The Peacock Afghan

God damn it, I really need a cockapus afghan and I need your thoughts on it below! Ha ha ha. No, the peacock afghan is going well. I kind of did up all the changing parts so that I could make sure the color combinations worked how I want and now I have a bunch of ends to tuck and then just the yellow and green rounds on the motif to put together.

I think the thing I find very satisfying about this style of afghan (and it’s going to be very heavily based on the beautiful butthole afghan) is that it feels like it goes quickly. Like there’s both a lot to do and yet not so much that you feel like it can’t be done.

But I’m still irritated at other iterations of peacock afghans I’ve seen, which are just making the peacock eye thingy and then appliqueing it to a different afghan. So you have two layers of yarned shit. How hot must that be?! I want an afghan where the eyes are a part of the structure of the afghan, not sewn on at the end.

And I think the beautiful butthole afghan, with slight modifications for a smaller motif, is the way to go.

I’m getting a lot of work done on the afghan, too, because I’m avoiding my problems. Ha ha ha. But no, it’s nice to come home and just not think about anything. Just listen to some podcasts and move my fingers around.

I sometimes feel like a liar. Not like a regular liar. But I feel like I have three really ingrained instincts–1. to shut down in the face of unpleasantness in order to have the unpleasantness over with as soon as possible; 2. to be the person who sucks it up and does what’s necessary to keep things moving; 3. to keep some important section of myself deeply private (and what section that is doesn’t even matter, just that I have a secret thing I don’t have to share). You can see, I’m sure, how very gendered that is and how it was fed by being raised a minister’s kid.

But it means that many of my interactions with non-friends are often fundamentally dishonest. The person standing before you, laughing along, is not the person standing before you who’s really thinking “Is this enough time to spend on this? Can I excuse myself now?”

So, I’m in this jam and it’s kind of self-inflicted, in that I have a few acquaintances, not people who are my friends, but people who could have, under other circumstances, become my friends, who have a view of me as someone who breezily blows off this online shit and who courts and loves conflict. I am “tough” and “a bad ass” and I “can take a little criticism, so who cares?”

This is fundamentally untrue most of the time. This year it’s been especially untrue. As you all know because I gripe about it so often. I have tried to draw firm boundaries and to make clear that I don’t want to hear the negative opinions people I don’t know have of me. These boundaries, it’s become exceedingly clear, are not firm enough, because these same people keep doing this same shit to me–making sure I learn of all people’s bad opinions of me. And then I sit around and question, well, did I not make it clear, clear enough? Am I making it clear but they’re just not able to hear it because who I am as a person is, in this case so incongruent from who they see me as that they just can’t make it jibe, can’t believe I am who I am telling them I am and not who they see me as? Or are they evil and they think I don’t notice?

But I think this is an older problem with me than just this summer. People perceive me as strong and outspoken and yet my oldest coping mechanism is to go quiet and cryptic and smile and get it over with. I hardly ever say “You’re doing a shitty thing to me.” I instead harden myself against them and try to move them along quickly.

You see why it feels like lying? Like, once I decide you’re not safe for me, I just pull some important part of me away from you, tuck it in a safe spot, and handle you as best I can until I can be done with you.

So, like these people. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to hear this shit–but I can’t really be sure that I’ve been blunt enough, since they seem mostly like good people but they haven’t stopped and I am a woman raised to not be very direct–and my ability to be generous to people who are bothering me is not very well-developed, so rather than continue to try to get them to respect my boundaries, I just begin to fundamentally lie to them. I smile and nod and laugh on the surface and me and my true self just withdraw and wait it out.

I’m not sure if that’s a really fair way to deal with the world.

Ha ha ha. I’m not really sure why this has become the September of Introspection, but I promise, the month’s almost over.

More of the Same

I have a theory, built on an observation, reinforced over the course of this past week, that women divide men up into two groups–dudes you need to keep an eye on and dudes that are some woman’s project (like, she’s working on transforming him into a “good” guy).

So, say you’re in a place. Let’s not mention any specific places, but a big open public place a woman thinks she should be able to go without issue. She steps off the elevator and turns to the right, to head toward the large room with seats and computers. Three men come out of the room to see who’s coming off the elevator. Two of the men dart back inside. The third man moves around in front of the doors she’d like to go in. She gets the sense they’re doing something in the room they’d rather her not see.

How many women do you think would go into that room? Past that third man? I don’t know. I’m going to say a little less than half. But I’ll also say that I think somewhere closer to 3/4 of women would immediately understand why the women who didn’t go in the room didn’t go in the room.

After all, you have to trust your gut and keep an eye on dudes.

But let’s say that one of those guys is the boyfriend of an acquaintance of yours. You don’t know him. You don’t really know her. You recognize him, but he obviously didn’t immediately recognize you.

