Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random Book Review Post

Here's a sampling of what I've read over the past few months that I thought was good enough to pass on to all of you. Read these books!!

He's a Stud, She's a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know
Jessica Valenti
Why it's awesome: Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing, is amazing. In this book, she breaks down 50 common gender-based double standards and gives advice on how to overcome them. I heart her.
Quote: "A guy throws rocks at a girl's window in the middle of the night. He won't take no for an answer-he must date her! He serenades her, shows up at her classes, waits at her car. These could be scenes from a burgeoning romance or a stalker gone mad-American culture doesn't differentiate, really. If a woman does these things, however, she's always a stalker. A crazy ex-girlfriend. A psycho. Shit, women are called stalkers for even daring to call a guy a couple of times! Never mind that the majority of stalking is done by men, and the majority of victims are women. When it comes to romance, women are the stalkers and men are just...romantic."

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Author: Max Brooks
Why it's awesome: Written in interview style, it's the story of the zombie apocalypse told by the survivors. Hypothetical futuristic journalism. Love it.
Quote: "I...I'm not totally sure. When I try to remember, everything goes by too fast. I had it by the neck. It pulled Jenna toward its open mouth. I squeezed hard...pulled... The kids say I tore the thing's head off, just ripped it right out with all the flesh and muscle and whatever else hanging in tatters."

Title: I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids
Author: Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile
Why it's awesome: The authors interviewed moms from across demographic lines and compiled the results into a book that addresses more of the reality of motherhood than almost anything else I've read.
Quote: "Now that we're entering preschool, I feel like I'm back in high school. The peer pressure is immense. You want to get friendly with other moms so your child is included in playdates and gatherings, and to some extent that responsibility lies with the mother. I'm not into that at all! I thought I was done with those politics in high school!"

Title: Breathers
Author: S.G. Browne
Why it's awesome: It's a zombie romance novel. Need I say more?
Quote: "If you've never woken up from a car accident to discover that your wife is dead and you're an animated, rotting corpse, then you probably wouldn't understand."

Title: Women Who Run With The Wolves
Author: Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Why it's awesome: Dr. Estes uses myths, stories and archetypes from multiple cultures to express the beauty and strength of the feminine psyche, the "Wild Woman" in each of us. This book is wordy and intense, but well worth the time and effort it takes to get through it.
Quote: "So like many women before and after me, I lived my life as a disguised criatura, creature. Like my kith and kin before me, I swagger-staggered in high heels, and I wore a dress and hat to church. But my fabulous tail often fell below my hemline, and my ears twitched until my hat pitched, at the very least, down over both my eyes, and sometimes clear across the room"

Title: Lessons From The Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body
Author: Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby
Why it's awesome: Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding, both of whom I have praised here before, wrote this awesome book of awesomeness about seemingly simple concepts like Health At Every Size and self-love and all that awesome stuff. You should probably read it.
Quote: "And so we are proud to present to you, for the low, low cost of free (well, if you're reading a library copy or thumbing through this chapter in a bookstore), the Harding-Kirby Lifetime Diet Plan: Eat what you're hungry for when you're hungry for it, and stop when you're full. Period."

Title: Ask A Ninja Presents: The Ninja Handbook
Author: Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols
Why it's awesome: Do I really need to explain this?
Quote: (From a chapter discussing ninja skills like kicking, punching and dodging) "For one month, simultaneously date a vampiress, an Amazonian queen, a mermaid, a witch, and a Hollywood actress. Tell each one that you love her and her alone, keeping each relationship hidden from the others. On the last day of the month, send the following e-mail to all of them.

Dear Stinky Butt,

I hate your face. I have totally been doing it with like all these models and sick people since the day we met. Consider this trash day and yous on the curb, biznatch.

Eat Gerbil Poop, (her pet name for you)

Now dodge these scorned ladies and duck the hell that their crazy asses bring at you. You are not allowed to fight them or harm them in any way. You are only allowed to evade their fury."

Title: Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape
Author: Compiled essays, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Why it's awesome: This collection of essays discusses the relationship between rape culture and female sexual agency. It tackles the issues from many different angles, but the unifying theme is the idea that the "no means no" model of rape prevention is insufficient-what needs to be added is an understanding that consent means saying "yes," not simply the absence of "no." And for that to happen, women need to be free to say yes, to agree to and ask for what they want sexually and romantically, and not be shamed for it.
Quote: "What does it mean to say to someone, 'Fuck me?' Or, to put it a little more delicately, 'Touch me?' To tell them exactly how you want to be kissed, licked, petted? Or to tell them just what it is you want to do with them? For one thing, it means that you are taking the bull, as it were, by the horns. You're letting your lover--and yourself--know what you're looking for, rather than leaving it up to the imagination. You're giving them explicit instructions and thereby saying 'yes' so loudly, they have to hear you."

