Reading many of the #YesAllWomen posts from most of my female friends, one thing comes repeatedly to mind. It’s from a radio interview Marisa did in regard to being a female motorcyclist in the Bay Area.
During the interview a man called in with so much hatred towards motorcyclists, it was terrifying. He even went so far as to promise that any time he sees a rider in his side view mirror he tries to “put them into the guard rail” and that he hoped all motorcyclists died horrible, painful deaths.
This is as close as I can come to understanding that feeling of what it’s like to be female in this society. EVERY TIME I RIDE, I think about that guy on the radio and remind myself that he—and many others like him—are behind the wheel of some of those cars I ride past every day. I will never know who those people are until it’s too late, so I always treat every driver like they’re that one guy I heard on the radio that day, vowing to kill us all.
It doesn’t matter to me at all that most drivers don’t think that way. I only care about the 1 in 100,000 who does.
The kicker to my analogy is this:
I can stop riding my motorcycle any time I want.
Women never get to stop being female. (Not that easily, anyway.)
Thanks to all of you who have been brave enough to share your experiences thus far and those that will in the future. It has been enlightening, even for those of us who are trying to be the good guys.
Ben Davis is a SF/Bay Area web developer and 12-year veteran motorcyclist. Ben has appeared on ABC News 20/20, The Wayne Brady Show, and in the National Enquirer—for reasons you can’t possibly imagine.
I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.
Here’s the blog entry that started this brain a’churnin. Check it out, I’ll go get a beer.
It is cool to think that even a fraction of Slave Leias out there are striving for more than cheesecake photo ops and geek-gawk-points, even if the majority are probably sans that nobly-intended kickassery. I dig that at least some of those women think more than just “Look at me, look at me, LOOK AT MEEEE!”
However, even if some of them are going for “fierce bikini warrior” rather than “desirable chattel”, they have a responsibility for the whole message they send with that costume, not just the part they like. Along with the “Grrr, don’t mess with me or I’ll choke your blubbery ass” is “I am a lap dog.” Along with “I am a sexy object, covet me” is “the smaller my outfit, the better I look, the more I am worth.”
The reason the Slave Leia outfit is not merely a skimpy costume (according to this blog) is because while she is dressed like a compliant pleasure-slave, she’ll actually fuck you up. Don’t judge by what you see. But inherent in that statement is that what you see is a degrading costume.
I mean, c’mon. They didn’t throw her in jail like they did her male counterparts, she was dressed in a bikini and a leashed collar while Chewie and Han were in the clink. She was forced to sit there, humiliated, in that giant, pudding-y lap as decoration while a giant turd-shaped alien yanked her around by the neck and stuck his slimy, slimy tongue out at her. Dang, son. That shit is embarrassing.
OMG he’s touching me AGAIN.
Now, ultimately Leia did kick major ass. She was there on a daring attempt to rescue her boyfriend in the first place. She killed that bastard Jabba with the very leash he put around her neck. Go, girl. But her triumph wouldn’t have been as epic if she hadn’t done it from such a place of obvious subjugation, which is what the outfit symbolizes. You don’t get to cherry-pick the “I’m a badass” out of it and leave the rest.
Also, despite Leia’s many heroic actions during the trilogy, we just don’t see the brave and imperious white-gowned (fully-clothed) leader of the Rebel Alliance at cons very often. Or the fearless soldier in the camouflage poncho screaming through the woods at breakneck speed, intent on fucking some storm-trooper shit up. No, nearly all of the Leia incarnations we see have chosen to dress like an objectified slave.
The second part of this has to do with that choice. The choice to don skimpy bikini wear instead of countless other amazingly hot nerdy women’s costumes in the first place. It’s a choice that size privilege affords to some, and one that slaps an automatic penalty on those not wearing Nerdtoria’s Secret or those who try less successfully. (I’m not on a slut-shaming rant here, btw, bear with me.)
Truthfully, I wouldn’t wear SL in any case (not a fan of the outfit, donchaknow), but even if I wanted to, I am a fat girl and don’t have that choice. I would never be seen the same way as a “normal” woman in SL. I would be the Fantasia hippo version of a ballerina, pictures of me would end up on lol-loser websites, I would become another cautionary tale for all the ladies out there who aren’t the correct size to play dress-up.
I’m not complaining about my size, mind you. Or anyone else’s. I’m pissed about the structure in which SL has become the standard, and I am naturally sub-par because I refuse to bare my midriff to the unavoidable mockery and shaming that would result.
“When geek culture says, Don’t be Slave Leia, what I hear is: Don’t unsettle us. Don’t make us think about the consequences of our misogyny, or our entitlement, or our privilege. Don’t remind us that female sexuality can be a power as well as a commodity.”
“I find it troubling when there’s a whole category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate. Because that line is a really arbitrary thing, and it’s really easy to imagine that, some day, I’ll end up on the wrong side of it.”
Would at least one of you think about choking that corpulent bastard?
Fighting back against misogyny: hell yes. Doing it by wearing identical slave girl outfits? C’mon. There’s plenty of ways to claim the “power” without the “commodity”. As a fat, nerdy- type woman, I am plenty aware of privilege and entitlement, and who has it. I am already in a “category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate.” Perhaps a little more effort to smudge and remove those arbitrary lines, and a little less jostling competition to be on the right side of them would help.
Beyond SL outfit in specific, there’s this whole Booth Babe/Cylon Funtime Barbie/Nearly-Naked (insert any recognizable geek- icon here) thing going on too. It’s about the teeny-tiny-con-bikini, so standard now that women not wearing one might as well be invisible. It’s about how those of us who aren’t the appropriate shape might as well just stay home because we don’t count. At this point, most cons should just be called “wizard-boob-a-palooza, no fat chicks.”
