The Sound of My People: The Equal Rights Blog Hop

equal_rights_blog_hop_buttonWelcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

Last year at my annual weekend gathering of fandom friends, where we meet up to stuff ourselves silly with each others best recipes and stay up until all hours talking about our fandom loves, there was a moment when all of us were busy on our laptops checking our emails, updating our status, or working on stories. The only sound in the room was the clattering of keys. One of my friends looked up and said with a happy sigh, “Ah, the sound of my people.”

We all laughed, and it has become a catch-phrase for us ever since.

You know what she meant, though. It’s true, as a species, we like to say ‘us, not them’ and form communities while at the same time, shutting some people out. The very thing that makes us recognize ‘alike’ makes us suspicious and leery of ‘other’. That need to separate people into tribes, into ‘us vs. them’ can be both a good and a bad thing.

This post was supposed to be about my first experience with the GLBTQ community, and I’d originally planned a nice sweet little blog post about how I did a lot of theater in high school and how my friends were neither my gay nor straight friends but my theater friends. I didn’t identify them as to their sexual orientation. It wasn’t a big deal. Ricky was the one who could hold a note for 16 bars without taking a breath. Amy was the one who made me laugh. Tom was the one I had a mad crush on, despite my friends telling me I couldn’t have a crush on him–and I knew it would never work, but I had a thing for talent, you see. Yeah, short and sweet, that was going to be my original post.

Then the whole thing with SCOTUS and their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case came down, and I have to tell you, I was both stunned and appalled. I’ve spent most of the week being seriously pissed. I’m sure I’ve annoyed and alienated many of my friends (and potential readers, too) with how angry I’ve been. I posted about it yesterday, as a matter of fact, and why I believe that the only thing that scares the GOP more than the mythical ‘gay agenda’ is the single, independent woman.

But here’s the thing. Almost every one of my GLBTQ friends have been just as upset, vocal, and angry by this ruling as I am–and for many of them, it has no direct bearing on them and their lifestyle. They resent it, however, for what it represents: discrimination on the part of one group of people against another group of people based on religious, economic, and political beliefs. They resent it in the same way that I resent seeing states pass laws banning equal marriage rights, or allowing discriminatory hiring/firing practices. Because it is wrong. Because no one group should be able to impose their will on others to this degree. All those times I stood up and cheered for my friends finally getting married, or I voted for someone who vowed to stand up for civil liberties across the board, or I fought to see some measure passed that would protect my friends? Well, yeah, they’ve got my back, too. And that, my friends, is what community is all about. I love you guys. πŸ™‚

If you enter the Rafflecopter, you’re entered to win an e-copy of my award-winning novel, The Boys of Summer. I have a short story out in the newly released Not Quite Shakespeare anthology from Dreamspinner Press, and will be releasing Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, in Sept/Oct 2014. Good luck, and happy hopping!

Why My Feminism isn’t About You

Better livingI’m supposed to be cleaning the house today. The BF has a sports thing he’s doing, and I have several days off in a row. I’ve just finished one major writing project and am that little lull before I’m ready to tackle a new one.

I’ve also been doing a bunch of research on the 1950s as part of the background I need for a new series I’m contemplating: think of it as Ward and June Cleaver meets the X-Files.Β  With the emphasis on homemaking for ‘the little woman’ of that era, I might be feeling a bit guilty about the state my own home is in.

So right. Today seemed like the perfect day to tackle the house, which is long overdue for a major spring cleaning. The kind where you put on your favorite playlist, crank the music and PURGE your house of all the useless crap that has accumulated for decades, trimming it down to the bare minimum in the hopes that you will find that external hard drive you misplaced last year and now desperately need. Instead, I woke to the internet discussion of the Elliot Rogers shootings in Santa Barbara yesterday. And the ‘mansplaining‘ that had already begun.

In many ways, the need of some men to stand up for Elliot Rogers and claim that he was right to take out his frustrations on not being able to get a date by shooting up a sorority house full of women is more shocking than the fact that once again, we have *another* campus shooting here in the US because a mentally unstable person had easy access to weapons that allowed him to commit mass murder.

