Aug 07

Talking about harassment at work

Just so everyone knows, I started a new job at the prison as a Corrections Officer (CO). It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that the overwhelming majority of new trainees are men. Even more so that there are even fewer women CO’s that have been there for a long time. I won’t say it is in the hiring though. Right now they are hiring all the fresh bodies they can get. Much the gender gap is in the recruiting and the perceptions that CO is a “man’s job.”

But the retention of competent females is another thing all together. I bet part of it has something to do with the story a woman CO told us as a class yesterday. The story tells of her own harassment in one particular area at the prison. The basics boiled down to men CO’s making sexually explicit jokes pointed at her and in front of the inmates. That last bit is important. The other CO’s were making the offensive and harassing jokes in front of inmates, some of whom are guaranteed to be looking for exploitative opportunities. One time that someone violates a boundary to that degree in such a dangerous manner is inexcusable. However, the jokes and harassment continued after she requested they stop.

She went to her superiors and asked to move and explained why. She specifically did not want to file a sexual harassment report about it but didn’t not want to be in the same department with people who were hurting her. She was moved as requested and nothing happened to her harassers (not that I am sure anything could have happened without her request).

All would have been fine if the woman telling the story had stopped there. Everyone in the room could have imagined her reasons for not reporting officially her harassment. But she didn’t stop. Instead she proceeded to recommend to the few women and sea of men that women think twice before officially reporting their harassment. Her reasoning was clear. That anyone who brings in outside help in handling their harassment, risks being ostracized from the group. That “everyone will treat” us “different” if we don’t handle this under the table. That our coworkers will be afraid to cut up and be friendly.

She basically told us not to report our harassment. She basically told us to run from it and do what she did so we won’t be friendless. She basically said let the next woman who works in that department handle it.

The funny thing is  that probably everyone knows that last damaging nugget of info she chose to share. As women many of us have always had to navigate the very narrow corridor of what is considered the “proper way” to handle such things. Most of us women don’t report, know how much we risk by reporting. Most of us women don’t need another reason to hide our harassment.

We need a reason to bring it to daylight.

This is an especially pertinent topic right now in the atheist/skeptic movement. People in our movement have far too long been stifled, silenced by all the reasons to “keep quiet.” The status quo fighters have done their duty in hiding harassment from the delicate eyes of everyone else. Now however, women and men in this movement are speaking out about this. One person risking it all and giving her peers a reason to talk was enough to start a mini chain-reaction.

I wish the woman teaching us yesterday would have been like like you all who are fighting harassment tooth and nail rather than passing it off to the next victim. I wish she would have at least said that she had our back in however we choose to handle our own harassment.

Aug 01

Suicide as a tool

This one requires a trigger warning about suicide. I have suicidal ideations. You can read some of my thoughts on suicide here. I wanted to talk more about this today since this seems to be a hot button discussion recently. I have thoughts and I want to get them out.

I think about suicide on most days. I consider myself committing suicide in such a variety of ways. But it is all the time. Sometimes it is worse. I don’t just think about it. Sometimes suicide isn’t just a crutch. Sometimes it is an urge. A drive. A desire. At those times I want to talk about it. I usually do talk about it. Unsurprisingly though the urge springs up at the worst times. When things are bad in life. The various stresses that cause fights to arrive in the family are also triggers for urges to commit suicide.

And that’s when I am afraid.

I can’t just talk about it. Then I am manipulating. I know it. I feel that dirty feeling deep inside my core. That sensation that I am a fucking horrible human being. Those are the times that I end up holding on to knives in the bathroom. Or the times that I punch myself in the legs till the pain makes my head less swimmy. Bite my knuckles till I can’t think of anything else but the sensation I feel.

The anxiety I feel when talking about my suicide when I most need to talk about it is the worst. Sometimes I still talk about it. Sometimes I don’t. I get to a certain point and I have no choice. Talk or risk.

I say all this because I am absolutely terrified that every time I talk about suicide I am using it as a weapon. I am terrified that the fact that I can think about it this much even when I want to kill myself means that I am definitely manipulating those I love.  I am absolutely terrified I am the horrible person in my head.

But my sane self. The one who checks up one me and shares the rumination capacity of my crazy self, is there to remind me that this is always in my head. Suicide isn’t just there as a tool for manipulation. No suicide is real and present even when there is nothing and no one thing making me sad. Those are the times I need to remember when I need to talk about my thoughts.

That was a lot of rambling for the point I am going to get to next.

I am not the only one who does this, who deals with suicidal thoughts and fears talking about them because talking about it means you drag everyone else into your own horrible web of manipulation. A lot of people experience these thoughts and feels.