Here’s the thing women don’t admit. Now more of us are inclined to go in the room. Not because we feel more safe, but because not going in the room means that we’re saying that this man our friend knows is one of the guys you have to keep an eye on.

And you don’t fucking disrespect some woman and her project that way.

The mistake I made this past week was not in misinterpreting what’s going on. But by the time I stumbled on the third fucking group of angry women talking shit about my “privilege” and how disappointed they are in me, it dawned on me: I’m in trouble because I shit on some women’s project. I saw men they’re “working on” as unsettling and their behavior as cause for caution. I impugned their (the women’s) ability to transform these men.

I have a lot of thoughts about how unhealthy it is for women to take it upon ourselves to try to transform men–just starting with how incredibly icky and disrespectful it is to the men and how women are not the civilizing force of society and it’s weird to assume that is your job AND WEIRDER YET to assume it’s your job and then suck so bad at it–but who cares?

The important thing is that I was complaining to the Butcher about all of this and how women are talking about sitting me down and talking to me about my privilege and he laughed and he said, “You should tell them, ‘Sure. Let’s meet in the 3rd Floor Reading Room at the Library some Saturday morning.'”

And then I laughed, too.

Enemy of the Downtrodden

The library post continues to be a pain in my butt. I continue to be pissed at the whole argument that I’m classist. It’s not classism to expect that the bathrooms at the library will be in working order or that the behavior of the men on the third floor will not be sketchy and alarming. It’s classist to believe that because people are homeless, they can’t use the library in a manner respectful to the other people who want to be there.

Plus, fuck it. If my argument is classist, let’s be clear that it’s a different kind of classism than “rich person dogging on poor people.” I am alarmed that I can’t feel safe at the library because I have to use the library. I’m not rich enough to just buy every book that might be interesting to me.

But the other reason it pisses me off that a subsection of feminists is criticizing me is that I feel like there’s this bullshit expectation in this city that women are supposed to either curtail their behavior (oh, men acting weird at the library? You’d better just stay home, woman) or put themselves in danger (a strange man coming up to your car window and demanding to talk to you in order to sell his paper) so that men can do what they want.

You’d think feminism 101 would include “you have a right to participate in public life without harassment from men,” but I guess there are some men whose harassment we just have to tolerate because otherwise we’re big meanies?

You’re Old When the Feminists Hate You, Right?

Apparently, according to the Nashville Feminist Collective, I’m classist because I’m appalled that the downtown library smells bad and people on the third floor when I visited were acting sketchy as hell.

I thought about responding something like “I think ‘classist’ is when you accept behavior in some men that would unnerve you from other men because you’ve decided the men ‘below’ you wouldn’t dare hurt you,” but that seemed unnecessarily antagonistic.

I’ve been around the internet a long time. I’ve been a feminist on the internet a long time. These things come in cycles. But it’s never a good sign for feminists when attention turns from wanting to be able to fully engage with the world without having our gender count against us toward auditing the ideas of other women for wrong thinking.

Not only is it a huge, hurtful waste of time, you can’t behave yourself into freedom. There’s no “if I line up all my ducks in a row and never let them out of line, then I’ll get what I want, therefore, the people critiquing my duck-lining are my friends and doing me a favor.” No.

If behaving properly is what got women liberation, people wouldn’t hate feminists so much.

Mothers

Yesterday, we were talking about our moms and one of the women asked me when the last fight I had with my mom was and I think it was seventh or eighth grade. Which is not to say that we haven’t accidentally bumped up against each other emotionally since then, but an actual “We’re having problems because you won’t shape up” fight?

Not since I was a pre-teen.

It made me feel like there’s a whole realm of female experience, a whole way of understanding one’s self, that I, and thank goodness, haven’t ever experienced.

I’ve been trying to think about why that is and I think, in part, it’s because my mom doesn’t really understand herself the way that other mothers do. I don’t think she necessarily understands me emotionally–or ever has, really–or expects me to understand her in some intimate emotional way. She’s my mom. I’m her daughter.

I don’t know if I’m getting at this right, but I think being a mom for my mom has been a straightforward thing, a thing that happened and now just is. She worries and frets and shit, but she doesn’t doubt it.

But I see from the outside that other women have these really entwined relationships with their moms, where there can be secret support and secret betrayals and such. We just don’t have that. My mom has never expected something (whatever that thing might be) in return for being my mom.

So, that’s nice.

On the other hand, it has me thinking about the ways we construct these kinds of essential ideas about what it means to be a woman, based on these universal woman experiences, with a kind of expectation that how womanly you are is based on your participation in these shared experiences, and those experiences aren’t available to a lot of women.

Which, in this case, woo hoo! I’m glad to not have a fraught relationship with my mom.

But it does make me think about the ways we construct womanhood and the forms we put people in so that they’re recognizably female.

Women’s Work

Something came up recently that I don’t really want to talk about, but I’m mentioning obliquely here because it’s on my mind and troubling me.

