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theramblingonesie

Mar 13, 2022

A Single Opinion About Plurality

When I first began The Scarlet Tongue Project, a deep dive into the expression of women’s anger, I got a lot of fearful pushback.

“Why don’t you focus on love?”

Anger is love—love of self, love of healthy relationships.

“Why focus on hate?”

Anger is not hate. Anger is hope and the optimism that conditions can improve.

“Yeah but anger is just a secondary emotion. What do you really want to express?”

Anger is not a secondary emotion. It’s an emotion, and every emotion matters, for better or for worse. It is ultimately what you put into action based on your emotions that matters.

Our emotions are simply information about our wellbeing, based on our histories and social conditioning. If you are happy, you are happy. If you are angry, you are angry. Maybe you’re both, and that’s cool. Think about all of the multitasking we do while driving or sitting at our office desks. We are capable of holding complexity. In fact, we’re wired for it. Does your heart stop when you breathe? Do you lose your sense of touch when you open your mouth to speak? So why can’t you reasonably have multiple feelings at once without invalidating one or more?

The key to teasing out the complexity of emotion is in the details, not the big picture. Living under capitalism has conditioned us to brand ourselves for survival, even in the most subtle of ways. No wonder we’re always trying to derive a singular meaning from our emotions and experiences! We gotta stay on-brand…

This last example is one of my faves:

“Why do you want to focus on anger? You should do a project on joy!”

Yeah? Only one at a time? Are the people who made that rule the same people who don’t like their food to touch?

Why can’t I do both? Won’t acceptance of wholeness and nuance allow me to be present in the entirety of the hard-earned joy that I do encounter, rather than take it for granted as yet another obligatory assignment for prescribed better living? What about your attachment to scarcity tells your that if I research anger, I will lose my grasp on joy?

Our world right now is dark. Many say it always has been, which is cool and all, but outside of the global vampire community none of us have been alive forever.* If “but it’s always been this way” brings you peace and reduces your urge to fight, then it’s not my place to take that from you. That doesn’t work for me, though I can say that exhaustion and experience have reduced the amount I keep reserved for fighting. Regardless, the news continues to be shocking. I continue to have my heart broken and come up short for answers because it is all new to me. Look, people have been eating solid foods for thousands of years, but once upon a time you transitioned from applesauce to string cheese and it still blew your mind. f*ck who did it before, your experience still counts.

I’ve personally never lived through a pandemic before.

I’ve personally never before experienced the level of open human cruelty at such a constant, relentless rate since social media hit the scene.

I personally have no prior concept for what it means to live through multiple wars, and I’m figuring this out as we go just like the rest of us.

Things can be new and “forever” simultaneously. Similarly, tragedy and celebration can co-exist. When the invasion of Ukraine began, I flippantly mentioned to my sister that I should just cancel my wedding, hide under a rock, and generally stop making plans because the last few years have been so overwhelmingly disappointing and unpredictable. She reset my focus by reminding me that in dark times, acknowledging and celebrating love is necessary to get us through. She proceeded to tell me a story from a few years ago when she was enduring a personal traumatic experience. My dad came to town and intercepted by taking her out of her office and outside to watch the sunset. He reminded her that allowing for beauty is necessary for surviving the hardships of life. He did not invalidate her experience; he simply reminded her that this, too, is here for her. Pain is powerful. We do not always have the ability or privilege of eliminating pain before we can get to “the good stuff”. The idea that we must be pure before knowing happiness is an abusive cultural hangover. We must seek and stay receptive to the joy that remains available in innumerable forms, big or small, in order to survive.

In my inevitable acceptance of the darkness that is our current reality, I am inspired by the movements for radical joy coming out of marginalized communities. It is not an oppressive joy that comes from denial (see: toxic positivity; white women spiritual circles). Rather, it is a joy that comes from the resilience required to survive the realest realness of dire circ*mstances. It is joy that reminds people why they fight and persevere. It is not a joy that promises to make the hate or injustice go away completely, because that’s likely not going to happen. It is a joy that makes being alive worth it.

I am not done healing my traumas. Yet in many ways, I am not actively working on it either, outside of trying to make healthier daily choices in my habits and behavior. I do not subscribe to the belief that we must be cured before we can see light, and constantly focusing on how bad you feel is so bad for morale. I hold deep sadness within me and may very well for the rest of my life, but that does not disqualify me from giving and receiving kindness and levity in hard times. I reject this pervasive notion that we must be pure (cough, puritanical) in order to know love and acceptance.

We don’t act despite our plural identities-- we act exactly because of our plural identities. Our survival relies on acceptance of the diverse realities that exist out in the world and inside of our bodies. The goddamn ecosystems that house us, that nourish us, that freaking made our bodies, are deeply varied. They rely on diverse, complex systems in order to survive. Think about how much local and global devastation we’ve seen due to monocropping in agriculture. Really, challenge those oversimplified “be like nature” memes in your self-care quest because nature is anything but simple. It is profoundly—LAUGHABLY-- beyond a clear-cut set of rules that could even begin to make it all make sense according to a human brain only.

As fun as it is to type this all out, I do offer a word of caution:

Please use your discernment as you approach life in this less streamlined way. Tact is still important, because remember—we’re trying to co-exist with others. You don’t always need to infuse a difficult situation with humor. Ask for consent before changing the subject to something lighter if someone is struggling. Feel everything you need to feel, while keeping in mind that it is not other people’s responsibility to regularly validate and sort it out for you. Don’t let your inner stuff become an invasive species that wipes out your social ecosystem. Healthy complexity requires balance and awareness. In a future piece I will write more about how you have the right to set boundaries around other people whose complexity and plurality may not jive with yours, and how that can look like selective time shared, or very limited time shared if any at all.

But for now, give yourself permission to experience joy and love during times of fear and grief. Share when appropriate, and keep it private when appropriate. You do not eliminate world suffering by denying yourself the simple delights or opportunities that are offering themselves to you. If I cancel my wedding, racism will still exist, children will still starve, asylum seekers with still suffer abuse at the hands of government officials, and wars will continue to rage on. That important work has nothing to do with whether or not I get married, perform in a silly show, or buy myself a cake. I can do these joyful things AND dedicate myself to fighting for justice and equity.

“How can you celebrate during a time like this???”

Because I am alive. Because I am grateful to have the opportunity to lighten the world’s suffering by even the slightest fraction of a drop for this moment in time. Because the darkness isn’t going anywhere, and we can’t let it dominate. Because I believe that all human beings, plants and animals deserve to experience more than just pain in their lifetime. That’s how.

*It could be argued that vampires aren’t alive anyway and therefor this is a terrible example but I’m keeping the joke.

theramblingonesie

Jan 30, 2022

Where is the Scarlet Tongue?

Recap—

*skip recap*

Intro song—

*skip introduction*

“Are you still watching?”

*face*

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to know the whole backstory for The Scarlet Tongue Project. Quick recap: Back in 2015 I wanted to change artistic mediums, and film seemed to offer an alternative to live theater that could better convey my interests at the time. I wanted to merge my passion for women’s issues, punk lifestyle, and the desire to “help”—a subjective, controversial idea in and of itself. I wanted to direct a documentary that showcased women expressing anger through their art, and I wanted to produce something that wasn’t the standard white-centric feminist media I was used to seeing at the time.

Fast forward to January 2022, there is still no movie. Yes, I have a lot of footage. Yes, I have had remarkable adventures and experiences, produced several events under the project’s umbrella and established a network of artistic and soulful camaraderie that I never could have previously imagined. I can’t speak to my outward persona, but at least internally I know that I have changed profoundly.

I am fighting the urge to shame myself into thinking that the alternative to having a final product is having “nothing”. I’d be a major hypocrite if after all this my primary goal was linked to the capitalism of it all. At the same time, I do believe in the integrity of keeping one’s promises, and I value the discipline required to finish what you’ve started. I have a lot of trouble in the latter department. I recently received my bachelor’s degree after eighteen years of trying, a fact that I am both proud of and embarrassed about. Believe me, I do not want The Scarlet Tongue Project to take eighteen years. But I do understand that not everything can be forced to operate in a direct, immediate, linear fashion. And trust me when I say that this project refuses to be herded.

Read below for the interview I conducted with myself, inspired by the FAQ I’ve had to tackle over the past couple years:

Me: So, what’s the plan? WHERE IS THE MOVIE?

Me: I don’t know! Honest to goodness I have no f*cking idea. I know it’s really taboo to express such a blunt lack of certainty to your audience and supporters, but the original mission statement of the project was based on exploring social taboos, so here we are.

Me: That’s it? You just don’t know?

Me: I mean, if I’m oversimplifying it, yeah.

Me: Complicate it, then.

Me: Well, the reality is that there is a huge gap between how this began and where things are presently. This project began seven years ago. It saw the transition from Obama to Trump to Biden. Everyone involved aged and changed. There were births, deaths, coming-out’s, transitions, marriage, and breakups. We collectively experienced massive cultural shifts, for both social progression and regression. Gen Z can now drink and has entered the workforce, which is greatly shifting social norms. There was a devastating earthquake, devastating hurricanes, and now a devastating pandemic. Members of our group experienced homelessness and tragically lost indigenous land. There were irreconcilable interpersonal issues, and the inevitable loss of material therein.

On a personal level, I’ve changed a lot. This project led me to people and experiences that dramatically changed my perspective and understanding of the world, not only on the topic of anger, but how I view life in general. I have PTSD from a couple of situations I found myself in as a result of this work, and had to work through a lot of debilitating symptoms that began cropping up in the face of tension or aggression. That’s not very helpful in a project about anger! I began going to school and concentrated in subjects that were relevant to the work I was doing with the project—history of revolution and social movements, political science, and gender studies. While it made me more knowledgeable and sensitive regarding many of the topics the project tackles, it also made me question what my actual goals were in a way that was a bit derailing. In short—I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish anymore. I have no idea what the story is…what the unified message is… or if it’s even appropriate for me to be any kind of leader in this work.

Me: But isn’t that an amazing story?? Everything that’s happened, how people’s lives have changed, how the world has changed?

Me: Oh absolutely, without a doubt. I just don’t have much of it on film.

Me: Are you serious? You literally had one job. Why don’t you have all of that on film?

Me: Well, a couple reasons. The first being that I greatly underestimated how expensive this project would be. I was unable to consistently afford the travel or time required to edit, upload, and follow people around. I also needed better equipment, which was out of my budget.

Secondly, I’ve learned that I’m a much better social anthropologist than documentarian. There is a level of exploitation required in documentary filmmaking that I’m not comfortable with, particularly for what I’m interested in. As the director, it felt unethical for me to poke at memories and traumas in order to get a big reaction for the camera, knowing that I do not possess the trained skills to help deescalate. Maybe some projects can get around this, but Scarlet Tongue can’t. You just cannot engage in a powerful, relatable media project about intimacy and anger without dancing with serious pain. An artist’s comfort with vulnerability does not span all platforms. Creating a dance, abstract performance, painting or song are different from looking at a camera and saying “let me walk you through what happened”. Some are okay with this and others aren’t, and I realized that I did not want the job of forcing any of the people who trusted me to cross those lines just so I could have a better story. That wasn’t comfortable for me. I ended up prioritizing friendship and privacy over my camera.

Me: sh*t.

Me: No kidding.

Me: So are you telling me that you have nothing to show?

Me: No, not at all. I could probably cobble something pretty cool together. There are great interviews and performance footage. I can pepper in world events for added perspective, and I think that would definitely get the general point across. But it’s really tricky when I know that the real story is unavailable to the public.

Me: What’s the real story?

Me: Omg. Lots of laughter and silliness. Like, constant. Deep love and deep conversations. Also sex, addiction, betrayal, death, mental illness, racism, predatory behavior, unrequited love, ritual, family trauma…frankly, it would make a better book. But I’m not spilling anyone’s secrets without consent.

Me: Then write the book.

Me: No, I have to make a movie first.

Me: So people gave you money to produce a movie and you don’t have a movie. How do you reconcile that?

Me: That’s a tricky one! My intention was never to be deceptive and I still want to follow through. I would like to offer an alternative perspective, if I may—

What happened as a result of this generous support is significant, in my opinion. Brilliant artists from around the world have been able to connect with each other and change each other’s lives for the best. The knowledge and experience gained from working together has directly gone back into the communities each artist is connected to, in the forms of being better advocates, educators and creatives. While the project was more active, I constantly received feedback that this work was helping other women and nonbinary folx to heal by feeling seen, heard, and legitimized in their anger. Also unanticipated-- I’ve lost count of how many men have approached me to tell me that this work changed their lives as well, allowing them to be better partners, family members and allies. Supportive funding for this project has allowed for networks of cultural exchange that are so crucial in times of widespread bigotry and misinformation, in formats that are accessible to communities and artists doing really important, radical, unconventional work.

You’ll get a movie though, don’t worry.

Me: Do you think that this work has changed the larger conversation on women and anger?

Me: Eh, I think I was arrogant and naïve to assume that I was starting something original. I don’t say that to trivialize the experience; it’s more so out of learning my place in this massive topic. Additionally, each artist selected for this project was already a well-established professional before meeting me, so more often than not I assumed the position of student.

Any meaningful experience has a ripple effect, so I have no doubt that our work has contributed to a larger conversation. I think the difference between leading and contributing is crucial to understand. Women’s anger is a tale as old as humankind, I’m sure. My belief that it was focused only on white women was deeply mistaken at best, and racist in reality. Black women such as the Combahee River Collective, Audre Lorde, and Patrisse Cullors are among many important names to know, having greatly transformed and initiated movements that either include or are directly addressing women and anger long before the idea ever struck me. There are countless important women leaders from all over the world going back centuries, leading organizations and revolutions that drastically shaped the course of history. Anger is not having “a moment”. We need to ask what is going on around us that is allowing for its amplification. Anger is a constant protector, a compass for integrity and a gauge for the health of society.

I’m going to end this piece here because I have a very long list of questions here, very good questions, but I said I was writing a blog, not a book (yet)!

If you have a question, please reach out. I’m not only happy to answer, but I truly want to answer. I want to pick this dialogue back up. Call me, text me, buy me a coffee, email me at [emailprotected]

Thank you for reading, and for staying curious throughout this journey.

#womensanger#documentary#artist collective#diy#independentfilm#community#social anthropology#inclusion#global network#artispolitical

theramblingonesie

Jan 2, 2022

The Romantic Era and the Rise of Sexism and Misogyny in Ballet

A note on this work in progress:

I was trained in the Vaganova method with Russian instructors, so I am biased in my passionate appreciation for Romantic Era ballet and Russian ballet in general. However, as a feminist researcher it is crucial that I still challenge my heroes and the internalized desire to be a tragic pretty princess.

Project Description and Annotated Biography:

The “prima ballerina”: an iconic title that conjures up images of a classic form of femininity—graceful, demure, witty, eye-catchingly chic. She is an unattainable sovereign, never seen publicly sweating or breathing heavily after exerting an Olympian level of energy. She puts out maximum effort with minimal disturbance to her audience. A cringeworthy description for most feminists, the archetype of a ballerina symbolizes what many would consider an outdated version of an ideal feminine. In my previous research on the evolution of ballet in a Russian and Soviet context, I have found many areas in this artistic medium where the culture has not quite caught up with twenty-first century ideals; perhaps not even the twentieth century.

For this project, I was curious about where this version of femininity began in ballet. The Romantic Era in Europe took place from the end of the eighteenth century through the mid-nineteenth century. This movement in art and literature was considered a response to the Enlightenment, an intellectual and philosophical movement that favored reason, logic, and the scientific approach to understanding humans and the natural world. Romanticism resisted this by encouraging works that embraced intense emotions, imagination, mysticism and creativity. It also served as an escape from the hardships of modernization due to industrialization.[1] For the ballet world, this ushered in a period that favored dramatic storytelling of love and heartbreak, with elaborate costumes and sets that would transport the audience to another realm. This period also birthed some of the most famous ballets in the classical canon, such as Giselle, Swan Lake, and La Sylphide. Each of these stories revolves around a woman’s theatricalized sacrifice, and always includes a moment at which the realistic portion of the story turns to surrealistic, whether through madness, sorcery, or death.[2]

Dance scholars believe that it was the Romantic Era that established the feminine character of the ballerina as we know her today.[3] In each these stories, the female protagonist was written to be at the whim of her deep emotions, often naïve and submissive to the male characters. While the star of the show was always the ballerina, it was men who were the company directors and choreographers, placing women in the position of subordinate both on and offstage. The primary and secondary sources I’ve compiled to support this patriarchal feminine standard in romantic ballet approach the topic from a few different angles. First, I collected a series of images from Giselle, Swan Lake and La Sylphide to show the similarities between them all, showcasing an almost stock supply of physical and choreographic frailty. All three ballets feature the ballerina in a virginal white costume that presents her as both pure and otherworldly. Next, I situated these ballets in their cultural origins, which would allow me to better understand the gender norms of the time. I have included below the original work of German poet Heinrich Heine, whose poetry and knowledge of Slavic folklore inspired the creation of Giselle. I also included the writings of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft so that I could gain insight to women’s roles and consciousness around their oppression at the time. Lastly, I included contemporary scholarly work and the autobiography of a current New York City Ballet soloist to demonstrate how Romantic Era sexism and misogyny have continued to reproduce themselves through today.

Bibliography

Ballet, Bolshoi. Year and Date Unknown. La Sylphide.

Photograph of the Sylph and her lover, James, from La Sylphide. James has left his bride on their wedding day to pursue his obsession with the Sylph, who has been appearing at his window, tempting him to come live with her in the forest. Once he's arrived, she showers him with affection and delicious treats, and shortly thereafter disappears. Frustrated with her elusiveness, he falls for a witch's deceitful proposal to catch the Sylph permanently. The witch hands him a scarf that she has poisoned and tells him that he can use this to trap the Sylph forever. When the Sylph returns, James chases and catches her with the scarf, which instantly kills her. We see in the pose in this photo how delicate the ballerina is, with outstretched wiry arms that are a signature of Romantic Era ballerinas. This pose between partners emphasizes man's intense desire to own that which he can't have, and the woman's powerlessness against it. It also perpetuates the idea of women being irrational, flighty, and fragile.

Chalon, Alfred Edward. 1832. Marie Taglioni (1804-84) as the Sylph in 'La Sylphide'.

Illustration of Marie Taglioni as the Sylph from La Sylphide. Taglioni was the first ballerina to ever dance in point shoes; an aesthetic that both elongated the dancers' legs and allowed for a more ethereal style. In this photo, Taglioni holds a coy, delicate stance, with her feet notably shrunken-- a modification standard in the feminization of a woman. In this ballet, the character of the Sylph (fairy) lures a man away from his human fiancée with promises of a beautiful new life in the forest. Tricked by sorcery as a result of the fiancée’s jealousy, the Sylph dies from poisoning in the end. In my opinion, this character was an original "Manic Pixie Dreamgirl" (term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2007), a modern misogynist movie trope wherein a whimsical woman with childlike traits is tasked with seducing a boring man, making herself responsible for his sexual/mental/emotional awakening until something tragic tears them apart.

Daly, Ann. 1987. "The Balanchine Woman: Of Hummingbirds and Channel Swimmers." The Drama Review: TDR , Vol. 31, No. 1 8-21.

In this article, Ann Daly challenges the widely held belief that choreographer George Balanchine glorified women. She includes quotes from him that share his philosophy on a woman's natural inferiority to a man's physical strength, resigning her to a position of acceptance and passivity. Balanchine believed that the ballet was the one place in society where women came first, and he claimed to make it his life's mission to dedicate his work to them. As the article continues and we read more quotes by the choreographer, a critical feminist scholar will likely see this stance as less of an honor, but rather a plain display of misogyny through objectification. What critics have called "manipulation" of the female dancer in a pas de deux, Balanchine sympathizers call "support": supporting the woman to be more powerful and beautiful than she could possibly be on her own. Daly explores the history of this brand of femininity in ballet, going back to the Romantic Era. She then asks readers to consider whether his ballerina is actually the star, or if she's on display, artistically preserving American toxic masculinity where men are active and therefor valuable, and women are passive objects of beauty.

Garafola, Lynn. 1997. Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.

In this compilation of essays, dance historian Lynn Garafola dissects the complexity of the Romantic Era of ballet, focusing largely on gender roles and nationalism. She describes this time period of ballet as an international movement, with its capitals in Paris and London. Innovations in technology allowed for easier sharing of creative ideas, and the invention of lithography allowed relatively inexpensive copies of ballet prints to be distributed internationally. French prints were the most popular, and their main subject was the ballerina. This was when the ballerina became an object of desire and mystery, symbolizing an otherworldly, unattainable woman. Her poise and airy costuming set her in a fantasy realm on the edges of European civilization, charming the viewer with either her chaste or exotic nature. I selected this source because I find the construction of the ballerina as the objectified yet unattainable "other" who embodied feminine ideals at the time very clever. The ability to possess her image made her seem accessible, but to see her at the theater in a setting whimsically foreign established an uninterrupted fantasy for those who sought her out. This tension plays into men's conditioned need to compete with himself and other men to prove himself worthy of acquiring the unattainable, while avoiding the discomfort of actual risk.

Heine, Heinrich. 1833. Deutschland: A Winter's Tale. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe .

This book by Heinrich Heine inspired the creation of Giselle, one of the most famous romantic ballets that is still a staple in today's companies' repertoires. In it he shares the Slavic folklore of Wilis: ghosts of women who have died from heartbreak before their wedding day. In his poem he describes these tragic specters as having “dead feet, there still remains that passion for dancing which they could not satisfy during life”. If a man wandered into their realm, they would seek their revenge by making him dance until he died from exhaustion. This poem hit several points for qualities desired in a romantic ballet-- madness, tragedy, heartbreak, ethereal scenes danced by ballerinas who seemed to transcend the limits of the human body, and the centering of women around their relationships with men.

Kenton, Tristram. 2018. "Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nunez." The Guardian. Swan Lake. London.

This photo from Swan Lake shows the ballerina at the mercy of her partner's strength, completely trusting (or hopeless?), draping herself over his arm. While the choreography for this ballet is very challenging and requires tremendous strength and control, the character of Odette- the swan queen- dances a series of movements intentionally designed to make her appear fragile, sad, desperate and submissive. The prince is captivated by her soulfulness and peculiarity and pursues her. She dances for her freedom, waiting to break the evil spell that transformed her from human to bird. This can only be done by a prince professing his true love and commitment. He is under her spell, but maintains the upper hand but controlling her fate. Spoiler: it doesn't work out. Another tragic ending.

Lumen. n.d. "Neoclassicism and Romanticism." Boundless Art History. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/neoclassicism-and-romanticism/.

Mann, Cheryl. 2007. Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili in "Giselle" . Joffrey Ballet, Chicago.

Act II of Giselle in the graveyard; the realm of the Wilis. Here the prince has been condemned to death by dancing, as ordered by the Queen of the Wilis. The former lovers dance in a tragic pas de deux. Similar to Swan Lake, the ballerina playing Giselle has been choreographed to essentially look dead. Her movements are simultaneously rigid and limp, signifying her departure from human life and her ability to float and dematerialize at any moment. Her heartbreak places her at the whim of her partner's desire to manipulate her body in an attempt to repossess her. Yet she remains relatively cold, trapped in her memory of her sadness. Another photographic example of the romantic ballerina living and dying for her man, and then transcending her earthly body to become an unattainable fantasy of unrequited love.

Mohin, Andrea. 2018. David Hallberg and Polina Semionova in American Ballet Theater's Swan Lake. The New York Times, New York.

More evidence of recurring themes in fantasy and female submission.

