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Friday, December 30, 2016

November's Best (And a Personal Update)

There will not be a lot of fanfare today. I spent 12 hours yesterday at Gilroy Gardens with The Contrarian, and even though it was wonderful beyond the telling of it, it took up the entire day. He is the perfect age for a place laden with mostly kiddie rides and unburdened by long lines. I couldn't believe that we were in an amusement park and walking onto rides in the week between Christmas and New Years (typically pretty busy). Well we got off to a bit of a late start because three-year old. So I stayed until the last possible minute. That meant we hit traffic on the way back and the drive is over an hour on an open road. So our afternoon adventure turned into a day trip.

But it was perfect. I mean, with a three year old that means two meltdowns, a tantrum, and only one elbow to the face, but he generally decided not to use his contrarian superpowers to fit in with the norms for just one day, and we had almost a sublime time. Sometimes, when your companion is a three-year-old, the quality of your day is up to the mercurial winds of fate. But today was just about as perfect as they come. One of those days you want to dip in amber and fossilize in your memory forever.

When he's like 20, I'll be talking about his trip to Gilroy Gardens while he power rolls his eyes and says, "Jesus fuck, Uncle Chris, will you shut up about that fucking day already?"

There was even a little extra adventure within the adventure at the end when we got back to the car and I discovered that I didn't have my keys. Fortunately that only set me back thirty minutes or so, as after checking every place they could possibly be twice and even starting to retrace my steps while calling peeps back in Oakland to see what the chances of a ride were, I ended up realizing that an amusement park probably had a lost and found, and that was going to be my best play. And indeed they had them. (I left them on the flying strawberries, which was our first ride.) Well by the time we pulled out, it was after his dinner time so, of course, we had to do something about that on the way home. Three year olds are not known for calmly accepting boring ninety minute drives while they are also hungry.

By the time I got home, my brain was pretty much mush. I even used the wrong its/it's on my Facebook page. (Fortunately, it being the internet, after one person had very politely pointed out, everyone else considered the matter addressed, and gave me time to correct it. I absolutely did not get fifty notifications of maximum snark inside the span of a minute. I love how cool people are online!) I tried to post a blog. Then when I realized that wasn't happening, I tried to do some on my work in progress. My brain wasn't good for that either, so I tried to do some free writing. And in the end I just stared at my screen for a few minutes before throwing in the towel and going to bed.

So there you have it. Even I don't write EVERY day. But I do try.

I have a shit ton of half written posts at this point and about fifty I'm itching to write. This time of year is always like a cat playing with a mouse. "Finals suck, but now you have time to write. ALL THE CHORES YOU PUT OFF THE ENTIRE SEMESTER!  Hahahaha! Okay. Okay. I'll totally let you write now. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! Okay....okay....seriously I'm just kidding. Go ahead and write. FAMILY VISIT! Awwww that was funny. Okay for real this time. Go ahead and write. CHRISTMAS!!! Shit bro...you're a good sport. I'll really let you write this time. THREE YEAR OLD OUT OF SCHOOL!"

Now I know how Charlie Brown feels when he just wants to kick the fucking ball.

But, for at least a few days, I have some time to focus on writing, and hopefully it's going to feel like explosive diarrhea of words is spewing out the tips of my fingers. On second thought, let's have it feel like something else entirely. Pretend I just said something that was totally a hot innuendo (but completely within the bounds of good taste).

I have a number of year's end posts to try and get up before Sunday (holy FUCK where did this year go?), so we'll probably dribble into the weekend here to make up for yesterday. Next week I'll try to get a good ratio of "meaty" posts up, but the end of the year always involves some review posts and donor thanking. If I get enough written to wing it while I'm visiting my mom (7th-12th), that shouldn't be too affected, and once I'm back from that, I am off to the races.

But without further ado, November's bests!

Where to Submit Your Short Pieces and (Hopefully, Eventually) Get Published by Bethany Brengan

Fortunately I was able to enlist some guest blogging help while I was going through the worst of my bronchitis (rather than put WAW on a hiatus) and Bethany's piece about where to submit was a well deserved best of the month.

Writing For Your Life by Marcy Kirkton

My mom even joined the fray of guest bloggers to help me push through and her article also was a big hit.

A somber note

A lot of artists have a lot of feelings about our US election, and I'm no different.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

October's Best

The Contrarian is still out of school, which means eight hour days for me, so I'm focused on something I was going to have to get done before the end of the year anyway: the compiling of the month's best (so I can do the year's best–which actually includes LAST year's best because this year has been that rough).

I'll be cavorting through a local low key kiddie amusement park most of the day tomorrow too, and my late night grab of a couple of precious writing hours will be going to my work in progress. So I'll be doing November's Best tomorrow, and you can expect it to go up super late.

So here are the articles from October that will go on to glory and renown and a life of luxury and leisure in The Best of W.A.W.

The Privilege of Daily Writing (And the Ableism of Prescribing It) Part 3

Part three of our series on those who simply can't write every day. Series starts here.

This is Not Real (Arielle K Harris) 

Arielle K Harris gets another guest blog into the month's best with her thoughts about fiction.


Janessa wonders if I can ever just relax and enjoy things I read.


Honorable Mention: Nanowrimo: The Good, The Bad, and the Really Really Ugly

Technically this article did the best for the month of October, but it is a revision of an older article.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays (and a very short break for the Writing About Writing Staff)

I hope everyone has a wonderful, wonderful holiday season. Whether you're lighting a candle tonight, chasing a three year old down the stairs tomorrow (like me), or have some other yule type celebrations in mind. And if your traditions are more about self care and surviving, then stay strong.

If I get a guest post by Tuesday, I'll put that up, but otherwise I will see you on the 28th.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Best Obscure Book (Final Round)

What is the best book that no one seems to have heard of?  

Our final round is live!   

Yes, I know there's an irony in having a poll about books no one has ever heard of! Trust me that if I didn't know that going in, you have all made it abundantly clear. Over and over and over.....  Feel free to take the whole list as the best book recommendations you've ever gotten.

Everyone will get three (3) votes.

Please remember that there is no way to "rank" your votes. So every choice beyond your first will "dilute" the remaining votes a little.

This poll will only run until the end of December, so don't delay. On Jan 1st we will dig into something a little different for the January poll, and results will go up.

The poll itself is on the lower left of the side menus–just below the "About the Author."

Since I can't really stop shenanigans, I welcome all the shenanigans. The main one is of course that Polldaddy tracks your IP for a week so you could vote from multiple computers or vote again after a week, but people have also enlisted friends, family, and even author forums or Facebook communities to join in the fun.

Vote early. Vote often.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Week to Stop Doing Amphetamines (Personal Update)

My hand to god, until yesterday when I looked at a calendar,
I thought it was like maybe the 12th.
Image description: Writer looking like he just found out 
it's December 21st when he thought it was the 12th.
I keep getting more hours watching The Contrarian this week. (He's not in school right now, so it's the whole day too, not just a couple of hours in the afternoon.) I've worked more in the last three days than in the two weeks prior.

On the one hand my wallet is not as terrified of the coming holiday season, and I might not have to gift my loved ones packs of Top Raman. (I'm even planning a Christmas bonus for the staff here at W.A.W. that isn't "Free Hash Browns with a Breakfast Sandwich" coupons.) On the other hand, given that I'm back here tomorrow bright and early, the time situation has gone from "What is this; I don't..." to "I literally can't even" in just a couple of days.

