Saturday, October 27, 2012

White Privilege, Unexamined and On Display

This evening, my aunt texted me offering to take me out to dinner. While there:

-I related a story of my boss's contempt for/unfamiliarity with tofu. My aunt replies 'What race is she?!" I ignored her, and she revised, "what's her background?" to which I replied "die hard carnivore". My aunt went on a brief rant about how some people are just so uneducated and uncultured.
-On the ride home, without a bat of an eye or a trace of irony, she completely fails to even attempt to pronounce quincenera. Her son (who's just so good at languages) jumps in with, "At her Cuisinart..."
-Also, as we left the restaurant, "well, this location [Pasadena] certainly has a different clientele than the one in Santa Monica..." As in, not 100% white. Just 60%.

Ugh. I skipped out on a pretty girl for this.

[Not sure why this didn't post when I wrote it. Going up now. Written Oct. 27, 2012]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes TV Just Sucks

Today I came home from work to find LA polo's board breakdown crew sprawled out in the living room watching 'The Deadliest Warrior' on Netflix. The show really disturbed me, and as I watched I started teasing out exactly what I so disliked about it. List time!

-Glorification of violence and brutality.
-The disembodying of the violence from the very real men and women it was carried out on historically.
-How much the above ties into our current tolerance of the bloated military industrial complex in this country.
-Also, such a boys club. Only Manly Men can know anything about guns, amirite?
-Also, the historical inaccuracy of it all- we were watching the Waffen SS vs the Viet Cong. Those two groups went to war at very different times in history, under very different circumstances. Had the two actually engaged, it would have been under very different terms than either of them engaged the American army on.
-Oh hey, a woman! ...oh she's just a whore. Right. Whore with a gun, poor persecuted menz, being tricked by the evil women they sleep with.
-So much posturing and bullshit. Blegh.
-Oh, and those Vietnamese are just so weird, right? Like, totally backwards junglemen. And the Waffen SS's Aryan-only requirements, were just, y'know, what it takes to get the best of the best.

In summary: Explosions? Cool. Blood and guts? Cool. Both those things in the explicit context of separating them from any notion of accuracy and, more importantly, human empathy? So very not cool.

On a lighter note, I'm pretty sure that my annual NaNoWriMo attempt will actually be a NaNoBlogMo, hopefully I'll break the 5,000 word wall I seem to hit each year that way. I have over a dozen unfinished posts already, I'd like to go through and actually tease out all those ideas floating around in my head and wasting brain-RAM. To 50,000 words!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Editing is hard

I spent ages and ages on this video, and when I compiled it into a .wma file, all the precision timing was lost. but it's still awesome and worth watching for the lulz.
It seriously bummed me out to see that I'd have to go back and redo everything to fully realize the video in my head after months of working on this intermittently, amounting to several hours of my life for a one minute video using someone else's footage and someone else's music. I have even more respect for editors now.

And if that didn't cheer you up, here's my new favorite song:
Cut from "Burning Low" in the fourth season of Adventure Time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just Your Average Othering

So this it what I saw when I opened my Yahoo email today:
[photo shows Sikh men in prayer, headline reads "Temple gunman was on feds' radar, warned friend of 'racial holy war'"]
Leaving writing about the actual tragedy that occurred to those with more knowledge and authority than I, I'd like to focus on the conjunction of this headline and image. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed if the two hadn't been so close together, but the coverage of the Aurora shooting was always accompanied by photos of Holmes or photos of the aftermath- victims crying, police arriving, etc. Why would they choose to use a (seemingly*) random shot of Sikhs in prayer? This photo only serves to Other the Sikh community, as if their appearance is so novel that even as victims they must be shown, displayed in their day to day environment instead of in a sympathetic portrayal based on a common humanity.

I also worry about the connotations of this photo in connection with the headline. Of course, we know the phrase 'holy war' is a loaded one, most commonly associated with 9/11 and its subsequent Islamophobia. Which, by the way, is the reason this temple had been targeted by extremists in the past. So why place the two together? It's a valid news item, to see that a white extremist uses the same language as the heavily vilified non-white extremists, but this photo doesn't help subvert any norms, especially when the public is used to seeing the killer's face next to the sensationalist pieces about him.

*I can't find any citation for this photo, as it is not in the article once you click through. Even if it is a photo of members of the targeted temple, it's a poor choice compared to the candlelit vigil, etc. that are on the other thumbnails related to this event.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So apparently Santa Cruz

is a bastion of pretty redheads.
...fuck me.

