Friday, July 26, 2013

We hold these lies to be self-evident...

Rogue Valley Roasting Company
16oz Soy Mexican Hot Chocolate (yeah, it's 100 degrees outside and I wanted a hot damn chocolate... that's why I ordered the "caliente" hot chocolate...)
Almond Croissant

So you think you're not a racist...  Are you sure?

You feel no animosity, no resentment - you wish no one ill.  But there are differences, aren't there?  That's just a fact.  Oh, it's not all of them... but, yeah, definitely most of them are just that way.  Statistics show that they're just different in certain ways, they act certain ways that you don't, they're more likely to do things and end up in places that you never would.  And that's because of who they are and who you're not.  Right?  The numbers show that, don't they?

In fact, they do not.  There is no number anywhere that says that race makes us fundamentally different.  You hear a lot of bullshitting with statistics, but it is just that - bullshit.  When you do your due diligence and examine these numbers being sited, they tell us nothing fundamental about race, only society's relationship to it.  Often times the numbers being sited don't exist (except on "Bullshit Mountain" and thank you Jon Stewart for that wonderful term).  On a genetic level, things are even less distinct.  Skin color is about as determinative of behavior as eye color.

And if you're one of those people who believe that we are instinctively racist, here is what science says about racial diversity...

I was watching an episode of 60 Minutes that discussed a study on the behavior of very young babies and children.  The upshot was that some behaviors, like identifying others as like or unlike themselves and preferring those like themselves, show up extremely early, as young as 3 months.  It also showed how arbitrary was the criteria for making those distinctions.  The babies related to puppets who liked the same snack as them.  So they accepted as members of their baby tribe... puppets.  Graham cracker loving puppets.  If a baby had been exposed to a baby of other another skin color that also liked graham crackers, wouldn't that baby then become a member of the cracker-loving baby tribe?

Just because babies have been shown to recognize differences in others doesn't make those differences meaningful, nor unchangeable.  In fact, as the study continued to track behaviors as the ages progressed, they found that socially negative behaviors like greed changed as the kids got older, and behaviors like generosity and concern for others emerged.  Perhaps behaviors that are useful for survival when you are a newborn, like being to identify the people most likely to know you and care about your safety, are meant to go away over time.

There was another study I remember learning about a while ago that showed that women were physiologically most attracted to the man most genetically different from themselves.  (The women were given stinky undershirts to sniff to determine this).  This  is because the body knows that there is strength in diversity.  The mind should know this, too, but societies seem to get stuck in that juvenile mindset where we want the comfort of the familiar when things scare us.  The "Other" becomes the easiest scapegoat.  It's primitive thinking - it holds us back.  Human history is at its worst in those times of mass hatred of some group or other.

A while ago, the AP (I think) did a survey that found half of Americans were racist.  When I looked at the questionnaire, however, it struck me the the questions themselves were presumptive of racism.  What is your opinion of white people?  Strongly or moderately negative, neutral, somewhat positive, very positive... However they worded it...  They went through all the groups and also had stereotype statements that you either agreed or disagreed with.  My problem is that I don't have an opinion about white people, neutral or otherwise.  I don't have an opinion about people who's second toe is longer than their big toe, either.  It's nonsensical to me.  As nonsensical as saying most people with brown eyes are likely to like West Virginia's football team.

But I am not immune to the stereotypes.  It's not that I believe them on a conscious level, but they get in there.  The same way I can't help but know that 15 minutes could save you 15 percent, or that m&m's melt in your mouth and not in your hand.  Which is also bullshit, on a hot day like this...  Just because you know the bullshit mantras by rote, doesn't mean you have to believe them.  Just because you have been advertised a beer, and you drank it and lo! it was indeed a beer, that doesn't mean that was in fact less filling or tasted great.

As I said before, statistical outcomes for "people of color" have nothing - NOTHING - to do with the inherent nature of the person but of society's relationship with people of color.  Our society is still heavily racially biased and the suffering falls heaviest on those with the darkest skin.  It is very sad, but currently true.  That is what the statistics show.

