Death and Loving, Ten Years On

Reposting my Valentine’s Day post from ten years ago. It is interesting for me to read. Three days after writing this, I met Isabel’s dad. What a different human I was then. The Valentine’s Day stuff is very interesting, though (although it doesn’t mention the self-flagellation with the skin of goats, which I am positive I have written about at some point on some Valentine’s day). And my unwillingness to be the Martha Stewart of mothers is completely entrenched.  Neither child is the worse for wear for it, so no angst there. Also, happy birthday, Oregon! I love you!

Death and Loving

Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day.  This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes.  There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things.  Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine.  As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.

Milla is so sweet.  Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates.  We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going.  There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch.  16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes.  One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one.  It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers.  Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach.  These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.

So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts.  Then we piled them up in twos.  Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper.  Then we cut the tissue paper into squares.  Then we wrapped them and she tied.  At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass.  The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that.  We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good.  Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t.  I’m good at that.

Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday.  In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money.  But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me.  There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off.  I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love.  Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love?  It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair.  And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends.  And most sane people I know are glad that it does.  It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead.  It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.

Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated.  Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death.  However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia.  It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture.  Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we?  That would be idolatry.  So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own.  How special!  I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death.  And loneliness too.  As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death.  There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed.  Wow.

On that special note, I think I’ll sign off.  Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point.  Yep.  That’s me.  Pointless.  Ha!  Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter.  Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom.  That’s what happened.  It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced.  I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it?  To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species.  Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it.  As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right?  Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.

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Animal Farm on Steroids

A small boy’s father abuses and rapes his mother. This goes on for years until the mother kills herself. The boy can’t imagine being a man. Men hurt. He doesn’t want to be one so he changes his name, his clothes, his hair, and becomes a girl. Girls might get hurt, but they aren’t rapists.

A girl is molested by her uncle. For years he sneaks into her bedroom and rapes her. Finally, at age thirteen, she decides to tell her father, hoping he will stop his brother from doing these things. She works up her courage and goes to him. He looks at her like she is insane and tells her to stop making up stories. He tells her that if any of what she says is true, it’s because she asked for it. He tells her that girls are for men to have sex with so she should just grow up and go with the flow. Feeling destroyed, she determines that she will not be a woman. She changes her name, her clothes, her hair, and becomes a man. If she isn’t a girl, then she can’t be hurt.

A young boy feels alienated from his peers. His parents divorced when he was five, and he hasn’t felt quite right since. His mother and her new husband are extremely conservative. They make him go to church four times a week, which he hates. The church tells him homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals will die in the fiery bowels of hell. He knows he likes boys, and is scared that he might go to hell. His father is more supportive, but he only gets to stay with his father every other weekend. There is a group of kids at his school who tell him that he doesn’t have to be a boy. He can become a girl. He can change his identity. He decides to do this. At least if he becomes a girl then he won’t end up in hell for liking boys.

There are many reasons why biological males wish to be female and vice versa. For many, the desire to be something different comes from a place of pain and trauma. The change in identity becomes a way to deal with the hurt, an attempt to heal a wound that feels almost too deep to ameliorate. It is difficult not to sympathize with the person in this situation, to feel empathy and compassion for their pain. It is from this place of compassion that most people support identity changes. It is automatically assumed that someone who is making such a change must need to (otherwise, why would they do it?), and why not support this?

What has followed is that well-meaning people, in an attempt to show compassion for victims of trauma, label their bathrooms for “those who identify,” or cheer in victory when a trans person is elected or appointed into a place of power. Yet I very much doubt that when Unitarian churches added “or those who identify” to their female bathrooms they gave much thought to the female who had been raped and didn’t want to share an intimate space with a male, even if that male was traumatized as well. I very much doubt it was their intention to sweep thousands of years of male oppression under the rug when they allowed males into this female-only space. Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what they did. And this is a problem.

