Sunday, May 25, 2008

Not Lucky; Resentful

A good friend was recently the victim of an attempted rape. We are supposed to feel "lucky" that she was able to fight her three attackers off, and walked away with nothing more that a black eye and a pair of broken glasses. Oh, and being traumatized.
Lucky?!? That's bullshit!

According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. If you add in unreported incidents, the number rises to 1 in 4. Think about any four women you know. Your mother, sister, aunt, or girlfriend. Your third grade teacher, your roommate, your best friend, or yourself. One in four of each of these women has been or will be sexually assaulted.

I am supposed to consider myself lucky, too. One dusky spring evening, when I was 19, I was walking home to my apartment. I was alone. When I was a few blocks away from my home, on a residential side street, a man stepped out of the shadows and grabbed me and started pulling me to god-knows-where. Because I was fast with my fists and feet, I got away from him, physically unscathed.
But, I don't feel lucky. I am angry and resentful. I resent the fact that I work out not just to be healthy, but because, if need be, I want to be able to punch and kick and run. I resent the fact that when I work late, I feel like I need to spend the money on a cab, because I don't feel safe waiting for the bus late at night on a dark street. I resent the fact that when I get dressed in the morning, there is a voice in my head telling me not to wear anything too revealing, and to make sure I wear shoes that I can move fast in. I resent the fact then when I am walking home late at night, I feel that I need to do the keys in my fist maneuver, a move that all women learn at a young age.
I resent that the onus of preventing another assault is on me. I should be able to take it for granted that it will not happen to me. I resent the fact that there is a very good chance that I will be assaulted again in my lifetime. I resent the fact that because I was quick-witted, I am considered lucky. I resent the fact that women who are raped are considered lucky that they weren't killed. I resent the fact that it is not unrational of me to be afraid to be out alone after dark.
I don't know what the answers are. I do know that things are better than they used to be, but we still blame the victim too much, and do not hold the attackers as accountable as they should be. Only 1 in 16 rapists serve any jail time. There are manditory minimums for drug offenders, there should be manditory minimums for sexual offenders. Sexual assault is a much more violent, damaging crime than selling or possessing drugs. Again, look at the numbers: 1 in 4 women assaulted; 1 in 16 attackers punished. Until the percentage of the latter rises, the percentage of the former will not drop.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feminine Wiles: It's all about subtlety

Note: this is a joint posting between Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat.

Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat went out to paint the town blue tonight. They started by walking down Comm to T. Anthony's, to get a bite before going to the rock show.
There were three young women in the pizza shop, desperately seeking male attention. They played the dance sexy game, the pretend to be bi game, and the shriek and giggle game. Now, bear in mind that Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat actually were looking hot and sexy. As Wonder Muff says: "Our hotness was subtle. They were overblown, and think that slutty and hot are the same thing." Sugar Twat thought that Wonder Muff looked like Chrissie Hynde. Super sexy with her tats peeking out from under the edges of her top. Wonder Muff thought that Sugar Twat was on the other end of the Punk Rock spectrum. Like a two woman version of the Decline of Western Civilization.
All of the men seemed put off by the blatant angling of the pizza shop girls. One guy in the shop even caught Sugar Twat's eye, and they sort of shook heads at each other. Wonder Muff says: "we sat in the booth, and discussed how much we could teach them about subtlety, and about owning one's sexuality." Had they tagged along and observed WM and ST for the rest of the night, they would have taught them something. Wonder Muff interjects: "Like how not to act like stupid whores."

So, Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat then crossed the street to go to the Paradise Rock Club, to see X, the best band in the world. Wonder Muff says: "we approached the door, and saw the sign that the tickets were sold out. But, we were undeterred." First, Sugar Twat approached the doorman, and asked, nicely, if they ever resold tickets that weren't picked up. They do not. A lot of people would have given up. Our girls did not. Guys kept asking Sugar Twat for a light, and each time she handed her lighter over, she said "Got any extra tickets?" At one point, a sound guy asked for a light, and for one moment she thought he would be the connection. No luck there. But, they persisted, and stood within eye line of the door, without crowding.

Finally, Wonder Muff noticed the doorman make a sly come hither gesture towards them. So they did. He whispered, "I can get you in. Come around the rope and make sure you hand your ID's to me. Then, after you go in, wait for me in the lounge." So they did. They waited in the lounge for a few minutes, and later, found that for a moment both thought that that was as far as they would get. Then, he came in and brought them to the back of the room, and told them to wait. So they did. Finally, he brought them behind a rope, through a door marked "No admittance. Employees only," and up a poorly-lit, narrow flight of stairs. Our girls glanced at each other, shrugged, and followed him up the stairs, not sure of where they were going, but certain that they could take care of themselves and each other. They emerged into the second floor balcony area. He told them that since they didn't have tickets, they couldn't go down to the main floor, and they would not be able to go outside and re-enter. That was fine with them. After Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat thanked him, they looked at each other in amazement. They just had a total rock and roll moment, without debasing themselves. They knew that the pizza shop girls would never have been slipped in by the doorman.

