Monday, May 20, 2002

I never used to be afraid of anything. Well, maybe that's not completely true...I was afraid of snakes, and escalators, and really large bugs...but other than that, I really had very few fears. But I realized the other day that the past couple of years have left me with a few more fears than I ever had before. After my sister's accident, and our current political climate, and all that, there are things that I legitimately am afraid of. I'm scared of not getting to finish the things I've started. I may not know exactly what I want to do with my life, but I do know some things. I want to be something, I want to be a force to be reckoned with. I want to get married and have kids with my partner. I want to see my sister graduate college and get married. And I guess that maybe before all this I was laboring under an impression that I didn't have to worry so much because all those things would happen. But these days so few things seem guarenteed. Nothing is for sure anymore, and I am afraid that maybe I won't be able to do all those things that I want to do. That seems like such a scary thought. Maybe that's why I'm so preoccupied with the future and with hurrying things up. I think that's probably especially true in thinking about my relationship with my partner. I love him so much, and it's so hard to be away from him like this...and it's scary to think that if something bad happened, then we'd never get to be together the way we both want. That idea frightens me alot. I know there's alot of uncertainty in life with anything, so it's not like this is a new delima. Maybe it's just one that I've realized recently when I reorganized my own priorities.

For the longest time, I thought that I would find my fulfillment in whatever profession I ultimately ended up in. As an engineer and researcher, I would save the world before I was 30, and then meet a nice man, settle down an have a couple of kids, and take vacations on the beach every summer. My fulfillment would come through my professional life first, and my personal life second. However, recently I discovered that wasn't quite so true anymore. A professional life doesn't have quite such a strong draw for me anymore. I still want to be something, and to make some sort of contribution to the world, but that no longer feels like the place where I'll truly find myself. My relationships have become so much more fulfilling these days. I'm not sure I'd say that I feel that my highest calling is to be a wife and mother, but that seems to be part of my calling these days. I find myself truly wanting to be in a relationship which will play a major part in my life. I want that connection. I want alot of other things too, of course. But I guess it had just neer occured to me before that I'd have any desire to have such a serious relationship at this point in my life. And I do find myself wanting that very much these days. I miss my partner terribly, and it's very difficult to be away like this.

It used to be alot easier, ya know. "There are things we both need to do, and we need to do them on our own." "It's easier because I don't have to worry about neglecting him, or getting my own work done." Those excuses and all the other ones just aren't carrying much water anymore these days. I think we're both mature enough, and our relationship is mature enough that we could handle it very well under every day circumstances. Two years just seems like such a long time. It doesn't seem quite so bad if I think about it in terms of the fact that by next summer we need to start discussing what happens when I get out of school. I'll just have one year left then, and it'll be time for us to start making some decisions about exactly what it is that we're doing, and what we want. I realized the other day that I was saying "just two more years" on a pretty regular basis, but that I had no idea what exactly I was saying would happen in two years. Matt says "just two more years" too, and I don't know that he knows exactly what we're thinking will happen in two years. Although he does say that he just thinks that we mean that then things will get easier because we can dispense with this 600 miles crap, which is probably at least partially true. I don't know what's going to happen in two years, I don't even know exactly what I want to happen in two years. Different parts of me want different things. I know without a doubt that I want to be able to see him on a daily basis then, but on what terms seems to be where the disagreement comes in. I suppose it's quite premature to be worrying about terms at this point though, isn't it? Ah well, that was just sorta a fleeting thought anyway, exactly like all the thoughts have been tonight apparently.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

So, it's been a long time, but I'm finally back a little bit at least. Sorry for the long absence again, but moving back home from college can really take it out of you. And then when your computer manages to get screwed up along the way, well that doesn't help either. And then getting a terrible case of the flu that essentially floors you for a couple of days certainly isn't a step in the right direction.

I had no idea that so much dust could collect inside my computer, ya know? Apparently every dust bunny in North America has decided to congregate inside my PC, which does not make me happy. I'm going to have to do something about that before too long.

Friday, May 03, 2002

I'll probably ramble here for a while...but it's for a good cause, trust me.

I've been reading a discussion lately that Heather has been involved in on a feminist message board. I must honestly say that the discussion disturbes me. I'm not sure what, if anything, I can really say in this discussion that will be at all listened to. Yet at the same time it's incredibly upsetting to me.

