Monday, December 25, 2017

A Primal Conflict

This is my second Lagertha post, which I was almost too cowardly to write.  Because this post is about rape.

Years ago I was triggered by an episode of Downton Abbey, which some people find ludicrous or comical.  But the very reason the violent rape was on Downton Abbey in the first place set me up.  You don't expect a chainsaw to come out of your Twinkie.  It was very harsh for me; I didn't sleep for several nights, had anxiety and a couple panic attacks.  It triggered me hard, and I got furious.  I went to war on social media, I lost friends over it, I even started a blog called Downturn Abbey, featuring posts by people who hated the episode as much as I did.  I talked openly about being a survivor.  I made people uncomfortable.

Time passed, I healed, people forgot.  I forgot.  I even watched Game of Thrones and looked the other way during the several rape scenes on that show.  I never defended those scenes, I detested them, but I didn't boycott the show.

I thought I had come to much better terms with my history and healed my trauma and moved on.

Then, in episode 2 of season 5 of Vikings, our badass heroine Largetha rapes the King of Norway.

I was only triggered in the sense that I wanted to jump off the couch and shout with joy.  When I watched her satisfy herself and then walk away, leaving him halfway there and hanging in chains, I laughed and crowed. 

And instantly banked the happy.  Because rape sucks.  Rape is wrong.  Rape is horrible. 

But I also had to own how I felt.

After decades upon decades of rape scenes on TV where the victim was always, literally always the woman, it felt vindicating, freeing, satisfying, fantastic.  And that's wrong. 

When I went to see Waiting to Exhale in the theater years ago, I had a moment of hair-raising awakening when Angela slaps a white chick.  Every black woman in the theater stood up and cheered; some were screaming with happiness.  The white chick in the movie was a horrible character, but that response was about a lot more than the movie.  I became very nervous and self-conscious through the rest of the film. And I remember thinking, well, this is what we have to endure.  It's part of our history, and my part of the horrible history is to take the backlash with as much grace as possible.  I just hope to make it to the car alive.

I now understand men who've been accused of sexual harassment who say, "That is not who I am," although I do think they are deluding themselves to abscond from responsibility.

It's not within the scope of my values to take joy in anyone's suffering, and rape creates suffering.  Yet still, I rejoiced in it, and I can't prevent myself from rejoicing when I watch the scene again.  So clearly it is within the scope of my values, and I'm responsible for sorting that out. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Satisfying Downfall

*************************VIKINGS SPOILERZ**********************

In season five of the show Vikings a beloved brave and badass heroine has become a tyrannical rapist and asshole.  Power corrupts.

Here's why I hate it less than the demise of other powerful women characters: because she isn't being brought down by her innate "weakness" as so many other female characters who don't have it in them for the real fight.  She won't be undone through lack of upper body strength, nerve, focus or resolve, or even lack of testosterone.

In Lagertha's downfall I get what I've always craved to see: women as humans.  This includes human flaws that make them disappointing and even contemptible.  Lagertha was tough for a long, long time, and like so many male characters before her, she has begun the downward slide to tyranny.  She hasn't aged physically from the beginning of the series which supposedly was decades ago, but we are talking about TV here.  Unlike the Brits who own the idea that acting matters more than cosmetic viability, women stay 20-something on American and even Canadian TV.  Lagertha still looks as good, but she's headed for a horrible end.

While I see a future for humans in which we learn new communication methods and ways to optimize our resources to become much more harmoniously cooperative beings, it still has great meaning for me to see a woman fail on her own rather than just getting slapped down by a guy.

It's better to faceplant by yourself than get shoved to the ground.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Judge's Seat

I turned 57 today.  I'm at the age where men love to tell me how hot I probably used to be.

Most women know what it feels like to be a beauty contestant.  Not because we all compete, but because we all get judged on how we look.  All the time.

The bulk of the judging comes from inside ourselves.  But this unrelenting self-evaluation was set in motion by others, and we've become aware that it's cranked on and on by The Beauty Industry Machine, by forces like women's magazines and designers.  But what gives the machine jet fuel is just about every man we meet who feels he has to let us know where we are on the beauty scale.

