Category: rants

Am I a hippie?

The answer, of course, is no. I like showers, shaving, shoes, and my “love” is not free!

But there are lots of opinions I have in common with bona fide hippies, and sometimes I think about this. Today I thought of it a little because I was listening to The Take Away on NPR, and they were playing listeners’ comments on gun control. Ever since living in Japan, I admit I am probably what you’d call pro-gun control. The proviso to that is that I’m not in favor of every gun law out there or on the table–I’m just for better regulation of guns in general. What struck me about listening to the comments on NPR today was that so many of them were actually consistent with what I think. I’m not used to that since most of my friends and acquaintances are anti-regulation Republicans, and even Libertarians–ahem, anarchists, ahem–and my own mother is an NRA member.

I avoid talking to any of them about guns because frankly, I believe their views are rooted in culture rather than reason, and I do not like hearing their cliches and hyperbole. That doesn’t keep them from bringing the issue up in conversation (especially my mom, because she really does not give a damn that I hate talking about guns), and it certainly doesn’t keep them from plastering my Facebook feed with pro-gun jokes, memes, and articles of dubious journalistic merit. It also doesn’t keep them from bashing anyone who disagrees with them, rather than, hm, I don’t know, refuting us? Trying to?

Anyway, I suspect there are people I know who feel as I do. But guns are not something I consider polite to bring up in casual conversation. So it was nice hearing strangers on the radio say things besides, “Guns don’t kill people, people do!” or “Obama is a fascist!” You know? There were some callers from pretty conservative cities in the South, and I sort of imagined them like myself, like little islands of Can’t-We-Talk-About-This-Logically spread far and wide in a sea of My-Way-Or-The-Highway.

I understand people who hate regulation. I used to feel that way myself. I was raised by people who think one should never register all of his or her guns. I can imagine, I think, what the founding fathers were thinking about when they wrote the Constitution of the USA.

But what’s both annoying as well as scary is the antagonistic attitude that so many people seem to have. It’s annoying because it prevents edifying discourse. It’s scary because if you’re this aggressive with your [sometimes unsubstantiated] opinions, are you really going to be cool as a cucumber with a deadly weapon?

I also think about guns as analogous to cars. Both are useful to humankind, but both kill a lot of innocent people in this country every year as well. There are two points here.

The first is that cars are regulated. You have to insure yourself because it’s well known that you’re likely at some point to damage someone else’s property or body with your car. You have to have a license to drive a car because it’s well known that although a licensed driver is not necessarily a good one, an unlicensed driver is probably unlicensed for a good reason. You’re not supposed to drink and drive, text and drive, or speed. The list goes on. There are many laws associated with driving, and while they are not perfectly enforced, they are well enough enforced that fewer people die nowadays from flying through the windshield than in the days when seat belts were optional. I know there are people who say, “If someone would rather die than wear a seat belt, who is Uncle Sam to tell them otherwise?” The problem with that view is that it assumes Uncle Sam is trying to save people from themselves, which is not the case. What Uncle Sam is trying to do is save innocent people from stupid people, and to save public money.

Consider that children cannot be relied upon to make decisions about their safety, so they depend on their parents. Well, what happens when the parents do not make safe decisions? What happens when the parent does not think seat belts are really needed? In such cases, children need protection from their parents’ ignorance. Parents sometimes need financial incentives to make safer choices–the incentive here being, “I still don’t think seat belts are a big deal, but I would rather keep my money than pay a ticket.”

Also consider that people who fly through windshields typically need paramedics and police officers, who all need paychecks, and who all drive vehicles that require maintenance and fuel. So there is a significant cost to taxpayers when someone decides seat belts aren’t his cup of tea.

So a person has a choice to use a gun, and let’s not even consider what type of gun for now. A person has this choice, but it is a choice that should be regulated because it can jeopardize the safety of innocent people like children as well as cost taxpayers money that some of us think would be better spent on filling potholes (just saying).

The second point about guns and cars is that both threaten life. Do we care? This is the point: Do we? Where is Pope Francis? He could write about this better than I can. Our culture lacks respect for the dignity of life. Part of it is that we do not all agree on what is dignity, or we cannot agree on what is life (I am not only referring to abortion, but also to cases such as Terry Schiavo’s), or some of us are more cautious about certain slippery slopes than others. Part of it is also just either not knowing or not really caring that replying “LOL” to that text right now, while cruising 75 mph is actually putting other people’s lives at risk. Disregard for one’s own life is one thing. But part of living in a society is you don’t get to disregard other people’s lives! Or at least in my utopian dream that’s part of living in a society. But we constantly prioritize our desires and impatience over other people’s right to live.

