Manners: Why we need Feminism for Men

Yes, I think this is a topic on manners as much as politics.  There has recently been a kerfuffle about “Nice guys” and feminists and how the two shall never meet!

In case you missed it, this one started with a “Nice Guy” named Scott Aaronson blogging on the difficulty Nice Guys have with feminism. The responses (#1 and #2) I have read both are neither bashing nor justifying but trying to re-frame the questions, and both link to even further responses which are either trying to “teach” Mr. Aaronson how to “get over it” or why he IS still priviledged or…. the rabbit hole is deep my friends.

I could easily talk about Nice Guys, but this guy does a good job of it.  I’ll have to write up my explanation of Schrödinger’s Rapist another day because I don’t like that imagery (although there is something important about reminding men to respect women’s boundaries!). There is also a lot to be discussed around intersectional priviledge, but again there is a great walk-through for that discussion (in my opinion).

There is one thing I think so many of these discussions are forgetting – guys don’t get to have friends any more.

Really, the “friends” guys have are not the kind they can ask “hey, give me an honest assessment of my behavior” and get a true thought-out answer.  There is a “bro-code” which demands men always be seen as tough, as in-control, alphas (or at least not omegas or somesuch).  These “friends” are really hang-out-pals. Not soul-suffering-stand-by-me friends.

I have girl friends who I am emotionally vulnerable and intimate with in ways I am not with my boyfriend.  I am vulnerable and intimate with him in ways I am not with my other friends (and don’t want to be – sorry ladies).  And because I can have such a diversity of trust and love and intimacy – I don’t end up crashing and burning into a single person when life hurts. And if I broke up with him tomorrow, I wouldn’t be alone and devastated. Devastated, but not alone. Never alone. And I am stronger and braver because of it. I get what he’s saying. I was terrified of dating when I was in middle and high school too. But I had some dear and close (hear trusting and intimate) friends who allowed me peeks into their feelings and struggles in relationships that made it easier for me to step out onto that ledge.

Scott Aaronson needed a friend he could turn to in his “between 12 and 20” stage when he was so terrified. So instead of being isolated and scared. He and his friends could just be scared. They could encourage each other. Maybe practice pick-up lines out loud. And when he failed, he would fall into their arms and be told he’s still loved.They could discuss why he failed. They could talk about how to approach it differently. and when he (in his words) “over analyzed” on specific things in feminist literate his friends could bring him back to reality: “dude, you can offer a girl a drink without going to jail. If she says no, just walk away. Come back here and I’ll buy the next round.” And when he writes that he fought against the idea that “there’s no conspiracy to make the world a hell for shy male nerds.” I actually yelled at my computer screen “YES THERE IS! feminists call it Patriarchy! It hurts men too!”

I watched the George Takei documentary recently and they asked him about the erotica surrounding Kirk and Spock.  Takei laughed. Shatner grumbled. Nemoy rolled his eyes and shrugged. I got angry. By making that relationship SEXUAL – that relationship is made CHEAP. There is so much depth that Kirk and Spock are wonderful non-sexual FRIENDS.  By trying to tie that sort of emotional intimacy with sex empowers the belief that men are only allowed to be emotionally intimate with a sexual partner. That is the problem Nice Guys have. They don’t get to talk to other guys and get help, support, practice…. anything from each other. they aren’t supposed to get it from girls either. So instead they are isolated, scared (or terrified), and lost.

I’ve had guy friends who cry on my shoulder (literally) and tell me they feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to (I mentally add “in their own gender” since they found someone to talk to…) They have to be “macho” and they can’t show weakness. I won’t lie, I do love being that person for my friends: the trusted voice (even when I say painful truths) and the confidant. But why can’t guys have that with each other? Why do we have to live in a society where men have to have sex with their best friend?

Children should be allowed to be Kids/Teens/Explorers

By the time you read this it will be “I read this article yesterday” because I am scheduling this to post Thursday.  So today I read an article on the 16-year-old “First Daughter.”  Apparently, she took a selfie of herself wearing a branded shirt.  Said brand got a copy of the picture and proceeded to exploit her fame as a marketing ploy.  And apparently, it’s completely inappropriate for the president’s 16-year-old daughter to like hip hop. It made me angry.

