Saturday, July 27, 2013

A different kind of rape culture

Background reading: For a fairly decent understanding of the typical meaning of "rape culture" (should you happen to need one) check out the wikipedia entry.

This is not my favorite topic. First, it fits a little too well into the stereotype of the man-hating feminist. It also doesn't create a helpful environment for fixing the obvious social problem (that rape exists at all).  It is all too easy in a discussion of "rape culture" to both criticize a (probably male) individual for his actions while simultaneously diminishing his individual responsibility. Take this story in which a male video game producer was accused of a casual rape joke. The outrage seems to simultaneously blame the man for being intentionally disrespectful of the female gamer and being shamefully ignorant of how his casual remark might be upsetting. How can the poor dude be guilty of both malice and ignorance? This story is also overblown in terms of gender bias, though it would still have been sexist I can honestly say I think he would have said the same thing to another man. If you want to get outraged over   a cultural issue pick the one where men taunt each other by equating weak with female ("You fight like a girl!"). The men I know take rape very seriously. 

So imagine my surprise when I find myself submerged in what I can only call a "rape culture". Here's my story.

I was out at a bar in downtown Denver for the first night of my 10 year high school reunion. A friend of mine was getting picked up by another friend but she needed to get some stuff out of my car, which was parked about two blocks away. Neither of us had been drinking at all that night, but I'm not sure that's relevant except I was sober enough to over-analyze this. We were stopped at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change and I was looking around to assess the situation. I observed the following: the street was well lit and traffic was light (Conclusion: tolerable place to stop for a moment). There was a group of three young men across the street who didn't look like they were going anywhere (Conclusion: potential threat). There were two men standing behind us also waiting for the light to change and standing closer than the totally empty sidewalk justified (Conclusion: moderate threat). There were other people about but further away and generally male (Conclusion: no threat but potentially no help either).

I looked down at my phone to answer a question from my friend when I realize that someone is now close enough behind me that I can feel him. It was the same dude that was just a little too close a moment before. I turned and looked right at him and I honestly don't remember exactly what I said. I was a LITTLE JUMPY. He slurred his response and I immediately reevaluated (Very drunk. Conclusion: Minimal threat). His friend helpfully pulled him away from me and I calmed back down. When I went to walk back to the bar there were a lot more couples and people clearly walking to cars instead of just milling about and I felt better.

Until I realized that I had basically just spent the last 10 minutes ruthlessly assessing every male in a 30 yard radius for his probability of violence. Sheesh. I've always been a little paranoid, but last night it was just depressing. I don't even have any thoughts right now other than a wistful dream that maybe it doesn't have to be like this.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My family of control freaks and why I love them

Most of the women in my family are control freaks. I mean that with love. We get shit done, as long as it's done our way. We mostly manage it well - a feature I credit to having to deal with so many other control freaks all the time. You learn to let go of some things but for the most part when we sense weakness we pounce and lock down everything.

I, largely through my over inflated sense of righteous indignation, get caught more often than the other women in battles I can't win. So I have a bit of a reputation in my family for not really being able to deal with life when shit doesn't go my way. 

Most of my family has some idea that I am having trouble getting pregnant. If they don't, well, maybe this post will come as a bit of a shock, but I don't know how they could miss it given that this is the current center of all my control freak tendencies. One of my awesome aunts (the one I see less often) is visiting this week and we had some time to chat. I mentioned this infertility problem and she immediately said I'm too stressed. I need to just relax.

I read the forums, I know this is like the most hated advice ever, but I also know my reputation is mostly deserved. I hear that phrase and suddenly I want to explode in a temper tantrum about how little people get my problems and how I'm tragically misunderstood and why can't anyone just believe me when I say I think I have a real medical problem. This would then rapidly degenerate into a generic rant on how unfair life is.

I didn't do that. It would've been rude. Besides if anyone is physically capable of maintaining a level of stress hostile to pregnancy for 16 months, it would be me.

At some point, you just have to decide to keep going. The world is full of family events that I want to be a part of even while I try to fit in doctor appointments over lunch breaks (2 next week!). Maybe I'm just a tiny bit less of a control freak than my younger self. Or I just deflected my efforts onto other things, like murdering the plants and bugs in my yard. Yeah, that's more like me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's just be friends

A common theme among lady BJJ bloggers out there (maybe the men too, I don't know) is to describe the attachment to BJJ like a relationship. There's the BJJ honeymoon when you first find BJJ and it fills your life and everything is awesome. There are also the awkward phases where you remember that your life contains more than just BJJ and you try to balance all the pieces.

Anyway, Valerie Worthington has a nice little summary here. Seriously, she's gone through way more of the relationship phases than I have. I'm only a white belt.