Every time someone decides she’d rather drive home drunk than pay for a cab —

Every time someone answers a text message while driving —

Every time I speed —

Every time you try to talk on the phone, smoke, eat, and shift,  all at the same time! , in traffic —

These actions put our convenience, amusement, peckishness, and impatience above all else. We say to ourselves that nothing will happen, but the truth is that car crashes happen all the time. Fatal car crashes are not rare. And often it is not the foolish driver who dies.

When that guy in the white Camaro ran a red light at high speed a couple of years ago, I hated him so much because I realized this. Because his actions said, “Your husband’s life is not as important as me having a bit of fun.” Of course this is an example of someone disobeying the law, but certainly we all know that more people would run red lights if they weren’t afraid of a fine.

What I’m getting at is that people are selfish. I am not being high and mighty about this because I am not an exception, although part of my religion is trying to be less selfish and more life-affirming everyday. I have driven under the influence before, and that was wrong. The answer is not to defend my “right” to make a wrong decision though; the answer is to accept the consequences, and–Jesus said it best–“sin no more.” That is it. I cannot imagine that I will ever drive a vehicle like that again. For me, that is because my conscience has grown. But for others, conscience can be silenced (alcohol can do that, of course), and sometimes the law is just that one thing that makes somebody say, “You know what, I can’t risk getting caught doing this.” Their motive is selfish, but the result is the same: everybody is safer. This is what laws are for.

With guns, it is no different. If manufacturers could get away with selling faulty guns, some of them would (The Jungle principle). If some gun shops could get away with selling guns to anybody, they would. Since we already know that guns can be gotten illegally even under current laws, then some will say that is proof that gun laws don’t work. Don’t they though? Is the Camaro driver proof that traffic laws don’t work? No. Gun laws do not prevent every nutjob from getting a gun, but they do prevent some nutjobs from getting them. That is better than nothing when we are talking about people’s lives.

We need gun laws because people need gun laws when their consciences fail them. We need gun laws so that when a person cannot buy a gun legitimately, he has to ask himself (a) Do I need help? and (b) Since I cannot acquire a gun lawfully, is it worth it to risk getting caught with unlawfully purchased gun?

I’m not going to get into the hyperbole and fear of “One World Government,” or “New World Order,” or the other things that I’ve heard about from many of my anti-regulation acquaintances. I will also not get into how I interpret the Second Amendment. I’m not even going to address my friends’ logical fallacies. There is so, so much more to this issue, but all I want to say in conclusion is this:

What is more important: abstract rights or the lives of human beings? What is demonstrably harmful about restricting gun ownership? Are you certain that our society would not be safer with fewer guns? Have you ever lived in a developed country with strict gun laws?

Rant (transgenderism).

Women have never been allowed to define what it means to be a woman, and even now we can’t or are not defining it ourselves. I recently read an old NY Times article about all women colleges that aren’t really all women anymore. Tons of professors and students and other people who love talking perhaps more than doing were interviewed, and the only ones who wanted to keep anonymous were female students in favor of keeping the all women colleges all women colleges. I’m pretty sure they did this for two reasons:

(I) When touchy subjects like this come up, people get very “us and them” about it, and often accuse anybody who isn’t 100% in favor of *whatever it is* of being 100% against it. This can have serious social, financial, and professional costs. Who wants to risk that just for the sake of free speech or intellectual curiosity?

(II) They’re women, born and raised, and women are trained not to offend people by speaking their minds, and to think first of the suffering of those worse off than themselves. In this case, women are putting transgender people first.

Now considering that no one (except maybe CPE) reads this blog, and that even if they did, no one would listen to my opinion–both because I’m a female and because it’s perhaps unpopular–why should I even bother explaining the problem here? Honestly.

I understand that transgender people suffer. I get it. But that’s actually not a logical argument for converting women-only spaces to whoever-considers-herself-a-woman-only spaces. It goes back to defining womanhood. As for me, I have no problem treating a transwoman as a woman, using her preferred name and pronouns, etc. But I don’t think transwomen get to decide what constitutes being a woman. Men throughout the ages have defined a woman to be someone with a female body, and have treated us accordingly. Someone who was born and socialized as a man shouldn’t have more say about what “woman” means than someone who was born and socialized as a woman. Things might be different if the sexes had much history of being treated and valued equally, but they do not–therefore it is still more important to me what someone’s sex is than what gender they identify with.

