Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Rights (and Responsibilities)

These are my reflections on what I think laws should be, not what they may actually be.

Everyone knows my position on abortion: It's entirely up to the pregnant, affected woman whether or not to continue a pregnancy which solely impacts her biologically, physically, and hormonally. A man should have no say in whether or not a woman he has impregnated carries to term.

This position must be coupled with the following, or it is fundamentally unfair to men. While a man has no say in whether or not a woman he has impregnated carries to term, he should absolutely have a say in whether or not he wants to be a father. I think men should have the opportunity to walk away from pregnancy. A man who is childfree-by-choice should no more be "trapped" by an unwanted pregnancy than a woman who is.

So I don't think men should have an automatic obligation to pay child support, for example. If a man has not signed up for the responsibilities of fatherhood, he should not be assigned them, especially when the ultimate choice of whether or not to bring an unintended pregnancy to fruitition is not his to make.

Of course, along with this abdication of men's automatic responsibilities to children of their DNA, I also do not think impregnating someone else gives a man any automatic rights as a parent, either.

My alcoholic ex-husband, the biological father of my son, is not a good man, and he has never been a father. He did not provide care for me during pregnancy physically, emotionally, or financially. He did not modify his destructive behaviors to be a safe person for an infant to be around. He stole my son's change jar and cashed it in for drug money.

But if I were to die tomorrow, the law would give my son to this man, simply because they share DNA. I left this man when my son was a 6 week old infant. He has never heard my son speak, or seen him dance, or rushed him to the emergency room. He is not, in all ways that count, my son's father.

My boyfriend Viking is. He's held my son during immunizations, attended every school meeting, and tucked him into bed at night. He's given up recreational spending to start a college fund for our son, even as we struggle with our current expenses. He's studied autism along with me, so we can undersatnd our boy even better.

But he has no legal rights to the child he is helping me raise, because their DNA is different. We're looking into the process so he can legally adopt. (Finances dictate this is only in the theoretical stages for now.)

Even though I won full custody of my son three and a half years ago, my stated wishes in my Will are probably not enough to guarantee that in the case of my death, my son stays with his father, and isn't shipped off to live with a man who raped and abused, and yes, also impregnated me.*

I'd like to see a shift in our laws. Parenting well is a choice, made of daily actions and commitments and budgets. While there is no comparing a woman's body with a man's wallet, being able to enter parenting willingly rather than by obligation, coercion, and legal enforcement, is important for any parent.

Just as we must protect a woman's right to walk away from pregnancy via abortion, or to choose to let another parent a child she has born via adoption, we must protect a man's right to walk away. A man should never have a say in whether or not a woman terminates; that effects her body and her life. It is her choice to make. However, a man should have a say in whether or not he participates in the life of a born child.

So if he does want to raise his child, and the woman does want to birth it, a man should have legal recourse to petition for full cutsody, shared custody, regular visitation, etc.

Prior to birth, women have put in work bringing a child into the world. Women who haven't done this job "well" (say by using highly addictive narcotics during gestation) have their custody threatened. So should men who do not put any "work" into preparing for children they hope to raise. If a man does not physically, emotionally, or financially support or assist a pregnant woman, at the very least he is belittling her efforts. And it doesn't show a readiness for fatherhood, or a commitment to the health and well-being of his future child.

I wish all new biological parents, at hospitals or when applying for birth certificates for home births, had an opportunity to declare, once and for all "Yes, I commit to this child for a minimum of the next 18 years of his/her life and all the responsibilites and rights that go with that." or "No, I do not commit to raising this child. I do not wish to financially or otherwise support this child, and I abdicate any decision-making or custody rights I may have."

What if all parents wanted their kids? Imagine what a world and a society we could have. Imagine what happy children.

* The rape occurred after conception, during my pregnancy, when we were married.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bully Culture

I was homeschooled, then attended Christian school, then went to 2 public elementary schools, 3 public middle schools, 3 public high schools (including 1 magnet school) and finally, GED school. We moved a lot. I had the un-enviable experience of being the New Kid many, many times growing up. In some schools I was bullied, but at others I wasn't.

