Monday, January 23, 2017

Protests and Pink Hats and Safety Pins...Oh, My!

Given the events of the past few days, I suppose that it's entirely understandable that I'm thinking about various Women's Marches and the reasons for them.  I'm also thinking a bit about something that may seem a bit frivolous at first look—those pink "pussy hats" that so many people have been creating and wearing as a form of sartorial protest.

I've been reading a fair amount of criticism directed at those hats lately, just as there was criticism directed at the wearers of safety pins a few months ago (Can it really be that long?) when they were adopted as a sign that the wearer is a safe person for people who belong to marginalized groups to be around.  The general thought seems to be that visual signs and symbols like this are useless and perhaps even a bit insulting, since there's no guarantee that the people who make use of them are sincere; also, these symbols seem to take up too much space, physically and mentally, without actually giving a direct reference to the things that they're supposed to signify (especially when the people who adopt them most widely tend to be white and therefore they put people of my race front-and-centre when perhaps we shouldn't be).  And of course there's the risk that the visual references will overshadow the very things that they're supposed to represent, which is counterproductive and also kind of horrible.

I admit that these are valid criticisms, but I also have to think...what if the safety pins and the pink hats and the more theatrical aspects of peaceful protests can also serve a useful purpose?

When I see someone wearing a safety pin or a pink "pussy hat," or when I see people getting involved in a march or singing songs or chanting protest slogans with or without a drum circle, I see someone whose ideology is most likely at least compatible with mine, though we may well differ on the specifics.  It's the same when I see someone wearing a pentacle or a cross (or a crucifix—I do come from a Catholic background, after all) or a seven-pointed star.  There's value in that.  Seeing people openly wear a symbol of protest or safety gives me hope.  It reminds me that there are in fact quite a lot of people who disapprove of the direction that things have been going in lately, and I can see one of them standing right in front of me.  I know that regardless of any other differences we might have, we can support each other in this particular issue, at least.

While the symbol and any accompanying protest actions should by no means take the place of the things that people are trying to say and to accomplish in the first place, I do think that they have their uses.  They energize people; they remind us that things are not all inevitably going to be horrible.  They give a bit of hope to people who may be frantically trying to tell themselves, "it's pretty scary now, but maybe it will someday be okay."  They can help to fire up people's enthusiasm, sometimes more than solemn repetitions of the reasons why Things Are Disastrously Wrong can.

As anyone who's been reading this blog for long enough knows, I have had problems with depression and anxiety in the past.  (There is a point to referencing this, I promise.)  Sometimes my mental health can still be surprisingly shaky, and I have several friends to thank for the stability I do have, especially my best friend.  And frankly, it isn't very helpful to always be hearing a ceaseless commentary about the terrifying state of the world and the great evils that everyone must be willing to fight until we have no fight left in us.  Enough of that talk, and I become too discouraged and afraid even to leave my bed, never mind the house.  Since a lot of people think that the only real way to make a difference is to lead loud public protests, shove petitions into people's faces, and generally be a pain in the ass to the Powers That Be, that's...not useful, really.

I need some of that joy, some of that hope, some of that public group enthusiasm to remind me of precisely why we need change.  I need to see that there are like-minded people out there who are willing to do things—maybe not great and extremely visible things, perhaps just "small things with great love," and I'm sure that I'm going to be writing another rant about the way that activists assume that they're the only ones who work to make changes, but that's a topic for another day—to make this world less frightening and depressing.  And I'm sure that I'm hardly alone in that.  As long as these symbolic and fun things don't take over, and as long as they're not the only things that people do to accomplish what they say they believe in, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

They shouldn't take over, of course, but they should have some kind of place.  Not everyone is able to keep things totally serious and solemn and perfect all the time.  Nor should they have to.

As for me?  I'm not an activist; I'm a subversive.  I do small things and hope that they can help in some way.  And after I'm finished crocheting my grandmother's birthday present (a bright pink blanket to help brighten up her new home), well, perhaps I'll have enough yarn left to make a cute pink hat of my own.  It's not really my colour, but I think I can deal with that.

After all, it's not the only thing I'm doing, and who knows?  Perhaps someone needing encouragement, perhaps someone who is of a more activist bent than I, may see me and be glad to know that they are not alone.  That somebody has their back.

There's value in that.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Companions on the Journey

I've had a lot to think about lately, and this blog—half forgotten even by its authoress—seems like a decent place to start writing it out.