I began reading the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. I read this well-thought out article by skepchick on the Alpha Male/Retribution syndrome and how Rogers’s rage will be blamed on his mental illness alone and not the growing number of Men’s Rights and women-hate groups on the internet fomenting his anger. Yes, Rogers was mentally ill. So yet again, we have an example of a mentally unstable person gaining access to a gun and killing large numbers of people with it. I don’t dispute this.

What concerns me is the amount of sympathy that Rogers got post-shooting, The numbers of men who took to the Twitterverse to cheer him on and applaud his shooting spree. “Damn right, blonde bitches, that’s what you get for friendzoning us” and “If a girl had just given the guy a little pussy, none of this had to happen” being two of the most chilling comments I came across.

I read the effing *brilliant* post by Chuck Wendig titled Not All Men, But Still Too Many Men in which Wendig tackles the problem head on for what it is–the utter insanity of men’s privilege and sense of entitlement when they already have it. More than anything, I am conscious of the double standards still perpetrated, in fact, even promoted by the GOP, that women are second class citizens who must be controlled and monitored like small children because their wanton actions might trigger unfortunate behavior in otherwise ‘nice’ boys.

DeLorean_Back to the FutureLike the GOP, growing louder in its religious and social cage-rattling in an effort to keep their base hopped-up and voting blindly for them (despite the fact that their economic policies are ruinous for anyone except the 1%–don’t get me started), it seems the closer women get to true equality, the more we get laws governing our bodies passed by men who want to keep us in ‘our’ place, or deny us equal pay, or erode the civil liberties we fought hard to establish. For every young woman out there, I’d like to tell you this: civil rights aren’t a battle fought and won and something you can just accept from now on. They are something that must be defended every day. If certain political parties could figure out a way to do it, they would strip voting rights from us, too.

One of the fun facts I discovered during my research was that up until the late 1960s, it was impossible for a woman to rent a car in the US without the written permission of a male relative. Presumably, this was to prevent women from leaving their husbands without their knowledge, denying them the right of a headstart away from someone who may have terrified them.

But I digress.

Shortly after the Steubenville rape case (and please, don’t get me started on the Football Culture/Rape Culture in this country. An openly gay NFL player will bring down the sport but rapists, murderers, and players who RUN A DOGFIGHTING RING are scarcely acknowledged? Give me an effin’ break.), a very good friend of mine posted an open letter to her son on consent. This was one of many conversations she’d had with her son over the years on his responsibilities for his actions and expectations when it comes to the people he chooses to date, and the letter was posted by The Good Men Project. It has since been reposted and shared so many times that I’ve lost track of the current stats (and have asked my friend to share them here with me), and has been translated into other languages. The GMP invited my friend to be a regular contributor to their site, and she was asked if she’d be interviewed on television.

She declined both offers.

Why? Read the comments on that post. For every woman thanking her for speaking up, for speaking to her son about such an important matter, three or four men chimed in with complaints that she didn’t address the comparatively small number of men who are raped and molested by women. Okay, that occurs. No one is denying that. But that is not what the letter was about. The letter was about a parent taking responsibility for educating her son about what constitutes sexual consent between two people, and to have a stridently vocal group try to usurp the discussion away from its true purpose was disheartening to say the least. Not because these voices didn’t deserve to be heard–but because some of these voices tried to make it seem as though the subject at hand–the rape of women by young men either through lack of respect or as a kind of sport–was somehow not a real or significant problem. Worse, however, in my opinion, was the number of men who wrote in saying that she should be turned in to child services for emotionally crippling her son by even *having* this discussion. Men who likened her to a monster. Trolls who called for her death and predicted dire ends for her children. My friend responded with courtesy, intelligence, and patience to these comments, but eventually she couldn’t take it any more. And I don’t blame her. The comments enraged me. No one should have to put themselves through that every day.

Redhead bondageSo when I wake up to find that mansplaining is in full force for Elliot Rogers today, by groups who advocate making women submit to the will of a man by making them bleed, I felt compelled to share with you some of my personal experiences on being a single woman in the US. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just saying how it is.

During orientation for college, the women in the audience were advised not to go anywhere after four pm in less than groups of two or three because of the rape problem on campus. Women were getting raped in the stacks at the library, and this was treated as a matter of course, something to be aware of, like a pothole in the street.

