Why This Internet Thing Works – For Me

I first got online in 1995, when AOL was sending those CDs to your house like you had joined a Columbia House for the Internet. I never officially learned to type (since I didn’t get that in school), but I was 15 and bored, so I got into chat rooms, and learned my own way of keeping up with the conversation without writing in l33t speak, or similar. That skill is one I still use today.

When my parents got divorced 2 years later, the friends I made online served as my escape from the weirdness in my house. I even ended up meeting one. I soon moved on to things like LiveJournal and OpenDiary, and made more friends and wrote out the very corniest, angsty, teen diatribes in my various blogs. (I think MySpace was the worst – I had teenage angst beyond my teen years).

But it wasn’t until I moved to Podunk, SC, 8 years ago, that I really learned how valuable this whole internet community really is for me. I didn’t pay much attention to formal blogs until I read a piece in B*tch about Carmen Sognonvi and her blog Racialicious. It just so happened that earlier that week I had read in the local paper about 3 teenage boys who had been arrested for “lynching” someone in a nearby town. (The SC definition of lynching is any act of violence by two or more people against another, regardless of race. This was not the definition I was familiar with.) That story shocked me, and I knew that I needed to have some outlet to read and talk with people like myself, than those I encountered when I first moved here.

From there, I found SO many blogs and I learned SO much. I never took any critical feminist or race theory classes in college (in part because they weren’t offered), and a lot of the discussions I stumbled upon were completely new. In a new place, semi-friendly place, the internet became my link to the “outside world”.

I devoured Racialicious, and from there found zuky (who’s now on tumblr) and resistance and SepiaMutiny and brownfemipower and shakesville and nezua and a bunch of others, really. Too many to count – many no longer write. I learned about intersectionality, I found out that there were waves in feminism (and that I am somewhere around wave 2.5 with womanist leanings) – oh yeah – I found out there’s something called womanism and hip-hop feminism.

I witnessed lots of disagreements – this is the internet! There were all kinds (feminist ones, anti-racist ones, womanist ones, scandals centering around one person or another [Marcotte, Schwyzer <I&II>, DiFranco, the Walkers]. But I saw how people helped each other pick up the pieces and regroup, and turn out the lights or move on as the case was at different times.

In the mean time, my life changed. My sister went to law school and took critical theory classes and we discussed academic terminology I still wasn’t fully familiar with, but now I knew the concepts they referred to (more than just those I’d already lived through). I went through all kinds of weird stuff at work, and gained crazy responsibility with no training or experience, and I heard about a podcast that sounded interesting. I don’t even remember how Blacking It Up appeared on my radar, but it did.

I didn’t have the energy to maintain a blog anymore, but listening to a podcast was just my speed, and TWiBIU hit the spot. I never could listen live, so when Google+ came along, and the community from the chat room migrated there, I joined. It was my only connection to a huge group of folks that I understood on multiple levels. An online family. I began listening less regularly over the last year, but still connect with folks on G+ on a regular basis. But the Trayvon Martin verdict last year had me shook, and though they were on hiatus at the time, TWiB did several live weekend shows. I listened and cried for two days, along with the many who called in. And if I never listen to another show, if I never get on G+ again, the community I felt a part of those days were worth it.

Living where I live, people often make comments about “that gay marriage thing”, or how “they’re letting boys in the girls’ bathroom in California”, or how the country is going to hell because of Obamacare. I spend a lot of time actively ignoring the news when I am around other people because I don’t want to get pulled into discussions I know will quickly devolve. My diplomacy skills have grown by leaps and bounds, but it’s still a tightrope walk.

Even the brown people here are conservative. I work with a black guy who has some serious issues with gays, an Indian guy who has issues with the poor, and a Mexican guy who doesn’t understand why poor people have kids. They’re all in their early 50s, but this is common even for young people.

So the online community I have fashioned for myself, while it has changed and always will, is an enhancement of my home. My refuge. And my connection to the world. It challenges me, teaches me, makes me laugh, cry, think, and sometimes even change.

I am more aware, more accepting, and more educated than I was. I am better. Because of this internet thing.

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shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

weird dudes

For some reason, I have had my fair share of ‘weird dude experiences’ (WDE).  In fact, I’m sure if you get a group of women in their 20s and 30s together, you could have a little festival to celebrate surviving multiple WDE.