I was reminded of it again this morning when I read this story about a Christian music star who is coming out as gay. The letter he wrote about it is extraordinary–not only because of his honesty about himself and the ways in which he really, really didn’t want to be gay and thought he could just act straight long enough that it would eventually come to him, but because of his honesty about what it did to his wife.

I was also reading recently that it’s very hard for women to get doctors to treat our pain, specifically if it’s related to our reproductive systems, because there’s still this cultural expectation that being a woman is being in pain.

It’s hard to read the story about the Christian music star and not get the sense that his wife is in a very painful spot and that, really, the music star seems to be the only one who is publicly acknowledging that their society has put her in this painful spot–that she’s just expected to mop up after the damage it does to insist gay men marry straight women.

There’s a lot of emotional work that women do that’s mostly invisible. Men get used to this emotional work just happening, I’ve discovered. Most of the most mind-bogglingly strange things that have happened to me in my life have happened because some man needed some emotional work done and didn’t have any idea how to do it himself so he just assumed he could dump it on me and walk away. (And I love processing things with people! So this isn’t “Help me talk this through so it makes sense to me” type stuff. This is something different.)

I don’t know. It’s just troubling. If you hold in your mind the idea that women are always upset, always complaining, then it seems to me it’s easier for you to say to yourself “Well, then, she can just be upset about this, too, so I don’t have to deal with it.”

But you can’t be a whole person if you don’t ever have to deal with your own shit.

Promiscuity

The other day on Twitter we were joking around about the latest mini episode of Tanis where Nic’s friend, Geoff, asks him too many pointed questions about who he might be sleeping with. One dude was like “I think Geoff has a little crush on Nic” and I said something like “Hey, you can’t expect a guy to see twenty women eating a cake and not be curious what the cake tastes like!”

And I’ve been thinking about that since then. I was trying to be funny, but I wonder if there’s something to it. We tend to talk about prohibitions on promiscuity being about some kind of evolutionary need to know that the kids we’re raising are ours. And there’s also some talk about fear of women’s agency and pleasure.

All of those thing sound nice in theory, but I guess I think there are kind of fundamental emotions, like raw, primitive emotions, and then more sophisticated emotions.

No thirteen year old boy who calls a girl a slut is worried that her kids aren’t going to be his kids or that she’s got too much agency and pleasure. I think those responses are too sophisticated for him at that point.

So, what’s the core feeling promiscuity engenders in us? And I think it’s anxiety that, if the person we’re with has a lot of experience, they have a lot of experience by which to judge us: i.e. they will know we suck, whereas, if we’re the only person they have sex with, however bad we are will just have to do.

But I also think there’s a mixture of curiosity and shame at that curiosity. If a lot of people want to sleep with your friend, aren’t you curious about what it’s like to sleep with him? But, with strong taboos still on homosexual experiences, how can you satisfy that curiosity?

Best to not have it raised in the first place.

Better?

Fortunately, I don’t normally get a lot of trouble on Twitter. But yesterday, one of my friends was talking about how People has this new initiative to get women to share their dress size so that we can all see that beauty comes in every size or some such nonsense.

The thing that struck me about it, though, is that, because it’s about beauty, the women whose pictures are included, by and large, are striking “beautiful” poses while dressed in “attractive” ways while holding up the number that represents their size (because I guess they all have access to more consistent sizing than the rest of America?)

I rolled my eyes, because, of course, we can’t just have “You’re fine at whatever size you are,” because what’s that sell? We have to establish what a “beautiful” body at that size looks like, so even if you make peace with being a size 16, now you can feel anxious that you’re not the right kind of size 16 because you don’t compare to the chicks People has deemed properly representative. And buy the products necessary to relieve your anxiety. That’s the point.

Pit women against each other, set us up to compare ourselves to each other, and then sell shit based on the anxiety that unwinnable competition produces.

But it also struck me that there can’t be any eating disorder specialist who would endorse putting pictures of women up with some number attached so that other women can see how they stack up or if they need to try harder to get to the “right” number or be extra cautious about not “letting” yourself get to that undesirable number.

So, I tweeted at People something to that effect.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. A dude I don’t know @-ed me and some other dude I don’t know. No message. Just drawing other dude’s attention to the fact that I exist and then other dude began hurling insults (though most insultingly, really stupid insults) at me.

A dude sent another dude after me. The first dude, I assume, was monitoring the replies in the People twitter feed to see who had “wrong” opinions and needed to be dealt with.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to downplay how creepy this is and I do feel a little weird now having come to the attention of a person like this.

But overall, I find this so ludicrous it’s almost delightful. If society is going to have arbiters of what is and isn’t okay to talk about and who can and can’t participate in those conversations, shouldn’t those arbiters be super awesome? Shouldn’t they show great discernment and judgment?

But no! There’s some dude whose set himself up as arbiter and he monitors the People twitter feed.

