radical implications

Before the modern era of copyright and intellectual property, stories were things held in common, to be passed from hand to hand and narrator to narrator. There’s a reason Virgil was never sued by the estate of Homer for borrowing Aeneas from the Iliad and spinning him off in the Aeneid. Fictional characters and worlds were shared resources. For all its radically new implications and subversions, … fanfiction also represents the swinging back of the pendulum toward that older way of thinking.
—  Lev Grossman, in his forward to Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World 
"HETERO SHAMING"

Whenever a woman mentions political lesbianism or lesbianism by choice (and often when women even mention being lesbian at all), she tends to make a lot of people feel uncomfortable.

If she starts to critique heterosexual practices (including het-modeled interactions between same-sex couples) and point out the power imbalance inherent to heterosexuality, then the shit starts to fly. Actively hetero women say permutations of “But what about MY Nigel?!”, “Stop shaming me!”, “Don’t you think I can be a real feminist?” and “Why don’t you think people should be in these types of relationships?”

I can’t speak for all political lesbians/lesbians by choice, much less lifelong lesbians and lesbian separatists, etc., but the thing is, I personally do not care who wishes to be involved in these types of relationships. I don’t think women who partner with men are lesser feminists or dirty or bad or stupid, and I don’t think they should be ashamed. Also, I don’t really care about anyone’s Nigel, either. I’m not saying that all men think the power imbalance is wonderful and I’m not saying that every single one of them is rubbing his hands together in glee at the thought of dominating women. 

But the power imbalance still exists, despite individuals’ ambivalent relationships to it. Just as no matter how much a white person may despise racism, white people are still situated in a position of power over people of color – men are situated in a position of power over women, no matter how much men or women wish that was not so. That is more or less the entire point of feminism, in a sentence.

Your Nigel might be really nice. He might really wish he was not in a social position of power, and he might try as hard as he can not to exercise his dominant position. He might even succeed. That’s great! However, to make a major understatement, not all Nigels are quite so enlightened. And the underlying power dynamic still remains.

That is why feminists (some of whom are even lesbians or are at least in relationships with other women) critique heterosexuality. Not because we don’t get it, or because we think you’re dirty, or because we hate you and think you should feel ashamed. If you feel dirty or awful or ashamed, maybe that’s something to look into. (To make another gross understatement, it’s pretty hard to grow up female and exist as female in this world without feeling dirty or awful or ashamed about something at some point, because we are taught to feel that way about everything always.) But it’s not lesbians or hetero-critics who are making you feel that. In fact, we are working on the opposite. Again, the point of feminism is women’s liberation.

If you ever do decide you have had enough and want out, we are here to say there is another way – be it lesbianism, celibacy (there is this great thing called “your hand”, and it can be a very good friend to you if you have sexual feelings but do not feel like being in a relationship with someone else), or what-have-you. That’s what we’re here for. But if you are happy, you never want out, and you can still work to help other women, then that’s fine too.

SPOILERS!

I’m a social constructivist! That ideology means: I was socially constructed! You were socially constructed! We were all socially constructed! And society is an insidious, pervasive bastard, so this can be kind of a problem in some respects.

Ergo, social constructivists critique stuff! We even regularly critique ourselves! Some of us do so everyday! (Given that many of us were also socialized, via society-wide messages about women, to always doubt ourselves and constantly believe that our thoughts, feelings, and even beings are wrong to begin with!) We may someday critique you!

That may seem offensive, but remember: A critique is not an attack and it cannot change your life unless you choose to act upon it. We do not have the institutional power to force change upon any of you, even if we wanted to; we question institutions and systems of power, and those in power tend to dislike that. Therefore, you are safe, phew.

Since a lot of you seem to be going all choicey here: If you find our critiques offensive, okay, that’s fine, we can’t change you and you don’t have to critique yourself. Don’t ask questions. That’s your prerogative. Me, however, I am going to keep asking questions. I will never be satisfied. And that’s my prerogative. Y U NO RESPECT THE CHOICEFUL CHOOSY CHOICE I’VE FREELY CHOSEN?