It's not that I like playing hare lure with my Star Wars post. ("Did I say Wednesday? I meant Friday." "Did I say Friday? I meant next week.") It's just that a good, solid article takes about ten hours of work, and my days off are actually disappearing just as unpredictably. ("Did I say see you on Christmas? I meant can you come over tomorrow at 8am.) I'm finding as much writing time in the cracks as I can, but the first couple of hours of writing each day go towards my work in progress, and I am in desperate need of a few days with nothing going on to write out ahead of my posting schedule.

This time of year, man. I swear to fuck! Yell "This is Sparta!" and kick it down an inauspiciously placed bottomless pit already.

Our poll should still go up tonight (if I survive going shopping three days before Christmas) and I'll find some kind of jazz hands for tomorrow, but at the rate life is sending Armageddon opening scene caliber meteorites into the New York City of my free time, Star Wars might have to wait.

Jesus Fucking Christ did I just make that metaphor? I need some goddamned sleep.

Day jobs and writing are rarely two great tastes that taste great together but remember to keep plugging at your word-smithing (and preferably a little every day) no matter how life tries to triple-suplex you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Obscure Book (Results Semifinal 2)

Another long day today. (The Contrarian is not in school this week, so my shifts have been starting at 8:30-9:00 instead of 2:30-4:00)

Today I'll post results. Tomorrow I'll get up the final poll, watch T.C. again, and try to do some Christmas shopping that I'm still not really getting time to do.

Hopefully Friday I get the Star Wars post up.
Again someone nominated a "best" book and then didn't vote for it. *throws shade*
Text version of results below.
Callahan's Lady- S. Robinson 10 23.81%
The Master and Margarita-M. Bulgakov 7 16.67%
Emerald Eyes- D.K. Moran 6 14.29%
The Abyss- O.C. Card 5 11.9%
Night's Dawn Trilogy- P. Hamilton 5 11.9%
Playing Beatie Bow- R. Park 3 7.14%
Seafort Saga- D. Feintuch 2 4.76%
Steelbeach- J. Varley 2 4.76%
Kit's Wilderness- D. Almond 2 4.76%
Rhapsody- E. Haydon 0 0%




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best Obscure Book (Last Call Semifinal 2)


What is the best book that no one seems to have heard of?

Well, it's been a long day of watching The Contrarian, we never got a guest blog for Tuesday, and I'm going to need a week of actual time off before my post writing starts to get far enough ahead that I can casually drop something even if my army of guest bloggers are busy with their own stuff.

So today's post is nothing more than a reminder to vote in our Best Obscure Book poll. Results (and the final round) will be going up tomorrow. Lots of ties and there's still a chance to make a difference in what will go one to the final round.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trust the Police?


There is a narrative we have in our culture worth examination. The narrative that a police officer should be trusted unless there is a powerful reason not to. That trust should be the default position, and that failing to immediately trust law enforcement indicates not only a moral and social failing, but probably a criminal motive.

This narrative is flawed though.

The idea of a universal respect for ALL police officers (that can only ever be lost by some sort of demonstrable, provable, and deeply corrupt action) can only be reasonable when predicated on the idea that they are held to a higher standard of measured response to provocation, impeccable professionalism, and a dedication to civic service. A vital premise of this respect is that they would never abuse their position of authority while on a power trip.

But mostly it's an idea is based on the image of a cop in the line of fire.

The cop that risks their life.

The cop who has an unbelievably difficult job going out to make the world safe by endangering themselves.

("Their job is hard!")

It's based on our cultural narrative that a cop is endangering themselves and putting their very life on the line every time they put on the uniform. It's based on the idea that a cop will endanger themselves to protect civilians.

However, what is blatantly obvious now that everyone has a camera on their cell phones, is that far from being a rare and horrific exception that–being held to a higher standard–is immediately called out by those with the highest regard for the citizens they protect, police culture and the "thin blue line" regularly defend and protect fellow officers who harass and brutalize innocent, unarmed, and even incapacitated people, increase their militarization and abuses of poer, extrajudicially murder unarmed suspects, shoot people in the back for carrying BB guns in open carry states, or shoot twelve year olds playing with toy guns (also in open carry states) within seconds of arriving at a scene, and disproportionately do these things to non-whites and black folk in particular. They defend and protect officers who shoot immediately....without any attempt at non-lethal deescalation. And they blacklist any officers who get it in their head to turn on their fellow cops for the sake of the truth. And who in report after report after report (often revealed to be falsified when new proof emerges) say the same thing:

They felt "threatened."

Think about that for a second. How little does it take for someone to simply feel threatened. Not to recognize a clear and present danger to their life or the lives of others, but simply to FEEL threatened.

That's not being held to a higher standard anymore. That's a lower standard. Civilians are held to a higher standard. They are expected never to engage in lethal force and can be charged and even convicted if they do. Even though civilians lack the supposed rigorous training and professionalism to deal with the emotions of a provocative situation and deescalate without overreacting, unerringly, these same civilians are more expected to disengage and deescalate when they are provoked and have fewer legal protections if they fail to do so.

That's not having one's mistakes and derelictions held to an impeccable standard of scrutiny. Civilians who screw up in their job far, far, far less are much much much more likely to be fired. Certainly if someone dies, they probably need to update their resume.  Most of the officers who who extrajudicially execute civilians aren't ever even indicted (to say nothing of convicted), and end up on paid vacation at worst, making the consequence of their behaviors something they literally have to think about less than a civilian in an identical, threatening situation.

That's not police putting themselves in danger to protect civilians. That's police putting civilians in danger to protect themselves.

And as long as these values are prominent in police culture it is perfectly reasonable to distrust police until and unless they have earned respect instead of vice versa.

Think of the Children

There's a troubling narrative I've seen specifically being trotted out about any demonstrations that block traffic around the holidays that needs some social justice bard deconstruction.

It's basically a variant of "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!"

Here's how it works: people protest, and if that protest can be said to affect anyone financially....at all.....even a little bit....especially around the holidays....then someone says "I don't approve of any protest that would hurt children."

Then everyone who supports the protests is supposed to feel bad because little Timmy won't get a Christmas or maybe will get the knock off Power Ranger without the kung fu grip or something. Or in the more extreme examples because little Billy's breadwinner can't get to work and little Billy will go hungry.

There couldn't BE a more emblematic symbol of how the moderates would prefer stability to justice or equality than to create some fictional child whose entitlement to a rocking Christmas is threatened financially if people have to drive around a protest and is clearly more important than whatever is being protested. Justice is fine and well, but let's not hit anybody's bottom line.

Ironically in many of the folks advancing this narrative are ignoring the very non-hypothetical travesties of justice that have lead to non-hypothetical death...some of whom are children.

Last day....

I'll be putting up all of the remaining transferred Social Justice Bard posts (even if it takes until Ridonkulous O'Clock tonight) after I get back from dropping OG off at the airport, so that we don't spend any more time next week on that.

Again, thank you for your patience while we consolidate, in preparation for rolling out the next phase.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

SJB On Guns and Mental Illness and the Stories We Tell


There's a story our society tells when an atrocity is committed (and "atrocity" is the right word, not "tragedy"). As we grab for the answer, if we find something strange and different like a religion or an ethnicity that doesn't belong, then we blame that. If someone was other the other part was the reason they committed the action, and there need be no complex examination of the calculus that led to such a decision. In a convention that should shame us as a society, but somehow does not, ethnic identities can be guessed with high accuracy when news is breaking–before so much as a name is even known–by listening for code words like "terrorism," "immigration," "drug related," or "thug."