So how to define “woman,” then? Well, again, until the sexes are treated and valued equally, I would have “woman” defined primarily if not exclusively as “someone of the female sex.” First can’t we convince the world that both sexes are equal–then proceed with whatever evidence exists that there are multiple sexes?

As for gender identity, this is also problematic for women. Does a person born male who decides to present as a women harm women? No. What harms women is gender roles, however, and I’m not the only woman—I am not a radical feminist either—who is perceiving that people are confused as shit about the difference between “gender identity” and “gender roles.” Tell me again about how ever since you were a little boy you wanted to wear pink dresses and stay at home cooking and cleaning? From reading online, I know there are a few trans folks, though they seem to be in the minority, who understand that this is so disgusting to ciswomen. Tell me again how being a woman is about wearing pink dresses and staying and home cooking and cleaning! Then there are those Caitlyn Jenner’s who debut as women by posing in lingerie on a magazine cover–because ah yes, that’s what womanhood is about: looking good. No.

I’m tired of this issue already, though I realize it is only just entering the public eye. Gender roles are bad for everybody. What if we just quit teaching children that certain colors, behaviors, tastes, and manners of dress are only for one sex? My mother did that actually. Once when I was a little girl I got some sort of toy or something on the basis that it was “the girl color,” though I didn’t really like it. When this came up in conversation with Mother, she nipped that gender bullshit flower right in the bud. If you like blue, you like blue. If you don’t want to wear makeup, then don’t. Men and woman and boys and girls are all equal, and we can all be astronauts and presidents and teachers and scientists.

It almost makes me laugh because even though I’m a regular ol’ ciswoman (I usually just say woman, or heck, even “person”), by some definitions I’ve read online, I could be a transman or genderqueer or some other label I have no use for. Is this all the result of this weird need people seem to have to want to categorize the shit out of everyone and everything? I’m not being flippant. Is it the same thing that makes us want to lump all of our beliefs together under whatever words seem to fit best, like “Democrat” or “Southern Baptist” or even “Chemistry Major specializing in Synthesis”?

Gender roles are bad, but a problem that is as bad is how little logical debate there is. There are the discussions rife with with ad hominems, emotional appeals, and red herrings, of course. The worst is that people are afraid to put their names to their opinions and questions lest they be hastily labeled a bigot. People are blaming more and more woes unfairly on feminism. Does it help transgender people? My answer is that this sort of “debate” helps no one, and yes, it takes away from women.

I support equality and anti-discrimination laws for transgender people. I think it’s great when places have unisex bathrooms. But I want women-only spaces. I want to have one room to go into without interacting with men or being seen by them. If you have or have had a penis, that probably includes you. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask. I know there are complexities to this issue, particularly when it comes to public bathrooms. What I believe is most important is to change our culture, not our laws, and not even our definitions of sex or gender. We all need to make it safer for a transwoman to walk into a men’s restroom, for example. We need to teach kids not to be cruel to the little boy who “dresses like a girl,” or the little girl who goes by a male name and male pronouns. We need to make society more accepting of transpeople, rather than trying to lump them into one of the sexes of which they really are not a part.

All that said, I know transgender people are probably all just doing their best, trying to “pass,” and trying to stay safe. I can definitely understand why transwomen wouldn’t want to use a male restroom, for example, but I do think it’s a pretty typically male attitude, disregarding of women’s feelings, to claim authority or rights to women-only spaces and institutions. Women still have to fight for safety, for equal pay, literally to just have our voices heard and not talked over at work! For all I know, men would really like to have a retreat from women, too, and maybe they are insecure about female-sexed individuals seeing them washing up at the gym. It’s not all about “bigotry” and “hate.” Increasingly, cis people will try to understand you; please try to understand us too.

Rant (value of dialogue).

The thing is I’m tired of everything that seems to get ‘freshly pressed’ or commonly discussed. In the last several years, I’ve noticed two changes in journalism that are increasingly annoying me. The first is that nobody writes professionally anymore, except maybe in source material like AP reports and medical journal articles. If it’s in a newspaper, magazine, or especially online or on TV, expect there to be a tone as if the story is coming from somebody you went to high school with, not a professional who takes pride in balanced, fact-based reporting. Also expect cuss words or at least slang than would never have made it into a mainstream paper five or ten years ago. And you know what else? I’m sure a lot of writers think it’s totally cute and clever, too–but I’m seeing this really common thing where people who are getting paid to write news are using made up words. I see it a lot on NPR articles (because yeah, I have to admit the NPR news app is my favorite news source on a daily basis). Aren’t writers paid to write because they majored in English and know all the words that the rest of us don’t (but can understand from context)? Do they not teach the values of “concise” or “succinct” writing in journalism classes anymore? The “pyramid” writing scheme?

