autobiographical

The Smartest Choice I Ever Made

I had an abortion 17 years ago, when I was 19, and I do not regret it at all.

The pregnancy was a result of unprotected sex with my first boyfriend.  It probably happened one of the first times we had sex, maybe even the very first time.

My first boyfriend was a decent guy and I loved him.  We were on and off for about 6 years.  But he also had a lot of problems.  I’m still in touch with him today and he is an alcoholic.  He has been in jail for multiple DUIs.  The end of our relationship came about when he started spending all his rent money on scotch.

I know he loved me in his own way too, but our relationship was riddled with issues.  I felt unappreciated and ignored.  He played video games or the guitar or went out drinking with his friends.  I felt lonely.  We both cheated on each other.  Things were always rocky and when I eventually broke up with him, he was devastated and threatened to kill himself.  I still remember how difficult it was for me to break up with him.  It took me months to say the words.

When I found out I was pregnant, there was no question that I would have a baby.  My mother was in jail and his mother was a coke head.  We both had minimum wage jobs, no savings, and were living in my mother’s home with my brother and his various vagrant friends.  Having a baby in that situation would have been incredibly stupid, life-ruining, and in my opinion, selfish.

I had no money so I borrowed the fee for the abortion from my best friend.  She drove me to the clinic, over the border in the state without waiting periods.  I went to a Planned Parenthood and the experience was as clinical and unremarkable as you could hope.

I never had mixed feelings about having an abortion.  It was obviously the right choice given the circumstances.  I had a friend who had a baby at age 15.  If that had been me, I would have had an abortion.  But she ended up marrying the guy and they are still married now.  She has a 21 year old son, and a 15 year old daughter, and she has not had an easy life.  But she also has parent who have supported her and her baby before she was able to support herself.  She is very fortunate in that regard.  A lot of people don’t have that.

I have been independent since I was 17.  I have paid for everything in my own life.  I have found my own apartments, bought my own cars, eventually went to college and got a degree.  The debt from my student loans is the only debt I have.  I have never had unpaid credit card debt.  I have never gotten into a relationship with anyone who would have been even remotely capable of supporting me, and I would not want that.

I know a lot of people who completely take for granted their parents’ support.  Most people I know had parents who could loan them money or cosign their leases or send them to college.  People who have this are often completely blinded by the privilege they have.  I am not jealous because I am very proud of my independence, but it certainly would have made things a lot easier at various points in my life.

If I had had a baby when I was 19, I guess I would have been reliant on the government and welfare for support.  My boyfriend wasn’t reliable and never became reliable in the 15 years since then.  I don’t have extended family.  I would probably still be living in the same small town where I grew up.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that having a baby when I was 19 would have ruined my life.

So I didn’t.  I got out of that hated hometown in 1999 and I never looked back.  I’ve lived in 6 states and on both coasts.  I have a career that is creative, intriguing, and pays quite well.  I’ve met all kinds of people and experienced a lot of things.  I value my freedom and independence above all things.  I never want to have kids, I prefer to spend all my free time and energy painting and writing and travelling and reading and hiking and reading books alone at coffee shops.  I live in a much better place surrounded by people who are more like me, liberal and open-minded.  I had to get away from that small town.  I absolutely hated it there.  It’s judgmental insular lack of culture.  I never even want to visit it again.  Being trapped there with an alcoholic father of a child I couldn’t support and nobody to help me would have been a fate worse than death.  So I consider the abortion one of the smartest things I ever did.  I believe it saved my life from certain despair.

I know a lot of pro-choice people who say “Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion” and I get what they’re saying. It would be better if unplanned pregnancies never happened.  I have no excuse for myself.  I had unprotected sex and got pregnant, same thing that happened to my friend who had the baby at 15. It happens.  It happens to a lot of people.  And if you’re going to blame and judge, make sure you include the male participant in your blaming and judging because a woman can’t get pregnant with out a man.  It takes two to tango.

I’m not anti-abortion.  Sometimes, abortion is a good idea.  Sometimes it’s the moral choice, the right choice and the prudent choice.  Sometimes it is the responsible choice.  The last thing this world needs is more unwanted children or children living in a state of poverty that puts them as an enormous disadvantage for the rest of their lives.  That an embryo or fetus is more important to a lot of people than children who are already in this world suffering is horrendous.  Every anti-abortion protester should put down their sign and go do something to help a baby who is already here, right now, who needs love and care and food and shelter and is not getting it.

I had an abortion when I was 19 and it was the smartest choice I ever made.  I do not regret it and never have.  If I had the chance to go back and change my decision, I would not.

Standard
feminism

Men’s Rights to be the Center of All Attention Always

I follow a lot of feminist blogs, facebook pages, IG accounts and the like.  Men follow these pages too.  A small percentage of them follow because they are supportive, intellectually curious, or they totally get it and they are feminists themselves.  But unfortunately, most of the men who follow are there simply to impose themselves, to take over the conversation, and basically to prove the need for the existence of feminism.  Ironically, they don’t realize this is what they are doing.

