Monday, December 30, 2013

Forgiveness

Someone recently accused me of being unable to forgive, despite having known me for many years and having seen me forgive several people.  The authorities of my childhood parish also accused me of an inability to forgive.  Both parties are correct in one sense: they demanded immediate forgiveness on command, which I can not do.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to define, it is more than simply saying "it's ok" when someone has caused harm.  It involves releasing resentment, moving on both as an individual and as a relationship from an incident, letting go of hurt.  One can forgive another without ever speaking to the transgressor: forgiving someone who's hurt you doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to resume a relationship.  It's also possible to forgive someone who's died!

Functioning as an individual and as a member of a community is eased through forgiveness.  The act, which is an almost entirely introverted event with fuzzy boundaries, ameliorates harmony both internally and communally.  Forgiveness has been such a prominent religious concept because religious communities involve so much intangible vulnerability between participants.  Both forgiveness and spirituality exist on the line between logic and emotion.

Time between the hurtful occurrence and forgiveness (whether of the self or of the transgressor) is immeasurable.  The idea of needing to forgive in order to harmonize the self and the community is very old, and many ancient ritualistic religions involved going through some kind of ceremony in order to bring about forgiveness.  Some of these traditions also argued that to die without having forgiven would cause disaster: ritual fixed this dangerous chance.  Catholicism makes the same point, but with intimidation rather than facilitation*.  The line of the Our Father "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" meaning, at least as it was posed to me, that if you don't forgive everyone right away then God has no reason to forgive you so you've doomed yourself to Hell if Jesus could forgive while on the Cross what's stopping you?!?

No matter who demands forgiveness on command, the forgiveness itself is insincere when done through intimidation or fear.  The fault of the insincerity is on the pressuring party, not the forgiver.  I was already in the process of forgiving the person mentioned at the beginning of this post and the accusation of my inability only hindered the process.  Thinking and writing about the nature of forgiveness is a step in resuming that process, which has an unknowable duration.

* It may seem logically inconsistent to many that I would return to the very Church that hurt me so much.  Seeking out a parish of compassion and re-establishing myself as a practicing (keyword: PRACTICING.  Practice, not doctrine.) Catholic are steps in my forgiving of the Church.  By attending Sunday Mass and studying Catholicism, I'm harmonizing myself both as a spiritual individual and as a very tentative, doubting member of a community.

Friday, December 27, 2013

More Thoughts on Catholicism's Matriarchy



This podcast is a fascinating presentation on "Mary as Icon and the Feminine Genius."  Although I don't necessarily agree with all of it, it's vital for conversation on the Feminine in Catholicism to continue.  I've been working on this idea for a long time that the Catholic community is more matriarchal than most people anticipate: all the Marian shrines in yards, decals on cars, prayer cards, bedside statues, pendants, flowers, candles and rosaries evidence a feminine prominence.  Future archaeologists will likely look back on Catholics and determine their practice as matriarchal, based solely on these common items. 
Mary, in this podcast, is referred to as both the Tabernacle (Even the picture of the Tabernacle in the image above, which is referenced in the podcast, is vaginal) and as the Mother of the New Covenant.  It's very important to put words to these concepts, which are often vaguely accepted in the background without much thought.  Not only do these ideas about Mary reinforce Catholicism's connections with Pagan folklore and spirituality, but also empower women in the Church more than the patriarchal hierarchy has for centuries.  As women are the most active laypeople, at least in America, a communal understanding of being more than fundraisers, Sunday School teachers and secretaries (read: assistants) could be a valuable foothold in the Catholic community.

Also, I just had no idea how profound Eastern Orthodox iconography is.  Here I just thought it was a way of saying "look at all our money!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feminine Feminism

Some prominent foci of the current "4th Wave feminism*" are street harassment, intersectionality (though not often effective), and reclaiming femininity.  Crafts & domestic projects have become incredibly popular as both personal and feminist statements recently, primarily among privileged (read: predominantly white) feminists. This isn't that different from the DIY movement of the early 90's, save that we have the internet now and crafts today are typically much more feminine than then. I suggest that Pinterest is the primary subcultural point.