I will listen to wisdom from my betters, but the dude who monitors the People twitter feed, as evidenced by the fact that he monitors the People twitter feed, is not better than me.

Gawker is Not Alone

Over at Medium:

In August 2014, Jezebel published “We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It.” I remember when it appeared because I thought it was exciting to work at a company where people were directly questioning authority on their own site — rather than waiting for another outlet to pick up the story — while also recognizing how fucked up it was that they’d had to resort to this. “In refusing to address the problem,” the post read, “Gawker’s leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel’s staff and readers.” When I spoke to several Jezebel staff writers about their decision to publish it, the same narratives came up over and over.

“It took me four years to build up a callus where I didn’t care anymore and I was able to not read how much people hated me. That was so awful psychologically. It’s way worse for women and it’s way worse when you’re writing about women’s issues and it’s way worse when you’re forced to look at graphic images of sexual assault,” former Jezebel senior writer Tracie Morrissey told me about the rape gifs that were littering Jezebel’s comment section. “No one did anything about the rape gif issue until we wrote a public story and called them out for it.”

Old Friends

Elias pointed out that Furiosa has one arm. Max doesn’t have one eye, but he’s hanged, upside down, is chaotic, and at the end, he wanders off.

Oh, hi!

I was thinking on our walk this morning, both how amazing it is that these formations stick with us for so long–thousands of years–and how cool it is that women can inhabit these roles now. But I did wonder what ancient stories we tell about women, if there are similar age-old stories with women at their centers we could recognize now?

A Little Eye-Rolling

I don’t want to end up in any round-ups or in any big way a part of the larger discussion, but I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s comment here and I just want to say that, when you get to a certain age, you recognize the ways that good people who don’t consider themselves sexist reinforce some pretty sexist notions. A big one is that, when a man “upsets” a woman in a professional context, it’s a private matter to be worked out between the two of them, and when a woman “upsets” a man in a professional context, her (male) boss may need to weigh in on it.

And here we are.

Who Does to and Who is Done to

This week I read about two different instances where football teams were shut down due to sexual assault–on younger players. As a part of hazing.

This, I think, is the hardest thing to fight about rape culture. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. We live in a culture where power is sustained through doing things to others they do not want done to them. The football coach tells you to run up the hill and you don’t want to, but you do because he said so. He has power over you. But you don’t have to be powerless. You can stick a broom up a 14 year old’s butt, even though he doesn’t want you to. You have some power.

I don’t know how we undo a culture like this by only insisting men stop raping women. They are only doing to us what’s been done to them.

It’s depressing.

Not Seeing What Side You’re On

I’m really glad that Mallory Ortberg wrote this response to Elizabeth Ellen’s utterly confounding post from last week. I mean, when you’re nervous about writing a post because you’re afraid it’s going to piss feminists off and not because you’re revealing that you molested three children when you were a child (when he was talking about his new memoir on NPR, Charles Blow said that, actually, the majority of molestations happen between children–the average age of a molester is 14 and the average age of their victim is 4. Doesn’t make it any less traumatic.), you are not operating on the same plane as the rest of us.

This whole part:

When I was a young person I molested three children younger than myself; a boy and two girls, one of which was my half-sister. Granted, I was, to the best of my knowledge/memory, nine or ten and the children were all about three or four years younger than I was. I know you’re going to say this doesn’t count. But think of finding me in your five year old’s bed. Think of my grandmother finding me on top of my sister in hers. I was shunned. Rightfully so, I thought. Separated from my sister (I was never caught in the other two cases). I remember being sent down to the swimming pool (who knows the logic behind this) while my grandmother comforted (?) or talked to my sister. I remember feeling like a monster. Ashamed. Crying alone in the water (in my memory it was evening, dinner time; maybe there were other people but in my memory I am alone). I don’t remember if this was the last time it happened. I don’t remember being molested myself (that is the logical next thought, I realize). I don’t know why I did it. I still don’t understand why. (My sister and I don’t talk. I never see her. I don’t know if this is based on what happened then or if this is based on any number of other reasons why half-siblings or any siblings may or may not talk as adults. I have often wondered how much or if she remembers; if it was a traumatic experience for her. I have never asked. I’m still too afraid; feel too much a monster.)

Where she seems unable to imagine that her grandmother might, indeed, be comforting her sister, unable to imagine that this might be why her sister doesn’t talk to her, and, frankly, unable to imagine that her sister might not want her to tell people what happened to her. It blows my mind.

And then the idea that you could know you molested three people, find yourself sympathizing with people accused of rape, and think you have some unbiased insight into the realities of these situations, instead of, you know, you identifying with the accused and not wanting to think that what you did was that bad.

The impulse to believe that, when you tell someone you molested three kids, they’re going to tell you that what you did wasn’t that bad… just holy shit.