This is now the fifth city I've been to in the last two weeks. If I wasn't so attached to LA, I wouldn't want to go home at all. But this trip has also been filled with plenty of angst and drama (lost bags, broken bikes... booo!) so I'm looking forward to being back to the usual routine. I have a feeling I'll be back on the road pretty soon though- Seattle and Portland have me fairly motivated, and maybe I'll even find my way back to the Midwest. I'm hoping to write up a few more ideas that are hanging out at the back of my head too. Tentative increase in productivity, woo!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just Want to Note

that I am so over the U.S. government. This 'democracy' is a joke.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning Social Justice Part 1- Being Raised Feminist

For a few weeks, I've been planning a series exploring how I came to my current state of awareness on social issues. So far I have around 8 installments planned, and I intend to add on to that as I continue to learn and grow on new topics.

For me, feminism had no discernible starting point. I was raised by an overwhelmingly female and at least feminist-leaning, if not overtly feminist, family. My maternal grandmother was a doctor at a time when such a thing was still quite rare, and (I get the impression) she raised her son and three daughters in a more egalitarian than usual household. By the time I came around, that son had married a feminist, and the two other daughters remained unmarried until I was a bit older. My parents are also both physicians, and all of those aunts freely pursued their careers of choice, to great success. This meant that my earliest years saw very little gendered discrimination, because no one in my family was inclined to say, "You can't be an astronaut, that's what boys do." The only inequality I noticed in my two-years-younger brother's treatment and mine stemmed from our age differences. It wasn't until my tomboy sister came along that I noticed any sort of gender policing behavior, and the extent of that was really that she was forced to wear dresses to very formal events. While there was plenty of complaining about it, she was regularly allowed to wear only our brother's hand me downs and never mine (unless they went to him first, but she didn't need to know I owned them originally). The majority of our conflicts with our parents stemmed from (our own) violence and tendencies towards mayhem, not the failure to perform gender exactly which I so often hear feminists, particularly those of an older generation, reporting.

I'm not sure how they did it, but my family did manage to instill a bit critical thinking in me from a very young age. I strongly preferred the proactive Ariel to any of the other Disney princesses, until Pocahontas entered the picture, and I remember pondering the fact that every princess has a prince to save her. I genuinely liked pink, but I hated pinkification- I was very upset at my seventh or eighth birthday party, because it was Pocahontas themed, yet every single plate and napkin was pink. That was not how the movie's color scheme went.

Another big influence was the street I grew up on- for the first seven years of my life, my family lived on that idyllic suburban street where all the kids play in the street until dinnertime. Our neighbors were a diverse set of people, and it didn't occur to me until much later in life how problematic some would have found them. While there were a few instances of bigoted perspectives (there was speculation our Mexican neighbor was a drug dealer, our gay neighbors were 'roommates' until years later), we kids were just taught to treat everyone in the neighborhood with respect. I think this is pretty demonstrative of how bigotry becomes reduced through the generations- as one generation learns to only whisper prejudices behind closed doors, their children don't ever learn to even whisper them. Of course, there are plenty of other coded and overt bigotries that are still perpetuated every day, but I like to be optimistic that our country is getting somewhere, however slowly.

Up next: Early Instances of Dissonance

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Women and Midnight Ridazz

Following the discussion of the Westside Mosey incident (The FB discussion has been removed), I decided to try and begin to address the issue of sexual harassment and other related inappropriate behaviors on rides and/or between Ridazz. I am now collecting data and ideas to be put forth at the next Ridazz Summit. I'd like as many people as possible to fill out the following form, so that we can a) jumpstart this conversation and b) compile the data to create solutions to this problem. If you'd like, you can email it directly to me at sarah (dot) danya (at) gmail (dot) com. I promise to maintain complete confidentiality for those who request it.
ETA:  I'd like to stress that responding for the sake of being counted, even if you don't want your story quoted or you name used, is a legitimate and useful thing to do. I plan to report the number of respondents I get as well as the number and type of incidents they report. It is possible to post anonymously on this blog, so it's not attached to a user name, or you can email me with from throwaway email account.

Name: (Anon is acceptable)
Name of Harrasser: (Unknown, Anon, and Changed names are all acceptable answers)
Approximate Time and Place of Incident:
Description of Incident:
Did you attempt to confront your harasser? Why or why not?
-If yes, what was your harasser's reaction? How did that reaction affect you?
Did you report this to other Ridazz? What circumstances made that possible, if yes, or would make that possible, if no?
-If yes, how did these Ridazz respond? Did you feel their reactions were sufficient given the circumstances?
Can I quote your responses at the Summit and/or in future writings?
-If you chose to use real names, would you like me to alter them or anonymize them in quotations?