Pazcoguin, Georgina. 2021. Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

I selected this autobiography by New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin because she very boldly details her problems with sexual harassment, forced cosmetic surgeries, and racist policies within the ballet company. This demonstrates that the Romantic Era of ballet has reproduced its ideology and imagery so many times over 200+ years that it has become normative. While such behavior has never been okay, it certainly stands out as much more unacceptable and outdated by 2021 standards. Yet the ballet world remains isolated from much social and cultural progress past the early twentieth century. The legacy of the objectified and exoticized ballerina subjects Pazcoguin to male company members' entitlement to her body, touching her inappropriately as a "joke" whenever she enters the studio. As an already petite woman, she is harassed for being overweight and forced to undergo a $10,000 liposuction procedure so she can fit the romantic image of a delicate woman walking the line between life and death. Also standard to the Eurocentric origins of ballet is an inherent favoring of pale, white ballerinas. Pazcoguin was the first Asian American to become a soloist in her company, but was still relegated to the B cast for most productions.

Pennefather, Alice. 2021. Reece Clarke as Albrecht and Natalia Osipova as Giselle in Giselle. The Royal Ballet, London.

Even though he lied to her, betrayed her, and caused her untimely death, here we have Giselle attempting to save her prince from the Wili Queen's ruling of his death. Even in her heroic act, the man is still seen as being the strong one holding up her body, limp from romantic devastation.

Plisetskaya, Maya. c. 1976. "Swan Lake: Odette." Original Unknown. Pride of the Soviet People.

Photograph of famous Soviet ballerina Maya Plisetskaya as Odette the Swan Queen. Here we see another example of the standard broken, bird-like shape that makes up the Swan Lake choreographic signature. Odette is mourning her conditions, fearing that there is no hope for her. She is quite dramatically giving up as she sits by the water, periodically gazing at her own reflection. The unattainable ballerina is tortured by her own unattainable desire for salvation.

Scholl, Tim. 1994. From Petipa to Balanchine. London: Routledge.

I selected this book because its section on the Romantic Ballet Era breaks down the standard structure in plot development, particularly as favored by French choreographer Marius Petipa, whose original choreography is still danced in revivals of romantic ballets today. Scholl indicated three main components: a mad scene, a vision scene, a reconciliation scene wherein the protagonist and her love interest reunite. The rise in feminization of ballet coinciding with romantic themes underscores the collective association with women and intense emotional states.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. 1792. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. London: Walter Scott Publishing.

It was important for me to find women's commentary on the social positioning of women in Europe at the time of the Romantic Era. Mary Wollstonecraft's feminist commentary validated many of the problematic tropes in the romantic ballets, supporting that the ballerina's qualities were not developed in an original artistic bubble. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft voices the injustice of women being denied access to full expressions of their intellect, with men being "ever placed between her and reason". She goes on to say that women are forced to view life through a limited lens, and required to "take things on trust". In each of the three ballets I've used as primary examples for this research, the ballerina protagonist was written to play characters that were dramatic, emotional, at times irrational, and completely physically trusting of her partner. In each production, there was a narrative shift that transitioned from realistic story to surrealism, which can be symbolically perceived as the separation between reason and irrationality/escapism-- the writer, director and choreographer, typically being male, standing between the ballerina and her ability to portray an autonomous, complex human.

Yusupov, Damir. 2019. Olga Smirnova as Giselle and Artemy Belyakov as Albrecht in Alexei Ratmansky’s reconstructed “Giselle” at the Bolshoi Ballet. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.

Image of the frail, Romantic ballerina in a wispy pose, portraying the ghost of a heartbroken peasant girl. Standing in an imposing arabesque above her is her former fiancé, who has journeyed to the graveyard to seek reconciliation. She is sad, crumbling and distant, giving the impression that she could float away at any moment to escape. Her partner sees this as a challenge and a chase, following her in an effort to interrupt her space and repossess her attention. Seemingly washing over the reality that the prince is the reason why Giselle is now dead and locked in tragedy, the audience is influenced to believe that this pursuit is romantic, rather than the bold display of entitlement that it is.

[1] (Lumen n.d.)

[2] (Scholl 1994)

[3] (Garafola 1997)

#ballet#romanticera#romanticballet#misogyny#misogynyattheballet sexisminballet objectificationofwomen

theramblingonesie

Jan 2, 2022

Colonial Gaps in Understanding the Haitian Revolution

When embarking on this project, I was curious about women’s roles in the Haitian Revolution, particularly in the overlap between their lives and the representation of honored female deities. Upon diving into my research, it became apparent that I would end up with far more questions than conclusive support for this topic. Instead, a different narrative has emerged, one that emphasizes the impact of colonialism on the retelling of Black and Indigenous history. In keeping within the context of gender, this piece will also discuss the differences between Afrocentric and Eurocentric perspectives on gender, and how trying to learn about women specifically in the Haitian Revolution might be a misguided Westernized approach to understand a non-Western culture. Rather than seek historical information in text form, as many of the revolutionaries relied on oral traditions or were denied access to literacy skills[1], it appears that we might have to turn instead to religious traditions, language clues, and cultural knowledge from Central and West Africa in order to put the pieces together from the Haitian revolutionaries’ perspective.

“When the anthropologist arrives, the gods depart”, so a Haitian proverb goes.[2] This felt all too accurate while trying to conduct my research. I discovered that the key to beginning to understand the Haitian revolutionaries was to break apart my own perceptions and conditioning around how human beings organize themselves. It seems that in order to understand Haitian culture, and Voudon therein, one must be receptive to existence beyond the rigid boundaries of duality, and willing to locate the truth among what has not been said. The Haitian Voudon that was practiced at the time of the Haitian Revolution was a blended faith, comprised of various African cultures, Taino influence, and old and new world concepts. It encompassed Indigenous Haitian believes, African Voudon beliefs, and Catholicism. A less conventional but widely considered theory is that this blending was not necessarily due to colonization’s attempts at erasure, but rather these African traditions’ philosophies on inclusivity and adaptability.[3] Due to the unique nature of this practice, it is very challenging to provide direct translations from Haitian Creole to words and concepts we understand in Eurocentric cultures. This can easily contribute to misinterpretations of what happened during the revolution, which creates the challenge of trying to present evidence from a pool of contradictory sources. This research paper is my best attempt at presenting what we think we know, based on the shortage of texts written by the victors and our faith in the preservation of oral traditions passed down through ritual and music, with the awareness that it could all be more or less incomplete.

Similar to the French and American revolutions[4], Haiti also had a female patron saint, or lwa in the Voudon tradition, who symbolized the spirit of their resistance. Erzulie Dantor (also spelled Ezili Dantor; Ezili Danto; Erzulie Ge-Rouge) is considered one aspect of a larger all-encompassing spirit known as Erzulie. Though not completely translatable, Erzulie could be most compared to the concept of the triple goddess in European pagan traditions. In such European traditions, a triple goddess is generally understood as maiden, mother and crone—the three major life cycles of a woman’s life. However, known as a Goddess of Love and Desire, Erzulie’s three main aspects were less about life phases and more about the complexity of her spirit and responses to the world around her. She ranged from playful and flirtatious, to deeply grieving, to righteous rage. Erzulie Dantor is conventionally considered to be the warrior form of this lwa[5]. However, this oversimplified designation does no justice to the vast depths she represented to the Haitian people during the revolution.

Erzulie’s origins are challenging to locate with much confidence. Some sources believe she was a fighter in the revolution, while others believe she was an old-world archetype. Author and artist Maya Deren was taught by Haitian Voudon practitioners in the mid-twentieth century that Erzulie was a spirit brought over from Africa, but that her form as Erzulie Dantor was created out of the suffering of the slaves in Haiti. Historian Joan Dayan writes that Erzulie Dantor was manifested in Haiti and “dramatizes a specific historiography of women's experience in Haiti and throughout the Caribbean” (Dayan, 6). Dayan draws the clear link between this cultural icon and the experiences of enslaved women, indicating that she is the embodiment of the memory of slavery, and the desires for intimacy and revenge therein. While Erzulie was a deity of love and luxury in the African tradition, Erzulie Dantor emerged in Haiti as a more vengeful spirit who was jealous and possessive[6]. Dayan emphasizes that Erzulie exists beyond the dualities of Western religion- she is bisexual, caring, lustful, rageful, spiteful, childish, a virgin, a mother, a warrior, and is honored by both men and women. Even in her Erzulie Dantor aspect, she is as fierce as she is compassionate. Erzulie Dantor would be classified as a Petro lwa, a cult of lwa influenced by the rage of the Indigenous tribes that runaway slaves met while hiding in the hills. Prior to the Petro, Haitian Voudon primarily served the Rada spirits brought over from Africa, drawn mainly from Dahomey tradition. Rather than good versus evil, as is often assumed, the Petro were a more amplified, angrier version of the Rada spirits, who were born from traditions of order and the protection of harmony.[7] The Petro were a response to disorder and dishonor, a new type of spirit that had the mission of seeking justice.

The Western world’s oversimplification of Erzulie in both her Petro and Rada aspects is largely due to its obsession with duality. Her complexity and power during the revolution were threatening ideas to the Church. White slaveholders used this duality as a tool for domination. Dayan draws attention to this in her essay in reference to the slandering of Black women in order to elevate white women: “An ideal woman, pure of stain, fixed on her pedestal, is only possible in the male imaginary because of the invention of a dark, debased sister. (Dayan, 8)” Erzulie Dantor was threatening to the European oppressors for several reasons: she represented the multifaceted strengths of Black women, helped to spread the belief that women could have power and fighting skills that surpass men, and she was part of a religious faith that the Church needed to define as evil in order to assert themselves as pure and good.

The question remains—was Erzulie Dantor an actual slave and fighter in the revolution who has simply become mythologized? Or was she always a spirit who represented the collective consciousness of Haitians? Perhaps it was both to some degree. Cecile Fatiman, an enslaved woman and Voudon mambo (priestess), was famous for organizing the Bois Caiman ceremony alongside Houngan (priest) Dutty Boukman. This ceremony was essentially the first congress of Haiti[8], considered to be the event that officially initiated the revolution. In Voudon, possession by the spirits is a central component of ritual.[9] During the ceremony, Cecile was said to have been possessed by Erzulie Dantor, who ordered the enslaved people to seek revenge and fight for their freedom.[10] In allegiance to her, the ceremony’s participants swore themselves to secrecy and moved to fulfill these commands, beginning with lighting the plantations on fire. This does not quite answer the question of whether Erzulie Dantor was an actual spirit, or if it was Cecile as an inspired, furious revolutionary woman channeling the collective consciousness, later filtered into history under this spirit’s name. In the Voudon tradition, it is common that ancestors who carry a similar essence to a particular lwa will be served as said lwa rather than as an individual.[11] What is interesting here is that for something that seems so significant, I was more likely to turn up sources who either credited Boukman only or referred to Cecile as an anonymous mambo. Why is it that Cecile’s existence and influence are so uncertain, despite her massive significance when she is discussed, but Boukman is a consistent key figure when referencing Bois Caiman? Though it is not unusual that recounts of history can vary depending on the author, this uncovered a notable pattern that it is common to leave women out of the retelling of the Haitian Revolution.

I searched for more names of women who were leaders during the revolution, which resulted in a similar frustration to what I experienced while researching Cecile. Adbaraya Toya, aka Victoria Montou, was a healer and soldier in the Dahomey kingdom before being kidnapped and sold into slavery in Haiti. There she worked on a plantation with Jean Jacque Dessalines, and is said to have helped raise him and train him how to fight[12]. Considered the “Mother of Haiti” (quite a significant title), I once again came up short for reliable information about her. Is this pattern the result of a patriarchal culture, or our reliance on textual evidence for historical understanding? Laurent Dubois suggests that in order to get a clearer picture on the revolution’s participants, we should look to their homes of origin in Africa[13]. Toya’s backstory proved to be a valuable clue.

Whether she was one woman, or composite of many, Toya is commonly believed to have been a soldier in present-day Benin for N’Nonmiton (“our mothers”), an elite force of women who were tasked with protecting the king on and off the battlefield in the Kingdom of Dahomey. Europeans observed them as the Dahomey Amazons, likened to the Amazonian women of Greek mythology.[14] They were believed to be “superior to male soldiers in effectiveness and bravery (Grall 2016)”, and were a way for women to rise to positions of leadership, participate in politics, and live independently. The Yoruba, a large ethnic group in modern Nigeria, Benin and Togo dating back over a thousand years[15], are theorized to have had an egalitarian culture that did not prioritize gender in the way they organized their social hierarchies[16]. Instead, according to scholar Oyeronke Oyewumi, they were more likely to rank status according to age. She attributes the assumption of gender division forced by Europeans to their primary use of the visual in order to categorize and dominate other humans. She looks to language as evidence, noting that there is no mark of gender in the Yoruba language, but that there is a mark for age difference. In his critical analysis of Oyewumi’s book, Bakare-Yusuf points out that mention of the traditionally patriarchal Yoruba culture is missing from her theories. Just when we thought we were getting somewhere, it is time to reroute and dig further.

Rather than solely focusing on which scholars and sources are “right”, it is important to also look at why this segment of history is so unclear. There are several reasons why retrieving accurate information about Haitian history around the time of the revolution is challenging. Going back to Dubois, one of these reasons is that we need to look beyond textual evidence to understand cultures that rely on oral traditions. Most of the enslaved people were illiterate, and would not leave behind written texts of their experiences. Music and ritual were important forms for passing down information, but due to Voudon’s decentralized nature, different lineages and new generations would create their own versions of what happened.[17] At the same time, there is a great lack, or distortion, in many history classrooms in the United States on this important segment of history. It is either not taught, limited to very few key, male figures, or is glossed over as an offshoot of the French Revolution.[18]

By asking whether or not Erzulie Dantor represented the enslaved women of Haiti, I have had to consider that her influence in the Haitian Revolution exists so far beyond the gender binary we understand in our Eurocentric societies that the question itself is responsible for the lack of resolve. It is possible that Erzulie’s gender as a woman is merely secondary to her larger representation of dreaming and desiring all that could be, sprung very loosely from fertility associations.[19] She could possess both men and women in ritual. This ability to dream and desire, or be enraged by the oppression that blocks the ability to live well, was accessible to all who served her. In her Petro form, while her rage and her development out of the pain of slavery were very human, I am curious if her gender was more of an abstract assignment than a direct representation of Haitian women, meant to be more ethos than literal.[20] As much as I would like to understand women’s roles in the revolution, if I insist on framing it this way, religion might not easily give me the answers I seek.

In her mythology, Erzulie Dantor’s tongue was cut out so that if she was captured by the French, she would not spill the secrets of the revolutionaries. In her iconography she is pictured holding a child, sometimes her son, sometimes her daughter. This child served as her voice and translator. Much like the research itself, we have to go through several layers to get to this Petro lwa—with no way to speak for herself, she relies on her child to properly represent her, who in turn relies on the priest or priestess she possesses to accurately communicated with the people. The story of the revolution relies on many indirect sources to be told, whether the analysis of art and song, generations that pass down oral traditions and songs, or the colonizers who wrote down their interpretations of what happened. Far more research is required in order to make sense of this highly complex body of information and evidence. In the meantime, Erzulie will continue to elude contemporary scholars, mocking us with her song:

Ezili o! pa Ezili sa!

(Erzulie, oh! that's not Erzulie!)

A traditional song of Erzulie. [21]

Bibliography

Bakare-Yusuf, Bibi. 2003. "“YORUBA’S DON’T DO GENDER”: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF OYERONKE OYEWUMI’s The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses." CODESRIA. https://codesria.org/IMG/pdf/BAKERE_YUSUF.pdf.

Campbell, Joseph. 1953. "Editor's Forward." In Divine Horsem*n: The Living Gods of Haiti, by Maya Deren, xiii - xvii. London: Thames & Hudson.

Dayan, Joan. 1994. "Erzulie: A Women's History of Haiti." Research in African Literatures 5-31.

Deren, Maya. 1953. Divine Horsem*n: The Living Gods of Haiti. London: Thames & Hudson.

Dubois, Laurent. 2016. "Atlantic Freedoms." Aeon. November 7. https://aeon.co/essays/why-haiti-should-be-at-the-centre-of-the-age-of-revolution.

Johnson, Elizabeth Ofosuah. 2019. "Meet the warrior woman from Dahomey who trained Haitian revolutionary hero Dessalines." Face 2 Face Africa. March 12. https://face2faceafrica.com/article/meet-the-warrior-woman-from-dahomey-who-trained-haitian-revolutionary-hero-dessalines.

Merrill, John. 1996. "VODOU AND POLITICAL REFORM IN HAITI: SOME LESSONS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY." The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 31-52.

Moghadam, Valentine H. 2005. "Gender and Revolutions." In Theorizing Revolutions, by John Foran, 140. Routledge.

Mohamud, Abdul. 2020. "Lesson 4 Bois Caiman Ceremony." YouTube. April. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQslvkhJfpc.

Raitano, Megan. 2013. Powerful Priestesses: A Look at Equality in Leadership in Vodou. University of Florida. Accessed 2021. http://cecilefatimanrca.blogspot.com/.

Woodson, Ashley, Tadashi Dozono, and Lagarett King. 2020. "Framing Race Talk in World History Classrooms: A Case Study of the Haitian Revolution." Educational Foundations.

ZamaMdoda. 2019. "WHM: Dahomey Amazons Were Bad-Ass African Warriors." Afropunk. March. https://afropunk.com/2019/03/dahomey-amazons-african-warriors/.

[1] (Dubois 2016)

[2] (Campbell 1953)

[3] (Deren 1953)

[4] (Moghadam 2005, 140)

[5] (Dayan 1994)

[6] (Merrill 1996)

[7] (Deren 1953)

[8] (Mohamud 2020)

[9] (Deren 1953)

[10] (Raitano 2013)

[11] (Deren 1953)

[12] (Johnson 2019)

[13] (Dubois 2016)

[14] (ZamaMdoda 2019)

[15] Invalid source specified.

[16] (Bakare-Yusuf 2003)

[17] (Deren 1953)

[18] (Woodson, Dozono and King 2020)

[19] (Deren 1953)

[20] Ibid

[21] (Dayan 1994)

#ezuliedanto#erzulie dantor#haitian revolution#colonization#french revolution#decolonizeyourbookshelf

theramblingonesie

Feb 22, 2019

Facing Our Making Part 4: Makeup and Performance

Misty Copeland as “Firebird”

Welcome to the grand finale of the makeup blog series! It’s been a great experience writing about all of this because it’s given me an incredible opportunity to really dig into myself to discover my own biases, blind spots, preferences, and ways I can learn and grow. I dunno about you, but I rather enjoy that sh*t. I hope that maybe you learned something, too, or at least had a chance to tease out and reflect on how the subject has affected you in your own life.

Getting into social customs and how we each feel about them is an interesting sport. For me, I liken it to when you get your blood pressure measured at the doctor’s office.

You put the arm cuff on,

“Okay, here’s this social topic”

and they put the stethoscope on you to hear your pulse,

“Hello, world. Here’s what I think…”

and then they start pumping and tightening the cuff.

“This is wrong! Here are some arbitrary rules! Less of those people! Restrict! Cancel! Humiliate! Isolate! Deprive! No! Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!”

They go until they can’t tighten anymore, and pause.

“Yes, I’ve arrived. This is the TRUTH.”

And then release.

“Actually, f*ck it, let people live their lives”

Whooooooosh!

Leaving you with the sound and feel of your own beating heart, the pulsing of the blood as it rushes back in.

“Hello, life.”

(Sorry, I think the sexy blood pressure pout is goddamn hilarious. )

We can do a review of previous blogs in this series, but ultimately what I hope you’ll walk away with is this:

Let’s stop arbitrarily restricting people, whether directly or through complicity, and let them live their best lives.

Yes, we need to examine social and structural cancers. But no, a boy with a purse and an 80 year old woman in sequins snake-print pants are most certainly not that.

I want to write about makeup and ageism. I want to write about makeup and classism. I want to write about makeup and racism. I want to talk about makeup lineage in families and cultures. I want to write about intimacy and faces, and a million other topics that makeup touches, holds and carries. But I am not a makeup artist or enthusiast, nor any kind of image specialist (fun fact: I’ve never been to Sephora), and I must move on to other things. At most, I am a shapeshifter who delights in the moods and adventures that dabbling in makeup and fashion can provide to the human experience. Who knows, maybe I’ll tackle another piece randomly in the future. But regardless, I strongly encourage anyone who feels called to pick this up and run with it. Nothing I’m writing is original-- it’s just a collection of thoughts and opinions gained from experience and conversations had over the course of my life. I want these conversations to be had. They’re already being had, and we need to add voices to it. So please-- let’s hear yours <3

Here’s an oversimplified review of the rest of the blog series:

Beauty standards are impossibly harsh and cause a lot of unnecessary pain.Let womxn decide what they want to do with their own damn bodies and stay out of it. Unless they hire you for a consultation. Wearing makeup is awesome, and so is not wearing makeup.Your gender presentation and basically any presentation of your body and behavior do not determine who you are and aren’t attracted to sexually. And f*ck gatekeeper behavior. If someone tells you that you aren’t the gender or sexual orientation you know yourself to be, then that’s a reflection of some internal sh*t they’re fighting with, boo-boo. Not you. But I know that doesn’t make it hurt less, and I love you. How toxic masculinity ruins the day in relationship to makeup or not makeup needs to die, and YES women and cis-women** also support and host this behavior (internalized misogyny).

How you choose to adorn yourself does not make your human experience any more or less “real”. Qualification for living a real life in a real body: having a pulse. Just because it is not your experience does not make someone else’s experience a myth. Womxn who wear makeup are not whor*s unless they are, in fact, professional whor*s. Professional whor*s keep the world turning, and bless em for it. The problem isn’t sex work. It’s violence against sex workers. Consider your complicity.

If you want sexual attention because you enjoy sex, then that’s your business and f*ck YEAH GIT IT!!!

Christianity was largely instrumental in informing men that they are not allowed to wear makeup, lest they lose their “manhood”. I have so much to say about that, but I’ll leave it to a recent quote I heard from poet Regie Gibson: “We must learn to fear churches that fear drums.” That will resonate deeply with some and confuse others. Think about it.

The art of drag is centuries old. Makeup has been used by all genders and sexes for decades as a form of protest, revolution, equality, and visibility.

Whatever body you are in, whatever gender you are, you deserve to wear makeup if that is part of your desired expression. It is up to the rest of us around you to do the work to create a world that accepts and allows you to safely do so.Your level of perceived attractiveness does not determine the size and capability of your brain. What does need to be examined is how we sexually and emotionally abuse “attractive” girls and women, both in person and through media, in a way that forces them to believe that they cannot achieve a full life without using sex as currency, or that none of their accomplishments or thoughts matter because their only purpose is being a sexual accessory. As we’ve seen time and again, sexually “attractive” women are punished for straying beyond the purpose of being unintelligent sex objects. Or, there’s a lot of “woke” folks out there who are all “yay! Hot women are also smart, give them opportunities!” and will ONLY respect and listen to women they deem worthy of sleeping with. I will also challenge society by saying that it is sexual abuse to strip a person of their sexuality simply because they don’t fit what you’ve been conditioned to believe are your “standards”. No, one is not required to be sexually active with anybody. But denying another human’s right to love and affection due to superficial beliefs IS abuse, in my opinion. Forcing a person who does not fall into conventional beauty standards to intellectually perform beyond their abilities is abuse, and based in the illness of consumer culture.

What is your purpose?

WHAT is YOUR purpose?