School culture plays a huge role in the degree of bullying that goes on. Surely some teacher or gym coach at that Iowa elementary school must have noticed the 20 kids ringed round me in a daily post-lunch circle, taunting me and calling me names (and not even clever ones. They just said "Big nose!" over and over.) But no teacher ever once intervened. Bullying was accepted, permissable, allowed. And so age 11 was one of the worst years of my life, and when the eating disorder I'd struggle with for over a decade began.

By contrast, my first high school, which was a magnet school for the visual and performing arts, had almost no bullying. We had a fairly diverse student population, but acceptance of diversity was also very high. During my first year there, student-led petitions had added a vegetarian alternative to the lunch menu and juice vending machines in the hallways. We started a chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance and Amnesty International. Being gay or bisexual was practically trendy it was so accepted. (To my knowledge, the school is still nicknamed "bi high" to locals.) That was the only school where I felt comfortable holding a girlfriend's hand.

The new website has advice and resources for everyone involved in bullying: the bullied, the bully, the principal, parents, and even bystanders who observe bullying without reporting it.

My academic success began a long, slow decline with those 5th grade bullies. I started skipping school, faking illnesses to stay home, and even inducing vomitting - anything to get out of class, away from my tormentors. Being bullied is NOT a right of passage. Being victimized is NOT something you have to accept, for my child or yours.

If you're a student or parent, I encourage you to get involved with your local school. Find out what measures are being taken to prevent bullying. Encourage your school to adopt some if they haven't already, and make it clear to the school you want to do your part to help reduce bullying for all students.

A culture of acceptance, tolerance, and openness to new ideas made my first high school a fun, exciting place to get involved in activism and learn (like college!) A culture of silence, of kids not reporting other bullies, and teachers pretending they didn't see what they must have, made me suicidal at age 11. The difference is obvious, the choice is clear. Prevent bullying in your community, school, or workplace. We all deserve a better world.

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Getting Knocked Up

I don't know with certainty whether my exhusband intentionally sabotaged my birth control or not. I DO know that his attitude on finding out I was pregnant was smug, a warden's grin. He'd gleefully remind me, while thumping his finger on my rotund tummy, "Gotcha bitch!" And he was right to an extent. The ONLY reason I married him was because I got pregnant. The ONLY reason I took him back after leaving him was because the pregnancy test came up positive. And abusive men know this tactic often works.

In a recent survey of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 callers reported that her male partner was sabotaging her birth control, or otherwise trying to force or coerce her into pregnancy. Why on earth would a pregnant woman be more likely to stay with an abusive man than a non-pregnant woman? Well, for a lot of us, earning potential pretty much disappears by the second or third trimester. Women with high blood pressure, low fetal weight, or an incomplete cervix (which may open early, causing still-birth or miscarriage) are often prescribed weeks or even months of bed rest, leaving them completely dependent on another for care.

Then there's the fact that most birth mothers have a strong, natural, biochemical desire to be with their children. Women who are mothers have decreased earning potential for their entire lives, compared with women who are childless (and compared with men, who do not face decreased earning potential no matter how many kids they father.)

When I see these "Personhood" bills introduced in states across the US, attempting to give a fetus more right to a woman's body than she has, I can't help but think of birth control sabotage. If a man gets me pregnant, by lying to me, deceiving me, tricking me, or tampering with my birth control, these states are saying that he had more right to impregnate me than I have right to stop it. When states try to make abortion impossible to access, they are hurting women in abusive situations, forcing them to birth children into poverty and/or abuse, and causing them to have greater dependency on men who are essentially rapists.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Week

"Cyber bullying." It just doesn't sound real - does it? It sounds like "virtual bullying" or "bullying lite" or something. It certainly doesn't sound like something that should be so upsetting.

I've been getting a deluge of attacks from anti-choice misogynist, racist, Christians lately, and it kind of baffles me. I haven't made a new YouTube video in over a month. I've barely been blogging. I had my abortion more than a year ago. Why now?

I don't really get it. From a YouTube account impersonating me (badly) to a black supramacist calling me "the white devil" to an atheist unfollowing me on Twitter after she learned I had Jewish ancestry, to more anti-choice laws being passed in Florida, the state where I had my abortion than I could've imagined then, I'm feeling pretty down.