My mother was appointed to her first church when I was about to be a sophmore in high school so I was…. 15? 16?  It took about 3 months and a church member made a snide comment about something I was doing during my mother’s sermon. Taking notes.  Apparently, as the pastor’s kid I was supposed to sit there in the pew and silently gaze at my mother. I don’t learn that way. I can’t pay attention like that. So I took notes. Now, I took notes on my palm pilot (I know, soooo hi-tech!) and so maybe they thought I was playing a game. Still. None of their business. Do you know how many times Sunday morning was the second, third, or fourth time I’d heard parts of my mother’s sermons?

My mom and I talked about it after the service. She reminded me of the pastors’ kids I had known in my previous church – both the associate pastor’s and the youth minister’s kids had been held to a different level of behavior than any other kid in church. We talked about how the youth minister’s 4-year-old had sometimes whined and cried during the service and the snide comments people had made- sometimes calling her a “brat” or “spoiled” because she couldn’t sit still for an hour listening to people drone (and that particular pastor had been a bit of drone-er).

At 15, mom and I could talk about how I could address those comments and how I could deal with the frustration of being put into a cramped box of “expected behaviors” at a time when I was exploring and stretching and growing into an adult.  I still can’t imagine being a 4-year-old of a pastor and being expected to fit into that box of behaviors. I think it is a low, immature blow to attack a kid who is being a kid (and hell, a selfie is hardly the most destructive thing we’ve known politicians’ kids to do at 16).

Politicians, pastors, teachers, business owners… parents only have so much control of this little human they’ve created and nurtured. And just look at siblings – the vast differences that can crop up in lifestyle, habits, preferences. There are so many influences around each of us, you can’t expect every child to be some kind of cookie-cutter-kid who fits your ideals.  Let the kids be kids.

Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) Poster

I’ve never written a movie review, so I am not entirely certain of my format. I am going to work on the assumption that anyone reading this review has at least a passing familiarity with the film. I mean, it is almost 50 years old. I am also going to focus less on “what made it a great film” and more on “why I think everyone should watch it TODAY” – in the context of the modern world.  Why it is still relevant for discussions.

TL;DR: Go watch it again and try to imagine what (if anything) would change putting it into a modern context. Not enough has changed in the last 47 years to make the issues addressed in this movie “outdated” and points out a few things I think we (in the modern day) could learn from and improve.

Favorite Scene: Best firing of an employee ever. When Christina Drayton (Kathering Hepburn) fires her assistant Hillary. Seriously, you have to see this scene if nothing else! (And the generosity of what might have been 6 months to a year’s salary when she’s fired)

Stats: Total of 11 awards and 20 nominations. Box office gross ~$70 million worldwide.

Joanna (Joey) Drayton: she drives me crazy! Throughout the film she races forward with these plans and ideas without showing any clear process or thought into potential problems. She blithely ignores how her parents are reacting. She demands they act as happy as she feels without any regard to their concerns. Granted – they don’t warn Joey of the shit-storm that is about to hit that dinner. When she finally is told her response is “what a funny thing to do” – like he had bought her a pearl necklace instead of a diamond ring for engagement… just such a weird reaction in my opinion. She has strange – almost childlike reactions several times throughout the movie even though no one seems to believe she is too young to marry a significantly older man. I find her character to be the only one who feels incomplete.

Housekeeping: Yes, this is something that jumped out at me early in the movie. Mr. & Mrs. Drayton (the incomparable Spencer Tracey and Audrey Hepburn) are a newspaper editor and an art gallery director(?) in California (which even in the 60’s had a pretty high cost of living). They have at least one full-time servant (Tilly). With someone else to help “on weekdays” – so 2 servants essentially and delivery of food during the course of the movie. They are portrayed as upper middle class – but (at least in Georgia) even upper-middle class can’t keep a full-time cook! I couldn’t help but wonder how that world was possible- does Tilly make living wages? (I assume so because I can’t see the Draytons being less-than-honorable and paying her decently).

