Spock Feelings

27 Feb

I was wandering around the art gallery during my lunch break when a message buzzed through on my phone. I saw that it was from my friend Audra, and expected it to be a continuation of an earlier discussion about bullying. Instead, it said:

“Oh no Leonard Nimoy died!”

I stared crying. I tried to be secretive about it, breathing deeply and casually wiping the corners of my eyes over and over like not-crying people just casually do. The cry was rebellious, though. It wasn’t going to be a secret cry. It was going to be a cascading-over-my-lower-lashes, messy-eyeliner-splashing, tidal wave of a cry. There wasn’t a washroom in sight, so I sat down on a bench and tried to sob quietly until the worst of it had passed.

A security guard came over and asked me what was wrong. Probably she thought my house had burned down or my dog had been run over.

I told her that Leonard Nimoy had died, hyper-aware of how snotty and disgusting my face was. The security guard looked confused and medium-sad; she offered to get me a kleenex, which is probably the best that I could have expected given the circumstances.

Now I’m sitting in a coffee shop, scrolling through twitter and stewing in my feelings. I’m having a lot of feelings. Some of them are Nimoy-feelings – my love of his Full Body Project, my admiration for the fact that he advocated for equal pay for Nichelle Nichols – but, to be honest, most of them as Spock-feelings.

Spock was a magnificent misfit, even beyond the realm of the human crew of the Enterprise (and the very human-centric Federation). To Vulcans, he seemed wildly emotional; to humans, he seemed cold and rational. He was heartbreakingly too much of both to ever be either; no matter where he went, his features, actions and general manner marked him as alien.

The son of the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation, Sarek, and a human lady who dressed like she was some kind of artist, Spock grew up on his father’s home planet. He spent a good chunk of his childhood getting the shit bullied out of him by Vulcan kids with Draco Malfoy-eqsue levels of obsession with blood purity. Spock had to work twice as hard as anyone else just to be considered half as good, but eventually he gained entry to the Vulcan Science Academy.

And then.

And then.

And then it turned out that all along Spock had been playing the long game, and when they finally told him he was Vulcan enough to go to their school, he flipped everyone off (including and especially his dad) and was like, “Fuck all of you, I’m going to Starfleet Academy.”

This was, without a hint of hyperbole, literally the most illogically rebellious thing anyone had ever done in all the history of Vulcan.

Spock presumably had a somewhat easier time as a Starfleet cadet, but he still didn’t really have any friends. I mean, he had classmates who respected and feared him, and professors who envied his intellect, but no actual friends. Just a bunch of people whose idea of a good time was to get drunk and try to provoke some kind of emotion in Spock.

Then he joined the crew of the Enterprise and even though he was still totally weird everyone was cool about it.* He just did his thing, and didn’t try to be extra Vulcan or extra human or whatever. He was just himself, and his colleagues were more like his cool space family than anyone else. Especially Kirk. I mean, the entirety of Star Trek is basically the story of those two beautiful bros exploring the universe together and at the same time learning about each other’s adorable eccentricities.

And every time some alien conflict would come up, Kirk would be like, “Hey, let’s fight these guys,” Spock would be all, “No, let’s chill and hug it out. Except don’t hug me. I hate hugging.” The kicker? Every time Spock would be right.

Spock was just like this high-cheeked, slant-eyebrowed space wizard travelling around and teaching people to talk things through.

Also every seven years he had to have ritual sex or else he’d die, but I mean. That’s another kettle of fish.

Here’s the thing: Spock is every weird kid who grew up feeling like they were incompatible with the world around them. He’s every kid who was teased, or bullied, or had the shit kicked out of them for being different. And then he grew up and found people who loved him exactly for who he was.

I know that it’s weird to be sad about Spock right now, because Spock isn’t dead. I mean, for one thing, he’s a fictional character. Second of all, he’s not even going to be born for another 215 years. Thirdly, Zachary Quinto makes an extremely babely Spock, so no complaints in that department. But still.

I can’t help but wonder how much of himself Nimoy infused into the character of Spock. As the child of Jewish immigrant parents growing up in Boston during the second world war, I’m sure that there were times when Nimoy very much felt himself to be between cultural worlds. And I can’t help but wondering if he also experienced some kind of bullying or social isolation as a kid. So maybe mourning Spock is a way of mourning Nimoy. Or maybe I’m mourning them both. I don’t know.

I just know that I have a lot of feelings right now that and I’m not sure what to do with them.