Kid's home from school for the summer (next month he'll start a two-mornings-a-week program, but that's hardly full time schooling.) Viking had to switch colleges while looking for work (after his parents decided they weren't going to cosign his student loan like they'd promised, because he's living-in-sin with me.) Needless to say, we're in a financial hole, and even though he's working now, it's not brining in enough to make up the backlog.

I don't really know what I'm going to do. I'm trying to learn Java and C++ so I can find work I'll actually be trained to do, with my disability.

You ever just lose all hope? I do all the time. The only "secret" I know is to just go do the dishes, make the next meal, draw the next bath, and act like you'll figure it out somehow. But it's harder and harder to have "faith" I'll manage to survive my circumstances yet again.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

God is Just? part 2

Hello Anteaters. Let's pick up where we left off, in the second paragraph of Random Internet Person's 12 paragraph spiel.

"‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in
keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not
wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’" - 2 Peter 3:8

Le sigh. The only part of this verse that could possibly be applied to the contradictory statements of his previous paragraph (here) would be the third sentence. Christians, if you're going to cherry pick verses from the Bible, go ahead and edit down to the sentence you need, rather than asking me to read three. I mean, really. Cherry pick WELL if you're going to cherry pick, at least.

Regardless, these three sentences are basically excuses for God's inaction. God hasn't done anything for 1000 years? Relax, he's just taking a day off!

God feels deep sorrow when He has to send His children to Hell...the same way earthly parents mourn over the physical deaths of their children. With love, there is always heartbreak. And since God's love is the GREATEST love of all...then I imagine His heart-break is the greatest of them all too.
"God feels deep sorrow when He has to send His children to Hell..." If it makes him so sad, why didn't he set up a better system? Who says he "has to" send anybody to hell? I mean, he's an all-powerful, all-knowing being, riiiiight? so surely he could think up, dream up, or know of a better system that wouldn't cause him to feel such deep sorrow (and ya know, wouldn't leave most of humanity to be "tortured viciously and inhumanely for all eternity.")

"... the same way earthly parents mourn over the physical deaths of their children." Okay, RIP, let me just give you a big fat What The Fuck Were You Thinking? (WTFWYT?) You do NOT go around telling people that you or your god knows what it feels like to lose a child. My grandmother lost her fourth daughter at 10 weeks old, to a congenital heart defect. My friend Tammy lost her eldest daughter to SIDS, and didn't sleep for the first two years of her younger two childrens' lives, as she had to keep nightly vigil she was so terrified of losing another. Another friend lost two, count 'em two, daughters to a rare and incurable form of brain cancer.

You do NOT get to talk about how a parent feels when they lose their child, as if it's something you're familiar with unless you are. I (thankfully) have no idea what it actually FEELS like. Now, let me explain why I found it so *offensive* for you to equate your god feeling bad about people he created (knowoing full well they'd never be saved and would be tortured vicisouly and inhuamenly for all eternity) suffering the torment he designed for them to suffer, and a parent losing their child despite all their efforts and money and hope and prayers. It's just not the same fucking thing AT ALL dude.

Tammy lost sleep for 5 years of her life, catching cat-naps during the day and abusing caffeine so she could ensure she didn't lose ONE more child. Yet your god refuses to show himself, reveal without doubt that he exists, so that millions of atheists and believers of other faiths could be saved.

His actions do not match those of a mother or father who has lost a child, and to pretend it does is a disgrace to every parent who lives in a torment you can't imagine.

"With love, there is always heartbreak." You know what there ISN'T with love? Torture. Torture is never part of love. Torture precludes love. A relationship that includes torture or even just the *threat* of torture is abusive.

Tomorrow (or more likely later today, since it's after 3 in the morning by the time I'm posting this)we'll be looking at the Power and Control Wheel, a tool used by therapists and social workers to help people in domestic violence/partner violence relationships recognize their situation.

We'll see how it applies to the god the Bible, or at least the god of the Bible as understood by RIP, Random Internet Person.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"God is Just" part 1

Hello, internet, I hope you haven't missed me too much. (If you start to, you can always say hi to me on Twitter @antitheistangie.) While remarking on the problem of pain and the distatestfulness of hell, a Christian Tweeter sent me a 12-paragraph missive on the mercificulness of a hell-creating god.