When Everyone Knows and No One Says

I don’t really understand what alt lit is. I think I’m too old for it. But I sure as fuck understand how fucked up it is when someone is like “Some one, who I’ll call ‘Stan,’ did something really fucked up to me” and everyone is like “Oh, was it so-and-so?” and they all guess the same guy.

The thing I most “admire” (I wish I could think of a better word, like “admire” but with repulsion.) about dude’s approach is evident in the comments. Any woman who’s older than 25 knows that, if a dude invites you to stay with him and share a bed with him, when you don’t even fucking know him, he’s a creepster. That knowledge may not be enough to help you when you need someplace to stay because you have to make connections and you’re desperate and he’s a “famous” editor and you really want to be a writer. But at least it’s knowledge you have.

And it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t always knowledge that you had. But I slept with people non-sexually in high school. Churches had lock-ins where you non-sexually got to sleep with people! Or you fell asleep on the couch together. Or whatever. You went to camp. You slept in close quarters with people you didn’t know. You sleep in the same bed as friends on trips. Whatever.

You literally don’t yet know that there’s a great luxury to an empty bed, that strangers don’t want you in their luxurious empty beds just so that you can have a soft spot to rest. That a stranger trying to get you into his bed doesn’t have platonic designs, no matter how much you make it clear that that’s all you have.

So, there’s this choad, hiding himself in that vulnerable spot for young women–finding women just out of high school–and then sitting back and letting even other women be all “But how could they not know what he was up to?”

Here’s the important thing, though. And I’m glad Sophia Katz was willing to write about it in such detail, even if it meant people were going to be all “How could she not know?” Because the one thing that’s obvious from her story is that her non-consent was an important part of it for him. He got off on “pushing through her resistance.” He kept setting up situations where she would say “no” and he would keep going. And I’m sure he enjoys seeing people take his side, like she should have “understood” what he was up to from the moment he invited her into his bed.

But, really, no matter what, when you’re invited into someone’s bed, even if you think you’re going to have sex with them, you don’t expect them to rape you. But it’s clear from her story that he wanted her to turn him down–that was part of the ritual for him.

Two Boots Pizza

I went there for lunch and it was fairly busy. There was only one guy in the place at one point. Otherwise, it was all women, just shooting the shit about how to season cast iron and whether you could make a fish have sex with a kernel of corn (obviously not).

It was strange, but nice.

My Role as the Thing That is Judged

I love this piece by Rebecca Traister so much. This part, especially, hit me in the gut:

But at its heart, it was a story about how women are assessed: by disciplinary committees, police departments, their friends, the public, and by the people they identify as their assailants. It was about how female availability and consent and intoxication are appraised based on how women look, dance, dress, and act, even when those appraisals are at odds with medical evidence, eyewitness accounts, inconsistent stories from accused parties, and certainly with the woman’s own interpretation of her experience or intentions.

This comfort with group assessment of femininity in turn reminds me of the ease with which women’s choices regarding their bodies, futures, health, sex, and family life are up for public evaluation. Women are labeled as good or bad, as moral or immoral, by major religions and “closely held corporations,” whose rights to allow those estimations to dictate their corporate obligations are upheld over the rights of the women themselves by high courts.

More and more, I can’t escape the feeling that I am public property, that I am always up for assessment, that power in our society is granted to the people who sit in judgement and, while some people’s “natural” role is that of judge, a whole lot of other people have figured out that they can make a way in this world by working themselves into positions where they prove their ability to judge, and thus given some power.

Don’t get me wrong. I think discernment is an appropriate skill to develop. Discernment can save a person a lot of heartache. But sitting in judgment, as a mode of entertaining oneself? That concerns me.

Empowered

Man, that comment on that other post has me thinking about how Twisty Faster used to make such fun of that term–empowered. She’d call something, like, oh, say, women “being given the opportunity” to pay for their own birth control out of pocket instead of having it covered like any other prescription by their insurance as being an “empowerful” event. We women were going to be so empowered by all these opportunities (let’s call them “character-building obstacles”) that it would be better than simple, legal equality.

Empowered. At this point, it’s just the polite way of saying women need to be taught a lesson.

Thoughts on the Kool-Aid Afghan Yarn

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer's eyes.

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer’s eyes.

The wool I found at Haus of Yarn is perfect. It’s very natural feeling and looking. It has a kind of homey vibe. It just seems like the kind of yarn someone would hand-dye in a very half-assed way. But they only had five skeins! But they will order me more. So, my goal for this weekend is to get the yarn dyed (check) and then work up some squares so that I know how many more skeins I need so that they can get them for me. I dyed four and left one natural because I want to do a border on each square, so that it doesn’t look exactly like the one I did for B. I’m only now trying to decide if I want all the same sized colored parts or different. See, each row of a typical granny square has three rounds. So, I could do some squares where the colored part is only the first round and the rest are white, some squares where the first two rounds were colored and the last is white and some where all squares are colored.