Sugar Twat says: "The show was amazing. We danced the entire time. We screamed, we sang at the top of our lungs. We were total balls-out rock chicks. We were hit on by several squares who were more impressed with our rock status the more we talked. Then we walked away."

After a fantastic set, both X and the girls were drenched in sweat. They cooled down to two encores-three songs each. Wonder Muff says: "We did not want the night to end, but finally admitted that the music was over." Since they didn't think they could go back down the employee stairs, they then went to the main floor. This is when, just by being themselves, Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat got what the pizza girls would have wanted but didn't have the power to attain. Billy Zoom, the guitar player, was milling about shaking hands with the crowd. He turned, walked straight up to Sugar Twat, took her face in his hands, and kissed her. Then, he embraced Wonder Muff, and, she later said: "he grabbed my ass." Wonder Muff says: "this has nothing to do with feminism. It happened because we weren't trying to get his attention. it wasn't degrading, it was just a part of our rock-star night."

Another pair of girls might have tried to get something else out of the night, and probably would have ended up giving blow jobs to the roadies. But this was not about false intimacy, or trying to find a sense of self worth in an anonymous sexual encounter. It was about two girls who love rock and roll. So, Wonder Muff and Sugar Twat bought t-shirts and walked home, together, alone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It is not exceptional to smart and strong. it's the norm.

A few years ago, I worked on a painful low-budget film. It was one of those situations where most everyone worked for free, except for the sound guy and the makeup artist (who could that be?) who were smart enough to ask for at least a token payment. it was one of those situations where everyone took several roles on the crew. Since there was no wardrobe person, I naturally fell into that role. I also did some of the scripty when the real scripty had to take off for a few days.
There was one girl (I don't even remember her name) who was sort of Production Manager and pretty much the entire Art Department. She didn't have much experience, but she did put in a lot of effort. Except....

Every time she did anything that was remotely strong or smart, she had to point it out. She would be holding a screwdriver or whatever, and make sure that EVERYBODY heard her say how she, unlike most women, knew how to use tools.

This is not feminism. This is anti-feminism, assuming that the majority of your fellow women are weak,stupid, and incompetent. True feminism is thinking it's a given that women are smart and strong and competent.

On the last film I worked on, I ended up inadvertently becoming the gaffer's best. I just jumped in a started helping. I never felt the need to point out that I was some sort of exception. One night I was helping him load out, and he told me I didn't have to. Not because I was a girl, but because I wasn't being paid to do so. I pointed out that a.) he could trust me to do do things like wrap cable correctly, and b.) he was my ride back to the crew house, so helping him load out would get me in bed more quickly.

This "I'm a woman, but I can..." is not progressive. It's misogynistic. Why don't we try "I'm a woman, so I can..."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Media Whores

I am really bothered by the spate of media whores in our midst. You know, the Brittney's and Lindsey's and Paris's.

Why are the women most often highlighted in the media bat-shit crazy slut bitches? This is the image we are putting forth of women today. They are notorious for their vapid, inappropriate behavior. What's worse, it's not even just that they are caught with panties down and drunken nonsense spewing forth. They have formed a symbiotic relationship with the media, displaying the horribly undignified behavior that the gossip mongers earn their keep on. It's as if these women are some sort of anti-vampires that only exist when in the spotlight.

I'm not talking about the sort of bad-girl behavior of someone like Courtney Love. Her badness stems from the fact that she just doesn't give a fuck.

I would love to find out what these women really think about. Do they have any sense of self? Do they care that young women see them as role models, and think that this behavior is something that girls should look to as an example of how to gain attention, thus saying to hell with respect? Do they really feel that they have more worth through paparazzi crotch-shots, drunken debacles, and the denigration of whatever talent they might have? Of course, some of them are only famous for being famous. I feel as if we are living in a surrealistic Andy Warhol nightmare.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I don't want nuthin' to do with birthin' no babies

Mainstream media wants me to believe that I am at the age in which my biological clock starts ticking out of control. I'm calling bullshit.
I don't actively dislike children; I just don't want any of my own. I never have. I was never into playing with baby dolls as a child, I actually remember when I was five or so, being vaguely offended when I got a baby-doll for Christmas. Silly patriarchal Father Christmas!