I feel like quitting. It sucks but it's true. But I don't plan on quitting. I'm still trying to struggle through. I expected certain things from BJJ that were maybe unreasonable, and it's not working out. BJJ seems to have expected things from me that I haven't figured out yet. Maybe I'm afraid of commitment.

Dear BJJ,
We need to just be friends for now. I promise to stop being angry that I didn't get everything I wanted out of the relationship. I promise to stop feeling guilty that I don't measure up. Most importantly, I promise to stop avoiding you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Competitive Rationalizing

It's late and I can't sleep but luckily it means I have a few extra minutes to blog about how my second BJJ tournament went.

It went better than the last one. I lost twice again but my division was so small that I still placed 3rd (out of 3) so I am in the deliciously ironic position of having won a medal in BJJ before I've even managed to win a match. I'm special like that.

I did break down emotionally into an embarrassing pile of tears and snot but unlike last time this phase was over in about an hour. [For those of you who missed the story: last time I cried for TWO DAYS. You could not mention the tournament or BJJ or that the sky looked blue without me tearing up. It was BAD.]

Added bonus: I remember enough about my matches to have a few things to bring to the mat to work on so that I might end up with better jiujitsu. If anyone actually wants me to talk about that part I will add a separate post, just let me know.

I really think this tournament helped me figure a few things out.

First: I don't seem to enjoy competing, so why do I do it?

Competing is excellent team-building. I might have completely different reasons for training than the next person, but a competition really simplifies things. Suddenly everyone seems to have the same goal. You get to know people better as you kill all that time waiting for matches. It's awesome.

Quite simply, I'm also just a sucker for a good challenge every once in a while. I'm a firm believer that the best way to make yourself a stronger person is to push yourself to do difficult things. (On a related note, I am doing my first 5k in July).

Second: Dealing with self-pity

One reoccurring theme on this blog is how I try to suppress feelings of self-pity. The escalation from sadness to pathetic is familiar. In tournaments, for example, it goes like this:

I am sad because I lost a match [ OK. ]
I am sad because I have never won a match [ Uh oh. ]
I am sad because I feel I will never win a match [ Yep. Pretty much off the deep end here. ]

I was able to break the cycle this time. The internal dialogue (yes, dialogue) went a bit like this:

  • Pathetic me: I'll never figure out this competition thing.
  • No-bullshit me: Let's think about this for a minute. Here you are, 20 years from now and you have a fascinating BJJ tournament record of 0-40. Or even 0-100. Maybe it could happen, but do you really think your future self is sitting there saying "Wow. I was right. I really suck." Or do you think she's maybe out there trying to figure out how to win, kinda like you should be doing, rather than sitting here storing up reasons for the future you to look back and say "Wow, I was being so stupid."
  • Pathetic me: I know I'm being stupid, but winning seems impossible because I'm such an emotional train wreck
  • No-bullshit me: Everyone has issues. Maybe tomorrow you get hit by a car and end up paralyzed, there are a million reasons why you might never win a jiujitsu match ever. Are you going to pity an infinite number of your future selves? Are you some kind of infinite well of self-pity? Can we harness it to power the earth?

It's never really quite the same trick that gets me to put away the past and try to do better next time. Some days its easier than others. Keeping busy helps, as does taking my meds on time. As it stands, I'm signed up for the in-house tourney on Saturday. Should be interesting.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Competitions for over-analyzing? No? Ok. BJJ it is.

Disclaimer: I'm posting this to see how out of whack my internal monologue has gotten. Feel free to comment! :)

First, some background. Despite the lack of BJJ in my blog lately, there's been a decent amount of training in my life at least. Not as much as I would like, especially because I lost last week to being sick, but enough. Also, there's a competition coming up. Two, in fact, and I want to do them.

Let me say that again.

There's a BJJ competition scheduled for May 11th and I WANT TO COMPETE.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way here are the internal ramblings.

1. You haven't trained hard enough and you don't go to the competition classes.
2. You will embarrass your school with your combination of poor conditioning and complete emotional breakdowns.

My problem really boils down to this: I have enough trouble convincing myself to go to class when I start thinking about competition that the actual physical preparation gets a little muddled. I'm just going with what I've got at this point.

My plan is drag myself out on that mat on May 11th. This I am prepared to do. If any actual good jiu-jitsu comes out of it, I'll consider that a bonus.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chapter 1

Writing fiction seems to be all the rage lately. And I have a very very rare urge to try it. No warranties or promises of any kind regarding the quality of this fiction.