Somehow in the modern age we expect that level of cleanliness (perfect house, multi-course dinner – hell! Turtle soup!) from a working mother of three who also shuttles her kids to every soccer game, piano lesson, and debate club in the world – no help needed! That being said, the family does iron and answers the door – in other words they are very… respectful of Tilly’s work. I’ve read blogs of people who work as housekeepers (or house cleaners) where in the modern world we have such a poor attitude towards hired help. They make no money because they are “lazy” or “stupid” – not that they might appreciate doing a good job that has clear, obvious results and helps people! I have plenty of friends who enjoy cleaning. Why can’t they make decent wages doing it?

Race: I mean the film hits directly on this throughout. I just find it fascinating how many of these conversations I still see happening today – almost 50 years later!  I do find Joey to be frustratingly ignorant of the issues. She seems to think ignoring them makes them go away. Her parents are clearly allies, but they are acutely aware of the issues. Joey ignores them. It’s just like the “not all men” movement – if am not racist/sexist/classist then it just doesn’t exist in the world!

I think Spencer Tracy deserved best actor for the oh-so-obvious struggle with his own bigotry that he hadn’t even known he had. He is portrayed as being the vocal activist in his paper and then when it comes home he is hit like a ton of bricks. I think everyone in the modern world should watch this and see the racism – which exists in both families and they all struggle with – with an eye to recent events and discussions occurring. Has so much really changed in the past 40+ years? I am ashamed to say how little seems to have changed.

Class: Already having talked about the housekeeping/servant thing there is also Dr. John Prentice as well. His father was a postman. A walking-to-every-mailbox good old-fashioned mailman.  And his son went to become a world-famous, world-class doctor. Even taking out race (which adds another level of complexity to this discussion), class-movement has been tracked by so many sources as being more difficult now than it was. I am no expert, but reading articles that cite expert statisticians and sociologists… they say there is significantly less social mobility than there was 30 years ago. I went looking on fox news for “social mobility” and “class movement” and “socio-economic status” but I couldn’t find a single article on their site… I was uber-curious what the conservative side would say about it.

Growing up, my family was working to be middle class – and today I am considered barely lower middle class (because I’m technically a “homeowner” with my condo). Even if I was in a 2-income household with my boyfriend we would barely be considered middle class. And we both work hard. We are intelligent, motivated… and we don’t live in the same class as our own parents. This isn’t the post for me to in-depth discuss modern social mobility, but I found it striking in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – the difference and my own frustration that I will fight to be in the same class as my parents – much less “moving up” in the world. If you then add discussions on how much we spend on education and issues like race… I think Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner could be used to discuss social mobility. It wasn’t considered totally weird to have the son of a postman become a doctor… and I’m not sure that would be true for someone graduating from college today.

Life Memories: 2015 Resolutions

I’ve been trying for weeks to talk about issues in the media. I’ve started and deleted at least half a dozen posts dealing with race, sexism/rape, police… and yet there is a key element in all of these issues that I am going to make part of my 2015 resolutions:

NOTALL________

  • Not all men…
  • Not all women…
  • Not all police…
  • Not all gun owners…
  • Not all blacks…
  • Not all whites….
  • Not all Christians…
  • Not all Muslims….

I’m going to stop saying what I’m not. I’m not going to say “but that’s not me!” when something painful is describing a group I might be a part of (whether by choice, birth, or genetics).  When I have the reaction “but not all women!” I’m going to stop myself.  Because no, I might not be one of the women who is perpetuating a painful stereotype. But they do exist.

More than not being defensive, my resolution in 2015 is to look at those accusations and try to understand the experiences driving those accusations.  Many of these groups in my experience are decent human beings in the majority.  But there is a strong, vocal, frightening minority who is driving a negative stereotype.  If I am a “member” of one of these groups I need to become the opposite voice of that abusive, negative minority.  As part of the majority I need to have the courage to stand up and say “no, that behavior is wrong.”

