Monday, October 17, 2011


I don't know if it is the change in the seasons, allergies, or my inconsistent mood weather, but I have been a horrible bitch lately. I don't think other people notice this--I am too self-conscious and aware of the terrible job market to let too many people. But I know it. I feel it in my soul, dark and twisted and miserable.

I recently moved back to an old apartment. I lived here when I was in college through the very beginning of my adult career and the beginning of what I thought was the love of my life. Now I'm back. I remember how miserable I was here (I was happy here too, but I can only remember the misery). People on the street are nasty and I have to deal with tourists constantly. I am stuck in my mother's dream for me--pre-sexual, middle-class, comfortable.

UGH, COMFORTABLE. Is there anything worse in life? I feel a fog of uncomfortable comfort. The black dog curling up in my lap. My life passing before me like a dull movie.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Internet and Anger

I love social media. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, the whole shebang. I love getting news in almost real time, getting different perspectives, learning new names and ideas. But what I do not love are the knee-jerk assumptions and trolls.

I recently came out on Twitter as a rape survivor. Obviously, I do not talk about my rape frequently on social media. It happened long enough ago, that I don't talk about it much in person. No doubt, there were a few followers who knew me in real life who found out that I was assaulted on the internet. And maybe they were shocked. Or, they know the statistics and were not shocked.

Now, I had a reason for sharing this information on the internet. I wanted to share my story of abuse, shame, and recover in 140 characters or less to explain my participation in Slutwalk NYC, which has a politically complicated relationship with a number of women I admire very much. I got a call about this tweet from a friend (probably notified by another friend) and we had a very emotional discussion about the walk and my experience with sexual abuse.

But I also got a spammer who replied to that post. I saw it immediately after the walk, when I was extremely rattled by the day's events. At first, I just wanted to ignore it. It was what my mother taught me to do on the playground "Just ignore them. They only want attention." But then, that attitude got me raped in the first place, delayed me even calling it rape, and the asshole is walking around a free, married man. So I cussed the spammer out.

This wasn't necessarily what I would call a proud moment, but you know what? The fucker deleted her comment.

So today, after a full week of work, I go to a conference marking the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill's testimony. It was another brutal day--in large part because I was operating on a small coffee, conferences bring out weirdo cranks, and then I was thinking back to my rape again (my rapist was also a coworker). I had originally thought of making it a full day of activism, moving on to Occupy Times Square tonight. But I just couldn't. I'm exhausted, I have laundry to do, I want to spend time with the cat, you know? Sometimes you have to pick your battles, and what can I say, I picked mine.

So I tweeted this, because this is what I do. And this bitch writes back, "well why don't you just roll over and continue to sleep. and you will wake up to a nightmare. cause you didn't participate." 

And again, I thought, "I'll just ignore her. I don't know her, she can fuck herself." But again, I said no to my good girl instincts and instead let loose on her:

  • Why don't you go fuck yourself for judging a fellow activist who spent her day fighting a related fight?
  • By the way, my day job is fighting for economic justice, not playing with dolls [as she stated in her profile. Yes, I went to her profile looking for things to hate.]

And then, to the general public, these:

  • Folks, just because we're on the internet doesn't mean you can ignore context. Pay attention to links, times, etc before you run your mouth.
  • Political arena needs thoughtful discussion, not more asshole remarks. I'm not going to be quiet & take it online anymore than in person.
So I can't say that I lived up to my own words here (although I am not linking to her profile, to protect her anonymity), but I do think that this is useful. I refuse to be bullied on the internet, even by people who clearly have no idea who I am. I know a lot of women, transpeople, queers get much worse harassment, but that still doesn't mean that I have to put up with what is thrown at me. I like that the internet allows me to publicly experience my anger, and also think for a few minutes before responding (unlike in a conversation). Women still aren't allowed to experience anger in many public forums, and it makes me feel stronger knowing that I am not backing down and playing nice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Information Age TV, Industrial Revolution Concerns

For those of you with a healthy appreciation of trash TV, you may have noticed that this fall's line-up is loaded with characters who are pretending to be someone they are not. Hidden identities are nothing new to night-time soaps, but the introduction of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke from Revenge, Siobhan/Bridget from Ringer, and the unfortunate reintroduction of Gossip Girl's Charlie/Ivy, we are reminded that in the information age, it is easy to recreate yourself in ways unthinkable even a few years ago.

However, like all soaps, these story lines have been recycled multiple times. Reaching back as far as Samuel Richardson and his unfortunate heroines, anxiety over the destabalization of identity has fueled compelling tales. While Richardson, Dickens, and Hardy faced a world that was becoming urbanized and anonymous, we are faced with a global community where we expect everyone to have a published (and accessible!) identity. This, paradoxically, allows us to create an identity without there being a physical body to match (see also: North by Northwest). The best and easiest way to hide is to hide behind another Facebook profile.

That said, these recent TV plots do fail the credibility test. Charlie is only able to "pass" because she is surrounded by idiots in a sex-drugs-money fog who reduce the greatest city in the world to a few similarly limited sexual partners. Bridget passes as her twin without knowing anything of her life or fashion sense. I actually believe that Amanda can get away with being Emily, but she also has a Mark Zuckerberg-like sidekick who is a master of manipulating information (and has the money to act as a smokescreen).

Of course, everyone passes as a fancy, rich New York lady. Because that's the fear and the dream. We all know that rich people are moral degenerates. We can only wish that People Who Have Suffered will be rewarded with material wealth--and if it doesn't come naturally, maybe they stop "playing by rules [they] had nothing to say about setting up." But we still do have that sense that the rich are somehow better than the rest of us. Whether that's the Protestant work ethic instinct still embedded in multicultural America or the vestiges of feudalism, I don't know.

Let's not overlook the fact that all of these characters are women. Women's identities have always been malleable--we shift from daughters to wives to mothers to crones. Women can upgrade (or downgrade) their lives based on their male partners. Since women's wealth (or lack of) hasn't historically made as much difference to their male partners, men don't experience this potential flush of fortune. In these shows, the class-passeer's relationship to men is paramount. Emily's identity is questioned because she starts dating Daniel, the foxy son of mean witch Victoria Grayson (and Amanda's childhood relationship with the foxier Jack Porter threatens to undo her plans of revenge). Bridget gets to pretend to be Siobhan because her husband Andrew is too much of a doofus to realize that he is in bed with a different woman. Charlie passed last season because she distracted Dan Humphrey for awhile, and everyone was just so relieved that they let a lot of stuff slide.

We want to think that identity is stable, that we have souls that determine Who We Are, but this stability has been becoming less necessary or desirable since we started moving away from the family farm. These TV shows explore the anxiety we feel about the split between our public and private lives, about the decreasing importance of our physical bodies, and about the class struggles of our every day lives.