There are innumerable examples available to show identical scenarios resulting in different outcomes when you change the color of the people involved.  A darker person is more likely to be stopped for the same behavior, more likely to be arrested, ticketed, or convicted, for the same behavior.  Among equally eligible candidates for a job, those with darker skin or more "ethnic" sounding names are less likely to receive even an interview, let alone the job.  Trying to justify harsher treatment of certain ethnic groups because of all the negative consequences of this harsher treatment (as in, it's okay to have harsher sentencing for black people because, damn, look at all those black people in jail)... it's a classic case of cart before horse.  Or just being an asshole.

Obviously, all this blog has been instigated by the tragedy of Trayvon Martin and the resulting commentaries on race.  My feeling about the case, specifically, is this: I didn't follow every detail of the case, so I can't say how I would make a determination of those specific charges.  But, there had to be some law that would have convicted George Zimmerman, even if it was a charge less than manslaughter.  You may have the right to defend yourself, but you also have the responsibility to not kill someone.  The magnitude of taking a life cannot be understated and cannot go unanswered.  It cannot be acceptable to stalk someone, harass them, and provoke a physical confrontation, and then kill them because they were defending themself from you.  That cannot be the acceptable precedent.

There is no excuse or justification sufficient for you to take the life of another unless you had no other choice.  But Trayvon Martin, both before and after his death, was presumed to be a thug, a threat.  That presumption - that's probably true of most of them, right? - that presumption lead Zimmerman to think he had no other choice.  Or that Martin deserved it anyway, because if he wasn't a thug already, just give it time...

If you use race to make any kind of generalization about behavior - that's racism.  It is not justified and it's not okay, no matter how many anecdotes you've heard to back up the bullshit.  Don't believe this "culture of victimhood" bullshit, either.  And don't get defensive because you don't like being called the bad guy.  Be honest first.  I still believe that most people don't want to be racists, and that is important.  But you can't just deflect or justify the latent racism that may lurk inside your head.  Your first challenge is examining what you really believe and why you believe it.  Recognizing differences might be inherent but racism is not.  It is a poison to humanity.  It is an unfair burden placed on some, insidious or obvious, but it persists.

If you have not lived as the Other in a society, try to take a moment to imagine what it is to walk around every day of your life "guilty."  Inferior... a target... and for no offense.  Any woman should be able to relate.  What woman hasn't felt like a target walking down the street in a short skirt... or a mu-mu, for that matter?  But being a feminist and wanting to be treated like a human being not a piece of meat doesn't make someone a man-hater, any more than being against racism makes someone anti-white people.

It occurred to me recently that affirmative action is as much about providing opportunity as it is about reprogramming - or deprogramming - racism.  As you are forced to live and work alongside those you once thought different, the bullshit is overwritten with the humanity of the person at your side.  The everyday human stories fill in the spaces where nonsense used to dwell.  And in time, if they are allowed to, the young see the new reality that should be and not this tragic world in which we now dwell.  Sometimes, the old can see it too...

We can only hope.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Adonis and Butterface

Toyota Service Center
8oz Complimentary Coffee (x2)
Gerber Fruit Squeezy

It's before noon - it's Friday - and I'm blogging.  I feel weird.  But my car is getting a long, long over-due servicing so it only makes sense to use this time to write.  So... what shall my topic be today?  I'm not sure.  Let's just go for it.

I saw a picture of a half-naked fat chic online (there's a promising opening sentence) and it got me thinking.  Mostly the accompanying text was about all the positive responses, though it acknowledged the god-awful body hate that also got dredged up.  So let me throw down what I think about beauty and love and all that crap.  This may be "date hair" part 2, in a way.  I feel like all this should be a given, but sometimes it's important to see it written aloud.  So here goes...

I wonder how far women could have gone in this last century if modern media - movies, magazines, television - hadn't been invented until after society had already embraced women's liberation.  Would we still have the relentless body shaming being beaten into us from every direction?  I wonder...  But as it is, we have to work hard to do our own deprogramming.