Farewell, you beautiful bro. You’re finally on your way to exploring those strange new worlds. I hope they’re wonderful.

spock_smile

*Except Bones, but Bones was a bag of dicks and doesn’t count

Guest Post: On Being a Trans Woman and Crossing the Bathroom Line

20 Feb

By Xeph Kalma

I don’t work for a big company. It’s tech, and it’s a small office, and everyone knows each other. The people are generally kind, I guess, and frankly, I mostly feel like I should just be so gosh darn happy to even have a job me that I shouldn’t have any problems with the situation there.

I tell myself that I should just deal with the constant microaggressions, the misgendering, the fact that no one speaks to me unless they have to; I should get used to the fact that I basically get treated like garbage there, because HEY, LET’S BE REAL. As a trans woman of colour, I am literally super, duper, lucky I have a job. Not kidding. Look at the stats. Probably the only reason I’m employed right now is because I started transitioning while at this company.

So I guess what I really mean is that I’m lucky I haven’t been fired yet.

How fucked up is it to say that I, a professional of 10 odd years, I feel sincerely, honestly, lucky to be considered employable? But that’s the honest truth for me and other trans women of colour; our lives are so precarious that it seems like anything and everything could be taken away in a hot second.

Before coming out/while presenting as male, I had no problems finding work. I spent seven years working in South Korea, then came back to Canada and worked for several more. Whenever I left a job, I was always able to find something new, and quickly. I’m good at what I do.

So when I took out a bank loan, I didn’t really think twice about it. I mean, I was always going to have a job, right? So I didn’t worry about not being able to pay it back.

But now pretty much all I think about is the possibility of losing my job, and the huge challenges I would face if I had to find another one.

You might be wondering how I could lose my job – especially if I’m as talented and hard-working as I say. But here’s the thing: while talented and hard-working helped keep me safe when I presented as male, they don’t mean much now that I’m out as trans. Since I started transitioning, nothing I do seems to make my boss happy. I told myself I’d just keep my head down, nose to the grindstone, and hopefully go unnoticed. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped; I’m the trans elephant in the room. Even if no talks to me anymore, everyone still notices me.

I told myself, “Just get work hard and get it done. Be true to yourself, carry on with transitioning, work hard.”

I’ve tried to do these things.

But recently I’ve crossed a line.

You see, with all the work I’ve done in transitioning, things started to get really weird in the men’s washroom at work. My co-workers never said anything, but our office is in a complex, and the bathrooms are shared. I began feeling very unsafe in the bathroom whenever there someone else was in there. I started to become very acutely aware of when other people were using the washroom; I trained my ears to the sound of people going and out, so I could use it while it was empty.

Sometimes people would be in there longer than I thought possible, or I would get trapped in the stall for longer than I thought possible because I would wait until the space was empty before quickly washing my hands, drying, and getting the hell out of there. It was torturous, but I felt like listening to these dudes take a ten minute shit was better, easier, than them knowing that, I, just being me, was in there with them.

I worked this bathroom system for months, a huge slice of my time at work taken up by watching, waiting, listening, waiting, worrying about getting “caught,” whatever “caught” mean. Then a friend let me know that due to where I was at in my transition and living in Ontario, I could go change my legal gender marker. It felt like the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought that it I presented a legal document to our human resources department, then things would have to change. So I let my employers and workmates know that I had applied for this document. I let them know that I would be using the woman’s washroom and asked them to start using my preferred pronouns (she/her/hers). I asked human resources to help ease everyone into it; I wanted this to be as smooth for everyone as possible.

I asked human resources to tell my officemates I’m legally a woman.

I thought, “This will be easy.”

Which brings us to now.

It’s been over a month getting this legal document declaring my gender to be female, I still get misgendered 100% of the time at work. Everyone – literally everyone – in office is aware that I identify as a woman. They just don’t acknowledge it.

I’ve started using the women’s washroom.

My ears still acutely listen to doors opening and closing, and I end up hiding in stalls until people are done what they’re doing. I’ve noticed the two cis women in my office doing the same thing; they don’t want to run into me either.

I mean, god forbid, I may be taking a minute to enjoy looking at myself in the mirror and being proud of what I’ve accomplished. I might be fixing my makeup.

And just to be clear: I am, and I do.

But the fact that others have changed their habits because they’re scared to see me in the washroom hurts. It hurts to be treated if I’m not a woman, or not even human for that matter. But what strangely hurts the most is that I seriously, actually, believed that a different letter on my ID would change something.