What is your PURPOSE…

THING?

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

A person’s decision to wear makeup, not wear makeup, or augment their body is their business, because those are decisions they make for their own personal survival. Do not blame them for wanting to survive. Consider the bombardment of messages we hear daily about “worth”. What our bodies look like determine too much to be listed here, but for many, it’s the difference between life and death, even if that’s not an immediately conscious motivation.

Marinate in that.

So let’s get down to the series conclusion. This is an exciting, though brief, one for me:

Performance and Makeup

When my friend Aepril (from blog #1) messaged me about her dilemma of being asked to show her “real” face, we both connected over the uniqueness of the application of makeup as performers. For a performer, makeup goes beyond wearing a nice face out in the world while we conduct our business. Makeup becomes a ritual act, and a space of channeling energy required to suspend disbelief and transport an audience to other times, realms and worlds.

Makeup for performers is also practical: don’t get drowned out by bright stage lights, and accentuate features so that the audience can follow your expressions while you’re telling a story.

One of my favorite parts of performing is, honestly, the pre-show ritual. I love the act of transformation. I go from my blank little pasty potato face and limp baby hair to creatures and characters from my dreams. I can be:

Super femme

Super butch

Superhero

Child

Old man/woman

Dragon

Cat

Spy

Femme fatale

Ballerina

Goddess

Bird

Elemental

Victorian socialite

Bum

Cartoon character

Someone’s dad

Heartthrob

Potted plant

And the list goes on…

Important note: I recognize that my age, whiteness, and stature grant me certain privileges of transformation that not all are afforded. I think this is important to acknowledge, as well as participate in conversations around greater equity in the entertainment industry. Except in cases such as blackface or cultural appropriation, it’s important to challenge type casting and beliefs around the limitations of who can play certain roles.

Makeup allows me to embody the energy I want to convey. If I can look like it, I can believe it. Sit backstage and watch performers after they’ve put on their makeup and costumes. Often, it’s as if their “normal” personality has left the building, and they begin taking on traits and mannerisms of the character they’re playing. It’s a wild experimentation in the realm of the human psyche- peering into our layers and depths of possibilities and dormant desires and aspects of ourselves. Some performers will reference a character they play and say, “yeah, that’s not who I am. But understanding that character gave me greater compassion for people like that”, while others will tell you that their character is a portrayal of their truest selves.

Because of the perceived separation from reality (though art imitates life), the stage is often the safest place for artists to fully show themselves. There is always the option to retreat afterwards and say “oh no, that wasn’t me. It was all pretend.” Or conversely, moments on stage can empower the artist to be supported in their moment of authenticity, because the audience understands that their role is to respectfully hold space and witness. I find that audiences are far better at allowing for differences when the context of being confronted by them is in an environment separate from their daily lives.

Plainly said-- everyone loves a loose cannon or bold personna on stage or in the movies. They feel far more threatened by it in the workplace or in their beds.

I’m neither advocating for, nor dismissing acceptance of all personality types. But I also sometimes find myself in a producer/manager stress space of saying, “yes, I get that this is wicked cute on stage or in the movies, BUT THIS IS REAL LIFE AND COULD YOU PLEASE ANSWER YOUR EMAILS AND NOT STORE THE KNIVES WITH THE HAIR BRUSHES, THANKS.”

The stage is a place where your desire to give everyone the finger and store the knives with the hair brushes is totally okay. And I think it’s great to have that outlet.

Pro tip: it’s smart to carry bandaids on a film set or backstage at a show.

Makeup gives us the courage to let those pieces out. Sam, looking like Sam, won’t do a lot of stuff. Sam looking like a person, animal or entity she admires (or loathes), will do almost anything. Yes, you can have a field day digging into that psychology, but the fact remains nonetheless.

A couple weeks back, beloved Boston burlesque Monster Queen and icon, Devilicia, recommended that I watch “Susanne Bartsch: On Top”, a documentary on Netflix. If you don’t know who this is (I didn’t), here’s an excerpt from her biography on her site:

Susanne Bartsch is New York City’s patron saint of transformation and inclusion. The parties she’s thrown for three decades—from Paris to Tokyo—have provided a venue for countless creative souls and “creatures” to express themselves, come together and forget the hum-drum of the everyday. As Michael Schulman wrote in his 2013 New York Times profile, Susanne’s “empire” continues to flourish “particularly among scene seekers too green to know her history. Wherever Ms. Bartsch goes, the demimonde seems to follow, as if summoned by the bat of her curlicued fake eyelashes.” Fashion mogul John Badum once referred to Susanne as “Mother Teresa in a glitter G-string.”

I can’t recommend this film highly enough. One of the most important parts was when Susanne tells the interviewers that she never had any artistic talent for painting or any other such creative mediums. She instead decided to use her body as her canvas for expression, exploring what makeup, color, texture, and so on could create, and that relation to the world around her. She refers back to the restriction of her upbringing, and how that influences her openness and dedication to personal expression. Susanne influenced countless careers and communities, especially for LGBTQA+ folx and those who consider themselves to be “outsiders”. When people who attend Susanne’s legendary parties were interviewed, many of them speak of these communities as life saving. It was a place where they could just be themselves, and finally be around others who either understood them, or allowed them to be exactly who they are. All of this through the power and creativity of makeup and fashion.

Makeup serves infinite purposes-- safety, transformation, personal exploration, etc. But one thing I love about this craft is its ability to amplify visibility as a sort of flag for finding your people. Often when I’m in a new city, I find myself dressing in a way that will signal to others who might share similar lifestyles that I’m out and available for connection. When I’m at my incognito cafe job and a womxn with black stiletto nails comes up to the register, I’ll give her a certain acknowledging smile and say “I love your nails”, which really means “I see you, friend.” The same way a lonely gay man will show up to one of Susanne’s events with mirror glitter on his eyelids and a tutu made of eyeballs thinking, “hello, do you see me? I’d love to be a part of this family”, so many of us will walk around the world looking for signs of matching lipstick, hairstyle, eyeliner, and tattoos in hopes that we will find other aliens who might accept and understand us.

Photo by Cheryl Gorski

Some people find community through the act of not wearing makeup. Yes, I use the word “act” intentionally, because in today’s society, I believe it is a conscious decision to not wear makeup, just as much as it’s a conscious decision to apply makeup. But from personal experience, the people I most often attract when I’m not wearing makeup are not usually “my people”. I give off a very different impression when I wear muted tones, a floppy messy pixie cut, and display my thin, pale, generically-European facial features. When I outwardly express myself through makeup and fashion, it’s like throwing a direct line to the crowds and conversations I want to be having. It’s not a flawless system, of course. Sometimes the same people who love and adore me while I’m dolled up have absolutely no use for me in muggle form, not always realizing that I’m the same person. Sometimes that makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry. Depends on the day.

I stand by the belief that your decision to wear or not wear makeup is revolutionary. It is a decision made that acts as agency in how you want your life to be played out. That’s powerful, whether for better or for worse. So many people say “ehhh wearing makeup is conforming” or vice versa. But I’d like to present the challenge that what we do to our own bodies is not the conformity, but rather the conformity lies in the pressure we put on others to think, feel, and present as we do, or in a way that’s convenient and pleasurable to us.

If you did the exercise from the first blog in this series and kept your list of all the reasons why you do and don’t wear makeup, go ahead and look at it now. Reflect on each of those responses, and remember that it’s your f*cking life. Our bodies dictate almost all of the experiences we will have in the world. It is your right to try and have as much say in that as possible.

Thank you so much for reading, and best of luck on your journeys of exploration, expression, and finding a home with your people, whoever they may be.

** “women and cis-women” is a term my friend Alexis recently said to me, and I’m playing around with it.

#makeup#bodypolitics

theramblingonesie

Feb 4, 2019

I love you but I don’t like you right now: The Passion Project Diaries

I remember years ago when I was nannying for a beautiful family, experiencing the joys and not-joys of their daughter coming into toddlerhood. She was such a precious dumpling as a baby, and somehow she had sprung into an agent of chaos, destruction, loss of hearing (mine), and potty-training nightmares. I had a day where I remember sitting at the kitchen table hoping for five minutes of peace (that never arrived) and feeling overwhelmed by the guilty thought of, “omg. I don’t like you.”Bothered by this, having established that I did feel unconditional love for this child, I asked one of my friends who is a mother to two young children if she ever experienced similar feelings. She laughed and threw her hands up exclaiming, “OH GAWD YES! There are days where I completely dislike my children. You don’t tell them that, obviously, but that’s a well-kept secret among mothers. We all talk about it. You’d be surprised how common that is, especially when they’re toddlers.”

PHEW. Great, I wasn’t a monster. Or if I was, I was at least in good company.

Producing and directing The Scarlet Tongue Project has brought out similar feelings for me over the course of the past three or four years. I remember the gestation period, feeling scared and excited, dreaming about what her personality was going to be, how I would be as an art mommy, imagining all the playdates with other artists and art parents in town. Then I went into labor, breathing and screaming through the pain of contractions, feeling frustration and fear of the nurses- some helpful and some harmful. I remember the vulnerability of not wanting anyone else to touch my baby, of just wanting to hold her to my chest where she would feel safe and bonded. I remember how deeply and fiercely I fell in love when she began opening her eyes and making sounds. She was the most precious thing in the world to me, and I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. The rest of the world disappeared, and it was so hard for me to focus or find equivalent joy in anything else. Then the insecurities of being a new art mommy set in. I doubted my abilities, and my exhaustion from trying to navigate this new territory had me questioning everything. Everywhere I turned there was information telling me that I was doing it all wrong; that if I made the slightest error I would damage my art baby for life, and maybe even lose her. I constantly reached out to loved ones asking for assistance, afraid to be left alone with this tiny, vulnerable creature. When you have a new project and you’re a new producer, suddenly everyone around you is an expert and wants to tell you how to do your job; particularly folks who have never been producers before. You begin to wonder if you made a mistake, and if you should give your project up for adoption to someone more competent. Other times, you pour yourself a glass of wine and tell them to eff right off because it’s your kid and they can go mind their own beeswax.I was in awe as I watched my art baby grow. She began to take on her own personality, making friends, forming opinions, and developing a stubborn side that I couldn’t budge for the life of me. I adored that about her. I was so deeply in love.But every once in a while, I would wonder if I made a mistake. She was so hungry, and the bigger she gets the hungrier she is. She developed her own voice, and while there are so many laughs and moments of deep wisdom that make me think she’s an old soul, she also loves to scream. Her favorite thing to do is scream, just to know she can. What and who she loves one day she hates the next. Sometimes she decides that what was previously her favorite food is disgusting, and will go on a hunger strike until I guess what she likes, because she won’t actually tell me. Sometimes I’ll put her in the bath and then run downstairs to grab a book quickly, and when I come back up she’s turned the water all the way up, screaming because it’s too hot and the tub is overflowing all over the floor and leaking through the kitchen ceiling below. Sometimes I think she’s getting dressed to go run errands with me, but instead she’s put on her roller skates and is three blocks down the street by herself with nothing but her lightning bolt undies on. In winter.On those days, I don’t like her. I don’t want to be an art mommy.

When my health issues crop up, physically or mentally, I don’t want to be an art mom that day.When I have no clue how to delegate because the beginning stages of this project left me with massive trust issues, and now I’ve taken on way too much for one person, I don’t want to be an art mom.When I receive yet another rejection letter from the millionth grant or residency program I’ve applied to, I want to quit.Everytime someone says, “so wait, I don’t really get what you’re doing, it’s so confusing” or “so like, is Scarlet Tongue even happening anymore?” I just want to go full-Britney, shave my head, and start smashing the street up with my umbrella.

Everytime someone says “oh, my sister is into feminism and stuff and she likes to draw. You should interview her”, I want to crumble into a pile of feral cats and scatter into oncoming traffic.

There are days when I ask myself why I took on a project that isn’t as flashy or “fun” as my other artist friends. Why am I so heavy? Why am I such a downer? Why am I so weird, but not in a way that’s cool?

There are days when I don’t know whether to punch or charge money for the next person who tells me that anger is bad, and why don’t I focus on a project that brings love and joy?

There are days when my heart breaks, because everyone likes the idea of womxn’s anger in theory, but when actually confronted by it they simply regurgitate the same toxic oppressive mentality that’s left us in this place to begin with. I’ve lost track of how many times “yes I believe in this, PLEASE LET ME HELP” has turned into “you’re a bad mommy. How dare you be angry with me.”

There are days when I feel lost, because I am holding the weight of so many people’s heaviest emotions and darkest secrets, and I feel pressured to keep smiling and do a flashy dance to make it all seem sexy, because sex seems like the only thing that sells if “womxn” is mentioned in your mission statement. Either that, or a complete exploitation of my artists’ trauma, which is a hard no.

There are days when money issues are gutting me, and I’m afraid to ask for help because I fear I’ve overtapped my resources.

There are days when it looks like for one every step forward I end up taking ten steps back.

Some days I’m not sure if I’m actually a better person since doing this work or not.

Those days, I turn my face away and mutter “I don’t f*cking like you” under my breath, and secretly look up boarding schools in the middle of the night. When I’m around a small handful of friends I really trust, I’ll confess that I don’t like this project anymore and am ready for it to end.

But then, something beautiful happens. The act of saying how I feel out loud invites a feeling of surrender, and that surrender creates space for me to look at this project with fresh eyes and see her wholeness. Sure, maybe in certain moments I’m ready to tap out. But in a way, that’s good. It means I care, and I welcome emotions in this project. Sure, there are parts of this project I’m ready to wrap up, and not being able to complete that on my desired timeline makes me cranky. Not because I think they suck, but because that is the healthiest choice to keep things moving forward. I’m not going to start feeding my child solid foods because I resent their baby years; I’m going to feed them solid foods because it’s time to grow and move to the next step.Despite my hair-pulling moments, the reality is that when I really dig in and try to visualize not having this project, or never having started it, I feel panic and then a full-body resistance. For all of the frustrations, ups and downs, I believe in this work so hard, and I am completely dedicated to the path.I have visited parts of the US and the world that I’m not sure I would have ever seen otherwise. I’ve had the absolute fortune and blessing to gain both wisdom and knowledge, collaborate with, and share space with absolutely brilliant creative minds, both past and present. I’ve lost track of how many “holy sh*t, this is my life??” moments I’ve had, and that number only continues to grow. For every moment I’ve doubted myself, just as many people have taken time to tell me how much this project and this work means to them, and how it’s influenced their lives, whether as contributors or observers. On a personal level, the work I’ve done to heal a lot of my own trauma and anger issues has been profound, and the effects of that have had incalculable influence on my personal relationships and in my blood family. This project has shown me, through peace and through fire, how tirelessly obsessed and dedicated I am to making something happen if I really want it. Hearing “no” might bum me out for a minute, but you find solutions and move on. Being bummed out isn’t a death sentence.

Two years ago I was sitting with friends in Mexico, chatting with them about their experiences as mothers, contemplating if I wanted to have children of my own one day. One thing they said really stuck with me-- as a parent, you don’t own your children and they’re not extensions of you. They are their own people who will develop into who they need to be, and they will ultimately inform you about who they are. A parent’s job is mainly to love them, provide resources, and keep them safe.

This is a regular reminder for The Scarlet Tongue Project. I brought her into the world, gave her some form, and now she’s taken on a life of her own. Rather than being the owner or queen of this work, my job is far more service than glory. I’m trying to be better at asking her, “who are you today? What do you need to thrive?” Sometimes I have no clue what she’s trying to tell me. Sometimes we need to explore that a little bit to figure it out. Sometimes we take one or two wrong turns before getting back on track. But I trust the friends and caregivers she’s called forward to help on this journey. It’s a constant balance of appreciating growth while remaining present, and frequently reminding my ego to step out of the way. In moments of absolute frustration, I simply ask myself, “have you tried absolutely everything?” and the answer is always no. There is always more to do and more to learn. I can’t justify giving up when there is still infinite potential available.

Our relationships always flow in cycles. One day you’ll be super in sync with a friend or loved one, and the next you can’t seem to jive with their energy. Life will happen, circ*mstances will change, and then days, weeks, months or years later, you’ll fall back in harmony. In longterm romantic relationships, you cycle through periods of absolute infatuation, then wanting to murder each other, and sometimes being platonic roommate besties. I don’t have actual children, but I do believe there are so many different ways to live the archetype of Parent. It’s no secret that with parenthood comes doubt and overwhelm, along with joy and love. One minute you can’t get enough of your babies, and the next you’re hoping someone will take them away for a month so you can get some sleep and remember who you are outside of them. While love remains, inspiration and interest come in cycles. Life, death and rebirth apply to the creative process as much as they do to the larger natural world. Winter in the creative process is crucial for letting things rest, assessing our previous work, and contemplating where we want to go before implementing a plan in the creative spring.

The work my team puts into this project continues to stun and humble me in gratitude. Every single person who takes a moment to tell me how this project has helped or inspired me has given me fresh life. Watching this whole thing come to life is surpassing my wildest dreams, even with the path being full of twists and turns. I don’t have to always like this project, and it’s liberating to admit that. But I love her on both an intellectual and soul level, and that’s what allows me to push through. This project is all about rawness, authenticity, and speaking your truth. It would be hypocritical if I encouraged everyone else but myself to be in that energy.

I wish you all creative spring through your moments of wanting to light it all on fire and send the ashes out on trash day <3

#scarlettongue parenthood artmom art producerlife punk punkbabies

theramblingonesie

Jan 30, 2019

Facing Our Making, Part 3: Makeup and Gender

Welcome to Part 3 of my makeup blog series! This week we’re going to poke at gender and makeup. But before I begin, let’s review parts 1 & 2, and check in about where we’re at:

1. Beauty standards are impossibly harsh and cause a lot of unnecessary pain.

2. Let womxn decide what they want to do with their own damn bodies and stay out of it. Unless they hire you for a consultation.

3. Wearing makeup is awesome

4. Not wearing makeup is awesome

5. Your gender presentation and basically any presentation of your body and behavior do not determine who you are and aren’t attracted to sexually. And no one is the (*^*^%^$#%$#&*&^&%% authority to determine that for you. If they try, remember that they’re judging and labeling you in relation to their own internal gender/sexuality struggles. More on this in today’s blog below.

6. How toxic masculinity ruins the day in relationship to makeup or not makeup needs to die, and YES womxn also support and host this behavior (internalized misogyny). Just because a person has a vagin* or presents as femme does not mean they are exempt.

7. Womxn who wear makeup are not whor*s unless they are, in fact, professional whor*s. Professional whor*s keep the world turning, and bless em for it. The problem isn’t sex work. It’s violence against sex workers. Consider your complicity.

8. Womxn are reclaiming the hell out of the word “slu*t”, so don’t get caught being a dumb idiot who uses the outdated, violent, misogynist definition. 1000 years vagin* dentata upon your entire household.

9. If you want sexual attention because you enjoy sex, then f*ck YEAH GIT IT!!!

10. “Pretty girls are dumb” is a myth that our society desperately seeks to nurture and maintain. This is rooted in dominance, power, control, and whor*phobia. Stop it.

11. “Ugly girls are smart” makes no damn sense. Okay, yes I can see the backwards logic, but also if you listen to flat-earthers long enough you could even be like, “ok, I see where you’re coming from with that”.

It is not lost on me that certain beauty trends and habits can trigger and enable body image problems, ranging in severity. After attending a panel discussion that featured a speaker from Media Girls Boston, I learned that girls as young as 9 are learning that they essentially need to brand themselves through social media so that they can merely exist. Saying this is a problem is an understatement.

I support makeup and rituals of adornment. I support a lot of things that, if used improperly with dangerous motivations, can result in severe consequences.

Understand that there’s a lot of nuance in subjects like this, and utilize your critical thinking brain when exploring such topics. Continue your personal research if you’re curious about any subcategory in this series that I have not addressed.

If issues of beauty standards and pressure are uncomfortable or triggering for you, or if you or a loved one believe they may be suffering from a body-image related disorder, please know you are not alone, and there are people out there who are ready and available to support you through this. Links and hotline numbers are available in the resource section at the end of this blog. -------------------------------------------------------------

“If we are all members of one body, then in that one body there is neither male nor female; or rather there is both: it is an androgynous or hermaphroditic body, containing both sexes [...] The division of the one man into two sexes is part of [our] fall.”--Norman O. Brown, in Love’s Body, 1966

Okay! Let’s talk about this super important element of the art and ritual of beauty:

Gender!

To Marie Kondo this:This subject does not bring me joy, and I do not want to write about it, but I feel that I have a responsibility to not play floor-is-lava about it. It does not even bring me the type of righteous rage that fuels me to furiously complete a post.It fills me with doubt, insecurity, self loathing, trust issues, and a desire to disappear.

I need to say this because I know I am not alone in my feelings and experience. But I will keep it very brief because I’d like to move on.

I have experienced a lifetime of pain from the bullsh*t pressure the heteropatriarchy puts on female bodies. I never anticipated the heartache I would experience as a result of being judged and denied by fellow queers.

I am too butch, too unfeminine to be accepted as the right kind of woman in heteropatriarchal society. I make men question their sexuality, and I am the one made to suffer for it. I am too feminine for queers to believe and accept me when I tell them I’m genderfluid (which I have been, quietly and privately, my entire life).I am not feminine enough to be femme.

Too much woman. Not enough woman. Not woman. Not human. Once again, my body and my soul are everyone else’s to judge, determine, and own. Not mine.

And no one wants to listen when we say the world hates women.

I highly suggest looking up the toxic concept of femme invisibility in queer communities. You can start by reading this great article by Bust:

https://www.bustle.com/articles/166081-what-does-femme-mean-the-difference-between-being-femme-being-feminine.

For the record, I still use she/her pronouns. I stand by my allegiance to the fullness and diversity of womxnhood in a deeply ferocious way. My reasoning for that is both very simple and very complicated. So I guess that just makes it very complicated. Ask me how.

Mood.

Anyway, makeup.

About a month ago, I had wrapped a film shoot with some friends who flew up from Mexico. It was an incredible weekend that filled me up with so much bliss. On the drive back to Boston, I was chatting with my beloved friends and fellow Scarlet Tongue artists, Creature and Cass, about how much I enjoy the company of Mexican men. A large part of that is because it is refreshing to be around men who so easily embrace and express feminine qualities of articulating their emotions, accessing their emotions, gentleness and nurturing. Creature presented the important argument that such qualities don’t need to be classified as feminine or masculine; they’re simply personality and behavioral traits that anybody can have.

Such a point is absolutely crucial in untangling the oppressive nature of the gender binary.

Exercise:

The following traits have been classically designated as “masculine” or “feminine” behavior, but I’ve jumbled them together in the list below. Which traits do you believe belong to whom?

ReservedWarmSensitiveUtilitarianDeferentialApprehensiveReactiveEmotionally StableSeriousLivelySocially boldShyRule-consciousExpedientPrivatePerfectionismAnxietyGroup-orientedSelf-reliantTolerates disorderVigilanceExtraversionTraditionalGrounded Agreeableness Neuroticism Excitement-seekingAttraction to aesthetics

Answer:

Hahahahah, I’m not going to give you the answer. It doesn’t matter.

Yes, hormones do impact some behavior.And YES, how we’re socially conditioned impacts which traits are more dominant. But the point is, there is an imaginary line between the two categories. The saddest reality is that, even though any human is capable of any of these traits on the list, society has determined that consequence and punishment must befall anyone who strays from their category. An enforced gender binary is dangerous.

Enter makeup.

Makeup has served infinite purposes throughout the course of history. It’s an incredible vehicle for expression, as well as radical social and political rebellion. Makeup has shaped entire movements of art, social justice, philosophy, and construction/deconstruction of body politics.

