This Punitive Society

I want to be on the stand and say to them: What did she do? What did she do wrong? She chose the wrong men, and for this you want to punish her, as our society punishes women who let men abuse them, as if it was a choice. We forgive the wrongdoer and attack the victim, because we hate victims, even as we are victims. You should have known better! You should have made a better choice! Your choice was wrong, and we as judges, juries, and executioners know this! You should not have made these mistakes and for this, we judge you. For this, we sentence you and punish you for your sins, for your flaws. You were a good mother, but that is not good enough because you never would have been a mother if you had not chosen men who would abuse you. Of course, this line of reasoning falls apart because she could very well have been a mother if she had not chosen these men. But of course she would not have these children. These children will be harmed because of her choices. These children will be harmed too because of their abusive fathers, but we don’t hold the fathers accountable, only the mothers. These abusive men didn’t know any better, but she did. She knew and she chose wrong and for this, she shall pay with their loss. Their pains are her pains. She will suffer for her sins and so will they.

This society is so fucking fucked and fucked up. I can hardly bear it. We are so punitive, so judgmental, so holier-than-thou, such critics.  Critics. We all sit and judge. Our whole culture. We love to annihilate victims for having been victims. In doing so we can ignore the victims in ourselves. We get to be the rescuer in our judiciousness. I will save you from your victimhood, you fool.

It all just makes me want to scream.

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Two Completely Separate Ideas — Or Maybe Not

I love the silly rituals of fall, the creatures and trappings of Halloween. I love tromping out into a muddy patch to bring in a gourd for jack-o-lantern carving. The air is a blend of warm and cool, the sun drifting from behind clouds, then hiding its face again. Perfect weather. Ours is the perfect climate for this holiday, moving as it does between sun and rain, the harvest and mud perfuming the gusty air.

And now, for the other thought flitting through my brain…

What I do not understand is why the cultures who are invaded by missionaries so freely take on the religion of their imperialists. And I honestly do not know, but do other religions besides Christianity and its versions go out and take over other cultures? Do Hindus, or Islamists, or Buddists, worm their way into villages of third world countries and offer assistance in exchange for belief in their systems? There is no more beastly means of destroying a culture from within, I think, than invading the people and converting them to your way of assessing the world. It’s horrific. I do not understand why the peoples of Africa and South America have embraced these religions that allowed the imperialists to come in and proliferate. Be humble. Be a lamb. Do not put up a fight as we push you out and steal your land and resources. Just think about the afterlife and all that it will bring to you, all the riches. Look away as we pillage and destroy you. What an arrogant, abusive way this is. Several generations later, after the people have been displaced, their cultures fully appropriated, they then seek the values of the culture that plundered theirs. It is considered a mark of the true obliteration of all that had been there before. We seek your wealth. We follow your god. We are you. Truly, it sickens me.

Mulling over what I’ve just written, perhaps my paragraphs are not so unrelated. Perhaps some of my rituals of fall were stolen from the culture we obliterated to be here, or that of the culture of some tribe in Europe, or somewhere. I really do not know.

Too Much Input!

Our culture seems almost pathologically incapable of existing in the public sphere without inundating our senses with constant and invasive input. Go to the grocery store, noise playing or a television blaring in the background. Go to a coffee shop, loud noise playing, not even in the background. Go to the pool, loud noise playing on speakers. Those of us who would wish for the simple noises of the locale we are in are not even considered. We don’t exist in the mind’s of most of those in charge of public places.

The constant noise and bombardment wears me out. I feel it in my bones and cells whenever I go somewhere with a screen blaring or speakers turned much too high. Too much input! Every time it makes me wonder how many children with learning problems or various forms of autism or any other ailment where the senses cannot quite process all that is going on around them suffer in these places when those of us without any such ailment can barely tolerate it. It bothers me when I go somewhere that is theoretically designed with children in mind and the biggest thing available to them is a screen blaring some noise. I leave. My children, having been raised away from such things, are exhausted and overwhelmed by it all. I suspect other children are too. Both of my girls were always able to play and entertain themselves for hours on end. I gave credit to the fact that a television never babysat them. I find when either of them are around televisions for any length of time, they become hyper. Used as a tool to keep children busy, it is ironic that it seems to result in the opposite of the behavior desired. I’m an adult and televisions overstimulate me. I can’t imagine how it is for small children, with the constant noise and rotating images and advertising and noise, and more noise, and again, noise.

In any case, I began this post two days ago after going to a swim park with noisy music blaring. I later entered a grocery store with music so loud the cashier could not speak to me without yelling, all the while televisions were screaming in the background–well, foreground, really. It was all too much. Now it is days later and I’m at home and hear some birds outside and a breeze moving through the Camellia bush outside my window and the urge to write about all of it has passed. Such is the nature of my life these days. Maybe in having little to no time to express the writing urges, they have just left. I don’t know. I blame some of it on being a working single mother, so I guess I’ll know when my little one is bigger and off at school and time frees up a bit. If the writing urges take over again, I’ll know it was the busy-ness. If not, maybe it was a part of me that is gone. Such is life. Maybe I’ll mourn it when the time comes. For now, I’m just enjoying being able to hear myself think.