So I’m worried about losing my job. They can’t legally fire me for using the women’s washroom, but there are other ways, you know? Totally legal ways to get rid of me and make it look like it wasn’t discrimination. These thoughts colour my every action and interaction at work; I’m always on my guard.

That’s what it’s like to be the only trans person in the office, I guess.

I just want cis folk to know something. If you’re cis, I want you to read the following, digest it, try to understand it:

If you ever run into someone who might not visually match the gender of the washroom you’ve found them in, just chill. They are probably way, way, way more scared of you, than you of them. Scared of losing their job, scared of not being able to find employment again, scared of losing housing, scared of having to even look someone in the eye/talk to them. Don’t say anything; just leave us be. We’ll be on our way in no time.

Chances are, especially if we’re alone, we didn’t even want you to find us there.

10991067_10152581276771583_8032961374066055258_n

Xeph, while mainly being of this world, has spent a large amount of time occupying space in others, and hopes she brought back the best aspects of those other places with her. She’s now committed to somehow, possibly, making this world a better space. She has a background in Earthly psychology and tech, and spent many years passing on communication skills to others. One of the main things she’s learned is, animals are better than people.

Suicidal Student Kicked Out Of Dorm Because He Might Negatively Impact Other Students

10 Feb

TW: talk of suicide

Imagine this: a student living in a university residence contacts his Residence Life don. He has fallen and injured himself, and there is blood everywhere. He is afraid he might die. He needs help.

Surely in this scenario the don would seek immediate assistance for the student. They would bring him to a clinic or perhaps a hospital. Once the student had recovered, they would welcome him back to residence – maybe even put up a banner or throw a little party.

Certainly the student would not be asked to leave the residence.

Yet recently when a similar situation happened at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the student in question, Blake Robert, was told to pack his bags and get out.

The difference is that in the real-life version of this story, Robert wasn’t physically sick or injured. Instead, he was depressed and struggling with suicidal ideation. After reaching out to his Residence Life don, Robert was told that he could no longer remain in student housing because he was “a threat” to other students. He was told that if he were to die on campus, it would have a “negative impact on the psychological well-being of other students in residence.”

As he put it so succinctly in his article for Acadia’s student newspaper, Robert was basically being told to go die somewhere else.

Normally I don’t like to compare physical ailments with mental health issues, mostly because I feel like doing so often validates the exact position that it’s trying to deconstruct – namely, that we still live in a society that considers physical injuries or illnesses to somehow be more real and more worthy of time and attention than mental illness. I don’t want people to accept my mental health struggles because they’re pretending it’s the same as me having diabetes – I want folks to accept that I’m struggling with something that is scary and occasionally makes me want to die and is in fact nothing like diabetes. However, in this case I think examining an institution’s reaction to a mental health crisis versus how it would likely react to a different type of health crisis is fair; doing so shows the clear stigma and lack of understanding that still persist when it comes to mental illness.

The bald facts are that had Robert contacted his Residence Life don about a broken leg or the stomach flu or a bout of pneumonia, he would have been given prompt medical attention and no one would have breathed a word about him leaving student housing. Instead, the don spoke to him in person, set up an appointment for him with student counselling, and then two days later was part of a team of people telling Robert that he needed to leave because he wasn’t “safe” in residence. Apparently the best way to ensure someone’s safety is to remove them from their support network without any plan or offers of assistance. No wonder Robert felt as if he was being sent off campus to die; he was basically being told that the university wanted him to go to a place where he was no longer their problem.

At no point did anyone take Robert to the university health clinic or the hospital.

At no point was he given the chance to advocate for himself.

Instead, Robert was subjected to a disciplinary meeting where he was told that he might perhaps be allowed back into residence in September, if he was healthy enough. He was told that the Residence Life manager’s word was final; there was no chance for appeal. The Residence Life manager said to Robert that Residence Life dons are essentially like “landlords” and can’t be expected to care for students with mental health issues. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that an actual landlord wouldn’t be able to evict a tenant because of mental illness.

Says Robert:

“… Had I actually broken clearly expressed rules, or otherwise willingly threatened the safety of other students, I would have been afforded due process through Non-Academic Judicial, perhaps involving the RCMP. But suffering from a life-threatening mental illness is apparently seen as such an egregious crime and so dangerous that Student Services’ executive director, in charge of counselling, accessibility services, Residence Life, etc., found it acceptable that I was promptly ejected from campus without warning.

Just let that sink in – a student accused of committing a crime would likely have found themselves in a safer position than Robert did.

