#NCN for Nov. 9 – Getting Personal & the Male Gaze

On a personal note, okay, I would fucking love to do anything without being stared at. Literally anything. I cannot walk down a fucking sidewalk wearing one of my boyfriend’s old baggy ass t-shirts without people gawking at me like they’ve never seen breasts before. ‘Kay, full disclosure: I am a full-figured, adult woman, and yes, I have breasts, and yes, they are all kinds of wonderful. But seriously. I am not a fucking zoo animal,* and neither is anyone else walking around just trying to live their fucking lives. It doesn’t fucking matter what they’re wearing, you don’t have the right to treat them like they are somehow less than a person.

What’s even worse is the people who think they have the right to make some dumb-ass comment. What is it about being a woman in the world that makes people think it’s okay to ask if they’re real? Or to voice your approval, like anyone fucking asked for it? Or to suggest (yeah, this actually happened at a beer festival this past summer) that my boyfriend – my partner in life, my soulmate, my best friend – only likes me for that one reason? I almost got into a fucking fight.

But, Linda, you say. Men can’t help it. Looking is wired into their brains by evolution itself. You can’t expect people not to look.

Okay, but I don’t have a problem with looking. I have a problem with staring and ridiculous comments that nobody fucking asked for. Gandhi – of whom I’m generally not a fan but anyway – reportedly said that one should only speak if it improves upon the silence. Making an unwarranted, ignorant comment about another person’s body is not ever an improvement upon silence.

And as for looking vs. staring, don’t be an idiot and act like you don’t know the difference. I see into the future and can already hear some fool asking me if it’s wrong to look at someone for 0.3 seconds, and I do not want to fucking hear it. Don’t be ignorant.

What’s the big deal, though?! It’s just part of life. But it’s not though. I know for a fact I am not the only woman who wears sweatshirts and jackets I don’t want to wear just so I feel somehow protected from the male gaze. Meanwhile, those same doofuses (doofi?) are walking around in nothing but shorts acting like God’s gift to humanity. Staaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhp.

*Metaphor aside, I feel compelled to add that I do not generally approve of keeping animals in captivity for the sake of human entertainment.


#NCN for Nov. 8 – Apparently, Women Hate Each Other

So… who the fuck started the rumor that women hate each other? Like, I really do not understand it. I mean, I have met other women who are assholes, but much, much less frequently than I’ve met men, who are typically assholes in a much worse way. We see this stereotype play out in every facet of society – TV and movies depict “good girls” being corrupted by “bad girls”, like Cady and Regina in Mean Girls. Comedians joke so often about how horrible women are to each other, I literally have no idea why anyone thinks it’s funny anymore. It’s become the modern version of ‘what about airline food?’ From a young age, our parents and teachers warn us, explicitly or by example, to not be like those other girls, who wear short skirts only to attract the attention of pubescent boys and wind up pregnant at 15, their lives in objective ruins.

It’s really no wonder women hate other women. We’ve absorbed the ever-present idea that we should hate each other, that we need to set ourselves apart from women who are not like us, that they are our competition and need to be torn down. Not only that, but we’re taught as children that it is improper for us to communicate our negative feelings, especially anger, directly, so we learn to express ourselves in much more subtle (and often, much more painful) ways (read Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons and take a sledgehammer to all the assumptions you’ve made about how women express their emotions). Seriously. No fucking wonder.

What’s awesome is that the last few generations of women have been a lot more open, empowering, and positive. I love it. These stereotypes are no longer relevant, if they ever were, and anyone who tries to tell you women hate each other is only trying to control your behavior, so you try to stand apart from the crowd by bending to the male will – think about that shit. Think about the kinds of guys who espouse the evils of women (or, “females,” as they often call us) and take a moment to consider what they stand to gain from that, whether they realize it or not.

Like, go into any space where women have congregated and say you’re hungry or thirsty or need a tampon and see if your needs don’t get met within minutes. Women are beautiful, strong, amazing people. We have to fill a lot of roles throughout our lives and we do it so well, not to mention how hard it is for our transgender sisters and those of us who identify as non-binary in some way. I’m proud of you. I’m rooting for you. Please root for each other.