Ironically, they have no idea that every time they make some comment about women falsely accusing men of rape or women provoking abuse and violence, or women being heartless slut bitch cunt whores, they make our point.  If you threaten women with rape and abuse in an attempt to prove that feminism is unnecessary, you may want to re-think your strategy.

These men are so blinded by their male privilege, they think it perfectly righteous to defend their need to have everything be about them at all times always.  They think that when women are talking about the harassment we face simply trying to walk down the street, that would be a good time to tell us about that time a woman was mean to them when they tried to “compliment” her.  When we talk about the things that men have done to us in our own experiences, they can’t just listen.  They simply must proclaim “NOT ALL MEN” or accuse us of exaggerating or imagining these things.

I’ve seen the laundry list of complaints the Men’s Rights Movement has made about the horrible plight of men.  Some of the concerns are legitimate.  Most are not.  None are the fault of women or feminism, yet women and feminism are the target of all the MRM’s vitriol.

For example, they believe they are not given a fair shake in custody court.  Okay, that seems like a crappy thing.  Custody should be decided not on the basis of gender, but on the basis of the best interests of the child.  Sometimes the father is the more suitable parent.  This is a feminist position as well.  Yes, that’s right, feminism is about not making decisions on the basis of gender.  So what should be done about it?  I’m no lawyer or expert in legal matters, so I’m honestly not sure how we can change this if it is indeed a systemic problem.  But I do know one thing: feminists did not make it this way.

Child-rearing has been “women’s work” forever.  That’s the patriarchal set-up.  Women raise children and do housework, men work and make money.  Don’t like that?  Me neither.  That’s why I am a feminist.  The idea that somehow feminists created this situation is some very twisted logic indeed.

They point to the dismal statistics about how many men get custody of their children, but they miss one vital point: How many men try to get custody of their children?  My father didn’t, even though he would have been a more suitable parent than my schizophrenic drug-addicted mother.  I guess children would have put a damper on his relationship with his new younger girlfriend.  My boyfriend’s father didn’t.  He ran off and never even attempted to contact his son again.  In my life today, I know one man my age who has divorced his wife and complains about what a horrible mother she is.  Even he did not try to get custody.  Complain as he might, it’s pretty obvious he benefits from having her care for the kids while he meets new women and lives the single bachelor life.

Before we can have a meaningful statistic about how many men get custody of their children, we need to have men who actually try.  Hey, I’ve seen Teen Mom.  NONE of those dads wants custody of their kids.  The moms are lucky if the guy even wants visitation.

I’m sure there are some men who have tried to get custody and failed and I’m sure there are some judges who are prejudiced against them.  That’s our unfortunate legal situation for ya.  We have prejudiced judges making life-altering decisions.  It’s wrong for sure.  I’m not sure it’s as widespread as the MRAs think, but if it’s happening it’s wrong and we should do something about it.

That’s just one example, but I truly feel that the concerns that MRAs claim to have that are legitimate are concerns echoed by feminists.  We could be working together on those.

But I don’t honestly believe that the MRM exists to try to improve the lives of men.  No, I’ve read enough of their forums and blogs to see what they are.  They are a hate group plain and simple.  They are to women what the KKK is to black people.  They try to cover this up in language about discrimination toward men, but it’s pretty fucking obvious when you interact with them that the base argument is that they hate women and despise the idea that they are being asked to treat us like equal humans.

If they were honest with themselves, they would see that their “movement” is about trying to hang onto the privilege men have so long enjoyed.  They cannot stand that straight, white, heterosexual men aren’t the center of attention at all times everywhere always.  And they experience the loss of this privilege as discrimination.

Because when you’ve had an unfair advantage for all of human history and you see it being dismantled, I guess the reaction is to rail against that.  Nobody wants to give up their privileges, even if they are undeserved.

So they insert themselves into feminist spaces, take over conversations about women’s issues, and turn the subject back to themselves.  They are only comfortable when they are the center.  Because they don’t know any different and lack the self-reflection to see what they are doing for what it really is.  I think some of these guys believe in their cause.  I think some of them are probably decent people somewhere in there.  I think many of them are victims of the same patriarchal system feminists have been trying to dismantle for decades.

We could be working together, but their blindness to their male privilege won’t allow it.

An MRA is like a person with a stubbed toe coming into an ICU filled with people with life-threatening and debilitating injuries and screaming “BUT WHAT ABOUT MY TOE!??!?!  WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT MY TOE NOW!!!”

Standard
feminism

“Resting B*tch Face”

There is no such thing.

Women aren’t obligated to smile constantly or always seem to be holding a pleasant happy thought in our heads.