So keeping that in mind, accusing someone of using suicide to manipulate is a dangerous thing. Maybe they are using against others. Doesn’t mean they don’t internally struggle with the pain of doing so. I kinda don’t care if a person has a history of manipulation.  I have “friends” like that. For them I don’t vest myself emotionally too much, but I would never accuse them of rigging the game.

I’ve only had one time where I confronted someone with their own threat of suicide. It was direct. It was public. That time took it to a whole new level of wrong. That time the person attempted to cause harm and did cause harm with their words. Even then my confrontation was such that I merely gave him outs from that which was causing him difficulty and explained the unfairness of his accusations.

And yes there are those who abuse through manipulation. But they don’t do it once. It isn’t an isolated incident. The threats aren’t “I can’t handle the deck life has handed me” but rather “I am going to kill myself if you don’t fix this.” There is a difference. It is surprisingly clear to an outsider even if it isn’t clear to the victim.

Maybe that was a longish point after all. Suicidal brains are tricky. They prey on our vulnerabilities. They make us shut up when we want to talk and visa versa. They convince us to do the thing we fear slightly less than what we fear the most.

I hope that people consider a little more the risk we play when we accuse someone of manipulating through suicide. Publicly no less. I am not saying that horrible people shouldn’t be held accountable for their horribleness. I just don’t think that questioning the validity of their depression, their suicidal ideations, is in anyway helpful to the person or the further reaching audience of your public post.

I don’t know if I have a good solution with all this but rather to ask people to try to be a bit more empathetic. Even to our enemies. Certainly to our friends and admirers.

This isn’t one of those “I know something” posts. So tell me your thoughts. Help me weigh the risks of pointing out perceived manipulation.

 

 

Aug 01

Equal

Today my instructor at the prison said that he didn’t like the term minority as he saw everyone as equal. I thought about it for all of a second and proceeded to write this tidbit down.

The fact that we see a disparity between PoC inmates and PoC employee makes it obvious that we engage in systemic, damaging, cultural discrimination against PoC. To say that you can’t see color or that everyone is equal is a lie. We all see color. By choosing to ignore it under the guise of proclaimed equality is to perpetuate injustice against PoC.

It was a short thought but immediate reaction my part.

Internet, you’ve taught me well. Thanks.

Jun 07

Absurdist humor and rape culture

I’ve seen it called absurdist humor. The idea that rape is funny because it is unthinkable. I’ve believed it myself. Told jokes like “what’s better than twenty-six year old’s? Twenty six year old’s.” As a victim of child rape myself, I might have even found it cathartic at times. Laughing at the sheer wrongness of it. But that was an younger me and the older me tries to remember that my views on absurdity are not reflected in the culture I live in.

Absurdist humor works best if the subject is actually absurd. If the subject is universally (within its complete audience) considered unthinkable.

Rape isn’t absurd. People like to rape. People even like to videotape themselves raping others and displaying it for the world to see.

Rape is a reality for many, many MANY people. In all likelihood someone hearing your rape joke is either a victim or a rapist. Maybe a potential rapist,  or an eventual victim. Chances are your joke about banging the passed out neighbor is going to influence your audience. If not the rapists listening then likely the victims into believing it was their fault.

The question is do you care? Are cheap laughs worth hurting others to you? Obviously some people think the cost is minimal when they knowingly encourage others to assault women on video for the world to laugh at. When they stand on stage and repeatedly brag about their prowess as a rapist pressuring the audience to see them as both protagonist and rapist. When they video tape themselves making horrifying jokes about how dead and raped a teen girl is.

All the above examples are of people just trying to be funny. Just trying to make people laugh. Recently we’ve seen Jim Norton attempt to defend people’s rights to rape humor* as long as the intent is to make others laugh. And don’t think for a second these jokes were unsuccessful to their target audience.

But who’s laughing at these jokes though? If you’re lucky, everyone is like me laughing at perceived absurdity. More likely, a portion of every comedy audience is willing to participate in sexual assault because they think violating others is hilarious.

And most importantly, while pandering to rapists, you may also be creating future rapists.

But do you care?

 

*as if targeting advertisers is somehow stripping someone of their rights to to create bad jokes

Apr 18

Being fufilled

So I read this post tonight and rather than comment over at Salon I decided to write up my own post about it.