Title: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Why it's awesome: It's Pride and Prejudice. And zombies.
Quote: "Elizabeth accepted their company, and they set off together, armed only with their ankle daggers. Muskets and Katana swords were a more effective means of protecting one's self, but they were considered unladylike; and, having no saddle in which to conceal them, the three sisters yielded to modesty."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quote Of The Day

I was out for a walk by the river with my son today, and was telling him stories about being his age. One of the things I talked about was the duck slide that used to be by the art gallery. You Saskatoon folks remember that, right? :D

Anyway, I mentioned that the slide had been taken down some years ago, and the Midget said, "You should make them put it back! Say if they don't, you'll sue them for taking a piece of your childhood."

I love that kid. :D

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The rational part of my brain just exploded.

I'm too tired to be wordy and clever about the weirdness of the past week. I'll just summarize in poorly structured sentences and maybe some bullet points. Bleh.

About the random "messages from God." Three of the five were just random folks on the street. Granted, one was kind of visibly crazy, but the other two were seemingly sane and "normal" people who suddenly stopped in their tracks when walking past me, stopped me, and said that God had just told them to talk to me. All of the three completely random people said that they could "see Christ in me" and that "God doesn't care how broken you are, he'll take you back in his arms no matter what." Creepy.

The fourth was a woman (who happened to be in a wheelchair and mostly blind) that I went to see for a work demo. I got to her house, and as she was telling me that her husband had just gone out and we'd have to reschedule, she suddenly burst into tears. I went and sat next to her and asked her what was wrong, and she said, "I don't know you and you don't know me, but God is telling me right now that you'll understand." She went on to tell me that she lives with serious bipolar which is not under very good "control" at all, in addition to her physical problems, and that her husband seems to not understand at all, and that he had stormed out moments before I got there because they'd gotten in a fight, he spoke to her rather harshly, she asked him not to, and he told her that "her bad attitude was making him act that way." Wow, can we say domestic abuse? She also said that she "saw a light and a joy in me that could only come from Jesus" and asked about my personal faith. I just said that I had a personal relationship with God. I didn't want to get into details. So we talked for a few minutes. I told her about my depression and anxiety and how some days my cheerfulness is all fake, so she shouldn't feel badly about not being full of joy all the time. That seemed to help her a lot. I told her that her husband has no right to treat her the way it sounded like he was, she agreed with me. Then as I was leaving, she called me back from the door and said, "I don't really know what this means, but God is giving me a message for you. He says that you have enough scars now, and it will all stop if you go back." Then she shrugged her shoulders and turned her chair to leave the room. I left feeling a bit disconcerted.

You see, this was the point where the random babbling of slightly off-balance strangers started to hit a little too close to home. Some of you know the stories about Christian Centre, the place where I went to church and school until I was 9. For those of you who don't know, I'll summarize: the church is more of a cult than anything, they manipulate and abuse their members, and until very recently still used corporeal punishment in the school. Even in the adult church members, there was a preoccupation that went beyond normal Christianity with the physical suffering endured by Jesus, and with the concept that the only reason we didn't have to suffer like that was because we were covered by his blood. Without that salvation, the logic went, we deserved nothing more than a lifetime of literal physical torture. Some of the church elders practiced self-flagellation, and nearly every adult member of the congregation would fast for days, allowing themselves only a few small glasses of water a day, as a method of doing penance for their (real or perceived) sins. They earned their salvation and redeemed themselves by taking on physical pain, and expected their children to do the same. A simple wrong tone of voice when answering a parent would earn a Christian Centre kid ten swats with what was essentially a short-handled canoe paddle, sometimes with a couple of holes drilled in it to reduce the drag on the swing of the parent's arm. The stronger parent was always the one to administer "discipline," because "it has to hurt to be effective." Refusal of bathroom privileges was a common tactic in the school. The sight of a ten year old walking down the hallway with wet pants, sobbing, followed by a teacher carrying one of the paddles and a clean set of gym clothes, was almost a daily occurrence. If you were bad, you had to hold it until you repented. If your apology wasn't sincere enough, you weren't allowed to use the bathroom for the rest of the day. Then you got paddled if you peed your pants.