When I was in college, my chemistry tutor hit on me during our very first tutoring session together. I guess I should have realized something was up when he wanted to hold the tutoring session in his dorm room seated on his bed, but hey, I was young and naive. I thought he was there to tutor me in inorganic chemistry, not human biology. I was so incapable of dealing with this situation, it was so outside the ability of my teenage self to handle it appropriately, I ended up dropping out of chemistry and taking it another quarter.

Also while in college, a professor (whom I found out later had a reputation for being a rake), cornered me between two pieces of lab equipment while I was working on a project, pressing up against me from behind so that his dick was noticeable against my ass. I was a little older and wiser by this time. I pretended to be excessively startled by his sudden, silent presence, elbowing him sharply in the ribs and stomping on his instep before innocently turning and saying, “Oh dear! You surprised me! Perhaps you shouldn’t stand that close.”

Fortunately, he wasn’t *my* professor, or else I suspect I would have failed that class.

I acquired a stalker my junior year of college. I’d been out on *two* dates with a guy before I figured out he wasn’t the nice, funny, upstanding young man he’d pretended to be. In fact, he’d lied to me about everything that he said he was. He broke into my car and stole my schedule because he didn’t believe me when I said I had to be in class instead of going out with him. He became angry when I refused to pick up on his hints that he needed a place to live, or that, on our second date, he brought up the subject of marriage. He privately chastised me for ‘canceling’ our second date when all that I’d really done was suggest we meet for dinner instead of lunch as I had to go to the library. And when I refused to let him in my apartment after the end of our second date, when I told him I thought it would be best if we didn’t see each other any more as I had to keep school my first priority, I almost became a date-rape statistic. Almost.

I was forced to move, to change my appearance, to take an unlisted phone number. The fact that I could be so *wrong* about a person scared me–I no longer trusted my judgement. I made a conscious decision not to date for years. About the time I’d decided maybe it was time to give dating a chance again, I received a letter from the father of one of my best friends. Recently a widower, he felt this was the right time to tell me that he’d always admired me and that he would like to date me. Um, yeah, no. Bad timing there, dude. I went back into my self-imposed exile for another couple of years, disturbed by the fact that I could no longer enjoy my happy childhood memories of going over to my friend’s house. I was creeped out, to say the least.

When I was in my early twenties, I was followed on the interstate for over 150 miles by a man in a car that sped up whenever I did and slowed down whenever I did. I’d pulled into a rest stop earlier to get my packed lunch, never getting out of the car. I didn’t realize this guy was following me until I noticed that he’d pulled up beside me at the rest stop, and he’d never gotten out of his car, either. When I got back on the interstate, we began an hours long cat-and-mouse game that had me gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles trying to figure out how to safely lose him before I ran out of gas. This was before cell phones, so short of getting off the interstate and driving to a police station, I didn’t know what to do. What I ended up doing was speeding up until he was racing me, then slamming on the brakes and taking an exit as he passed it. I drove the back roads the rest of the way home sick with terror that he’d find me on them and I’d be at his mercy.

For the man who drove alongside me on the highway honking his horn until I looked over at him, so he could wave his dick at me, I asked my German Shepherd to sit up from where she was sleeping in the backseat. She sprang up like a spring-loaded weapon, and he hit the brakes and took the next exit.

When a man ran me off the interstate at night because I honked at him for tailgating me and flashing his high beams in my rearview mirror, I ended up zooming backward up a major interstate until I could flip the car around in an illegal U-turn and take the exit I’d just passed.

And I will never forget the night I was on-call and decided to dash into the grocery store around 7 pm to grab a few items for dinner. I say ‘dash’ because wearing a pager and planning to cook a meal is just asking for it to go off, especially when you’re stuck in line at the grocery store. So I pulled up, leapt out of the car, ran across the lot, dashed around the store picking up items on the fly, and trotted back out to the car.

When I exited the store, a pickup truck on the far side of the parking lot turned on its headlights. No big deal, someone leaving the store, right?

When I reached my car, the pickup truck was pulling up beside me.

By the time I jumped in the car and hit the lock button, a man was standing at my driver’s side door, looking at me with the expression of a tiger who’d just missed the gazelle at the watering hole.

