I will forever adore Hermione

The Women of The Harry Potter Universe | Canonball.

“She doesn’t end up with the hero; she is not there to be Harry’s love interest. She is a total badass despite her prim & proper reputation. So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of traditionally feminine qualities & are forced to pick up masculine traits. Hermione is never made to do that. She is written to be highly logical AND emotionally expressive, a combination not afforded to today’s leading ladies.”

I always loved Hermione for this reason. She is so much like me. I would read the books and watch the movies and repeatedly think, “That’s what I would do!” or “That’s how I would behave!” or “OMG she’s just like me!”. Even as an adult, I found renewed inspiration to be fully feminine and fully badass in a fictional teenage girl.

Some thoughts in the wake of the shooting

A smattering of thoughts in the wake of the Newtown shooting.

First, 2 pieces that speak my mind on the matter

We can’t prevent spree shootings, we need to look instead at gun violence in general.

We need to regulate guns as seriously as we regulate cars, do we have the courage?

The sadness upon hearing the news of this shooting was visceral. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that punched in the gut feeling. I continue to shed tears any time I allow myself to dwell on it for longer than a fleeting thought.

The conversations about guns and mental health care in America need to happen but I’m not sure I’m prepared to hear what some people have to say. Here are my reactions to some of the things I’ve heard so far (in no particular order):

  • The notion of arming teachers is so preposterous it would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.
  • When we have conversations about people being allowed to “protect themselves”, why don’t we explore non-lethal options?
  • In the “right to bear arms” argument, it’s rarely pointed out that the military guns of the 1700s are hardly comparable to the guns available today. Also, why does “arms” automatically have to mean “guns” anyway?
  • Mental illness does not equal violence. However, there ARE mental illnesses that, under the right circumstances, can lead to violence so I believe that conversation needs to happen. Have you ever tried to get mental health services in America? It’s very difficult unless you’re very wealthy. Those with the greatest need should be seeing multiple mental health professionals multiple times a week for therapy and medication management…not to mention that their families also require services. These types of services are not covered even by many private insurance plans which would mean they’d have to pay out hundreds of dollars a week in therapy and thousands of dollars a month in medications. The mental health services accessible through medicaid are often not sufficient and you have to be “poor enough” to qualify for them. There are entire populations of people in the US for whom prison is the only option – this is unacceptable.
  • Suggesting that things would be better if God was “allowed in our society” is basically saying that people cannot be moral, ethical or “good” without belief in a deity. This is not only absurd but offensive. Mass shootings do not happen because kids aren’t forced to pray in schools. For pete’s sake, show some common sense.

And finally, a comment I wrote on my cousin’s facebook page in response to this image and this comments that followed.

Those who believe in maintaining the right to bare arms (2nd amendment rights) are not doing so to protect their family as much as to protect our rights against dictators (Obama want-a-be).

If you think you need THAT to protect your family from whatever perceived threats you think exist in North Dakota (where my cousin lives), I’m concerned about your mental health. I lived in the ghetto of Hollywood for 3 years. My employer had to hit the floor during drive-by shootings 3 times during her career with social services in Los Angeles. Do you SERIOUSLY think we would have been protected by ANY kind of gun in those situations? If this is about personal protection, then let’s discuss all our options – one of which should NOT be arming the populate with semi-automatics. If this is about our “constitutional right to guns”, then you’re completely daft – the constitution does not OWE you anything. It certainly doesn’t owe you the right to whatever gun you want without regulation.

Gun control = dictatorship? These kinds of hyperbolic fallacies only serve to eschew the real issues. If we want to have a discussion about the protection mechanisms used for the President of our country, then we should do that. But saying “because the president has highly skilled, screened, background checked and psych evalled secret service personnel protecting him with high powered weapons I should be allowed to have an assault rifle and don’t even talk to me about regulations or I’ll call the President a dictator” is the height of absurdity. Come on! It’s this kind of ridiculousness that continues to get us NO WHERE in the societal dialogue of reasonable gun regulations.

It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. We need to have a responsible dialogue about guns in this country. The level and ease of access and inconsistent regulations regarding use and abuse is embarrassing and it’s well past time America own up to it. The reality is that guns do more to harm than they do to protect and spouting fallacies and hyperbole and rhetoric isn’t going to change that nor is it going to get us any closer to a more peaceful, reasoned society.

It seems people have more guns than they do common sense in America and the victims continue to be the innocent.

Some thoughts about organics

Updated: Some additional information from a friend – a bit of a challenge to what I posted first.

I think it’s important to be informed, even if it means reading things that might get our hackles up. What we’ve learned using the scientific method matters – especially if we are going to create a world in which only the rich can afford to eat because of a market created by privilege. I prefer to make decisions about my own personal spending – which in turn effects the market – on solid data. The benefits of our privilege need to be kept in mind when we analyze data and make our purchasing decisions. I’m not making a definitive statement about organic produce but I will continue to research and try not to get distracted by my “gut feelings”. I hope others will do the same.

What the $%#$?! Holy #@$#! Son of a *@#$%

One of the bigger challenges I have lately as a parent is explaining swears to my kids. Not because I feel conflicted about profanity or because I’m so offended and shocked by what we hear hoodlums say these days, but because I choose not to impose arbitrary prohibitions on my children’s verbal language expression which means I need to know my shit and be willing to discuss it with them in a way they understand and can engage with.