Your lipstick is more than patriarchal pigment in a tube. It is a tool for revolution.

Most people assume that makeup is only for clowns and cisgender women, and anyone else who uses it is simply a deviant who has “stolen” it.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Nononononononono

This probably won’t come as a shock to most of you, but yes-- Christianity also temporarily ruined makeup.Once upon a time, it was quite normal for men to wear makeup. Then the Jesus toe-suckers made up a whole bunch of arbitrary rules about what we currently observe masculinity and femininity to be, and here we are in this stinky pile of crap rules.

I highly recommend reading this article to learn a tiny bit more of the history of men and makeup:

https://www.byrdie.com/history-makeup-gender

Who wears makeup and how people wear makeup has shifted so much throughout history, and the struggles we experience around this today have only been relevant for a hundred years or so. One of the most common forms of rebellion we hear of is when women reject traditional femininity. Whether “burning our bras”, shaving our heads, or growing out our armpit hair, this is not an uncommon experience for a lot of women. The scandal!! The pet has escaped her cage!! So many women I know have experienced an anti-femininity phase at least once in their lives. Sometimes this “phase” transitions into a permanent rejection of gender norms, but it really varies from person to person. Often it’s set off by an overwhelming awareness of how much women are defined by superficial characteristics, traditionally determined and enforced by men. So we attempt to take ourselves out of the system by wearing neutral and aggressive clothing, switching up which parts of our bodies are hairy and which aren’t, and avoiding anything “girlie”. Revisiting my conversation with Aepril, my high-glam friend who inspired this blog and was mentioned in Part 1, she made a good point about honoring such an experience:“I went through a miserable phase in my feminist youth where I thought I was being uber feminist by not shaving or wearing makeup or wearing heels, etc, because to do so was giving into the patriarchy. I was miserable of course. It took my drag queen friends to wake me up to that, as I realized that they were willing to give up family, social status...their safety and even their lives for the privilege of expressing themselves in a glamorous, feminine way. While I had that privilege because I was born in a female body. I might be criticised by both men and women, but I wouldn’t be beaten in the street for transgressing gender roles. I realized how much it meant to me through seeing how much it meant to them. Why should I give that up either? Why should anyone have to?”In Aepril’s situation, she found that her place of authenticity was through femininity. In a world that is so divided between the shoulds and should-nots of who we’re supposed to be, I find it important to squeeze ourselves through and experience all sides so we can settle on what’s true for us. Then it’s no longer conformity; it’s an outlet.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the use of makeup norms has been subverted to amplify voices that demand human rights and fair treatment. Its application has been largely linked to LGBTQ+ visibility and gay rights movements. The anti-Vietnam movement in the late 60s and 70s utilized makeup to display over-feminization and hom*osexuality as a way to avoid being drafted. The glam rock movement gave us icons like David Bowie, exposing and exploding restrictive gender norms through outrageous clothing and makeup, utilizing pop culture to spread ideas and acceptance of androgyny. “Female impersonation” has origins dating back to the 19th century in Europe, and the art of Drag Queens & Kings is alive and well today, celebrating, mocking, questioning, and expanding gender in clubs and theaters, in film, and right in our homes through TV favorites like Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

For our trans-sisters, the decision to wear makeup could have life or death consequences. As a transwoman friend of mine disclosed a few months back, when she’s walking down the street and hears a man call after her, her immediate thoughts turn to, “will I experience violence because I’m a woman? Or will I experience violence because he thinks I’m a fa*ggot?” There is a lot of discussion in the trans community about the privilege of “passing”, and I believe these conversations have further supported the struggles womxn generally face-- does wearing makeup make you more or less of a woman?As writer Lux Alptraum points out, “the idea that external appearance is what makes someone a “real” woman is the very thing that many trans women have committed themselves to fighting. To the extent that makeup is an essential part of any trans woman’s gender identity or notion of her womanhood, it’s largely because that’s the message the rest of the world aggressively forces upon her.”Read the rest of this article at https://www.racked.com/2017/3/23/14937266/trans-women-makeup

Makeup is incredibly powerful. It can be used for protest, and it can be used for comfort. It’s daily wear, and it’s political. It’s an expression of freedom, and a bold face confronting restriction. It’s transformative, giving people the opportunity to live in the bodies and images that feel right and true for them. Makeup is art, an embracing of life and physicality, a way to show up, be counted, and be present. It’s an act of defiance, and an act of love.

I recently read that Facebook now has 56 gender identities one can choose from. Facebook blows, but wow that’s actually really awesome! Within that list, some of the more frequently used terms include:

Agender/NeutroisAndrogyne/AndrogynousBigenderCis/CisgenderFemale to Male/FTMGender FluidGender Nonconforming/VariantGender QuestioningGenderqueerIntersexMale to Female/MTFNeitherNon-binaryOtherPangenderTrans/Transgender TranssexualTwo-spirit (Important: this is Native American. Don’t pull a Jason Mraz. Don’t appropriate)

Out of this list, the following folks are allowed to wear makeup:

All of themEveryoneAnyoneEverybodyThe General PublicThe Whole WorldHuman BeingsAliensAnimals but only if they’re actually humans in animal costumes

If you’re interested in following makeup artists on IG who are trans or gender non-conforming, here is a great starter list (partially sourced from wearyourvoicemag.com):

@ brownbeautystandards@ vlad_theunicorn@ jade_poncee@ makeupby_bran@ rosalynnemontoya@ miles_jai@ completedestruction

Again, there are infinite reasons why people of any gender do and don’t wear makeup, and I’m not going to be an authority on the matter. But I hope some of this information helps you on your journey to understand yourself better, and hold space of greater allyship and tolerance for others.

Below are some links and phone numbers if you feel you need greater support for the topics being discussed in this blog series. Being beautiful is cool, and so is being safe. You deserve to be here, and you matter.

Enjoy your week, and we’ll see you back here next week for Part 4: Performance Artists and Makeup!

National Eating Disorders 24 hr Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/body-image-0

TransLifeline Hotline: 877-565-8860

https://www.translifeline.org/

LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

https://www.glbthotline.org/

National Suicide Prevention 24hr Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

http://sexworkersproject.org/resources/

#makeup#nomakeup#gender#intersectional feminism#revolution#queer#drag#androgony#expressyourself

theramblingonesie

Jan 21, 2019

Facing Our Making, Part 2: Everyday whor*phobia

Tumblr keeps flagging my posts for p*rnography, so I’m just gonna keep my visual content wholesome. Relevant to the title, eh?

In part 1, I dipped my toe into the insanity that we’re conditioned by in regards to the average human womxn wearing makeup vs. not wearing makeup.

I said some horrible things that were complete satire, but they still hurt, because many of us have been on the receiving end of words like this, used as weapons against us. I want to take a moment to go back over that.

I drew a lot of lines between the value of women considered“beautiful” and those who are“not”. Newsflash: it’s all bullsh*t. I have felt deeply hurt at different points throughout my life from being passed over or thrown out in favor of another woman being more beautiful than I am. Not only in relationships, but in general conversations, job opportunities and promotions, artistic gigs, and so on. I know that there have been times when folks considering me attractive has also led to others’ deep pain when they were the ones passed over or turned down.

It’s very subjective. I don’t think we’re going to get to a place (in my lifetime) in our society where beauty standards don’t run the show, but we need to do our best to not be total assholes about it. There are so many body positivity movements out there, and more and more artists are using their platforms to change the conversations we have about beauty standards, our right to take up space, and better language we can all utilize when discussing these subjects.

This is an amazing site, movement and book that I follow online. Do check it out!https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/

Here are some other things I want to intentionally remind you of, in case my sarcasm was unclear:

1. Please never ever“hide” for the convenience of others. You do not have to be extroverted or call attention to yourself if it makes you uncomfortable, but please do not live your life in shame because some assholes out there think they hold the keys to life based on the symmetry of our faces, the thickness of our hair, and the inches around our waists. Do not give them the pleasure. You deserve to be here and you deserve to be seen. 100%.

2. Your sexuality does not dictate your level of attractiveness. Despite what cis-straight men might believe, you not liking dick does not render you a mutant. How and when you like any arrangement of hormones and genitals has nothing to do with the flesh you wear or the keratin you produce, and it’s completely no one else’s business or right to decide your worth therein. Sidenote: queer gatekeeping and their checklist requirements will be in a later part of this series. #f*ckoff

3. Have you ever seen the babeliness of women who work on farms? They’re strong, they’re sunkissed, they’re rugged, they’re covered in dirt and they give few flying f*cks about bullsh*t. I grew up in rural farmland, and I still have dreams of settling down into some kind of country farm/gardening life one day in the not distant future. Women who farm are not“women who look and act like dudes”. They’re women who farm and can decide for themselves, unrelated to potatoes and livestock, what their gender presentation is. I know, men. This is also very threatening to you.

4. If you want to modify your body in any way, that is your right. Period. You have every right to feel beautiful and safe in your own body, however that expresses itself to you and your circ*mstances. You have every right to change how that expresses itself every day, week, month, year, 5 years, and so on. There are trained professionals out there who will supportively and compassionately help you both achieve and reverse these processes. I don’t feel like this requires further explanation.

Ack. Poor cis straight men. Always walking around feeling so scared and threatened by the choices other people make about living their lives in ways that either avoid or don’t concern you! Thank you so much for ingraining these beliefs in women so that we can take over for you through infighting.

But the focus of Part 2 of this blog series is the overarching theme of Part 1, and that is whor*phobia.

Borrowed fromhttp://sjwiki.org/wiki/whor*phobia:

whor*phobia or whor*misia is the hatred of, oppression of, violence towards, and discrimination against sex workers; and by extension derision or disgust towards activities or attire related to sex work.

Treating sex workers with suspicion, disgust, extreme violence, and erasing their experiences has a long history. Sex workers are "used to being a scapegoat, to being shunned, even by those who claim to stand up for women."

Our culture suffers deeply from whor*phobia. Yes, this is really what it comes down to. “Good girls” are humble and clean-faced, while “bad girls” are sex fiends in red lipstick. When we judge others for their choices to wear makeup or not, we are so often weighing our opinions against our subconscious beliefs about the purity and value of a woman in society. I see “strong, feminist women” preaching the good word of equal rights and still letting their whor*phobia show in “helpful” posts on social media. Oh yes, I absolutely see you.

Our culture is so damn broken around sexuality that we don’t even know where to start digging out. There are theories, suggested solutions and blame that are so thick in numbers that walking through the world feels like constantly being swarmed by plague of contradiction locusts.

Within this clusterf*ck, there are a lot of people doing really good work, which is why our conversations around sexuality have evolved the way they have today. But with all of the conflicting ideas and responses to this epic problem we’re having, here’s what seems the most basically clear to me:

People want to feel desired and desirable.

People want to have the power to consent to sexuality, whether that’s engaging in it or not.

People want to have the freedom to define what sexuality means to them.

Pleasure is important for one’s joy and feeling of acceptance in the world.

People want to have the freedom to define what pleasure looks and feels like for them.

“whor*phobia” enters from a few doors (heh).

The main entrance, I’ve most often found, is in the perceived threat that one’s desirability or access to pleasure will be stolen away by another person who is in their sexual power, or person expressing themselves in a way that is believed to hold some sexual power. This is most often played out between womxn who have been conditioned to believe they need to compete for attention. We’ve been taught that attention = worthiness, which has only been exacerbated by the age of social media.

Overt example: Wife refuses to allow husband to visit a stripclub with his friends, and bans him from texting one of his best friends, who happens to be a woman. Her claim: they are whor*s who need to keep their hands off her property.

Subtle example: Frat bro and a pretty freshman have a regular booty call. She asks him if maybe they can try going on a date, seeing as they spend so much intimate time together. He turns her down. Later she sees him around campus with a girl who wears less makeup and has an all-around“wholesome” look. He explains to his friends that the girl he daywalks with is someone he can bring home to his mom.

The side entrance, where the most insidious hosts enter so they can avoid accountability, is for oppressive power structures. This is where sex and sexuality are used as weapons of dominance, not for love, play or connection. Many folks out there might tell themselves they’re in it for the latter, but they’re coming from a deeply ingrained place of the former. Even the best of us might have some residue from outdated thoughts that were planted in us early on. If you’ve been a human in society experiencing life, and had exposure to anything outside of rocks, carrots or puppies, then you’ve most likely caught the bug.

Overt example: rape

Subtle example: bringing on some “hot babes” for your music video or live act, paying them in“exposure”, and then not inviting them to the celebration parties for your success.

Maybe you didn’t have the control over receiving this conditioning. Most of us didn’t.

But you do have the power to unlearn these thought patterns and behaviors.

When we remain stuck and blind in this sh*t, our whor*phobia doesn’t just hurt feelings. It puts others in real danger. Rape culture is a part of whor*phobia. Classism, racism, hom*ophobia, transphobia and sexism all come together to binge drink piss beer for one of the worst parties on earth.

whor*phobia operates on a wide spectrum, from incels and pro-lifers, all the way to your mom saying“button your shirt, young lady.” Generic, everyday-whor*phobia is such a part of our vernacular that many of us hardly blink an eye, leading to scary and toxic consequences. From insecurity and jealousy, to a desperate need to maintain attention and superiority, to fear of rejection, it’s not uncommon for someone to toss out a casual slu*t-shaming comment.

I’ll never forget being a baby burlesque dancer performing for this one famous (for his genre) musician. He was a hero, and I looked up to him for so long, so I was beside myself when I was given the opportunity. He turned out to be a complete predator with no regard for boundaries, and made a show of who he believed to be up to his sexual standards vs. who wasn’t (I wasn’t, and was consequently ignored). There was one night where the whole crew was sitting in the green room backstage, and someone jokingly asked if his wife knew about his tour“habits”. He went on to tell a story about how supermodel beautiful his wife was, and that people couldn’t understand why he’d sleep around with all of these“trashy” girls. He then make the joke (ha. ha. ha.) that he tells his wife,“but baby, when you’re used to having filet mignon all the time, sometimes you need a little taste of spam to appreciate what you’ve got!”

They separated and divorced shortly after that tour ended.

This language, whether subtle or aggressive, creates a dangerous social hierarchy that targets certain demographics of people based on superficial characteristics, leaving them susceptible to violence, abuse, violated consent, silencing, disregard, and dismissal. One of the primary superficial factors that people use to indicate a“slu*t” is how much makeup a woman wears.

When you casually call someone a slu*t, or think of them as a slu*t, what is the process that happens in your mind?

Sometimes it’s as simple as the absurdity of:

That woman looks like she enjoys sex --> I bet she hates babies and cheats on her taxes --> not a Christian --> bad woman.

But more often, it’s this:

I feel threatened --> how can I take away this person’s power and value --> sex is used as domination --> I want this person to be discarded --> they are a slu*t --> I feel superior.

Usually, we think that’s the end of the thought process.

But here’s what actually continues, whether you are conscious of it or not:

they are a slu*t --> they have no value --> they are easy prey --> it’s their fault if something violent happens to them --> protect those who were“uncontrollably seduced” --> defame slu*t and strip them of their rights --> isolate and expel slu*t --> leave them vulnerable to more danger --> violence, illness, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, death

And who does this trickle down onto most? Those in the sex industry. Sex work is the most dangerous profession today, with death and violence rates being incalculably high. Why can’t it be accurately calculated? Because police file this demographic into a neat little vacuum category known casually as“the less dead”. Meaning, this demographic is so vulnerable to violence, and polite society has such little regard for their lives, that they’re not worth investigating or doing the paperwork for.

This is not the fault of the sex workers. They are doing a job; a job that is in high demand, no less. The fault is in those hungry for power, so starving to fill a void within themselves, so confused with their feelings of desperation, entitlement and rage that they’ll resort to violence to get it.

If you wanna learn more about how FOSTA-SESTA isn’t helping with child trafficking, but is instead endangering thousands of folks from marginalized communities and increasing childhood hunger rates, you can start here. But do continue your research beyond it:

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/xwmvk3/photos-sex-workers-march-las-vegas-2018

WE. CAN. HAVE. SEX. WITHOUT. VIOLENCE.

Sex itself is NOT inherently bad or evil. It is the shadow our social narratives cast onto it that makes it so scary and dangerous.

I admit, when I see girls under 18 wearing faces full of makeup, my inner whor*phobic mom pops up. It’s not that I look down on themprimarily. It’s that I know how boys are taught to target their sexual conquests. I know how other girls are taught to hate and bully other girls who might be sexually active (even if they, too, are sexually active). I see these girls, and I feel fear. I don’t want to tell them to wipe their faces or cover up, because I don’t want them to hold shame for other people’s bad behavior or intentions. I want to ask them if they understand the weight of the world they’re gambling with so young, but I don’t, because I don’t want young girls to think that their exploration of choice and expression will only lead to victimhood.

But I’m jaded. I am so f*cking jaded.

I hate wrestling with that aspect of myself.

When you call someone a slu*t, you know the weapon you are wielding. You chose that word because subconsciously you understand the inherent disrespect and violence associated with that word.

When we tell a woman wearing red lipstick or heavy eyeliner that she’s a slu*t, we are sending the subliminal message of,“I wish you violence”.

We KNOW how the world disregards those in the sex industry as complete trash. We KNOW that when we position ourselves favorably higher than this lowest human form, we can only be doing well.

Our society NEEDS the hatred of whor*s and slu*ts so that it can control us. Control pleasure = control the body = control the population, on both micro and macro levels.

I think for many of us who are now in adulthood, part of the act of wearing makeup is a reclaiming, just like there is a current worldwide reclaiming of the word “slu*t”. Yes, sometimes I wear makeup because I want to be noticed sexually. I celebrate that. I also have other non-sexual reasons for wearing makeup, and I own those so loudly. I need to own those loudly, because we need to broaden the conversations around why people make choices for their bodies the way they do.

What I put on my face or body is MY business, and it’s not up to you to decide what my motives are, or who my targeted audience is. My lipstick is not an invitation. I am a part of one of the last generations that had to learn cursive in school, so trust and believe that I have many ways to deliver you a handwritten and personally addressed invitation, should you be receiving one.

Do not crash my party.

When we can take the choices we make for our own bodies out of the shadows, shame dissipates. You cannot control something that is truly free.

Next time you find yourself using the word“slu*t” or“whor*” in a derogatory way, ask yourself why you really need that word to feel better about yourself.

Next week, tune back in for part 3 of the series: gender and makeup!

#makeup#feminism#intersectionalfeminism#reclaim#takebackyourpower#hierarchy#anarchy

theramblingonesie

Jan 10, 2019

Facing Our Making, Part 1: Choose A Camp

The other morning I woke up to a text from my badass friend, Aepril, who was having feels about a request someone sent her.

Full disclosure: I read it wrong and sent her an awful picture of my cat and I sleeping. GOOD MORNING.

Hell no, the real pic will never be posted publicly.

The offense in question was a request to receive a photo from Aepril without any makeup on. It wasn’t from a super fan, nor from some poor lovestruck fool. It was a seemingly well-intended desire from one of her friends who claimed she couldn’t remember what she really looks like.

Aepril has a very carefully --and beautifully-- developed public persona, and is well-known among her audiences and peers for being an exquisite, otherworldly glam creature, often adorned in jewelry and clothing that make us all swoon.

(Follow her on IG at @aeprilschaile or check out her website https://www.aeprilsastrology.com/)

That is what she looks like. I’ve spent enough time with her on and offstage to say, yeah, it all checks out.

The major question at hand was-- does one’s appearance without makeup make them any more real? Any more authentic? I think the answer to that completely lies in the context and intent. Unfortunately, however, our mainstream society, at least in the Western world, would have us believe that it is simple.

The Poopriarchy has decided that women are divided into two camps on this subject:

Camp Makeup

Camp No-Makeup

Camp Makeup is for bad girls who would make horrible wives, unless the makeup is specifically applied to create the optimal arm-candy effect for the man, boosting his public image and nurturing his sexual desire at home, per her required duties. But she mustn’t wear too much makeup; natural and subtle tones only, lest she be confused for filthy, low-grade OTHER MAKEUP WEARERS.

OTHER MAKEUP WEARERS WITHOUT HUSBANDS is a subgroup of Camp Makeup, comprised of women who are afraid of themselves and have horribly low self esteem. They are all fake, wrinkly pizza-faced monsters underneath their concealer and stenciled eyebrows, waiting in dimly lit bars and bedrooms to trick you and devour you for your money. Because they are probably not blessed with natural angelic, #nofilter #goldenhour good looks, they fall right down into the radioactive waste pit of vapidness and desperation, clawing for their lives to get to the surface so they can have first dibs on the day’s bucket o’ dicks rations.

OTHER MAKEUP WEARERS WITHOUT HUSBANDS may in fact be in committed relationships, but probably cheat on them all the time and go to work only so they can get attention from co-workers as a warmup before hanging out with their “friends”, who are really just bad influences who cover up for them while they jump into orgies in strangers’ homes.

OTHER MAKEUP WEARERS WITHOUT HUSBANDS WITH HUSBANDS should really do some soul searching and transfer over to Camp No-Makeup, lest they lose their relationship and become spinsters. They may still return to Camp Makeup when their husband or boyfriend requests that they “wear sumthin sexy 2nite, babe” because it’s semi-annual date night.

Camp Makeup women who are approved to be naturally beautiful have two options:

1.) Transfer immediately to Camp No-Makeup. Rehabilitation programs such as a Good Boyfriend, Ayahuasca, or self-love weekend retreats with tuitions that require taking out a second mortgage to afford can aid in this transition.

2.)Continue being a fakey-faker treacherous witch who knows she’s too good for the choices she’s made and the bad friends who enable her. She will burn in hell and everything is her fault. This includes suffering from insatiable lust that can only be subdued momentarily by sleeping with everyone’s boyfriend and husband and brother and dad and teacher and dude in a band forever. She must be trolled on Instagram and blacklisted from baby showers.

Camp No-Makeup is where Good Girls and Real Feminists go. Good Girls ideally lost their virginity to their first true love between the ages of 17-21, are academically gifted but not intimidating, get tipsy off of one glass of wine, love their parents and yoga, and have been blessed with flawless skin and conventional good looks. Or are pregnant or your grandma. Real Feminists are Real Women who Actually Care about fighting the patriarchy and want nothing to do with the male gaze.

If a woman is not blessed with flawless skin and conventional good looks, or if she continues to age past 26, she has a few choices. If she does not become a Real Feminist, pregnant, or very old immediately, she must leave this camp or risk bullying, lost professional opportunities, and isolation. She can:

1. Hide2. Become a Lesbian 3. Buy a Farm4. Convert to Camp Makeup (uh oh)

She may not:

1. Get plastic surgery. FAKE!!

2. Get tattoos or piercings or dye her hair unnatural tones. TRASH!!

3. Find a hot femme lesbian partner. NO FAIR!!

Okay, clearly this is all absurd. But keep in mind, this is just barely hyperbole when you really take in the weight of the messages those of us socialized as women hear our entire lives. Women truly can’t win the appearance game. If you don’t wear makeup, people feel entitled to making you over “just once”. If you do wear makeup, people feel entitled to seeing your “real face” to test your allegiance to the human race. In mainstream culture, people believe that if you do wear makeup, it’s because you’re insecure or want attention. If you don’t wear makeup, it’s because you’re insecure and don’t want attention. A very small sampling of our population is allowed to just live in their choices as either.Notice how toxic masculinity profits off of keeping women insecure, leading to the conditioning of other women thinking they profit off of women feeling insecure. As Aepril pointed out in our text conversation--

Makeup gives an impression of power.