When the offender is white though, these ways of slipping them quietly into other groups that explain their penchant for committing terrible actions breaks down, of course. Even when white supremacy is an endemic and emblematic source of domestic terrorism, or drugs are involved. Even when several white people take over a government building in Oregon or aiming sniper rifles at federal agents and promise to go down shooting if removed, we cling to words like "militia," "gunman," or "shooter" but soon the story of white people committing atrocities will always turn to mental illness.

In a strange sort of "excuse" we rarely give to any other group, suddenly any white person who commits unspeakable violence is "crazy."

"Mental illness," or whatever euphemism for mental illness is being used ("deeply troubled," "crazy," "insane") does not erase the glaring problem that even when these things are true, they are still irrelevant and focusing on them both harms others and pulls the scrutiny from where it belongs.

It is actually a good and wonderful thing to lament the deplorable state of mental health treatment in this country and culture. The lack of easy access to affordable care is revolting, and the stigma that mental illness is not actually illness and people can just will themselves to be well is huge. Most people are still trying to tell folks with mental illness to eat right and exercise and just try NOT having that chronic disease. And those are the ones not simply recoiling in fear.

However, when people tell the story of mental health ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity, or care about the mental health failings of our culture ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity they're actually making things a lot worse, not better. They are only being harmful, not empathetic.

First of all, they are usually using "mental health" as a shibboleth for "people who do terrible things." The suggestion is that no one who does something like this COULD be sane. And even though this "excuse" is rarely extended to folks who aren't white, let me be absolutely clear about this, and I'll even use bold to make the point:

That is, by every psychological bellwether, completely inaccurate.

People who commit atrocities are diagnosed clinically sane ALL THE TIME. And the vast majority of people with mental illness are victims of violence not perpetrators. By a huge margin. Doing something terrible isn't an automatic sign of mental illness.

I know it hurts to think that humans are capable of violence without something being fundamentally wrong with their mental processes, and that we desperately want the capacity to do violence to multiple people indiscriminately to indicate that something MUST be faulty in the wiring itself, but that simply isn't true. (Or maybe it is true but what we should be looking at is a culture which "paints the target" with bigotry and excuses the entitled and angry behavior leading up to such an atrocity, not the functionality of specific brains.) We can all be monsters under the right circumstances. Some of us are. And I'm sorry if that's scary, but many who take a gun and do a terrible thing with it are completely sound of mind.

The things that make us monsters are not always bits working incorrectly. Sometimes it's the culture that tells us the "other" isn't worth living. Sometimes it's an expression of the hate we are taught every day. Sometimes it is the enculturation of an indoctrinating force.

Sometimes the things that make us monsters are the bits working exactly as intended.

When people DO this–when they say that "of course he had mental illness because no one who didn't could have done such a thing"–it's not only sloppy and uncritical thinking, devoid of logic and the slightest psychological accuracy, but it also perpetuates the stigma that the mentally ill are dangerous. They equate the two in a way that is not only inaccurate, but also causes a lot of splash damage to those who suffer from mental illness.

Am I saying no one who is mentally ill has ever been violent or done something violent? That's ridiculous. Of course some mentally ill people are violent. Some vegetarians are violent. Some mathematicians are violent. But we know better than to blame vegetarianism and mathematics when the latter to cases are true. None of these things is the deciding factor in someone's violence. Even if this weren't a post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy right out of a Freshman textbook, the correlation is so low as to make the comparison actually disingenuous and not simply fallacious. By significant margins, mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves or BE harmed by others than when compared to the general population. And certainly compared to groups like young white men. When we go digging for it, like it's the cause, and nothing more need be said, that's the problem. That's called, ironically, a sharpshooter fallacy.

Even, as in the case with the Oregon community college shooter, when the presumption turns out to be accurate, it is a red herring. We might as well turn up proof of athlete's foot or tooth decay for all the causation that is indicated by a diagnosis like Aspergers or "psychological problems." People with far worse "psychological problems" aren't violent at all, and most on the Autism spectrum are extraordinarily non-violent. So that's clearly not actually the cause even though that's what the media tries to dig up. And even if such a condition increases a predisposition, ignoring the underlying cause would be a little like doctors shrugging when an immune compromised person gets an infection instead of finding out what the infection is.

"Eh they were immune compromised? What can you do?"

Because here's the other problem: folks are using "crazy" to circumvent a lot of relevant social analysis that could and should go into the calculus of such an event. Everything from the absurdly simplistic and unregulated access to instantly-lethal, multi-lethal, ranged weaponry to the effect of toxic masculinity in the radicalization of young men, to racial inequality to a sense of white, male entitlement, to tribalism and othering is simply swept under the rug in one swoop because that person was "obviously just crazy." We dismiss dozens (hundreds?) of conversations about the culture these minds were marinating in to simply write it all off as being about mental illness. "Oh well, what can we do. Just another disturbed mind. Hope it doesn't happen again...or again...or again..."



Mental illness affects a certain percentage of people all across the Earth–why do these atrocities so often happen in the U.S.? And why are they so often done BY white males? These are the things we should be digging into–not finding out every person in a shooter's past who ever said they were troubled.

Mental illness is not homologous to "evil." And people really should either bang that drum all the time or think hard before they give it a whack after a highly visible event.

Because the stories we choose to tell might just be making things worse for a group that is already erased, marginalized, and stigmatized.

The Narrative of White People on Racism


The narrative of racism according to white people:

*white people seeing racism online* Unfortunate, but if I didn’t allow them venue, space, and access to my audience, I would be no better than they.

*white people hearing about deliberately racist spaces* Regrettably that’s a terrible by-product of our great democracy. It's regrettable that people still think that way in today's enlightened post modern utopia of enlightenment.

*white people finding out the KKK is marching in their city* We have to give them police protection. It is unfortunate that there are still a few renegade outliers who feel this way, but someone might get hurt if we don’t.

*white people when a celebrity uses a slur* Yes, that was bad, but surely there's no reason to ruin their entire career over it. I mean come now.  Are we really NEVER supposed to use that word? How come you can use it to refer to yourselves? What if we're just singing along to lyrics of music we like......

*white people seeing event after event after event of blatant racism (every time)* Good lord what a horrifying example of someone who is still tainted by the corrupting evil influence of the racism we expunged from our society fifty years ago. Well, I'm glad that's over and we can get back to being colorblind. Cause I don't see race. (Unless it's Santa. Or a black founding father.  Or one of the Fantastic Four.....) That's the moral thing to do.

*white people when city after city is exposed to have racist police* All these isolated people and isolated incidents. I'm going to shake my head and press my lips together like a politician in a sex scandal, but let's not say anything silly like that there's a systematic problem or that people of color have every reason not to trust the criminal justice system.

*white people when cops lie on their reports before they know they were being filmed* Well, I'm sure this is just a recent phenomenon and its correlation with everyone having movie cameras in their cell phone is just coincidental timing. Cops are the good guys. Well except for THAT one....not that he should be indicted because there were lots of mitigating circumstances and being a cop is hard.

*white people reacting to the extrajudicial murder of unarmed men and women* You know that guy once posed with a cigarette for a selfie. They were no angel. It’s tough to be a cop. They likely did something to deserve it. Wait for the trial. Everything is always settled by our criminal justice system which would never treat one group of people differently than another.

*white people when POC are literally explaining to them that something is hurting them* How is THAT racist? Well I don’t see how or why? I didn't mean it that way. That's ludicrous. Oh my god–everything is racist now. Are you looking for a problem?