"Mad Pride" and the perversion of "self help"

As I understand “mad pride”, it’s not about deciding one has a mental illness and then reveling in it: it’s about coming to terms with the fact that no one is in fact normal, accepting that social standards of normalcy are unattainable for all people, deciding not to uphold harmful ideas passed down from dominant society, and (here’s the most important part) then attempting to live as functional a life as possible, whatever ‘functional’ may mean to you.

(For example, 'functional’ means something different to someone who wishes to become a doctor or lawyer than it does to someone who wishes to be a poet, a forest ranger, an animal trainer, a professional dancer, a peer counselor, etc. 'Functional’ also means something different to a person who, for example, is agoraphobic vs a person who is schizophrenic: the first person may strive to go out in public without having a meltdown, while the latter may wish to channel and understand their schizophrenic episodes without allowing it to take over their lives. No two people will have the same concept of 'functional.’)

Learning functionality, often through self-directed cognitive behavior therapy, is a big part of “mad pride” – in fact, the thing that alerted me to the existence of “mad pride” was an article about a growing number of schizophrenics who are managing their illnesses without medication and still going on to be fully participatory in the pageant of life (so to speak). To me, a person who is not a fan of the patriarcho-capitalist psychiatric industry, that offered real hope and suggested real possibilities besides simply “an increasing number of people being pathologized and all of us being stuck in the medical wheel for the rest of eternity.”

It does not mean, or should not mean “I self-diagnosed off the internet, and now that I’m mad and proud of it, that means I can live in my parents’ basement doing nothing for the rest of forever because MAD PRIDE!!”

Coffee Culture and The Middle Class

The mention of coffee in this post also reminded me: coffee is such an odd marker of affluence in this culture. (My roommates are standing in the hallway talking about their coffee snobbery right now.)

I got addicted to it through several of the bohemians I lived with (funny how they often couldn’t afford rent, but they could always afford to buy $13/pound coffee beans and spend time figuring out the perfect way to French-press them …) and I love it, but of course I have to ration my intake. I typically brew a big honking cup of it every three days and make it last for those whole three days. (It tastes better on the second or third day.) When I want a treat and feel like dropping four pointless dollars (cost of drink + tip), I’ll go to a particular coffee bar in Brooklyn and buy a particular drink that I’ll savor for 30 minutes and then not think about or want to drink for another month.

Artisan-coffee consumption is tied to the bohemian intellectual culture, though, so for a time when I lived in Pittsburgh, I was saving most of my expendable income just to afford going to an artsy coffee shop several times a week. It was my social outlet and my exposure to professional networking; most of my best memories from that time were centered around the coffee house. The staff got to know me and my situation and would help me out – but of course the middle-class hairshirters denounced me for being bourgeoisie … whenever they’d pedal past on the fixed-gear bikes they hadn’t paid for, on their way to declare revolution by drinking craft beer and skipping the college classes they hadn’t paid for either.

And, of course, they’d all start their day with a nice bracing cup of … home-ground, home-brewed coffee.

Step One

I was just telling my semiseparatist underground compatriot Chelsea that all the calmest, least-rapiest dudes I’ve ever known were some combination of a.) vegans and b.) opiate addicts. Clearly that’s not a guaranteed recipe for success, because there are other underlying factors which determine whether or not a dude is going to remain an open misogynist or just chill the fuck out (as some vegans and opiate addicts obviously remain violently misogynist), but that’s the general pattern I’ve observed. 

There is some science that suggests veganism lowers testosterone production, and it’s pretty widely accepted among opiate addicts that opiate usage reduces sex drive; I speculated about what would happen if more males (specifically activist males) were to become vegan opiate addicts, and wondered if we would see a bunch of all-male homoplatonic pacifist communes springing up and rape rates going way down.

She asked how one typically acquires opiates, and I said it’s usually in the form of prescription painkillers, hydrocodone probably being the safest and Fentanyl the best. She replied, “So what you’re saying is, we need to get more rads into pharma?”

I think that’s relevant to earlier discussions as well.

Communicating with animals requires a human to drop their pretenses. Once that happens, it’s actually pretty easy to have entire two-way nonverbal communications with a nonhuman creature.