A few months ago, an argument passed around tumblr debating that the popularity of Pinterest among women evidenced a move back toward domestic femininity...but that it isn't a bad or regressive thing. Femininity has long been a widespread cultural scapegoat: a woman must be feminine in order to have value, though femininity is weak + devalued in patriarchy. Reclaiming crafts, domesticity, and general prettiness is a way young, privileged women are putting power into femininity. In the 1950's, femininity was often displayed in order to attract & keep a mate (see: The Feminine Mystique, The Erotic Silence of the American Housewife, Pink Think, etc.); that's unheard of now: today's feminine feminists do it for ourselves.

I'm waiting for more people to say that the empowering of domesticity is connected to the current feminist focus of street harassment. Catcalls & stalking often push women back into our homes just for the safety, and more dialogue among women is engendered therein. Domestic crafts are a way of reclaiming the very femininity street harassers prey upon, while also connecting to other women. Pinterest (and tumblr, etsy) has become the women's bookstore of the 2010's.

Of course there are problems within this feminist movement, largely relating to race (as always). Crafts require time and money and a safe place, and the websites of exchange display mostly white able-bodied people, white aesthetics, English at around a 6th grade reading level. WOC designers & businesses are often celebrated by tumblrs that focus on race, rarely by tumblrs that focus on gender/sex (and are therefore white tumblrs). Transphobia isn't unusual either, "I didn't mean it that way, therefore it's not transphobic." I'd like to say that intersectionality is improving now, but I am able-bodied & white and it's not my place to make such judgements.

Beginning about 7 years ago, much mainstream media noted that domestic femininity was becoming more common among [white, privileged, cisgender] women. Many such journalists speculated that feminism was ending, women were going home in order to become housewives, etc. They were partly correct, but they couldn't see femininity as something powerful willingly chosen by strong individuals.


* I'm beginning to realize that the use of Waves as categorizing islands of angry women, as opposed to a point of generational reference in a larger context, is a divisive tool used primarily by mainstream media.

Friday, November 29, 2013

I finally went to a drag show here in Nashville. It was great! And now, 3 months after moving, I'm homesick.

The performers were fantastic, a drag king kissed my cheek, it was 90’s night, people looked at me like I was fresh meat (been a long time since that’s happened!).  I’ll definitely go back.
But the drag show made me incredibly homesick for Milwaukee.  Finally.  Aside from some friends and food, I haven’t really missed the MidWest much.  The differences between there and here confound me sometimes, but I miss the SouthWest much more (and that’s just a constant).  Overall, the move to Nashville was definitely for the best: 1 catcall in 3 months, whoring is so much better, I love my job, it’s warmer, it’s greener, the poly community is amazing, there’s a great dungeon, I’m meeting kinky nerds, I’m living with my lover and I’m far away from my ex and his bullshit.  Essentially the only places that I’ve missed have changed with time and can’t be revisited anyway (malls in the late 90’s, Belmont & Clark right before emo started, the Adler Planetarium when it was still hating on the USSR).
But the Milwaukee queer community I miss dearly now.  It’s extremely open to anyone, it’s educational, it focuses on local charity, it provides safehavens to those who need it, it has EVERYTHING.  I can’t imagine a better community where I could have had my queer coming-of-age. The Miltown Kings drag troupe in particular makes it a point to comfort everyone in a safe atmosphere and they also have worked with dozens of nonprofits, volunteer organizations and campaigns.  There is a ton of drama, believe me!  But it’s set aside when shit needs to get done.  I remember when photography was banned at their shows because not everyone was out!  Now they want everyone to show off everything all the time, educate and welcome everyone.  I’m homesick for them.  
And then there’s Milwaukee PrideFest, the annual 3 day festival.  Pride Friends, the people you only ever see at PrideFest but you’re so happy to see each other every year.  I remember when queers from all over Wisconsin would come down and have their only Pride experience for the entire year - now they’re making spaces in their own communities and they bring their kids down to PrideFest!  My high school reunion is the Saturday night of PrideFest 2014 and I really hope I can do both.  I’m homesick for Milwaukee PrideFest even more than this time of year when I lived there.
The Chicago queer scene never impressed me: rampant transphobia and racism, people judged you by the labels you wore, one-upping each other all the time, drama gets in the way of everything.  The Madison queer scene is very welcoming and educational, but they have had severe management issues for years.  Milwaukee’s queer scene is the absolute best.  I’ve seen people transition, advance in their careers, get into relationships, get out of relationships, fuck up relationships, have kids, have dogs, have cats, get addicted, break addictions, move away, come back.  Everyone always has their eye on each other, which is really shitty when you’re trying to keep a messy breakup private - but it’s also comforting in some ways.  The familiarity and comfort are so far away now.
Of course one drag show here doesn’t tell me much about the Nashville drag troupe or queer community.  It was very different from the Miltown Kings community: nobody in bondage gear, only 1 performer spoke to the audience to announce an upcoming drag pageant, the performers clearly put a LOT of money into their appearances, no PBR (maybe that’s for the best), more racial diversity but less diversity of bodies.  I’ll definitely return to learn more, but for now I actually wish I was in Milwaukee.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plastic Surgery