I find the perspective that these women are taking to be hard to swallow. Not only is the perspective bothersome, but their approach is downright offensive in some aspects. Let me preface this by saying that anyone who feels that pornography is a bad thing certainly has every right to feel that way. You're more than welcome to not like anything you want to. However, I have a problem when people start postulating that pornography is contributing to the subjection of women, or that scenes of bondage in pornography encourage the kidnap, rape, and sale of women around the world.

First of all, I'd like to address this issue about bondage, since frankly it drives me nuts when people start that line. Gayle Rubin says in her article "Misguided, Dangerous and Wrong - An Analysis of Anti-Pornography Politics" (originally printed in: Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures: The Challenge to Reclaim Feminism, Alison Assiter & Avedon Carol ed., London:Pluto 1993) that
SM materials have been used as the primary "evidence" for alleged violence of porn as a whole. SM materials are only a small percentage of commercial porn and they are hardly representative. They appeal primarily to a distinct minority and they are not as readily avaliable as other materials.
[...]
SM materials are aimed at an audience that understands a set of conventions for interpreting them. Sadomasochism is not a form of violence but is rather a type of ritual and contractual sex play whose aficionados go to great lengths in order to do it and to ensure the safety and enjoyment of one another.
[...]
Torn out of context, SM material is upsetting to unprepared audiences and this shock value has been mercilessly exploited in anit-porn presentations. SM porn itself is misrepresented, its relationship to SM activity is distorted, and it is treated as thought it is representative of porn as a whole.

To be frank with you, if you want to claim that some form of media encourages the mistreatment or malignment of women, I strongly suggest you turn on your TV at night. In "Television Violence - The Power and the Peril", George Gerbner says, "We calculated a violence "pecking order" by ranking the risk ratios of different groups. Women, children, young people, lower class, disabled and Asian Americans are at the bottom of the heap." It's a hell of alot more dangerous to be a woman on television (especially if you're a woman, too old or too young, who is also a member of an ethnic minority) than it is to be a woman depicted in pornography! Beyond that, pornography isn't something that is in your face 24 hours a day the way other forms of media are. If one wants porn, one has to actively go out and seek it and be able to obtain it by some means. I fail to see how something that is only avaliable to a certain segment of the population, and only through certain channels is more dangerous than something that's avaliable 24 hours a day to people of all ages around the world. Pornography (and even more specifically SM pornography) seems to me to be much less dangerous than your regular television when you get right down to it. Frankly, it seems utterly insane to me to say that seeing an image of a bound woman will encourage someone to go sell a woman as a slave, or to go out and rape somebody. If an individual is going to do that, it's because that thought process was already present and they might have gone out and found media that seemed to support that view and then interpreted it to fit the world view they already held. Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of images of dominant women and bound men avaliable. If you're going to say that bound women encourage the abuse of women, then why doesn't the converse work also? I'd hazard to say that those images are avaliable approximately equally to images of bound women, and thus logically if one was the cause of certain behavior, it would make sense to hypothesize that a similar effect would occur with the images reversed, which of course it isn't. Saying that these images make it ok to literally sell women into slavery seems to be simplifying the issue and passing blame on the nearest, easiest scape-goat. And frankly, I resent the implications inherent in the discussion that limit what is and isn't ok in relation to my own sexuality. By saying that representations of SM are bad and harmful, essentially you are saying that SM itself is bad and harmful. And if you claim to want women to be able to have sexual freedom, and be able to make their own choices about how they take pleasure from their own bodies, and then you turn around and say that this form and that form of sexuality is bad, are you not essentially creating your own contradiction?

Beyond that, I resent the implication that in order to be respected for my mind, I have to hide my body and my sexuality. And that if I fail to do so, I'm not only hurting myself, but I'm hurting women everywhere and contributing to the continuation of the patriarchal system. To be completely honest, I feel like that is a complete and utter load of bullshit. First of all, that's assuming that no one who views any pornography knows how to make any reading other than a dominant or oppositional one. On the contrary, I think that when viewing this type of media most people (men and women alike) are more likely to make a negotiated reading. We take what we want and leave what we don't. Frankly, women involved in pornography are not being exploited. If anything, they are exploiting the system the way each and every other person (male or female) who has a profession does. They choose to use their bodies to make a living by supplying something that society wants. If I choose to take a job as a doctor, I am not allowing my mind and talent to be exploited in order to provide something that society wants (i.e. health)? Isn't that essentially the same thing? I was personally rather impressed by the Kathy Myers article "Toward a Feminist Erotica". It brings up some very interesting points about taking pornographic images within context. Although I don't necessarily agree with all the points Myers makes, I really like the list of questions she says we need to ask when analyzing these types of images. It seems to make more sense to me to examine both the image itself and the context in which it is produced and created as opposed to just looking at the image and saying it is bad because it "objectifies" someone.