Anyway, the second thing I’ve noticed a lot lately is this need to discuss the things we think we need to discuss. We’re writing about discussing things. Maybe we’re not writing about actual things, but we’re writing that there was a conference for this issue, or a protest over that one. A bunch of bloggers wax passionate and hope they’re going to get Internet-famous, slacktivism accomplishes zero change, and… eh, it’s just all so boring to read anymore.

I like dialogue and all. I mean, I’ve taken a lot of discussion-based classes with emphasis placed on cross-cultural arguing understanding appreciation endless talking discussion. But the bottom line is that it’s pointless. We can talk all day about how the U.S. needs to discuss race issues, but that’s really not what the U.S. needs. Black people don’t need to be discussed, they just need to be treated fairly. There are practical steps to take to make that happen–same for gay people–and I’m all about marriage equality, affirmative action, and all kinds of things–but I’d like to read more about people actually doing good and making these things happen, and less about some intellectuals’/professors’ over-analysis of dreadlocks or Aunt Jemima. Long story short: discussion is good, but only if it leads to action; discussion is not, except perhaps inside a classroom, a worthy end itself.

There are just so many topics I’m tired of seeing. Let’s discuss breasts, and how they should be viewed this way and not that. Let’s discuss gender, and how you think it’s malleable and I don’t. Let’s discuss gas prices. Let’s discuss Van Gogh. Let’s discuss the obstacles that [insert favorite minority or women] face in [insert favorite field]. Let’s discuss the latest product that wouldn’t be even slightly interesting if it weren’t just 3D printed for the first time! I don’t know, is this just what the Internet is now? I remember 10+ years ago, when I’d go online with my mom’s AOL dial-up account, and there was so much to discover. I found people, friends, I’d never have been able to connect with otherwise. So much information! So much imagination! But now I feel like there’s just a ton of repetition and clickbaits. Whereas a Google search used to come up with reputable .edu pages back in the day, now I get Huffington Post and dozens and dozens of pseudoscience crap websites.

Honestly, it’s because everyone is online nowadays. Back then, it was only geeks–and it was not cool to be a geek yet!

But I guess if I have a point, it’s that all of these pointless discussion-based articles and blog-posts rarely lead to any real, thoughtful, continuing dialogue. They don’t lead to friendships. They don’t lead to change. They don’t lead to understanding. They lead to arguments in the comments section, and a cheapening of what “discussion” really means.

I miss the old Xanga days.

“That’s why I’m single.”

Today was pretty good for me. The only bits that weren’t too great were (1) leaving my physics notebook somewhere, and (2) dealing with the sexist attitudes of boys men who don’t think they have sexist attitudes.

If I end up going to a California State University, then I’ll need a couple of general education courses before graduating. Could be Chicano Studies, Black Studies, American History, Women’s Studies, or a handful of others (two courses in the same sequence). I’m always thinking that I have no idea which I’ll choose if I do end up going to State. I thought of this a little bit today as I was standing outside my physics classroom awaiting the professor. Looking around, I thought, “Tell me I’m not the only woman in this class.” Next to me was a black man, and I thought, “He’s probably the only black person in this class.”

Opening my eyes to ‘the patriarchy,’ so to speak–but really more just the denigrating, objectifying, &c. attitudes so many even young men seem to have toward women–has also opened my eyes to racism.

Anyway, the title of this post comes from a Facebook conversation an acquaintance of mine was having. It’s not worth detailing (neither is any of the women-blaming, women-bashing, women-hating, women-wanting ‘tude I ever deal with online or IRL of course). It’s just this aggravating, offensive, and frankly somewhat pitiful things that I’ve heard a lot of male persons say (both online and IRL). Goes something like this:

[Something I hate that seemingly all women do/think/don’t do/don’t think]. That’s why I’m still single.

No, maybe you’re still single because you’re not the kind of man who attracts the kind of woman you say you need.

Well, that’s all I’ll write for now. Feminist that I am, I’m not a man-hater, and it’s time for me to go spend the rest of the evening with my husband–who is basically just…

The cheese with my wine. The drink in my cup. The E & my M. The sub-woofer in my sound system…

Okay, metaphors aren’t my “thing.”