Wednesday, March 19, 2008

egotism

Last night I was having some trouble sleeping so I did what I usually do when I can't sleep, I read. First I finished reading Sex Changes: Transgender Politics by Patrick Califia. Good times. Then I started reading "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey.

Basically, the book is about is six weeks in a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center. He had been drinking since the age of 10, doing drugs since 12, and got really fucked up. He landed in the treatment center at the age of 23. However, everything he said happened didn't really happen how he said it did, according to some of the people who knew him and were there. So basically, how much leeway do you have with creative nonfiction?

Aside from the problems of how "real" his memoir is, I found the book interesting. Partially because the whole AA twelve step thing supposedly didn't work for him, mainly because he felt that you were just replacing your addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to Meetings and God. Instead, a book his brother gave him called Tao Te Ching was what helped him the most. "Lose everything you know and everything you desire and ignore those who say they know. Practice not wanting, desiring, judging, doing, fighting, knowing. Practice just being. Everything will fall into place."

That makes a lot of sense to me. Don't worry about the good and the bad, just be. I especially enjoy the section where he talks about how opposites define each other, dichotomies create themselves. In particular the quote "need and depend create and define each other." If you don't depend on anything or anyone you won't need anything or anyone. If you don't need anything or anyone you won't depend on anything or anyone. And when you are able to not need or depend, you are able to just enjoy life for what it is. It makes everything seem so much less complicated than it really is. I realized that that's where a lot of dysfunction in our lives comes from, needing and depending.

Now, while this is all well and good, I also was wondering why I feel compelled to read books like this. I felt the same way when I read the book "wasted" about a woman's lifelong struggle with severely disordered eating in addition to drugs and alcohol. I think there's some unfortunate part of me that secretly enjoys reading these books not because it shows me the depth of human suffering or because I empathize with their experiences but because I can look at how fucked up other people are and be glad that I'm not nearly that fucked up, and I'll never be that fucked up. I think that's actually part of the reason why books like that are so popular, because it allows affluent people to feel reassured in how no matter how screwed up their relationships maybe be, at least there are people more fucked up than them. And people write them, and end up fabricating events that didn't even happen, and it's all part of this weird twisted voyeurism of wanting to see people at their absolute worst. It kinda freaks me out.

Anyways, if I were capable of completely letting go of my wants and desires, if I could just be, I feel like I would live my life better and be a better person to others.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

Even though St. Patrick's Day was on Saturday since the Pope said so, I went to my friend Katie's house for a bit of a St. Patrick's Day party. I came back with two lovely memorable quotes.
"Party on top and business on the bottom. That would make a good life philosophy."
"I'm more of a finger person than a thumb person."
Take them as you will. If you actually want to know the contexts, comment and I'll let you know. Otherwise, I think they're pretty fantastic as is.

nifty blog notice

So Rita Seagrave is presenting an Intro to BDSM session at Smitten Kitten in the cities. It seems really interesting. After following the Smitten Kitten's links to Rita's website, I found her blog, and it's fairly well written, and I enjoy it. So.. if you're open to reading about sex and sexuality from a perspective that's really not mainstream at all, you may want to check it out.
http://ritaseagrave.com/

so i realize i've kinda been on a hiatus..

So far this semester I realize that I've mostly just blogged for my class. In case any of you were confused by some of my recent entries, that's what's going on. I'm using this blog as a digital format to do some of my journaling for a women and gender studies course I'm taking called "confronting the border." So feel free to disregard those entries if I'm referencing readings from class and whatnot. Hell, feel free to disregard any of my entries.

Anyways. The hiatus was because I was overwhelmed by life and didn't even really have any time to blog about it. Which isn't a good sign, but that's ok. I've been working on my senior paper because I 'm presenting it in two weekends at the Midwest Sociological Society Meeting. That's been a little crazy. In addition, it just seems like February was ridiculously busy with conferences and events and so on.

Also, I've been thinking a lot of being trans, surgery, hormones, all of that stuff. I mean, I am writing my senior paper on FTMs construction of their identity, so I get to think about all of this academically AND in my spare time when I'm freaking out about who I am.