Part of me understands it's not my body; a person's personal decision to change their body has no effect on me.  

But another part of me argues that all bodies are beautiful and something as invasive and synthetic as surgery shouldn't be needed to see that.  I'm not saying that people who get plastic surgery are necessarily vain or vapid, but I do wonder why a person would do something so drastic to change their appearances.

And I admit a strong personal bias.  When I was 10-14 all I wanted was rhinoplasty, I thought it would solve all my problems: my peers would stop bullying me ("you're too ugly to rape" "you're so ugly you should kill yourself"), my teachers would stop telling me that I was failing as a future housewife, the family taking care of me would let me out of their basement, my mother would stop blaming me for how much she hated her job, etc.  I actively compared myself to models in magazines and celebrities and my popular peers, just like all the women I knew did.  And I figured that if I couldn't afford rhinoplasty by the time I'd turn 16 or if it wouldn't work - if my ugliness couldn't be fixed - I'd just kill myself.  Replacing these toxic people with friends and family who genuinely loved and supported me, and finding positive messages to replace the hate, saved me.

Of course I can't know whether each person getting plastic surgery is led to it for this reasoning...but nobody should have to go through that and no amount of surgery can fix toxic relationships and self-loathing.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Facebook Drama, Even Now

One of my closest friends, M, and my now-ex, E, started dating about 5 months ago.  When they first began, I said I was ok with it...but E was already on a downward spiral in our relationship.  I was hurt when they first hooked up not because they hooked up, but because he wasn't reassuring me and he was very controlling of me.  M was mad at me for being mad at E, and I explained to her a couple times that she had nothing to do with the issues between E and I: his behavior was not because of her.  Eventually my friendship with M resumed; whenever she brought E up I didn't say anything because I didn't want to have any influence on their relationship.  My friendship with M was separate, my relationship with E was separate, M's and E's relationship was separate.

Things between E and I worsened.  He told me one thing and M another and I happened to find out on accident, then was upset with me when I confronted him about it for not just accepting the contradiction.  He told me that I shouldn't have an emotional reaction to anything without checking in with him first.  There were good times, though isolated.  My closeness with his friends and family helped.
And probably the worst thing was whenever I told him we weren't communicating effectively, he didn't know what I was talking about.

After I broke up with E, I debated maintaining friendship with him.  He told me a few times that he views a breakup as an obstacle to getting back together again, and he's tried to get back together with nearly all his exes.  I didn't want that to be me, and there was such a long history of him neither understanding nor respecting my opinions/emotions/wants that I didn't think my word alone would rebuff his advances.  Also, it hurt seeing him say the same thing about new girls in his life, including M, that he'd initially said to me.  So I unfriended him on facebook.  I didn't tell anyone.  He texted me a bit about it between 2am and 9am a few days later, while I was sleeping, and finished it by telling me to have a great life.  Seemed like a conclusion to me.

A few days later, M confronted me, enraged.  She asked me why I unfriended him.  When I told her that he hurt me, she assumed that his family + our mutual friends + M herself were also reminders of him and I should unfriend all of them.  I explained that they're all separate individuals and have nothing to do with my terminating things with E.  Still, she was so offended that I'd unfriended E that she blocked me and hasn't spoken to me since.  A 5 year close friendship destroyed by a 5 month romance.

I woke up this morning to discover all of E's family and our mutual friends have unfriended me.  I don't know what happened, but it had to be big and stupid.  The way E talked so highly of M and his exes and other people, I worried when we were together that he'd replace me.  And he has, to the point of interfering with my friendships with others.  M was always so independent and diplomatic and a great communicator, this is an appalling change.

