Monday, May 20, 2013

theme: err on the side of caution?

1. I recently told my boyfriend that i wanted to be an English teacher to stop people from making shitty "art" that incorrectly references Romeo and Juliet. Two prime examples are Twilight and Taylor Swift. Bella, who we know is super smart and sensitive because she reads lots of depressing literature and compares her life to it, is particularly fond of Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet references. Because apparently, neither she nor Stephenie Meyer noticed that in WH, the main characters are two spectacularly shitty people who make each other and everyone else they encounter bitter and miserable. And they don't end up together. And in R&J, the two main characters impulsively get married, and then impulsively kill themselves (seriously, Romeo, if you had waited like thirty seconds, you would have lived happily ever after!). You can't exactly call it a great love story, not if you're paying attention. In Taylor Swift's song "Love Story", she outlines a story that is superficially similar to R&J (and also throws in a confusing Scarlet Letter allusion), and the whole point of the song is that her dad didn't like her boyfriend so they were just like Romeo and Juliet and then Romeo proposes and her dad is cool with it and they live happily ever after.
So for everyone whose English teacher did a crappy job teaching this play, let me clear something up: if your relationship reminds you of Romeo and Juliet, THAT IS A RED FLAG. GET OUT NOW.
This post from Cliff Pervocracy underlines that point, although from a slightly different angle. Teenagers in love make terrible decisions, and a parent who tries to stop those decisions is not a bad person. Ignore Twilight. Ignore Taylor Swift. Romeo and Juliet are not good role models. Teenagers of the world, frustrated affection will not actually kill you. Impulsivity might.

2. I've posted a few times about how i'm in this awesome relationship and it's really confusing, because i've never dated someone for this long before and we're not engaged now and won't be any time soon, so i have no idea how to just keep being someone's girlfriend. I'm not struggling to patch holes in a failing relationship, i'm not flushed with new love, i'm not desperately seeking an excuse to break up. I'm deeply in long-term love in a strong relationship and i don't know what the hell to do about it. I know how to get into relationships and i know how to leave them, but the basic daily maintenance of relationships is hard and new and confusing. I'm glad i'm not the only one who feels that way.

3. This is a 

  • graphic novel
  • written by a woman
  • about food
  • that includes recipes.
So basically, it was designed with me in mind.

4. In the last election, we spent a lot of time talking about rape, because some legitimate medical doctors who specialize in women's reproductive health and some legitimate lawyers who specialize in rape cases explained to us all that there are different kinds of rape, and that one of them can never result in pregnancy, so we need to stop using that excuse to justify abortions. Oh wait, actually, what happened was a bunch of idiot politicians accused women of making false rape claims and also demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of how biology works.
In the aftermath, i had a conversation with a well-meaning friend who pointed out that women do sometimes falsely accuse men of rape, and it really sucks for the men. Back then, i was less educated about rape culture than i am now, but i did know that a woman who cries rape, whether true or not, will be blamed and doubted and questioned and ridiculed, and a man accused of rape, whether true or not, will be defended. I said then that i'd rather live in a world where women feel comfortable reporting rape, even if that means that men are sometimes falsely accused, than in a world where women who really have been raped are afraid to come forward because they think no one will believe them, even if that means that no man is ever falsely accused. Or, as Cliff puts it, "I'd rather live in a world where a hundred false accusers are told 'I believe you, I care about you, and I'll stand up for you,' than where one rape survivor is told 'gosh, this story has two sides and I really need to consider him innocent until proven guilty.'"

5. "Maybe I'm a fatalist, but I think that if someone wants to cheat on me, they'll cheat. If they don't want to cheat on me, they can go to a skinny-dipping-and-soapy-Twister party with thirty-eight beautiful single women and not cheat. But trying to keep them from cheating by having weird rules (other than "don't cheat on me") about who they can associate with -- that falls somewhere between creepy and downright abusive in my book."

6. I love this outline of consent culture, especially the conclusion, where Cliff draws a parallel between different types of consent violation. Now, i absolutely DO NOT want to suggest, or to imply that Cliff has suggested, that someone making you dance or go to a bar or give them a hug or whatever is the same as being raped. I do want to affirm, as Cliff points out, that we can't arbitrarily decide that "no" counts in some circumstances and not in others. It's not okay to force sex on someone who says no. It's also not okay to force alcohol on someone who says no. It's not okay to force a hug on someone who says no. It's not okay to force socialization on someone who says no. And it IS okay to say no to anything that you're not totally enthusiastic about.

7. I will definitely be keeping this in mind when it's time to talk to my own kids about sex.

8. Even if all you read is the title of this post, it makes a great point. Because here's the thing: if someone calls you racist, they are either right or wrong. Right? Either you are being racist or you are not. If they are wrong, you probably won't get anywhere by arguing with them. They are confused, or over-sensitive, or they misunderstood something, or whatever. You can apologize, and you can ask what was offensive in your statement, and hopefully the ensuing conversation will clear up their misunderstanding. And if not, oh well. But if they honestly think you are being racist, even if they are wrong, you arguing with them is unlikely to change their mind. And if they are right, if you are being racist, arguing with them will definitely not help your case. Instead, you can apologize and ask what was offensive in your statement, and hopefully the ensuing conversation will clear up your misunderstanding. Oh hey, look at how the recommended plan of action is the same in either instance!
I can't speak for anyone else, but i know that i personally will occasionally surprise myself with a racist thought or feeling. I'm not, like, actively racist; i don't burn crosses or wear a white sheet or petition for re-segregation or anything like that, but i do occasionally discover an underlying assumption that i wasn't even aware of. It's helpful to have these things pointed out to me, because that's how i learn that they exist and can start working to eliminate them.
It doesn't feel good to realize that you are racist. It doesn't feel good to have someone of a different race point out that you are racist against them. But i'm guessing that it probably doesn't feel that great to be non-white and to live in a white-dominant culture where most people you meet will be a little bit racist toward you at least once. I'm guessing it doesn't feel great to live in a culture where everything you are is Other and everything you're not is normal. I'm guessing it doesn't feel great to see institutionalized racism all around you, so deeply ingrained into everyday life that a lot of people don't even notice it. And i'm guessing it doesn't feel great to gently point out some of these racist things and have people get all upset and tell you that you're wrong and you need to be less sensitive. As above with the false rape accusations thing, i'd rather have an overly sensitive non-white person tell me every day that something i did or said was racist, even if they are wrong, than to have even one thing that i say or do or thing cause pain to someone else.

Also, i've repeatedly said here that the person accusing you of racism might be wrong or overly sensitive, but the chances of that being true are pretty slim. If you say something about Black (or Asian, or Hispanic, etc.) people and a Black (or Asian, or Hispanic, etc.) person tells you that it is a racist thing to say, they are almost definitely correct. And even if the thoughts and feelings underlying your statement were truly not racist, it's pretty clear that you didn't express yourself clearly, so aren't you glad to learn that your words are unclear and to have a chance to clarify your statements?

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