Humans are taught to pretend. Specifically, we are always encouraged to pretend we’re happy, because that makes other people more comfortable. (How many times in your life have you been told to “Smile!”, especially if you’re a woman?) Depending on our cultural backgrounds and social classes, we are often raised to act in direct opposition to everything that comes naturally to us, and once we reach school age and are required to integrate into a society that lives by the rules of a specific dominant cultural ideology and social class (eg, that of white people who have money), the process really kicks in for the rest of our lifetime.

We’re taught to hide what we feel, even if we are being harmed. We’re taught to never show emotion, only mid-level contentment (not too happy, because that scares people, but definitely not sad because people don’t understand that either). We’re taught to handle our problems by either knuckling under to our aggressor or getting aggressive towards someone else – sometimes both. (Which is where the concepts of ‘horizontal hostility’ and 'trickle-down abuse’ come from.)

Dude doesn’t do any of that. Dude approaches people (and other horses) openly and honestly. He sometimes tries to be sneaky, because he knows when he’s doing something wrong that could get him into trouble, but his sneakiness comes across as comical instead of insidious because he weighs half a ton, stands five and a half feet tall at his shoulder alone, and is over six feet long. It’s not hard to figure out how Dude is feeling or what he’s thinking. He would never hurt a human on purpose, but he expects the same consideration in return – if someone crosses the line and hurts him, he is not above resorting to rodeo-style bucking fits just to rid himself of the unpleasant physical and emotional sensations.

As a result of this combination (very simple and open thought processes coupled with massive physical size), he requires people to approach him with total openness and honesty too. When this happens, he responds as he would to another horse: he forms trust, he builds a rapport, he learns to rely on you and lets you rely on him in return. (Of course, all animals are unreliable in some way, but we understand that about each other and carry on.)

When this doesn’t happen, however, he gets confused. He knows when someone is hiding something or being dishonest, and it makes him nervous. He forms an insecure attachment and becomes almost completely un-functional.
(I once watched a big-name rider try to put Dude through his paces by being heavy-handed, one-sided, and domineering, and Dude was so thoroughly confused that he started putting himself though his own paces in an attempt to preemptively please this person. It didn’t work: the rider was flummoxed and even pissed off that this animal was doing automatic lead changes, adjusting his own stride at random, and even trying to do pirouettes and lateral work without even being asked. Amusingly, the audience was enthralled with this show of training, but the rider got huffy and proclaimed Dude a total lost cause.)

Dude has (re)taught me to view every interaction on multiple levels, and to conceive of all relationships as a form of mutual exchange instead of a domination/submission hierarchy. He brings what he has to our interactions, I bring what I have, and we make it work. 

2

Hello from my new bedroom

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of selfies, subversion of the male gaze,  the radical implications of self-validation for queers / people of color, and how American beauty ideals are intrinsically linked to white supremacy. u feel me?

paleotrees replied to your link: “Please just don’t fall for the paleo trap either. It’s another ploy to manipulate female emotions, but in the opposite direction (away from cute animals, towards a vague notion of ‘the earth’). Now, I majorly oppose big agriculture too, but come on.”

“Oh yeah. I started to smell a rat in a lot of environmentalism in general when it seemed like everything was always women’s fault somehow. We have too many babies, and then, otoh, we take too many birth control pills and make frogs infertile because we pee and our hormonal pee pollutes the water the frogs swim in. Missing in there is how the pee gets into the water (not women’s fault, structural) and why women need to take birth control pills (not women’s fault, structural) and a lot of other details but the media LOVES this stuff because it can spit out another woman-hating guilt burp of “ur pillz r killin teh fishies and makin teenage boys grow moobs, FEEL BAD K?” It’s always our job somehow, to fix these HUGE problems mostly created by male-dominated institutions, with our small, personal decisions. So we have to hang out the wash instead of using the dryer, put our babies in cloth instead of paper diapers, use cloth pads instead of tampons, so on and so forth, because saving the earth is apparently women’s work too.”

(via lilacturtl)

Word again!

This shit is real gross. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t hang out with any of my “ecological activist” and lefty “friends” (and hardly any of the punx and anarchists) anymore. It’s pretty tricky navigating with the deep greens too, which is sad, because their ultimate goal is not incompatible with radical feminism (I think civilization as we know it needs to go away in order for all of us to be truly free; it’s just that my vision of how to get there and what to do afterwards kind of … differs … from theirs).