The world feels threatened by a woman in her power.

Image fromhttps://twitter.com/vice/status/617771185707851776

When we ask an empowered woman who wears makeup to strip down and vulnerably expose her naked face, we are asking her to strip her power so that she may be on our level.

When we ask an empowered woman who doesn’t wear makeup to cover her face up with product, we are asking her to hide herself so that she may be on our level.

When a woman is made to feel uncomfortable in her own body, she is more easily controlled and manipulated.

I’m an advocate for all women making personal choices for how they want to express and represent themselves in the world. Obviously I have my preferences and philosophies, because I’m a human and humans have opinions, but those don’t outweigh another person’s right to choose. We are fooling ourselves if we try to pretend that how the world receives and treats us isn’t based on our looks. That being said, I believe that each individual should absolutely make that choice for themselves, because they are choosing how they want/need to survive. We are also fooling ourselves into thinking that encouraging (shaming) other women into looking like us, because we “figured out” how to escape the patriarchy, makes us any less puppets of the same system.

Encouraging a woman to think like you and not for herself is merely choosing one side of the same coin of oppressive thinking.

Rather than focusing on what we should and should not do in relation to the male gaze, a.k.a. be a woman who gives in with makeup or be a woman who refuses to wear makeup because she’ll cater to no man, let’s start exploring the wholeness of what motivates us to make the choices we do. Let’s explore the wholeness of why we feel the need to prevent other women from living the lives they do, and question why we feel any threat over her life choices. Take out a sheet of paper, make two columns with the headings, “Why I Wear Makeup” and “Why I Don’t Wear Makeup”. Under each heading, begin to list all reasons that come to mind. Influences, inspiration, cause and effect, experiences, etc. Don’t limit yourself. Use multiple pages if you have to. We’ll refer back to this exercise during the rest of this blog series.

Check back next week when we get into part 2: Exploring everyday whor*phobia!

#makeup#nomakeup#intersectional feminism#beautystandards#women#whor*phobia#transformation#choice

theramblingonesie

Sep 2, 2018

Uniting in Anger

Last week, I finally sat down to watch the highly-recommended comedy special, “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby.

It was so good.

Seriously. Go watch it. This human has an excellent brain, and her messages are super important.

But of course, this wouldn’t be my blog if I wasn’t complaining about something, right?

The end of “Nanette” kind of broke my heart. For the entire hour +, I was along for the ride, hanging off of every word she said, raising my fist at the TV in solidarity and support. And then she just….dumped me.

I do want to take a quick timeout to honor that celebrities and public figures are people, too. Not deities. You will disagree sometimes, and that’s totally okay.

Nonetheless, I was sad.

At the end of her special, she closes by saying that we must no longer unite in anger, even if that anger comes from a place of love. But the way she spoke about anger did not sound like the anger I know. The anger she spoke of sounded more like hate and self-loathing. I kept saying, “yes, I agree, but I don’t think we use that word the same way, and you’re really breaking my heart right now. Please, please don’t spread this with those specific words; it’s so unhealthy.”

I agree with her, to an extent. The actions many take out of anger are quite unhealthy, and no, we should not unite over that. Hate crimes start with anger. But so do human rights movements. So let’s be a little more clear—

Anger is simply saying, “nope. This is no good.” Anger saves lives. Anger creates boundaries and containers for healthy, respectful relationships.

When anger is told that it is not allowed to exist, or that it’s the only thing in charge, the human brain goes into wild places, because anger never disappears. If it isn’t allowed its own channel, it’ll just go hide behind some other emotions or impulses. That’s when we get stuck in rage, fear, willful ignorance, prejudice, unrelenting sadness, and terrible violence. Anger says, “I will keep you safe”. And when you say “go away, anger”, your brain says, “oh sh*t…now I’m not safe. OVERCOMPENSAAAAAATE!!!” That could be shutting down, dissociating, or lashing out.

It breaks my heart when people conflate anger and hatred. We are in this mess to begin with because of our misinformed ideas of anger, and the vast efforts to destroy it, particularly for anyone of a marginalized demographic. Unless, of course, one’s anger can be used against them by those who seek to oppress them. Consider, for example, this need in our white-supremacist society to hold on to the stereotype of an angry black woman or a violently angry black man to justify racially motivated injustice, and excuse oneself from personal accountability.

Control a person’s ability to stand up for themselves, and you control their entirety.

When I heard Hannah’s words and desires around stopping anger, I knew what she meant. She was exhausted, and sick to death of bullsh*t. She no longer wanted to see people hurting themselves or others. She wants to live in a world that doesn’t hurt. She wants people to join together in joy, love, pleasure, and benevolent laughter.

This is what I heard between her words. And yes. Yes, yes, yes, YES to all of this.

But we’re not there yet. We have to work toward that, because we’re so far down and lost that it’s going to take a lot of strong effort by every single person on this planet to do better, to hope for better, to believe in better. So right now we’re angry. We need to get angry for things to change. Not hateful. Just angry.

In my interview with Aepril Schaile, she mentions that she came across the theory that anger is actually a form of optimism, because in order for a person to be angry, they have to believe that things could, or should, be different. Apathy and acceptance, I believe, are the greatest dangers to modern social progress.

Think about it—when you’re in a failing relationship and you fall out of love, you fight less, right? Because at the end of the day, you’re just like, “ugh. Whatever. I don’t even like you. I’ll say whatever you want to hear so you just go away. f*ck my life.”

Or when you’re at a job that is zapping the life out of you, but you don’t believe you have any other options, so you just whither away for years getting kicked in the shins by your miserable boss, setting the timer on Monday for when you can finally go get blackout drunk on Friday before it all starts over again.

Anger, instead, looks like telling your partner that you love yourself, that you deserve better, and that you’re not going to put up with getting screamed at or degraded.

Anger looks like going to HR to report that your co-worker put his hand on your ass for the last time.

Anger looks like asking a child who’s locked out and sobbing in front of his house if he’s okay.

We NEED to unite in anger.

Not hate.

When I started The Scarlet Tongue Project, I felt completely isolated in my anger. I was silenced, told I was crazy, told I was scary, told I was weak, awkward, quiet, etc. I wasn’t allowed to use my anger, so I had no idea how to use it when it inevitably came up. Most of the advice I got was to chill or “let it go”. Rarely did anyone pause to consider what might be on fire inside of me that was causing this. At that time, conversations on anger were not flooding in online like they are now, nor were they happening in my various communities of friends. Now you can’t even flutter your eyes open in the morning without being smacked by someone’s flying rage fit. Only a couple years ago, you actually had to sit down and do research to find people brave enough to talk about these things. Now, we can’t escape.

One of the greatest blessings of this project was that I stopped feeling isolated. I found people I could process with, people who understood, people who would teach me, and people who knew how to harness anger in order to move forward with great love and strength, to create epic change and love in the world. Friends began coming to me and saying, “thank you for doing this. I’m so f*cking angry all the time. I just never felt allowed to express it.” This week, 6 artists are flying into Mexico City to join me for an art residency related to the film. Our intention is to come together, discuss anger, discuss how to build community, explore how to free ourselves from social constraints, how to support others in their desires to live in truth and openness, and how to create action and change for a more beautiful, just world. It is anger that is bringing us together. And it is so profoundly powerful and magical.

When Hannah said that we cannot unite in anger, of course I took it personally, because that is the entire mission of my project—to create communities where people feel safe and inspired to stand up for themselves and others in the face of injustice, to be witnessed in their authenticity, and to move forward to create their best lives with the support of others.

If you are angry, sure, you can use that to fuel an agenda of fear and destruction. You can also use feeling confident and happy in your skin to go cheat on your partner with 50 people. Emotions are indicators, not actions themselves. The energy you draw from your emotions can go anywhere you put it. I encourage you to find others when you’re angry. Find someone healthy to talk to, find groups to join, go see a show that inspires you and helps you imagine worlds of deeper love, greater tolerance, and goddamn it—FUN.

If you are angry, see if you can push to the other side of the voice that says, “SHUT UP.” Try to invite your anger in. Listen to it. Ask your body what it needs to feel relief. Then find others who support you, and maybe even share your dreams.

If you separate anger from hate, what does that look like? Does it have its own space? Can it lay close to feelings like bliss, pleasure, and satisfaction?

My anger does. And I’m so grateful to the wise, creative folks around me who can hold that, because they know that on the other side is a super badass world of experiences and ideas that we can’t wait to manifest.

Unite in an anger that flows. Unite in an anger that doesn’t get stuck. Unite in an anger that gives you energy to create. Unite in an anger that is from love, and leads back to love. And if you’re not sure how, then unite with people who do so you can find the help you need.

I’m sorry, Hannah, but the brilliance of your work did, in fact, powerfully unite people in anger. They learned something. They felt desire to be better people. They felt love and compassion for you and for themselves. Thank you for that. That was a gift. And now you get to move on to something else, which is the whole point. But please don’t dishonor what brought us to this beautiful place of eye-opening and change.

Anger does not have to be suffering. Anger can be revolution. For many of us, anger IS revolution. And the revolution needs you. I hope to meet you there.

theramblingonesie

Jul 31, 2018

Sweet Tooth Sal: Criminal Intent

It started off as just any other Tuesday at the theater. My staff was working hard selling tickets and restocking the merch, the event organizers were running around town dropping off paperwork and making sure our special guests stayed special, and the volunteers were taking the time and care to explain to me that they knew how to do my job. I was busy running my tiny world in stilettos, saving customers’ lives one light switch and one lost pair of glasses at a time. Our shows were running on time, the theater was clean, and audience members were engaged in lively, thought-provoking discussions.

And then, it happened. For what some might argue was only a trivial $3.79, my world went black.

*************************************************************************

Being the venue manager at a film festival is pretty cool. On one hand, it’s very long hours and you basically miss everything. On the other, you have the opportunity to meet some wonderful artists, and feel proud when your work helps to create a safe container to transport audiences into other worlds—worlds of deeper feeling and meaning, worlds of pleasure and escapism, worlds of introspection, connectiveness, and healing. I know that being middle management is kind of the butt of many elitist jokes, but in this particular position, I really enjoy it. I have enough autonomy and control that I’m able to have fun with my staff and our environment, encouraging everyone to work hard but also explore their creativity and prioritize their individual needs. At the same time, I have the joy of getting out of customer complaint jail by saying “yeah, that’s a total bummer, but I don’t make the rules. Feel free to chat with my boss, but in the meantime let’s work to make you comfortable.” Or even, “yeah, I ALSO wish we sold beer and wine here. I know, we’re the worst. For what it’s worth, I’m also suffering by being sober. Enjoy the show!”

*Goes into the back room and pours a glass of Prosecco that my amazing boss brought me*

Even with minor frustrations and moments of stress, the joy and love of the event wash over it all and return me to a space of inner peace and purpose.

Except for one time. That one fateful Tuesday. Let’s return to our story.

**************************************************************************

As I return to the lobby from testing the microphones, the sea of a buzzing audience parts to show me a gentleman waiting, unattended, at the merch table. I come around the corner to discover that it’s not a customer, but a roaming staff member who has, to this point, caused me a lot of frustration. Daily, this person has squeezed me out of my office space, and demanded extra tasks and favors that are not only a part of my job description, even though he is not someone who has any authority over me. I frequently wonder, every time he comes by, why on earth he’s even in the building. There is another man who carries the same job title, who is ever-lovely and a joy to be around. But this man, this particular pain in my ass, is just oblivious, to say the least.

We’ll call him Sweet Tooth Sal.

I come around to the back of the merch table and flatly ask, “Hey Sal. What do you need?”

“Hey Sam! Let me buy one of those chocolate bars!”

“We don’t sell chocolate bars here, Sal. Per usual, we only ever have water.”

“Oh, well shoot. I just ate the chocolate that was in the back room, so I figured I’d just give you a couple bucks to grab another one.”

See: Flames.

Sentence example: Flames on the side of my face.

For those of you who don’t know me, let me explain my relationship with chocolate.

Chocolate is sacred.

Chocolate is necessary.

Chocolate is life.

Reece’s is not chocolate.

Hershey’s is not chocolate.

Chocolate costs a minimum of $3.00 per bar.

Chocolate tells me I’m beautiful and holds me when I cry.

Chocolate tells me I’m a boss when I’m stressed at work.

Chocolate is the first to celebrate my successes with me.

Chocolate rescues me when my blood sugar drops from forgetting to eat.

Chocolate is a gift to my friends.

Chocolate is for sharing with people I love.

CHOCOLATE NEEDS TO BE ASKED FIRST.

I had purchased three very special chocolate bars to keep in the breakroom for the duration of the festival for all of the above reasons. Said chocolate is only sold at one specific store in the area, so they’re not easily replaced. And of all people, I was not interested in sharing with Sal.

My oscillation between rage and shock happened too quickly for my brain to fully connect with my mouth.

“No, Sal. That was my personal chocolate. It was very special chocolate that you can’t buy here. You can only buy it at (insert health food store name). It’s not cheap.”

“Oh, well, you left it out in the breakroom, so I figured it was for everyone.”

“It’s not for everyone. It’s mine. I had it tucked off to the side.”

“Yeah I was gonna replace it, but since you don’t sell it here, whoops! Sorry!”

What could I do? I was stunned! I know, most of you are reading this like, “I WOULDA PUNCHED HIM IN THA FACE!!!!!!!!!!! I WOULDA SCREAMED AT HIM! I WOULDA MADE HIM DROP TO HIS KNEES AND TURN OVER HIS WALLET!!!!!!!!!! I WOULDA CALLED THE COPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WOULDA CUT HIS TONGUE OUT AND FRAMED IT ON THE WALL AS A WARNING TO ALL THOSE WHO DARE EVER CROSS ME AGAIN, AND THEN DOX HIM ON FACEBOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’m sure you would have.

I, on the other hand, hate confrontation, and offered a mousy, ‘splainy finger-wag as my whole body shook:

“Um…well, Sal…uh, that breakroom is, um, for like, festival theater staff, and it also belongs to the theater’s regular staff year-round, so y’know, we need to be mindful of sharing space, and it’s really…uh it’s nice…you…we all need to ask before we take other people’s food cuz maybe someone brought something that was very special to them or mmm maybe they can’t afford to replace it, but like, it’s just good to ask first cuz yeah…”

I think I made it as far as “uh, that breakroom is, um” before he turned around and walked away. The rest of my mumbling was done at his back, and probably continued after he had turned the corner and closed the theater door behind him.

YEAH, GO GET HIM, TIGER. YOU REALLY PUT HIM IN HIS PLACE.

So I did the only thing one in my position could reasonable do.

I texted all of my friends about it.

I felt better after speaking with them, as they totally confirmed the rudeness of the situation. I settled comfortably back into my chair and began slowly burning each letter of Sweet Tooth Sal’s name into my dead-to-me list.

The next day, as I was running around doing my usual duties, Sweet Tooth Sal pulled me aside and said, “hey. I’m sorry about yesterday. I got you this”, and he handed me a new chocolate bar. I inspected the bar. It was dark chocolate with espresso. It looked nice. The ingredient list checked out. Again, I was in shock, but I took a deep breath, looked up and said, “thank you, Sal. That’s very kind.”

A new anger bubbled up inside of me. It was strange. I knew I should have felt relieved, that justice was served, and that it was time to shift into a space of forgiveness. But for whatever reason, I was almost angrier. I was angry that I couldn’t be angry at STS anymore, and then angry at myself for not being a more enlightened human who could just accept and move on.

I paced. I paced for what seemed like eternity. I texted my friends again, venting how angry I was about not being allowed to be angry anymore, because he technically did the right thing. I was bitter. I was bitter that he finally gave me a solid reason to write him off, an obvious offense, and then took it back, putting me back into a place of dealing with the guilt over just generally disliking him.

I sat at my desk stewing and eating the chocolate. I wondered what was happening inside of me that made me so attached to my anger, and then re-anger upon un-angering. As I contemplated, STS came back out of the theater and slimed his way behind the merch table and right up next to me.

“Hey Sam. So, heh, a guy buys a girl a chocolate bar to say he’s sorry, and then comes out of a movie to ask if she’ll split it with him. Whaddaya say?”

“Yes.” I replied. “Absolutely; help yourself.”

“Thanks! Yeah I just kinda grabbed this from the other theater. Is it any good?”

“Oh, it’s delicious. Yes.”

My righteous anger returned. I was elated.

STS returned to the movie, and I completed his name on the dead-to-me list. Glowing.

And then I released it.

****************************************************************************

When I tell this story to other folks, I get a mixed reaction. Mainly, due to the purposely absurd delivery, most just get a laugh out of it. Some see my behavior as cowardly, others understand the depth and layers of my reaction, many a combination of both.

Anger, in the kingdom of emotions, is one of my closest friends and dearest allies. Due to my specific co*cktail of mental illness and trauma, I have horrible boundaries.

I am terrified of saying no. Even when I say no, I feel like a bad person and my abandonment fears kick in.

I don’t want to be the loser, the prude, the psycho, the dummy, the weakling, etc.

I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or be a disappointment.

I don’t want to be the cause of pain, and I don’t want people to dislike me.

I don’t want people to lash out at me, shame me, or attack my core in a defensive, hostile response to me saying no.

I don’t want to be left out in the future because of the one time I had to say no.

Does this sound like most women you know?

Anger, in its healthy expression, is simply “no”. It’s not throwing chairs. It’s not ripping out someone’s heart. Sure, those actions may follow the initial inner anger signal, but that’s not the essence of anger itself. I will repeat this over and over again—

Anger is the signal inside of you that says a violation has occurred and you need to set a boundary.

That could be anywhere from your favorite mug being left out dirty-- “Ugh, boo, no. Hey friend, do you mind just washing my mug after using it? Thank you!”

To finding out your partner has cheated on you-- “f*ck YOU NOOOO. We’re going to therapy.”

To hearing horrors in the news-- “NO, I will not stand for this. I’m registering to vote and donating to those who can help.”

The word “violation” feels big and extreme, yah? It doesn’t have to be that way. Whether it’s a little grr or a big grr, it’s important to know when our bodies are saying, “hm, this doesn’t feel good”, the same way we learn to understand our food cravings. When we crave a certain food, that doesn’t mean we’re starving and have a nutritional deficiency so low that we need to go to the hospital. It just means, hey, this thing wants our attention so this beautiful machine can stay powered up and healthy. We don’t need to wait until we black out on the floor before changing our diets, just as we don’t need to wait for a heart-breaking tragedy for us to admit we feel hurt, unsafe, or disrespected.

I try to remind myself of this on the regular, because I still struggle with it. I hold onto my anger for dear life, because it’s the only emotion that helps me to feel safe. As a person with very loose and questionable boundaries, I am very easily manipulated and taken advantage of. I have a talent for attracting people with hidden agendas, control issues, and narcissistic personality traits, as well as being the person that will bring out dirty behavior in people who are otherwise fine around others. I used to view this from the lens of a person with a strong victim complex. These days, as I no longer wish to have that be my identity, I recognize how deeply people’s energetic signatures affect us and influence certain behavior, and my role in how what I feel/present will elicit certain behaviors in others. A frequent conversation I have with friends—

Friend: “Huh, that’s so weird. That person’s never done that to me.”

Me: “Of course they didn’t. Because you have self-esteem/social status.”

For people like me, as we’re navigating the path of being adults and figuring out how to heal ourselves, anger may be our saving grace. As the storyteller in me presents the bit about Sweet Tooth Sal through humor and drama, the human in me knows exactly what was going on in my head at the time. This man had been behaving in an entitled, arrogant, rude manner for days. Because I didn’t want to be seen as an oversensitive asshole, nor did I want to create a tense environment (which usually happens whenever I stand up for myself or my friends; also, people get really flipped out when tiny femme-presenting women are assertive) I just kept “letting it go”. When he pulled this sh*t with my chocolate, it wasn’t about the chocolate at all. If it were anyone else there, I probably would have laughed and said, “you owe me a drink, you jerk!” Or, “oh please, I’m happy to share. Which one did you try? Isn’t it so good?”

But this man represented everything I hate about fragile masculinity and entitlement. He was white, middle-aged, a social climber, a misogynist, and pushed my staff and I around as if we revolved around him. As soon as he gave me a direct, personal reason to dislike him, I took it. It felt good, because that part of me that was angry every time he was in the building was saying, “thank you for setting this boundary. Now we don’t need to engage with him.” When he wanted my forgiveness, the part of my mental illness that leaves me easily taken advantage of became activated and scared. My anger jumped up and said, “but we felt safe when you were angry and had to tell him no. If you drop this, he will hurt us again. He’s manipulating you into not holding him accountable for him behavior; please don’t let this slide.”

But then my social conditioning kicked in and shamed me by saying, “y’know, people think you’re a terror and weak-minded for your anger. You’re a joke. Healthy people let things go. Healthy people don’t cry about everything. If you don’t forgive him, it just means you’re a hateful person who likes discord. No one is going to believe your side, and he’s gonna tell the organizers that you’re a bitch and you’ll never get hired back.”

Conflicted, I just sat there and prayed, as I often do in situations where I feel stuck like this. I kept saying, “I need to be angry, but I’m so scared to say so because he’ll just attack me and call me crazy. Everyone else will say he’s nice and I’m just creating problems. Please, please universe. I don’t trust that this person will miraculously wake up and stop being a pain in the ass. Please let him show his true colors again so I don’t have to go digging for them to prove a point. JUST GIVE ME A REASON.”

Moments later he did. So when I laugh about being pleased about regaining permission to be angry, it’s not about being happy that this guy is a jerk. In an ideal situation, it would have been great if he was never a jerk at all. It was the relief that he did the dirty work to prove my point, and I didn’t need to go through the painful emotional labor to call him out for it. I was already exhausted from chasing after him all week for going into places that were off limits, throwing his equipment all over my paperwork and computer, tossing about my merch organization, and interrupting me in the middle of my job so I could serve him with something that was 100% his responsibility, only to have him unapologetically puff off and have mini-mantrums every time in response.

“But, but you told him it was fine! That’s a lie, and passive aggressive!”

Yep. You’re right. But with some people, you just have to smile while you hand them the shovel, tell them what a beautiful hole they’ve dug, and then walk away, because you’ll probably never get through to them with reason or vulnerability. And I found that, since I settled in my mind on him being total turd and no longer wrestling with whether or not I was supposed to like him, it was far easier for me to set boundaries for the rest of the week, because I had 0 investment in us getting along. Whatever special treatment he wanted and wherever he wanted to go that was not accessible, I just smiled and said no. I didn’t try to excessively explain myself or blame myself for his inconveniences. I just said no, gave him an option or two about how he could find an alternative, and then let him figure it out.

I think this story is important, because a lot of people assume that since I’m directing a project all about women’s anger, then I must be some kind of expert. Some people have called me the Queen of Anger.

I’m not.

More like, Queen of Self-Doubt Who Constantly Questions Her Reality And Just Wishes People Respected Her But Is Too Afraid To Ask For It And Why Can’t They Do It Without Being Told.

I really, really struggle with anger, which is why it’s so fascinating to me. I’m often either trying to hide it, or exploding when it builds up too much. By creating The Scarlet Tongue Project, part of my intention is to contribute to developing a world where women who struggle like me, and anyone else who struggles like them, don’t need to be afraid of this emotion anymore, and we can use it authentically to create the brightest, healthiest, loving lives we can.