#NCN for Nov. 7 – Women Who Victim-Blame Other Women

CW: Discussion of rape and sexual assault

So, victim-blaming – identifying it, calling it out, questioning it, figuring out why people do it – has been a big part of my conversations with people about women’s rights and peoples’ rights in general. Victim-blaming is an unfortunate part of a lot of experiences in marginalized populations, but today, kids, we’re talking about one of the most common forms of victim-blaming: the misogynist kind that follows sexual harrasment or assault.

We’ve all seen it, even if we don’t realize it. Once you know what victim-blaming is and what forms it takes, you see it everywhere. When a woman is sexually assaulted, and the first questions regard what clothes she was wearing, whether she was drunk, if she was alone, if she was sexually promiscuous or had ever committed a crime before or if she had a job that could be described as “sex work.”

But why? I understand, to some extent, why men do it, especially men accused of making unwanted sexual advances or committing assault. They are trying to at least partially alleviate some of the blame, so that they emerge with the least possible damage in terms of legal penalties, public opinion, future career prospects, etc. It’s horrible, and I don’t agree with it, but I understand the concept.

What’s a bit more elusive is why women victim-blame each other. I think we all do it, at least sometimes, or we’ve done it in the past, for no other reason than that we are socialized to think that way, but some women never outgrew this mode of thinking. Why is that? I have a theory that it makes us feel safer. As a woman in this patriarchal, violent world, it can be very scary. How many times have we had to hold our phones in our hands to feel safe, or fashion makeshift weapons out of our keys, or fear drinking a cocktail unattended, if only for a moment? To some extent, I think women who victim-blame other women do so because it makes them feel less likely to be attacked; they do it to create distance between them and the gruesome acts they read about in the news or hear about from their friends. They think, maybe, if I don’t dress that way or drink that much, if I’m always out with a group of girlfriends and restrict my sexual partners to committed relationships, if I look down upon exotic dancers, porn stars, and phone sex operators with disdain – I will be safe. I’m not like them. I’m a respectable woman. That won’t happen to me.

That’s just my theory and if it’s correct, honestly it sucks, but I get it. We all want to feel safe, and sometimes we tell ourselves whatever we have to do to get that feeling. I feel you, kittens, so let me give you a challenge for today or this week or month (whenever you find the energy and time and motivation) to reevaluate the premise of your own beliefs on this topic, no matter where your opinions lie. If you see fault in the actions of sexual-assault survivors, I encourage you to rethink that – ask yourself why you think that way, and try to imagine how someone else might see the situation if they had different experiences than you have. If you are more in line with my way of thinking and look down upon fellow women who victim-blame, I ask that you try to think of them with a bit of compassion in your heart. You don’t have to agree with what they say, but try to see their reaction as valid.

Ugh, Buddhism has ruined me for #NCN. What am I gonna doooooo.

#NCN for Nov. 6 – Pseudointelligence and the Open Mind

So, there is very little in this world that irks me more than pseudointelligence. Educating oneself outside the structure and privilege of formal education is totally legit, I’ve got no problem with that. But pretending that you know all the shit because you believe everything you read, online or otherwise, or because you are surrounded by people who have the same uninformed, baseless opinions, or because you have no concept of source credibility? Not legit.