I was personally called out from the pulpit when I was 8 years old. Well, really my mom was, but I was sort of "collateral damage." See, all my mom's other kids were adorable, cherubic, Aryan looking kids. They all had blond hair and blue or green eyes, chubby cheeks, and sweet smiles. I showed my First Nations blood a lot more as a child than I do now-I was always dark, thin and angular. Even my baby teeth were crooked, and my smile has always crinkled up my eyes so much that they nearly disappear. When I was 8, my mother was called on to testify about her "salvation," the salvation she received through the grace of God even after consorting with an "evil man" and conceiving a child out of wedlock-a child that clearly bore the evidence of the devil's hand in her conception. (Never mind that the older two of my younger siblings were also bastards-I was the only one who looked like it. I was the only one who carried the blood of savages.) To illustrate that God will love even the worst among us if we ask for it, I was brought in front of the church. I was the example for the entire congregation of what Satan's hand will do, and what God can overcome.

And people wonder why I'm so fucked up.

Families who left the church were often threatened with physical harm. The sermon the week after someone left would focus on the hellfire and eternal pain that awaited those who "turned their back on God." Children of the family who had left would be mentioned by name, with graphic descriptions of how their flesh would be rent from their bones over and over for eternity, all because their parents had turned away from the Lord and not given them a fair chance. These sermons were given in front of the entire congregation. I heard my first one when I was 5.

I know that the indoctrination I received as a child is at least part of the reason I've struggled with self-harm all my life. My parents, my teachers, and the church leaders all told me that if I did something wrong, I had to be hurt. The pain made it okay. Even after we left Christian Centre, my mother and stepfather maintained the "pain makes your many failings more acceptable" attitude until the day I broke contact with them. Now I don't know how to cope with failure unless I hurt myself. Even just not knowing the answer to a question puts me in a state of mental distress that doesn't stop until something hurts. I can't focus on anything but how wrong I am, how much everyone around me must hate me, how I will never be accepted or loved until I redeem myself. But when I bite into the inside of my cheek until it bleeds, or dig my fingernails into the flesh of my arms and legs, or slice into my skin with whatever sharp object I can find, somehow the fog clears and I can allow myself to carry on with my day.

I used to focus primarily on forms of self-harm that wouldn't draw blood or leave marks-pulling out my hair, banging my head against walls, slapping myself, sometimes scratching without really breaking skin. But lately it's been more satisfying to cut. I've carved things into myself, words like "fuckup" and "failure." It's one of the things I'm trying hard to stop. I don't talk about it to get attention or sympathy, I talk about it because hiding it makes it too easy for me to keep doing it. If people know, I feel more motivated to stop because I'm really ashamed of this whole situation. Just so that's perfectly clear.

Anyway, when this woman said "you have enough scars now," in almost a "that'll do, pig" tone of voice, a chill went up my spine. I know it's a random coincidence, but since I had just been talking to a friend earlier that day about my history with religion and its connections to my current problems, it hit me pretty hard.

The last one of the incidents was last night outside the bar. I was having a cigarette (I smoke when I drink, leave me alone) with one of the bouncers when this woman walked up to me and started talking about God. At first she was sort of incoherently rambling about God's love and peace, but she strangely became more lucid as she talked. She talked about how she had prophesied over people in power, mentioning the names of a few local politicians. She talked about how Jesus was tortured so we wouldn't have to be, and how without God's love we will be tortured that way. (At some point in this conversation, the bouncer I was talking to went back inside and I wandered across the parking lot to go get a cup of coffee. The crazy lady followed me.) She took off her glasses and stared into my eyes, and said "I can see that you've suffered a lot in your life." My first thought when she said that was that she was using a technique commonly known as "cold reading," or "how 90% of the douchebags I hooked up with between the ages of 17 and 21 convinced me that we had a real connection." Walking up to the drunk chick who is wearing too much black eyeliner and silver jewelry usually gets you a good cold reading audience, in my experience. Unfortunately for the crazy lady here, I'm wise to that game. I shrugged and tried to change the subject. She continued, saying that "God will still let you come back. You've suffered enough, you've done your penance."

Then she told me that she was from City Centre Church, the urban outreach project run by Christian Centre. And repeated that "God wants you back."

So, to whatever god it is that these fuckwits are following: ENOUGH.

ETA: I'm not saying that there's necessarily some big scary deity trying to recruit me back to his creepy kool-aid party or anything. This is likely just a random set of coincidences that hits too close to a difficult personal subject. But was creepy.