*white people encountering the concept of white privilege* That's ridiculous. We should all be judged equally. I don't have privilege: I was poor. You're the real racist.

*white people when Black people object to being killed in a movement affirming that their lives matter* How could you say such a thing? ALL lives matter. BLUE lives matter. You're terrorists. You're as bad as the KKK. Stop saying that.

*white people when there's civic unrest over a lack of justice* Dr. King would have hugged this out. Dr. King never condoned riots. Dr. King never blocked traffic. And if I were there and it were MY windows being broken, I would be killing some of those thug animals.

*white people when people of color describe their lives and the systematic inequalities they face from their own lived experiences* Shhhhh. Shhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh. Quit playing the race card. Shhhhhhhhhh.



*white people when Beyonce pays homage to a group that protected black lives and fed kids* You’re what’s keeping racism alive.

Friday, December 16, 2016

On "Crappy" Social Justice Teachers

Today's narrative to challenge is the one about the terrible social justice teacher. You know, the toxic ne'er do well who calls everybody problematic and crushes the perfectly innocent question of that pure hearted would-be ally and drives them away from social justice forever.

"How can I learn if you won't teach me?"

"The problem with social justice is that it won't educate newcomers."

"You keep chasing off people who don't already have perfect knowledge of how to behave."

"You're not doing your cause any favors to be the gatekeepers of your concepts."

Sound familiar?

Most people who utter these phrases, don't realize how much of a power dynamic they just enacted. To them it makes sense that the minute they want to help, they should get as much encouragement as possible from those they are trying to help.

Usually they do. Most people who approach social justice with a good faith curiosity find no end of folks willing to help them out with concepts, explain terms, share experiences. Most of the talks, forums, articles, and posts about social justice happen at what they call the "101 level" (or the very basics of teaching. Outside of perhaps an actual school, you probably haven't met a group more willing to put the genuinely curious in contact with resources that would help them or talk them through an idea.

The trouble comes when folks approach in bad faith. And the patterns surrounding this (dismissal, "just asking questions," concern trolling, devil's advocate) are so predictable and recognizable that it's easy to see them coming a mile away. The exasperated reaction to yet another status quo warrior challenging their ideas by JAQing off (just asking questions) is interpreted as an unwillingness to teach rather than as a host of seasoned vet teachers who are able to recognize an unwillingness to learn.

Of course the social justice community is a....community. It consists of lots of people of varying levels of patience, diplomacy, and skill with teaching. It consists of folks who have no interest in teaching and are just trying to get through the day and hope someone listens to them. It consists of spaces where teaching newcomers isn't the primary objective. It consists of spaces dedicated to those who have digested the first "tier" of concepts. It consists (as any community does) who are toxic. It consists of sub-communities with ideas of idealogical purity who chase others off. But applying those criticisms to the whole is one of the emblematic problems of stereotyping and hasty generalizations.

One can actually see this problem with this narrative show up if we take out the power dynamic.

If you walked into a calculus class to which you were enrolled and doing quite well, and the teacher started talking about derivatives for the first time, but they didn't teach you about them or write them down, but rather just said that derivatives would be on the test and you raised your hand and asked what they were and THEN the teacher screamed at you, "I don't have time to teach you this. You'll have to educate yourself...."

That would be shitty teaching.

But privileged people complaining that every space within the world of social justice is not stopping to teach them the minute they have a basic question, even if the others are in the middle of a conversation, in a space that is not designed for basic education is a power dynamic. Feeling entitled to be gently taught about marginalization by the very people who are marginalized is a power dynamic.

Here is more accurate behavior for this analogy:
  • Telling the calculus teacher that even though you agree with the importance of numbers in theory, you wouldn't go much beyond algebra and whole basis of advanced mathematics is going "too far" since you do not understand irrational numbers and have personally never experienced them in your life.
  • Insulting everyone who "wastes their time" attempting to understand advanced mathematics. (Basically the entire class.)
  • Dismissing (even mocking) any attempts to explain irrational numbers, how they work, and how math knows they're there. 
  • Refusing to simply sit down and listen even though the class is clearly too advanced for you.
  • Ignoring multiple people who have been doing advanced mathematics for years.
  • Being in a class you're not enrolled in and clearly don't have the foundational knowledge to grasp, but also refusing to sit quietly, instead asking demanding questions about concepts covered three or four years earlier in a typical math curriculum.
  • Not complying when asked to hold questions about basic concepts until the end, come to office hours, or avail yourself of tutoring. Demanding that a lack of an answer means there isn't one.
  • Scoffing when being given quick resources (like trig textbooks), or having it suggested to you that you find a class that better suits you, so that the class can return to what it was doing.
  • Insisting that because there was no gate at the college parking lot or security that stopped you or lock on the door to the class that you are absolutely entitled to be in the space, it is "public," and it is ridiculous to suggest that you shouldn't be able to behave in whatever way you want, no matter how disruptive.
  • Bursting in on the math research team, who are actually just doing math because they're mathematicians and that's their lives, and demanding that they teach you because anyone who does math has to be willing to teach you....at any time.
  • Deciding that the differential equations class you have audited should actually be about geometry, walking up to the front and beginning to run a parallel class in geometric proofs, shouting over the teacher, and ignoring all instructions to stop (again, until escorted out by security).
  • Approaching instructors when they're at home or at the grocery store and continuing to demand that they educate you right then...for free. 
  • Laughing at the idea that someone should get paid to personally and gently walk you through these concepts or that you should have even the slightest responsibility in your own educational process.
  • Literally resisting the ideas by trying to find some flaw in the teaching.
  • Suggesting that any emotion displayed by the instructor (particularly passion for the subject) means that math is wrong.
  • Informing everyone in the classroom that they should be FUCKING GRATEFUL that you're trying to learn this "math stuff" at all, and that if they're going to convince the world math is important, they're going to need you.
  • Insist that the difficulty in upper math courses isn't doing the discipline any favors.
  • Refusing to accept basic concepts (even on an intellectual level) because you believe it will call into question the way you've been doing math all these years. And you don't like the idea of that.
  • Ignoring pretty much everything you're told no matter how often you're told it and by how many teachers and by how many patient classmates and then when the first person who gets exasperated at you loses their patience you blame math and the entire math department for being a terrible educators.
  • Claiming that your civil rights had been infringed when security finally escorts you out.
  • And of course before you did any of this–ANY OF IT–you walked past fifteen different lower level math classes that were talking about the concepts you are having trouble with and that had openings in their roster with instructors who would have been delighted to take you on at your current level of understanding. You ignored every single one of them as well as the wealth of information available online or in books to someone who is genuinely curious about learning more advanced mathematics. And instead you went into a space that was beyond you, ground the whole thing to a halt, and made it about immediately alleviating your ignorance.
  • And when it is all said and done, you claim that mathematics has a real problem with bad gatekeepers and indecipherable jargon, and if they wanted more mathematicians, they should be nicer to people who just want to learn.


In these contexts would anybody think that a teacher who got fed up, got angry, asked this person to leave, asked this person to be quiet if they were going to stay, asked this person to avail themselves of more basic information, or asked them to take a proactive hand in their own education were REALLY a "shitty" teacher?

Or is the entitled demand for an immediate, gentle education another form of privilege and entitlement that is shown to be ridiculous in any other power dynamic.