A little background is that Cary writes an advice column and he attempted to answer a bisexual woman’s question a couple of weeks ago. She is engaged and loves her fiance but feels she has:

barely had any sexual experience with women (or anyone else for that matter)

Cary attempts to answer the question by first musing on how much better everything would be if plural marriages were legally sanctioned. I have to agree. Allowing citizens to marry all the people they love is a desirable outcome. However, he doesn’t present this as just a wonderful solution to this woman’s desires for more experience. Instead he presents poly, and poly marriages as the solution for the bisexual conundrum.

We are that confusing.

It isn’t surprising that his post came under heavy criticism (mostly for being completely clueless). It isn’t surprising that he felt the pressure to apologize. Obviously he said something wrong but he doesn’t know what he said wrong:

I want to be kind and I want to be fair and want to admit that I can make mistakes. I hurt some people and I am sorry. I erred in not speaking to enough bisexual people to understand the sensitivity of the issue. I got swept away in the pure logic of it. For that I am sorry.

If you are wondering what getting “swept up in the pure logic of it” means, you probably won’t be surprised. Cary falls for one of the most common misconceptions about bisexuality there is:

If you are bisexual, you cannot be fulfilled by just one person, right? Because one person cannot be two genders, right? *

or further explained in the “apology”:

I am for maximum human freedom under the law. If being lesbian means one wants the right to be partners with women, and being gay means one wants the right to be partners with men, what does being bisexual mean if not that one wants the right to be partners with both sexes? Does that mean just one at a time? Doesn’t that mean either serially or concurrently as one chooses? Is there an unspoken rule there that says not concurrently but only serially? I am just looking at the logic of it.*

I am the conformation of that stereotype. I am both bi and poly. A bi-slut or someone who wants her cake and eat it too. I give zero fucks what you call me because my personal confirmation of the stereotype doesn’t matter. In fact three years ago I wouldn’t have fit into this nice little heuristic that makes thinking about bisexuals a little easier (would fit neatly into a invisibling heuristic though).

What would you have called me then? Confusing probably.

I get it thinking about us, putting yourselves into our shoes, is hard work. I am here to make it a little easier for you. To give you, Cary and everyone else who finds this all too perplexing, some help.

Let’s say I am only attracted to women and we will specify cis or trans women. Let’s just say I harbor an affinity for redheads with green eyes, but I’ve dated, been turned on by, and loved women with red, blond, black and brunette hair and all manners of eye colors. Is it confusing at all that I have married someone with brunette hair and have absolutely zero interest in finding a red haired women to completely fulfill all my attractions?

What about you Cary? Are you attracted to tall and short people? Are you bisexual if the poles of sexuality are deemed to be “can have children” or “cannot have children.” Could you be attracted to both and never feel the need to have both?

For a long time I felt attraction to men and women. I have felt attraction to people who are trans, who are cis, who are non-binary. I have felt attraction to people of multiple body types, hair styles and colors, multiple races, speak different languages, have different cultural backgrounds than me.

For a long time I only loved one person. In the past couple years, that number has grown to two. Not because I needed one woman and one man to complete the set. Instead I found that I loved both enough to work for both.

This isn’t that hard.

*Cary does some conflating of gender and sex here and it is important to note that they are not the same thing. For my purposes, I think marriage rights should have protections for gender as well as sex and of course poly.

Edited to fix name mistake

 

Apr 16

Oh hai guiz

If the last two posts are any indication, I would like to start writing again. I work a lot anymore, and I highly doubt things will show up everyday. I want to write though. I think about writing a lot then get defeated and hopeless, and I never get it done. That is kind of what throwing yesterday’s post up was about. I figure that if the world if too much for me to critique for awhile, I will focus on writing something a bit more exciting. Maybe I won’t burn out. Maybe my readers won’t either. Anyways is good to be back and I hope to get lots of feedback on the smut pieces. I would love to turn them into stories one day.

Apr 15

Quiet: a smut scene

I am putting this after a jump so readers can skip if they prefer

Continue reading “Quiet: a smut scene” »

Apr 14

Today my daughter touched a sturgeon

I think she might have touched one once before, but it is always a negotiation when we go to the aquarium. The water is cold. The sturgeons look scary, like they might bite. After many pleas on our part, and demonstrations of her brother letting his two fingers slide across the backs of harmless fish, she still won’t budge. Off we go to see the turtles.

Today, without even the question on our part her hand went in the tank and she waited for a sturgeon to pass. It took a few tries with the stubborn fish swimming out of her reach, but she was patient, determined. Finally, for the first time in her life, she wasn’t scared anymore.

What changed this time? I think it was the girl, a bit younger than she, with hands already in the tank, excited every time her hands reached one. I think seeing this girl, not too far from her own age and without fear, allowed her to overcome her own trepidation. I think that seeing her brother touch the sturgeons wasn’t enough, just like seeing boys her age or girls much older wasn’t enough.