And I'll get this started with one of my own, the very first one, and the worst. Believe me, I could report a dozen incidents off the top of my head, and it'd probably be way more (50+) if I had attempted to actually record instances of being made to feel uncomfortable as they happened, instead of just trying to forget about them.

Name: Danya
Name of Harrasser: Anonymous
Approximate Time and Place of Incident: LACM, July 2008
Description of Incident: After drinking on a ride for the first time (it was maybe the 10th ride I'd been on, the first where someone offered my underaged self liquor), I was convinced to accept a ride back to the valley with a few of the other Ridazz I had recently met. The driver of the car was very conveniently the one who had been plying me with alcohol all night. Also conveniently, he dropped the other 3 Ridazz of before taking me home. Except he didn't take me home. He took me to his place, and forced me to come inside, even though I insisted that I could wait in the car for whatever errand his pretext for stopping his place was. He sat me down on his couch, and proceeded to touch and kiss me, ignoring my multiple protestations about having a boyfriend and the dozens of times that I simply and clearly said "No." I was too drunk to be able to move well, and the idea of being able to even lift my arms to push him away was laughable. When he tried to take my shirt off, I was so overwhelmed that I vomited. This instance remains the only time in my life I've vomited without mixing liquors. Luckily for me, he was repulsed by this and agreed to take really take me home at this point. I am convinced that if that had not been the case, he would have completed his attempted rape. I know others of my friends have not been so lucky within MR.
Did you attempt to confront your harasser? Why or why not? No.This was the first time anyone had ever attempted to violate my boundaries in such a way, and I had not been prepared to process, acknowledge, or report such incidents. The closest I came was writing about it as a private post on my LiveJournal the next day, and even then in a joking manner, as I couldn't fully acknowledge how egregious a violation it was.
-If yes, what was your harasser's reaction? How did that reaction affect you? Although I did not confront him, the next time I saw him, he exuded a silence towards me that I interpreted as a warning: we would not discuss the incident, and for my silence, I would be allowed to continue interacting and becoming accepted within that social group. At the time, this was my only option for being included in SFV MR, which was something I desperately wanted.
Did you report this to other Ridazz? What circumstances made that possible, if yes, or would make that possible, if no? I didn't report this incident to any other Ridazz until last year, when I told one person the barest facts in connection to a tangentially related discussion. It's been a long four years, and I have no idea what could have been done to encourage me to report.
-If yes, how did these Ridazz respond? Did you feel their reactions were sufficient given the circumstances? Yeah, I wasn't really trying to have anything done about the incident at that point, just requesting an increased sensitivity.
Can I quote your responses at the Summit and/or in future writings? (Obviously, I can quote myself.)
-If you chose to use real names, would you like me to alter them or anonymize them in quotations? (and again, I chose to anonymize it myself, although choice people can probably parse out who it was.)

The comments thread on this post will be very closely moderated. I reserve the right to alter and/or remove any inappropriate content, particularly anything which I feel diminishes those who chose to post their stories publicly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Short Stop

The Incident:
A couple of weeks months ago, two of my friends and I went to The Short Stop to dance and celebrate their newly single life. As we danced near the DJ booth, we laughed off the many men repeatedly approaching said friends to 'dance', and we made it very clear that none of us were interested in dancing with strangers or even  being solicited by them. While one of my friends was dancing facing the wall, a strange man approached her from behind and tried to start grinding his crotch into her butt. I pinched the shoulder of the guy's jacket, spinning him around, and told him to stay away from her. He then called me a few names and expressed outrage that I would dare to touch his jacket, before scurrying back to his friends, who happened to be crowding the steps to the DJ booth. His friends immediately lined up and puffed up their chests, and I could tell they were debating whether or not to start a fight. Eventually, they stood down, and their ringleader decided to spend the rest of the evening barraging me with the usual set of misogynist and gender policing slurs, as well as occasionally trying to antagonize me by commenting on my friend's dancing. I was on edge, almost expecting them to follow us out to our car or somehow escalate the incident, for the rest of the night. And no, it didn't occur to me to notify the bouncers. I'm far too well versed in victim blaming to have any faith in the resolution of such events by authority figures.

The Breakdown:
...a strange man approached her from behind and tried to start grinding his crotch into her butt...
As I first noted at this same bar, there's a big difference in how men approach women while dancing and how women approach women while dancing. It's yet another manifestation of mainstream rape culture and the license (most) men feel they have to the bodies of women. As pandoradeloeste responded, "That element of asking for consent is totally missing..." when men approach women this way.