Random Internet Person, there's something you should know: I'm not going to READ 12 paragraphs of unsupported claims and religious beliefs unless my audience gets to read, and mock, it with me. Otherwise it's just boring. Let's begin in the beginning, because your first three sentences alone contradict each other a few times over.

God is just. What do think Hell is for? People who cause pain and suffering will be tortured viciously and inhumanely for all eternity. However, God does not WANT the rapists to burn in Hell because His love for all mankind is so deep. That's why He's patient and doesn't destroy them right away.
"God is just." This is a claim. I know the rest of your writing is intended to back up that claim, but it's a claim that your audience (well, me and my audience) aren't going to agree with from the get-go, just so you know.

"What do you think Hell is for?" I think hell is an idea (not a place) that exists to give the church more power, control, and money from fearful believers.

"People who cause pain and suffering will be tortured viciously and inhumanely for all eternity." Okay Random Internet Person (RIP from here on out), let's talk about what the word "just" actually means. A punishment or ruling which is "just" is one in which the punishment fits the crime. For reasons we'll get into more later, this is simply not an accurate description of the Bible God's basis for who goes to heaven and hell.

Also, let's look at this phrase you used "tortured viciously and inhumanely for all eternity." That's not justice, RIP. It's vicious inhumanity. You said so yourself. Things which are vicious, inhumane, and last for all eternity don't fall under the realm of things which are "just."

"However, God does not WANT the rapists to burn in hell..." You mean God's plans are constantly being thwarted? God's will is NOT done "on earth as it is in heaven"? And um, why did God invent Hell (and permanent punishment in it) if he didn't want anyone to go there, not even rapists? Also, God seems to be pretty tight with the rapists in the Old Testament, and never changes his mind and declares rape bad at any point in the Bible, one of the many reasons I do NOT consider the Bible to be a book of morals.

"... because His love for all mankind is so deep." So deep, it goes all the way to the fiery depths of hell? So deep his love includes people being "tortured viciously and inhumanely for all eternity"? I seriously hope you don't apply these cracked definitions of love and justice to your dating life or relationships, because if you do, you are going to be mistreated and abused. Love precludes violence, torture, and intentional harm - three things the God of the Bible seems to revel in.

"That's why He's patient and doesn't destroy them right away." I'm thinking "patience" is another word you may want to learn the meaning of before forming any interpersonal relationships. Not killing someone "right away" is a really fucking low bar for any "sinful" earthly human being, but you wanna pretend like it's evidence of how great your god's LOVE is? Shit, that's like me saying of my abusive alchoholic rapist ex-husband "He was patient with me and didn't actually kill me right away." It's STUPID and it's a set-up for abuse.

Further paragraphs on further days, so we don't all tear our hair out in frustration that Christians don't own dictionaries.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Angry Ramblings About My Mom

Really, my mother should have been grateful that I gravitated toward kids with broken homes. My best friends and boyfriends all had fucked up lives by the time we'd hit middle school. My mother was constantly trying to steer me away from people she saw as "bad influences" and who I saw as the only people I could be real with.

But really, she should have been glad. After all, if my friends had come from loving, supportive, nurturing, abuse-free homes, I might have realized what a terrible mother she was in time to press charges against her.

I tend to think of my mom as a good mom. I get this from comparing her to the moms of my friends in my teen years. Becky's mom bought us alcohol when Becky was only 15. Jamie's mom was usually out sleeping somewhere with boyfriend du jour. Deborah's mom refused to even try to help her daughter, spiraling out of control from anorexia and drug abuse.

Of course my mom looked good by comparison! All she did was medically neglect me, let me walk with a dislocated hip for three years, never talk to me about sex or contraception, verbally abuse me, manipulate me, and make me hate myself enough to try suicide as a lifestyle.

This past Mother's Day I made an important emotional decision: I am done pretending I forgive my mother. I think I've been pretending my whole life, making excuses for her, singing her successes (she got a PhD while a single mother of three kids,) sweeping my pain and misery under the rug.

But I don't think 12-year-olds with good moms dart in front of traffic, hoping to get hit, as I did.