When I was a young teenager I ran into a lot of the ‘psst’ guys.  Mostly kinda old [20s or older, sometimes MUCH older], sometimes grody-lookin’ dudes who decided that the best method of getting my attention was doing a stage whispered ‘PSST!’ repeatedly, until I looked their way.  The first time this happened to me, naive as I was, I thought there was actually something the dude wanted to tell me.  Like – information or something.

I learned.

And it only took one time for me to begin to completely ignore these weirdos.  Completely ignore in the way of being completely aware of them and their spatial relationship with me at all times until we are no longer in any real proximity, but not actually making any eye contact or speaking.  Not out of fear so much, as just uncomfortable-ness.  I actually tend not to be afraid, sometimes when [in retrospect] perhaps I should have been.

My dad tells me that guys do this because it works.  That’s actually kind of upsetting, if it’s true.

Then, there are other dudes.  Random weird dudes that approach you because – why?  I’m not entirely sure.  Maybe I’m not having enough fun and he’s just the man for me – that could be it, every once in a while I get some old dude hollering at me about how I should have a smile on my face.  That is freakin’ annoying.  That’s happened to me ever since I was a kid, and I don’t really understand it.  Yeah yeah yeah, we all learned that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile – but I had to actually sit my dad down and talk to him about that: “It still takes some muscles to smile.  Why can’t I just not have an expression, sometimes?”

Not to mention the fact that sometimes I am not in the mood to smile, and I believe I have that right.

but I digress.

Weird dudes approach – in any locale – and sometimes get as far as asking for my number.  Now, when there’s forethought, sometimes I can tell a good lie.  ‘Good’ in that it’s believable and delivered well.  But most of the time, in the midst of a WDE, I’m uncomfortable and maybe a little flustered – this is a combination that often leads to the straight up truth.  I think I’ve ended up giving out my real number twice, cuz of that.  Both times were big mistakes, but at least they didn’t turn out to be crazy maniac killers.

Thank God.

My biggest problem was that I didn’t have callerID or screen (w/my answering machine, as I do now) at the time, and every time the phone rang it was a nightmare.

But apparently a poor girl named Olga has won this year’s award for top WDE. (via Shakesville)

(transcript)

That WDE would freak the crap outta me.

nothing but the ice

I’ve been mulling over a lot in the last few weeks.  Life is happening, and I’m still kickin’, but I’m battling some severe apathy right now.  Sometimes it gets like that, and I’m not sure if it’s fatigue-related or what, but here I am.

Right now, I’m thinking about how teeth-grittingly peeved I was when I read this.  Commentary from here to there echoed many of my thoughts, and I just wanted to watch dancing shows and not think about it.  (And of course, this means I have the joy of knowing that Susie‘s gone, even though I kinda started to feel sorry for her at the end.  Eh.  I did not like her.  Her dancing was all over the place.)

My point?  I just knew R. Kelly was finally going to jail.  He was on freaking video, y’all.  I didn’t watch the vid, but a friend of mine sent me the stills back whenever they first broke [forgetting that I in NO way wanted to see them].  I’m a believer in the idea of innocent until proven guilty.  But when the defense says to me – “who you gonna believe? Us or your lying eyes?”  I choose my eyes.

Video is a powerful exhibit.  I thought it’d be enough.  I should’ve known better.

When you come out and call yourself something like the Pied Piper, I start thinking that you’re just laughing about getting away with murder child rape.  The story of the Pied Piper is one about how a grown man takes advantage of selfish/ignorant parents and lures children into a situation they think is wonderful, but in reality removes them from their homes and families forever.  Tell me again how that’s not making a mockery of this situation?

Those that have the gall to come up with some victim-blaming excuses are inexcusable, in my book.  This girl was thirteen (13!) at the time the video was shot.  Over and over, though, it comes down to the woman’s responsibility to shut a man down for any type of sexual abuse.

It makes me tired.

And I wasn’t looking for much.
Just. ice.

race & relationships

I went to spend this past wknd with my mother to celebrate her bday and Mother’s Day, since they’re so close together, and I don’t get to go over that way too often.

In the course of talking, we ended up talking about whether there really is a disconnect between black feminists and white feminists.  I told her about the recent flare-ups in the blogosphere, and some of the things that I’ve only begun to think about, in light of all the discussion.  Considering that there are differences in the stereotypes applied to black women and white women, certainly combating those stereotypes would take different tactics.

From that, we moved into talking about basic assumptions that we make about people.  [I’m not sure how that happened, but there was some sort of segue.]  That’s when she told me about something that happened at her job, when we lived in Hawaii (the 80s).