Which brings me to another point of contention. Frankly, I think the term "objectification" has been severely overused. The discussion I've been observing keeps bringing up the point that Heather's visual work is inherently harmful because somebody might jerk off to it and thus be objectifying her, which is harmful to both her and other women. No artist is responsible for whether or not someone masturbates while observing an image they have created. If one happens to find a painting of dogs playing poker to be erotic, and chooses to masturbate to it, should no artist be allowed to paint dogs playing poker ever again so that we will avoid objectifying dogs and confining them to the traditional dog-master relationship? (Note that I am not equating women with dogs...this is merely an unrelated analogy. I could have just as well used a painting of a flower and the flower-gardener relationship.) And beyond that, it seems to me that the point being made is that anyone masturbating needs to do so with a blank mind so that they do not objectify anyone else. Which once again, is a load of bullshit, and makes no sense at all. I fail to see how observing an image while masturbating is such an evil act anyway. And a woman is just as capable of masturbating while observing an image as a man is.

I enjoy the images that Heather creates. My partner also enjoys those images. I see no problem in this. I don't feel marginalized or threatened. In fact, the opposite would be more the truth. Viewing these images helped me grow both as a human, and as a woman. They gave me a new way to view other images that I encountered and helped me realize that not everybody just consumes images at face value and takes their intended meanings straight to heart. Nor do I feel that my boyfriend viewing images like the ones Heather produces, and also the ones that exist in mainstream pornography such as Playboy causes him to view me and my sexuality in a distorted way. Some of the participants in this discussion have proposed that even by allowing one's body to be viewed in a sexual context by one's partner, a woman is actively participating in her own objectification. How then am I allowed to be sexual? Under a full length black robe, in a darkened room, all alone and with a blank mind? I did not free my sexuality from my own set of patriarchial views only to have it caged by someone's "feminist" views.
Recently I posed semi-nude and in a sexual context for some photos. I did so for several reasons. First, I simply wished to do so. For the first time in my life, I am comfortable with my own sexuality and within my own skin (I spent 6 years within a Baptist high school, it doesn't get much more patriarchial than that). I did so, and will hopefully do so again because it made me feel good. And secondly, it was something that I wanted to do for my partner. He did not ask me to pose nude, I did it mainly for my own edification, but also as something to share with him. I wanted him to be able to see my sexuality in a light that he hadn't observed it in before. That choice was mine, and I don't regret it or feel like it was harmful to me. It was a freeing experience. Heather is beautiful...and I am beautiful too. And I will express my sexuality in any context I see fit.

Do I consider myself a feminist? Yes, I believe that I do. But I subscribe to the dictionary defination of feminism, "economic, social and political equality for men and women". That's something I feel like alot of people have lost sight of. And specifically in relation to the discussion in question, it seems as though the proposed solution is to remove the "object", rather than changing the filter through which it is viewed. And that seems like very dangerous waters for feminism to venture into with such a flawed mode of analysis and thought for these types of images.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

*sigh* It's so hard not to panic about what my grades are going to be now. Actually I'm not that worried about most of my classes, there's a couple though that I'm just not so sure about at this point. But then there's no possible way I could really fail, is there? I mean, I didn't really screw anything up during the semester...

I've decided that I at least need to start thinking about my GRE this summer. Obviously I'll need one since I'll most likely be going to graduate school at least part time once I get done with this program. According to a site I just looked at, you should start preparing for it during your junior year, and take it in November of your senior year (at the latest?). Thus it occurs to me that I really need to get in there and learn every possible thing that could appear on that test because I'm going to need a really really really high score. I got myself into my own mess with my GPA the way it is, and while I can improve it, it won't be as much as I'd like to do. Therefore I'm going to really have to kick ass on that test.
I'm exausted, and relieved, and stressed all at the same time now. My last final is over, it's just a matter of time until I move back home...and I don't have any of my actual final grades back yet, which is what is making me nervous.