So, first thing you need to accept: fat people are not Love's lepers.  They can be beautiful, too.  They can, in fact, be considered attractive - even by skinny people.  And most importantly, they can be loved - by anyone.

This should not be shocking.  No one should be going, "yeah, but..."  Nope.  Basically everything you've been told about beauty and love by movies and stories and fashionistas is nonsense.  It's a bullshit mythology so expansive and so ingrained in our collective psyche that we are emotionally crippled for most of our lives.  No matter how much we try to over-write the coding in our brains, we are still so drowning in the bullshit messaging that when we see a storyline that deviates - a love-interest 10 pounds over the Hollywood norm - our mind recoils and says that it's unrealistic.  We can't believe that someone that looks like us could be found attractive to a Hollywood Heartthrob.  Even though that is the reality that surrounds us everyday - somehow we can't see it.

Not to toot my own horn but I have stopped traffic (on more than one occasion) when I was still about 180 pounds.  That's obese for my height.  Not just overweight - obese.  I reduced a guy to a slack-jawed, giggling idiot at 200 pounds.  And I'm not attracting only equally overweight guys.  One guy who asked me out looked like a goddamn Adonis.  He was a sweet guy, too.  But I turned him down.  He was a subordinate.  And I didn't have my Date Hair on.  But, though he was hotter than any Hollywood hunk I can think of right now, he was still into rubenesque - obese - me.

The truth is beauty will turn a head.  But that is not the whole story of attraction, and certainly not of love.  And beauty is highly subjective to each person.  There is an innate beauty to health - the genetic symmetry and the physical display that shows viability for child-bearing and child-rearing.  When it comes to our fat stores, from a health standpoint, it's beneficial to have some extra in cases of emergency (sickness, food shortages, etc.), but there's a limit to the benefit.  At some point, carrying around too much extra is going to put strain on systems throughout your body, though that point is a lot farther out than Hollywood would have you believe, and you can still maintain your fitness even carrying a lot extra.

But we're not just rutting animals.  We're social animals.  We're complicated.  And we care about the mental health of our mates as well.  Happy people are attractive, whatever else they look like.  I've said before.  I've never found someone with a genuine smile to be unattractive.  And then there's that intangible - personality.  Quirks, favorite bands, your civility while driving... they infuse attraction as well.

For me, parking your car an extra space farther away from your destination just so that the next person will have an easier time parallel parking - that's damn sexy.

I'm sure that I have a "type" that I  could call that most attractive to me.  I have a favorite color, after all, why not a favorite face or body-type?  Well, for one thing, not everything in my life is the same color.  My car is blue, my microwave is red, my favorite dress is green.  In fact, I don't generally believe in having a favorite anything.  It robs you of enjoyment of a multitude of things by fixating on one thing.  I don't want to have a favorite song.  I like all kinds of music and I would give you wildly different answers depending on the mood I'm in.  So, too, with people.  I have liked and loved all kinds of people.  Short guys, tall guys, fat guys, small guys - and a plethora of Dr. Seuss combinations all around.  And all of them have been attractive to me - beautiful - in their own way.

When it comes to appearance, people can control how they dress and how they groom themselves, they can control their fitness (though it doesn't always feel like it).  But people cannot control their genetic make up.  So someone's appearance seems to be the most ludicrous and inconsequential thing to compliment.  And, yet, we do it.  We're obsessed with it.  And we still conflate the concept of beauty with someone's random genetic result.  I put zero work into this face, these... huge tracts of land...  But I have put considerable work into my mind.  I've contemplated the shit out of the Universe... and religion and politics and economics and so much nonsense.  That's where I dwell.  And no grainy internet picture is going to capture that.