My worth as a woman has nothing to do with my ability (or willingness) to go forth and multiply. My worth is based on what I think, what I say, what I write, what I do, and what I choose. And I have chosen not to have children, For many reasons.

I am not comfortable with my body becoming a vessel. pregnancy does terrible things to a woman's body. Hormonal shifts, diabetes, eclampsia, etc. In my mind, pregnancy is the ultimate form of losing control of one's body. Besides the biological changes in one's body, society changes the way your body is viewed. Perfect strangers feel that they have the right to touch you, and to tell you what to do with your body. Eat this, don't eat that, don't drink coffee, don't have sex, don't exercise. Even I struggle with my inner condemnation when I see a pregnant woman drinking or smoking, my belief in a woman's right to control her body comes up against, well, common medical sense. My worst nightmare scenario involves being in childbirth, having some horrid medical complication, and having my power to make medical choices wrested out of my hands and having someone else make the choice of which life is more important: the mother's or the child's.

I am also not comfortable with carrying a man's child. Like it or not, in some cases biology is destiny. It is much easier for a man to walk away from a pregnancy than for a woman. A woman can choose to end her pregnancy, but it is a much more traumatic experience for her, even when she is certain in her decision. A man can just pack his bags and walk away. Or not. Leading cause of death amongst pregnant American women? Not any medical issue, but homicide at the hands of her partner.

Even if a woman and the relationship survive pregnancy and childbirth, it is still much easier for the man to walk away. I can think of several examples that I have witnessed firsthand. I have a friend who is beautiful, smart, accomplished, in short, just lovely in the best sense of the word. She was happily married. Then her husband started pestering her for a baby. She finally agreed. I must admit, they had the most beautiful baby girl. One of those babies who is cute, and giggly, and well behaved. If someone had an interest in having a baby, then this was the baby to have. When the baby was about 9 months old, he changed his mind. Turned out that no, actually, he didn't want to be a father after all. My friend had to leave the theatre industry, because while it can support a single woman (like myself), or a two-income family (like some of my co-workers), it just can't support a single mother. Can you imagine a woman changing her mind and walking out on her husband and family? It happens, but rarely, and the social stigma placed on a woman who does so is so much higher than on a man who does the same.
If I have no interest in being a mother, I have even less interest in being a single mother.

On a side note, I've noticed amongst the couples I do know with children, the same-sex parents seem to have the most stable families. Take that "family values" right-wing!

Ultimately, what it comes down to this. The decision to bear children is my decision, and my decision alone. The Liar wanted a child, and would pressure me to stop using condoms with him. His line was "if you get pregnant, I'll marry you." This is faulty logic on several levels. Firstly, the issue for me was not being married or not, the issue was not wanting to be pregnant. Secondly, I didn't want to be married, especially to him. Thirdly, even if I did want to be married, I would not want it to be on the condition of my being knocked-up.

The bottom line is this, keep your laws, and your social expectations off my body.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Friends who Fuck? WTF?

I am not unintelligent, and I am emotionally savvy enough to understand the dynamics of most relationships, but the one phenomenon I don't understand (and possibly have some cathartic resolution to deal with) is that of friends who fuck. I'm not talking about the "I'm heartbroken, you're drunk, we're good friends and fell into bed together and now will feel awkward for a little bit." That I understand. I'm talking full-on, can't keep your hands off each other, looking for any excuse to be alone together, years on end, really good friends fucking.
Not to be confused with the following scenarios, which I also understand:
-Really, really good friends who really like each other but are not sexually attracted to each other.
-Being really into having sex with someone you don't really like (it's not nice, but it happens.)
-"normal" relationships in which you really like someone and really like having sex with them. They are called "Boyfriends" and "Girlfriends."
-Starting out as really good friends but, being sexually attracted to them (scenario A plus sexual tension), thus becoming "boyfriends" and "girlfriends." (scenario C)

But, here's where I get lost (and, of course, tell a story). Starting out as really good friends who really like each other, feeling mounting sexual tension build between you, giving in to it, discovering that you really like having sex with your really good friend, and then swerving off the road to become Friends who Fuck.

So, The Anti-hero and I met because he was dating my roommate. We didn't really become friends until she dumped him, but then we very quickly became very good friends. We even made up a myth about being long-lost brother and sister. We decided when both of our leases were up, we would be roommates.

Then we kissed. And decided we would never do so again.

Yeah, right.

We continued on our merry way, being really, really good friends, and looking for apartments. Another girl was going to live with us too, she turned out to be The Crazy (remember her, she'll be back).