He then called me a few names and expressed outrage that I would dare to touch his jacket...
Of course, speaking on behalf of my friend makes me a totally evil bitch. How dare I get between a man and the women whose body he's clearly entitled to? And there's no contradiction whatsoever in his affront at the grave violation of his body that my grabbing his jacket entailed, and his entitlement to grope my friend without her preceding knowledge or consent. Also, I couldn't possibly be operating on the knowledge of a conversation I had with my friend immediately preceding our the night out about how unpleasant it is to be grabbed by strange guys, and how awful it makes an evening.

His friends immediately lined up and puffed up their chests, and I could tell they were debating whether or not to start a fight.
At this point, it was quite clear (and amusing to me) that these men were flabbergasted at the idea of a woman standing up to them. There is no doubt in my mind, at the time or now, that if I had been male, we would have been fighting in an instant. Of course, if I had been male, my friend would have been seen as my "property", and the original perpetrator would never have approached her. But watching them all bungle about, unsure of whether their male dominance routines should be enacted against a female acting in an aggressive ("male") manner immediately tickled my patriarchy-transgressing feminist sensibilities. It also kind of terrified me, of course, because physical violence, but I can take a punch.

...barraging me with the usual set of misogynist and gender policing slurs...
These were exactly the sorts of things we hear directed all the time at those who dare to blog while female. This man seemed to think that his opinions on my niceness, attractiveness, and general fuckability to the male population mattered to me, a common theme among many internet trolls. I realized at this point that I had to write this article, because there it was, all that ugliness I've read about, out IRL, actually being spoken instead of being hidden behind the (often anonymous) written word. Thankfully I've been engaged with the social justice community for long enough to know how worthless such hateful screeds are, instead of questioning myself and becoming overwhelmed by insecurity, as such tactics are designed to do.

...trying to antagonize me by commenting on my friend's dancing.
This was just dumb. He seemed to think that positioning my friend's attractiveness and amazing dancing talent against my ebil-hairy-feminist self would upset me; when all I really set out to do was make sure that she enjoyed herself, particularly by not being molested by random men.

A bit about boundaries

Ever had writing truly resonate with you? Like, the feeling that the author was writing about your exact situation? That's how I felt reading author Jim C. Hines's post on Boundaries. In it, he discusses how absolute boundaries should be, and how our culture reinforces the belief that boundaries can be completely disregarded, particularly when set by women. I wish more people had a clear grasp of this concept, the world would be a much better place for it.

Another article that got me thinking today was Womanist Musing's "What If Sasha and Malia Obama Arn't Straight?" It addresses some of the finer points about how harmful a heteronormative upbringing can be to LGBTQ children, even in the absence of overt bigotry towards non-hetero/sexual/cis persons. Of course, this is just what stood out to me in particular in an article packed with social justice themes, including race, gatekeeping female sexuality, and the difficulties of life in the public eye.

Both of these articles gave me ideas for longer posts of my own, but as those will probably take me weeks to write (or I'll never post them, like an article I wrote in March, and decided was too personal to actually publish), I figured I'd throw up the links while they're still current.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Awesome Day is Awesome

Reading lots of really good stuff out there on the interwebz today.

Let's start with a quotation from Fannie, because she's awesome:
Like, you know that if we take our eye off the ball for 2 seconds, they'd institute the fundamentalist Christian version of Sharia law in the US if they could.
From her post two days ago, "Muslims Are Worse".  This is pretty much why I've always felt an obligation to at least care about what's going on in the realm of social issues and politics. Give an inch on abortion, and suddenly equal pay is under attack.

Next we have a fantastic description of the lived experience of many queers:
I imagine a lot of us grew up internalizing homophobia to hell and back. I imagine a lot of us didn’t even know we were in the closet, because it’s easy to believe you are straight when everyone is straight and tells you it’s the normal thing to be.
From yesterday's post on Requires Only That You Hate, which is definitely going on my reading list. SF/F and feminism? Plus a big dose of fuck-the-haters attitude? Count me in.

And last, the Best Thing You Are Going To Read All Day. Seriously, this is fantastic. No quotation, just read the whole article.

And now, back to angsting over long posts about rape culture and the ugly things in this world.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Love My Bike

I just want to write about how much I love my bike today. I feel like I've been on a second honeymoon, now that Eurynome is all fixed up and ready to roll. (Well, except for some minor tweak-y issues with the derailers and the rear brake.)