What is essentially eliminated in these actions are the thousands of years of normalized violence against females (usually by heterosexual males). (There has been so much hand-wringing and exclaiming over the sheer numbers of #metoos, when really, what should be surprising is if there are any women left who haven’t experienced some form of violence or oppression.) The real tragedy is that oppression and violence are common. It is normalized in most places. It results in continuing trauma and violence against anyone who doesn’t conform to strict norms and often excused by systems that exacerbate and were created to keep things the way they are. Most of the time, the need to change one’s sexual identity is because of this normalized violence and oppression. If we didn’t live in a world where fathers raped mothers, or people think homosexuals should burn in hell, or uncles (or fathers or brothers and on and on) molested children, there would likely be no need to cut off breasts or penises to escape the pain.

Yet some men decide they want to become women, and although they may be doing so because they were the victims of violence, for whatever reason they use their reaction as an excuse to be controlling and violent. This very vocal and very abusive group of males who call themselves trans women are violent and abusive to anyone who supports female-only spaces or anyone who calls for an end to violence against women, or even anyone who has the temerity to suggest that they have experienced sexual violence, as if the violence of the trans person is the only violence that counts, and if they speak out about their own personal experiences, they should have more violence done to them. These trans activists have managed to get all the progressives to agree with them, using the compassion people feel for those who have suffered trauma and pain to get them to automatically jump on board with anything trans, without really putting any kind of critical thought into what is being done. Any statements questioning the means of acceptance of trans people are automatically labeled transphobic. Any questions on the subject are automatically shut down. Any attempt to engage or explain is stopped through force with name calling, threats of violence, and in some cases, actual violence. Any stories of one’s own experiences of pain and trauma are belittled and shamed. These perpetrators of violence and threats are males who have decided that they are female and therefore they want access to female experience and female spaces, and they don’t like being told no. When females question their intrusions into female experiences and spaces, their response is decidedly male when they start talking about committing rape or murder against those who would dare to question them.

Here are some examples:

A long time social justice activist, socialist, Green, and civil rights lawyer was cyberbullied on social media by a group of trans-activists and their supporters. The bullies called her a TERF (“Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”). They called her a “Nazi.” They called her a “rapist.” They called her a “racist.” They called her a supporter of “genocide” and a hateful bigot who deserved to die. Several people contacted her employer in an unsuccessful attempt to get her fired from her job. The reasons for these hateful actions were that she had written that people who are born as female are oppressed on the basis of being female, and that males often do not recognize this. That’s it.

A woman ran for the school board in Minnesota, hoping to fix problems like lead in drinking water and improving the quality of education. She also took a strong stand against school bullying, including on the basis of gender identity. Because she expressed gender-critical views, within 24 hours of announcing her candidacy, bullies began attacking her. On social media she was called a “loathsome snake” who spreads “venom” and “hate.” One person told her to go home and masturbate. She was threatened with death. Ultimately, she dropped out of the school board race because she couldn’t focus on the issues that were important to her.

The reality is that women have experienced violence at the hands of men for as long as there has been civilization and men pretending to be women are no exception when it comes to perpetrating violence.

What has happened is that a rather large number of people who support these people who have attempted to change their biological sex identity, in their attempt to be “supportive,” automatically presume that anyone who questions the policies and actions of trans persons must automatically be “transphobic,” and that they can have no valid purpose or argument. The efforts to be inclusive have turned truly bizarre. Major midwife groups have changed their guidelines to take women out of their language, changing “woman” to “person” in order not to exclude transmen (women who consider themselves men (as if somehow they are no longer women, so using the word woman would exclude them)). Young males decide to become females and are then allowed to participate in sports as females, their male physical bodies and strengths notwithstanding. A city in Canada passed an ordinance where misgendering someone can get you fined. Parents give children as young as four irreversible sex hormones because the child thinks they might be a boy instead of a girl or vice versa (apparently a child can make a decision this drastic this young, but they don’t have the judgment to drink alcohol before they’re 21?). It is the world of Animal Farm on steroids. Say it is so and it is so, even when reality says otherwise.

