Tag Archives: dialogue

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

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

“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

Having Fun Isn’t Always Fun and Games

I’m always up for sharing the work of those I know on the internet watercooler, and today I’m talking about the piece Lillian Cohen Moore wrote about Cards Against Humanity – a game which I love dearly, but always struggle with in some instances.

Cards Against Humanity is billed as Apples to Apples for Horrible People.

Sure, we’re all pretty terrible in my group of friends, but as Lillian explains – that can be a really big problem. Please read the article here: Save Vs. Sexism: Cards Against Humanity

So, I left a comment, but I’ll expand on it here:

Humor to cope with sadness is a major coping mechanism for me. In fact, I’m the person who makes her therapist laugh pretty frequently. But I think a lot of that. much like what’s hurtful, is in the eye of the beholder. The reason I find people being “PC” problematic sometimes is that we’re all going to have different issues, and we’re all going to get hurt in different ways. it can be hard to avoid every single hurtful thing ever – so we have to try. We have to strive to be better to one another – which is why the house rule I mentioned in my comment was instituted. I didn’t see the  South Park movie because I chose not to see a movie in which HIV/AIDS was a punchline. I sometimes struggle with listening to the ‘Book of Mormon” soundtrack because there are AIDS jokes that hit me where it hurts more often than not.

Giving me the AIDS cards is giving me the ability to choose whether or not to laugh at my pain. It would be significantly more difficult to change the deck to get rid of all the rape cards and give them to one person, or all the DV cards to one individual. And perhaps there’s a certain sense to avoiding this game if you really can’t handle certain jokes – I don’t suggest it to anyone who would be offended by violent imagery of Glenn Beck, for example. But I think this game can be a useful tool for those of us who do find hurt in some of the cards, and in this I think it’s useful. We can laugh at our pain, we can take the power away from our pain – and we can mock it into the ground.

So, play Cards Against Humanity thoughtfully – and don’t eat all the cookies at the AIDS bake sale.

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Filed under Feminism, Language, Sound Reflections

My heart is breaking today. I have no way to stop the pain happening in Connecticut right now. No way to give comfort to those who will need it most.

I remember when it was Columbine I was in school; everyone terrified it might happen to us too.
I remember when it was Virginia Tech. I was in college; the same age as many involved.
Today, all I can say is murdering, no, executing, children seems so far past the pale, that finally perhaps something will be done.  Perhaps people will listen.

Gun control needs to be taken seriously. Children were killed today. Children were murdered in their school. A place they should be safe.

Watching the journalists praise children for having survived, for being tough – this doesn’t happen in America. 8 year olds shouldn’t be praised for their bravery in the face of gunfire. They shouldn’t have to experience that in the first place. This cannot be allowed to stand.

We can no longer give in to sacrificing lives for some kind of liberty. There is no kind of liberty that allows someone to shoot children. We have put off this conversation time and again. After Columbine. After Virginia Tech. After Aurora. The question is not “If not now, when?” No. Now is the time. Now is the time to give future generations a safe country.

I will no longer stand by. Please join me in standing up and saying no.

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December 14, 2012 · 3:25 pm

Going Other Places & Talking To People

Tonight at 8:15pm at HuffPost Live I’ll be talking about my article for XOJane “I’m Disabled But People Still Don’t Think I’m Blind Enough”.

Please join me tonight for a frank discussion about disability and living in a world where it’s okay to ask “Are you really blind?”

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Filed under Disability Issues

Transgender Day of Remembrance (A day after, but never late.)

Yesterday was TDoR. I respectfully ask everyone reading this post to please open this link to the list of all those who have died because they were living in their own gender. Please do so knowing that this is triggering for almost anyone. TW on this post in general for violence and bigotry.

I want to tell you the story of how my 10th grade teacher taught me why shock is not always a valuable tool to change hatred.

To begin with you need to understand my exposure to transgendered life. My family is filled with trans activists, with people who transitioned before I was born. I was raised to understand that sometimes people were born in the wrong bodies, and that it is OK to make changes in order to live the life you need to live.

So when I was in the 10th grade, we had a unit on racism and hate crimes in my literature class. I’m not entirely sure how it came up, but someone said something pretty awful and moments later our teacher was angry – and she told us all to watch “Boys Don’t Cry” the movie about Brandon Teena. For those who aren’t aware, the film is the story of a trans youth who was raped and murdered because of who he was. Being the well behaved student that I  was, when my grandmother picked me up from school I told her we needed to rent a movie for my homework – I wasn’t actually aware of how intense the movie was, and I certainly didn’t know what my reaction was going to be.

I watched the movie in my grandparents basement by myself, and afterwards I cried for four hours. Watching the movie hadn’t just been about watching the story of Brandon, but had been about watching the story of every person in my life who was trans, and the abuse that they might suffer were they in the wrong place at the wrong time, were they to come out to the wrong person, or were they to be found out.

We shouldn’t live in a world where watching a movie should make you so terrified for your people that you cannot hold it together enough to leave the basement.

I called my mother in tears and told her what I had watched, and she told me that she was disappointed in my teacher for having told impressionable teens to watch a movie like that. When she saw it in the theaters, she said that grown adults were sobbing in the aisles,. and she felt physically sick while watching the movie.

I’m glad this movie exists for one reason only: it is a great teaching tool if you’re not a part of the community. If you don’t understand the persecution, and the cruelty that happens to people who try to lead their lives in the way that feels right. It is an unflinching view of cruelty and reality.

The point of this story is this: Sometimes we don’t need television or movies to understand fear. For me, I actually didn’t need to see that movie. I probably shouldn’t have. For some of my classmates, it was likely a harrowing but life changing film.

The fact of the matter is that we still live in a time when the Brandon Teena story could happen again. Even yesterday on TDoR itself, I was helping a friend gather resources for a young trans person who does not have a home to go back to. I have heard my trans peers talk about experiences that made them want to commit suicide rather than live in the gender which society assigns them at birth. I have seen friends thrown out of their homes, threatened with abuse, and yes – I have known about suicides.

Being transgendered is not an easy path to walk, and I hope that people will educate themselves, and lend a hand when someone is in danger – because every life lost to bigotry is tragic, even if we didn’t know each other. Our jobs, as allies, as cisgendered people – we need to become better at supporting those who are different. We need to become better at supporting the families of those who lead different lives. Please learn to be tolerant, because without that tolerance we are lost in a sea of hate. The biggest thing you can do TODAY is to never ever call someone by the gender which they DO NOT identify with. Using pronouns THEY choose is another big one. Respecting their name choice. Make these shifts in your language, and you make the world a slightly better place.

 

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Filed under LGBT