Amy Schumer has joked that she's a 6 in Manhattan but an 8 in Poughkeepsie.

But I was shocked into a slack-jawed state for so long that my tongue dried out when I watched episode 4 of season 2 of The Crown.  Because the Queen of bloody fucking England's husband told her that if she wanted to have more children by him, she should take a look at Rita Hayworth.  As if that stab wasn't vicious enough he went on about it. "Ohh," he sighed, "Rita Hayworth."

Idealized feminine beauty is a club used to beat all women with, even the idealized ones.  Especially the idealized ones, if they stay alive.  Because among the great crushing insults designed to keep women living half lives is the old bludgeon: "Girl, you've let yourself go."  This is great insurance against women getting experienced and knowledgeable and uppity.  Once you've figured out all that disrespect you endured in your young, "hot" years had nothing to do with you personally and was never your fault, and you're ready to grab the wheel, that's when men will let you know how "old" you're looking, and how that makes you less valuable, contemptible, even embarrassing by your very existence.

A note to my younger women friends: the beauty contest is bullshit designed to keep you down.  Men will defend it, saying they "Can't help it if  (name of the idealized woman here) turns them on".  And that you "Shouldn't get insecure about it".  That's a bullshit strategy, so long ingrained that men actually believe it.  They love believing it, because it keeps them in the judge's seat.

If a man has any respect for you, he won't play that comparison game.  He won't reduce you to a number.

And don't listen to the bullshit.  Don't fear getting older.  This is when we're firing on all cylinders.  Refuse to get knocked down.  When you do get knocked down, get up and fire back.  Stick to your values.  Decide for yourself how you feel about you.

Oh, and by the way, all living beings on this little blue ball in the midst of a hostile black void are worthy of love and respect and cherishing.  Exactly as they are.  And that includes you.  You, exactly as you are.  Right now.

If someone else tries to hold up a number on you, shove "the judge" aside, and take that seat for yourself.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Harm or Mystery

There's a predator crouching in your soul.  And it might be why you love gory, violent movies depicting torture and other bodily harm.

Jungian psychologists know where it crouches. "This predatory force can manifest as a psychopathic torturer in outer reality or as a tormentor, who attacks us from within. Like all creatures, the human creature must learn that there are predators, in the world out there and within us."  Dr. Heidi Kolb

Horror movies can sublimate the predator, or they can empower it.  The evidence shows that people who are more aggressive are relaxed by violence in media, while people who are less aggressive are upset by it.

I fall heavily into the second category.  Especially after completing the EMT program at Swedish Hospital 20 years ago, my fascination with gore and bodily harm in movies did a 180.  When you train in emergency medicine you don't just learn bandaging.  You look at pictures, lots of pictures, of crime scenes and child abuse.  You learn how to spot who was murdered and who committed suicide. You learn to spot systematic abuse by the movement of bruises and the way victims often defend the offenders.  You get to know how brutal people can really be to each other, especially to innocents.  And you also do rotations in emergency rooms and ambulances where you see plenty of bodily fluids relocated to where they don't belong.  You see pain and suffering and harm.

So, no movies for me named after wood shop tools tearing humans apart.

But the predator can also be an ally.  It can warn you of trouble if you pay attention.  And it can even increase your quality of life by reminding you, with some of your darkest thoughts, that life is not forever.  That we will die someday.  And that can give you plenty of energy.  It can also remind you of the mysteries of simply existing.

In my distant youth Halloween aesthetic was one of otherworldliness, eeriness, and the textures of autumn and harvest.  Back then Halloween always seemed to come on an overcast day with dark, heavy clouds, lush piles of crisp leaves you could jump into with a soft landing and a rush of their spicy funk.  There were always scents of pumpkins and apples and spices, or roasting chilies and bonfires, and stories about grey ladies and ghost trains.

Those Halloweens were about mystery, unanswerable questions about afterlife and other worlds.  Supernatural rituals like masking and carving demon faces into ground fruit connected us to to those worlds.  There was a sense of something beyond our understanding that we were linked with, whether spirits or goblins or (since there were no big bags of manufactured candy at the store and everybody made Halloween by hand) just Mrs. Williams' magically amazing peanut butter popcorn balls.