But I’ve seen a lot of women get into paleo* instead of veganism, so I still have to watch my sisters-in-arms starve. And then they encourage other women to starve. And I respect the fact that they call me deluded and crazy and antirevolutionary (kind of like the trans do, actually … funny, that), but I will never believe starvation is the way out.

It is starvation, too. Some people do really well on it, but some people also do pretty well on raw food diets and shit; doesn’t mean it’s any less of a diet. I did paleo dieting correctly, but it just made my hair fall out and I couldn’t even muster the energy to get out of bed.

* paleo in my user name refers to the fact that I like dinosaurs.

PS: if someone wants to find this and go ‘aha! hypocrite!’ – disclaimer, yeah, I know I love animals a lot. I’m also lactose intolerant, eggs squick me out, and I hate handling meat. So I don’t hate on vegans, by a long shot. But if someone else makes some free-range or wild-hunted meat and I’m hungry enough, or if I feel like having an ice cream and don’t care what happens after that, I will eat it, so I suppose I am 'freegan’. I am a traitor to every cause :,( :,( … haha j/k

PPS: I like that I have my own hash tag now.

… that was not even my only experience with transwomen. I’ve had many many more, which were very similar to the one I described. That’s why it’s a fucking joke when pro-trans people tell me to “get educated”. Give me a break. I just refuse to stay quiet anymore.
— 

(via radscumblr)

I know what you mean! Man, I’ve read Judith Butler (and Julia Serrano, and Kate Bornstein, all those people), and I understand what they’re trying to say, but I just disagree with their analysis.

And I’ve known a lot of trans people. I have an uncle who transitioned (out of clear internalized homophobia, but still). I was deeply involved in IRL trans politics for two and a half years. I even used to bind my own chest and roll with a “queers bash back” brigade (which was more about ‘bashing’ homophobes who were perpetrating gay- and lesbian-bashings in our city than it was about just randomly waling on any gender-conforming person; and I think the worst we ever did was pop some gay-bashing rich dude’s tires outside of a bar, but still). 

We know our shit. We just disagree. That doesn’t mean we don’t understand. It doesn’t mean we are “dumb." We’ve had firsthand experiences that have led us to realize an analytical model of politics is perhaps not as solid as it seems to be.

That should garner the same reaction that one normally receives from, say, deciding one is a straight-up socialist instead of an anarchist or a radical instead of a liberal. Some people are not going to understand, some people are gonna think you sold out, but whatever. You can even end up forming coalitions and working together with different factions later.

But instead, we get death threats and are treated like we’re the KKK. It isn’t very mature, or very political, really. Again, I blame the rightward creep of American politics. And misogyny. It’s always safe to blame misogyny.

Being around animals has taught me how artificial most human interactions are. In order to fit into our aggressive, hostile society, human beings have been taught to act callously and aggressively, to invade one another’s space, to override one another’s body languages and nonverbal communications – and to accept this treatment from other people and act accordingly.

If someone approaches me or you with hostile body language, we are expected to remain calm and act as though it is not happening. We are expected to act polite and be sweet until the person either calms down or backs off. If we are female, we are expected to do all of this with a smile.

But if someone approaches a horse with hostile body language, the horse will become confused, alarmed, even frightened. The horse will back off to defuse the situation, all the while keeping its entire attention on the aggressor. If the aggression reaches a certain peak, the horse will run. If it can’t run, it will lash out until the desired effect is achieved: the aggressor is subdued and the threat is neutralized. It only makes sense: like humans, horses are prey animals.

If a horse is raised in a hostile environment, where it is expected to put up with hostile, aggressive behavior and is punished for attempting to defend itself, it will become a neurotic mess. (This, plus the psychology of isolation and confinement in general, is why so many expensive show horses and racing animals are nutty as fruitcakes.) It will develop stable vices like weaving or cribbing. It will withdraw and hide in its stall, and/or become aggressive towards anyone who attempts to enter. It will be difficult to catch when free, it will become confused or even defiant when asked to perform a task or follow commands, and it will become irritable, frightened, and often physically sick in general.

Feel free to extrapolate from here and take a few guesses why people are so fucked up.

