Asking You

If you read this blog, and I know at least 2 people do, what I’d love today is for you to introduce yourselves in comments and to tell me something wonderful that is going on today in your life, or something you need help with/support for. Or both, you don’t have to choose.

I’m asking this mostly because I was looking through the topics I had to write about and the ranges from the sad to seriously horrible. And while I believe things need to be written about, signal boosted, linked and brought to attention, sometimes I’d like something more connecting, personal, inspirational.

This way, people can either help you out or feel inspired to do something awesome. And we can get back to more difficult topics later in the week.

I’ll go first.

Hi, I’m Julie! Something wonderful that’s gone on today is that I felt validated about the power of dialogue and empathy rather than use of snark and assholery when it comes to connecting online. I’m not naive enough to believe it will always be effective, but I enjoy seeing in action when it does work.

And I got to eat red curry for lunch.

As for something I need help with, my kids seem to have been assaulted by some biting bug situation over the past two nights in their room. What is it? A spider? Chiggers from the woods? A hidden water supply raising mosquitoes? Tonight we will have to find out!

Seriously, they look a hot mess.

Feel free to leave a comment. Let’s see who is out there…

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On Elizabeth Smart, Sex and Worth: People Are Not Gum

I cannot believe, in 2013, that this statement needs to be made.

People are not gum.

People do not get used up from sex. People are not like chewed pieces of Trident or like dirty toothbrushes because they’ve had sex.

Elizabeth Smart, a formidable and courageous young woman, who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in 2002 (and who was found, recognized and rescued in 2003), has formed a foundation to educate children on sexual crimes. She also now promotes comprehensive sex education.

She was widely asked, “Why didn’t you run away?”, a question I can only fathom was asked out of some kind of magical thinking that “that would NEVER happen to me!” and ignorance of the Stockholm effect, instead of real empathy for her (or other survivors).

In this article at Think Progress, she states an emphatic “why” to that question-because her education on sex indicated that once she was raped, she was now worthless.

Elizabeth Smart: Abstinence Education Teaches Rape Victims They're Worthless, Dirty, And Filthy | ThinkProgress.

“Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

Abstinence Only education is an abomination and it clearly doesn’t work as indicated by the high rate of pregnancy in my home state. And given our State’s desire to limit access to comprehensive health care for teens and women, it will increase.

Comparing one’s sexuality to dirty gum or to used toothbrushes, as Shelby Knox once shared about her own sex education in Lubbock, is immoral, unethical, and just plain stupid.

First of all, our genitals are not gum. Nor are they toothbrushes. They are parts of our bodies that don’t wear out with use, just like our mouths don’t wear out from different foods, or our hands from different tools. The genitals are hardy parts of us, designed, well…for use. Like all the rest of our parts.

Secondly, the emphasis on “cleanliness” and “purity” generally seems to focus on women and virginity (as monitored by males in the family) and not on boys. Why else would there be purity balls and promise rings for girls, but not boys? Can you imagine a purity ball in which a young man pledges himself to his mother until he meets his future wife?

Men are still taught that getting sex is key to maleness, even as women are taught not to “give” it away, lest they be compared to chewed up gum.

Finally, this view of sex is barbaric and horrifying, and is as old fashioned as the religions and property laws it stems from. Sex is pleasure, it’s communication, it’s personal and private to individuals and the partners they get to choose. We are not mindless pieces of plastic that get dirty, we are complex human beings that improve with experience and knowledge.

The worth of a woman isn’t determined by how untouched her sexual organs are, but by her actions and her courage.

In which case, surviving a horrible assault and now doing the important work of reaching out to families, children, and educators in support of comprehensive sexual education (not to mention doing this in a climate where politicians and religious leaders push back on all fronts to keep our kids in the dark and believing such falsities), I’d say Elizabeth Smart is one of the most worthwhile and worthy people I’ve ever heard of.

If you agree, get involved here.

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Signal Boost: An Open Letter to Facebook | MotherWise

FB has some strange policies around what is and isn’t “pornographic.” Highly sexualized images of women, rape “joke” pages, and so forth are allowed.

Images educating people on where the clitoris is, or images of breastfeeding are not.

Check this post out by MotherWiseLife on being blocked, having photos removed, and having her own account shut down (the one connected to this page) and share it. On your FB.

As Sheryl Sandberg would say, LEAN IN.