When a man doesn’t smile, or he looks serious, or contemplative, or even mean or angry, we don’t call that anything. It is simply one of many emotions within the wide range of possible human emotions.  Men are not expected to maintain only pleasant thoughts and feelings at every waking moment. But because women are expected to always be warm, welcoming, happy, and accommodating, when a woman doesn’t smile we make up a derogatory term for it.

RBF: Resting B*tch Face

There is no such thing.

Standard
feminism

Getting More Women in STEM

With the dismal diversity numbers coming out of Google, Facebook, and other technology companies in the news recently, there has been much talk about how to get more women into science, technology and engineering disciplines.

As a woman who is in a male-dominated technical field, I have some thoughts on this.  I was the only female in my graduating class, and the winner of the Best Portfolio award. (own horn, toot toot!)  I work at an engineering firm.  I’m an expert user of a lot of software, I troubleshoot my own computer issues, and I know a few scripting languages and computer programming basics.  I’m not intimidated by math or science or computers.

But before I tell you my ideas, let me tell you what is NOT the way.  PLEASE, for the love of God, do not try to get women into STEM by making it “girly”.  Please, do not make it pink.  Do not put glitter and flowers on it.  Do not make it cute or gossipy.  Please do not make it “sexy” to like math and science.

We need to get girls interested in math and science the exact same way we get boys interested, by making it interesting and giving them inspiring examples of other girls and women who have done it.  Ask a man why he got into an engineering field and his answer will not be “because I am a man and it was a masculine thing to do.”  No, it will likely be “because I was intrigued by _____.” or “My favorite sci fi movie featured a little boy hero and I wanted to be just like him” or “I wanted to build _____ or design better _____”

When I was a kid, I was already into nerdy things.  I loved sci fi, both reading and movies.  I loved fantasy.  I loved video games.  I loved building things with legos.  Looking back though, I notice that all of those movies and books I loved, they ALL had a male protagonist.  In most cases there were no girls or women at all except as the love interest.  The girl character existed only as an object of the boy character’s desire.  She usually had no lines.  Flight of the Navigator, The Never-Ending Story, The Last Starfighter, etc.

My favorite books, The Lord of the Rings series, had a few minor two dimensional female characters.  So many of my favorite books followed that pattern.  It just seemed normal to me that women were rarely featured.  I never questioned it until much later.

Because of my interests I did not fit in.  I would never be popular.  Girls teased me and boys passed me over for girls who were pretty and giggled a lot.  Being nerdy was never cool, but being a nerdy girl made me one of a kind.  I was an oddity.

We need movies and books that make science and technology intriguing to little girls and show little girls as the HEROS not the love interest.  Show me a little girl winning the space battle or saving the world with a magic video game.

We also need video games that allow girls to feel like they are a part of the world of technology.  Not pink flowers and ponies, science fiction type puzzle games with smart female protagonists, and they don’t need to be dressed like they’re going to work at the strip club either.

We need books with female protagonists solving technology and science issues.

We need TV shows that show women being scientists and starfleet captains.  Thank goodness for Captain Janeway.  MORE please.

We need teachers who are trained to encourage boys and girls equally in math.  I experienced sexism in my schooling.  It came in subtle and overt ways.  I can see why other girls were driven away from the path of math and science, but for me it egged me on.  I’m just a defiant type of person, but we can’t expect most people to buck their social role.  Whether it was teachers who acted surprised at how well I performed at math and science or teachers who wouldn’t call on a girl in their classes, it was not encouragement.

Want more women in STEM careers?  Get girls interested in it.  Encourage curiosity.  Let them know they can do it.  Give them examples of other girls doing it.  Don’t act surprised when a girl is good at math.  

We don’t need to put pink stickers on it. 

Standard
autobiographical

The Time I Got Fired From Pizza Hut

I worked at Pizza Hut as a waitress the summer after my first year of college.  It was the first of many serving gigs.

Pizza Hut had its fun moments.  Waiting tables, even at a chain pizza place, was much more lucrative than the customer service minimum wage jobs I had prior to that.  People used to go out to eat pizza.  Maybe they still do this?  I don’t.  Pizza is the food you get because you don’t feel like going out.

Pizza Hut in the late 90s was the familiar red-roofed building with a somewhat dark interior, complete with red and white checkered table coverings and personal jukeboxes in each booth.  People had birthday parties for their kids there.  We had a lunch time pizza buffet and people came in on their lunch break.  We had a rudimentary salad bar with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, a few types of dressing and two types of soup.  You could order a personal pan pizza and it came to you in the pan, which seems hazardous in retrospect.  Those pans were hot as hell.  We sold beer by the mug or pitcher and we a most exciting variety on tap: Bud or Bud Light.  Soda was served in big red clear plastic cups and a big red pitcher for refills. 