Then take a look at Dude here, and imagine what it would feel like to know you are safe.

There's a weird tendency for centrist-liberals to mistake "speaking truth" for "seeking pity."

But of course many of them claim to be so into the intersections of oppression – ergo listening to poor people and people of color and disabled people etc. should logically be very important to them. Except no. They tell us to shut up and stop seeking pity (so they can keep talking about, and often garnering pity from other white middle class people because of, their own middle-class, white experiences).

I don’t know what’s up with that. I honestly do not understand what the mechanism is behind that. Other than an individual approach as opposed to a political approach – micro vs macro, failing to see the forest for the trees kind of shit.

“i have food stamps and buy Starbucks ground coffee because while it’s a little more spendy, you can take the empty bag in and get a free cup on Uncle Sam. i tried Cafe Bustelo in my stovetop espresso pot and wasn’t impressed.”

- homemadepepsi via paleotrees

All right! Resourceful coffee drinkers unite. There are so many little bonuses like that out there if we know what to look for (and we do). 

Also, re Cafe Bustelo: I agree. I don’t know what it is about New Yorkers, but they (we?) often like shitty stuff. Papaya Dog hot dog stand is a hugely famous attraction among New Yorkers, and … it’s not very good either. Coney Island is a major destination for tourists, and it’s one of the shadiest famous places I have ever been to that isn’t famous specifically for how shady it is (like The Tenderloin District in San Francisco, which is widely synonymous with “mad shadiness”). I’m not even going to pretend I don’t love Coney Island, though, so I can’t exactly judge anyone. It’s like we revel in sleaziness and take pleasure in consuming shitty things. That’s something I both love and hate about being here.

PS: stovetop espresso pot? Is that similar to what people make Turkish coffee in?

Positive Thinking and 'The Right To Be Sad'

My father’s sister has some kind of chronic degenerative muscle problem; I forget which one. She’s only in her late forties, but one of her legs has literally withered from muscle wastage and she finds herself in pain most of the time.

According to positive thinkers like my father and stepmother, that isn’t even a good reason to feel sad, because her pain makes other people feel too uncomfortable.

So the thought that someone might feel uncomfortable because they know they are going to accidentally make other people uncomfortable and then those people are going to uncomfortably intrude upon their lives, is certainly not a good enough reason to feel stressed. Neither is poverty, of course, or physical injury, or poverty caused by physical injury. In the positive-thinking mind, all problems can be solved by the power of positive thought! and therefore we are all compelled to think positively.

After all, we wouldn’t want to make other people feel too uncomfortable.

Their position would be slightly more defensible if positive thinking actually worked. Although studies have shown that positive thinking can offer a significant placebo effect (and I’ve certainly experienced that firsthand; I was able to thought-experiment myself so far down the train of positive thought that I seriously felt I was invincible and awesome, basically like I had just snorted a huge line of cocaine) – it does not actually work in the long run. Unless someone leads an exceptionally privileged life, reality will eventually intrude. 

If we could all just positive-think ourselves out of oppression, nobody would be oppressed anymore. Seriously. But we can’t, so we still are, and therefore, as oppressed people, we have a goddamn right to be sad or pissed off sometimes. Even all the time. It is not up to the more privileged to decide this for us, although they’ve done their best to make it so. (See: psychiatrists and the therapy movement, for a start.) 

Dude is called Dude because he’s an obvious stoner. He can get pretty paranoid about stuff sometimes, but he’s mostly laid-back and good-natured. He occupies 90% of his time chilling, eating, wanting to eat, thinking about things he can eat and how to access things he can eat, and sleeping. The other 10% of his time he is either doing something he thinks is really fun or trying to get out of doing something he doesn’t think is very fun. 

His whole family is like that. Even though they’re directly related to Secretariat, the most famous racehorse of the twentieth century, none of them were very successful at the racetrack because they’re just too friendly and don’t have a strong competitive drive. But they make the most incredible, large-hearted companions and will do anything they are physically capable of doing if they’re called upon to do so. And they’re smart, and they think a lot, and they always look for new tricks to learn and new ways to entertain themselves. 

People say horses are stupid. All I know is, I haven’t lived at home for seven years, and this horse still calls out to me whenever I set foot on the property.