So, after being really good friends and roommates for about 6 weeks, the tension between us was palpable. You could cut the air between us with a knife. Even The Crazy noticed. And forbade us to sleep together. Big mistake.
Here's the deal. You want Sugar Twat to do something? Tell her not to.

So we did.

And we liked it.

A lot.

Plus, because of The Crazy, it was a secret. Let's face it, secrets like that are sexy. We started doing just about anything to be alone together. I got The Crazy a job where I worked so that we would have guaranteed Sundays together until 1:00 pm. We would go to Stop and Shop together and park behind the store. Once we even went to where he worked in the middle of the night (not uncoincidentally, a furniture store. Okay, I'll admit it. That was pretty hot).
But, something wasn't right. We were really really good friends, and we really really really liked having sex with each other. But, he didn't feel "That way" about me. Honestly, which part of the equation was missing?
There was a lot of strife over this, but still the fucking.
The Crazy moved out. Wonder Muff moved in.
After about a year, he moved out. We thought that this would solve the problem.

It didn't. Now The Anti-hero was living alone. Less sneaking. He had no roommates to hide our secret from.

More tears, more declarations that we would stop.
We didn't. We couldn't. It was as if we were addicted to each other.

Wonder Muff and I moved to a different apartment. Now instead of around the corner from each other, I lived across town from The Anti-Hero. Didn't matter. He would just drive over.

I moved into my own place. Now we were both living alone. I could have him over for dinner first. More fucking, more tears.

Surprisingly, this story does have a happy ending. Finally, after four years, we realized that our sexual appetites for each other would destroy our friendship. I met a guy and moved to Boston. He met a girl and moved to New York. We remained close. We visited each other. Six years ago, when my heart was broken more terribly than ever before, he took me to the Vineyard and helped mend my heart with the innocent, platonic love we now have for each other. He has turned from being the man who breaks my heart to being the one who heals it. I now consider him one of my best friends, with no strings or disclaimers. Or sex.

But, there is still that nagging doubt in my head. Why didn't he want to be with me in a meaningful way? We had an emotional bond. Clearly we were attracted to each other. Our "non-relationship" lasted for 4 years, longer than all but one of my "real" ones. Was it just that he didn't want a commitment? God, we were young! When It started I was 20, he was 23. Or was it me? Was I not "girlfriend material?" Am I now? I do know this: I did learn that one should never settle for less than what one wants in a relationship. And that I never again allowed myself to be used, even by someone I loved.

What's the Deal with Frenemies?

Studies have shown that amongst male children, bullies attack from without the social circle; but with female children, bullying occurs amongst friends. [I'm not going to cite it. Go google it.] What are we doing to our girls to make them so competitive at such young ages?

I've only ever had one frenemy. Heather (yes, her name really was Heather!) was one of those girls who needed to be skinnier, sexier, badder and faster. And, she needed to be the center of male attention at all times. In retrospect, I think we can all agree that it was a self-esteem issue, but in high school, we used other words.

She would get jealous and vie for the attention of any male that paid attention to another girl. And, given that she was faster and badder, she usually got it. Now, to put this into the proper perspective, bear in mind that we were not casual acquaintances. There were four of us girls who were inseparable. We were "bestest friends." [that was also the first time I had 'funny' feelings about a girl (not heather), but that's another story).

I didn't really notice her, um, "problem" until I had my first real boyfriend. (this is code. It means the first guy I had sex with). Before he and I got together, she would vocally disparage him and make it incredibly clear that she found him unattractive. But, that changed after Cherry-Popper and I started going out. (I know it's not a very classy blog-name, but it's the best I can come up with, and I don't want to use his real name since he got the link to this blog via MySpace. Now you're all going to my MySpace page to figure out which of my friends he is. He knows who he is. Hi! How're you doing? I hope you don't mind the story of our adolescent lust and angst being shared on these pages! I am trying to protect your privacy!)

So, one Cherry-Popper and I were an "item," as my mother would say, she changed. She totally came on to him. Interestingly enough, he noticed this, noticed it was a pattern for her, did not pick up her bait, and talked openly with me about it. (hi! are you still reading this? You were pretty enlightened for an 18 year-old guy!)

What I didn't realize at the time was how sad this was. There was such a disconnect within her own mind between her self-worth and her own desires. She could not be interested in a man based on her own level of attraction; she could only be interested in a man based on her need to win his attention.

I can't imagine doing that to my friends, or having friends who would do that to me. Even in the past, when Wonder Muff and I have found ourselves attracted to the same guy, we dealt with it. (as in, Tom is moving to LA so we both make out with him at his going away party? Only in Northampton!) Neither of us has ever tried to "steal" a boyfriend from the other. Of course, who would want to have a boyfriend who is a possession that can be "Stolen" anyway?