All this because I unfriended an ex who hurt me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On Jealousy

Jealousy is a normal emotion with which a person can have a healthy relationship.  Feeling jealousy is usually a sign of something bigger going on, primarily one's current situation and place in it.  It's extremely important to communicate about jealousy in any relationship, and gets even more important in polyamorous relationships.

Most often, jealousy is a prominent aspect of the fear of abandonment.  So long as jealousy is kept in check and doesn't explode, this fear can be alleviated through reassurance from one's partner.  Dismissal, invalidation, and neglect all exacerbate jealousy as they reinforce the fear of abandonment.
Sometimes feeling jealousy is brought about due to the partner's behavior.  Communicating jealousy should include learning how each person wants to be reassured - this would best be done as part of the polyamory discussion (negotiating time and safety and boundaries, etc.) but may change as time goes on.  For some people, simply having sex more often is enough reassurance; for others, it works to have a date together for each date a partner has with other people.  And if you can't specifically name what would be reassuring for yourself, it's ok!  Experiment!  Eliminate what wouldn't work!  It's a process, like all aspects of relationships.  When one's partner isn't willing to work together or insists on using only their own reassurance method, there are more issues in addition to the fear of abandonment.

And sometimes feeling jealousy is brought about due to an individual's emotional state.  Many people feel the fear of abandonment at different times in our lives for many different reasons, regardless of the current relationship(s).  An unhealthy relationship can certainly worsen that fear and sometimes a very healthy, involved relationship can alleviate an individual's fear - I recommend against using relationships for that, though.  Overcoming one's own fear, especially when it's been validated in the past, is very difficult and scars can so easily be re-opened.  Small steps, self-care, distance from incompatible/disrespectful people, and intrapersonal communication help one overcome that fear and heal from whatever has brought it about.

And sometimes jealousy has nothing to do with fear, it's envy of another person's situation and that's it.  When one's partner is out of town and having fun for example, it's entirely possible to feel jealous without fear or resentment - this is neither unhealthy nor healthy, it just is.  It's possible to feel both happy for one's partner (and the people they see), jealous of them, and have fun on your own all at at the same time.  Usually treating oneself to something special can eliminate this envy, or at least push it to the background until the situation changes.

Above all, learning to listen to one's emotions, figuring out where they come from and what they're telling you, and handling them them in a healthy way (working out at the gym, partying, cuddling with kitties, crying over a pint of ice cream, whatever) are vital to functioning as both and individual and a partner.  We all mess up sometimes, learn and apologize and move on.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Actively Recovering Catholic

My life progression thusfar: Catholic, anti-Catholic, angry ex-Catholic, apathetic ex-Catholic, recovering Catholic, actively recovering Catholic.  My active recovery began as genuine interest in how most parishes differ from the abusive parish of my childhood (St. Monica's in Chicago), then how they differ from each other; eventually each Mass I attended became more personal as it was one not influenced by St. Monica's.  My Catholic identity never really went away, despite how rightfully opposed I was to it for a long time, and I want a more active healing than apathetic distance can offer.

And now I have no idea what I've gotten myself into or what I'm doing or where I'm going.  My stance on dogma hasn't changed: I just don't believe it.  I'm not Christian in any sense: Jesus was a cool guy according to the Gospels but the Messiah, salvation, sin, etc. aren't a part of my spirituality at all.  The theology absolutely fascinates me and I love learning it.  I do believe that something is going on, and attending a nonjudgmental Mass makes me feel just as connected to that something as hiking through the mountains does - just in very different ways.

Aside from my apathy regarding dogma, I do believe in the Catholic Church: when open-hearted people gather together in a sacred (sacred in the sense that it isn't mundane) setting to share a ritual passed on by generations, something is attained.  Yes, the Church hierarchy has done many terrible, awful things and I face those head-on and call people out on their bullshit.  And few people know better than I just how cruel  laypersons, even those who win community service awards in their parishes, can be to each other.  It is because I know the horrors in the Catholic Church that I value the goodness in it and seek it out and want to be a part of it.  Other religions have similar disparities and rituals of togetherness, Catholicism is just the religious language to which I'm attuned.