[Mandatory disclaimer: Yes there are people in the 101 levels of activism who have no business being there (just like there are teachers who have no business being teachers). They rage at a wrong move, jump to basically abusive levels of hostility, shut down any hope of actual communication or learning, and use some of the vocabulary of social justice to be harmful. However, most of the time this is not the case. People who aren't good at teaching are not TRYING to do 101. What they're trying to do is have a fucking conversation about their lives without some rando showing up and challenging their interpretation of their own lived experiences.]

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Many Would It Take? (The story you've been told.)

Consider this those with privilege (cis het white men in particular):

Consider the story many of us tell ourselves that racism is basically conquered. A malevolent force that no longer carries any real power to harm anyone.

How many people would it take who had power over you and hated you for no reason beyond the circumstances of your birth for your life to be SIGNIFICANTLY worse?

Give it some thought. It's a serious question. I don't mean a dystopian nightmare of cartoonish sneering everywhere you walk or gasps when you walk into a room, I just mean that you could trace back a significant difference in your quality of life from where it is now to that hatred.

10%? Maybe 5? Maybe even less? What if only two percent–one out of of every fifty people just HATED you for no real reason other than it was you. 2% doesn't seem like very much does it? Most of the world is still neutral toward you.

But think about it for a minute... Think about that story you've been told.

Two percent probably means you would have had a boss by now or a boss's boss that could have vetoed any promotions or raises you might have been given at this point in your life. In fact, they could have made sure that there was an unspoken rule that you weren't to be promoted and there was always this vaguely antagonistic pressure on you. And that is only if you got the job in the first place–assuming somehow the people who hated you were never involved in passing you over during hiring. And if your performance wasn't as good at that job, maybe you had less luck getting another one. You certainly could have been turned down for a loan or credit if one of those people were working at a bank. If they were high enough to make sure it was clear that people like you weren't to get loans as easily, you wouldn't have even had to run into that 2 in 100 personally. Not getting that loan may have had a cascade effect in your life. What about if these 2% were in a position to set policy?  I mean there are hundreds of politicians at each level of government so that's lots of them who can quietly make sure to pass laws or tweak existing ones in a way designed to hurt you (even though they were ostensibly about something else). How many times have you JUST made it to something vitally important because of a cab driver or a bus driver helped you out–someone who could have messed with you and made you miss it. What if they were cops? There's LOTS of cops.  What if they were an officer…and they stopped you and looked for problems. How many citations would you have gotten by now? What if one out of every fifty people was just HOPING you would fuck up on their watch so they could nail you. One out of fifty co-workers, teachers, people you met on the street, vendors.

Everyone.

What if it was your president?

And if you have more than one characteristic people hate, you have to navigate a whole different 2% for that characteristic too. Stack a few on top of each other and easily 10% of the entire world has a vested interest in you fucking up. One out of every ten people you meet will try in some small way to make your life a little worse for their being in it.

So back to our privileged folks. Does one out of fifty sound unreasonable? It should. It's probably way more than that. We who don't experience bigotry tend to think of it as something only our shitty uncles forward us e-mails about, but how is it that we somehow all have that one shitty uncle but don't think it's an issue. It's not like it's the same guy who is all of our uncles. Or we've all heard something spectacularly bigoted–probably pretty often–but still think no one really thinks that way. Or we see stories of revolting bigotry every day in our news and keep thinking of it as a long, unbroken chain of one off events and isolated bigots rather than an endemic and systematic problem. Or we ignore slurs because we don't want to make a scene. Or... Or.... Or....

Or we elect a president who is an outspoken bigot because apparently that stuff doesn't bother people enough that it's a deal breaker.

The truth is it's all around us. It's on a spectrum, so not everyone has to be an Archie Bunker caricature. Some people dress it up real pretty and have lots of rationalizations that make it socially acceptable. Some people do it by claiming that everyone who points it out is themselves a bigot. There are lots of bigots about. People just know better than to talk about it openly most of the time.

But here’s the kicker: How much WORSE would it be if no one ever believed you? If pretty much the other 98% ALWAYS covered for that 2%. They always said it was about what you did, not who you were. That you deserved it. That maybe bigotry exists but THIS time it was just a fluke. They always played devils advocate. No matter what. They ALWAYS told you that it was YOU who were crazy and at fault no matter how ridiculous the discrimination became. And in the most clear cut cases they defaulted to trying to talk about other ways in which that person was great. And the angrier you got about this whole affair, the more people treated you like a pariah.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Not All Assholes Are Lawyers

There's this joke.

A guy walks into a bar and says "All lawyers are assholes." Down at the end of the bar someone says "Hey, that's not fair." The first person says "What, are you a lawyer?" "No," the second guy says. "I'm an asshole."

(pause for big laffs--and hope you never need legal council)

Now as you come down from the euphoria of laughing harder than you probably have in years (perhaps even your whole life) consider the following:

This joke is useful to keep in mind analogously when blaming bigotry and especially and violence on mental illness.

I know we would all prefer to live in a world where sane people simply don't go on killing sprees or hate someone because they're Black, and where we can avoid the uncomfortable feelings that our fellow man could be so heinous without also being "broken" (and what is probably really niggling at our sense of well being: that WE could be so heinous under the right circumstances).

However mental illness is not the root of all evil and people who are mentally ill struggle enough without the stigma that it is. Most mentally ill people never hurt anyone physically. They are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrate it, and are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. Finding that some mentally ill people are violent is as meaningful as finding that some dentists are violent. It is not the X-factor, and blaming the correlation deepens the stigma and sweeps the real causal factors under the rug.

Besides, in the end, arm-chair diagnosing those who do something depraved is not only intellectually bankrupt. It is often, simply wrong. People who commit atrocities are found to be sane over and over again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Holiday Season (Personal Update and Upcoming Shenanigans)

Image description: Writer looking...absolutely totes adorbs.
Really Rough Draft  

Raw unfettered shit- 60, 203 (Last update 68,508) [Just this update- 8305]     

Slightly polished turd- 34, 809 (Last week 34,809)  [Just this week- 0] 

*Reminder slightly polished turd is usually soft revision I've done to help jump start me into the next day's writing. It's no where close to a second draft, but it's a bit more polished than my raw copy. But a blank page is a hard start.

I really wanted to not post my numbers today. Especially since that's two weeks worth of writing. I mean I really, really wanted to just skip it for a few weeks and then when I had punched out some good writing sessions, suddenly say "Oh yeah. It's totally been a while. My bad!" Then with the big days to even out the bad, it would look kind of like a crappy average, but acceptable progress.

But accountability is accountability. This is how the sausage gets made. And this is the season where everything upends.

So that shall be my lesson for the week (cue the twangy mouth harp music):

First of all, when you hit those really shitty periods of uber-busy–and you will because you're human and have to live in the real world with holidays, day jobs, and bills to pay and we can't all be fucking Stephen King with his four to six hours a day (even if you manage to strip your life bare of social life, a job that affords you luxuries like "a studio apartment," and some semblance of work/life balance)–it's more important than ever to keep pounding out a few words whenever you can. Grab what time is left and wring every last syllabic drop out of it. For me that chaotic period is the end always at of the semester and the holidays (and I always get sick at the end of the semester too), and nothing hits quite as hard as the two weeks or so before Christmas when I'm taking the one-two punch from both of those things.

Not just because you've got a bunch of Kickstarter backers wondering what the hell you're doing with their money (or maybe that's just me) but for two reasons.