One of the most confusing experiences I’ve ever had was being a teenager in high school when a white boy tried to get me onboard with the idea that one’s race determines, to a significant extent, one’s intellectual ability. Of course, he didn’t open with that – he would have lost me as an audience right away, and honesty, it’s coming on too strong. So first, he asked me if I believe everything I hear or  if I try think critically. I said I tried to think critically, although at 14, my critical thinking skills weren’t super polished. He said that was good, and went on to ask if I believed that just because an idea was widely accepted, that it was necessarily true. I said no. It went on like that for a few more questions, perhaps with different wording, but all in the same flavor family. Then came the real question: after agreeing with all those very broad and reasonable statements, would it not be reasonable to question whether there might actually be a causal connection between race and intelligence? At that age, I felt more like a skittish baby rabbit than a fire-breathing feminist, but I managed to voice my disagreement and quickly disengage from the conversation, almost certainly giving that boy some twisted feeling of accomplishment, having “outed” me as “close-minded” and a “hypocrite.”
I didn’t have the words at the time to tell him that one can be both open-minded and accept certain basic truths as fact, or that I didn’t appreciate being made to think of racism in terms of a thought experiment when it was a very real part of my everyday life, or that any correlation between race and intelligence leaves out some very important explanatory factors, like educational background, socioeconomic status, vocational opportunities, nutrition, access to information technology, and more. I didn’t know, then, how to make a clear and logical argument and stick by my conclusions, or to shut down such a conversation because honestly, my energy is better spent elsewhere. But I was lucky enough to go to a good college, collect some life experience, read everything I could get my hands on, to keep learning and doing and trying and failing and trying again.
I’m really grateful for that, and I feel more confident, and I have every confidence in every single one of you kittens that you are #slaying like the #queens you are. Unfortuantely, people like Little Mister Open-Minded are still a part of our society, and they are loud, and they suck. Don’t let them confuse you, babies. You can let them “well, actually” all they fucking want, but their thought experiments don’t compare to the very real facts and very real lives supported by liberal intersectional feminism (you kids). Stay strong, keep learning things however you can, and if you encounter any of these know-it-all douchenozzles who philosophize every single problem they don’t have to encounter themselves, you have every right to ignore them and go on about your day. Just because people are fools does not mean you have to educate them. Live and let be ignorant.

#NCN for Nov. 5 – Mental Health and Self-Diagnosis

So like – what’s up with people who hate on others who self-diagnose their own mental health disorders? My first question would be the old classic, why the fuck do you even care? Do you think you’re better than someone because you have access to medical care that they don’t? Mental health diagnoses require sessions with a therapist, a formal psychological evaluation, maybe some other things, and then eventually the treatment to go along with whatever diagnosis you end up with – medication, more psychotherapy, a hospital stay or two if you’re feeling fancy.

The thing is… all those components of receiving and dealing with a mental illness diagnosis cost money. And even if the money for the explicit costs is available or someone is able to take advantage of free facilities – which is already a battle in itself because free clinics are ridiculously overwhelmed, understaffed, and working with impossible budget restraints -, there are still implicit costs involved. An implicit cost is something you don’t pay for with money, but by giving up the chance to do something else that has quantifiable value – opportunity cost, for those of you playing at home. That could mean the time consumed in working to get mental health treatment might cost you time you could have otherwise spent at your job or jobs, or extra transportation costs, extra childcare costs, or even just the general transaction costs of researching treatment facilities, making appointments, getting there on time, cancellation fees if your work coverage or childcare arrangements fall through, and the list goes on.

Simply put, even when treatment is free, it’s not really free.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with doing some online research into what kind of disorder you could have before starting the long and tedious process of treatment. Accepting that something might be wrong with the one organ you should be able to trust – your own brain – is a deeply personal process, and might be one that can be too overwhelming to start in a strange place with strange people, even if that’s a doctor’s office with trained professionals. Just because they’ve hopped all the necessary educational hurdles doesn’t mean their bedside manners are sufficient for people struggling with a newly diagnosed mental illness, nor does it mean they don’t harbor some resentment or ill feelings towards people with mental health problems. Let me tell you from personal experience that some of the most stubborn mental health stigmas begin and end with healthcare professionals, okay?

Looking through some online sources to educate yourself on your potential disorder is smart and understandable and it’s an important step in dealing with that disorder. The involvement of a doctor is not always possible, so leave people alone and let them deal with their mental health however they can. Self-diagnosis is a legitimate way to try to help yourself, giving the fucked up state of healthcare costs, so live and let live, kittens.

#NCN for Nov. 4 – Fatphobia and “Health” “Advice”

Alright, fat-shamers, you’re up next. I see you, asking your friends if they really want to eat that, making comments about calories and carbs and sugar content, as if anyone fucking asked what you thought.

But Linda, I care about my friends’ health. I shame them because I care.