A student with pretty much any type of physical illness would have been offered some kind of care.

Instead, Robert was treated as if he was worse than a criminal.

Imagine being in a place that is so dark and frightening that you are sure the only way out is to die. Imagine being in that place and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share how you feel with someone else. Now imagine that this person’s response is to tell you to get the hell out before you scare anyone. Imagine that, unlike Robert, you don’t have parents who live less than an hour away and can come pick you up. Where do you go? What do you do? And more to the point how is any of this supposed to alleviate what you’re feeling?

Sadly, Robert’s case is not uncommon – a similar story came out of Yale last year, and the psychiatrist Robert later saw at a local hospital said that universities often deal with suicidal students in this way. This is the lived reality for people living with mental illness – you’re sick, you’re so fucking sick that you might die, but don’t you dare tell anyone about it. Even the people who are supposed to help you are just as likely to hurt you.

I am so angry right now. I am angry and sad that this shit is still happening and huge institutions like universities are getting away with it.

This is why people don’t disclose mental illness. This is why people don’t ask for help. This is why people suffer and sometimes die without ever saying a word. This. This. This.

Where the hell are Bell Let’s Talk and “end the stigma” all that other feel-good bullshit when stuff like this happens?

gd240706acadia2

 

 

 

 

 

Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, But That’s Not The Point. Stop Being Ableist.

5 Feb

Here are some typical arguments put forward by parents who choose not to vaccinate their otherwise healthy child (by “healthy” I mean there are no medical reasons for the child to be exempted from vaccination).

For this example, I will pull quotes directly from a recent New York Times Article, Vaccine Critics Turn Defensive Over Measles:

‘“It’s the worst shot,” [Missy Foster, mother to an 18 month old daughter] said, with tears in her eyes. “Do you want to wake up one morning and the light is gone from her eyes with autism or something?”’

and

‘Kelly McMenimen, a Lagunitas parent, said she “meditated on it a lot” before deciding not to vaccinate her son Tobias, 8, against even “deadly or deforming diseases.” She said she did not want “so many toxins” entering the slender body of a bright-eyed boy who loves math and geography.’

You’ll notice a common theme in these defences – the brightness of or light in their children’s eyes. This is a direct reference to Jenny McCarthy’s narrative of the “light” leaving her son’s eyes after he was vaccinated. It’s used by parents who don’t want to say the word “autism” but want to imply that they’re scared their kid will become autistic (or something similar).

Here’s what McCarthy said to Oprah in 2007:

“Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, ‘I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something,’ and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot,” she says. “And I remember going, ‘Oh, God, I hope he’s right.’ And soon thereafter—boom—the soul’s gone from his eyes.”

Now consider the standard response from vaccine advocates to stuff like this – it’s always, without fail, “Vaccines don’t cause autism.”

Because they don’t, right? They absolutely, scientifically do not cause autism. That’s a solid fact.

But here’s what everyone gets wrong: regardless of whether or not vaccines cause autism, our entire conversation surrounding them is completely ableist.

When those in the anti-vaccination movement treat autism as a calamity far worse than a debilitating disease or death, that is ableism. What we also need to recognize is that every time we respond to fear-mongering about vaccines and autism with the words, “don’t worry, vaccines don’t cause autism,” that is also ableist. Because instead of pointing out that, hey, autism and neurodiversity are far from the worst things that could happen to a parent, “vaccines don’t cause autism” falls into the same narrative as “vaccines cause autism” – both suggest that autism is this boogeyman that lives under our kids’ beds that could strike at any time.

Even though telling people that vaccines don’t autism is factual, the way in which it’s said only validates people’s negative view of autism.

Says Allison Garber, an autism activist whose most recent claim to fame is being blocked by Jenny McCarthy on Twitter, “The language from both sides of the vaccine camps is definitively ableist. What’s even more jarring is that neither side seems to ever want to invite someone who is, you know, actually autistic to the party. I guess that’s because it would be awkward if they were actually in the room when we were all talking about how somebody’s neurological makeup is a tragedy to be feared and avoided at all costs.”

Instead of reassuring parents that vaccines don’t cause autism (which, again: factually true), why don’t we start refuting anti-vaccination advocates with the fact that autism isn’t a catastrophe. Why not start sending them links to blogs and articles written by people who actually have autism. Why not say something like, “it’s been proven that there’s no link between vaccines and autism, but I think it would be great for you to re-evaluate why you think so negatively of autism.”