When actress Rose McGowan spoke out about the abuse she suffered and that millions of women suffer daily, a trans woman screamed her down. He disagreed with some remarks she had made in the prior year stating that the experiences of trans women are not the same as biological women. Essentially, his argument was that his experiences and those of others like him should override all others’ experiences of trauma and abuse. Rather than support McGowan in her willingness to come forward and describe her experiences as an assault survivor, Seattle Arts and Lectures cancelled her speech. In today’s world, speaking one’s truth about an experience that half the population lives with on a daily basis isn’t enough. That experience must be truncated by the male experience and if it isn’t, it will be silenced.

We must not conflate the taking care of those who have been traumatized with the desire of abusers to act with violence and cruelty against those they want to control. The mistake so many well-meaning people make is to assume that because someone is trans that they are automatically to be supported and that their version is the only truth. People must stop claiming that speaking out for women, calling for protection of female-only spaces, and ending violence against women is transphobic. Just because someone calls a person a transphobe doesn’t mean that person is a transphobe. People must stop believing that describing our experiences somehow negates those of a trans person who has been harmed. It is possible for the two to exist simultaneously. It is even possible to understand that the two are sides of the same coin. However we will never get to that discussion as long as those who have some genuine criticism to offer are automatically shut down (or shouted down, or beaten down, or shut out). There are real issues around transgenderism that should be discussed without fear of repercussion against those who think there are major problems with allowing men into women-only spaces, with making biological changes to children, and with erasing women by claiming that biological sex is a choice and social construct and not biological reality. This doesn’t discount those who have experienced abuse and trauma, it just adds a sorely needed dose of reality to a world that increasingly seems hell bent on insanity.

Some basic questions about sex and gender for progressives

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

1. Do you believe that being born with the kind of body that has the potential to gestate children – a body with a uterus, ovaries, and a vagina – is of any political significance? Does having that kind of body have any bearing on a person’s likely opportunities and outcomes?

2. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies have historically been subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination? Have they historically been subordinated to the people with penises and testes?

3. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies continue to be subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination?

4. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies often suffer physical and sexual violence, abuse and harassment perpetrated by the people with penises and testes?

5. Do you believe that people…

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A Trip Down Toothbrush Lane

Are there toothbrush design teams? What I’m wondering is if there are people whose job is to design various toothbrushes. These people would come up with bristle thickness and placement, handle designs, widths, colors, etc. Then they would get together with other designers from the same company and decide which ones to make. Or maybe all the toothbrush designs have already happened so now companies just pull from old archives. Maybe they can mix and match, take brush heads from one design, mix with handles from another, and colors from yet another, to create a brand new toothbrush. They could have multiple options, depending on how many choices they have to pull from.

I wonder if there are toothbrush wars. Oral B, Colgate, Gum, Sonicare, Reach, or Crest (I’m sure I left some out) having it out over whose design was theirs. The way corporations are–the truly litigious among us and NOT average citizens as those who would silence us would have us believe–I would not be surprised. There could be a movie about it, with corporate moles sneaking into the design rooms of other companies to take their toothbrush secrets. It’s fascinating to contemplate.

Actually, as I began to contemplate this, I did a little internets searching and discovered many Chinese companies selling toothbrushes in massive bulk. You can get “cheap” toothbrushes for 15 cents apiece. You just have to buy 30,000 of them. What a great deal! I can just imagine the island of plastic these will create in the ocean. Colorful and massive. Ooh! I can get a bamboo toothbrush for only 25 cents, and I only have to buy one! What a great deal.