If something hurts you today, I hope you are able to give yourself permission to be angry and say no. If you don’t feel ready for that yet, but want to learn more about women who do, you can help out by supporting the Patreon for my film project at https://www.patreon.com/thescarlettongueproject

Thank you for reading!

https://www.patreon.com/thescarlettongueproject

#rage#anger#boundaries#red#women#intersectional feminism#chocolate#fire

theramblingonesie

Feb 19, 2018

Your Body is Worthy

TRIGGER WARNING: eating disorders, sexwork

When considering issues around body positivity, my first thought is that I have no right to get involved in the subject. By conventional standards, my body falls within the range of “acceptable” to “attractive”. On a daily basis in my regular life, I can generally assume that I won’t be subjected to offensive or hateful remarks that make me feel ashamed or threatened for being undesirable. Most of my art career was built off of being generally accepted as an object of sexual desire, and many of those who aren’t personally attracted to me can still “see how I would be to others”.

It is undeniable that I greatly benefit from that privilege. And yet, far more often than not, I struggle with deep feelings of ugliness and unworthiness. It’s not a fear of being fat or skinny. I have skinny and fat friends who are completely mesmerizing in their beauty. It’s not specifically about my big bumpy nose; some of the most gorgeous humans in the world have honkin’ beaks. It’s not about my thin, stringy hair; there are women who are bald who are complete magic. It’s not about my freckles or skin tone or facial creases or that my breasts have been saggy since I was 21, because there are other women with any of these features who are stunning. It’s just that along the way in my life, I have formed a belief that all of my combined shapes and features have made me undesirable, and my only chance at fooling others to think otherwise would be through thick makeup, bold fashion choices, and body modification, whether that’s tattoos, piercings, or plastic surgery. And even with those superficial changes and my most desperate efforts, I will always feel ugly again the moment another attractive person walks in the room.

How dare I, right? With all of my privilege, how dare I have the nerve to feel this. I should be grateful, because others have it so much worse. Others are victims of great violence and degradation, and I am merely your average white woman who is obsessed with outside validation for her appearance. You might be thinking how superficial I am; that perhaps I should just get over it and count my blessings. I agree, on some level. But here’s where we may deviate:

My brain will not allow me to “get over it”. At my most fundamental core, as with almost all women in society, I have been conditioned to believe that my survival is based off of how attractive I am. My most formative years, both as a child and as a young adult, were spent in either jobs or activities that were purely body-based, and I found myself lacking any developed personality to fall back on in times of rejection.

I began learning ballet at three years-old. I never went to a school that had scales or regular weigh-in’s like most other pre-professional schools and companies, but we were regularly lectured about our weight, beginning around age 10 or 11. As soon as I was a teenager, the serious weight games began. Girls who with skinnier with longer limbs were rewarded over those of us who were “fluffier” (yes, that was a word often used). My mom had struggled with her weight since being pregnant with my older brother, and was constantly in a cycle of starting and falling out of one toxic fad diet or another. Knowing the critique and standards of the ballet world, she used this as an excuse to have a diet buddy, and often pulled me into these cycles, restricting my food and shaming me if I deviated. I found myself lusting after the self-discipline to commit to an eating disorder. I was jealous of the girls who could make themselves puke, or the ones who could dance for hours without having much more than a piece of fruit all day. I glorified the girls and women who lived off of vodka, cocaine and cigarettes, and always thought, “one day I’ll stop being so lazy and finally be that cool”. One summer, while attending a ballet camp in southern Florida, I tested my will to see how much I could sweat and how far I could go on fewer and fewer calories. I was enraged, because my body naturally produces very bulky muscle, so even at my lowest possible weight I was still the largest one in my classes. Unless I was going to throw myself over a firepit and start shaving my muscle down like Brazilian barbecue, there was no way I could get smaller. I knew then that my dreams of being a professional ballet dancer were likely over. When I returned home to Maine, I found that I was now one of the tiniest girls in my class, and was instantly rewarded. That entire year, I received any lead role. I was part of a group of dancers invited to perform in St. Petersburg with the Kirov and represent our school, and I was the only one asked to do a solo. However, shortly after returning to the states, I developed panic disorder, and could no longer commit and stay disciplined as before. I began putting weight back on, and combined with my fatally short legs in proportion to my long torso, I was once again pushed to the back in favor of other girls who were more “genetically blessed” and successful in their calorie counting. When auditioning for professional companies months later, I read my “recommendation letter” that basically said that even though my legs are stumpy and I’m overweight, I’m a powerful jumper and should be considered anyway. Not surprisingly, I was not accepted. I decided to quit ballet and go to culinary school instead, where I would eat anything I wanted and be left alone.

And so ended my dreams of being a professional ballet dancer. Fifteen years of training, a diminished childhood, and thousands upon thousands of tears and dollars later, I had nothing to show for any of it. All because my body is “wrong”. I continue to dance today as an adult, but my technique is disappointingly far from where it was, and I do it more for fun and sisterhood than as any career aspiration. I’ve chosen to instead focus more on film, writing, and general performance art.

Once I was out of the ballet world, I assumed that perhaps I would never need to deal with that same level of body shame again. That is, until I became a stripper.

I began stripping when I was 20 years-old. A friend of mine had asked me to come with her for moral support during her audition, and I was somehow talked into being hired, as well. Being away from home was still fresh, and the idea of keeping a minimum wage job to survive freaked me out, as living with my parents had afforded me the privilege and luxury of having all of my basic material needs met, and then some. Stripping seemed like my only option for maintaining a high-needs lifestyle on my own, as I hadn’t quite been broken enough by the world yet to realize I didn’t need to live like such a princess. But also, living under the poverty line is unacceptable by any standard, and there is no excuse for it in this country.

**cough cough f*ck you US government cough thanks for letting your citizens die while you dine on lion steaks and wipe your mouth with the real dirty money cough**

If you want to know the ugliest side of male desire and toxic conventional beauty standards, go work in the adult entertainment industry. Still recovering from the constant criticism of never being good enough for the ballet world, now I was learning that I was also not good enough to have sex with. I learned that my face was ugly, but also that I have beautiful eyes and a great smile. I learned that my body is too athletic and shaped like a man’s, but also that I was so nice and curvy, but also not curvy enough and that I wasn’t voluptuous enough to satisfy a “real man”. I learned that I had a great ass; I learned that my ass was too flat. I learned that I was nice and tiny. I was reminded, yet again, that my legs are too short, and that I’d be a better soccer player. I learned that my jawline was too strong and it made me look manly. I learned that a strong jawline made me look elegant. I learned that my lips were too skinny. I learned that my hair was bad. I learned that my body was super flexible, and that’s really sexy. I learned that I could be so pretty naturally, but my piercings and tattoos made me hideous. I learned that if you look punk or goth, people will try to ask you if you’re suicidal and if you are a cutter. I learned that my boobs were too small. I learned that they are great for natural tit*. I learned that they’re not perky enough. I learned that my nipples are too big. I learned that I look too young to be in the industry. I learned that I look ten years older than my actual age, and that I appear exhausted.

I had to get used to walking around and being told “no” by most customers. Sometimes I was thought of as so undesirable that they simply refused to respond if I said “hi”, or they would turn around and sneer, “I’m waiting for someone else.” Other times they would just dismiss me by saying, “I don’t want to get your hopes up. You’re not my type. Thanks anyway, good luck.”

I had to get used to a stage being full of customers throwing money at a beautiful, tall, thin woman with long, luscious hair, and then having them all leave as soon as I walked up and my song began. A room full of people with money, and something about me was so ugly that I wasn’t even worth $1. And you can’t leave when faced with that rejection. You have to continue for three songs, getting naked and exposing yourself to a room full of people who find you disgusting, smiling and dancing anyway, not allowing the cracks forming inside of you to show.

With all of this, it hurt enough to feel degraded and rejected on a personal level. But what made it all worse is that each rejection tied into my survival. If a customer said no, that was money I couldn’t buy groceries with. Every man who ignored me or turned me down forced me to question how I would pay rent that month. My being “ugly” put me in a position of having to do things that violated my boundaries, because I had to hustle harder than the “pretty girls” if I wanted to pay my bills.

When I was 22, I joined the incredible burlesque show, “The slu*tcracker”. This show was just PURE body positivity and celebration. It was the first time I had ever been in a public, body-centric space where I was consistently told that I was sexy and beautiful. To be honest, the Boston Burlesque community absolutely changed my life. I was around big bodies, tiny bodies, bodies of all colors, ages, genders and sexes. Every body type was accepted, and any behavior to the contrary was immediately confronted and shutdown. There was, and still is, zero tolerance for body shaming in Boston Burlesque, both for performers and audience members. There is still struggle and imbalance, and as with many progressive communities, we are doing our best to learn which voices are still not being honored, and how we can improve.

Even with this, STILL, I struggle greatly with my appearance. Traveling has helped me to really absorb and process the reality that every culture has its own beauty standards, and that being considered attractive is truly subjective. Yet at the same time, my own internal self-loathing is occasionally amplified, because I also learned that my face and body will never fall into any beauty ideal in any culture in the world. In the U.S., I’ve spent so much time obsessing about being skinny. In Mexico, I spend so much time feeling ashamed that I don’t eat enough and that I don’t have beautiful, voluptuous curves. Hello, Captain Cantwin.

(or maybe Captain CATwin??? Actual portrait of the author)

However, more and more these days, my brain will break over the subject, and I go through stretches of peace. I just can’t torture myself over this all the time; it’s maddening. With ballet, burlesque, stripping, traveling and studying different beauty standards, I finally came to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing I can do. Some days that will feel easier than others. I question anytime I criticize myself—would I shame another person if they had this feature? I tell myself that if I can look at other people and celebrate their beauty, then I’m being hypocritical by attacking myself for the same features. When I say I’m ugly, who am I feeding? What am I feeding by breaking myself down in that way? When I stand next to a friend who is considered more attractive than I am (which is quite often), and feelings of jealousy and competition begin to arise, what is that source?

Spelled out, when I go into that space, I am turning over my power to the outside and giving them the authority to say that I have no right to pleasure.

As humans, we are BUILT for immense pleasure. We all have access to anywhere from one to five avenues of receiving pleasure—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. For those of us with sight, we get to gaze upon images and scenes of flesh in all its forms, of colors and lighting that stimulate different responses, of eyes that peer down to another’s soul. For those of us with sound, we get to hear the playfulness of a voice, the moodiness of music, and the soothing tone of rain falling outside our windows. For those of us with touch, we get to explore the wild abundance of nerve endings all over our skin, the softness, the pain, and a million different kinds of org*sm. For those of us who can taste, we can delight in sweetness, savory flavors, of the taste of a smoky drink to either wind yourself down, or give yourself a little extra courage for a fun night ahead. For those of us who can smell, we get to blast back to times when we felt safe or joyful, recalling our favorite memories. We sense pheromones, or when those cinnamon buns in the oven are just about ready to come out and make your entire day the best ever.

Whether another person approves of my lumpy, smelly, silly configuration of skin and bone shapes or not, my ability to experience pleasure remains, and nobody is so goddamn important that they can take that away from me. Maybe they won’t be the one to share it with me, but sh*t, I get to be the keeper of my own pleasure, and I can give it to myself if no one else will. My desire to be loved and accepted may cause me to be distracted and shut down in the face of rejection, but that does not delete the basic biology that, as a human being, I am hardwired for pleasure.

When we shift our focus from “is my meat suit good enough for you?!” over to “I am a source of immense pleasure, and you are welcome to share in it if you’d like”, it will greatly shift how we cope with the inevitability that we can’t please them all. It still hurts, and I cannot tell you that I don’t still feel pain when I don’t get the attention or validation I want. But rather than throwing myself in the garbage after such an interaction, I try to just allow myself the space to be sad, process this reality of our current social structure, and then remember that I can still hold myself in love.

And maybe an org*sm. Or a cheeseburger. Whichever. Or both.

What I would suggest to anyone going through the agony of trying to feel beautiful in the cruel world we live in, is to take time to learn and explore your body. Remember that no matter what, it belongs to you. This could be sexual or not. Experiment with running different textures and temperatures over your skin. Run your fingers through your hair. Get to know each part of your body, and greet it like a beloved friend. Hold it, learn what it looks and feels like. Memorize its shape. Thank it for how it serves you in this life. Are you blessed to have legs that allow you to walk with ease? Are you blessed with eyes that can see? Are you blessed with a full set of teeth? Are you blessed with a belly that processes the delicious food you eat? Whatever it is for you, move away from whether or not someone else might approve. Take a moment to honor and celebrate your parts, and the gift of being alive. You are your own church. Worship accordingly.

These days, I’m still doing the work to heal the damage done just from being a woman in the world. This is a shared, long-term trauma that we are working universally to undo. Because of the sex I was born as, I do not remember a time when my physical appearance was not the primary focus, and for that I do not fault myself for my struggles therein. My hobbies, jobs, relationships, the media, etc. have only reinforced that reality. I still fight the urge to slip into unhealthy patterns and approaches about my body. I can try to sit here and say that “I never had a real eating disorder”, because while I dabbled, I never fully developed a disorder that put me in danger of needing to seek medical attention. But to say, “well I never had an official eating disorder, so I’m okay” is beyond dangerous. There are still microaggressions of these diseases that need to be faced and treated. I have had more than one incident of starving myself after a breakup. I quietly congratulate myself when I’m so busy that I forget to eat. I cannot launch into any self-care speech or how-to nutrition post without being very real and acknowledging those facts. I still have work to do in this area.

Every day, as a way to combat this global social disease of trying to destroy women, I prioritize some form of pleasure for at least one of my five senses. It brings me back into my body and reminds me that I can be the bearer of my own joy. I continue to work as a stripper periodically, and have worked very hard to shift my perspective from “I’m hideous!!” to, “awesome, no worries, I hope there’s a beautiful lady in here who will satisfy what you’re looking for.” I shut down conversations in the dressing rooms about certain body types being good or bad. In 12 years in the business, I’ve seen every body type have a night where they’re the favorite flavor, and every body type get rich. I’ve seen women who other dancers try to shame for being “unattractive” walk out with $5,000 from just talking and providing quality attention, while girls who would typically be considered “hot sh*t” walk out complaining that they only made $80. I’ve had nights where I’m the only girl who goes into the VIP room all night. I’ve had other nights where I’m the only girl who doesn’t go into VIP. These days, I make pretty good money in this business. I’m a better conversationalist, and I carry myself with more confidence. I’ve seen it, I’ve been through it, and I just can’t sweat it as much. At the beginning of my shift, I walk into the dressing room, tell everyone they’re beautiful, and congratulate them for making $1000 before the work even starts. There is a customer for everyone. There are still days when I struggle in the industry, and I have moments of bitterness and wanting to give up. No matter how much we fight for body positivity, toxic masculine culture still favors a very specific look, particularly in sexwork. Absolutely none of that is a reflection of my quality as a human being. It’s all just a game of statistics and science. One human’s trash is another human’s gold, and there’s no point giving up on myself in between, because I can always be gold to myself. If someone else wants to share, then lucky them.

I want to close this piece by revisiting the very important point that I am speaking from a position of privilege with my experience as what seems to be considered a conventionally attractive woman in the world, and especially as a white woman in the United States. There are forms of hatred and violence against women of color, trans women, fat women, aging women, and women with disabilities that I do not know and have not experienced. It is imperative that women in similar positions as my own take the time to mind and respect this, even when we are struggling with the very realness of our own experiences. Mind your flippant, self-deprecating comments, as you have no idea how that is affecting those within earshot, because someone listening may have just been threatened, assaulted, lost a job, or denied health care by someone saying that same thing to them.

We will never know what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. But we can fully step in and walk in our own. Take back the power of your own body. Find your pleasure. Educate yourself, embody compassion, and be a healthy ally to others. Shut down hate. Value people in their wholeness. Day by day, little by little, we can all band together and keep changing these outdated ideas of what beauty is. It is not your fault if you are suffering from any disordered eating or exercise. It is not your fault if you have considered or fantasized about either of those. It is not your fault if you have been the target of someone else’s ignorance and hatred because of what your body looks like. I see you, I honor you, and I love you.

#body#bodypositivity#ballerina#eatingdisorder#tolerance#acceptance#stripper

theramblingonesie

Jan 29, 2018

Step into my office, Pope.

Christianity: An ideology that promotes fear in those seeking hope and love; a justification of oppression and intolerance through the language of outdated poetry.

See also: “hate crimes”

See also: “genocide”

See also: “hypocrisy”

A few months back, I was verbally attacked about my lack of integrity in my chosen career path. I was accused of being a liar and hypocrite, that I’m nothing but a spoiled brat who has no business speaking about subjects like love and privilege. That if I actually gave a f*ck, I would go “live in the mud with the real poor people”.

This attack, of course, was from a white, rich, middle-aged, American business man (who also happens to be a family member, so please reserve comment) who didn’t like that I took him to task for some particularly unsavory, privileged behavior. To be completely honest, 99% of the harsh criticism I’ve received in my life has been from white women, ivory tower academics, and middle-aged white men, often from rich or middle-class socioeconomic standing.

Interesting, right?

This particular attack was absurd, and the energetic imprint left more of a wound than the specific words themselves. That is, however, until the same person in a casual conversation referenced the words of the pope. The pope, apparently, says something like, in order for folks to truly understand compassion, the rich need to go live with the poor (something something “romantic” about being in the mud), and those who have committed offenses need to live among those who are victims. Immediately I revisited the fight we had had a few weeks prior, and was like “omg, did you seriously use the POPE’s words against me in an attack??? What a good Christian, indeed.”

Have you ever talked to a person who is truly suffering? Whether it’s heartache, loss, poverty, racism, rape, disability, etc, more often than not these people will say, “I do not wish this upon anyone”. They will most often stress the importance of having gratitude and presence in your blessings, and to not take what you have for granted. They know that the key to elevating humanity is not by breaking and dragging everyone else down. It’s by injecting our societies and culture with greater compassion, tolerance, understanding, and the desire to connect and help.

I’m sorry, Pope, but you will not create a more tolerant world if we all “go live in the mud”. Because here’s the thing—there is a marked difference between poverty tourism, and truly being born into or falling upon tragic circ*mstances. A particular experience will never guarantee another person’s renewed existence into a state of unconditional love and understanding. Often, a person of privilege who places themselves in less-than-desirable circ*mstances will emerge feeling like they passed the test and don’t have to deal with it anymore.

“I was poor in college. Worked hard, pulled myself out, now I’m doing great. They should do the same.”

“I was in the peace corps. Don’t give me sh*t about my carbon footprint.”

“Look, a black person called me a cracker. I know racism now. #alllivesmatter “

“Whatever, I broke my leg and had to quit soccer. That was traumatic, but I got over it. People in wheelchairs need to get over it.”

Real life things I’ve heard, and probably you, too. I wish I was making this up.

Sometimes an experience can breed greater compassion and tolerance. And it just as easily breeds arrogance and hypocrisy. There is no one rule for positive social change, just as there is no one cure to heal all illnesses.

I remember the first time I got back from a long trip in Mexico. It wasn’t my first time traveling in other countries, but it was my first time truly immersing myself in a culture outside of my own. It was very shocking, as it was the first time I really experienced being “other” in a full cultural context. I didn’t understand the language, and was frequently treated like I was stupid or deaf because of it. I would receive higher price quotes than those who weren’t white. I was stared at whenever I was out in public, and exoticized by local men. When I was on the plane home, I made the comment that I thought I understood racism better.

I was swiftly corrected by the person I was with, and I really marinated on that for a bit. No, I would never claim to know the experience of being a person of color in my country. So then, what exactly did I mean by that? What were the correct words to choose for what I was feeling?

I think all I meant to say was that I just had better insight to the experience of otherness. My particular co*cktail of privilege will keep me from ever knowing what it’s like to be born into a world that is wholly unwelcoming. But this has helped me to be a better ally, because I am now hyper aware of folks’ unjust behavior toward those they view as “other”. It’s a delicate balance to remain humble in the knowledge that you will never understand what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, while also acknowledging your experiences that have shaped how you view and approach the world. As people of privilege, we need to do a better job of sharing what we’ve learned, while also not tipping over into know-it-alls.

We must remember that we are responsible for our own education, and that just because we want to have a fully immersive experience in tolerance, it does not mean that we are invited. I don’t want a cis-hetero man to walk around in dresses for a day, and then claim that he gets the agony of being a woman. I’m pretty damn sure that people of color don’t want anymore Rachel Dolezals. So why do we feel so entitled to not consider the sensitivity of classism, as well? Nobody ever says “go live like a woman” or “go live like a black man”. Why is it open season on the poor?

I do believe that it’s important for us to have real conversations with people from different backgrounds, cultures and demographics than us. We absolutely need to step outside of our comfort zone, and expose ourselves to realities outside of our bubbles. We need to open our hearts to learn from one another. But unless we have been invited and welcomed in, it is not our place to turn “other” into some kind of amusem*nt park for our entertainment. Another man’s suffering is not your training ground for the compassion Olympics.

Dear Pope,

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we dismantle the power structures in place, the ones who have sent 80% of the world to live in illness and deep poverty. Those people are too stuck in fear and power to have love free-flow through their hearts upon observing the suffering of others. Your plan will not work under these conditions.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we leave indigenous cultures alone, and stop imposing our views of them being savages that need to be saved, destroying their homes, populations, systems, and complete ways of life in our wake.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we break down our classist beliefs that anyone who is suffering or hungry is uneducated and living in filth.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we stop perpetuating slavery under the guise of justice and order.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we stop putting the emotional labor of solving bigotry on the shoulders of those who have been made victims.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when you renounce your bible, admitting its instructions for hate crimes in our modern world.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when science and higher education are no longer used as euphemisms for genocide.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we return to working to live, and no longer living to work.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we remember the importance of loving our families and loving our neighbors, and stop prioritizing worry about extremes that are out far out of our reach over the need for care and attention right in front of us.

We will create a more peaceful, tolerant world when we put as much effort into being informed about the world as we do selfies and fashion trends.

Mr. Pope, I don’t want bigots to come live with me so they can understand how to love queer women. And I don’t want to send (not)my president to go disrupt the lives of beautiful families that are fighting to survive and trying to get by. We saw how well that went in Puerto Rico. I want to send anyone of privilege to the library, or out into the world to have real conversations with folks they wouldn’t usually talk to. I want to send them to get their hands dirty in an organization that is actively providing needed services, rather than have them rely on the underprivileged to care for them, or feeding off of an already limited economy. I want people to learn better listening skills. I want parents to have loving community support and free healthcare, so their children may be raised with such strong love and morals, that no matter what may come to pass, at the end of the day they know that hurting others is wrong, learning from our mistakes is crucial, and helping those in need is important.

I want you to teach your followers to say NO to those who ask for their assistance in the abuse of power. I want you to stress this to men.

I want people to not need to filter another’s cry for help and justice through their own narcissism. That they can connect and care, regardless of whether or not they understand the issue first-hand.

You, sir, are very nice. I do like you better than the other popes before you, despite your religious affiliation and some outdated beliefs you maintain therein. Maybe I’m biased because we share a birthday. But look, you’re giving very oversimplified advice to a wide group of followers who do not want to do the work; they just want to be forgiven. Like a pill for being sick, they want to pop your advice and then continue with the same lifestyle, preaching and condemning others who they also perceive to be sick. You know they will not go live as the poor. They will instead criticize others for not doing so, because no leader in your faith has ever truly preached the skills for accepting their wholeness and healing therefrom, and they will only ever be able to project their brokenness onto others. Instead of imposing on those who already suffer, ask your followers to stop being terrorists against humanity. Stress the importance of of loving fully and patiently at home, and have that care and compassion ripple out to their communities, which will then ripple out to the world.