I don't think 6-year-olds with good moms start stockpiling food in their planned run-away lean-to. (Nor do most happy 10-year-old boys start hitch-hiking on the interstate, as my abused and unhappy brother did.)

Did my mother ever beat me? No. But she brought her mother into our home and our lives, to be our caretaker, and she allowed my Giggy to beat us. She read Focus on the Family and justified ritual, frequent abuse. She never meted out the blows herself - she wanted to be the Good One that we liked, after all. And it was a good scheme for a long time. For years I was convinced my mom was the Good Parent. Now I realize: I didn't have one of those.

I hope she reads this blog post, and understands why I didn't call to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. I think those should be reserved for good mothers.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Depression and Housekeeping

I wish depression was simply feeling sad. Yes, I feel sad, and I feel guilty for feeling sad. I feel despair when I contemplate my future. I cannot see myself getting out of the ghetto, getting medical treatment for my mental health concerns, or returning to the workforce. I cannot see a living wage in my future, and I was denied (again) for Social Security Disability. Yes, I'll reapply but I don't really believe the third time will be the charm either. It's hard to feel hope about anything.

And then the guilt comes in, because I "should" be feeling better. I have a partner for the first time in my life, someone who helps me with the division of labor from sunrise to sundown, and who loves my son as his own. I have someone in my life who actually cares if I'm in pain (a quality I'd not yet encountered in a housemate or my family.) And I have a beautiful little boy, who continues to grow more independent by the day. Every morning he makes his bed so smoothly, and he gives me the most emphatic hugs and kisses.

I know in reality there is no "should" when it comes to emotions. Feelings aren't wrong. We feel what we feel, and we try to deal and keep on kicking.

I'm trying to pick up my life, in tiny pieces, what I can get each day. I spent a month tackling all the lesser-done housekeeping chores, so now maintaining a company-ready home should be easier to manage (and hey, finally finishing unpacking those last few boxes from when we moved in a year ago probably helped)

It's hard to drum up the energy for life. I can keep myself physically going with a small list of chores, and I can keep myself from weeping if I distract myself from those darker thoughts with silly things like video games and TV. (On a side note, thanks to Netflix I've watched 5 seasons of Desperate Housewives this month. Who knew the dialog was so quippy?)

When I disappear from the internet for awhile, that's where I go. I retreat into simple tasks with visible outcomes. I can't scrub away the PTSD from my brain. I can't even afford to see a therapist or psychiatrist to begin addressing it. But I can clean my stove top till it shines. It's hard to have hope for anything I can't see and feel and do with my own two hands, so for the moment, I'm focused on what I can see and feel and do with my own two hands. For now that seems to be laundry, and dishes, and cooking, and cleaning.

I "hope" to get better soon.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Pedophilia vs. Child Rape

So how on earth did I decide to write a post on pedophilia? It's not exactly a comfortable topic for me, as a child molestation survivor, but I don't imagine it's an easy topic for anybody.

There is a self-described Christian on Twitter called @MissRaissa who sees it as her mission to spout hateful, ignorant, homophobic, anti-choice nonsense on the #atheist and #prochoice hashtags. She and I had a bit of a phone "debate" awhile back on my friend Synthaetica's podcast show. You can listen here or you can see where fellow-atheist GodsDontExist put the entire podcast into 3 YouTube videos on his channel.

In this conversation, in regards to her desire to force all pregnant rape victims to carry to term, she claimed she "understands" how a rape victim feels. So, I asked her if she was a rape victim herself. Answer? No. MissRaissa imagines she possesses a great deal of empathy I just don't see the evidence for.

Then on the afternoon of April 3rd, she tweeted something that made me sick to my stomach.

Head-spinning, isn't it? But it goes on. See, MissRaissa doesn't think this was an awful thing to say, because she thinks pedophilia is wrong - just like homosexuality, adultery and fornication. Ah yes, because adults having consensual sex with each other is just *exactly* like an adult abusing and violating a child, incapable of giving consent.

But I think I can see where (some) of her confusion stems from. Pedophilia - the adult sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children - is a sexual orientation. That statement from scientists may have her genuinely worried (after watching far too many Gathering Storm videos and not nearly enough parodies) that there will soon be a movement for "pedophile rights" in western society. This is because to @MissRaissa all sex is sin, and all sin is equal, but relax: The rest of us aren't as delusional. We can tell the difference between consensual sex with mature parties and child abuse.