I've decided that I do want to start hormones as soon as possible. As some of you know (mainly those of you who probably know me in life outside the internet), I've gone back and forth about hormones for a while. I've come to the conclusion that part of the reason I was waiting on hormones was because I didn't know how to deal with my family. I still don't know how to deal with my family, but I can't put their comfort before mine. And I don't want to get to be 30 years old and still in this body as it is. It'd kinda be like being the 40 year old virgin. Except in a trans context.. maybe the metaphor doesn't actually work. You decide on your own. Spring break, I'm laying it on the table for my parents. Telling them that this is what I need to do, that I can't put it off anymore. I'm still not sure how to talk to Rob and Natalie about it. Probably something along the same lines, except without the insurance coverage implications.

Now, I just need the insurance company to actually tell me what is and isn't covered under my insurance plan. I need to deal with the fact that my insurance will be changing, getting loans, talking with my immediate and extended family, trying to get letters with the minimal amount of money spent on therapy. Maybe I'm just egotistical, but I feel like I'm pretty well balanced. I think it's ridiculous that I need to pay a ridiculous amount of money for someone to confirm that I am indeed mentally stable and indeed should have hormones. Really, the whole thing kinda makes me want to cry. One of those good, exhausting cries where you can just get it all out and feel better.

Sorry if this was a bit of a disjointed post. I've just been feeling kinda weird lately, and realized I've been keeping a lot of stuff inside and not talking about it. So I'm working on that. Friends, if I've been standoff-ish lately, or held you at a distance emotionally, it's not you. I apologize and I'm working on it. I do appreciate every one of you for being supportive, caring and letting me grow and change. Now, I am off to counseling services to schedule a much needed and delayed appointment with Stu. Woo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

African Feminism

This week we've been reading and discussing African feminisms. I've really enjoyed the discussions and readings so far, partially because I compared African feminisms to western feminisms for my LCCT research paper when I was in Tanzania, and partially because it has made me rethink and question some of my definitions.

One particular aspect of the reading that I enjoyed was the notion of sisterhood, and how sisterhood is a western metaphor for feminism. In African feminisms, the metaphor that is used more often is motherhood. At first I didn't really understand this. But then one of the readings explained that in western nuclear family structure, sisterhood means alliances against the oppression of the father because the mother is aligned with the father. In African contexts, co-mothering and motherhood is a shared experience by many women.

Personally, the concept of motherhood, the identity of mother has never been appealing to me. In fact, the idea of being a mother forces me to be think too fully in the female body that I don't like having. But I understand how the rhetoric of motherhood can be powerful.

Here I think the concept of intellectual imperialism is useful, because it shows how western feminism has attempted to transcribe western feminist ideas onto other contexts. It's not useful for building coalition between international feminist movements, and we need to recognize that it happens in order to deconstruct and then rebuild the relationships between western and non-western feminists. Along with this is remembering that what western feminists care about and how western feminists construct gender relations is very different than how gender is constructed in the rest of the world.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

sneakers, jeans and imperialism

Several things. They're a little disjointed, and that's ok. First, I hate how difficult it is to be aware of where my clothes and "stuff" is coming from. I can't always buy fair trade clothing, and I can't even know that when factories say the working conditions are good, and their workers are getting paid decently and getting breaks and being treated like human beings. Second, I don't know how to adequately argue against people who, like Nike, argue that they are providing jobs to people in the countries their factories are in. Nevermind the fact that these factories come in, completely change and alter the economic and social structure of the area, and then leave and often demolish what economic structure had been built up around the factory. Or the fact that companies build their factories where the labor is cheapest, don't allow the workers to unionize, etc.

Another issue that came up for me in class this week. The fact that the women of the Kabul Beauty School are facing new risks, and the author of the book has left and has no intention of returning to Kabul, and hasn't shared the profits of her New York Times bestseller with the women who she wrote the book about. The link will take you to an NPR story that a classmate of mine shared, if you're interested. How can Debbie Rodriguez rationalize her actions? She went to Kabul, built trust and friendships with these women, and used them to write a book, and now isn't planning on ever returning, and hasn't shared any of the profits with them? That's not right.

Finally, western feminists need to stop talking down to women in the rest of the world. We are not the be all, end all of feminist knowledge. We only know our experience firsthand, and need to shut up and listen to the experiences of others. Cynthia Enloe's writing about the gendered empire shows that women the western world stereotypes as "oppressed and helpless" are oppressed, yes, but it's not our place to articulate that oppression for the women who actually know what it's like.
I think it boils down to a respect for lived experience, for personal knowledge and understanding of your own life. In this respect, I don't know if western feminism is really all that useful to anyone who's not working in a western context.