An Open Letter to Facebook | MotherWise.

If FB allows the page “Best Ass Fap” surely they can handle an image of the vulva for educational purposes.

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Signal Boost: A TED Talk That Might Turn Every Man Who Watches It Into A Feminist? Its Pretty Fantastic.

This is an amazing video. Jackson Katz teaches leadership and is an activist for gender equality and non violence and where men can lead, with pride and power, in pushing back against sexism and interpersonal violence-for women, for daughters but also for men and sons.

A TED Talk That Might Turn Every Man Who Watches It Into A Feminist? Its Pretty Fantastic..

The first section of the piece covers a lot of issues around privilege. He lays it out brilliantly and I felt validated in a weird way (because I’d never seen the Ted Talk) because I’d just been writing about “default” identities-whiteness, maleness, straightness in a recent article on the blog, which was inspired by others writing the same thing.

I believe there are more and more people waking up to the reality that whiteness, maleness, straightness…all the “defaults” are as wrapped up in and affected by the “isms” as are the people of color, women, gays and lesbians. We are finally starting to bring out the idea of privilege in a powerful way, identifying the dynamics of dominance and power that work their way into all of our consciousness.

And these are real dynamics that affect us all. Culture and societal influences are pervasive and deep. Narratives that are passed down over hundreds of years are hard to even see at times because they become “how things are.”

He ends his piece with a push for leadership: power, pride, strength around this work of peace. Stepping up for others is power. Stepping up for others is aligning ourselves with them and sharing our pride and our strength. Leading means teaching others how to lead as well.

It’s a great video, so if you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it.

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Oldies But Goodies-Friday

An old post about money. I’m still puzzling over this one.

How Do We Measure Success And Is Money The Enemy?

flickr creative commons thomasjphotos

I found this comment and quote on a FB site called Alliance of Shamanic Women Entrepreneurs {ASWE}. Since the work I do (the fundamental work I do) seems connected to healing, space creating, and counseling (and since I’m kind of an agnostic) I joined this site to figure out more about the world of spirituality and the business of business within it.

“Success is connected to your self-worth which is connected to the energy of money. I see too many women not step into their power around money. The world doesn’t need more broke storytellers, healers… it needs compassionate people to be successful, live their passion, make good money and do good things in the world with that money.

Spread the wealth. That is part of the journey and that is being successful. So my question is what if you allow success to be part of your story as a healer. Each person needs to have a dialog with their money story and their shadow issues with success.” from Shelly Smith.

It’s in reference to this quote by David Orr:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
― David Orr, Ecological Literacy

I personally feel more aligned with the David Orr quote. I don’t believe that the last 100 years of corporate citizenship and industrialization have necessarily made the world a better place spiritually. Sure we have more things. And ease of making those things happen (toasters!clean water! dishwashers). But it also seems like we have anxiety, neuroses, fear, greed out the wazoo and a new set point for what success is.

I don’t think money solves problems necessarily. I think power does tend to attract people who enjoy using power (and oftentimes that means corruption). But even beyond corruption, it seems to set up a standard in which more is better all the time.

Case in point, we bought a new mattress after 12 years. The boys, who live in luxury compared to the rest of the world, were sitting on all the tempurpedic adjustable massage beds and claiming they needed them! And that $2000 was a good price. And I thought, kid? 120 years ago, my great grandparents on my Dad’s side were sleeping in dugouts on the Colorado River. And I wonder if they were fundamentally happier. Maybe not. Possibly both.
So money is weird. Our culture is in love with more, with money, with this idea of success being known nationally, on television, in sound bytes, by Klout scores, and so forth.

But isn’t ok to be compensated for the work we do in order to live? And can that mesh with healing, arts, humanistic work? Do we value ourselves based on salary? How else do we buy food, shelter, clothes in a world that encourages us to buy those things x 10?

I do know that I feel more driven than ever to do healing work, it terrifies me, and if I figured the arts didn’t pay well, :) then I’m surely gonna live in the poorhouse doing social justice work. Then again, perhaps my relationship with money is my own shadow side. I certainly know I have judgements about wealth.

Perhaps the challenge is to continue to redefine how we measure success in a world that places much of that definition on money and financial status. And also figuring out how to accept honest compensation for work done. Or perhaps we continue to work and give our gifts away for free.

Puzzling.