A pedophile is not necessarily a child rapist. If a pedophile never acts on their defective desires, no child is harmed. If they do, the harm is permanent and will stay with that child (or children) for their entire lives. I think it's better for society, and safer for our children, to talk about this.

People with the sexual orientation of pedophilia need help. There is no consensual sex in store for them, because children are not capable of giving true informed consent to sex. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for long-term goal planning and decision making, doesn't finish forming until we hit our early 20s. The sexual features and organs of children are not fully developed, and are often seriously harmed by sexual activity as a result. (I myself have extensive scarring leftover from my childhood.)

I'm not sure what retrogenic therapies or prenatal preventions scientists will develop over the next several years to prevent pedophiles from becoming child rapists. But I know they will have more success and more funding for research if there is public support for these studies.

I was molested by a man in his 70s, a twice divorced father of 5 and grandfather of 2. I do not forgive him for what he did, but I do not hate him either. I think he was a very sick man, who had absolutely no one to turn to. Perhaps if he'd had a support group, a sexual therapist, or some as yet un-thought of solution, he might not have harmed me the way that he did. For both our sakes, but mostly for mine, I wish he could have gotten some kind of help.

Until then, I'm waiting for MissRaissa to apologize, and to admit that children under the age of 10 CANNOT give consent to sex, and therefore all sexual activity done to a child of that age is necessarily rape. She refuses. The conversation on Twitter has been scathing and at times downright juvenile. If that sounds entertaining, I invite you to join the conversation!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sponsors or Members?

I am out of money. I'm out of money in a way I'd never contemplated before. (Fortunately, I'm not in credit card debt - those little plastic cards of 16 digits absolutely terrify me and I haven't owned one for 6 years.) It's been a year now since my unemployment benefits ended. It's been nearly as long since anyone's even returned my phone calls in regards to my disability case.

So, I'll be making videos and writing blog posts again, but I need them to generate me an income. YouTube STILL won't tell me why they suddenly and with no warning (or apparent reason) yanked my Partner status and haven't paid me the 2 grand in advertising revenue they owe me. I have to do this directly, with my fans and friends.

I can see at least two possible solutions to both my writer's block and my financial troubles (which are really one and the same.) The first solution would be to make my blog a pay site. I don't like that for a lot of reasons, including my Open Internet ideals. I'd also like people to be able to share what they read on my blog, and that's limited when people have to pay to view.

The other solution I can think of immediately (other proposals in the comments or to my Twitter @antitheistangie are welcome) would be to have a few committed monthly donors. If fifty readers can donate $10 a month each, that will meet almost the entire gap between my boyfriend's part-time job, his student loans, and the free food we get from the local pantry, so that I can pay my bills and stop freaking out. Instead, I can write!

So what do we think - can a few people commit to being sponsors, or should I require site membership for all?

I've got a few video ideas brewing in my head and I plan on actually recording at least one of those tomorrow (probably the one on Privilege and how it's invisible if you have it.) I miss writing. I miss being here with all of you. I want to be back, but my head's been full of nothing but worry and stress for so long, it's been hard to get my thoughts out of my head and into a coherent form on paper.

Oh, and before someone comes up with the idea: I'd love a part-time at-home job. If you can find me one that isn't a phishing scam or sex work, I'd love to know. (I have no moral or ethical issue with phone sex or other sex work, but I wouldn't be good at it.)

If you'd like to make a one-time donation now, please feel heartily encouraged to do so. You can also track the donations I receive (I'm not a televangelist after all) through my ChipIn page.

p.s. I swear tax returns were invented to lower springtime suicides among the lower classes. If I'd earned ten times what I did in 2010, I'd still be below the poverty limit.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Taking the Womb out of a Woman

I was Tweeting last night about how I’d love to get my uterus carved out of me. One of my male, pro-choice friends astonished me with his reaction. He said, “You don’t mean that. Your uterus is wonderful.”