I’m leaning away from that, though, because I’m trying to strike a balance between the business of the variegation and my desire to not make the whole afghan seem too busy. I want it to be cheeky, not tacky. So, in order to pull that off, if it’s possible to pull that off with bright, fruity colors, I think the trick is to give a person’s eye a place to rest–the white space. And to give the eye some uniformity. You might encounter a lot of variation, but it will be in a regular, predictable pattern.

Ha ha ha. I probably worry too much about the aesthetics of something no one else experiences as an aesthetic object. But man, I really love to sit around an imagine how an afghan is going to look and then I love to see how it actually turns out. It brings me such pleasure every time I piece one together on my bed and am like, wow, damn, I really love this.

My dad asks me all the time about selling my shit, but it’s so ridiculous. I mean, for an afghan I make with just yarn you can get at Walmart, my materials expenses run me $50 and then, if I even paid myself minimum wage, it probably takes me sixty hours to put one together. And something like this–wool is a lot more expensive and the labor costs expand once dying is included. And the idea of charging people hundreds of dollars for afghans that I make? It just seems ludicrous.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. If some rich person came along and asked me to do them up a Kool-aid dyed afghan, I’d sit down and actually figure out what it was costing me and go ahead and charge them the $500 and think nothing of it. But I guess what weighs heavily on my mind is that our culture kind of values handmade things–especially handmade things that are made by women–as being some kind of frugal alternative to real things. You can have a real shirt, or your mom can sew you one. You can have a real blanket or I can crochet you one.

But those are only more inexpensive choices because our work is not taken into account.

And I guess my feeling is that I’d rather do this as a gift to people I care about and feel like we all got value out of it–me, because I got to see if I had predicted in my head a good form for the afghan to take, and the person who gets it, because they got a gift–than I would want to do it as something that needs to pay for itself, because I just don’t believe you can actually get paid what it’s worth. Even on Etsy, I don’t see an afghan for more than $200.

And, like I said, looking at the yarn they’re using, their materials costs are probably less than $50, so, if you never account for labor, $200 is a nice amount.

But it does make me feel, overall, like, if you’re not getting something out of it yourself, it’s not worth it.

My Process

Over at Pith, I wrote about how I suspect Melverina Elverina Peppercorn is not a real person, at least not under that name. It pretty much walks you through how I go about finding out anything about any historical figure–I first just broadly Google them to see what other people believe about them (sometimes, nothing, because I’m often curious about people who’ve been forgotten), then I look for them in Google Books. Then I turn to Ancestry.com to see if I can find them in the Census. If I’m looking for a woman with a distinctive first name–like Melverina–I’ll sometimes just broadly search the census records to see if Melverina X might be a plausible candidate.

If this all fails, I take a step back. And this can fail, especially with women. If they have a distinctive last name (or hell, I’ve done this for the Phillipses) and I know an approximate area where they lived, I search Find-a-Grave for plausible people for my person. Find-a-Grave isn’t going to catch every Peppercorn, for instance, but it sure gives you a big-picture look at the Peppercorns in the U.S. who appear to have been mostly Catholic and, broadly, came through Ohio into Kansas and Oklahoma. There are a couple of male Peppercorns dead outside that swath, but in port cities. This doesn’t really fit with what we know of the lives of most Tennesseans, especially most Tennesseans who felt strongly enough to fight in the Civil War. Those tended to be people who had lived in the South for a generation or two (or three).

If I had found a cemetery or two with Peppercorns in it in the South, that’s where I would have started looking for Melverina. If I had found Peppercorns in Nashville, for instance, that might be when I take a trip to the Nashville room or either Archives to see what they might know about the Peppercorn family.

But, curiously enough, I couldn’t find anything that suggests there were Peppercorns, let alone Melverina. Hence why I suspect that’s a pseudonym–thought, god, what a delicious pseudonym.

I’m also just speculating, but I kind of believe Meriwether was trying to give some clues about the real woman. Somewhere, I believe, is a woman with a similar name–Amelia Bedelia Hopscotch (or something)–with a brother with a great leader’s name–George Washington Hopscotch, Julius Caesar Hopscotch, something–and two sisters with ordinary names. But I’m not looking for her!

Incoherent Thoughts about Jimmy Page

I won’t watch Woody Allen movies. I don’t intentionally listen to R. Kelly. Michael Jackson, who played such a formative part of my youth, is out.

I still listen to Led Zeppelin.

Which is why, really, I’m not going to look down on you for listening to R. Kelly.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think you can seek social justice through elaborate rule-writing and prohibition-enacting. Yes, in part, it’s the change/exchange problem. Deciding our problems are solved by careful enactment of proper rules of behavior means someone gets to put herself in charge of those rules of behavior. But, more than that, in terms of changing people’s minds, rule-making short-circuits that. It puts in place a practice rather than a change.