And for the love of Pete can we please stop talking about how autistic people have no light in their eyes or no soul or whatever. First of all, you’re confusing vampirism with autism. Second of all, how can you talk about real, living people like that? Would you tell Temple Grandin to her face that the “light” (whatever that even means) is missing from her eyes? If you went to a book reading by John Robison, would you greet him afterwards with the words “So, what’s it like not having a soul? Do you still have a reflection? Can you eat garlic? Do you sleep in a coffin?”

Autistic people aren’t “gone.” Their brains function differently than neurotypical brains, which often leads to them becoming overwhelmed by outside stimuli in a way that other people might not. So, in a sense, they’re more present than many of us are – they’re bombarded by sights, sounds and smells that neurotypical people can ignore or dismiss. They are very much “here,” trying way harder than most to process what “here” is. So get out of here with your misinformed ideas about autistic people having no light in their eyes or no soul. Get out of here and maybe go meet an actual autistic person.

At the end of the day, words matter and how we talk about issues matters. And when those of us who believe it’s important for children to be vaccinated keep pulling out “but vaccines don’t cause autism” without following it up with some kind of explanation that also autism isn’t a tragedy, we need to consider the impact our words might have. Because of course the end goal is to vaccinate every child eligible for vaccination, but we don’t need to throw autistic people under the bus to accomplish that goal.

The debate about vaccination should be autism-inclusive, and that means re-evaluating the way we talk about autism and vaccines. Because while it’s great to raise a happy healthy kid, you can do that without turning them into an anti-autism bigot.

MMRvaccine

Jonathan Chait’s “Not A Very P.C. Thing To Say” In a Nutshell

27 Jan

Today in New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait discusses how hard it is to be a white man these days. In case you don’t have the time or moral energy to read his 5,000 word opus of angst, here’s a brief rundown.

1. If this article seems familiar, it’s because you’ve read it before. Not only that, but you’ve experienced it in various iterations both online and in real life. This article is that guy from the philosophy class you took ten years, the one who Kool-Aid mans his way into every Facebook discussion about feminism to tell you why he’s actually a humanist. This article is that sweaty, overbearing man at a party who corners you and aggressively questions you about socialism in what he thinks is a charming way, but when you try to respond to him he just talks over you. This article is every guy who thinks he’s the first one brave enough to ask if political correctness has just gone too far. This article is the Sad Progressive White Dude Manifesto.

You don’t even need to read the article. You already know what it’s going to say.

2. One time in the 90s there was a pretty fantastic-sounding art exhibit documenting the lives of sex workers. Some SWERFs tried to shut it down. This event that happened twenty years ago is very relevant to this essay because it shows how feminists are always trying to ruin people’s happy fun time parties.

Never mind that many feminists are sex worker-inclusive. Never mind that SWERF ideas are widely considered to be outdated and harmful. You don’t need to know any of that, because it’s not relevant to this essay.

3. Chait mentions both the #JeSuisCharlie and #JeNeSuisPasCharlie hashtags but conveniently forgets to mention #KillAllMuslims, because we’re not here to talk about the actual real-life consequences of posting offensive content, we’re just here to sound the oft-rung death knell of Free Speech.

4. Chait does not understand how trigger warnings work or what microaggressions are, but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like it when people use those terms.

Writes Chait:

At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma.”

And:

Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering.

Rather than understand how trauma works, or recognize that trigger warnings are, in fact, about giving people the choice when and where to engage with potentially upsetting content, Chait prefers to patronizingly pooh-pooh the whole idea. Instead of recognizing that most people use trigger warnings as a way to facilitate the “controlled exposure” to trauma experts recommend – because, again, trigger warnings give readers the choice to make sure that they are in a safe space and a healthy mindset before engaging with potentially triggering content – he prefers to believe that anyone who asks for a content warning is a mewling infant who should just get over it already.

How nice that Chait has never found any content upsetting enough to require a trigger warning; one supposes that makes him an expert on the subject.

5. Here are some complaints about microaggressions that Chait, your uncle who sometimes uses racial slurs when he drinks too much but it’s ok because he has a Black friend, is complaining about:

“Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students.”

Yes, it’s completely baffling why anyone of Indigenous ancestry would be upset by a “rock musical” (whose tagline is “history just got all sexypants”) about the man who tried to eradicate their people with a genocidal fervour. Gosh, kids these days are just so sensitive!

UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I.”

Because it’s not like literally every other culture and ethnic group is afforded a capital letter.