I hear you, dude. It’s bullshit, but I hear you. Let’s be real for a moment, so you can have a chance to look down deep inside, buried underneath all of your excuses and justifications is a big, old lump of fatphobia, resting warmly in a candy coating of shitty excuses (yours, by the way. Your shitty excuses). Stop pretending like you care about the health and nutrition of others (unless you’re, like, a doctor or a nutritionist, in which case – do you, boo). You don’t care, you’re just furthering the stereotype that fat = unattractive, and unattractive = unworthy of respect, a mindset that has  been bred into you by patriarchal society. And you know how I know you don’t care about health? Well, consider a few scenarios.

You see a very trim friend of yours going to town on a bacon cheeseburger – do you make a rude comment about whether they should be eating that, or express envy that they can eat what they want and stay slim? If you see someone working a lot of long hours and not taking care of themselves, do you express concern or say you’re impressed by their work ethic? If someone is showing warning signs of severe depression, do you broach the topic or do you ignore it and hope it goes away? If your answer is the latter in any circumstance, I’ve got bad news, friend – your concern is not about health, it’s about appearance.

So? You want your friends to look good and feel good, right? No, wrong. If you want your fat friends to feel good, accept them as they are and stop trying to change them – and how do you know they don’t already feel good? I’m fat and I’ve got enough confidence to poison a man twice my size. I feel great, I love myself, and when people assume I don’t because I don’t fit their Eurocentric idea of what it means to be attractive, it doesn’t make me feel bad so much as it makes me roll my eyes and quietly vow to distance myself from that person.

But enough about me. Now, because I care about your health, is your golden opportunity to knock it the fuck off. Before you make suggestions about someone’s health, ask yourself: are you in any position to know how their general health actually is? Are you truly asking out of concern for the person’s health, or is it more about your own ideas of attractiveness? Have you made similar comments before, and were they well received? And finally, and this is important: did the person you want to advise fucking ask you?! If not, back the fuck OFF. Go worry about your own health and leave everyone else alone. Damn.

#NCN for Nov. 3 – Hate Speech Against the Mentally Ill

Call me crazy – or fucking don’t because it’s hateful – but it boggles my motherfucking mind how, in an age of increasingly liberal marriage equality laws and endless information at one’s literal fingertips, we as a society still fail so miserably at dealing wth mental illness. It infuriates the hell out of me to see people express so much grief and distress over a celebrity’s suicide, only to turn around and unironically dismiss someone’s behavior as “crazy” or “psycho.”

Dave Chappelle says that calling someone “crazy” is one of the worst things you can do to them – he says it’s a dismissive way to admit you don’t understand your behavior and don’t want to. There are probably a lot of things in the world you don’t understand that you’d totally get if you asked the right questions, did the right research, or just thought about someone other than yourself for fucking once in your life.

Homeless people might behave strangely in your eyes because their mental illness made it difficult or impossible for them to hold down a job and pay for housing, or because living on the street and being treated like an animal fucks with your head. Maybe someone does not dress or talk in a way that’s understandable to you, because they led a very different life, but that doesn’t make them mentally ill. Maybe your friend is feeling moody or is very particular about how she organizes her possessions, but that doesn’t mean she’s “acting bipolar” or is, like, “so OCD.”

It is so inexcusably awful to use language associated with mental illness as a means to put down and dismiss behavior you don’t understand, or add spice to a conversation because you’re too boring to come up with anything else. Not only is it rude and stupid, it pushes people who are actually suffering from mental illnesses further and further into hiding. If you dismiss someone’s behavior because you don’t understand it and you think it’s “crazy,” how can you be expected to handle your friend’s depression? Or personality disorder? Or substance abuse problem? Or generalized anxiety? Are you going to put them down, too? Call them crazy? Tell them to “be strong” and “get over it”?  Please don’t. You’re not helping.

Learn to put away words like “insane” or “crazy”; just because you can’t think of a way to use language without further marginalizing already marginalized groups of people doesn’t mean it’s right. Be mindful of the way you use those words, think about how their use affects the people around you, or if you can’t do any of that, just shut up. If you can’t speak without hurting people, just don’t. Your silence is your friend.

