Safe Spaces

I’m not sure that I’m smart enough or thoughtful enough to properly articulate what I want to talk about tonight.  I hate that feeling, like what I need to say is important, but I’m not up to the task of doing it justice.  But, anyway, here we go.

It starts like this.  When I was in grad school, I did my master’s thesis on hypertext fiction and my question was whether hypertext fiction was actually non-linear.  A sub-question I had was whether hypertext fiction could somehow be a kind of écriture féminine.*  Well, of course, it seemed obvious that, if one were writing about electronic fiction, one might use the internet to do some of her research.

What I quickly ran into, a decade ago, was that, if you typed “women” and anything into Yahoo, you had to wade through a shit ton of porn in order to find anything remotely relevant.  It just didn’t seem worth it.  It was like this price you had to pay in order to be a part of a discussion about women in public–you had to put up with being inundated with this layer of irrelevant filth**–and for me, at that time, the price was just too annoyingly high.

In the meantime, search engines have gotten better and I just now typed in “women writing” in Yahoo and was pleasantly surprised to see that there wasn’t one link to pornography on the first page.  Same with just “women.”  Same with “girls,” though it does suggest at the top that you might try “hot anime girls.”

But there’s still this notion that, if you are a woman or want to discuss women, it’s not going to take very long before you’re faced with a lot of irrelevant filth that you have to tolerate just as a cost of having the discussion.

Jonathan Hickman had me thinking about that all day.  His gal, Katie, has the most ordinary blog a lefty do-gooder mom might have and she gets comments that are so nasty sometimes that it’s nearly impossible for me to read her comments without becoming enraged.  But it’s like that’s just the price of doing business.  If she wants to be out there in the world, she has to put up with it.

And, coincidentally, Rachel is also talking about this, about finding a rape porn site linking to Women’s Health News.  I mean, really, what the fuck?  We can’t even talk about women’s health without rape and porn coming into it?

I don’t know.  You know, it’s always there, like this background noise.  I dig into my spam filter to see if TV on the Fritz has gotten stuck in there and everything in there is “cunts” and “underage girls” and “big black bitches” and just this kind of stuff that, if I thought about it would really bother me.  I don’t really think about it, though.

It’s just that constant background noise–bitch, ho, cunt, rape, fuck, tiny girls, violate, invade, nasty, get what they deserve–you learn to tune out.  The price of being out here is the tacit agreement that you’ll let that kind of shit go, you’ll notice it, but not give it too much thought.

But it makes me wonder what it would be like to go a whole day without hearing the word, say, “bitch.”  Could I go my whole day without hearing or seeing it?  Could I go about my day as I always do and not encounter that word?  Or is that just a cost of being a woman, if I want to go on the internet, listen to music, watch tv, whatever, I have to understand that I’m not going to be able to avoid that word?  Shoot, I use the word all the time.  I couldn’t even read my own blog.

And I’m not advocating anyone give up the word “bitch.”  Hell, I’m not giving it up.

I’m just saying, you build up these callouses and try not to think too much about whether you’re poisoning your soul by becoming hardened to that kind of stuff.

I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking of that in terms of how we do–or fail to do–race relations in this country as well, that there’s this level of quasi-racist discourse that we just tolerate as background noise one has to put up with if one wants to talk publicly.

And I don’t know how one confronts it when the volume is so enormous.  But in the past two days, I’ve seen someone in Middle Tennessee say “There is no reason for them to be here, and drink, and have multiple arrests, and kill Citizens whose lives actually have meaning, and make a difference.” [emphasis mine] and not one pro-ship-’em-all-back-to-Mexico person spoke up against that.  Is that the truth of the matter?  That it’s so important for you to have your way that you’re willing to tolerate this eliminationist rhetoric as long as it’s in service to your point?***

And I’ve seen a thread on the Tennessean’s website so racist I’m stunned that the Tennessean hasn’t shut it down.  Listen, I’ve got no great love for Adam Jones, but talking about pining for the good ole days when we could have just lynched him (they’ve removed that comment, but Coble preserved it)?  And only one person says anything specifically against the poster.  Everyone else is busy talking about how the streets will get him or how they hope he gets raped in prison.