Nerds, banded together through common interests and a mutual understanding of how cruel the non-nerd world can be, are surprisingly closed down to us who score fewer points on the Slave Leia Value Scale™. That scale seems to rank based on how closely we resemble Boris Vallejo paintings, which is funny considering how few of them bear any passing resemblance. But I digress.
I’m not saying no one should ever wear the ole purple and gold; at this point it’s as classic as plastic pointy ears. The Bikini and Leash has stopped looking like a costume, and started looking like a cheerleader uniform. But fuck it, it’s Sci-fi, it’s Fantasy, it’s a party, it makes you feel sexy and fierce, so be it. Let your freak flag fly. All gazillion of you.
Just please, be aware that wearing it sends multiple messages, and they are not all as awesome as “If you fuck with me, I will end you.” You are also perpetuating some pretty harsh “isms” along the way. If you feel good, then strut your stuff. Wear it proudly, just know everything you’ve got on.
[Whiskeypants note: I posted “In Defense of Slave Leia” to my wall on Facebook, and Tanya responded with a comment that I was not above begging her to turn into a blog post. Fortunately she didn’t make me actually beg for it. That never looks good on Facebook.]
Eleven years ago, there was a person who believed in love more than anything else in the world. More than anything. Love mattered more than anything, and this person was willing to do anything to fight for it, earn it, hold it, nurture it and protect it.
Eleven years ago a fantastically silly movie arrived in theaters, and it was like it was tailor-made for this person. Because it put love on a pedestal and for 127 minutes the audience got to fall in love with love, and adore love, and worship love, and just fucking love love. Above all things, love.
Eleven years ago, this person—let’s call this person “Whiskeypants” for the sake of brevity and clarity—knew what love was. Whiskeypants knew all the facts about love. And how it worked. And how it was supposed to go. The more impatient among you may be tempted to suggest that Whiskeypants was an idiot, and that would be fair, but the more generous and tolerant may be thinking that maaaaybe this Whiskeypants person just had a lot to learn. A lot. A LOT to learn. Maybe. (Hint: YES. OMFG. A LOT.)
And as time passed, Whiskeypants did, in fact, learn. A lot. Fucked up. A lot. Loved a lot. Lost a lot. Lost more.
But never once lost faith in love. Until.
There’s always an “until” in these stories.
I watched Moulin Rouge last night for the first time in…I don’t know. I don’t know how long it has been. And I found myself mourning that person with the enduring, unshakable faith in love and all it had to offer. And I don’t mean any kind of gentle, “awww, what the hell happened to my younger idealistic idiot self” mourning. I mean tears-running-down-my-face-wtf-happened-to-that-essential-core-belief-in-love kind of mourning.
In the last few years I let that Whiskeypants slip away, and I never went looking.
Tonight I pinpointed that moment when I let it happen. That moment when love—my faith in it, my belief in it—stopped being a factor. The moment when that part of me just…separated and went its own way.
And I…I just let it happen.
Eleven years ago I stepped out of a movie theater, blinked my eyes against the sunlight and a world that seemed bleached of color. I felt stunned, I felt vindicated. I was pretty sure that getting on my bicycle and riding home was just going to be fucking impossible, so I went into the pub across the street, closed my eyes, nursed a beer, and loved love.
Eleven years ago I had a lot of necessary and painful lessons and experiences ahead of me. But losing that essential part of me, that love of love, should never have been one of them.
I never went looking.
I’m looking, now.
One of the things I am realizing now that I have begun dating again is that, while my head is in much better shape than it was a year ago, my heart is still pretty badly wounded. I recently described it as being held together with nails and bubble gum and random crap off the street, and I should probably have included duct tape and string. Seriously, you could totally list my heart on Etsy, and it would probably show up on Regretsy within hours. Upcycled heart, vintage nails, found objects, bubblegum that has only been chewed by hungry underprivileged children in Detroit. A perfect accent for your office or nursery!
I thought about that for a while, yesterday, while I was trying not to doze off during the slower parts of a mock trial (for which I was a mock juror). And I realized, I can’t really offer this to anybody. Not like this. It’s all in pieces, and the gum is kinda gross, and there’s the issue of tetanus, and is the duct tape a little grimy? And what is that?
So what to do with this damn thing? Will somebody really want it, as is? If I take all this crap out of it, will it hold together on its own with a little help and a little encouragement? I kinda can’t tell anymore. I know this thing still works (I listened closely and it’s still ticking), and theoretically it’s still good. But I’ve been hurt so much and so often that I can’t really convince myself that I am going to have any other experience, and I’m running out of things to hold this heart together short of encasing the whole goddamn thing in resin. At which point, it would definitely feature on Regretsy.
Also, fuck that noise. What’s the point of having a heart at that point?
Lately, I’ve been absolutely loving Florence + The Machine’s Shake It Out, which I have been informed is about a hangover, but which I interpret more personally as a call to let go of the shitty past and start anew (also, there’s no shaking anything when I have a hangover, unless it’s the bottle of Excedrin to see how much I have left, and maybe that’s what she’s really talking about, there). That is, of course, easier said than done, but still a worthy goal. The line that strikes me hardest is, “And I am done with this graceless heart/So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.” I have no idea how to do that, or if I should, but it sounds ideal.
Maybe it’s time to rewatch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Good lord, I’m wordy. All that when I could have just said, I’m scared. I’m scared, vulnerable, and every step forward requires a deep breath and determination. But I am moving forward.
I’m finished with running away.