Military Working DogsIt shook me to the core. I don’t go to the store at night by myself anymore unless I have the dog with me. And you know, there may be a reason why I keep getting German Shepherds. It’s why shows like CSI make me uneasy, as I see them as a blueprint for men who set traps for women. It’s why I always pay attention to where I park, why I carry my keys between my fingers like a shiv, why I took self-defense classes, why I don’t take up jogging. I have never been beautiful. The only thing that makes me a target is that I am female and alone. And I know that my risk of attack won’t go down with age because its never been about being young and pretty. It’s about being a target. Vulnerable. A soft-bellied gazelle that someone who wants to pretend he’s a big jungle cat can terrify and abuse.

I don’t even think about it anymore, except to warn the daughters of friends that they need to pay attention to their surroundings and that they need to be prepared to defend themselves. But daily I am appalled at the casual comments of hate my friends and colleagues report at the hands of the men who are supposed to love them. Men who belittle their creativity, their actions, hell, their very existence. Men who berate them when they try to cook healthier meals, who shove them in parking lots, who demean their opinions, their looks, their goals. I used to not be able to understand why someone just didn’t walk away from that kind of abuse, but as a single middle-aged woman, I can now understand how the fear of poverty or being without health insurance can be greater than the fear of someone’s unkind words. After all, it’s just words, right?

No, it’s your very soul. And you deserve better. And part of this culture of shaming women into believing that they deserve to be treated this way is to ensure that she’s there cooking your dinner for you when you get home from work.

I am a terrible cook. Thank god my boyfriend does most of the cooking, or I’d live off Cap’n Crunch. Thank god, too, that he believes in mutual respect, intelligent discourse, believes in my writing, and never belittles anything that I hope or aspire to. I’m a very lucky woman, living as a I do in a Red State (where daily someone is trying to pass a law to make me less of a person than I am), to find someone like him. Because if you look at my track record here, you can see why I almost lost hope of ever finding this kind of adult relationship. Believe me, it’s better than anything I can dream up in one of my romance stories.

The thing is, I don’t think my experiences are unusual. I think they are frighteningly typical of the average American woman. And that is wrong on so many levels.

One more thought before I go. I came across this article by Dr. Jill McDevitt, a sexologist. She sums up the current thought toward women and sex very succinctly. It is no longer damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s dead if you do, dead if you don’t. Read some of the comments and reactions Dr. McDevitt describes in the case of a woman who put herself out there online performing a sexual act and then was driven to commit suicide because of it.

Wow. Chew on that one a bit.

Right. Well, I’ve got a house to clean, folks.

 

 

 

 

When Your Fandom Heroes Become Heroes for Real…

StarTrekoldpixMost of you following this blog know that I was at Galacticon 3 and ComicPalooza last weekend. I had a great time, though I would argue that one of the difficulties with attending such a large combined convention is that you have to pick and choose what events/panels/presentations you will attend. There were over 20 K attendees when all was said and done. The Convention Center was enormous–a regular rabbit warren of rooms and lecture halls. The venue also held an upscale lawyer’s graduation in the middle of all the sci-fi chaos (I wonder if any heads will roll over *that* bit of planning) and at times, it looked like a cartoonish clash of families at a wedding with the lawyer types in their $2 K outfits looking down their noses at the sci-fi fans and *their* $2 K outfits! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the lawyers crowd had really wanted to be at the sci-fi convention–we looked like we were having more fun!

I wish I had worried less about my joint presentations (they went well, mostly due to Anna Butler’s superb organizational skills!) and had taken the time to sit in on some of the panels. I wish I’d taken charge of my time better–that I had not run hither and hon but had said, “I want to be here and do this” and just did it. I wish I’d brought a better camera, and had packed the video camera anyway. I wish I’d spent less money on food (though it was hard, darn it, everything was so bloody expensive in Houston!) and more on autographs, photo ops, or merchandise. I had my reasons. I was trying to be good, trying to stay within the budget. I have quarterly taxes due this month. I have a filling that’s suspiciously painful. The laptop is locking up more and giving me the Blue Screen of Death and I don’t know how many more times the Lt. Colonel John Sheppard School of Computer repair will work (i.e. turn it off and back on again). I told myself I didn’t need to stand in line and be one of many telling an actor or actress how much I appreciated their work. How the character they represented gave me the strength or courage to be a better person.

