time I see a mental illness article, I need to shield myself from the comments.

I am sick with fear every time I hear “mental health registry”.

I am undone by the lies media tells in their plotlines, using PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and therapy as plot points, punch lines and things people get over.

We can medicate, we can use therapists and we can find pieces of truth which comfort us in the darkness of our own existences – but this is something we all live with. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not a repetitive joke, it is not the thing which makes a private detective funny. PTSD is not the thing which makes Charlotte King angry and mean, anxiety is not merely fixed with a pill, and therapy should not be the joke of a 30 minute sitcom.

When do we stop using mental illness as a punching bag and start considering ways to help people who live with it?

It seems as though those with mental illnesses are cast into four categories in media: Out of Their Heads Crazy Violent, Nonsensical Crazy,  Functional But Silly Crazy, and Angry Crazy. These all have varying levels. For example, a savant might be in either the functional or in the nonsensical category, whereas often people with PTSD are only cast as angry crazy. schizophrenics are cast as out of their heads and violent. Always, or at least that’s how it feels.

These depictions are wrong.

Mental illnesses are diagnostic tools. They are not all the same.

My experience with PTSD is very different from someone elses’ and my triggers will be different. The way that I express my feelings about the diagnosis which I hold – very different from someone else.

The solutions are different too. For someone who is violent, perhaps medication and time in a hospital setting may help. For that matter, people who have mental health issues which impact their whole lives may need to be hospitalized just so they can get a grip on their own lives – hospitals are not places for just the violent. They are places where people can learn skills they need out in a world which is often harsh on those whose realities are different from the general populations. For someone with PTSD it may be a place to regain control of an episode, and to remember where they are in time.

We don’t need television shows to continue getting it wrong, to keep telling the stories of the mentally ill for us – and telling them badly. We don’t need to have the general public hear stories time after time that PTSD only affects people in the military. We don’t need to have the myths of OCD as funny fill the gaps in where knowledge should be. We should be learning about one another by asking questions, by listening, and by thinking harder than the TV set will encourage us to.

The fact is, mental illness isn’t just about being quirky or different. It is what makes us people. For some of those people, it makes them artists. It makes them see the world in different ways.

I have an ability to understand sorrow, and past pain in a way that some don’t. I have friends whose schizophrenia makes them better writers. Photographers whose stories tell tales of depression – and we wouldn’t know what that looked like were it not for them. Beethoven would not have been the artist he was without his madness and his deafness. Emily Dickinson would not have been the poet we love were it not for her profound agoraphobia. Sometimes these differences are what make us beautiful, and we can’t forget that even though we fear each other.

Perspective is everything – and we cannot forget the beauty inherent in a world of difference.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Language

PTSD in the Age of Social Media

I opened my regular news reading to find photos of yet another rape victim. Yet another violation of a woman’s rights. In full color. The imagery stark against my retina.

I wonder sometimes if the reason why I cannot get the images of my own trauma out of my head is because every day I have to relive something of someone else’s sorrows. Media is spectacularly exploitative. Of course media is. Journalism is about telling other people’s stories, and because of it there is a trend towards exposing the most painful parts of a story without protecting the reader from their own pain.

This is part of why I strongly believe in trigger warnings. Do they seem stupid sometimes? Do we need to make sure we don’t overuse them? Oh, absolutely. If I didn’t read the articles labeled trigger warning half the time I’d miss out on valuable dialogue. But we need to be cautious with our readers. We need to be kind and thoughtful.

The images of gang rape coming out of India will not leave my head easily. The images of the girl in Steubenville, or the eleven-year old in Texas will not escape my dreams.

I wonder if the reason why so many survivors of assault, of rape, of abuse have not been able to heal properly because they are consistently given images to resurrect their own personal nightmares.

I cannot offer any solutions, because I cannot tell the editors of the world that showing us these photos makes our personal experiences sing louder than the present. I cannot deny that some days, all I want to do is throw in the towel and discontinue my fight, knowing that there will be days where the hurt is louder than the sound of my own voice stemming the tide against violence.

Can we heal when we know that the violence continues outside our own safety nets?

I know I can. But sometimes I cannot know it loudly enough.

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Filed under Feminism, Sexuality

LGBT News Bites

I remember being very little and going to a few meetings of what was called the “Daisy Scouts”. I don’t remember why I stopped going, but I do remember being very uncomfortable with the idea that we had prayer circles.

When people returned or refused their Eagle Scout medals I payed attention, recognizing that the Boy Scouts of America were not an equal opportunity group.

Today I can be proud that someone is challenging that. A Brooklyn Dad has founded a gender neutral scouting troop, welcoming girls, boys, gay kids, and likely trans (though the story doesn’t say). I really appreciate that he is creating his own thing, and refusing to put money towards an organization which he finds to be discriminatory in it’s policies. Which they are.

The second awesome thing is that the National Cathedral is going to have its first ever same sex marriage! I am so glad that the National Cathedral will be welcoming and open to all people when they celebrate in marriage – not just those whom the law recognizes as equal. It is lovely to see a religious organization recognizing all love publicly.

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“They’re Trying to Help a Dead Girl”

The hacking collectivist group Anonymous released a video of the Steubenville football players who took a 16-year-old girl from house to house and sexually assaulted her. They simultaneously posted evidence on twitter, pushing the gang rape into the territory of pure unadulterated public torture.

Anonymous released this video on the same day the House of Representatives refused to vote to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since when is it not in the best interest of the United States to protect women from violence? I have hope that when the next Congress comes into session we’ll have a different result, but I can’t get the feeling of fear out of my bones over this one.

The young men who are featured in the video of Steubenville are the kind of predators whom the Violence Against Women Act is supposed to protect us from. Sen. Patty Murray (from my state of Washington) put it best:

“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right-wing of their party always comes first.”

There’s absolutely no reason for House Republicans to have done this. Absolutely none. This is an action which is shameful in the eyes of the state.

The actions of the boys in Steubenville may not seem related, but if we don’t expose this kind of behavior as violence, we’re not doing our jobs as a society to protect one another. This young football player is giggling about raping a 16 year old young woman. (Allegedly. Except for the part where there are photos.) This isn’t the only reason the two are linked. Even with VAWA we’re not doing enough.  Like the football team, people who are well-regarded in their communities tend to be above reproach when it comes to the issue of sexual violence. A woman whose husband beats her every night is less likely to be believed, if she reports it, when that husband is a well-respected man. It was the Violence Against Women Act which helped to institute marital rape as a crime in all the states of the Union, as prior to 1994, there were still some states which allowed it.

This kind of violence is unconscionable, and the fact that the GOP will turn its back to violence against women makes me question their privilege. I hope none of them have known women who have suffered at the hands of abusers,  that none of them have had to listen when they heard the story of a friend or family member who was raped or beaten. Because, if they had, surely they would have voted with their conscience rather than with their party.

Yes, the supporters of VAWA  are trying to help a dead girl. They are trying to help a lot of dead girls, all of them who needed help and didn’t receive it. I am sickened today by the notion that there are people in this country who are likely laughing along with the boys from Steubenville – and I hope you’ll reconsider if you cackled at his jokes about Marcellus Wallace and Obi Wan Kenobi, because at the root of those “jokes” is the willingness to condone violence against a person and to use her for her body alone.

We should all be helping to end violence. We should be doing better.

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Filed under Feminism, Politics, War On Women