Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Women & Crazy: Some Heretical Thoughts

Image of me courtesy XRay Delta Flickr CC
Want to know what's really crazy?

Arguing with people on the interwebs, that's what.

I've engaged in this insane practice more than I care to admit, even though I know how pointless it is. I know I'm not alone.

Still, it's not all negative.

You learn stuff on the interwebs, weird stuff you need to know. It's kind of like taking the pulse of the masses, such as we are, and we are not always making a heckuva lotta sense.

Here are some popular interweb memes that seem to me to be totally batshit:
  1. If you eat well, exercise, and feel all your feelings fully and completely, you will never get sick or have any emotional problems.  Rot and nonsense. This is something scared, selfish people tell themselves to avoid caring about others and/or to magically protect themselves. How about this: Trouble comes to all of us in time, so don't judge. Remember Jim Fixx? Yup. The unwelcome truth is, "Eat right, exercise daily, die anyway."
  2. Vaccines are a government/big pharma plot to control your mind/kill you/turn your children into naked blind molerats. Listen up dipshits: Vaccinate your fucking kids. Whooping cough and measles are coming back because of your stupidity. I was alive when these diseases and others, including polio, were still common. If you think vaccines are now more dangerous than infectious illnesses that target kids, you need to learn how to read. 
  3. Women who are violently raped need to forgive their rapists in order to heal. This works even better if it happens within days of the rape in a very public forum like the Dr. Phil show. If you choose to swallow this poisonous crap, be aware that ten years from now you may still wake in the middle of the night screaming. It happens. A lot. So stop beating up on women for it and start prosecuting rapists. How's that for a formula for healing?
  4. Medication is poison. If you take medication for depression or bipolar disease you need to suck it up and heal yourself. Uh, um, sure. Or... maybe some people ought to shut the fuck up and stop giving medical advice without a degree in medicine. 
  5. Feminists are frigid bitches. Why do you say that as if it's a bad thing? Maybe I'm not a frigid bitch, maybe you are just kind of crude, smelly, and unattractive. I'm not saying that's how it is, I'm just offering up some other options for consideration.
As you can probably see if you've gotten this far into this cranky post, it's been a slow news day. Nothing much going on except for ebola showing up in the US, America blowing stuff up in the Middle East (for a change), killer flu strains in over 30 states paralyzing children, and an armed robbery at my favorite nature preserve. 

So all I could write about was how dumb the internet is. It isn't my fault. Nothing else to discuss.

Did you know that it's a series of tubes?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The NFL & Our Culture of Violence

Warning: rant in progress
As the spectacle of domestic violence and the NFL plays out on televisions across America, I'm guessing I can't be the only person in this country who finds this drama a little bit sick.

Even Dr. Phil is in on it now; a sure sign that the circus is in town for real.

Here are my thoughts, such as they are:
  1. The NFL doesn't give a shit about domestic violence. The NFL cares about profit and fans. So far, no one, and I mean NO ONE thinks fans are going to stop going to games or watching NFL football because some of the players punch their wives in the face or hit their four-year-olds with sticks. If you are upset that some NFL players are as violent at home as they are on the field but you are still watching and/or going to games, shut up. 
  2. Football in America is all about violence. If you don't believe me, attend just one pee wee football game and watch the parents get into fist fights and foam at the mouth swearing on the sidelines, as their confused five-year-old boys toddle a ball up and down a big field, hoping to be admired and loved. If you happen to be one of those parents, shame on you.
  3. Don't tell me you don't know that high school and college football players are considered rarified, privileged creatures who can do no wrong even as they degrade and demean others off the field, commit atrocities and, well, do great wrong whenever they are so inclined. Not every player certainly, but how long have these young men been held up to the community as shining examples of perfect manhood, while year after year some of them rape and harm 'townies' and any female they consider to be a sub-creature, which, basically, is almost any female. These women are shuffled away by authorities and if they do press charges they are deemed sluts. Nice. As if engaging in violent gang sex doesn't demean men, only women. 
  4. How many football players come from the upper classes? A few. Some quarterbacks. But most of the muscle comes from the black community and the working class. These men are gladiators. We can call them football players if it makes us feel better, but if you can't see through this you are deluding yourself. We make sure they play on broken bones and torn ligaments. When later in life they end up with permanent, traumatic brain injury, we throw them away. We figure it's fair because some of them make a lot of money for a short time.
Sports doesn't have to be like this, but it is like this, and has been for a very long time. 