(I’m trying to thread a needle here, so let me be clear that I think rule-making serves many a useful purpose, especially in terms of drawing and maintaining healthy boundaries.)

But what I mean is that, I don’t think “If you’re a feminist, you don’t watch Woody Allen movies” is a useful thing for feminists. Sure, it gives a way to police all feminists and make sure that they’re “following the rules,” which, sure, we can disguise as “being supportive enough of victims” but really, it’s just about keeping other women’s behavior in check. “How can a feminist watch a Woody Allen movie?” once you get over the initial “with her eyes” part, is a useful question.

“How can I keep listening to Led Zeppelin, knowing what I know?” is a hard question. But a useful one.

I don’t, honestly, give a shit at this point if people think I’m a good feminist. I am, at best, an imperfect ally. And I’m not interested in signaling to others that my politics are right and getting the signal back from them that they have found my politics acceptable, because I just can’t get over the feeling that it’s a lie, a performance.

I care that, when I settle down in my bed at night, and it’s just me and my thoughts, that I can make sense of and make peace with my thoughts.

Last night, some twitter account started just to harass my friend tweeted at him and me and this other dude about what’s it like to know your wife is sleeping with a murderer. I tweeted back that I was shocked to learn my wife was cheating on me.

So, here’s the thing. I still don’t know how to deal with this. Do I still consider myself his friend? Yes. What does that mean for my friendships with folks who are directly impacted by his behavior, because they now, still, have to deal with the fall out from this? I don’t know. I feel weird about it.

But being tweeted at by an anonymous account didn’t make me feel ashamed to be found associating with him or something. Which I think was supposed to be the intended outcome. It made me feel like I’m already lumped in with the bad guys, so fuck wrestling with how to be a good guy. Which, I have to tell you, in this case, would be a mighty convenient way to view the situation.

I just don’t think it’s the right way. I don’t know if there’s a right way.

I guess the thing I’m trying to get at is that, for me, in all these cases, there’s a line, a moment when you’ve gone too far and you can’t get back to your familiar shore, so you have to stake out some new position. Like, you kind of knew about the Woody Allen thing, but you didn’t really pay too much attention, and you loved his movies, but then, maybe, you read Dylan Farrows account and it just rang true. And maybe you read all the other counter-arguments, hoping that they’d convince you that you could, once more, feel okay about watching Woody Allen movies, but they all seemed to be making excuses or missing the point.

And that’s it. This thing you loved? You can’t love it easily anymore.

Someday that’s going to happen to me about Led Zeppelin. Maybe it will be when one of my friends has a 14 year old daughter and I have to stare right in the face of how young that is. Or maybe it will come when my niece turns 14 and I try to imagine what it would be like to learn some rockstar asshole had his roadie kidnap her so that he could rape her.

I don’t know. Putting it that way, it makes me wonder if today might be the day, when one of their songs comes up on shuffle and I don’t say “Wow,” but instead say “Yuck.”

And, you know, fuck Jimmie Page for that.

Bah, This Crap

I’ve been trying all morning to figure out how to respond to this. It really bugs me that the response to finding out that people have devoted months, if not years, to focusing solely on the ways that someone has failed is to argue over whether we agree or disagree with them, not to wonder what the fuck kind of asshole would do that?

Blame the Victim

We caught the last hour of ‘League of Denial’ last night and I’m glad we didn’t watch the whole thing, because it just made me viscerally sick. So, I don’t know if they mentioned Chris Benoit, but I’m guessing not. And I think that’s a shame, because even the way the documentary was set up, you can kind of see the argument the NFL is going to make in the future–yes, the game is dangerous and men are hurting themselves in the brain, but they know the risks to themselves when they sign up for the sport.

And I get that talking about kids with traces of CTE maybe makes the same point I want made–that you don’t always know what you’re signing up for or you’re not the one initially signing up for it–but I want it made more explicitly. You’re not just making, or having made for you, a decision that only destroys you. It destroys families, sometimes to death. You might have the right to do to yourself whatever you want, even if it gives you brain damage, but I’m completely unconvinced that you have the right to do something to yourself that might make you a killer.

But I was also struck by the part that Jessica Luther’s taking about:

This kind of call for a larger context in which to study the cause and effect of football playing and CTE becomes for many who want to downplay or deny the possibility of that connection an easy out. Multiple times in the documentary there were doubters (of course, all of them somehow associated with the NFL) who said that we need to look for other possible connections between these football players beyond the fact that they all had CTE at the time of their death. And once we have crossed off the list however many (how many exactly?) other possible connections between the 45 players in McKee’s study, then we will know that the cause of CTE is playing football.

Just in the time we watched, the Butcher and I noted three different NFL-related people who seemed to be suggesting that CTE is somehow the fault of the players, something they just happened to be doing to themselves–like taking steroids or other drugs or that they all have some similar genetic disposition or something. As if those things aren’t related to football. It’s arguing that football is safe, it’s just the things you have to do to be a football player that are dangerous. As if that lets football off the hook.