I wish I’d followed my inner rebel and had, at the very least, determined to sit in on the panel given by Sir Patrick Stewart instead of following the schedule I’d been given. Because sometimes when you stray from the path laid out for you–that’s when amazing things happen.

I found out later exactly what I’d missed.

I’m a Star Trek fan from waaaaay back. I’ve watched it as long as I can remember watching television. Through the endless re-runs of The Original Series, Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise (until Paramount pulled it and tried to run with it on their own channel, which I didn’t get). I saw all the movies, and I love the re-imaged Star Trek movies with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto and the rest of the new cast. I thought the decision to go with an alternative reality a *brilliant* move on the franchise’s part, allowing for new stories with the characters we knew and loved. I can compartmentalize when I want to, so I can sort of block out the fact that the re-imaged series has effectively negated everything from The Original Series on. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not just an alternate reality, it’s an alternate universe too. πŸ˜€

My love of sci-fi isn’t limited to Star Trek by any means. Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis all top the list of shows I can watch over and over again. In part because of the unapologetic strong role models for women. In part because there was a sense of ‘team’ among these shows, and it made you as the viewer strive to be good enough (at whatever you did) to be considered part of that team.

I get that the actor is not the character. I can separate the two in my mind, which is helpful when you love a character and the actor may or may not be someone of similar character strength. That is why it’s called acting after all. But even though I can maintain that distance, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when a celebrity whose work I admire turns out to be admirable in other respects as well. It somehow validates your love of that character just a little.

This past week, I’ve seen a photo in which John Barrowman, on meeting a young blind girl, took her hands and placed them on his face, guiding her to his hair, his eyes, his lips, his cheekbones so that she could ‘see’ him. The picture is blurry but you can see the genuine patience and understanding on his face–this is something that he wanted to do. And though I frequently joke about how everyone loves John Barrowman and wants to kiss him, well, after this, I think it might be true.

photo by jareed flickr commons

photo by jareed flickr commons

I also read a wonderful quote from George Clooney this past week. Many actors have come out in support of equal rights, most memorably for me: Chris Evans, Daniel Ratcliffe, and Anne Hathaway. I liked what George Clooney had to say on the matter: β€œAt some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won’t be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black.”

But the showstopper for me is the Q&A that I missed, the one with Sir Patrick Stewart. Today, the internet is abuzz with what happened there. I’m going to give you the links from both sides of the story–from viewers and the person who asked the question as well. They can tell the story much better than I can because they were there and I was not.

A member of the audience asked Sir Patrick Stewart what was the achievement he was the most proud of outside his acting career. He answered by saying it was his efforts to call attention to domestic violence against women. What happens next–well, you’ll have to watch and read it to get the full effect.

Sir Patrick Stewart at a soccer game--public domain

Sir Patrick Stewart at a soccer game–public domain

First the video in which Sir Patrick answers the question, stating it is in men’s hands to stop violence against women. His powerful, thoughtful, insightful words are ones everyone should hear. I defy you to watch it without tearing up. Can I say that the fact that the woman in the audience was wearing a Next Gen uniform makes me recognize a kindred spirit? Someone who uses the worlds she reads about and watches on television and in the movies to make her life better. Stronger. Healthier. A Trill at that. If you know anything about Star Trek, you’ll recognize that co-joined species as one that experiences many lives in a symbiotic state with its host–and how symbolic that is, whether the questioner realizes it or not.

Next, we have the woman who asked the question and her response to that emotional moment (taken from from her Tumblr account). I’m so glad there was someone taking pictures as well as videoing this experience. It’s a powerful one that needs to be shared. I’m so glad that Lemon Sweetie had the nerve to stand up and ask her question, and to get the answer and connection she needed and deserved. And the standing ovations!

So I think it would be an understatement to say that I regret not sitting in on that Q&A panel. The take-home lesson from that is this: sometimes you need to trust your instincts. Sometimes you need to say, “what the hell, it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience”. Because finding out a fandom hero is a real-life hero? Priceless.

TRRSizzlingSummerReadsBoxAdAs an FYI, the Summer Sizzling Reads starts today and lasts the entire month of June! Be sure to register at The Romance Reader to be entered to win tons of prizes all month long! My Q&A will be up June 3–if you don’t know the answer, come check out the website–I’ll post it here. Answering the question on TRR site will enter you to win a copy of The Boys of Summer!