Because there’s no history of erasure of Indigenous people on this continent.

Because white academia has always been such a friendly and welcoming space to people of colour and as such deserves the benefit of the doubt, always.

A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas.”

There are so many reasons to boycott The Vagina Monologues – transphobia is only one of them. Instead of weeping that an outdated and non-inclusive play is no longer being staged, why not encourage people to write something better?

6. Chait – who is literally milking the cash cow of “HAS OUR CULTURE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE TOO FAR????” – thinks that creating content about racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc., is a total money-grab. How he, a white dude writing the billionth think-piece on People Are Too Sensitive These Days, does not see the irony in this statement is completely astounding.

7. Jonathan Chait is a white man, and he’s tired of you calling him out on his mansplaining. Why are you so mean to him? He’s not here to offend; he’s just trying to patiently explain how the real world works, sweetie.

Chait, in his five thousand word essay that appeared in a major publication, is tired of people using the term “mansplaining” to shut him down.

The truth is that these days men like Chait just don’t have access to enormous platforms from which to bleat their every thought and feeling.

Chait would like to sing you the song of his people, a keening lament about the plight of the Nice White Guy.

8. According to Chait, secret opt-in Facebook group that women are free to quit at any time is like a “virtual mental prison.” Much like a real-life prison, people are asked to be sensitive to each others’ feelings and if they can’t manage that are welcome to leave at their leisure. Feminism: it’s just like the Prison Industrial Complex but with more pictures of kittens.

Also if you are a woman sharing posts with a dude from what is supposed to be a safe space for women, I’m sorry but you are being shitty. You are not allowed in our clubhouse anymore.

9. Blah blah neo-Marxism blah correcting a misattributed Voltaire quote blah Chait is a smart dude who knows lots of big words blah

10. Writes Chait:

‘These ideas have more than theoretical power. Last March at University of ­California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.

Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.”’

I’m just going to put this out there: if you find yourself aligning with the anti-choice folks waving around signs with graphic images of aborted fetuses on them, it might be time to check yourself. You are not progressive. You are on the side of people who want to limit women’s rights. This is not an issue of free speech; the government was not trying to censor these protestors. This is an issue of one individual reacting to content that was meant to provoke and upset.

Do I think Miller-Young should have shoved one of the protestors? No. Do I think she has a right to go to work without looking at dead fetuses? Hell yeah I do. This isn’t censorship – this is human decency. Literally people should be able to walk around without having pictures of mangled fetuses shoved in their faces. Is that really so hard to understand.

And are we really arguing about “destruction of property” here? If that’s the case, I will happily mail five dollars to the Short sisters so that they can go buy another yardstick and print out some more dead fetus posters at Kinkos.

11. SCENE:

A DARK PIT

JONATHAN CHAIT, a Nice White Guy in a polo and casual slacks, kneels in a pile of rubble. His arms are raised imploringly to his captors, the FEMINIST CABAL. They poke him with sticks and cackle. It is basically MacBeth Redux, except the witches are more diverse.

JONATHAN CHAIT

Won’t you please argue with me?

FEMINIST CABAL

(Ignore him)

JONATHAN CHAIT

I said argue with me, damnit! I’m here in good faith!

FEMINIST CABAL

(laughs)

JONATHAN CHAIT

(howling into the darkness)

ARGUE WITH MEEEEE!!!

Suit-and-Tie-Shit-9-tux

If You Buy a Harry Potter Engagement Ring You Are Probably Awesome

22 Jan

A brief response to Kelly Conaboy’s post on Gawker, “If You Buy a Harry Potter Engagement Ring You Should Not Get Married“:

1. There are some very excellent reasons that people should not get married. They include such things as “the couple is too young to legally marry,” or “the couple believes marriage is an outdated patriarchal institution based on the premise that women are property,” or, especially, “the couple does not wish to get married.” However, nowhere on that list of reasons why two loving, consenting adults should not marry is “because they both like Harry Potter-themed jewellery.” No matter what your opinion of the oeuvre of J.K. Rowling, the fact that two grown-ass people who love each other also love her books does not mean they are somehow too immature to wed.