First, the obvious: it's been a little over a week now since my American neighbours' disastrous election, in which the outcome that I, and many others, had feared actually did come to pass: the angry, shouty jack-o-lantern with a straw hairpiece became the next in line to be one of the most obviously powerful people in the world, and it was of little consolation that he didn't seem to actually want it.  My guess is that he had actually planned to lose and then make a big stink about a rigged and corrupt system that didn't give him what he said he wanted.

He didn't figure, I suppose, on his platform of hate, suspicion, greed, and fear being enough to carry the day.

I've heard of deaths, mostly suicides, in connection with his win, because people who were already bigoted felt freer than they have in years to torment people who are part of already marginalized populations.  This is even happening up here in Canada; the bullies have always been here, of course, but they have become bolder.  I haven't heard too much of anything happening in my neck of the woods, yet, but given the relatively high levels of racism here, it's probably only a matter of time.

It's been difficult to see what's been happening practically right on my doorstep, knowing that there was very little I could do (since it's not my country) to help avert it, and yet feeling like I share in the blame.  By and large, white people—including a majority of white women—were the ones who voted him in.

If anyone from a Roman Catholic background reads this, they will probably recognize the title of this post as the name of one of Carey Landry's better-known hymns.  (Indeed, this is one that, when I was growing up, popped up at Mass so frequently that even now, many years after I ceased to be a practising Catholic—though I've been to Mass a few times since my closest friend became the organist at a Catholic church earlier this year—I could still sing accurately in my sleep.)  It's been on my mind quite often in the last week.

Actually, my mental playlist since the American election has been quite interesting.  It's also included Melissa Etheridge's "Pulse", "Service" (another childhood favourite hymn), "Let There Be Light" (one that I've learned since I started singing with my Anglican choir), John Farnham's "You're the Voice", and  (somewhat oddly, I admit) "I Walk With the Goddess" and "We Won't Wait", the last of which is widely accepted as the Pagan national anthem.  (Confession: I've been listening to "You're the Voice" for the last several minutes.)  

Aside from "I Walk With the Goddess," though, I think I do sense something of a theme to these songs that have been occupying so much of my mental real estate lately.  The idea that we're all in this together somehow (even "We Won't Wait" refers to taking action to safeguard the Earth, even if it is in terms that imply that neopagans are the only people who care enough to save it because everyone else, especially Christians, are huge assholes who just want to burn and pillage it) is a powerful one.  I suspect that if the world is to survive what's coming, if Trump and his handlers do act on even half of the regressive policies that they're already talking about, there's going to have to be a hell of a lot of cooperation among the people who oppose them.  That's going to mean that a lot of the divisiveness (including, by the way, the not inconsiderable issues caused by white people who think that we're at the centre of all things) that has plagued progressive movements is going to need to be dealt with.  Otherwise it's going to be a fun little game of "Divide and Conquer" while one of the most powerful nations on Earth slides into fascism.

We need to care for each other.  We need to act with justice, as much as we're able.  We need to resist the temptation to see anyone who's different as automatically an enemy, stop instantly condemning unfamiliar people as garbage.  Above all, we need to love, and to act on that love in every possible way.  As a very wise friend of mine recently said, in the end, that may well be what saves us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Extra Reason to Care

When I was working on my teaching degree, I had to take a class on educational law. It was an interesting subject, if a bit dry, and I always looked forward to that class.

 The room was set up with a number of round tables, likely in order to facilitate discussions (and there were many). This was helpful during group work, of course, but if you were unlucky enough to have to sit with your back to the front of the room, it could be a bit of a pain during lectures!  At my usual table, I normally sat with two other women who happened to come from the other two Abrahamic religions.  Looking back, it seems almost like the setup for a joke.  ("A Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim sit down at a table...")  But the three of us got along extremely well, and I suspect that if we'd been able to spend more time together, we would have become very good friends.  As it is, I think of M. And V. often, even now, and I hope they're well.

Especially V., these days, because she was the one of the three of us who was Muslim.  And since the attacks in Paris a couple of weeks ago, all the things I've heard of happening to Muslims, especially women—I hope that she will not be targeted for abuse.  In my years of postsecondary education, and in the years since my formal studies ended, I have met many people who are Muslims, or who at least come from Muslim families.  And every single one of them is a reason why I care about the discrimination which they face, and why I'm fairly vocal (elsewhere, not necessarily on this blog, if only because I've been neglecting it in recent years) about saying that Muslims are not the enemy: hate and fear are.