Wonderful is it? I can imagine using the same line on someone facing a tonsillectomy, “Your tonsils are wonderful!” That would be a ridiculous thing to say. So why is it less ridiculous when we’re talking about reproductive organs? I conveyed some of my loathing for my uterus, and the pain it routinely causes me.
“Small price to pay for being a real woman.”
What’s a real woman? Is a Real Woman a woman with a uterus? My grandmother had her uterus removed (along with my aunt who she was pregnant with) when she was 6 months into her 5th pregnancy. My grandmother had ovarian cancer. Incubators and at-the-time modern medicine were able to keep my aunt alive. (She’s now a kick-ass grandma who competes in triathlons and has the figure of a Barbie doll.)

Was my grandmother, a semi-professional non-medically-trained midwife, not a “real woman” during all the time I knew her, because her uterus and ovaries wer gone? What about my god-mother? She had breast cancer. When I was 14, she underwent a double radical mastectomy (bye bye boobies.) Did she stop being a “real woman” when her breasts, the mighty organs capable of providing nutrition to live young, were lopped off to save her life? What about trans women? Are they not real women? Of course, you can’t fit that into 140 characters, so what I said instead was this:

“If being a ‘real woman’ requires bleeding, cramping, feeling suicidal and being a total bitch to the ones I love, I’ll pass. “

To which he responded:
“I think your uterus is sacred despite the monthly misery. None of your loved ones disagree.”

The second sentence was easy to debunk. Viking (my boyfriend, and step-father to my son) supports my choice to remove the organ that causes me to double over in pain and cry for hours, even though he wishes my health and our finances were otherwise, so that we could have a child mixed of our genes.

The first sentence was bafflingly woo-ish in its language. (Like me, my friend is an atheist and doesn’t believe in souls, spirits, or I had thought, the sacred.) To me it all sounded a bit too much like fertility worship, and my childhood cult was, at its core, a fertility cult.

This sense of awe and wonder surrounding the uterus is a good way to keep women separate, different, other. I mean, in a way I guess it’s nice to have these things praised rather than vilified (so glad I don’t have to spend my rag-week hiding my “uncleanliness” from the men folk in a tent.) But at the end of the day, making women about their wombs is bad for women.

I was molested, for a year, as a small girl. When I finally broke through “this will be our secret” and found the courage to tell my mom what was happening with that old man neighbor down the street, I went to a doctor for a rape-kit exam. At 8 years old, sneaking in doorways, I overheard the doctor describing the damage to one of his nurses. “She’ll be lucky to ever carry a kid to term.”

I spent my childhood thinking I was barren, that biological children were not in the cards for me. Belonging to a Christian sect focused on the act of birth itself, this made me an outcast. I felt I was flawed, broken, wrong, and most of all “not a real woman.

I was jealous of women who could conceive and bear children with (relative, apparent) ease, and I despised women who had abortions. Didn’t they know childless women were jealous?? I planned to adopt, and as I grew older and came to care more about social justice, I planned to adopt an older non-white child out of the foster care system. (Still plan to, when my son is grown.)

I am not my uterus. I am my brain. All my memories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, loves, and hates are there. My uterus is just full of lining which must be sloughed off routinely, in a brutal and messy fashion.

Like many people who want to voice their opinions on my uterus, my friend is a man, someone who has never and will never experience menstruation or PMS. How “small” of a price it is should always be up to the bearer. (I’m pro-choice when it comes to birth and abortion. I’m also pro-choice when it comes to removing one’s bodily organs. MY body, MY organs, MY choice. This also applies to men in their decision to get or not get vasectomies. Their bodies, their organs, their choices.)

So, for those of you who haven’t experienced menstruation (whether you’re a “real woman” or not) let me break it down for you.

Puberty hit and my first period arrived when I was 12, on April 1, 1995 (it had to be on April Fools, and the first day of Spring Break the year I’d bought a one-piece white bathing suit, of course.) Since then, in many ways I feel that I (my brain, my mind, ME) have been at war with the Other: my uterus.

I like to think of myself as a rational person (and who among us doesn’t?) I try to be fair with the ones I love, and be mindful that words can be hurtful and even abusive. Three weeks of out four, I can do this. One week a month, in a way I find not at all comical, my personality is taken over by a weepy, hysterical, and frequently suicidal bitch who says hateful things to people I adore. I do not like MYSELF when I am being so affected by hormones.