2. How about just being happy that people who share the same passions and interests have found each other and apparently delight in each other’s company? No one is making you, Kelly Conaboy, marry someone who likes to read intelligent social commentary disguised as fiction about teenage wizards. I fail to understand how it somehow impacts you that someone else who is completely separate from your life loves Quidditch enough to want to own this ring:

khazvs9wh3cuwe1p2qxa

3. I’m sorry, but no one who had to google the words “Golden Snitch” is fit to write about a ring that represents the Golden Snitch.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 9.11.10 PM

That’s like asking me, the person whose idea of haute cuisine is dumping a can of Campbell’s into a dented old pot, to write a column about cooking. Also, the fact that Conaboy twice implies that she didn’t know what a Golden Snitch was reeks  of performative ignorance.

We get it, Kelly, you are too cool and grownup for Harry Potter. Do you have any other points you wish to make.

4. Writes Conaboy:

‘Imagine this scenario: The adult female on whom you have spent the past seven years of your life takes you to the top of a mountain. She pulls out a ring. “Is that?” “Yes—the Golden Snitch,” she says. She has proposed to you with a ring you recognize as the smallest ball—the name of which both of you know—used in the broomstick game child wizard Harry Potter plays during his downtime. Two adults standing on top of a mountain with a ring from a series of young adult novels neither of whom were, even at the time of publishing, the correct age to read. A Harry Potter engagement ring.’

While I get that she’s trying to be pithy and clever, there are a few issues here.

First of all, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone was published in 1997. Assuming the “correct age” to read that book is the same age as the protagonists – eleven years old – those readers would now be 28, which is a decade above the legal marriageable age in most states and provinces.

Second of all, there is no correct age to read Harry Potter books because they are great books.

Third of all, while we’re imagining things, imagine this: EVERYONE MINDS THEIR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS AND DOESN’T POLICE WHAT KIND OF ENGAGEMENT RINGS CONSENTING ADULTS CHOOSE TO GIVE EACH OTHER. IS THAT ACTUALLY SO HARD.

If you need a refresher on the deep and complicated theory behind this last point, might I direct you to Nicole Cliffe’s fantastic piece On Subcultures. Specifically, you should read this part:

‘There are people who respond to other people having fun in ways that are alien to them with inexplicable rage and contempt. This is, honestly, one of the worst things you can do to yourself as a person of something resembling character. I kind of do it around things like Burning Man, which is silly. Obviously, if people really love Burning Man then they should just burn their little hearts out with great joy and abandon. And we should remember that other people probably feel this way about things we like. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, and you’ve ever tried to show someone an episode of Doctor Who, and it’s been a dismal failure, and they’ve tried to get YOU to align yourself with their vaguely snide amusement by saying things like “so, I assume the special effects are deliberately bad on purpose, right?” or “wait, how many of these have you SEEN?” or, worst of all “how does anyone stand the Doctor?” then you should know better. Perhaps the single greatest summation of this concept being “don’t yuck on someone else’s yums.”‘

Everyone likes different things. Some people like things you think are stupid or boring or pretentious – and you are entitled to that opinion! That being said, it’s pretty crummy to use your opinion as a way to make other people feel small. Also, your personal taste in books or television or leisure activities are not the official determinant of who’s allowed to get married.

6. I would be way, way more concerned about adults buying each other rings that reference something like Atlas Shrugged, a book that is purportedly for adults but, in my experience, is mostly beloved by neo-Libertarian fifteen year olds. But you know what? Even Ayn Rand fans need love (and jewellery) too.

Snitch_2

Now You Are Four

21 Jan

Dear Theo,

Saturday was your fourth birthday. You are four years old now. It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat those words to myself, that shit is still blowing my mind. You are four – in just a few months you will be starting what you refer to as “big kid school.” You’re practically in college, doing a double major in Kicking Ass and Taking Names.

I want to tell you a bit about who you are right now as a person. First of all, you are hilarious, often intentionally. You’ll play just about anything for a laugh, especially if you think it will get you out of trouble. You have the cheekiest grin I’ve ever seen. Best (or maybe worst) of all, you seem to have a preternatural gift for sarcasm. I often share your bon mots on Twitter and Facebook, and honestly, there are times when I’m pretty sure you’re more popular than I am.

You’re still the type of person who just rolls with whatever comes your way. We’ve had some pretty stressful times in our family this year, but you’ve been so happy-go-lucky through it all. Your daycare teacher mentioned a few months ago how remarkable it was that you always seem to be in a good mood, and it’s true – no matter what’s going on, no matter how little sleep you’ve had, your disposition is pretty much always sunny side up.