My Eyes Cannot See

I am learning that my eyes cannot see.  I have for so long had one view of how my body should look, that undoing that view requires changing my eyes.  They simply cannot see me physically for how I am, or see that how I am is how I should be.

Nearly 13 years ago, after the birth of my first daughter, I gradually realized how much I had wrapped up who I am into how I look.  When suddenly I did not look as I had, I had to adapt. I didn’t like it, but I had no choice. I weighed more than I ever had in my life.  It was still below average, but I felt huge, and I realized that I had to accept it because no matter what I did, I did not lose those last 15 post-baby pounds.  Considering I had always been below-average thin, it wasn’t such a bad thing.  Just different.

When my daughter was four, she was in a baby ballet pageant with a bunch of other toddlers and small children.  They looked like adorable little sausages in their fluffy costumes and wings. I thought they were precious.

Watching them dance on stage, my mom leaned over and whispered, “I can’t believe they would let all those little fatties dance in those tight outfits.”  The words were a slap. I realized in that moment that I had been hearing similar statements my entire life.  My looks had been commented on and dissected for as long as I could remember.  Still weighing 15 pounds more than I had pre-baby, it was an eye opener, further realization that my eyes had been wearing the wrong glasses for my entire life.

Within another year I was back at pre-baby weight. It took nearly 4 years, and ultimately I shed the final pounds when I stopped breastfeeding my daughter at age four and a half.  I was satisfied with this.  I figured I had learned the lesson those four plus years of being bigger than I was used to.  I also thought my eyes could see, that I had learned with a different prescription.  I was learning so much more about life, and unlearning so much other early conditioning, the body image adjustments were simply part of all of it.

Since gradually understanding this, I have noticed that both my parents are still completely fixated on looks and the body. I have wondered what happened to them in their upbringing that this is how they think.  They are raising my brother’s daughter.  She is nearly 5 and somewhat clumsy.  In terms of western ideals of beauty, she is not excessively beautiful or not.  She is an average looking little girl, based on this definition.  Personally, I think she’s darling. Her impish personality shines through in all she does.  However, when my parents visit us, they compare her looks to those of my daughters.  “Isabel is so dainty.  She has such “feminine” features, just like you had and Milla has.  Sara isn’t like that.  Sara is a clod.  She’s so much like her mother.”  Comparisons, comparisons, all based on looks. It’s constant.  During an entire visit I will hear how beautiful Isabel is over and over.  I notice and it feels strange.  I try to direct the conversation elsewhere.  I know my parents.  If I object, they’ll clam up and not visit for a long time and it will be because I was “too critical.” So to keep the peace, I don’t say anything and remember that their visits are infrequent. They will not have the influence on my children that was had on me. But not poor Sara.

In any case, here I am again, post baby at two and a half years. I have begun working with a personal trainer.  I’m struggling to bring my weight back down to that pre-baby level.  It’s not working.  I’m getting a lot stronger, but I’m not getting thinner.  I am still breastfeeding and this may be part of it, but yesterday when working on one of the many moves I struggle through in personal training (oh, it is so much more work at this age than 20), I finally allowed myself to look into the wall of mirrors and see what it is I saw.  I have avoided these mirrors.  When I’m facing them for whatever reason, I will not look at me.  I do not want to see how I look.

Yesterday, I looked.  I realized that the looking was completely uncomfortable, but I forced myself to keep looking.  I realized that my hips are slightly wider than I want them to be, that my breasts are saggier.  I kept looking away, but then told myself, NO.  I looked again.  I stared. I examined my body completely.  I criticized the self there.  Too big, too big, too big, I thought.

Last night and since, I have been thinking about that.  If I saw a woman with the body that I have, I would not think she was too big. I would think she is fine.  Why the double standard for myself?  I simply can’t see physical body as it is.  I then concluded that my eyes cannot see.  They have never been able to see.  It’s another layer of early conditioning I will need to undo.  Our culture makes it much more difficult. My upbringing makes it more difficult. I’m not sure what the result will be for me, but I want to change my eyes so I no longer believe that someone with my shape who is not overweight, is getting physically stronger all over, and is still actually quite athletic is just fine, and that no matter what I weigh, no matter what I look like, it doesn’t really change who I am.

Lowering the Glass Ceiling

See this piece on Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/lowering-the-glass-ceilin_b_128346.html

I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…

Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man.  We’ll call him Mr. Palin.  Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position.  In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct.  Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country.  Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools.  Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits.  Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history.  Imagine all of this and more.

If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party?  It would be unthinkable.

Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man?  Shouldn’t the standards be the same?  To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply.  If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.

Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified.  Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism:  it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit.  Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job.  Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.