Don't get me wrong. I watch football and sometimes I even enjoy it. But I don't nurse the delusion that I am watching squads of heroes. 

I know what sports in America is, I've seen it up close and personal most of my life, being related by birth to a 'sports hero' and local legend. It never has been what some people want to believe it is, and it seems to me that a better approach than screaming and crying when your heroes let you down is grow up a bit and see the world for what it is. 

Not that the world has to be what it is. 

We don't have to raise boys by knocking them around and bullying them into 'toughness'. We don't have to make it clear to them that the boys who matter most, the boys who are admired most, are the boys who can be mean as hell and pretend to be nice. As a culture we could instead demand good sportsmanship, kind behavior, scholarship, and accountability, but we don't. 

We want our guns. We want our macho saviors. We want to know that, as a nation, we can bomb into oblivion any country that shows us disrespect no matter how ineffective that strategy proves to be. If we have to watch a black man on TV, we want to see him mow down a squad of other black men, not give a Presidential speech, not host Cosmos. 

Every day we convey to our young men that might makes right and violence earns respect, demanding conformity and shaming anyone who falls short. 

As long as we glorify violence, we will get violence. 

The violence in the NFL is a mirror. There is nothing 'in there' that isn't out here in equal if not greater numbers. And if we really cared about that, we'd change it.

But we won't.

You know it. I know it. 

So let's stop pretending. It's disrespectful to the women who absorb the blows. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Do Men Rape?


Men rape because they can.

What?  You were expecting some sort of complex psychological analysis maybe? Mother issues? Violence in the home? Sociopathy and its many permutations?

Nope, it's just easy to get away with, and lots of men get away with it every year.

According to the CDC, about 1.3 million rapes happen in the U.S. every year. The FBI estimate of 300,000 per year uses a much narrower definition of rape that excludes violent sexual acts that are not forced intercourse (use your imagination, I'm sure you'll figure it out).

Both numbers are bad, and both organizations recognize that over half of all rapes are never reported.

I got to thinking about this in the wake of all the hoopla about domestic violence and football, after the release of the endlessly replayed clip of football player Ray Rice punching his wife in the face and dragging her unconscious body off of an elevator.

The NFL doesn't really care about this. The NFL cares about getting embarrassed by it or losing money over it, sure, but violence against women? No, that's part of sports culture and everyone implicitly 'gets' that.

So it was weird to see the NFL on the defensive this week, crying crocodile tears over something they not only don't care about, they actively foster. It was almost as weird as seeing Jerry Sandusky cry crocodile tears about the love and concern he had for all the boys he'd been sexually violating for, what? A couple of decades? Gee whiz, it weren't like that, honest, he said. He loved those boys, he said.


I cry bullshit on all of this because you know what? Several studies have linked rape and domestic violence to macho subcultures which objectify women and see sex as a contact sport, a conquest, an entitlement that real men take when they need it, no apologies necessary. (See for instance, Lisak & Miler 2002; Foubert, Newberry, & Tatum 2007; and Loh, Gidycz, Lobo & Luthra 2005.)

But do you really need studies to confirm what we already know about sports culture?

Activist and survivor Theresa Flores founded her S.O.A.P. campaign as a way to reach out to the adolescent girls sold in motel rooms in cities hosting major sporting events. A bar of soap goes inside every room if the motel owner agrees. On the soap is a hotline number a girl can call to get help.

Flores survived such an adolescence, and this simple attempt to turn the situation around has put her in a certain amount of danger. But she keeps at it.

You might wonder, how is that underage girls can be trafficked around sporting events and this woman from Detroit knows about it but the police don't?

That's a good question, and it's not unlike the question of how the NFL didn't know that Ray Rice was in the habit of punching his wife in the face.