But let's get one thing straight here: I would still care about what's happening if I had never met these people.  I suspect that there's a lot of that behind other people saying, "Of course I care!  I know someone who's [insert marginalized identity here]!" as well.

I must admit, it annoys me a little when people accuse others of not caring enough because they've stated that they care about any given issue because they personally know someone who's affected by it.  Or saying that these people's caring is selfish or superficial or just an attempt to avoid examining privilege by hiding behind a marginalized friend, acquaintance, or family member.  And maybe sometimes it is.  I won't pretend that I think everyone's motivations are always perfectly progressive or altruistic all the time.  That would just be hopelessly na├»ve.  But I am willing to entertain the idea that knowing people who are marginalized in some way gives people who do not share that experience an extra reason to care, or maybe that initial impulse to do so in the first place.

It's a very human thing, I think, to be more engaged in a cause, or to be more open to certain ideas, when you know someone who's personally affected by it if you aren't part of that population yourself.  People need connections.  And that's not purely selfish; it helps with understanding to be able to put a human face on something that, to you, might have once been a far more abstract concept than it is to someone who has to live it.

So when I hear about discrimination against Muslims, I think of V.  And because she was one of the first Muslims I ever got to know particularly well, she is one of the reasons I care.  But she's not the only one, and I don't believe that the personal connection makes my caring less valid.  As long as I don't try to pass myself off as some kind of expert or authority just because I know people who answer a particular description, how is that personal connection a bad thing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I'm still alive!

It's been quite some time since I last felt like writing here—inspiration has been fairly rare of late.  But I've missed this blog, and I think I'd like to get back to it.

Few of the good things have changed.  I'm still singing in my church choir, still a practising Pagan, and still working with young students who are having trouble with reading.  My depression is still (mostly) in remission, though I've had a few small flare-ups and I'm still dealing with a certain amount of social anxiety and negative thought patterning.  Overall, life is good.  And if I return to my writing as I want to, it will only get better. :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian.

Before I get to the rest of the post, I want to make something clear.  I like vegetarianism.  I tend to lean that way myself, but for various reasons, going vegetarian full-time is not currently a good idea for me.  Yes, I've thought seriously about it (and tried it, which did not go well for my health, mental or otherwise).  No, I have not closed my mind to the possibility that I might do so in the future.  Yes, I agree with most of the ideological reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  No, I really, really don't think that all vegetarians are like this.  Most of THOSE Vegetarians I've met are ones who have recently adopted this eating style and I think it's profoundly unfair that the people who exemplify the idea of THAT Vegetarian are able to give other vegetarians, and those of us who are predominantly vegetarian, a bad name.

This post is the product of a fair amount of frustration caused by a few too many recent encounters with people who have been, often in more than one way, THAT Vegetarian.  I repeat: I do NOT think that all vegetarians are like this.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who never misses a chance to educate people about the benefits of vegetarianism, regardless of whether such education is necessary or welcome.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who dismisses as mere excuses the reasons why a vegetarian diet is not always ideal or even suitable for all people.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who ignores the psychology of eating disorders when pointedly saying, in a conversation in which a person has made note of their own eating disorder and stated that putting that kind of limit on their eating habits did indeed make it worse, that there is never any good reason to be willing to consume animal-based foods. 

THAT Vegetarian is the one who believes that omnivorous diets are a sign of a less-evolved and enlightened mind and never lets anybody forget it.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who won't rest until they've converted the entire omnivorous world to their way of eating.  (I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can't annoy people into believing that you're right.)

THAT Vegetarian is the one who claims that going vegetarian is a great way to lose weight and that there's no such thing as a fat vegetarian.  (Hint: this is not true.)

THAT Vegetarian believes that being vegetarian makes them superior to the rest of us, and won't let anyone forget it.

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some thoughts at the end of 2014

It's been a tough year on the emotional front.  I've had a harder time controlling my depressive tendencies, but I've largely managed to do so; however, I've been neglecting my writing across the board, not just here, and I think that hasn't been doing many favours for me.  I think that in some ways, I need to find my voice again; I've had a tendency to silence myself in recent months, and while that has its place, it's also perhaps not a good thing to do to myself in my own spaces.  If I have a goal for the new year, it will probably be to write more frequently.

That said, this year has also held some wonderful things—especially the week of the Kaleidoscope Gathering, which I hope I'll get to attend again in the coming year.  As upset and frustrated and low as I've been feeling, there have been moments of hope and joy.  I certainly hope that I can find a few more of those in 2015.