I want to be a good ally. I cannot be a good ally if I am silent.  In groups where I have social, economic – hell, political power – I also have a responsibility not to remain silent when others in my group are abusing it. Police shouldn’t be afraid to call each other out on brutality.  Men shouldn’t be afraid to call out each other on misogynist comments.  Whites need to call each other on bigoted ideas and words.

So my resolution is this: I am no longer part of the silent majority. I will be the vocal ally.

Life Memories: Traveling Terrors

On Dec 13th at 9:45pm I got on a plane to London.  As of 15 minutes before boarding (a 30 minute delayed boarding) the seat next to me was still showing as empty.  My first trip across the Atlantic ocean and to a city I’ve studied and read about all my life… Eight hours couldn’t go by fast enough.

Get on the plane and just before take-off they wheel a wheelchair down the row.  My heart sinks a little, that seat beside me is the only empty seat I can see.  Sure enough, two flight attendants help a young-ish (30?) woman into the seat next to me.  We soon begin to taxi, the woman next to me is restless and wiggly.  I pull out my headphones and watch the hilarious safety video.  An occupied seat will not ruin this trip for me.  I took my sleeping pill (it would be 11:30am London-time when we landed, so sleep was important) and tried to get some rest.  As soon as the stewardesses began moving, the woman beside me complained – she needed two seats.  I couldn’t understand her english very well (the stewardess practically had her ear at the woman’s mouth to hear her) but I gathered she had been in the states to have medical services (surgery maybe) and was now flying home. In pain. Yikes.  There were no other seats on the plane (maybe in first class, but… they didn’t want to bump her up there I guess).

This was one of the worst flights I’ve been on.  Oh, the flight itself wasn’t too bad.  The stewardesses though were somewhat less-than-polite.  About 2 hours in, one woke me up to ask me if I was in seat 36A (really?) and practically threw my low-sodium meal at me. My seat companion wriggled, moaned and jabbed the entire flight.  Ok, she was in pain and I wanted – desperately – to be polite about it.  But how many times is she allowed to jab me with her elbow? And not even apologize (or hell, acknowledge she invaded my space, woke me up, and hurt me).  She insists she can’t walk when we land (lie btw, she went to the bathroom once).  But no, no she can’t walk to the front of the plane to get to the wheelchair, it must come to her.  And because I’m next to the window – I’m trapped on the plane until it’s empty enough to get the damn wheelchair up the aisle for her (she apparently can’t even move over to the now-empty seats across the aisle).

So I get off the plane tired and cranky. Heathrow airport is about as bad as O’Hare for distances.  They apparently don’t believe in putting things anywhere near each other, so you walk what feels like miles with nothing to look at except super-sterile walls (at least O’Hare has art).

Because I was the last off the plane, customs is already a disaster when I get there.  I wait. And wait. Get through and it took so long, my luggage has been pulled off the roundabout and set aside.  I finally find it and follow the signs to the train station.

I get my train ticket from a woman at a window and go down to the platform.  I get on the train and there is a seat! one over from the luggage area.  A woman is sitting right there by the luggage space. No luggage.  Just sitting in the end-seat because well…. she likes it there?  And seriously, you’re coming from the airport with no luggage, why would you sit there?  Because I have the all-direction wheels on my luggage, I can’t just prop my bag and sit down.  I have to hold it in place (could totally do so sitting next to it…)  So I end up standing.

It’s about 30 minutes to the station where I’m going to have to change trains, South Kensington.  I get to the new platform (oh and London doesn’t believe in elevators in a lot of stations, so I’m dragging my 27 lb suitcase up and down stairs) and am just trying to figure out when my train will come when the overhead speakers begin talking “Please evacuate the station.  This is not a drill. Please evacuate the station.”  Seriously.