So when I get “What does son of a bitch mean?”, “What’s a bastard?”, “Why is fuck a swear?” “Why did you laugh when I said ho?” from my kids, it challenges me.

Some of what my kids (ages 7 and 10) hear is from people on the train/bus/street, a bit from TV, but the rest is from us. We don’t really censor ourselves and the kids know when it’s appropriate to use what language. They know that if they swear at school, there will be consequences. They know that it’s not appropriate to sing potty language songs in the market within earshot of other shoppers. They’ve understood these differences from a very young age. They just never cared what the actual words meant until now so I have done a few lessons on the evolution of swearing and the purpose of language and the creation of words and stuff like that. Explaining words like “whore” is the most tricky because there are so many socio political complexities.

I like this article http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/science/20curs.html?pagewanted=all

and this http://io9.com/5912901/a-brief-history-of-four-letter-words

I do agree with some about a lack of decency in public discourse (although I’m not convinced there’s a “decline” and  I generally oppose sentimentalism and nostalgia when discussing such things) but I’m less concerned about profanity than I am about being informed, respectful and articulate. Generally speaking, I think intelligent design is laughable hogwash but in all honesty, I would rather talk to a respectful, informed creationist than an evolutionist who is just a talking head asshat of a human being. In our family, we emphasize much more strongly the context and intent of language; e.g., when David is being silly and I want to rib him I might call him a dork. We talk about how that is different than if you want to hurt someone’s feelings and call them “dork”. Sometimes, respecting the person to whom I’m speaking might mean I refrain from certain words or even using a certain type of communication. I knew a woman awhile back who didn’t have the ability to understand sarcasm at all and it was very frustrating for her when it was used in conversation. I use sarcasm all the time. So, while it was not easy, I chose to keep my words literal out of respect for her and my desire to engage in dialogue with her. I would rather see my girls make those kinds of decisions than get hung up on whether or not to say shit when they stub a toe.

What my children hear at home is an occasional use of profanity in certain situations that we personally have deemed acceptable. It’s not always in a catastrophe situation and it’s not only when something bad happens. So I’m ok with our kids swearing. Interestingly, they don’t. Shayel is 10, she has heard occasional swearing from us her whole life. She has NEVER ONCE used a swear word, even at home. (oh except for that one time I was being annoying and Shayel jokingly told me I was being a smart ass. She was totally right and I thought it was brilliant) When we’re on the train and some kid with his pants down to his knees is dropping the f’bomb every other word, we talk about what they think of that, how it makes him look, the image he’s projecting, etc. When 2 people at the beach are screaming profanity at each other in an argument, we process the experience together. And when I say we talk about it, I mean that we ask them what THEY think and we have an actual conversation. Kids are pretty amazing when you give them the space to be. My kids make profoundly insightful observations when I don’t try to grasp them with an iron fist, controlling everything they say and do. Frankly, I think my 7 and 10 year olds have a much more nuanced and realistic understanding of spoken language than many adults I know and it didn’t come about by shielding them or changing our own personal language habits or just prohibiting something outright.

Teen suicides – what is going on?!

This morning, at her request, Shayel and I discussed (let’s be honest, I did most of the talking) the recent teen suicides and the reports of the preceding horrific bullying. And then my kids go to school and I read some news and the first thing I see is that a 15 year old girl threw herself in front of a train because of the bullying she received from the football team after (reportedly) having sex with 4 of them (apparently in a single encounter at a party). And why weren’t the adults in this girl’s life investigating this sexual encounter? At 15, “sex with 4 football players at the same time at a party” should automatically be suspect. **LET ME BE EXPLICITLY CLEAR HERE. HER BEHAVIOUR IS IRRELEVANT WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SHAMING AND BULLYING**. It breaks my heart to hear stories of young teenage girls who think their sexual encounter was “normal” – even though when they tell it, there clearly was power imbalance and coercion (at best) but they believe that’s what sex is. ARGH.

 

As I discussed this morning with my 10 year old (10! I had to discuss slut shaming with my 10 year old. The little girl who plays pretend with her little sister and still likes to watch preschool tv shows), this isn’t really about bullying. There are core issues at play here that have to do with power structures, misrepresentation and shaming of female sexuality, deep rooted misogyny, obscenely low expectations of our young men essentially reducing them to their lizard brain, woefully inept sexuality education and a repeated acceptance of the little things that actually ultimately matter more than “blatant bullying.”

 

For example, I remember being harrassed on the bus by a nasty beast of a high school boy. He was horrid in so many ways  – sexist, racist, smelly. He is the one and only person I remember having a passionate hatred for. Fortunately I didn’t have to encounter him often and he didn’t pick on me much. I was a “late bloomer”, something I cared little about but apparently it was something he felt he had the right to address and he made a comment one day about my pubic hair (or what he assume was a lack of it). I don’t remember all the details I just remember feeling repulsed more than anything and angry at this weasel of a creature for thinking he had any right to make such comments. But in spite of my chutzpah (which I had much of at the time), I didn’t know how to respond. I was trapped on a bus with him and I didn’t have the tools. And no one came to my aid. Not the kids, not the bus driver (he bullied her too), no one. I choked down the tears and tried to shrug it off. But here’s the thing, this is simple – it is NOT OK for a boy to comment on a girl’s body outside of an intimate relationship with her permission and even then, he better be respectful. See, this isn’t about bullying. This is about a boy who learned sexism and was allowed to make sexist comments by a society that continues to not only tolerate it but perpetuate it over and over and over again.