You see what I’m saying?  You want to talk about Nashville football and you have to tolerate folks talking with glee about all the bad things they hope will happen to or that they wish they could cause to some guy who is, back here in the real world, a complete stranger to them.  It’s mind-boggling.  And it affects the conversation, the quality of conversation.

I guess that’s what bothers me and pisses me off.  There’s just this background discourse that’s so nasty and sometimes evil that many of us have assured ourselves we’ve grown immune to so that it doesn’t really affect us.  But it does.  Not just because it can’t help but corrupt us in some ways, but because it keeps those who aren’t hardened to it from speaking.

And we miss those voices even if we don’t realize it. 

*See wikipedia, especially “Écriture féminine places experience before language, and privileges non-linear, cyclical writing that evades ‘the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system.'” [emphasis mine just to show that the sub-question was not unrelated to the main question.]

**I should point out that I don’t think all porn is filth, but that’s neither here nor there to this discussion.

***If anyone wonders why we can’t have reasoned discussions about immigration in this country, the reason is that some of us refuse to take seriously folks who refuse to acknowledge the basic humanity of our neighbors.

Not that I Want Trolls

But I’m a little jealous of Exador’s.  I have nothing to add to the discussion, but I keep going back to look and snicker because “Your dick is your head and your head is your dick.” cracks me right the fuck up.

What does that even mean?

I’ve seen Exador and I don’t recall him wearing his pants above his shoulders.

Also, I love how his troll thinks that having to date a poly-bi-liberal hippie would just be such a terrible punishment.

No, no!  Anything but that!

Okay, I Admit It, I Also Don’t Trust Scientists

I was confused–to say the least–to find that the recalcitrant brother doesn’t believe in evolution or man-made global warming and I will admit to feeling smuggly superior because, by god, I understand that it’s irrefutable science.  And who is some plumber in west Georgia to not believe what irrefutable scientists tell him?

But today I’m reading Alas, A blog about how we’re still bitching at women (in this case, black women) for being too dangerously unhealthy by being fat, fat, fat in which Ampersand posts this chart from the New England Journal of Medicine.

I will wait for you to peruse it.  I would merely point out that, according to this chart, if you are a white, black, or hispanic man, it seems to be a little healthier to be slightly overweight.  If you are a white or black man, you would seem to be better off to be overweight than “normal” weight.

For white women, it seems to be healthiest to be at the high end of “normal” weight or at the low end of “overweight.”  Black women seem to be best off being overweight.  (And, I would point out that, for white and black folks, regardless of gender, it’s better to be morbidly obese than underweight in terms of relative risk of death.

And yet, we’re all supposed to be losing weight.  We’re all supposed to believe that, no matter what we weigh, it’s better if we were a few pounds lighter, because we believe the sciency folks when they tell us that being fat in and of itself is a problem.

So, I’m just going to say, when it comes to talking about fat, I don’t believe scientists.  I just don’t.  I assume that, in general, they’re motivated by an aesthetic bias against fat that has nothing to do with whether or not I’m healthy.  In other words, they think fat is gross and therefore feel justified in believing that fat people are inherently unhealthy and therefore, even when faced with graphs and charts that show otherwise, they’re still telling people to lose weight.

So, yeah, I kind of get where my brother is coming from.  Scientists are not without their paradigms and biases.  I think he’s wrong about evolution.  I’m willing to hear him out on global-warming. 

Family bonding, I guess.


I should not even have to say this, but I know it’s going to come up in the comments so I’ll just preempt it now.  Yes, we Americans are dreadfully unhealthy.  Shoot, even I am dreadfully unhealthy.  But we don’t address that.  We address weight, as if it’s an accurate corrilary of health.

Everyone, fat or skinny, should be exercising a half an hour a day.  Everyone should be eating fresh vegetables and less surgary, corn-syrupy processed crap.  Our goal should be to have a nation of healthy people–not a nation of aesthetically pleasing people–and we need to stop confusing the two.