As has been my tradition when celebrating the new year alone, I'll be starting a kettle for tea soon.  Earl Grey—that old favourite.  And even if I'm not actually listening to it when midnight strikes, I know that the following song will be on my mind:

Have a great 2015, everyone.  May we all be blessed with love, wisdom, and the will to act with both.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I've broken one of the cardinal rules of online article-reading: never read the comments.

The story itself—about Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who has terminal brain cancer, and who has decided to end her own life on a day of her own choosing, surrounded by her loved ones—is one that I find fascinating, tragic, and comforting all at once.  Fascinating, because of the moral issues that it raises.  Tragic, because this woman is so young and it's reasonable to think that she might have wanted to do so much more in her life before this cancer happened to her.  Comforting, because it's good to know that some people, at least, do get to leave the world on their own terms. Frankly, I'm not sure that I would have her courage under similar circumstances.

 Of the commenters on the story, I've noticed that most of them seem to be supportive of Ms. Maynard's decision.  One or two of them seem intent on hawking cannabis oil as a cure-all even for terminal brain cancer, but otherwise it seems that most of the comments so far are from people who respect her decision and hope that her passing is what she wants it to be.  But I also noticed that a lot of them are placing the blame for the fact that she had to move to Oregon to do this on Christianity and on priests' insistence that people have to suffer before they die.

I've written about this myself before.  I still strongly believe that the prolonging of suffering just to say that someone is still alive is neither respectful of their life nor a legitimate means of bringing them closer to God (especially as so many invoke this particular god as a god of compassion, love, and peace, even if other voices tend to publically drown them out).  But a lot of those commenters also seem inclined to paint all Christians with the same brush: thirsty for world domination, determined to eradicate all real choice from people's lives, an unceasingly evil and oppressive force which is dragging the world back into the dark ages.

 And maybe they—we—deserve it.  Christian privilege is definitely A Thing, after all, and privilege has a way of making otherwise decent people into assholes from time to time.  Furthermore, a lot of these life-at-any-cost-even-if-it's-torturously-painful policies do seem to have their roots in various sorts of Christian dogma dealing with the sanctity of life.  (Mind, I'm sure that there's a financial motivation in there, too—but I'm a bit cynical that way.)  And there's no denying that a lot of people have done a lot of very horrible things in the name of Christianity.

 But maybe not.  After all, it's not usually right to apply the same awful stereotype to all members of any given group.  I'd hate to think, for example, that just because part of my spiritual life involves a triune God who is YHWH, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, that makes me every bit as awful as the Westboro Baptist Church. Or, perhaps a bit closer to my own background, like I'm as bad as the Catholic hierarchy that still all too frequently allows certain priests to get away with victimizing children.

I'm not sure precisely why it bothers me that so many of these comments have arisen on the discussion thread for this article, though. Privilege, maybe? After all, even though most Christians really aren't like that, enough really are that it's a fairly understandable view. And goodness knows that a lot of commentary I've seen about people with privilege indicates that when you're privileged in some way and someone says something about your type of privilege that hurts your feelings, you're supposed to just shut up and take it because examining privilege is supposed to be painful—and anyway, that pain is insignificant when compared to the pain of oppression. It's not a point of view that I hold—I actually think that these things can and should be discussed honestly, but not with the intent of any party to wound anyone else, because causing personal hurt won't do anything to change institutional oppression. (But then, what do I know? I've got white privilege and a fair amount of straight-passing and Christian-passing privilege. It may well be that I have a personal investment in seeing things this way because it means that my delicate little white woman fee-fees are less likely to get hurt and result in the phenomenon known as "white woman's tears.")

Or maybe it's the way that I despise stereotypes. I've never met anyone who was accurately described by the stereotypes that exist about any group of which they are members, and I've found the various stereotypes to which I'm subject as a fat woman to be extremely harmful and incredibly inaccurate. Stereotyping may be a convenient shortcut, but it's also a way of saying, "You don't matter. People like you are all alike."

Whatever the case, the comments of that sort did distress me a bit. But of Ms. Maynard herself: I hope that she remains content with her choice regardless of whatever disapproval she may face, and that when she dies, it is what she wants her death to be—surrounded by love, and in comfort and peace.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I've heard this before. That doesn't make it any nicer.

There's so much that I'd like to write—I've been working on posts about the gathering I went to at the end of July, actually—but right now, I've got something on my mind that's been bothering me a bit.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, my best friend confessed to me that although he loves me, he can never find me attractive because I'm fat.