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Oldies But Goodies-Thursday

I’m sharing posts from the archives this week. Here’s one on sex and how it’s a Human Problem.

Today on GMP, a writer, Girl Writes What has a piece up about the lines between sex and rape. It’s a contentious issues and the comments show a very interesting divide of views. Twitter is in on it, with many angry tweets about the piece and the site.

I myself have written several pieces for the GMP on the lines between sex and rape, sexual violence stats, and really communicating about sexuality. Really.

I’ve got some things to say about the post. First though, I want to state for the record, I am a feminist. I believe that the way most Americans are brought up to manage their sexual relationships is messed up. We have issues with sex in this country. I also believe that men can be and are assaulted and that the entire landscape around sex needs a major revamp

Our attitudes about sex in this country are like oil and water.

We love it! We use it for much of our advertising, PR and sales. We glorify sex, sexuality and hotness in our media, magazines, clothing lines and more. We have more online porn than one could ever watch! We want better sex in our marriages, we have scads of sex toys online stores! We teach men how to be better pick up artists!

We hate it! We teach abstinence only education in many states (states with extremely high rates of teen pregnancies!), we have wild political fights about contraception, religious freedoms and what women do or don’t have the right to with their bodies! We have bad sex, and no sex in our marriages! We cheat and feel guilty! We tell girls not to be sluts!

Here’s the thing and I’ve said this before. The stakes around sex are waaaaaay too high, and also? They aren’t high enough.

There are issues of entitlement, amazing justification for individuals getting what they want at the expense of others, massive need (apparently) for alcohol as a lubricant to get people doing what they supposedly want to be doing but can’t get to do with out some kind of intoxicant + social codes (I’ll buy you a drink = I want to have sex with you?) which can inevitably add up to sexual acts that one or more participants regret.

Intent is important and it isn’t always evident. Consent should be evident and there ain’t nothing wrong with continually learning how to ask, in sexy ways, if consent is still there. Men and women both (and in all the combinations gay/straight/bi etc) should perhaps learn early in life that sex is wonderful, pleasurable and there is an ethic involved. That bodies are good things and saying no is OK. That saying yes is OK too, so long as everyone is on the same page.

Your pleasure doesn’t take precedence over my safety and vice versa. But also, if I have a bad night of sex? If I regret it? That’s on me, too, as an active agent in my own sexual life.

Why aren’t these things being taught? (rhetorical, of course)

Or things like this: Be kind. Listen. When in doubt, slow the hell down. You can always have another orgasm, so ask if you aren’t sure your partner is into it.

I don’t have the answers, but I do see a bigger problem than feminism or masculism, a bigger problem than “keep your legs closed” or “be a PUA,” a bigger problem than people drinking to loosen up and whose fault is it due to drink.

We’ve got real issues with sex and intimacy and violence in this country.

Can we have a conversation about it without it turning into blaming or shaming? Conservative viewpoints or liberal ones? Or are we gonna keep spinning our wheels, creating poles of victims and perps, not identifying ways to really eradicate rape and sexual assault for both men and women, and coming to a point where human beings recognize that perhaps the problem isn’t sex as an action.

It’s that human beings, all of us, have an unfortunate tendency to want things like connection and intimacy, but we often act in ways that are less than ethical and justify our behaviors in all sorts of ways to avoid ostracism, disconnection and more.

All this? It’s a human problem. And the only way to solve any of it is to treat each other better than human. And to stand down from our poles and try to focus on humane solutions to human problems.

We need to completely revamp our relationship with sexuality, with humanity, violence, intimacy and equity in this country and I’ll be damned if I know how to make that happen. But I’m surely going to try.

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Signal Boost—Radical Love, Race, and Feminist Futures | The Feminist Wire

A tremendous article, tremendous project, and tremendous people.

“The vital energy of social justice largely derives from an ethic of compassion, even as some of our visceral responses undeniably come from rage and wounds. As cultural healers, critical academics, and engaged activists, we are called to be invested in transformation through radical love–for ourselves and each other–and difficult dialogue..

We are called to be fiercely honest, compassionate, and gracious in our discourse. Radical love can hold our rage, our sadness, and our grief over the ways we have failed each other, and may continue to fail each other. Without love, we remain fractured beyond measure.”

This is absolutely true.

Please read.

Radical Love, Race, and Feminist Futures | The Feminist Wire.

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