Last Saturday, it was so gorgeous outside that I had to continue riding all day long. I started my day by riding up Fig and the evil hill on Colorado to a "Yoga Booty Ballet" class in Pasadena. The class itself was very fun, but didn't incorporate as much ballet as I expected from the title, and didn't really integrate the dance with the yoga at all. I then decided to take a chance on a new route home- down Ave 64 from Colorado instead of Figueroa. The street is wide, well paved, and totally gorgeous, with lots of trees and beautiful big houses. Plus, the back hill up to No Manor is longer, but easier than the evil front side of Mt. Grommet.

After hanging out through the hottest hours of the day, I hopped back on my bike to explore LA the same way I've explored Seattle, Portland, and Calgary this summer- by wandering aimlessly and seeing what there is to see. I ended up stumbling onto the route outlined here by Josef of the Flying Pidgeon. I took this route in reverse from Marmion Way to Ave 39, but continued down Griffin through Lincoln Heights and onto the Broadway Bridge to downtown. I spent a long time hanging out in the park at Ave 60- there's a really cool bridge there.

The rest of the park is surprisingly spacious and pretty, given that it's crammed in next to the freeway. There's a perfect tree for hangout and reading under, too.

I rode into downtown as the sun set, lighting up that awesome skyline with the gorgeous colors only LA's smog filled sunsets produce. And cutting a path through those same enormous buildings in the twilight was quite fun.

I then took 6th street out to the Pan Pacific Park area. I was dumped back into the traffic that really requires full attention just as the stars were coming out. There's something about watching the sky as the stars begin to appear, one by one, that's just magical.

Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech haolam, hamav'dil bein kodesh l'chol, bein or l'chosech.
Blessed are you our Gd, Lord of the Universe, who separates between the profane and the holy, between the light and the darkness. (image of the ISS, from someone else's site)
I locked my bike to Rosie's car for dinner at Swinger's before driving home. Hey, I'm out of shape, all those miles hurt. But I really appreciate those days when I go on dates with my favorite person in the world- my bike.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Letter's Follow Up

See? The bike polo community's awesome.

Notice anything different today? No more Venus symbols! Just the referee one, which I'm proud to have by my name. (TWO players requested that I ref their games at DPI last weekend. /bragging.)

And for an unregistered user as well- no more automatic listing as male.

Success! No fuss, just a bit more egalitarian.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I Write Letters

I'm so excited to finally be using this title!

So as most polo players are already aware, there's a new website in town: It's being used to track team and player statistics throughout the major tournaments of the season, and act as a registration tool for tournament organizers. While there are some technical and design issues which could be debated, my problem is with the site's presentation of gender.

[click to enlarge]
This is a screencap of the registration page for the Desert Polo Invite, taken on 2/3/12. Notice anything yet?

How about on this page, where players are sorted by who's logged the most miles traveled?
That's right. Every woman on the site is followed around by a Venus symbol. There is no Mars symbol for the male players, because as we all know they'rethenormalonesamirite? As such, this extra line of coding is seriously Othering to the women of bike polo.

Which brings me to my next point. There are only two choices on the 'gender' tab of a player's profile, as shown above. The default for all players when they first sign up for the website is male. I found this very offensive, and immediately changed my gender to reflect my personal identity. But now I find myself stuck in this catch-22, where I must either be disingenuous to my chosen gender identity, or be forever marked as Different from the other players on the site.

So earlier today, I sent Zach (who built the site) this letter:

Hey Zach,

I would like to request that you remove the coding that places a Venus symbol next to the names of every user listed as female on the website. Several other players and I have discussed the matter, and we find it to be an offensively unnecessary demarcation. We believe that the women of bike polo should be able to be viewed equally and not alienated from their peers.

In addition, we would like to request that you make the default player “unspecified” in gender. The default human is not male, and it is unfair to support the patriarchal assumption that this is the case.



Monday, January 16, 2012

Relevant quotations are relevant:

"But that's part of women being expected to bear the burden of empathy; the last thing you should do is be a person who doesn't TRY to care, so even when people act in an uncaring way, you try to figure out motivations or whatever instead of just dealing with their actions." -Sady

That's definitely an expectation I've encountered. Wish I could think of an example suitable to share with the whole internet.

"I was fully aware that gender injustice against women was pervasive in politics, religion, and sports long before I took my first women's studies class. I just didn't yet have the words or confidence to articulate it." -Fannie

She really hits the nail on the head! I can think of so many times in my life when I could sense the incorrectness of a given situation, but didn't yet know how to express that frustration- times like clothes shopping with my aunt, who only wanted to dress me in pinks and yellows when I wanted the blue version of a shirt. These instances weren't exactly few and far between, even begin raised by second-wave feminists as I was. I'm glad that I can now look back on that feeling of discomfort and realize that I was identifying an injustice, instead of just being "crazy" or "weird".