The station was evacuated because of a small fire. They literally closed and locked the gates and told everyone to go about 3 blocks to the next station.  Ok, it’s only 3 blocks, I can do that. Luggage and all, I cart the three blocks (I swear it felt like 10!) to the station. I get there and…. my card won’t work. It won’t let me into the train station. Ok, maybe its because I wasn’t allowed to swipe out at South Kensington (you know, something about evacuating because of fire they didn’t want people spending time swiping). I go to the teller and tell him my card doesn’t work.  Apparently, I don’t have a train card.  Just a bus and tram card. How the hell did I get here?!? It let me on the train in the airport! Oh, and the machines at this station aren’t working to allow credit cards, so he’ll need me to pay in cash.  It’s £5 more than I have in cash. Seriously.

So Sunday afternoon in the middle of London, I have to find a place I can get cash.  Banks are closed (Sunday).  The little cash exchange place doesn’t have an ATM and doesn’t do it.  Mind you – i’m lugging my luggage. About a block away I find a post office with an ATM.  I put my card in.  It says no.  I try again.  No.

I have to call my card company (thank god I have T-mobile and can do this) to say yes, that note I put on the account saying I’m in London – yeah this totally means I’m using my card in London starting on that date I told you I would be!!  Try my card again and still no.  I go to the teller and pay the ~$5 fee to get some cash.  Go back to the station and give the man £5 and get my train card.

Get to Paddington station. My hotel is less than a block away and I get to it exhausted, hot, and more-than-ready to stop hauling my luggage (the phrase “quivering muscles” applies). They don’t have my reservation. I pull up my email (Thank God for T-mobile) and give them the exact reservation number. Oh, your credit card was declined so that “reserved” on the email is just a lie. I very seriously considered letting myself just burst into exhausted, frustrated tears at this point. I think the guy could tell. Fortunately, they have a room. It actually is cheaper than what I booked for.

I finally get to my room and get to stop carrying everything everywhere.  It’s 4:45pm London time.  I landed at 11:45.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  But I knew if I went to sleep this early, I’d regret it.  So I force myself out of the room and go across the street to the little “Fish bar”.  It’s bland, dried out and they don’t have any condiments (seriously, they apparently were out of ketchup. At this point I’m pretty sure it’s because I decided to eat there).  I sit there and eat it anyway, too tired to fight it and still wanting to cry (again, pretty sure this guy could tell because I think he charged me for a cheaper meal than I ordered).

I think I was in bed by 8pm.  Basically, it was the worst combination of travel-disasters-all-in-one-day:

  • Airline: horrible
  • Trains: meh at best
  • Transfer points: FIRE!
  • Hotel: Off the reservation
  • Food: Deprived
  • People: Mixed bag

Fortunately, the rest of my London trip was much, much better.  Like, amazingly better.  But that’s a different post.

Writing: Thoughts on magic systems

As a fantasy and sci-fi writer and fan, I spend more time thinking about different magic systems than I probably should. In every system I design for my worlds, I like to answer several questions to myself:

  1. Are people equally equipped to access or utilize magic? (example: if the system is based on alchemy than the limiting factor would be the character’s ability to get raw materials)
  2. If there is inequality (mage A is stronger than mage B) what determines their relative strength? Genetics? Luck? Dieties? I get it, my protagonist might be the strongest mage, but why?
  3. Where does magic come from? Is it a limited resource, and how does it reproduce?
  4. Are all mages/magic users good at all types of magic or do they need to specialize in something?
  5. Does magic have rules for how it impacts the natural world? (ie: how does the presence of a dryad affect the forest)

Sometimes I wrestle with one or more of these questions throughout the novel.  Sometimes things start clicking pretty quickly.  It depends on the piece, sometimes answering question number 3 fills in questions 1 and 2 immediately.

Example system:  Magic is based upon the idea that all magical life lives within a sphere.  This sphere is made of three axis-es: the first axis (y) is chaos and order.  the second axis (x) is good and evil.  The third axis (z) is reason and instinct. When I first started planning this, it was x and y (chaos>order and good>bad).  Unicorns have incredible power because they are far from center – very good and very chaotic. Ah! The closer to centered, the weaker in magic someone is.  That is why most humans and elves have low magic power.  Which also is why mages who focus on order and intellect can grow in strength.  as they move further from chaos (whether good or evil) they become stronger.