There was a woman who came in to her office to temp as a secretary for a while.  They chatted over some days, and eventually the woman saw pictures of me and my sister on my mother’s desk.

She asked, “Who are those young ladies?” (or something like that)

Mom replied that they [we] were her daughters.

The woman looked at her, and then said, “Oh, you adopted?”

Mom said, “No…they’re my biological children.”

Then the woman looked at mom with a seemingly new understanding, and before she could stop herself, said, “So, you’re one of those.”

Puzzled, a bit apprehensive, but curious, Mom asked.  “One of those what?”

“Oh, uh, you know.”

“No.  I don’t know.  What?”

You know.  Those people.”

No. I don’tWhat people?  Go ahead and say it.”

“Sluts.”

*********************************************************************
I think Mom had told me about this once before, but at the time I didn’t really think about it.  Now, four days later, I’m still digesting.

The issues that come up with interracial relationships are myriad, and you could probably keep coming up with things all day.  Latoya P’s intro to a conversation about interracial relationships got me thinking about how things have changed since my parents got together.  What things are like now vs. what they were like 30 yrs ago.  And what things are/were like for interracial multiracial kids.

Anecdotes from multiracial kids and their parents could go on and on with incidents.  Cuz they have been happening for years, and they still are.  People still parrot the things they’ve heard.  Like:

The kids won’t know who they are.  They’ll be confused.  Or ridiculed.
The relationship can’t last, there’ll be too much adversity – the world isn’t ready to accept you.
Couldn’t you find anyone of your own race?/Oh you only like them now?

I don’t feel like going on.  But I could.  For some reason, there’s this drive for people to request a background history to legitimize the relationship.  As though there’s something unnatural about people with slightly different *physical* features getting together.  When, in reality, it’s been happening for thousands of years.  Yup.  (specifically for Bob Jones U.) it was happening in the Bible, too.

So, I’ll be keeping my eye on the discussion over at Racialicious, just cuz I think it might get know it will be interesting.  It already is.

oh tyra

I stumbled upon the beginning of Tyra’s talk show just now.  And I’ll say one thing for her – she knows how to hook a viewer.  I didn’t see the whole preview – just the part with a father pushing his daughter to be a prostitute.  And there ya go, I had to watch.

The show is about prostitution, and how and why women get into it.

“…for a lot of women, they seem to just jump into the industry as if it’s the most glamorous choice in the world.” ~Tyra (emphasis hers)

Then she introduced two women, 25 and 27, who are…auditioning? interviewing? trying out? to be Bunny Ranch girls.  The 25 yr old, Anna, is looking to save money for her mother’s liver transplant.  She also said that she considered earning the money this way because she “really likes to please men”.  The 27 yr old, Shy Love (I don’t know if her parents were hippies or if she’s already chosen her ‘bunny name’), is a nurse who’s tired of working 24/7 and missing important moments in her 5 children’s lives.  [That’s right, 5 kids.  They are 11, 8, 7, 6, and 4 going on 5.]  She also said the money wasn’t that great.  I suppose, for the hours, that could be true.  And compared to working at the Ranch, that could be true.  Anyway, she said she weighed the pros and cons, and the Ranch was a clear winner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Woo.  Can I just take a moment to let all that sink in?

How is it that we have women choosing to become prostitutes in order to support their families?  To me, that sounds like this country has let them down.  Completely.  And I’m not just talking about these 2, going for the Bunny Ranch.  They’ll do much better there than the girls across the country that have decided to do the same thing, for the same reason, but have no protection.

Ok, back to the show.  Turns out, Shy Love has a serious bf, Chris.  He’s not thrilled about her choice, but he says he can handle it.  Up to five years.

Tyra:  Ok.  Five years of other guys pounding your girl. [emphasis hers again]
Chris:  You know, thanks.
Tyra: Ok.
Chris:  Thanks.
Tyra:  I’m just keepin’ it real – just keepin’ it real.  Cuz it is what it is. Ok, we’ll be right back. (giggle)

Ok, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a whole episode of Tyra, so I’m not sure what I should be expecting.  Not much, I guess.  Her questions [IMO] are borderline offensive, and she doesn’t seem to grasp what is appropriate and what’s not.  Now, this bunny ranch fella she brought on the show just commented that since we’ve all seen ‘Pretty Woman’, every woman [at some point in her life] has only been one step away from working at the Ranch.

I dunno if I’ll be able to stomach the rest of this.  I’ve seen some interviews where prostitutes have said that other women are selling sex as well, they’re just not getting money for it.  They’re getting dinner, time, affection, whatever.  That’s how they refer to the dating process.