Of course I'm ready to become more involved in my local Catholic community AFTER moving to an area where there's almost none.
I really have no idea what I'm doing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Ugly Kid



That's a true story, albeit summarized and shortened.  I was The Ugly Kid in K-12 and until I left the horrible parish of my childhood, that's all I was.  At 10, I began saving up my allowance for rhinoplasty and at 15, I concluded that nobody would ever want to date/marry/kiss me because of my ugliness.  This was mostly because of my broken nose, but only recently have I realized how much undernourishment and confinement in a basement had affected my appearance.

Although high school friends & faculty greatly improved my self-image, college finally valued my mind above all, and my post-school life has been fantastically slutty, a small part of me is still The Ugly Kid.  It is liberating: how I look to others doesn't factor into my functioning 95% of the time, I don't spend any money on makeup or jewelry or hair junk or wonderbras, someone who's attracted to me but doesn't care about who I am is easily filtered out.  And when someone calls me ugly, I just don't care - my first and last thought on the statement is "wow you're not creative."

Recently, my history as The Ugly Kid just happened to come up in two separate conversations and both people replied that I'm beautiful.  When I tell my story, that's not the reaction I'm going for.  I appreciate the thought, but I'm not fishing for compliments - that's not the point of the telling, I use my experience to teach and connect with others.  "But you're so beautiful, I can never believe you were The Ugly Kid" has good intentions but leaves me feeling invalidated.
I don't like it when someone, anyone, calls me beautiful save for 2 circumstances: when I'm wearing something formal and when I'm wearing nothing.  I only remove my clothing when I have control over the situation, and I put a lot of work into looking good at formal occasions.  Otherwise, I really don't understand why anyone would call me beautiful.  Do they want something of me?  If someone knows me well enough to want to compliment me, I'd like to think that this person knows that I'd rather be called smart or witty or twisted, etc.  Let me own that I was The Ugly Kid and help me seek revenge on those who prey on other Ugly Kids.

Friday, August 23, 2013

In addition to feeling as though all my efforts to get where I want to be are futile (and therefore, I am futile), I'm also very sensitive to space.

I have a theory as to why I have this sensitivity, but I won’t get into it right now.  A new town, city, state, area, etc. is like a new art gallery: to be thoroughly explored and encountered and absorbed.  Travel is very appealing to me because of this, and I’m very particular about where I call home.  This is why relocating from the MidWest to the SouthWest is so integral to me, whatever resonates in that space also resonates in me.  It’s not something I can articulate verbally very well, so it’s a good thing I’m an artist!
Chicago is my birthplace, my family is from Mauston, WI.  I’ve only ever lived in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Savanna IL.  Although it makes me sick to think on my nearly 28 years spent in the same place, the MidWest is part of my identity.  Although a part of me will always be a MidWesterner (and I’ll probably move back at some point in life), finally leaving the area involves a sacrifice.  While I was applying, interviewing, and being told that I’d get hired in the SouthWest, I was willing to give up the large portion of my MidWesterrn identity in order to take on a SouthWestern one - the one I want.
Although I’ll be living with the person I want to live with and I’ll be glad to finally leave the MidWest, moving to Nashville still sacrifices that MidWestern identity.  I won’t move as the same person, I won’t be in the same space nor in the space that I prefer.  This honestly isn’t to poop on Southerners; it’s me and it’s the area.  The South doesn’t resonate like how I resonate.
And if I’m incapable of attaining what I want, no matter how hard I work, do I deserve the identity and area that I want anyway?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Meaning vs. Discipline

I'm currently reading The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose.  A student at Brown, Roose spends a semester at Liberty University.  Liberty U is the conservative, evangelical Christian, homophobic, creationist school founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell and Roose argued, correctly, that it's more foreign to the average Ivy Leaguer than most European countries.  He pretended to be a freshly converted evangelical in order to better fit in and learn secrets, he also took on various cultural behaviors such as no swearing or sex and joining the church choir - this was both to pass better and to experience the culture more effectively.  His main shock, at least up until page 170, was that nearly everyone at Liberty U was exceptionally friendly while also violently homophobic.

The second Gen Ed course, which he was able to take as a "foreign exchange student," focused on social and political issues and how an evangelical Christian should approach them.  These were largely simplistic and scathing stereotypes on gay people, people who have premarital sex, wives who have jobs outside the home, etc.  One statement by Roose jumped out at me:

"But aside from the patently offensive content, my biggest issue with [Gen Ed II] is the way it bundles political and social issues with religious issues, and what that means for a guy who's trying to give Christianity a fair shake."