I have cramps for four days leading up to my period. These are painful enough to be distracting – I have to stop mid-conversation to make a face and concentrate on breathing through the pain. Frequently, Viking will give me his hand to squeeze during this.

When the bleeding starts, it is heavy. I go through a super size tampon or maxi pad (designed to hold 10 oz of fluid!) every two hours for the first five days of my period. Then it gets a bit more reasonable for the remaining 5 days of bleeding. That’s right, I bleed for ten days. And sometimes, my periods don’t have the decency to wait a full month before coming back again, the bitches.

I've gone through times in my life when I had 10 periods in six months. That’s 10 periods of 14 days of pain and discomfort, blood and expensive feminine hygiene products. And let’s not forget the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle! I get cramps during and after ovulation, too. I have severe, painful, distracting cramps about half of my life.

Now, as it turns out, my cycle is somewhat worse than what most women experience. Still, 2% of women have endometriosis (which is, what I believe without being able to afford medical tests to know for certain, what causes me so much misery.)

An evolution-accepting atheist like my friend should be able to recognize that while our bodies are COOL and NIFTY and GROSS and WEIRD, they are not intelligently designed. Things go wrong, in every organ of the body, male and female.

My fertility does not define me. It doesn’t even define my femininity. I desire, strongly, to be infertile. While I have an admitted case of penis envy (or really, Not Being Female envy) I am still a woman. Wanting kids, being able to bear them, being unable to bear them: None of these TOUCH what womanhood is, not to me.

Pregnancy with my son was a shock and I learned about it at 19 weeks past conception (oops.) Multiple ER trips, months of bed rest (that I couldn’t afford to actually take,) two occasions where I nearly lost the fetus, and one occasion where I nearly died myself (and lost 10 pounds! During my 8th month of pregnancy,) and a 98-hour back labor later, I was “lucky to ever carry a kid to term.” I have my son and it’s a “miracle” but I won’t be banking on any more of those coming through for me.

My friend went on to tell me,
“I’ve always been in awe of the power that lies between a woman’s hips. Don’t knock it. There’s true magic there.”

What lies between my hips is a malfunctioning organ with the power to kill me. There’s nothing magical about that, and thanks very much but I’ll knock the pain, the nausea, the cramps, and the personality-overhaul as much as I damn well please.

Now, who wants to send me money for an “elective” hysterectomy?

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Shopping & My Ex-Husband

My most depressing and most empowering shopping experiences were both because of my ex-husband.

Shopping for a maternity wedding dress used on eBay was the single most depressing shopping experience of my life. All five plus size dresses available were ridiculously, ludicrously white. There were ruffles and flounces and fabric trains all desperately trying to hide (and thus drawing even more attention to) THE BELLY. The belly made it down the aisle half a second before I did, protuberant as it was on the day of my ill-fated nuptials. I ended up wearing my sister's wedding dress, altered to fit my third-trimester girth.

The best, most satisfying shopping experience I have EVER had happened two and a half years later, long after I'd left the drunken lout I married because I didn't want my son to be a bastard (which, it turns out, doesn't matter *at all*.)

There was a phone call, and then a 16-page hand-written death threat (that rhymed, badly), and then QUICKLY after that there was a restraining order. But that was what started my PTSD. That was the first blow that led to my confined state.

I went with a friend, at the advice of one of my university's mental health counselors, to the local Army/Navy surplus store. I walked inside and a man who looked like Jamie from MythBusters greeted me at the door.

"Hi, what can I help you with today?"
"I'm looking for something in personal protection."

He spent a full hour with me, letting me test out his wares on a martial arts dummy. I ended up leaving with a pepper spray keychain (in hot pink! Fashion-fear doesn't have to be all black, m'dears) and an extendable steel baton (which I loved but then lent to a friend who never returned it.) He didn't load me down with weaponry I was likely to have used against me (why arm your assailant with a gun if they don't already have one?) and he didn't belittle me. It was at least as good as the therapy for helping me deal with that semester of school.

Maybe I should buy more weapons. I carried knives all through high school and I know it helped me with my sense of fear. Panic attacks are such a bitch, ya know? But weapons don't seem so great when you have a get-into-everything 5-year-old in the house.

Any suggestions?

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