I think she needed a little girl, just like herself, to show her trying this big, new, scary thing wasn’t so bad.

So I thanked the mother for letting her daughter try big, new, scary things. I thanked her because I’ve watched mothers keep their daughters away from those same big, new, scary things. I thanked her because I know how much easier she made the path for little W.

I thanked her because little girls, like grown women, who are unafraid to carve the path to big, new, scary things are a tremendous girt to us all.

Jan 09

Pageants and my personal sexist behavior

When my daughter was right around a year old I entered her into her first baby pageant. I think I took her more than anything to show her off. Little W is/was adorable after all.  I was kind of grateful that she didn’t win. I didn’t want an excuse to come back. Even then, I dreaded the decision then as much as I regret the decision today. I want to talk about why.

1) Equality. I didn’t enter my son to a similar pageant when he was a baby. All my talk about sexism, equality, and gender roles, at the end of the day I never thought once about entering my equally adorable son.*

2) Makeup. I hate it. Somewhere in my teen years I noticed the ritualized obsession my friends and parents would apply a coating to their face. Makeup wasn’t a hobby. It was an obligation. I saw the obligation starting in babies and I was horrified.

3) Disappointment. As a rule, babies don’t feel disappointment when they lose a competition. They don’t even know they are competing, so there is no doubt that the disappointment I saw in parents was not mirrored child tears. These parents were actually sad their sons and daughters did not win an arbitrary contest of beauty that at least fifty babies (all adorable) competed in.

4) Obsession. Now this one is not limited to pageants. Parents obsess over making their kids winners in all sorts of ways that are otherwise healthy competitions. The pageant circuit though has obsession in droves. To the effect that body modifications, extreme diets, and costly dresses (often worn once) are the norm rather than the exception.

Pageants do little more than reinforce the idea that children have to be something they are not naturally to be seen as beautiful. While I am less bitter about adult pageants, I actually abhor forcing this on children. It is cruel at its worst, and sexist at its best. Childhood beauty pageants aren’t healthy competition.

They are gender policing, normative conditioning monsters

Which is why I never took my daughter back.

*A decision I don’t think I would make today. People change. Even their own sexist behaviors.

Jan 04

I didn’t learn how to be poly

When I was discovering this poly side of myself. Jarreg directed me to poly forums. Sometimes the best and the worst thing you can do is to find people experiencing the same thing as you. The stories, successes sprinkled among failures (cause let me tell you much “new poly” fails) become tiny rays of sunshine in a tragic world. Sometimes you are doomed. Sometimes this can work. Absolute roller coaster.

The worst part is that you try, and try, and try to find someone Just Like You.

It is a snipe hunt. Sisyphean. Relentless, in that the fruit of similarities are always dangled just outside your grasp.

“This couple has been together ten years just like us. Oh but he said he wanted more partners. I just want one.”

“This guy is mono like my husband. Oh but she just wants a tertiary. I want two primaries.”

“This person fits. Falls in love with someone else while in a long term relationship. Wants two primaries. Husband struggling but managing. Girlfriend is patient as well….Damn. That one’s not me either. They don’t want to live together.”

And the giant stone you”ve been laboring up inches at a time rolls back down the hill just before you hit the peak.

I say this not to dismiss the role or forums and support groups and thematic social circles. They have a role, and truthfully, poly forums did help me. I learned a lot of new terms. I learned some of the science behind attraction. i learned to recognize more and more of the woo behind attraction. I learned some communication skills.

I didn’t learn how to be poly.

It was what I was searching for. I wanted a Guidebook for Poly in the Lives of Willo, Jarreg, and Nissa. I wanted to know that the end of the book was going to be successful. I wanted certainty and I found none. I only found people with similar struggles, similar fears, and similar hopes.

Instead, I learned there is no right, one, or true way to be poly. Funny enough, you hear that mantra every few seconds in the forums. Veterans, for the most part, know it well. Like good-parents they advise with caveats certain only in their lack of certainty. Somehow, their warning gets ignored every.single.time.

Probably because most new poly folk like myself are looking for the same thing. They are looking for more than hope they aren’t freaks (that is easy enough to find). They are looking for more than how to organize dates with multiple people. They are looking for more than how to tell their kids about the girlfriend.

They, we, are hoping that our vision. Our image. The way we see our future is a possibility. We are looking for a ray of sunshine that tells us that poly isn’t a death sentence. That love, true and absolute love, is a possibility.

And no amount of poly stories will give us that. It is something we have to discover on our own.

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