This goes along with my previous post about dogma pushing away people, particularly young people, who're looking for personal meaning through religion.  Liberty U and many other religious institutions argue that personal meaning follows discipline.  I'm not saying that they're 100% wrong (mostly because it's not a right/wrong issue), but that argument is a poor way to interest potential peers.  Roose began to reap some spiritual connection through his altered behavior, similar to how his mentor A. J. Jacobs became more spiritual through his year of following Biblical laws (The Year of Living Biblically).

I argue that while it is possible to find spiritual connection through discipline, the process isn't simple enough to teach in a class.  Both Roose and Jacobs CHOSE to alter their own behavior, not because someone told them to, and they didn't do it out of shame.  And both of them explained that the discipline didn't lead directly to spiritual connection: instead, the decision to alter their behavior also included the decision to alter their attitude.  That isn't something that can be taught, demanded or shamed - which is precisely what evangelicals don't understand.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Spirituality vs. Religion

http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/07/23/i-wonder-if-sunday-school-is-destroying-our-kids-2/
More and more people are seeming to realize that personal meaning draws people to spirituality, while dogma pushes people away from even trying.  Sometimes I wonder if the fall of the Catholic Church and religious hierarchy overall would be the best thing, so regular people can start over ourselves without the bullshit.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Terminator 2, Soldier for Christ

In middle school, I was obsessed with the Terminator series, particularly Terminator 2.  Aside from an early love of sci-fi focusing on robotics and AI, there was no reason for my fandom that I could think of.  Later on, when I realized that the setting of my childhood was highly abusive and restrictive (which I'd thought was normal), I thought that my obsession had been more based on the idea of some unstoppable superhuman rescuing me.  That may have had something to do with it.

Thinking more on it now, though, another layer is clearer.  John Connor was my age, he'd been raised in a militaristic underground based on a fantastical conspiracy theory; he had to be the perfect soldier-leader, no room for failure lest the entire human race suffer and die.  I was raised in a cult (under the guise of Catholicism) that taught that martyrdom was the greatest status a human could attain; the girls had to strive to be perfect child-wives and any failure would doom the entire parish to eternal hellfire.  Naturally, I would relate to a character who not only lived a narrative similar to mine, but also got to act it out dynamically while I was locked alone in a basement for hours every day.  And of course any kid would idolize adults who'd sacrifice themselves for her when real-life adults insist that no amount of servitude would be sacrifice enough for salvation.

I'm not saying that my parish looked to the Terminator series for ideas or anything ridiculous like that - more like finding personal meaning in something (even something as cheesy as Arnie striding around in leather) usually reveals something about one's personal situation.  And that revelation might not be clear until years later, from a healthy distance.

Also, I was just thrilled that I was allowed to like something normally reserved for boys.  I don't know how the Terminator series slipped past the radar!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Marylike Standards for: Modesty in Dress

I found a pamphlet today, at Church of Gesu in Milwaukee, entitled "The Marylike Standards for: Modesty in Dress."  Printed by The Fatima Center, fatima.org is their site.  Inside, The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI is quoted on women's clothing - words from 100 YEARS AGO!!  Then there's a checklist of 7 points regarding measurements and material of women's clothing.  Very precise.

There is the statement "Note: because of impossible market conditions quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress."  Christian womanhood in terms of apparel?  Don't different Christian women find solace and support in different models for different reasons?  Allowing quarter-length sleeves sure is accommodating, but I'd be more concerned about protecting ALL women from sexual assault.  Which brings me to my next point -

"A girl who follows these...she will not be an occasion of sin or source of embarrassment or shame to others."  A person can't be an occasion of anything because a person is a person.  I don't know what The Fatima Center meant by "occasion of sin" but I do know that clothing is not responsible for sexual assault or rape, the rapist is.  And if anyone should be ashamed, it's the person who chooses to be embarrassed by another person's appearance.  The Fatima Center seems to have forgotten much of the Gospels, particularly Luke 7:36-50.  Church of Gesu had no similar pamphlets regarding men's garb or behavior, nor does Fatima.org mention any such modesty in dress for men.