We all turn a blind eye to atrocity. To a certain degree, we have to just to get through each day. But our women and girls are too valuable, too important to be wasted and disrespected in the name of a game that props up men with weak sexual identities.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy sports. I watch football.

I just believe it is possible to play and watch sports without hurting women. In fact, in grade school and high school sports are promoted as a way to 'build character' in boys and young men. We should hold our young, and older men to a much higher standard.

Will the NFL (and the rest of the U.S.) clean it up?

I don't think so. Not willingly.

But I can hope for a day when Mrs. Rice knows that a kiss is a kiss and a punch in the face is a punch in the face, and so do the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Forgiveness Gone Wrong

Damaged inner child wolf
Anyone with a Facebook account knows that the way to heal any kind of family problem, social problem, or mental or emotional disorder is to practice forgiveness.

I've seen at least a dozen meaningful, moving forgiveness platitudes posted on the FB this week alone.

But what does forgiveness really mean?

Before I get into that, let me tell you a story about what it doesn't mean.

Back in the 90s, when I was an adjunct college teacher (roughly the equivalent of a McDonald's employee except you don't have to say "Would you like fries with that?") I was invited to attend a one-day retreat offered by the Women's Studies Department.

A Native American medicinal healer was going to be there. So was a famous Eastern European self-proclaimed feminist witch.

Since my academic mentor had strongly suggested I attend, I did.

It was a pleasant experience for the most part. We made some stuff out of clay. We did some meditative exercises.

Then, as we sat down together to eat a noon meal, the conversation wandered over to forgiveness, the super megavitamin of all non-traditional healing. Everyone seemed to feel pretty damned forgiving and lamented the fact that more people weren't as evolved as them.

At this point I was ready to leave but to do so at that moment would have been impolite so I kept chewing and not talking, hoping this would all end mercifully soon.

Someone brought up Hitler. Would you forgive Hitler?

Now here was a meaty New Age hypothetical if ever there was one (which there never was, just in case you were wondering).

After a bit of reflection it turned out everyone at the table would have forgiven Hitler. One person knew Hitler had had a crappy childhood. Another had read about his conflicted feelings about his Jewish ancestry. Still another suggested that if you can't forgive Hitler you can't forgive anyone.

At this point, against my academic self-interest (such as it was) I cried bullshit.

No one at that table had been in a death camp. No one was Jewish. It was no one's business there to forgive Hitler, because Hitler had not wronged any of them, except to maybe offend their ethereal sensibilities.

Everyone now turned their attention to helping me raise myself to a higher level of consciousness so I could forgive Hitler and heal the world, at which point I said, "Get off of me."

Weirdly, the Eastern European self-proclaimed feminist witch came to my defense, shutting everyone else up immediately.

"No, she's right," she said. "Hitler is in a different category. It's not a good topic."

By the way she was glaring at me, I knew she had no softness toward me as a person (later confirmed through a friend and also my mentor). I mean, I know a Madame Blavatsky bullshitter wannabe when I see one, having that kind of ancestry myself on my mother's side, and having seen one.

I didn't really care that she didn't like me.

So the fact that she stuck up for me in this crowd was a bit of a surprise.

Here's the thing: Human beings are capable of great atrocity. We all can access a darkness that is so deep it feels supernatural, whether or not it really is. The best you can do in such instances is turn away, laugh, focus on loving yourself and others.


It was a 'given', beforehand, that Hitler, having aligned himself with this Darkness would cause suffering and death beyond imagining. If we, imagining ourselves safe from harm and looking back at this transcendent evil feel moved to embrace the damaged child inside of a dangerous man who no longer exists in the flesh, does that help anyone?

Does it heal what happened?

No. It just feeds our own egos, which, by the way, are already way too good at giving us bad advice.

Sometimes, when faced with such Darkness, if you can summon the strength to turn away and heal yourself, and go on to live and love, that is enough. That, in fact, is amazing and heroic.

May you never have to experience this truth firsthand.

Many have, however.

You probably know more than few, and yet you don't know, because they remain silent.

I try to remember this, although I'm not always successful. Sometimes you open your mouth and your brain falls out.

Now that, as a person who has lost my mind many times, is something I can forgive.