Number one, those words add up faster than you think. One of the reasons I'm so ambivalent about NaNoWriMo is that it sells this narrative that you sit down and just SPLAT out a book. That's not how it works. That's NEVER how it works. You don't work at the 1776 words a day. Your book comes out of you in fits and starts. Sometimes you struggle with three paragraphs. Sometimes you write for six hours and realize you have to erase every word of it. And sometimes you zone out and find yourself coming out a sweat drenched haze hours later with your heart pounding and your eyes burning and your knuckles sore but there's 20 new pages you can barely remember having written–and it's good shit too.

But if you gut something, even when it's tough, you'll see an inexorable progress. What would have happened if I'd just said "Fuck it. I'm way too busy right now. I'll catch up starting Dec 26." Well, as of this writing (with still 12 days to go) I would be eight thousand words and change behind where I am right now. Books are birthed through strenous labor. They don't slide effortlessly out of us. But there's something we can do to help them along, even between "contractions."

Number two you have to stay inside your Work In Progress (WIP). Stories you're telling yourself are like stories you're reading or shows you're watching. After a couple of days you start to slip out of your characters' minds. They feel stale and unfamiliar. A few more days and you're struggling to remember where you were going, what was happening, even the inner voice of your protagonist. If you put down your pen every time life comes up, you end up spending more time trying to get back into your groove and pace. And if you're not very, VERY careful during your revision, you work will have a patchwork feel. Scene shifts will feel clunky. Resolutions handwaved. Conflicts forgotten. Like it's a quilt sewn together from squares of different emotional touchpoints and even slightly different writers–which of course, in a very real sense, is exactly what has happened.

There's a reason professional writers only let the most outrageous of personal crises pull them from the page for more than a day or three.

This week is going to be all kinds of out of order for blog posting as I try to get you good articles early in the week (in addition to still moving over articles to the Social Justice Bard menu) and get a Star Wars article written to time with the release of Rogue One. But then OG is coming into town this weekend, so anything not written by then is going to have to be jazzhands and superfudge. I can write a little when company is in town, but I sure as hell can't get a whole dedicated blog post written and revised.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Allies Are Like Sports Fans

Image description: Soccer stadium with a full
pyrotechnics show going on.
Being a social justice ally is a lot like being a fan of a sports team.

You’re there to support them, spend money on their merchandise, identify yourself as a supporter so that your team feels the love and the world knows you're there, cheer for them, talk them up to others, gush about why your team rocks to anyone interested in sports (and maybe a few who aren't), and jump in if someone's talking trash about your team (or your sport). You bring a megaphone and a big foam #1 glove, and you use the megaphone to lead the cheers you have been taught and that the team likes to hear. And maybe if you're good at what you do, you lead the bleachers in a cheer or two and get a few seconds of cheering on the JumboTron.

But you're not part of the team. You don't go to practices. You don’t get your name on the roster. If they wins or loses, you're going to your normal job on Monday. If you're wearing a jersey, it's got someone else's name on it. You don't take that megaphone, turn it full blast and start offering your own opinion to the crowd about what the team could be doing differently because you're just really concerned about how they're doing this season. You don't hang out in the locker room or sit down with the MVP and tell them you really know a lot better about the sport they're playing than they do and here's what they need to do. You aren't invited to the strategy sessions. Because you aren't the focus.

Also, if someone from the team is doing a press conference, you don't run up and steal the microphone to talk about how the team's playing has made you feel.

Best Obscure Book (Semifinal 2)

What is the best book that no one seems to have heard of? 

They're the books that you love, but every time you want to talk about them, no one seems to have heard of them.

This semifinal poll will be up until midweek next week. Then we'll run the finals to the end of December.

Everyone will get four votes (4). The top five names of each poll will go on to the final round. Before you simply vote for your favorite five, consider that, as there is no ranking of those votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Let's Make Firefly About Star Wars

Firefly promotional poster with all the characters 
An extended geeky metaphor:  

Imagine that every time you try to have a conversation about Firefly, I show up and talk about Star Wars. You bring up the laser in the brothel episode, I talk about the new lightsaber cross-guard. Talk about Serenity the movie, I bring up the timeline of Episode 8. Fox canceling mid-season? That's not going to happen with Star Wars because of the Disney merger (which you think is great because....). The way canon psychics didn't get developed in the show. I talk about Force powers and midichlorians.

When you finally point out that you're actually talking about Firefly right now--not Star Wars, and that I am derailing a conversation in the middle of a Browncoat's Ball, I claim that you obviously don't LIKE Star Wars, and have no real interest in the broader arc of modern science fiction as a whole–even though both those statements are patently false (and in fact, you can probably better contextualize how Star Wars fits into the Science Fiction milieu than I can). You're a huge fan of science fiction, love Star Wars, and discuss at length how Star Wars's mainstream acceptance has brought more acceptability to a genre that was considered fringe.

But it is patently obvious that what I really care about is not the "science fiction milieu" but really just making everything about Star Wars.

But Star Wars is better, I claim! Everyone has heard of Star Wars. Star Wars wasn't cancelled in the middle of its only season. No one even knows all the characters or actors in Firefly. I can't even be bothered to learn what Firefly has to do with that vampire show from the 90s. Firefly fans are just hanging on to something that's over and alienating younger fans.

No matter where you go or who you're talking to, there I am (or someone like me) to derail your Firefly talk into Star Wars. It's not enough to say "You're right, Star Wars is awesome" and go back to talking about Firefly. I demand that the subject be changed. I demand that you stop talking about Firefly. I derail every single conversation. And I fricken show up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

This is called derailing.

It's not wrong. It's not that it's not a good conversation to have. It may even fit in to a broader point if it's brought up in a way that fits into a broader point. It's just not the actual conversation that's going on, and insisting it change brings a lot of stop energy to what is currently on the table. And it's actually quite a bit easier than most people think to tell that THIS IS THE GOAL of derailing.

Derailing is actually about forcing a topic change to a new issue. Whether it's bringing up "all lives matter" in response to BlackLivesMatter or "men suffer too" when discussing women's issues. It's not that these things are important. In fact they are probably well considered by the folks in question. It's not that they can't be brought up in a compatible way. ("As a man who has been raped, I wouldn't wish this on anyone, and consent is important.") It's that the way it is brought up is explicitly intended as a counterpoint. ("Men get raped too, ya know!") At worst it's a calculated attempt to keep the focus on the subject of social supremacy. But even at best it's just a clueless and rude invasion into a conversation that's about something else entirely.

Best Obscure Book (Semifinal 1 Results)

Well, I managed to get sick again. At least this one was expected; I always seem to pick something up at the end of the semester. I'm definitely taking this one seriously and getting rest (even from a lot of writing) so that I don't have another run with bronchitis this year, but it's good timing since I have a lot of Social Justice Bard posts to transfer over from the other blog.  Hopefully it won't lay me out for too long.

This poll ran a few days over, so I'll run the next one a couple days extra too. But I'll put the results up today (and the new poll up tomorrow) so that we're not dragging things any further out.

Everything above Libiromancer will be going on to the final round.  

I know the results on a Books You've Never Heard Of poll are (naturally) going to be a little low, but I was still happy with our turnout even so.  Hope you check some of these gems out.