And lastly, The Fatima Center holds no respect for women's decisions regarding their own bodies.  Slacks, jeans and shorts are banned - how is a woman supposed to run or jump or climb or bike?  Shouldn't this be an individual's decision?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

gurl.com

In the late 90's, gurl.com was an internet haven.  Modeled after riot grrrl zines with strong emphasis on DIY and self-love, it was a gritty alternative to other teen girl sites.  Celebrities were rarely mentioned and diets were considered personal decisions based on medical advice.  Political awareness was prioritized over designer labels, but nothing was more important than supporting one another through self-care and exploration.  The discussion forums were remarkable with intelligent conversation.

Miserable in my unstable environment and barely grasping feminism, I adored gurl.com.  At 13 I'd been put on Prozac against my will and it only made things spiral even further; my research and discussion on gurl.com convinced me to fake-swallow the pill - the advisers and peers on there listened to me more than my mother and her shrink!!  On top of all that, talking to others in my position made me realize I wasn't so alone: other girls had depression, preferred music from the 60's, weren't allowed outside of their houses, had crushes on girls, admired goth kids just for dressing goth, experimented with religion, etc.  Although a few years went by before I got into riot grrrl music and feminist comics and zines, gurl.com at least provided me with the awareness that such things existed.

There were fantastic by-girls-for-girls comics.  They illustrated what other teen girl media either ignored or poorly parodied: school cliques, the destructive and addictive inner voice of self-doubt, being torn between passion over something nerdy and wanting popularity, eating disorders and anti-depressants.  One comic that I remember very vividly was about an outcast girl who glamorized her depression, convincing herself that she was really an outcast because of her cynicism rather than because of her shyness and extremely neglectful parents.  Until seeing that, I'd had no idea that's what I'd been doing.

gurl.com also released this book, which I adored but wasn't allowed to buy.  At least this is still available for teen girls today.

The site has changed a LOT.  About 12 years ago, it began to actively compete with other teen girl sites with the strategy of emulating them.  Having switched from desperate preteen to counseling young adult, I was very disappointed in the shift.  User contribution had less influence and, besides, I was socializing more in real life finally.  Today, gurl.com is closer to its original mission with realistic dating advice, comics, sex-positive and factual sex ed, and self-love.  However, celebrity gossip and trendy fashion still hold sway.  Nevertheless, gurl.com was very helpful for awkward girls in the late 90's and early 00's and I hope it can still do the same today.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feline Foie Gras

Check out the webcomic created by my lover and I: FelineFoieGras.com

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Art Stories

    1997, I took an art class during summer school.  The teacher, who also substitute-taught and ran the day care, taught us how to draw [Aryan] facial and bodily proportions.  She included pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels and watercolors in the class, which took place in the school library so we could copy pictures out of books.  I soaked it up, combining parts of pictures to create something new and experimenting with perspective.  Our final project was to draw something in chalk pastels on a large sheet of butcher paper.
     In the 70's, my mother took a remedial painting class.  Her high-quality acrylics and paintbrushes sat in a tacklebox under a spare bed those 20+ years.  On the backside of that butcher paper, I glued down sections that I had cut out from a floral Tiffany calendar and then painted the rest: a flowery landscape with an ocean, mountains in the distance and a sunset/rise.  At 11 years of age, I did this completely on my own.
     Immediately after finishing my first painting, I, with permission, painted a mural of a vivid sunset on my bedroom wall.  Cobalt, navy blue and indigo clouds lined with bright red highlights from the marigold sun.  My cousin took notice of my newfound love of art and began taking me to a figure drawing studio.  She wholeheartedly supported my passion and still does today.

     When I first began painting, my mother asked me "how do you know where to put what color?"

     Around that time, my half-sister gave me annual membership to the Art Institute of Chicago for a couple years.  This is an incredible gift to anyone, particularly a child.  In addition to free visits to the Art Institute, a monthly magazine was mailed out - I held onto these for many years, my only access to color photos of artwork at home.  However, my mother never took me there as it was "too far," "too expensive" and "dangerous."  I really wish now that I had snuck out and gone myself, as the subway route from her house to the Art Institute is so direct and safe.  But as an adult, I made use of my membership by visiting about 15 times a year!

     In that summer school class, each student had a sketchbook and we were all assigned to draw certain things each week to demonstrate what we had learned - facial features, expressions, different ways of shading, etc.  I still have it, filled with both assignments and my own creations.  And ever since then, I've always had a sketchbook - probably the artist's greatest tool.