It strikes me though, we all pay for this kind of victim blaming. If people are trained from a young age that they have to do what more powerful people tell them, that they have to give their bodies up to the whims of people with more money or more power than them or risk losing something important to them (their jobs,their lives, etc.) AND that, if they can’t keep themselves safe in such arrangements, they are to blame, of course this echoes around our culture in increasingly damaging ways.

Here is Why You Don’t Get to Be Done Talking about Hugo Schwyzer

It is apparent that most of the big feminist sites he wrote for or who were friendly to him have decided that they’re done talking about him.

I want to point you to this post by Flavia Dzodan, quoting Tamora Pierce and this post from Angus Johnston.

And then I want to say this–he is actively and right now harming the students he fucked. Most of us do not have enough clout to bring pressure to make sure he stops teaching and stays done teaching. But places like Jezebel and the Atlantic and xoJane do. And it is true that, if you speak out against Schwyzer, you’re going to take a heap of earned, legitimate criticism for your failure to address any of the actions that have brought us to this point. But, my god, is your discomfort really more important than the safety and well-being of his victims?

Because, if it is, then you have learned NOTHING from any of the discussions. Nothing.

The Cat Has Feelings

Yes, I posted this at Twitter. In my defense, the look on her face is hilarious and I wanted to share it with y'all.

Yes, I posted this at Twitter. In my defense, the look on her face is hilarious and I wanted to share it with y’all.

I have many feelings. My parents arrive today. This marks the midpoint in some bizarre visit that the Butcher is having with them that involves him driving to their house, driving with them to our house, driving with them to their house, and driving to our house again. I’m not even going to ask questions at this point. Except for how, if he’s driving back and forth across the middle of the country, I’m getting my groceries.

I have a short in my dining room light. It just shuts itself off randomly, but if you walk toward the switch, it comes back on. I am dealing with this potential fire hazard by just not turning on the light in the dining room. I need new tires and for nothing else to fuck up until 2015. This is going to be too much to ask. On the other hand, if the electrician brings down the ceiling in the dining room while fixing my short, insurance will cover it. Still, I’m not calling the electrician until after I get tires. I think this is the right call–bald tires have to be more dangerous than a dark dining room. But I admit, I’m not sure.

The older I get the more I’m taken aback when, on the internet, you can be having a conversation, even a contentious one, but a good one where everyone is at least of the agreement that “people do x for their own reasons, which we may or may not agree with” and someone has to come in all “I don’t do x.” Okay. Um? Was it just getting too much for you that people were talking and it wasn’t about you? One million conversations on the internet and you have to jump into one you acknowledge isn’t applicable to you and make sure we all know it? It’s funny.

The man who Googles his name and sends his supporters to harass his critics admits he was doing yet another thing a bunch of us thought he was doing. Johnston makes a point I want to reiterate: the man admits to fucking his students and lying about it. Where’s the outrage? The man has a “breakdown” on Twitter and there are a million stories throughout the blogosphere and interviews with him. Dude admits to fucking students he’s teaching and… nothing… silence. Why? It is simply not possible that there’s anyone left who believes these were wholly consensual relationships–or frankly, even capable of being so. The man has a track record of manipulation and grooming and, while I respect that his students might at the moment feel like they consented, I think it’s also obvious that the man presents to people a truth about himself only so far as it helps him get what he wants. And there’s simply no way that a sexual relationship between a student and a professor he or she currently has is free of issues like “can I say ‘no’ and not have it affect my grade?”

So, why won’t the places that now claim they can understand how terrible he is step up and help make sure he doesn’t have access to young women anymore?

I put “breakdown” in quotes because, while I believe he has genuine mental issues, they have changed over the years to always be the diagnosis most likely to garner him sympathy. His breakdowns neatly coincide with his need to get out of trouble. He’s using people’s desire to be compassionate toward people with mental illnesses as cover to continue to abuse. Convenient.

He also continues to put himself in a position of control. Notice at the end of Johnston’s piece where he’s offering his employer advice on how to deal with him. Like the ball is still in his court, like he’s still in charge of the outcome of his life.

Here’s my bet. When all is said and done, it will come out that his employer was on the verge of finding out he was fucking his students–something went wrong and he wasn’t sure he could keep the student in line–and they’ve been clear to him that, if he got caught fucking students again, they were going to fire him. So, he needed to have a huge public breakdown, something so big and dramatic that it would drown out this student and make her, if she did come forward, seem like she was picking on a man at his rock bottom. Thus we get this whole thing. And now that he’s obviously “crazy,” and he thinks they can’t fire him because he has a medical excuse, he’s admitting that he fucked his students.

Everything before this was the controlled burn to try to keep this from being a wildfire he couldn’t put out. That’s my sincere belief. We’ll see if it’s borne out.