Joan sat at her computer in a brightly lit office on the 5th floor of a generic corporate building in some mid-sized metropolis somewhere. Joan tried not to get bogged down in mundane human names for things. This city had plenty of reliable internet and no one actively hunting her. It was as simple as that. As her fingers flew over the keys, Joan burned a little Glamour and felt her mind open a direct connection to the internet. She understood enough about computers and Glamour to know that this ability was supposed to be impossible. Such a banal human structure was supposed to resist supernatural tampering. If the others insisted on trying to remember ancient contracts based on trees and time and rules older than dirt, that was fine with Joan. She would be proven right eventually and there was work to be done if she wanted to stay free.

These thoughts were only perceived at the edge of Joan’s consciousness. Most of her mind was entranced, driving her fingers to record in code the pattern she was tracing through the web. She was hunting big game this time. Who would’ve guessed that blackmailing criminals would be so lucrative? It was an awkward arrangement, having to catch humans assigning fake numbers to ephemeral ledgers in order to supply a very real community of people who shouldn’t exist. Accounting was almost arcane enough for Joan to believe a Fae had devised it.

The knock on the door shattered her trance. The thread of code slipped and Joan cursed. It would take more Glamour to try and regain the trail. Before Joan could say a word the door opened and Sophie, the secretary from the front desk, scurried in with three men in suits on her heels.

“I’m sorry ma’am. They insisted I escort them here straight away.” She turned and blinked at the gentlemen as if not really believing they were there and walked out as quickly as she had arrived.
Joan stood and sized them up, picking the oldest one to unleash her temper on. “Now just wait... “

“Joan Darce,” he interrupted, holding up a piece of paper, “You are under arrest for blackmail and piracy. You have the right to remain silent…”

Joan stopped listening and watched the two other men. They wore their disguises well, but no one who looked at their polished shoes and silk ties could miss their deadly grace. These were hunters too. They flanked Joan, closing in on her position.

Suddenly Joan realized the danger she was in. She had assumed these men were human, if the slightly more powerful type known as “federal agent”. Easy enough to deal with for one who could draw on Glamour. As they moved to surround her she saw their true form, just a glimpse of the truth behind the Mask. Two loyalists, both Fairest, trying to drag her back to Arcadia. She had one chance to escape.
She burned what Glamour she could to create a blinding flash and to gain extra speed. This would cost her later when the fatigue set in but she was desperate. She leapt for the door, passing the man with the paper before he could finish his sentence. She thought she heard the sounds of pursuit.

“Damn them! They should’ve been stunned for at least a few seconds.”
Joan ducked around a corner, running for the south staircase. She pulled the door open and bolted down the stairs, jumping several stairs at a time. Did she have enough time to get down to the first floor?  She had to hope they didn’t have reinforcements. How could even two loyalists have made it this far into the very seat of the Summer Court for the Changelings of the West?

She peeked out on the first floor and saw only a few corporate drones moving between meetings. She stepped out, took a deep breath and headed calmly down the hall towards the door to the parking lot. At the sound of footsteps she glanced over her shoulder and completely missed the man waiting to grab her from the nearby alcove. He deftly grabbed her wrist and pulled it into a hammerlock. She twisted and dropped to her knees. Joan tried to stand up, grinding her teeth at the sharp pain in her shoulder, but the man twisted her wrist further and forced her down until she was flat on her stomach.

Joan craned her head to see who the footsteps belonged to and saw the second abductor coming closer. She noticed that he, at least, seemed to be trying to shade his eyes against even the brightness of the hallway. Glamour spent, pinned to the floor by enemy Changelings, shoulder in agony, Joan cried out her frustration. She would rather die than be a slave in Arcadia again. The handcuffs snapped firmly around her wrists and the two agents hauled her to her feet and used their radios to confirm their success. Joan glanced around desperate for any kind of help. Was that Matt ahead, what was he doing out before dark?

“Matt! Help me! They are not who they appear to be!”

Matt looked carefully at the men and looked back at Joan with something dangerously close to pity in his eyes. He shook his head and moved out of the way of the men as they passed half dragging Joan to the door. That look in Matt’s eyes... Suddenly, Joan understood. These were actual federal agents and she was actually under arrest and she had just made a mundane human problem much, much worse. And she just might be going insane.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Assumption #12

The other day I happened to catch a link to this article on my Facebook feed. It's titled "15 assumptions you should make today". I'm a sucker for lists - Business Insider especially exploits this - seriously, go read their articles. Listalicious. Anyway, most of it is random advice that you might expect. What I didn't expect was my reaction to #12.

"#12: Assume that it's possible to recapture the way you felt when you were young, how the perfect clockwork mechanism of the universe used to leave you breathless and giddy with wonder."

First there was silence. For those of you who do not have the ever present chatter of inner voices, let me assure you that this was quite a profound silence. And then way in the back of my mind a quiet voice says "It can come back? Why hasn't anyone said this before?"

The floodgates opened and the normal buzz of mental activity resumed. Maybe life isn't so hopeless after all.