Who nominated a book and then didn't vote for it???  *Fry meme eye narrow*


Results in text form:

To Reign in Hell- S. Brust 11 23.91%
The Principia Discordia- Malaclypse the Younger 7 15.22%
Exquisite Corpse- P.Z. Brite 7 15.22%
Middlesex- J. Eugenides 7 15.22%
Libriomancer- J. C. Hines 6 13.04%
The Thirteenth Tale- D. Setterfield 3 6.52%
Momo- M. Ende 3 6.52%
Almanac of the Dead- L.M. Silko 1 2.17%
Crashcourse by W. Baird 1 2.17%
Sum: Tales of the Afterlife- D. Eagleman 0 0%

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Really Dangerous Intersection

Image description: Sign that says Dangerous Intersections Ahead
There's a really dangerous intersection near my house. I have to be careful when I'm walking with The Contrarian. It's a one way turn from a freeway offramp, so drivers often only look left to see if there's oncoming traffic before turning. If I'm coming from my house (coming from their left), they usually see me without any problem, but if I'm walking towards home (from the right) they often don't bother looking–they glance to see if there's oncoming traffic and then dart out, never thinking that there could be a pedestrian coming from the other direction. Every couple of days, drivers whip out without even seeing me and if I'd kept walking, I would have been hit. I try to make sure I have eye contact before proceeding. There was a near miss yesterday when a driver– 

DRA: Not all drivers are like that. I'm not like that.

Where did you come from? I'm in the middle of writing a post. Excuse me. 

Anyway, I have to keep vigilant for these drivers because they don't look both ways–

DRA: Not all drivers do that. You can't just make sweeping generalizations.

Okay, I don't know what you're doing here, but you're kind of derailing my point. Enough drivers are like that to make being a pedestrian very dangerous–especially when they don't think to look out for our safety.

DRA: What you are saying impugns all drivers, and we need to stop painting them all with the same brush. Not all drivers are so careless.

Yes, but all pedestrians are in danger and have to be careful of drivers who aren't.

DRA: But what you said was about all drivers. ALL drivers are not dangerous drivers, this is about drivers. Because you are generalizing in a way that hurts me.

Actually this is about me almost getting hit.

DRA: By ONE driver. ONE bad apple.

Yes, but this happens all the time. I am constantly being endangered by drivers. I don't know which drivers are going to be the safe ones and which ones are going to not pay attention at a one way turn.

DRA: Not me though. This is about all the good drivers out there you're hurting and offending with your generalizations. I take umbrage with you painting "drivers" with the same brush.

This is not about drivers. This is about how dangerous it is to be a pedestrian. I'm sure there are great drivers, but enough of them are dangerous that my safety becomes an issue almost daily.

DRA: You know drivers probably wouldn't almost hit you if you wore something more visible. Maybe you should carry a whistle to let them know you're there. Maybe if you walked in pairs you would be easier to spot.

Or maybe they should look both ways because that's like the first thing you learn in driving school.

DRA: I always look both ways. The idea of someone not looking both ways makes me violent. I want to hurt those drivers.

Great. Then this is not about you.

DRA: It is about me because I'm a driver. You said "DRIVERS" don't look both ways. Not all of us are like that. Most of us look both ways. Whoever allegedly almost hit you is probably a good driver too. They spend their whole lives making safe turns and now you want to assassinate their character because they didn't think one turn all the way through?

I'm not assassinating anything. They almost hit a baby. And it happens EVERY FUCKING DAY.

DRA: So you say. I'm sorry, but I can't really even listen to this without getting the other side of the story. Well meaning drivers who (maybe) make an innocent mistake deserve my rational impartiality.

The other side of the story? What other side of the story?

DRA: How do I know you didn't make one of those "go ahead" gestures, and then regretted it after the fact.

What? Are you trying to be horrid? I'm telling you I was almost hit and that it happens a lot.

DRA: But you're fine. Be thankful it wasn't worse. If you really don't want to get hit, you'll dodge the cars. When a legitimate hit is coming towards you, the reflexes have ways of shutting that down.

That's completely absurd. Pedestrians get killed all the time.

DRA: You're not doing your cause any favors by getting so upset. Look, I'm not saying you just want attention, but there are a lot of people who fraudulently report accidents–maybe for the insurance money, or maybe just for sympathy. How do I even know you're not one of those?

Why would I do that? My cause? What the fuck. I'm just telling you what happened to me.

DRA: How should I know? You pedestrians have your reasons. Did even you report this "terrible crime"?

The cops wouldn't care.

DRA: Convenient. Did anybody else see it happen?

Lots of people saw it. Nobody did anything. I don't know who any of them are, and they didn't stop to do anything about it.

DRA: Wow. The convenient hits just keep on coming. Pedestrians have been making up stories about dangerous drivers for a long time.

Pedestrians get killed by drivers all the time! How is that making anything up?

DRA: Sure, but those pedestrians... I mean they're near the road, wearing clothes that don't scream "get away." That's just the world we live in, and pedestrians need to be responsible for how cars might behave. You can't wear whatever you want and cross dangerous intersections and not expect that someone is going to drive without checking both ways. Drivers will be drivers. Have you even bothered to think about how traumatized the driver might be that they almost hit someone? 

Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?

DRA: Trying to change the fundamental nature of drivers is too hard. They are what they are. You should focus on how to make sure pedestrians DON'T GET HIT. You can't just go around generalizing that all drivers are bad because you didn't bother to undergo a few basic safety precautions.

Yes, I fucking can! Get out of my post. Go away!

DRA: I don't see why you can't be reasonable about this. Pedestrians are always so hysterical about everything. What I'm going for here is EQUAL access to the road. I already can't drive my monster truck on their sidewalks without consequence, but they sure can come into my streets any time they want. You Pedestrian Safety Warriors and your anti-driver rhetoric are just trying to destroy good and decent drivers with your Pedestradry. I'm tired of your anti-driver, anti-car bigotry.

What????

DRA: And why aren't we talking about how often people on foot hurt cars. I mean they can key them or break their windows. Do you think it's another driver who steals a stereo systems. No. It's a person on foot. The struggle is real.

That has nothing to do with–

DRA: Wait you said this happens a lot? Why do you keep putting yourself in that position day after day.

What? You mean walking down the street? Because I'm not going to sit at home.

DRA: Honestly, you probably wanted to get hit. I mean, look at how much attention you're getting. I bet this blog isn't doing to badly based on the traffic you're getting from telling your.....story.

You need to leave.

DRA: Sounds like you could use a good collision honestly. I hope you get run over!

Get the fuck out of my post.

DRA: Look I'm sorry that you're misunderstanding me. See how emotional pedestrians are? And they're anti-driver bigots. 

LEAVE!!!!

#notalldrivers 

A Call for Civility


Fellow whites, fellow men, fellow heterosexuals, fellow cissexuals:

They DID ask nicely. We ignored them.

They wrote academic, well argued, critical papers with exhaustively precise and careful language. We didn't read them.

They carefully, diplomatically, oh-so-gently explained to us why it hurt. We silenced them.

They calmly explained their life experiences. We invalidated them.

They reasonably laid out the injustice they face. We turned away.

They worked within the system. The system failed them.

They created parallel societies. We destroyed those societies.

They gently explained a lifetime and legacy of grievances. We told them to get over it.

They protested peacefully. We walked around them.

Then they grew angry. And we have the gall to tell them we might pay attention and we might redress if they'd only calm down and be reasonable.....

Can WE please be civil for a change.

Friday, December 9, 2016

That "feminist crap"

Image description: Ryan Gosling with text:
"hey girl. let's smash the patriarchy.

Now that I've the world has decided I'm a feminist, let's just open the flood gates, and dispense with the pretense shall we? If I lose throngs of readers who think I'm politicizing writing, I'll just have to cry myself to sleep. Honestly, if you want to be an artist who doesn't concern themselves with the suffering of others, I'm okay if you get your wisdom and insight somewhere else.