Mr. Pope, please teach your followers to understand when they have enough, to be fully grateful for that, and to give their extra to those in need. Suggest to them that if they want to learn what it means to live with less, then to try living with less in their own lives, rather than invading another’s. Please teach your followers, as children, to share. Nobody needs to live “in the mud” to understand; this is counterproductive. Instead, those who suffer need to have the experience of knowing first-hand that there is truly enough to go around.

With irreverence, love, and my own delightful filth,

Me

#jesus#pope#bible#liveinsin#liveinfilth#privilege#christian#blasphemy#dearpope#classism#bigotry

theramblingonesie

Jan 18, 2018

No More, Mr.“Nice Guy”.

My heart breaks and goes out to all of the women who have had the courage to come forward recently in the media about men in power who have violated them. I refuse to compare traumas, and some could make the ignorant argument that what I’m about to say “DOESN’T EVEN COMPARE” to other more violent acts in Hollywood, but this particular story about Aziz hits very close to home and has left me slightly undone.

Yesterday, my little sister bravely put a post up on her social media that I hope contributes to changing the minds and hearts of Aziz’s defenders. Years ago, she had an encounter with him that leaves no doubt in my mind that this man is a serial predator, and is in fact very aware of his behavior. When I started seeing posts going up about him not knowing any better, it being a one-time accident, give him a chance, etc, my blood boiled over. Because for every one story that receives light, there is almost always a painful trail of those that don’t. We, the general public, have absolutely zero knowledge or qualification to conclude this man’s innocence. But I’ve heard enough true stories that absolutely confirm that he is guilty, and NOT a “nice guy”.

When I first heard this news story, I became very upset about how this brave woman, Grace, is being torn apart by the media. The criticism, the atrocious “open letter” by another woman, was deplorable enough being directed at her. But these attacks go further than Grace. Just like we’re unqualified to say that Aziz is innocent, criticizing and destroying Grace’s character is also insane, because nobody making these comments actually knows her. Therefor, these words are attacks on every woman, every person, who has ever suffered at the hands of sexual assault, violation, and manipulation. I moved through the phases of generalized rage, to rage over my sister being targeted, and eventually right over to my own miserable encounter with a different celebrity who is widely known to be a “nice guy”.

What happened between this “nice guy” celebrity and I could also be judged as just a really, really bad date. Okay. Hm. Here are some examples of dates I’ve been on that qualify as really bad, in my opinion:

1. Met up with a dude on OkCupid around the corner from my apartment. He was totally different online versus in person. He didn’t pick up on any social cues, spoke about himself the entire time without asking me any questions, begged for a kiss at the end of the night, and then attempted to make plans to see me again. It was so gross that I desperately texted another OkCupid match immediately after in an attempt to brain-bleach the experience away. Dude #2 picked me up around midnight and took me to a diner. He was super nice, but I didn’t feel any chemistry. All in all, the night left me feeling gross, sad, lonely and exhausted. I deleted my profile shortly thereafter.

2. Went out with a guy who claimed that he was such a powerful wizard that he could turn invisible, and had me “watch” him do it (I…still saw him). Later that night he somehow convinced me to go back to his place, where he proceeded to makeout with me under a crystal pyramid. I still laugh about that one.

3. My first super-serious boyfriend didn’t know I was 20 when he asked me on our first date. I got kinda lost and was late to meet him in Revere, realized I had forgotten my wallet with all of my money back in Rhode Island, got in the car with him while I was still on the phone with another friend, and then when I asked what we’d be doing that night, he responded that there was a bar he’d like to take me to. I had to give him the news that I was underage. I was absolutely the cause of this horrible date. We ended up being together for five years after that, but good lord was that awful. Forever in my shame file….(side note: the night ended really well, fortunately, and has remained a very sweet memory)

Those are what “bad dates” look like. There is no sexual assault or emotional manipulation in those stories. There was no fear for my safety, no violation, no feeling of absolute filth or the kind of humiliation that makes you completely question yourself and turn to ice, drawing up traumas from the past or activating mental illness. As soon as those qualities enter the picture, one is no longer on a “bad date”. It becomes a different entity; a bastard child of rape culture.

My “bad date” with this “nice guy” celebrity still haunts me to this day. He had met me a year or so prior during a big performance I was in, and pursued me to varying degrees over time. I was completely star-struck. I had been a fan of this guy’s music since forever, and couldn’t believe that he was paying so much attention to me. My friends made fun of me because he was a bit older, or at least had aged poorly from years of heavy drug use, but that didn’t matter me. He was sober now, and so devoted to his art, and so smart and funny, and sooooo nice. After months of more intense flirtation and a solid makeout session after one of his shows, he became insistent on spending more time with me, wanting to treat me like someone he was actually seeing, rather than a casual long-distance flirtation. He begged me to come stay with him in New York for a couple weeks, telling me about all the places he would take me, the fancy dinners, and so on. I agreed to make it happen, but shortly after saying yes, he began getting a little cold. Energetically, I knew something was off. I backed off of the plans, confused, and made up an excuse that I would have to check with my work to see how much time I could take off. Ultimately I gave in and decided to go down for two nights. That weekend ended with me going hungry and thirsty, abandoned in a hotel room, f*cked twice and then completely snubbed. I felt awful. I felt used, manipulated and lied to. I felt cheap, pathetic and outrageously humiliated. I hated how his coldness made me shut down, and that I felt unsafe being myself. I hated what an idiot I sounded like around him, because my brain was so dissociated from confusion and fear around not understanding the extreme shift that was occurring with him. I hated how ugly I felt, and how stupid. I hated that I was treated like a nameless sex worker, and STILL didn’t get paid. At 1 or 2am on the last night, I sent a frantic text to one of my sister-wives who supported me in an incredible way, offering to buy me a different room so I could sleep before getting back on the road to Boston. Talking to her gave me the strength to leave there and tell him to f*ck off forever. I wrote him an email while his “sober” ass was drugged up and unconscious on pills next to me, and hit send as soon as I left the hotel, because I had no desire to look at his face or hear his excuses in person. I told him how horrible his behavior was, to which I didn’t receive any kind of response for hours. No, the first thing I saw from him was a video on Instagram of him in the back of a cab, just staring into a camera with tears in his eyes so all of his followers could see what a sweet, sensitive man he was in that tender moment of pain.

BARF.

He finally made contact, with his first text saying “well that f*cking sucked.” I tried asking him why he did what he did, to just give me some hint or clue or anything that would help me stop feeling so awful and insane. The last text I remember receiving was, “I said I’m sorry. I don’t owe you any explanations.”

Outside of work, I spent the next couple days in bed, mourning the experience. There weren’t enough showers. I exhausted my tears. I felt such a depression that I stopped feeling anything at all. This man continued to follow my friends online, liking their sexy pictures and making fun and flirty comments, as if there were zero consequences to his actions. Not a drop of guilt or self-awareness. A few months later, a song of his came on, and like women are conditioned to do, I questioned if the badness of the interaction was all my fault; that my being a desperate loser made him rightfully neglect and mistreat me; that my sensitivity and awkwardness caused me to lose a lover and friend.

SO I SENT HIM AN APOLOGY TEXT AND TOLD HIM I MISSED HIM.

He responded simply that he was glad to hear that. And we never spoke again.

I dare you to ask me why I didn’t just leave.

I dare you to call that a “bad date”.

I dare you to bring up my age, my fragility, my anxiety or history of depression.

I dare you to ask me why I don’t just say his name, or why I haven’t spoken up sooner (one reason: he already has one autobiography out in which he shares graphic and personal details about the women he’s hooked up with, often through the lens of him being some kind of savior, unless he’s looking for sympathy because he was on drugs. On our “really bad date”, he informed me that he has a deal with a publisher and was in the middle of writing his second autobiography. I would like to not end up in that book for the rest of time. If I’m already in that book, I would like it if nobody bought it, so I’m not about to call attention to him. Please thank you amen).

I dare you to tell me that I put myself in that situation.

I dare you to tell me this whole thing is fake because I tried to resume contact.

I dare you to tell me to toughen up and just get over it, that I should be grateful that I don’t live in a part of the world where acid could be thrown in my face.

I dare you to tell me that I asked for it.

I dare you to tell me that it wasn’t technically rape, and that this is just how men are and it’s not his fault.

I dare you to bring up my entire history of sexual assault and dysfunctional relationships, and make an argument that I’m either lying, that I’m a magnet for this, or that I’m just attention seeking.

I dare you to tell me what a fan you are, and that he’s such a nice guy.

Just try me.

These days, I feel mostly healed from this interaction. I’ll occasionally have a dream about it, or snarl a bit if his name or music come up. Sometimes I try to change the story in an attempt to reclaim any power from the situation, bragging to folks who aren’t close to me that I had the chance to bone a rockstar. It’s super rare that I feel angry about this anymore. To be honest, my anger about it only flairs up when I hear other women getting trashed for having the courage to come forward about rape culture. Which, these days, is more and more frequent. But I think 90% of that anger is that of a collective rage for having to ask/answer these questions, doubt our worth and authenticity in the face of those who hurt us, and lay ourselves out to be slaughtered in the name of “justice”. 5% of it is still being angry at him. The last 5% is being mad at myself for not acknowledging the red flags for what a loser he is.

While I do believe that there are people who do nice things in the world, I’m all set with “nice guys”. Or just, “nice people” in general. More and more, I find that many people who identify as “nice” or are described as “nice”, are simply performing niceness. I, as with most women on the planet, have had more than my fair share of “nice guys” getting angry with me for not giving them my puss* in exchange for all of the “nice” things they’ve done for me (most of which I never asked for, I just say “oh wow, that’s nice, okay” when it’s presented). There are countless “nice guys” out there who were my dear friends, who have miserably rejected and abandoned me now that they know I’m not going to f*ck or date them. If you ask them, they’ll probably tell you a version where I was so mean or ungrateful, whatever. Find Jesus and call me in the morning.

I’ve had “nice” friends of all genders who use “niceness” like some sort of currency, that when they’re being absolute douchebags, they like to avoid personal responsibility and remind you about how you can’t be upset with them because they’ve done so many “nice” things. Or they use “niceness” as a way to create co-dependency. There are a lot of “nice” people in power—cops, celebrities, clergy members, girl scout leaders, teachers, family members, etc. who have done some really nasty things. A lot of classist racists give to charity. This is not to say that the rest of us are infallible, no no. I by no means will try to make you think I’m any kind of angel. But there’s something manipulative and deceptive about the performance of “niceness”. These people in power who would “never hurt a fly!” have raped, stolen, been abusive, lied, exploited, and hell—even been serial killers!

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY “NICE GUYS” WHO ARE ACTIVE IN CHURCH AND ARE COMMUNITY LEADERS AND HAVE BEAUTIFUL FAMILIES ARE ALSO MURDERERS??????

SO I DON’T EVEN WITH ME.

Sorry, I don’t mean to contribute to mass hysteria. No, I truly don’t believe that the average nice person is a murderer. My point is, “nice” is not an argument toward someone’s innocence. Nice can be a defense mechanism, like animals who pretend they’re dead so they won’t get eaten. Underneath that is a world of emotions, thoughts, fears, motivations, experiences, and so on. I know very, very few people who can be defined with niceness being their authentic, primary trait. I know infinite humans who are awesome, who are incredibly kind and loving, and do very nice things. But they also get angry. They also tell people the truth and say no, which can be met with a lot of resistance and backlash. They also have moments of being bitchy, and owning that bitchiness. They can be sad, really really sad. They can be jealous, cold, selfish, and really a vast array of things, BECAUSE THEY ARE WHOLE HUMAN BEINGS AND THAT IS REAL.

When a person tries to push their niceness on me, or insist that I see them as nice, or others argue with me “but they’re so nice” as a largely defining quality, I am immediately suspicious. I don’t care if you’re nice. I care about whether or not you’re mature, and if you have boundaries and empathy. I care about your actions matching your words, and if what you do behind closed doors matches who you are on Facebook (I mean like, it’s none of my business how much you pick your nose or how many days you go without bathing, but don’t let me find out that your yogi feminist-posting ass abuses women). I care about whether or not you have genuine love in your heart, and pure intentions. I care about your ability to be kind, and your honesty about when you’re not. I care about whether or not you have integrity, and if you’re willing to be authentic. I’m not interested in Nice People. I’m interested in good people. Just like self-deprecation is an easy go-to in comedy, how being “pretty” and “cute” are the easiest approaches to burlesque, and how using auto tuning can turn anyone’s voice to gold, the performance of “niceness” is the easiest and most classic manipulation tactic in the book. I’m not asking you not to be nice. I’m asking you to be real. And if being nice in this moment for you is real, then I accept. But if your “niceness” pushes past my wellbeing, then you are not nice, and your actions are null and void. Please understand this point.

I am very tired of being fed “truths” based on superficial assessments. None of you truly know Aziz Ansari. None of you truly know this celebrity I had a negative experience with. Enjoying a person’s product or public persona is not the same as knowing them. Destroying a vulnerable person who is suffering at the hands of the strangers you call heroes is unacceptable. Do not create more wounds and more victims because you can’t hold the hard moral dilemma of enjoying the work or benefits of knowing a person who does bad things. That is your own cross to bear, not theirs. They already have enough to deal with.

Next time you say “oh but he’s really a nice guy”, you’d best be able to back that up with extensive, concrete evidence.

Next time you catch yourself huffing and crying, justifying your actions with, “hey, I’m a really nice guy”, check yo’self, because you’re probably about to wreck yo’self.

So what am I really aiming for here, in yet another rambling blog? My hope and prayer is, whether it’s rape culture, deceptive behavior, or our society trivializing stories that make them question themselves and feel uncomfortable/inconvenienced, that I’ll be able to see a day when this bullsh*t doesn’t rule our lives. We need to stop waiting for it to magically appear for us, too. Each woman who comes out and speaks her truth is doing her part. Each person who is directly acknowledging bad behavior and holding their friends and family accountable is doing their part. Don’t wait for change to fall in your lap. Examine the role you play in all of this, and adjust yourself accordingly. You can drag along behind, crying and trying to stop this boat by kicking the waves, or you can jump on board and help us sail collectively to shore. Either way, this baby is moving forward. You decide how you want that experience to go for you.

Link here for an amazing article by Lindy West, dismantling the argument that boys and men don’t know any better, and the toxic nuances of rape culture:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/opinion/aziz-ansari-metoo-sex.html

#niceguy#nice#this is why we can't have nice things#aziz ansari#rapeculture#bad date#consent#feminism#fedora#guywithguitar#idiots

theramblingonesie

Dec 12, 2017

A Funny Day

My best friend does the cutest thing. She, in my opinion, is always ridiculously hilarious. But when she feels like she’s particularly killin’ it at a party or event, she’ll turn around and say quietly, “I’m having a funny day!”

When I was a kid, I feel like I shattered a part of my dad’s spirit. I didn’t appreciate his humor, and I hated that he always laughed at his own jokes. I remember serving up some serious sass during one road trip, telling my dad, “y’know, laughing at your own jokes is really lame. It ruins the whole thing.”

First off, child self, that’s f*cking rude.

Second, you’re wrong.

Third, you will eat those words one day, you little turd.

I LOVE watching people be entertained by themselves. It’s the most endearing, childlike experience to witness. So many things happen for people when they find themselves amusing. Most of all, it significantly boosts self-esteem. If you’re alone, you’ll enjoy your own company. If you’re with peeps, you’ll feel a greater sense of belonging. All around, morale is higher.

A kid who’s aware that they’re making a joke is the best. They’re wicked confrontational about it. They’ll say whatever they have to say, or pull whatever prank they wanna pull, and then look you straight in the eye with a little smirk, super proud of themselves, just waiting for your reaction. It’s almost as if they’re like, “you know, and I know, that I’m hilarious. I just made your whole afternoon with my brilliance. Say it. Just give me a cookie and say it!!!” The best thing about kids telling jokes, too, is that when you acknowledge them for this, they don’t just march off with another validation coin for their self esteem piggy bank. They’re like, “YEESSS!!!! YOU LOVE ME!!! WE’RE PLAYING TOGETHER!!!”

I don’t think adults fully grow out of that. We’re not as confrontational, and we don’t always automatically assume that our joke will be received, but when it is—we’re excited to play. I’ve started noticing different adorable ways that people indicate being amused by themselves:

You have folks like my boyfriend, who curl into themselves laughing so hard that no sound comes out, eventually emerging with a red face saying, “c’mon, that was so good though!”

You have folks who will smirk a little and prick one eyebrow over twinkly mischief eyes

You have folks that just keep rolling with a joke until you have to cut them off

You have folks who will straight up announce that they’re hilarious

You have folks that curl their shoulders in and shift their eyes back and forth until someone notices (me)

Or you have folks who cry-laugh too hard to deliver any joke because they’re too caught up in whatever just happened in their head (also me)

I called my sister the other day to tell her about how I plugged the cats’ names into this online blog topic generator, and was so amused by the whole thing that I couldn’t get the words out to tell her what happened because I was cry-laughing too hard. She started laughing really hard in response, which I realized later was laughing at and not with me, because once I calmed down and tried telling other people about this, nobody laughed.

WHATEVER. I THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT.

My dad still doesn’t laugh at his own jokes. I almost feel bad, but I’ve begun noticing recently that he’s found other ways to indicate that he’s cracking himself up internally. Since he found out that I post “Dad of the Day”, he’s begun this somewhat informal, rolling audition for the internet. He won’t admit it, but he’s feeling particularly confident in his comedy. So I’ve let him go with it, and it’s become a game around the house. Dad will say something ridiculous, I’ll play along like it’s normal, and mom will jump in and go, “IS THAT A DAD OF THE DAY????” I refuse to ever tell when I’m gonna post something, because I want them both to stay on their toes. Never get comfortable; it kills your career. But every time mom asks if dad made the cut, I notice a tiny smile on his face and a little twinkle in his eye, with the same desperation for approval that a toddler has. It’s very fleeting before he puts his head down and leaves the room to go work on new material.

They say that laughter is the greatest medicine, and that couldn’t be more accurate. I’ve been watching people make such amazing changes in their lives, just by allowing more laughter. I’ve started telling people (and the cats) that they’re funny more often, and laughing with them when they laugh at themselves, and there’s a visible a shift. They almost glow. Since this “Dad of the Day” game around the house began, I’ve noticed that my dad doesn’t just try to impress me. He makes it a point to joke around with my mom a lot more, too, and that’s helping both of them relate better and ease the hard transition of retirement. My dad’s humor is so contagious that I’ve started joking around and spending more time with the family, and even mom has caught on. I’m watching her feel lighter and more playful as she gains more confidence with the people she loves. She’s even been having some of her own doozies, so I may just need to start a Mom of the Day next. Telling my parents that they’re funny on a regular basis has made them really fun to be around. Not only are they kinder with me and one another, but I’m also watching them enjoy life more in general. I’m watching them relax and be more of their authentic selves. They’re more engaging, and I’ve even seen more tenderness between them than I have in years.

When I first met my boyfriend, I thought he was so serious, and I was really afraid that he didn’t have a sense of humor. As I’ve gotten to know him, he’s actually become one of the wittiest, funniest people I know. As individuals, he and I both tend to get very intense in our brooding, so as a couple, things can get really dark, really fast. Remembering to laugh is not just important—it’s crucial. I love telling my boyfriend how funny he is, and a new point of laughter for us is how much he’s amused by his own jokes. There’s something about giving a person permission to laugh hysterically at themselves that unlocks a certain level of confidence in them. Since allowing one another to be as goofy and self-absorbed in our own humor as possible, our relationship is consistently fun, and we feel more secure. We’re more open about who we are. Our communication is better. Our sex is better. We feel confident that we can rely on each other in both times of celebration and stress. When my boyfriend laughs at himself, I can’t help but think, “oh good! You love you, too! Aren’t you great? Ahhh, I love you so much! Ok, but come back to me; now you’re out of control.”

Try this out for yourself. Tell people they’re funny more often. Really appreciate them for that, because they’re bringing a moment of joy into a dark world. And to go even further—let the people you love laugh at their own jokes. It’s hysterical to watch. I think people who can amuse and entertain themselves are great, and I want us all to have that ability. Just as I tell people that anger is radical self-love, I think that lose-your-sh*t laughter at your own jokes is also radical self-love. Go ahead: exit out of this blog, and go do something you think is funny. It doesn’t matter if anyone is around to witness it or not. This is for you. And you’re goddamn hilarious.

#funny#humor#love#family#medicine#soul

theramblingonesie

Dec 6, 2017

Nancy Downs: The Hero We Want, But Not The Hero We Need

There are two types of late Gen X/early Gen Y in this world:

Those who love Nancy from The Craft

And those who do not.

Admittedly, I didn’t know that Team No-Nancy existed until a few days ago. Love is blind, I suppose. I was in a group chat with some spooky friends, and one friend posted a picture of Nancy, which naturally caused half of us to swoon. The other half, no dice. They mildly dipped into ethical reasoning about why she was bad, while the rest of us walked away and tattled to Manon. We ultimately agreed to disagree.

Because I can’t relax, ever, my feminist nerd brain immediately went to—YES. LET’S SORT THIS OUT, FOR REAL. It felt to me like more than our group simply being split into order and chaos personalities. What is it about the character of Nancy that makes her so equally loved and hated in our awkward cusp generation?

Let me just get two very important things out of the way before really diving into this:

1. The Craft is total garbage. But like an Italian family, fans can talk sh*t about The Craft. Not-fans get cut for talking sh*t about The Craft. Let that be clear.

2. Fairuza Balk is a total goth dream babe. Her role as Nancy was my bisexual awakening. I have loved her since and will follow her to the ends of the earth. If you had asked me my type in my teens and 20s, I most often just responded “Nancy”.

Okay. So now, the actual blog:

(Suggested reading: the accurate mythology of Medusa. Did you know she was a rape victim? She was a maid/priestess for Athena, and Poseidon used his power to assault her in the temple; her own home. When Athena, found out, she stripped Medusa of her beauty and banished her from the kingdom because she was jealous. Now, as Athena and Poseidon wanted, we call Medusa a siren [aka slu*t] and horrific monster. Find the common themes below...)

When I was a little teen nugget, I was SO. ANGRY. Right? Weren’t most of us? I, like majority of others, was dealing with a lot of stuff in my life that left me feeling absolutely terrified and certain that there was no real justice in the world. I was an outsider, super awkward, and frequently the target of slu*t shaming and gossip. I felt absolutely used and disempowered, and wondered if I’d ever meet other weirdos like myself.

(Fast forward to now: YES, as an adult I definitely did meet an abundance of other “weirdos”, and they freakin rock. I wouldn’t trade my abnormal life for anything “acceptable”. THIS IS THE NEW COOL. EAT IT.)

Nancy was everything I secretly felt on the inside, expressed outwardly. She was beautiful. She was bitchy. She was scary. She had friends who listened to her. She spoke her mind, and was completely irreverent. She didn’t let people f*ck with her or her crew. She took matters into her own hands. She was brave enough to lose her sh*t. Watching Nancy on screen was the closest I ever got to catharsis, so I lived through her story. Ultimately, Nancy was locked away because she did some bad sh*t. By my teen logic, she was a Saint Badass. By my adult logic, she done f*cked up. But it’s not exactly black and white; hear me out:

Nancy lives in poverty, it’s suggested that she’s been abandoned by her father (or he was a John and her mom was a prostitute; it’s unclear), and both she and her mom are regularly subjected to emotional and physical abuse by her alcoholic stepdad. At school, her reputation has been destroyed by some dumb jock f*ckboy who gave her an STD and dumped her, subjecting to her mass slu*t shaming to save his own face. Now Sarah, the seemingly perfect new girl, comes on the scene. Nancy feels a bit threatened because everything else in her life is disempowered sh*t and she knows how fragile her status as group leader actually is, but eventually she warms up and lets Sarah in to form a coven. All of the other girls’ spells start working except for Nancy’s, which was a desire to no longer be “white trash”. This only further contributes to her feelings of failure, self-loathing, and powerlessness. One night, her rage ends up causing her stepdad to die of a heart attack, and she and her mom inherit $100,000 to begin a new life. She has her first taste of power, and refuses to let it go. Curious about what else is possible, she becomes obsessed with gaining strength, and starts to go a little nuts. After hearing that the same f*ckboy who destroyed her reputation tried to rape Sarah, Nancy storms off and goes to confront him under the glamour of being Sarah. She seduces him away from the party he’s at, and once they’re alone, she changes back to her original form, shocking and scaring f*ckboy. She begins to take him to task for what he’s done, and his response is to tell Nancy that she’s just jealous.