I'm not in love with him, but it hurt almost as much (as I can say from bitter experience) as it would have if I had been.  My emotions, when I've thought of what he said, have run from sad to indifferent to angry and back to a sort of tired neutrality.  I've heard it before, after all—minus the "I love you," which somehow made it worse this time in some ways—and I'm kind of tired of it.

I believe him when he says he loves me.  He's not the sort to say this kind of thing lightly or without sincerity; even if he really doesn't love me, it's safe to say that he believes that he does.  And I believe him when he says that he doesn't actually see me as ugly and that he finds his reaction to my fatness to be somewhat difficult to understand.

But the fact remains that on some level, he agrees with the people who have called me any number of horrible things because of my weight.  And it hurt to hear him say that what he would want in a partner is basically me, but not fat.  I was surprised at how much it hurt, actually.  He's tried to figure out whether this is something caused by current societal attitudes towards those of us who possess ample figures, but it's so deeply ingrained in him now that he doesn't think he'll ever be able to get rid of it, no matter how much he wishes he could. 

I have to admit that I wonder whether he's actually tried.

Chief among the things that I've been thinking since we had that conversation is that I'm deeply afraid that if I could click with somebody this well—we are totally comfortable with each other, and we know each other so well that we've been at the point where we can practically read each other's minds for quite some time now—and yet still be very unattractive to him, then there really is nobody in the world who's capable of really loving me, through and through, as I am, and not as they would rather I could be.  Not for my fat, as people who only find themselves attracted to fat women might, and not in spite of it, as my best friend does.  Just me, as the Gods and my genetics made me, and as the person I am coming to be.

Because I don't want to be defined by my fatness.  I want it to be just another of my many descriptors, physical or otherwise, and no more or less attractive than my hair (long, wavy, and red-brown), my height (about five feet, seven inches) or my eye colour (a weird shade that's a mix of green, grey, and blue).  If I wear it as a badge of honour, it's because I've earned that by surviving the countless hurts that have been inflicted on me because of social standards relating to it even by well-meaning family and friends.  But at heart, I just want it to be part of me, not my most significant characteristic.

I want it to be neutral.

And as unlikely as I know it is, I want to be loved by someone who's up to the task as my best friend, however fond of me he is, apparently never will be.  I want to be seen as a woman, a person—not just a fat one.  I don't want my body, such a basic part of what I am, to be seen as a disgusting flaw.  If I'm difficult to love, I don't want it to be because of my clothing size—I'd rather that it was because of my personality flaws, because at least they aren't superficial reasons as anything related to my appearance is.  And I want to be found attractive by someone I find attractive, too.

This seems to be too much to ask, though.  And as much as I'm content with our relationship, I must say that it would have been lovely if he had been able to love my body along with the rest of me.  But he can't.

The hurt that I feel over this will be with me for a while yet.  It'll pass, though.  It always does. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time to sweep away the dust and displace a few cobwebs. :)

First of all: I'm still alive. :)  The past few months have been good, if uneventful, ones.  I have to admit that I haven't felt moved to write for a while now—which is, historically, not a good thing for me, as a lack of writing ambition has usually been a sign that I'm going to start slipping back into that special living hell that is depression.  But so far I've actually managed to avoid a relapse, and for that I'm thankful.

I've been wanting to resurrect this blog for some time, though, because I've missed it.  I've said some pretty stupid things here, no doubt, and I'm actually embarrassed about some of my earlier work here, but really—this blog has always been, as the title indicates, a series of meditations in which I try to work through whatever's on my mind at the time, regardless of whether my state of mind is good or bad, and regardless of whether my conclusions are right or wrong.  I never expected that I'd always agree with my stated opinions in the future once I'd finished a post, and indeed, I'd be a bit disappointed if my past writings always reflected my present thoughts because I feel that would indicate a lack of intellectual growth.  And I never really set out to be right—not all the time, anyway. :)

So, as it stands, I'm going to try to write more frequently than I have done in the past year or so.  And I suspect that soon, I'm going to have plenty of inspiration, because next week, at the suggestion of a friend who is also going, I will be attending an annual Pagan gathering that happens just outside of Renfrew.  I'm really looking forward to it, not least because it's been a long time since I've had the chance to travel more than a couple of hours away from my current location.  And we'll be camping.  That's something that I've missed doing.  I've already aired out the tent and replaced my long-vanished air mattress.  Rain or shine—though of course I'm hoping for more shine than rain—this is going to be good. :)