So, I cannot deny that a pretty face will turn your head.  But a pretty face alone will not hold your heart's attention forever.  Not really.  And beauty is something much deeper and more complex than appearance, and, in truth, is unconstrained by something so random as numbers on a scale.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Date Hair

Evo's Coffee Lounge
8oz Soy Mocha
Vegan Heart Biscuit with jam

I am 34 years old.  Thirty-four years.  That's a long damn time.  Carter was president when I was born.  Gas prices were causing rationing with long lines of gas-guzzlers stretching down the road.  My brother's and I used to fight over the front seat as kids.  Now we would have been squeezed into into three booster seats in the back.  Lenders couldn't charge you more than 10% interest when I was born, and a summer job could pay an entire year's tuition.

And on and on the changes I've seen in thirty-four years...  I remember the Challenger disaster.  I remember coming home from school to the news that we were at war in Iraq (the first time).  I remember the L.A. Riots.  I remember not really caring for Bill Clinton until the impeachment spectacle.  I remember thinking then that I definitely could never be president - I do not have that kind of emotional stamina to go through that and just keep working.

But I did give serious thought to being president when I was a kid.  It was really an option for a while.  Along with many other things... philosopher, physicist, writer, lawyer, truck driver, opera singer...  My biggest problem then was deciding.  But I'm not a kid anymore.  And I'm not any of those things... on a professional level, anyway.  On reflection, I'm kinda all those things informally.

Because I'm interesting.  I am an interesting, autonomous human being.  But the most interesting thing is that, in thirty-four years - I haven't thought of you once.

...Mr. You're-a-Fat-Bitch-because-you're-not-interested-in-me...

I have contemplated the shape and nature of the Universe.  I have worried over things large and small.  But I have never once in 34 years worried about the opinion of a man who does not respect me enough to leave me alone.  I have never gotten up in the morning and said to myself, "How should I dress today so I can please the next guy who wants to stare at my ass?"  I have never once - not ever - wanted a complete or virtually complete stranger to comment on the size or buoyancy of my tits.  Never.  It is not a compliment.  It is a threat.  It is the reduction of a human being to an appendage, an object, a thing inferior to the person making the comment.

I shouldn't have to say I'm in a relationship or that I just forgot to put my wedding ring back on after cleaning apples for my kids' lunch.  I shouldn't have to say, "Yeah, I'd totally be into you, but the chemo is really taking it out of me today."  I shouldn't have to say that I have some emotional stuff going on and I'm a little fragile.  Or a lot fragile.  I shouldn't have to tell you that it is not okay to touch me in any way at all.  I shouldn't have to say that grabbing my ass is actually a sexual assault.  That should be a goddamn given.

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the time, if a girl rejects your advances, it has almost nothing to do with you.  Sometimes there's nothing wrong with the guy asking you out for coffee but there's nothing particularly appealing to you either.  There's nothing wrong with just not being interested.  And I completely respect that guys feel vulnerable asking a girl out and it's hard to deal with even a kind rejection.  But just as a woman should not feel validated as a human being only when someone finds her sexually attractive, so should a man not feel like less of a man if any given woman isn't interested.

I know that women are sometimes very unkind to men.  And again, that is often mostly unrelated to the man talking to her.  Just try to remember that for every shy guy who plucks up the courage to ask her out, there is a barrage of assholes calling her a Fat Bitch just for walking past them wearing any amount of clothing, not to mention all the subtle and not-so-subtle misogynist messaging from every imaginable source in society.  Some times it's just bad timing.

I have turned down a number of potentially wonderful relationships simply because I didn't have my Date Hair on. 

Date Hair means you are willing to invest the energy getting to know someone.  You're willing to shave your legs and make yourself more presentable to society at large.  You feel stable enough with your own crap that you're willing to let someone in, to take the emotional hit if it turns out bad.  And even when you're not looking you may still find someone who knocks you off your feet anyway.  (So don't take it personally if someone who said she wasn't dating anybody right then ends up going out with some other guy a week later).

So, good guys, hang in there.  Don't get cynical, and maybe experiment with getting to know a girl for the purpose of being a friend rather than being a perspective girlfriend for a change.

And please knock your asshole friends upside their heads because they're kinda ruining for the rest of you.

Okay, posting!  No edits. 

My boys are waiting in the car for me.