#NCN for Nov. 2 – Trigger Warnings in Education

Allow me to start off by saying this: if you’re an educator, I already like you. Trying to make people learn things is thankless, tedious, awful work, and I have mad respect for anyone who claims to find it rewarding. You’re dealing with young, impressionable minds and whatever you gotta do to get through your day is your business, dawg. Unfortunately, I’ve seen and read about a few educators who not only refuse to utilize content warnings in their classes, but reject the concept altogether. I mean, what you do in your classes is your choice, but I detect a glaring logical fallacy in the main argument against trigger or content warnings.

Those who oppose the use of content warnings may not subscribe fully to the “special snowflake” school of anti-millennial sentiment, but often cite the need for open-mindedness as a prerequisite for getting an education. I mean, yeah, but let me tell you, just because those young minds are all soft and pliable does not mean you are treading uncharted territory. Without your knowledge, any of your students may have experienced any kind of abuse, bullying, extreme poverty, homelessness, harassment, police brutality, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, unplanned pregnancy, severe illness or injury, and the horrid list goes on – I can’t even keep writing it, it’s making me sad. Anyway, you can’t protect everyone against everything – you’re not a necessary childhood immunization – but some of your students will benefit from a brief head’s up if they’re about to see something particularly sexual, violent, or gruesome.

The assumption that a basic act of kindness will close up all your young minds is false, kids. It will only help trauma survivors prepare themselves mentally, maybe do a bit of preemptive grounding to prevent a flashback, and allow themselves to be more open – not less – to the lesson by giving them a chance to manage their emotional response.

Some minds will enter and leave your classrooms sealed shut like a cheap pair of headphones cased in plastic. That’s just bad luck; some people are hard-headed.

But some minds come in all ready to learn and then shut down after a surprise trauma response – not cool, teach. Give peace a chance and all that shit. You don’t have to use trigger and content warnings in your classes – I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, although avoiding triggering some kid’s post-traumatic episode can only help your cause. Just keep an open mind, just like you expect your students to do.

#NCN for Nov. 1 – White Privilege

I’m just going to make this official – you cannot, as a white person in 2017, ignore the reality of your white privilege. Please… do not come at me with your “reverse racism” noise, whining about the United Negro College Fund or Latinx Pride until you’ve got centuries of systemic exclusion, discrimination, and disadvantage behind you. I don’t want to fucking hear it.

One more time, real loud for the people in the back: you benefit from white privilege whether or not you willingly or knowingly contribute to systems of racial inequality and oppression. You benefit every time you don’t get shot by a trigger-happy cop. You benefit every time someone assumes you’re an American citizen instead of asking for proof. You benefit every time you are not “randomly selected” for extra TSA screening at airport security. I am sick and tired of white tears for racial discrimination that originated in your overactive fucking imaginations. Here’s a mantra to practice if you need a little extra help: “I am white. My whiteness comes with perks. It is up to me not to be a dick about it.” Feel free to change “dick” to an expletive of your choosing.

Anyway – this is not to say white people cannot experience forms of marginalization independent of skin color, like homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat-shaming, or misogyny. White privilege means that if all other factors – income, sexual orientation, gender identity, body type, to name a few – are the same (ceteris paribus, if you’re into Latin), a person of color will usually experience more difficulties than a white person because the variable of racism adds hardship to fucking everything else.

But Linda, you interject between bites of avocado toast in the bed of your rental van, I’m not a racist.

I hear you, friend, I do.

But listen here: identifying as “not a racist” does not make it impossible for you to do racist things or say racist shit. You could be racist without meaning to – it happens and it’s an uncomfortable lesson to learn, but dammit kid, you gotta be open to learning it if any kind of post-racial anything is going to happen, for reals.

Also, if this wasn’t clear before, white privilege does not benefit racists exclusively. It’ll benefit your white ass no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum.

So. You’re white, reportedly not a racist, and you’re neck-deep in sweet, sweet privilege – what do you do about it? Acknowledge it, for fuck’s sake, before I go the fuck off – and use it to help people. Racists, ignorant white people, and the otherwise problematic will listen to you in a way that they just won’t listen to people of color.

And stop calling yourself color-blind – it’s not cute. You can’t fight ignorance with more ignorance, it doesn’t work.