Further searching produced a site dedicated specifically to toothbrush designers who wish to avoid “ugly” toothbrushes. My god. A perusal of this is like viewing a microcosm of so much that is wrong in civilization today, with its hyper dependence on technology and ability to spend time in useless ways. There are toothbrushes you can connect to your phone to “track” your brushing. And toothbrushes that play music so you’ll brush longer. Toothbrushes that clean with “nanotech ions” instead of toothpaste. Minimalist toothbrushes that are alternatives to “ugly” toothbrushes. Toothbrushes with “two-tone” bristles because you know, the two tones in the average drugstore toothbrushes are so last decade. There was even a toothbrush with a hole and a tunnel in the arm so you could run water into it, thereby creating a toothbrush water fountain. My, oh my. Oh! And a special, “functional” package to carry around your tooth-cleaning twig, should you be so inclined.

The ways in which humanity entertains itself. It boggles the mind.

I had no idea. I just had a silly idea to wonder about toothbrush designers because last week my old toothbrush wasn’t doing its job (I always know it’s time to switch when the back of my teeth still feel fuzzy after brushing) so I went to my toothbrush stash (yes, I admit, I have a stash) and picked out another toothbrush. I used it for a few days but it was so harsh on my gums I went to the stash and exchanged it for one that turned out to be identical to the one I had replaced. The prior one had an enormous head and a clunky handle with even clunkier primary colors. The bristles were super stiff. It hurt to use, even gently. I’m not sure whose mouth it was intended for. A horse? The other toothbrush has a delicate small head with soft bristles (in only one color–the shame!) and a two-tone, smaller handle. All this led to the thought process behind this post and now here I am. I have whiled away 20 minutes and know more than I ever thought I would about toothbrushes. I can’t even believe the crap that is out there for people to waste their money on. No wonder Earth is covered in garbage.

Yum

I love chocolate. Specifically I love dark chocolate. I do not really care for milk chocolate. I love hot chocolate, too.

I also like shelled pistachios. I don’t mind the shelled kind, but the delayed gratification aspect of eating them with shells on can be slightly frustrating. Also if the shelled kind are salty, my lips hurt after a bit when I eat them.

I really love ginger beer and ginger ale. The best kinds are the ones with lots of ginger in them. That Seagram’s crap shouldn’t even be allowed to call itself ginger ale–there isn’t any ginger in it! My best favorite right now is Bundaberg ginger beer. Oh, my. It is simply delicious.

Sometimes when I’m at the barn I nibble on pieces of hay. I really love alfalfa. It’s got a good, grassy taste and it’s kind of heavy. It is good to have a piece between my teeth while brushing my horse.

These are my observations for today on things I like to eat.

I am Boring

I think I might be quite possibly the most boring person in the world. One of those people who, when they speak, others look at as if to say, “Did you say something?” or “Um, really? How interesting” when what I said was not interesting, but they were just being polite. Inside they are wondering how much longer they have to pretend to listen, or when they will be able to go and organize the pantry or something.

I’m unfortunately so boring that there isn’t even any irony in it. I am not stupid and boring, so that if I told the story of stepping on a ping pong ball and causing Bunny Bixler to not complete her ping pong winning streak, everyone would look at me agog as if to ask, “Is she serious?” I’m not even like the boring guy who talks about insurance sales. At least that guy has a monotone voice that can help others sleep. I’m just a void, a blah.

This boringness of mine might be a good thing. If I committed a crime, all of the witnesses would forget what I looked like. “I think maybe she had blonde hair? Or maybe brown? I’m not sure.”

This is even assuming they noticed me in the first place. “I thought there was someone hanging around, but maybe I’m wrong.”

“The person might have been wearing a grey t-shirt. Or a black one? Can’t recall. Jeans perhaps? Or leggings? Dunno.”

Yep. Boooooorrring. That’s me in a nutshell.

Turkey Genocide Day Sonnet

In honor yet again of Turkey Genocide Day, here is my annual sonnet. I would also like to provide, to those who are interested, the link to a wonderful documentary about turkeys called My Life as a Turkey. It is a fascinating story about a man who lived with some turkeys. It’s well worth your time. View it HERE.

Thanksgiving Sonnet
Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower belching death in putrid smoke, blackening holiday skies. Annihilating light.

Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With elaborate precision he’s taken apart; neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.

Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls, ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.