If, for some reason, you are against feminism, let's keep a few things in mind before trolling a blog with an admin who hasn't even the slightest compunction about deleting comments.
  • I am not feminism. If you want to label me (I don't really label myself) I am a feminist ally. I do not speak for all of feminism or every feminist or any women. My job is more like a megaphone, and I'm good at it because there are men who only listen to other men. If you call on me to answer for that one time a feminist hurt your feelings because they were so hostile, congratulations! You are generalizing about an entire group based on an individual. You probably shouldn't do that.
  • Feminism is about equality. It simply starts from the knowledge that things between genders are not currently equal. If you suggest that feminism isn't about equality ("It's all about women!"), congratulations! You have failed to understand the context or history of the subject you are currently discussing. You will spend three hours on Wikipedia to argue about the physics of a fight in a Spiderman comic, but you don't even know the 101 basics of what you're talking about when it comes to feminism. Do you feel ignorant? You look ignorant.
  • If you are letting someone other than a feminist define what feminism is, congratulations! You are displaying one of the most emblematic issues within inequality: not allowing people to speak for themselves. Way to be part of the problem!
  • If you say that you might listen to feminists if they would just word things more nicely/ academically/ dispassionately. Congratulations! You have just advanced the tone argument which has been going on since civil rights and before. Don't worry though; if you don't care about injustice unless you hear about it in the "right way," but haven't sought out the places in which exactly what you want exists and has for centuries, you probably don't actually much care about justice and wouldn't make a very good ally anyway. Carry on.
  • If you are pointing out how men are sometimes oppressed by gender roles too as a counterpoint to feminism, congratulations! You have failed to pay attention to the actual aims of feminism. Feminism cares about gender inequality of men. (You probably would have known that if you'd either listened to a feminist or done some basic research.  Oopsie.) Feminism just gets frustrated when the only time these issues come up is to derail the conversation about women's inequality.
  • If you feel you are a victim of reverse sexism, congratulations! You have confused your hurt feelings with systematic economic, social, and political oppression on a global scale that affects nearly every aspect of human interaction. It's an easy mistake to make when you've only ever experienced one of them.
  • Yes, some forms of feminism do have a problem with marginalizing other equality movements. White feminism is particularly insidious as are TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and SWERFs (sex worker exclusionary radical feminists). Around here, it will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.
  • "Make me a sandwich" "You're probably ugly" "Must be that time of the month." Congratulations! You have mistaken genuine, bigotry and sexism for unoriginal, uninspired "ironic" sexist humor. We're not NOT laughing because we're humorless. We're not laughing because you're not funny. Try again.

Major Housekeeping (And The Reason Why)

Image Description: Google Domains Notice
"Your domain is about to expire."
So normally, Friday would be the time for some kind of "meaty" article. And I've got a couple simmering on the back burner. (One of them is about Star Wars! Although since it's me in 2016–also known as the year of tragedy–it is going to be about The Force Awakens not Rogue One, but maybe I can do a Rogue One article right before the Han Solo stand alone comes out. Hach ach ach chaaa!) I've also finished teaching for the semester [and at least next semester as well] so there is about to be an uptick in the number and quality of articles around here.

Today, though (and running into this weekend) another of our major changes is coming. I need to get a few things taken care of, and there's going to be quite a bit of housekeeping.

Folks on subscription should be aware that this weekend might get a little chaotic. Lots of articles you may have seen before finding new homes on fresh pages.

So here's what's going on:

About a year ago, if you've been following close I split a certain kind of writing I've been doing into it's own blog called Social Justice Bard. (I'm not going to link it for reasons that will be obvious in a couple of paragraphs.) That was to contain all my writing about social inequality with the occasional cross post here when the topic dovetailed nicely with ideas like how we use words or the narratives with which we explain random collections of facts.

Of course it was very shortly after that that we had a cancer diagnosis, and life kind of short circuited after that for several months as one thing after another came down the pipe including moving out and post all-that-fucking-stress health problems. But now life is about to relax, and I have time to get back to SJB.

But I'm not going to.

That blog is about to shut down.

Instead, the old Social Justice Bard menu (I'm also not going to link THIS because the roll out will involve a few major changes including an all new menu page) that we used to have here will be returning.  Over the next few days, all the posts that were exclusively on the other blog will be getting transferred here. This is where future posts of that sort will go.

http://www.zazzle.com/social+justice+buttons
Image description: Social justice bard pin           
Does this mean no more Social Justice Bard? Actually, you'll probably get more (if that's your cup of tea) if for no other reason than if I put something social justicey up, that would be the post of the day. When the prospect of putting up a social justice post meant I had to turn around and write something else for Writing about Writing, I tended to just skip the former. 

There are a few reasons for this major shift:

My ability to update multiple blogs, write fiction, guest blog, run Facebook Pages, and do other writing finally hit a limit. Yes, I'm now free from teaching (for a while) but most of that time is earmarked for the novel I'm writing. If I'm going to put out some social thoughts, they will either go on my public Facebook wall (often in a slightly more "raw" format) or they will undergo a little bit of contextual framing to fit into a writing blog. But I finally hit my limit to keep branching out and out indefinitely.

On top of that, there are elements of call out culture that are ubiquitous among those who engage in sort of "high profile," "front line" online activism that I cannot handle as well as I should to be participating at that level. I don't want to say they are wrong, or inappropriate, or unprovoked. They are not. They are certainly not worse than what they are reacting to, and they have every justification. I absolutely believe that there should be spaces online where, if someone who is trying to be an outspoken ally fucks up, they ought to have their heads ripped off, their bodies buried, and the earth salted with their privileged tears. And their head should be stuck on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations of allies that some civility politics come at too high a price. But I have a history of abuse and my involuntary reactions to that level of anger aren't healthy for me, and that narrow fjord between good boundaries and tone policing is not something I'm capable of navigating. For my mental health, it is better that I remain a writer who deals with such issues on occasion.

I have also watched in the last year a number of high profile activist writers, all men, for whom social justice writing provides them with income (and perhaps all their income), do things that could, at best, be called non-intersectional. Ignoring transmisogyny or ableist slurs, and even excusing sexism because the writer is about racism or racism because they're about feminism. In one case, ignoring the very folks they claim to be at bat for by continuing to post grisly images of the results of racial violence. The benefits of writing from privilege about social justice are that one is seen as a fiery revolutionary rather than a "whiner" just worried about their own advancement, and I have seen some of this social capital exploited in ways that were not just questionable, but hurtful. Meanwhile the folks (almost all women) writing about their own life experiences rarely make such money and are often harassed across social media until/unless they quit the field. I don't want to be associated with an increasing body of privileged writers who see this as their way to fame or wealth or sex partners. There are days when a well placed cookie really makes a difference in having the gumption to keep going, but that's not why I'm doing it.

Lastly, I was trying to cleave what should not be cloven. I'm a writer. I'm an artist. And the human condition of inequality and oppression and suffering are not a side issue to my art and writing. I care about inequality and I empathize when I see suffering. I split those writings onto their own blog in part to compartmentalize political and social writing into a place where "Holy Shit I Got the Domain Name!" but also so I could develop two disparate audiences, each who were interested in their own aspect of my writing. What I should have been doing was staying true to myself and pouring all of me into the amalgam of my writing's soul and if people want treat one or the other like it's dross, that's on them as a reader and not me as a writer. The longer I write in Trump's America and realize the power that words and narratives have, the more I am confident that these issues are front and center in my artistic life. Not just the issues of our time, but to who I am as an artist and what social forces I will respond to with my art.

So get ready for the return of the Social Justice Bard.