But that didn’t feel like it was enough.  There is a big difference between a unicorn (good chaos) and a tengu (Japanese bird demon – bad chaos).  Both of them work on a chaotic level yes, but tengu are also smart – and unicorns (at least as I’m using them in this world) are not. At all. Unicorns work on instinct. So there is another level – do they think it out or do they do it because they don’t know any better?  -Hence I added reason and instinct. Mages are also smart, and smarter means ALSO more power.

Still with the idea that the further from center someone is, the stronger their magical gift. And yes, movement can happen within a lifetime. So if someone goes through total hell, for a time they may have access to magic – instinctual or on purpose – because they’ve been moved towards chaos.  A lot of times when people go through terrible life circumstances (war) they get instinctual chaotic magic beginning to work around them.

Tapping into chaos magic (using reason) would be harder – but think of like water divining. Using a stick and “wandering” the magic user is reasoning on the chaos inherent in water and past experience.

It’s rare that the reader sees the full depth of my magic system.  I love to write the data-dumps to explain it, but it is considered poor form for the writer to explain things to the reader.  So I sometimes draw diagrams, write it out in separate documents for myself.  Basically, I data-dump in my own ways and then feed the most important pieces to the reader – if they even need to know it.  In the above example, the protagonist is incredibly powerful because she is actually a chaos magic weilder (because of a unicorn, hence they were so important in my example). The character never learns the matrix. The magic matrix isn’t really part of the story.  But I know it.  and when I create a character with magical skills, I place them on the matrix.  When they start moving through the story because of growth or development, I consider how their changes will affect them on the matrix.  Including the main character.

Miss Manners: Listening and Replies

It happens to me probably once a day – someone replies to what I said and I think “did they even hear me? Or did they not understand?”  I end up with a lot of self-doubt because of this.

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

  • I’m at a drive-through and say I have a coupon. The employee responds with “ok, your X combo is $$$”
  • A friend posted on FB a link to an article of a conservative complaining that “liberals” don’t listen
  • A friend posted on FB where a liberal was complaining that conservatives were closed minded
  • Tech support hears the first two words out of my mouth and starts trying to tell me what’s wrong
  • Customer Service asks if I need anything and turns away before I can answer
  • Customer Service asks “how are you today” and when I say “I’m pretty good” they walk away again

Any of these sound familiar? Anyone else ever start seeing red when one of these happens?

In our life of “hurry up!” and “that’s SO last minute” (which is SO last decade, I know) we need to stop and really LISTEN. This is a manners thing I think a lot of people have stopped doing. Especially on some of the highly emotional topics like politics, rights, and religion.

When I was a child, my mother made my siblings and I “swap” arguments when we couldn’t solve things ourselves.  In order to get our way, we had to argument the OTHER argument.  We usually ended up compromising as we realized the other person did indeed have valid points of view. Try this sometime, take the point of an issue which you totally disagree with.  Do your research (yes, this sometimes means wading through things that make you crazy) and try to formulate the argument AGAINST your point of view.  Make the argument you could buy to win yourself to that side of the argument.

Most of these aren’t arguments though, it is people just not paying attention. When you have someone in front of you – stop trying to form your reply and pay attention to them. Your first sentence should then be “I hear you saying…” or “I understand your point of…”

The customer service ones are just poor customer service from employees who have things they would rather do than form a personal connection. I know this isn’t all customer service, and I’ve had positive interactions – but they seem to be rare and unique.  Think about the places you choose to shop. How much is it the service?  Think about restaurants – how many good experiences were because you had an awesome, friendly, attentive server?

Customer service is a microcosm of the larger problem. I would love to do a 30-day-listening challenge, but I don’t think it would work as well as the 30-day gratitude challenges I’ve seen people do.  I DO challenge people to stop and listen. Listen to the side you disagree with. Make their argument so that you would turn sides. Try it. I challenge you.  Pick a topic and take the opposite side from your normal stance.

True manners is believing other people have a right to have an opinion, even if you think that opinion is entirely wrong. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt that they are a person with valid points is the polite thing. I know – it’s practically unAmerican to say that someone can disagree with me and not be a horrible person (or not a person at all).