Harm has never interested me much.  I'll stick with the mystery.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hold Up A Mirror

That's a quote from my friend Bill Thorpe, a brilliant man and great radio personality, copy writer and producer, among other things.

In radio, we're still doing a lot of inside-out thinking.  We talk, the audience listens.  And that works to a point because passive listening is a relaxing service, and also because audiences have learned to expect it.

I talk, you listen.

But audiences are looking for their own reflections in their media and entertainment.

That's why the news has been taken over by a handful of outlets that pander to their demographics, to the point where nothing is really news anymore; it's just a version of reality the outlets have determined that their audiences want to hear.

It's the reason representation is so important and why you see a much, much more diverse cast of characters in most TV commercials and stock photos than you saw even ten years ago.  Representation pumps up sales.

It's also why radio needs to bring back phones.

Phones have been phased out somewhat, because most people don't call anyone anymore.  Most people text or message and only call for business or Mom on the weekends.  Still, radio needs to try again to make phoners work much more often.  Because people want to hear themselves on the radio.

Particularly during tragedies, as my friend Bill says, most stations get it wrong.  They work on making the killer famous, or spew out statistics to incite outrage, or dive into political rhetoric. What we should be doing is letting listeners tell their stories and express how they feel.  That's why social media works, and why stations that use phoners and ask for listener input get bigger ratings.

What we really do, if we do it right, is hold up a mirror.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How I Pay The Bills

...tossing out silly double-entendres weekday afternoons in between Korn and Imagine Dragons songs...


Saturday, October 14, 2017

One Reason...'s been a long time between posts.

The shed, which I kept angora rabbits in.  Turns out angora rabbits are very unhappy in cages, fight when taken out to play in the grass, and fight when taken inside to safety.  Also, my dog Sunny killed one of them (through my negligence).  I rehomed the second bunny in a good herd.  I was writhing with remorse over it all, so the shed sat for a year looking like this:

 ...and finally ended up looking like this:

I tore out the rabbit-pee-saturated old insulation, scrubbed it out, bleached it out and painted. 

The most pressing problem was the door, which had sagged and warped, and no longer closed. I didn't want to buy a whole new door.  We'd made a trip out to Bent's Fort and Jim's engineering brain had memorized the Old West/Steampunk technology locking mechanism, which he then recreated from scratch:

It also needs to be said that Jim painted the exterior, put the roof on it when we first got the thing and put in a brand new window.  Who's spoiled rotten?  Oh, yeah, that would be ME.

Then, the ceiling needed to be insulated.

My Mom bought the recycled denim insulation I wanted.  Installation was a puzzler, but we finally decided to use bird netting and staples to hold it in place.  It worked brilliantly.

I didn't want a bunch of heavy, space-eating paneling over it, so we went with simple muslin panels, stapled.

Then it was time to insulate the walls.  I wanted to keep as much space in the little shed as possible, while keeping it comfortable.  I went with foil-backed foam.

We didn't end up using much glue, since Jim put all the foam insulation in for me while I was at work one day by just cutting the pieces to fit between the studs and wedging them in snugly.  I was grateful, since the glue I'd started using was not agreeing with me.

Still trying to keep as much open space as possible, I didn't want paneling, but I did want the feel of a shed.  I chose contact paper that looked like rough white panels...but a little like birch bark, too.  I pasted it right onto the foam.  The glue in the contact paper wasn't my friend, either, but I had it done in a weekend.

The table had belonged to my friend Kim; I had sanded the ruined finish last year and painted it.  All I needed was a desk chair, a space heater, and a working computer and BAM:  Writing Shed.

But...I added a few things I already had that belong in any writer's space: a Day of The Dead skull because "Alas, poor Yorick" and also as a tribute to Lord Byron who was said to drink wine from a human skull.  Also Rouser, my raven puppet, because Poe.

The view from my desk is awesome, too...just trees soon to be hung with bird feeders, and the compost pile behind them.

We're not fancy.  But if feels like a massive luxury to have this little writing space. An embarrassment of riches.

And now, to get my word count up.  November is coming.