And I can see the point.  Especially if we’re talking about women who have sex with men they barely know.  Regularly.

But alleging that even the majority of women have the desire to be prostitutes?  Well, it’s no surprise to me that a man said that.

I’m thinking that maybe somebody is punking Tyra.  They’re trying to make sure she looks like a fool on tv.  Cuz this girl from the Ranch just said something about how we all use our bodies at work, and she just uses a different part, and what did Tyra say?  “You use your coochie.”

The so-called father-daughter aren’t really.  He’s a father-figure.  That doesn’t make it any less creepy that he does bikini waxes on her, but at least it’s not her real dad.  And Summer, 18,  is an adult-industry star, apparently.  And her “dad” is her manager.  And he’s trained as a…I dunno…someone who does waxing.

Oh no he didn’t.  Oh no that mofo did not just call Ashley Dupre a ‘ho’.

So, fake-daddy drops Summer at the Ranch and she’s crying cuz she doesn’t want to do this anymore.  But he says, “Chin-up. I want you to go in there and make a good impression, ok? I love you.”  So she gets out of the car, and goes.  Her “daddy” keeps calling this a career.

The more I watch, the more I think these women need someone professional to talk to.

I’ve turned the sound off on the show.  It’s too painful.

I’m a more old-school feminist.  So I’m not into porn and prostitution as some kind of liberating behavior for women.  I think it’s bad for women.  Men too, actually.  I think it just perpetuates the patriarchy.  And I really hate the term “sex-positive” because that infers that people like me are “sex-negative”.  But just cuz I want a more level playing field in the bedroom as well as everywhere else, doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of sex.

Just selling it, I suppose.

tumultuous times

The rain is pouring down outside, after about an hour of flashing and flickering lightning.  What a great night to be inside.  Except, I left work because the sun set – not because my work was done.  And I left people there.  So I feel bad.  But I am still incredibly grateful for the Sabbath.  If you don’t actually have a day of rest, I’m sorry.  God knew what He was doing.  We need that day.  The whole day.

I’ve worked 12 hour days since Tuesday.  Which I haven’t done since my last job. (’05)  So I was definitely ready for the break.  But since stuff still wasn’t going right when I left, I’m considering what I should do (if anything) for my boss and coworker that I left behind.  Granted, my boss has been a hellion for the last two weeks, and she’s part of the reason that we were in this pickle, but she finally started acting human again this afternoon.  A couple of days this week, I thought I just needed to quit.  That might still be the case, but right now, I don’t feel the urgency that I did yesterday or the …five days before.  Anyway, I have mixed feeling about leaving her there.  More about leaving my coworker.  Tough situation.  But it really wasn’t necessary for me to stay, either.

But apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been going through.  One of the links on my blogroll doesn’t work because of some crazy stuff [read: total concept/idea/content appropriation sans credit].  Then there was this whole other thing with some publishers and some WOC.  woo.  Why’s it gotta be feminists fighting?

My dad is a feminist.  But he’s also still a good deal sexist.  I deal.  He’s my dad.  He’s actually very progressive for his age and upbringing.  He had good goals in raising my sister and I… I’m proud of him.  But he still says some sexist stuff.

His response to my ranting about my boss and her bizarre behavior?

“It’s a shame that she’s acting this way,  now people have a perfect example to point to and say -‘see? women don’t work as managers.  They’re too emotional.’ “

Now, on the face of it, this sounds supportive.  But when you know (like I do) that every time I bring up anything negative about my boss, this is what he says.  If there’s a better marker for showing that his first thought tends toward the stereotype of female bosses being emotional, tell me about it.  But, on the real, he’s a really awesome dad.

/digression

Anyway, this [the femblog blow-up] is one of those situations that I would describe to my dad, and he’d say something to the effect of

“It’s a shame they’re acting like that.  All that fighting and arguing.  Now people just have another example to point to and say ‘see?  Women could never rule the world (much less the country) – they’re too emotional.  You know – all those hormones.’ “

So what’s up ladies?  Are we seriously going to give people the exact ammunition they’re (literally) preaching about?  Not to say that those people who have been wronged should not be livid – they should.  But the cattiness [for lack of a better term] that has come with the backlash against valid righteous indignation?  Why?  Are we not all grown-@ss women?

I am thoroughly and completely beat.  My blinks keep getting longer and longer.  So goodnight and grow up.  I’m gonna go get some Sabbath rest.