I interrupt this recap to highlight this part, because it’s the dramatic turning point for when Nancy really loses it: this woman calls a rapist out for his crimes, and he responds that she’s just jealous.

Exactly.

Upon being told that she’s “just jealous”, Nancy snaps and ends up sending f*ckboy to his death out a window via telekinesis. Sarah gets all upset at Nancy for this, and does a binding spell behind her back, feeling sorry for rapey f*ckboy. Nancy finds out, and feels unbelievably betrayed by Sarah. From here, all hell breaks loose, and Nancy casts all kinds of illusions to completely torment Sarah, hoping that it will result in her death. She’s unsuccessful, Sarah ends up becoming the strong leader witch, and Nancy ends up in an insane asylum.

Nancy’s short life in a keyword nutshell: abandonment, poverty, rape, assault, abuse, betrayal, isolation, silence

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I WOULD PROBABLY ALSO SNAP AND GO CRAZY, JUST SAYIN.

Nancy is a fictional character, and yet, how many women and girls can identify with at least part of this story? Or the whole story? Our justice system and society completely destroy women and exploit victims, and when they finally snap under the weight of it, we just toss them aside as crazy or trash. Now, I’m definitely in camp Get-Help-For-Your-Problems, and I don’t believe that what Nancy did was right, but it sure as sh*t makes sense to me. If talking about Nancy like she’s real is making your eyeballs roll back so hard that they dislodge from their sockets, then take this real life example:

Cyntoia Brown is currently being held on a life sentence for murdering a pedophile. She will not be up for parole until she’s 69, and she was locked up when she was 16. She suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome as a baby and was given up for adoption, where was subjected to severe abuse by her adoptive dad. She ran away from home and was taken in by a pimp named “Cut Throat”, who fed her lies of loving her and saying he’d take care of her. He would drug her and rape her daily. She was also regularly raped by his friends, and he would threaten her life if she tried to refuse getting passed around. Cut Throat eventually threw Cyntoia onto the street to start making money for him, and she was picked up one night by a 43 year-old marine named Johnny. Johnny took Cyntoia back to his house, where he began showing off his massive gun collection and bragging about how powerful, strong and smart he was. Cyntoia was terrified, knowing that if he turned violent, she had no chance. Not only because she was a small child, but also because she knew how prostitutes and women of color were viewed and treated. While they were in bed, he leaned over to the side to grab something, and Cyntoia was convinced that it was a gun. Not wanting to risk her life or safety, she shot him.

During her evaluation with the court-appointed white, middle aged therapist, Cyntoia was asked why she didn’t just leave the pimp. She stared directly into his eyes and said strongly, “You’re. Not. Listening. To. Me.” The therapist decided that she had borderline personality because she was emotional and had black and white opinions of people. He said her lack of trust was due to her mental instability, and the fact that she quickly dismissed people as unsafe was due to her immaturity.

In the courtroom, the prosecuting attorney (another white, middle-aged man) ripped her apart, saying, “you felt safe enough to eat the Sonic dinner he bought you. You felt safe enough to use his bathroom. You felt safe enough to crawl into bed with him. You felt safe enough to fall asleep…” to which Cyntoia replied, “I never slept.”

These are the facts. If you’re anything like me, or an even mildly reasonable human, you’re probably sobbing or lighting everything on fire. f*ck the law. This girl’s life was destroyed by every system, every “loved one”, every authority figure she was ever under. But there are infinite (racist, classist, sexist, whor*phobic) people out there who choose the side of “justice”, saying Cyntoia is a criminal and a murderer. That her past doesn’t matter. She could have left anytime. She could have just pulled her life together and done the right thing. That her mental illness caused a harmless marine, who served our great (fascist) nation, to be killed undeservedly. That the fact that she was a child at the time and her brain was underdeveloped doesn’t matter. She “knew what she was doing.”

Brb, gotta sob and light everything on fire again.

“Crazy Nancy” from The Craft is not Cyntoia. Cyntoia is very real, and she deserves true justice. She deserves her life back. She deserves a world and a system that won’t fail her. She deserves an award for what she did, in my opinion. You can learn more about her story and how to help at https://socialistworker.org/2017/12/05/cyntoia-brown-should-be-free

Going back to my original point, “Crazy Nancy” is a figure who a lot of girls I grew up with looked up to. She, in her fictional setting, was failed over and over again. Women and girls in real life have been failed over and over again. As I always need to mention in every blog—let’s be particularly mindful of the intersectionality of feminism, and the varying severity of experiences within this broad system failure. “Crazy Nancy” is not THE hero, but for many of my gothlette peers and I growing up, she was our hero. She was that animalistic side we each possessed that just wanted to feel powerful, lose our sh*t, be scary so no one would f*ck with us, and throw our rapists and abusers out the window with telekinesis to their deaths. I look out into the world these days, and I feel a little afraid at times. A lot of us are unleashing that wild, power hungry side that’s felt betrayed and stomped on for too long. Too long in our lives, too long for our mothers, and too long for our mother’s mothers, and so on. When we’re told to behave or that we’re not being nice, or to do the “right thing”, we don’t always hear that and think “oh yes, maybe I should calm down. I should really go easy on my enemies and friends who don’t support me. I should always defer to people of greater privilege than myself to tell me what to do.” No. Instead we think, “f*ck YOU!!! DON’T MAKE ME GO BACK IN THAT CAGE!!” *tears out throat and tosses carcass back to the rest of the pack*

I think a lot of us, right now, are at level Nancy. And I super get it. At the same time, sigh…. This isn’t how we actually fix things and create deeply rooted, sustainable change. I know, that bums me out, too. Which is why, as the title of this blog says, Nancy is the hero we want, but not the hero we need. I will love you forever, Nancy, but when the credits roll, you get to come out of the movie set asylum and go back to being Fairuza Balk. If we try to be like you, we’re gonna really f*ck sh*t up in an irreparable way. But for every abuser, every thief who stole our childhood and innocence, every lying gossip, every rapist, every victim blamer, every slu*t shamer, and every man who has hurt a woman deeply and then called her “crazy” when he doesn’t want to face his faults, I offer you up a little prayer before taking real action. Because you might not be real, but the writers who created your character pulled from real life inspiration. You can sit with us, but unfortunately, we can’t let you be in charge.

A couple years back, I was at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival with one of my troupes. I’m not sure how it happened, but my burlesque sister and I got the chance to say, “we are the weirdos, mister” in a real-life situation at a bar. It was beautiful. I’m pretty sure my life was complete in that moment. Let your anger flow and stay weird, friends. We’ve got a long ride ahead of us.

#nancy#thecraft#feminism#freecyntoiabrown#witchcraft#medusa#justice#notsorry

theramblingonesie

Nov 14, 2017

Can You Hold This For Me?

We are living in explosive times. I’d say it’s about time, too. People are really, really angry. All of our stuff, collective and individual, is coming up. The truth is coming out, and justice is being served.

In some places.

In other places, we feel there may never be justice. We are angry because bad guys are still on top, con artists are still running the show, and rapists and racists are being protected.

The good news, regardless of what action is or isn’t being taken, is that we all notice. More and more, we are uncovering the truth and calling bullsh*t, even if people are still internally processing the strength and desire to step up and do something about it. Something that’s come up for me is noticing how all of the anger we discuss is being directed outwardly: “You did this to ME!” But on the other side, where are we receiving? How are we holding anger for others? What do we do when we’re the perpetrators?

I’ve been stuck in a cycle for a bit of being the target of other people’s anger, and especially rage. Some of it is warranted, and some of it is totally not about me at all, but I get caught in the crossfires. I realized that, in my journey of untangling my lifelong victim complex, coming out to the other side of that isn’t simply about not being a victim anymore. It’s about looking at myself realistically, my own flaws, sharp parts and shadow, and relearning how to take personal responsibility. I was forced to sit and think about how I hold space for other people who are feeling intense emotions, and I realized that I’ve been given a great opportunity to tease apart what’s mine, what I can give back, what’s none of my business to get involved with, and where I can simply allow anger to be without trying to stop or move it. I feel that if we are living in tough times of demanding others to take responsibility, we need to understand first-hand what it looks and feels like to take responsibility for ourselves. I broke it down into three main categories for what I was personally experiencing, though I recognize that there are endless forms of this. Here’s what I took time to sort out:

Scenario #1: Letting other people be mad at you. If you are a human, you will f*ck up. If you have any relationships, romantic, friendly, familial or otherwise, you will let somebody down at some point in your life. It might be because you’re sloppy and careless, or a downright asshole, or really doing the best you can, but your best might not be what’s best for another person, or there’s been a big misunderstanding. Regardless of the reason, someone, probably many people over the course of your lifetime, will be mad at you.

I remember the first beautiful, graceful, heartfelt apology I ever received, and it was only about three years ago. Obviously, other people had apologized to me before then and super meant it. But there was something about this particular apology that stood out. A circle sister of mine had shared personal information she received from a third party, and it resulted in a misunderstanding that caused hurt feelings. While I understood her intention being purely that of wanting to help and get to the root of a bubbling issue, it was not the right time, and I was denied the opportunity to speak for myself. I was very angry, and immediately contacted her to explain why. Her response back was inspiringly flawless. It was simple, yet heartfelt. She explained where she was coming from, while still acknowledging the validity of my hurt feelings, reflecting back what she was hearing in my words. She made an effort to commit to different future action, should another similar situation arise. It was all great stuff that I mostly don’t remember now because whatever, sh*t happens and I love her and she super kicks ass. But the part that stuck with me most was how she signed off on the email:

“With humility,”

With humility. No “sorry”, “love you”, “thanks”, “talk soon”, etc. With humility. The image it conjured up was a person with a hand to their heart, bowing their head, allowing a quiet pause and space for the weight of the situation. The ability to step aside, check the ego, and acknowledge that an offense had occurred. This was a person who was honest and mature, and had really done the work to understand how to hold herself in conflict. I was very inspired, and often think back to that message when I’m on deck to apologize.

To say that I think about it doesn’t mean I do it though. Sometimes the universe will send you an excess of lessons to make sure you finally get it right. It’s like in Duolingo when you mess up the spelling or accent of one word, and they just keep testing you fifty ways til Tuesday to make sure that, goddamn it, you never forget that “cebolla” is onion and “caballo” is horse. Turns out that my apologies had been me saying onion when I meant to say horse, and I still had some work to do.

After finding myself in so many conflicts, I forced myself to answer these questions:

Can I simply accept and allow space for others to be angry with me? Can I hear someone voice their anger without me being immediately defensive? Can I receive this information and respond in a way that says, “yes. Be angry with me. That’s your right, and it’s okay”? Can I also do this without forcing them into the emotional labor of comforting me in my humiliation or self-loathing over it?

I’ll tell you what, that’s not easy. Most of us don’t want to be assholes. If someone is angry with us, we want it to be different. Often, we want it to be different because we don’t want the person we hurt to suffer. Sometimes (admit it, we all do it), we just don’t want to feel guilty or perceived as a jerk. But I think with age and experience, you eventually get to a place where you figure out how to just take it. That’s all I can offer, really. There’s no fluffy advice around it. Hear the other person out as fully as they are willing to share the information and feelings with you, ground yourself down as it washes over you, and then let it drop into your heart. Imagine yourself in their shoes, how it might feel to be them in that situation, how things may have looked or been understood from their side. You may never understand what it’s like to be them or have their experiences, but humans across the world know pain, and we can meet each other there. You may not have felt or handled it like they did, but chances are that if they’re not a manipulative asshole, the pain they felt was reasonable and very real.

A very interesting thing began to happen recently. My current partner is very healthy and very safe for me, and I’m learning through this relationship that I’m allowed to be honest, even when it’s scary, and that’s helping me sort through the bullsh*t. I’m learning that hard feelings can lead to transformation, not certain death or punishment. With the strength of being able to access my full emotions in relationship with my partner, I wanted to extend that experience to others. I began stepping up fully if someone seemed upset with me. If I noticed that something was off, I wouldn’t run and hide; I’d ask them directly if something was wrong. If a person was angry with me, I brought myself fully present and grounded to hear them out and validate their experience with love, compassion, and humility. I learned that it’s okay to walk away and take time to sort through what they told me, rather than immediately snap back with an answer (which would usually be defensive, and therefore useless, because I’m used to feeling attacked). I breathed through my fear, and told myself that it was okay if someone needed to be angry with me, and not to deny them or cut short the need to process the experience. I played around with the idea that, perhaps, a person I care about can feel angry with me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our relationship is over and broken.

As I sunk into these deeper feelings and allowed them to take up space in my body, I felt a curious shift. I gained confidence in my ability to be present and empathic with others. I witnessed the positive power of my own intuition. I was rejuvenated by the honesty from those I was in conflict with, and their abilities to be raw and loving at the same time. I felt hopeful about any future conflict that may arise, because my relationships were deeper and stronger after these hard conversations rather than broken. I wasn’t being idly punished for being “bad”; I was given the opportunity to understand people I care about better, and given tools to love those I’m close with how they need to be loved. Suddenly, I found myself giving way less f*cks. I realized that I’m not a horrible monster or some kind of sociopath. I’m just a normal human who tries too goddamn hard to keep everyone happy, but still inevitably f*cks up. I am a very sensitive, capable human who has, for far too long, taken too much bullsh*t from people who are either mentally ill or unconscious about their baggage, and that was getting in the way of my ability to genuinely connect with others in times of hardship. I wasn’t able to offer any real or effective apologies for a long time because I was so exhausted and defensive from being emotionally abused and the target of gaslighting. I realized that in order to embody loving compassion and be present for my work and the people in my life I care about, I needed to stop being distracted with obsessively feeding destructive people.

Scenario #2: Trimming away and giving back what isn’t yours.

So, what happens when we’re consistently shown toxic models of conflict management? We learn how to perpetuate them. In recent months while I had a particularly high level of conflict in my life, I was forced to understand old habits and conditioning, and reevaluate my emotional capacity for genuine connection with others. I realized through positive experiences in resolving problems that I’m actually quite capable of loving, peaceful, rational conversations around feeling hurt or violated. In fact, I greatly prefer it. In recognizing that I had been repressing this sensitive, gentle side of myself, it became much clearer where I’m still allowing myself to be taken for rides by people who aren’t in their integrity. I also understand that awesome people sometimes do bummer things, especially when in a place of trauma, and I noticed how often I allow myself to be the human wasteland for their baggage. I realized how angry I am all the time that people will be super fun and beautiful with almost everyone else around, but then the mask comes off with me and suddenly I’m the reason for every injustice they’ve ever experienced. I became fed up that they’ll be hurt and violated by countless other people they’ll never say a word to, but then I break a dish or need to reschedule a meeting and suddenly I’m the target of 10 years of bottled up issues. There’s being forgiving and compassionate, and then there’s being a pushover, and that doesn’t help anyone. On some level, I created this contract in these relationships, and gave the signal that I am safe and okay for people to excessively project upon.

I’m pretty all set with that. I’ve decided that I’m done allowing myself to be the target of rage or anger that doesn’t actually have to do with me. If someone wants to vent or process what they’re going through, absolutely. Lay it on me. I’ll go there with you and I will hold you when you come out of it. But if your venting or processing takes a sharp left and drags me into the drama, I can’t hold that for you anymore. If my forgetting to buy toilet paper turns into you screaming at me for what your ex-boyfriend did, I can’t hold that for you anymore. If you refuse to listen to me because you need to condemn me for what someone else did to you, and you’re feeling rage because you don’t have the guts to confront them instead, I can’t hold that for you anymore. If you need other people to hate and doubt themselves so you can dodge responsibility and feel powerful, I can’t hold that for you anymore. If you’re trying to silence me because you’re so ashamed of your own actions and offenses against me, I can’t hold that for you anymore.

I cannot afford to hold what does not belong to me anymore, because my time and energy are very precious. I didn’t allow myself to say that for a long time, but I’m saying it now. I’ve wasted too many hours denying myself love, happiness and opportunity because I’ve been crying alone in my room wondering why people are mad at me for things I didn’t do. I’ve wasted too much time not showing up for the people who truly need me because another person’s drama tornado ripped me away without a care in the world for my life or wellbeing. I’ve withheld too many apologies because I’ve been too heavy from manipulators telling me how awful I am when I know damn well I’m not. I’ve spent too much of my life breaking my bones to make other people happy, only to be told that I’m never doing enough. Meanwhile, the people who would truly appreciate my time and love are sitting off to the side, quietly hoping that maybe I’ll come around one day for even five minutes, because any bit counts.

I cannot hold your violence, destruction, or abuse for you anymore. Because I am human, I need to leave room for the people who deserve my full attention when they feel real pain. I need to be fearless enough to access true words when I inevitably need to say I’m sorry, the confidence to mean it when I promise that I want to learn and do right by them, and the strength to follow through. I can’t do that when I’m always under attack, or being molded into your latest model of a supervillain so you don’t have to face your own demons.

Scenario #3: Holding space and allowing the presence of large-scale anger.

A fascinating thing is happening right now. About three years ago when I first conceived The Scarlet Tongue Project, I wasn’t seeing such large-scale anger from women like I’m seeing it now. This is by no means saying that it didn’t exist, because there have been oppressed groups for centuries, speaking up and raging out at injustice. But there was a time, and least in many of my social circles, where talking about anger was inconvenient and somewhat off-limits. Now, it’s like trying to find a unicorn in searching for a woman who isn’t super f*cking pissed and fed up. This is, absolutely, a reflection of my privilege.

Here we are, though. Finally everybody is getting on board. It’s no longer “someone else’s” issue. This is the moment I’ve been working for, waiting for, and praying for. Outward, realized, expressed women’s rage on a mass scale. YES.

At the same time, I didn’t know it would look exactly like this. When someone unleashes their rage, you can’t predict where it will go or what it will look like. I had been spending years digging, interviewing, studying, and analyzing anger and rage so much that I forgot about its potential for wildness. I had been preaching that it wouldn’t be comfortable, but I don’t think I was prepared for some of the discomfort that’s arisen.

I received a link from a friend yesterday about one woman’s response to the injustice that’s being uncovered re: rape culture. It made me very, very disappointed and frustrated. To me, this particular action was sending us backward, supporting the patriarchy in its perceived attempt to destroy it, endangering the movement, and closing conversations that could lead to the real change we all want. There was an immense amount of support around this action, and I just had to close my laptop and walk away so I didn’t start a community fight,

a. Because it would be futile

b. I wasn’t in a losing mood

As I sat in the other room staring out the window, I forced myself to really think about the full weight of what was going on. I realized that I was being a hypocrite. For years I had been sending up the war cries, and as soon as people started charging into battle, I was suddenly squeaking my mousy voice saying, “wait wait, no stop!” I told myself to drop down and feel the weight of the rage, just as I had told myself to do when confronted by individuals. I felt it swirl around and push, flowing and changing form in deep reds and black, yet staying contained. I remembered everything I learned, everything I preached, and how this is what that all looks like in action. This rage has a purpose. It is the unleashing of years and generations of fear, silence, oppression, and maddening injustice. It can’t do anything other than explode, but it’s a controlled explosion within the context of time. It needs to come out, and only then can we take the next step to anger. When we get to anger, we can shift the focus from “you” to “me”; knowing ourselves better now that we’ve taken back the right to own our bodies, hearing our inner voices louder now that we’ve cleared out the overpowering outside voices. Once we get to anger, we can rebuild our own boundaries. Once we’ve established our boundaries, we can reconsider and retry building in relationship, understanding, educating, growing, and co-existing harmoniously.

Rage isn’t going to be pretty or polite. It doesn’t always make sense. You think it makes sense at the time because it’s so intense and strong that it must be true, and it is true, but not necessarily true in the way you thought. Like excitement, like sadness, like anger, it’s a step in the process. I think about when people have raged out at me and felt completely justified, and later come back and said “okay, I was being crazy and that didn’t make sense, but I was just so hurt and fed up, and that’s real; let’s talk about that part.” I’ve done the same thing. I’ve screamed about lighting people on fire or getting them kicked out of places, and countless other unmentionable threats that felt super real at the time, and the worst thing anyone can say to me in that moment is “okay, just calm down, that’s crazy.” You wanna take someone in a rage state from an 11 to a 20? Tell them to calm down and that they’re being crazy. I’ve done it, and I’ve been on the receiving end of it. That never ends well. You can’t tell someone puking their guts up to just “shhhhhh” and close their mouth. You can’t tell them that burping or taking ginger would be more sensible or polite. They just need to purge.

I considered that if I was reevaluating how I allow anger in my personal relationships, that I should also find the courage within myself to hold space for large-scale rage. Instead of interrupting the process, I should open myself up and let it swirl and speak so that it can drive a larger, more complex movement and global change. I can evaluate the level of risk and danger, let it inform me, and then allow it to be, recognizing that it is a part of the process right now. Now is not the time to correct or say, “well, actually…” Now is the time to strap the plastic bag straps around our ears and just barf. Tomorrow we can talk about why and how. Today we just ruin our clothes and the leather in our cars.

Am I glad to watch the power structures around us crumble? f*ck yes. Am I glad that predators everywhere are getting hung up to dry? Oh absolutely; it’s delicious. Do I feel everything around us being shook up as real change is emerging? Definitely, and I’m ecstatic. But for as many individual personalities and experiences there are, we will also see a wide variety of responses, and I need to be honest and say that I don’t like some of the louder ways this is being handled. But can I hold space for it and honor it as a very real expression worthy of attention? Absolutely. Now is not the time to step in. It’s the time to step out of the way. If we reach a point where the rage gets stuck and we regress, we can tackle it then. But I’m choosing to witness this holy mess in all of it’s bloody, beautiful, skull-dripping glory right now.

This is where we are. Sit in it. Bask in it if you choose. The pendulum swings both ways, and to truly understand something, we must know its opposite. Know how to give and receive. Know how to take it if you’re dishing it out. Whether it’s with a single loved one or your entire country, listen and make friends with righteous expressions of pain. Separate raw honesty from abuse and power games, give your all to places that are healthy (yes, I said “healthy”, not just “happy”) and leave those that aren’t. You will need your energy, so don’t waste it on leeches and vacuums. You don’t need to act immediately; simply allow yourself to be a student and take notes. When pain speaks authentically, she’ll tell you exactly how to tip the scales back and what it takes to create true transformation.

The best advice I ever got as a teenager was to never get into a fight if I’m too afraid to get punched in the face. I think we’re at a place where we’re all being asked to fight. I guess we should figure out the best aftercare for getting punched in the face.

The Rambling Onesie @theramblingonesie - Tumblr Blog | Tumlook (2024)

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Introduction: My name is Chrissy Homenick, I am a tender, funny, determined, tender, glorious, fancy, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.