Speaking of sleep, I should probably mention that you still hate it. Your bedtime-delaying tactics are impressive – just another glass of milk, just another cuddle, you just need to tell me something, you don’t want your nightlight, no wait now you do want your nightlight, nope actually you don’t want your nightlight and you have to make two trips to give it to me because the first time you forgot to bring the charging cord that was still plugged into the wall. You also hate sleeping in your bed, and for some reason seem to prefer the floor – especially “the crack,” a space that you create by pulling your bed away from the wall.

Why did I waste my money on a bed, though

Why did I waste my money on a bed, though

One of the things I treasure the most about you is how compassionate and empathetic you are. You take the time to consider what other people are feeling; if someone is sick or hurt, you like to go check in on them to see how they’re doing. When you go to the park, you always like to bring two toys, so that you can share one if you happen to make a friend. If you’re eating something, you always like to offer everyone around you a taste. You have your moments of complete self-centredness of course – I mean, you’re only four after all – but in general you try to be aware of everyone else around you, and I love that.

This past year saw you gaining more awareness about social issues, both on larger and smaller scales. You came with me to the local Take Back the Night rally in the summer, and more recently we went to the Black Lives Matter protest. You accept the fact that girls can love girls and boys can love boys as a matter of course, and you’re better about trans issues than some of the grownups I know (“Mom, a boy can have a penis or a vagina, and a girl can have a vagina or a penis, right?”). We talk a lot about gender and race, and you’re very enthusiastic about the idea of equality. I’m excited to see what new social justice mountains we’ll scale this year.

Really into the whole "holding a fiery candle" thing at the Black Lives Matter protest

Really into the whole “holding a fiery candle” thing at the Black Lives Matter protest

Three was a big year for you in terms of milestones. For example, you finally learned how to use the toilet, much to the delight of everyone who has spent the past few years changing your diapers. You also weaned, quietly and very much on your own schedule, this past summer. You learned how to write your own name – both backwards and forwards, which I suspect means you are a witch – and you’re starting to sound out words. You still suck at drawing and have no interest in creating pictures of actual things, but hey, illustration isn’t for everyone I guess. You seem to prefer making sculptures, most of which are variations on the theme of “space shuttle.” You’re like the Claude Monet of space shuttles.

Your interests these days cover a spectrum from “emergency vehicles” all the way to “multicoloured anthropomorphic ponies.” You love doing puzzles – you’ll do the same one over and over until you’ve perfected your technique and can put all the pieces in place without much effort. Your current favourite toy is the Playmobil ambulance you got for your birthday, and I can’t get enough of hearing you prattle on about “emergency services.” You’re still obsessed with space, and you recently wondered aloud if the fact that Jupiter and Saturn were gas giants meant that Earth was a “gas baby.” Your current favourite show is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and I am absolutely delighted because a) it’s way less annoying than pretty much anything else you like to watch and b) IT ACTUALLY HAS FEMALE CHARACTERS WHO AREN’T REDUCED TO ANNOYING PINK-N-PIGTAILS STEREOTYPES.

Your favourite pony is Rainbow Dash, and you are over the moon about the Rainbow Dash hat we got you for Christmas.

You found this flag and said "look, a Rainbow Dash flag!"

You found this flag and said “look, a Rainbow Dash flag!”

You’ve been asking for a baby brother for the past few months, and lately you’ve really amped up your campaign. You approach the subject like a Reasonable White Dude on twitter who just won’t stop trying to logic his way into being right. To wit:

Theo: If you just have two more boys and then a girl, that’s only four kids in this family! Four is a very small number. And then if you just have one more baby, that’s only five kids!

Me: What would I even do with five kids.

Theo: We could all watch shows together!

Or:

Theo: We need more boys in this family. We don’t have enough boys.

Me: But we already have more boys than girls! If anything, we need more girls.

Theo: Um… I think your two cats are girls?

Or:

Theo, completely in earnest: You’re going to have a baby soon. Two babies, actually.

Me: You can’t just state things as facts and hope that makes them true.

Your apparent investment in the Baby Industrial Complex is admirable, but unfortunately it’s just not going to happen anytime soon. Take comfort in the fact that you would probably really hate sharing me with a tiny, screaming bundle of poopy diapers.

You are such a great kid. I don’t think you’re objectively any more amazing than the average four year old, but in my subjective opinion you are the best thing that’s happened since sliced anything. To use your own words, I love you to Mercury and back and that’s a very, very long way. You make me so happy. I am incredibly stoked to see what the next year brings for you, and to continue watching you grow into the amazing human you’re bound to become.

Love beyond all reason,

Mama

10565267_10155145390285215_8353646789274608543_n

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,870 other followers