Incidents at Pizza Hut that summer:

  • The time we made a Personal Pan Crayon.  We unwrapped a bunch of the crayons that were for kids to color on the paper kid place-mats, put them in the personal pan pizza pan, and sent it through the oven.  This was a truly ill-conceived idea.  We thought we would get an awesome swirl-colored crayon disc.  But pizza ovens are really hot, and wax crayons melt really fast.  So halfway through, they melted over the side of the pan, leaked out into the oven and caused a noxious cloud of smoke that set off the alarms and brought the fire department.  OOPS!
  • The time I passed out while carrying a pan pizza.  I am lucky I did not burn myself.  This was one of 3 times in my life I passed out unexpectedly.  It happened when I was 19, 22, and again at 35.  I have no idea why nor do any of my doctors.
  • The time a table of French-speaking tourists came in and ordered one medium pizza each.  Despite my repeated attempts to explain that a medium pizza could feed 2-3 hungry people, and 3 years of high school French under my belt, they didn’t get it.  When the 8 medium pizzas for 8 people arrived, their shocked faces were unforgettable.

I ended up getting fired after an incident involving an angry man.

It was later in the evening and we were close to closing time.  A very large group came in, something on the order of 20 people.  We seated them and I took their orders.  They were all very friendly, all but one.  The group was mostly women and there was one man.  The man was very grumpy. The good-natured women in the group laughed and joked with me and said to pay him no mind.  But he was very angry and grouchy the entire time.

Because it was late, there was not enough silverware for all of them as it was in the dishwasher or dirty.  I discussed this with the other waiter who was working and we decided to give them plastic utensils.  It’s pizza anyway, barely anyone ever used the utensils except moms cutting up pizza to feel to children too small to eat it as a whole piece.  

Grouchy man did not like this, or anything.  Unfortunately grouchy man was paying and I was glad that the gratuity was included for large tables or I am sure he would have stiffed me.

A few days later the manager fired me.  Grouchy man had called in to complain and the manager had a policy of firing anyone who received a customer complaint.  When I tell the short version of this story, I just say I was fired for giving people plastic silverware at Pizza Hut.

I was 19 and didn’t really care.  I used it as a reason to go to Atlantic City with some friends instead.

Standard
feminism

Not Just Hello

There has been a lot of much needed discussion about street harassment lately.  I have my stories.  Yes, all women have these stories.

The first time I experienced street harassment I was a 13 year old girl.  They may have thought I was older, because I developed faster than all of the other kids, I was chubby, and I was tall.  I was walking down a country road in my home town and they were in a truck.  The truck slowed and they started saying things to me.  There were three or four of them.  I kept walking and they drove slowly beside me yelling sexual, threatening, and insulting things at me until I ran.  I ran off the road and into the woods.  It was incredibly terrifying and put me off walking outside for many years.

Later there was another somewhat similar incident in the same town.  I was older, had graduated from high school, had an apartment in the same small town, and was walking home from work at night.  Again, some men in a vehicle slowed beside me and started yelling things.  I walked, then ran, to get away from them as they followed me in the vehicle.  But I was afraid to go home, lest they know where I live.  So I ran to a friend’s apartment and escaped them.

Soon after that I moved out of that town.  I will never go back there.  Them country boys scare me.  Yes yes I know.  Not all men.  Tell that to thirteen year old me.  Tell that to the woman who is so terrified her heart is going to beat out of her chest.  Explain it away.  Tell me it was meant as a compliment.

I have other stories, of course.  But none scared me the way those two incidents did.  Once I lived in the city, having strange men say things to me became par for the course.  I would sometimes yell back, tell them to go fuck themselves.  I would sometimes ignore them and keep walking.  Occasionally I would come up with a witty response on the fly.  But generally these things now happened in areas with street lights and other people and I felt relatively sure that I wasn’t about to get grabbed and dragged off somewhere for I don’t want to think about what.

I still get harassed today.  I’m almost forty and I’m hoping to soon be old enough that they leave me alone, as some of my older friends say happens to them.  They tell me how relieved they are to be past the age where men find you a good target to yell “Hey baby, I want to fuck that ass baby, why you ignoring me baby, you fucking stuck up bitch!”

I’m still chubby too so that invites another kind of harassment.  One time, as I was walking down a city street, I walked past a man who looked at me like he wanted to murder me and said “If my wife was as fat as you I would divorce her.”

I have never had any man yell something at me that could even vaguely be considered a compliment.  Mostly it was very vulgar sexual talk, or talk about my body- my tits, my ass.  Or it was something insulting about being fat.  Of course, being fat gives me bigger tits and ass, so you see how the two subjects are related.  Often times it starts as a “hey I want to do ___ to your ___” then when I don’t respond, it becomes insults or threats.

Only one time did a man actually grab me, and I shoved that asshole so hard he fell on his back and whacked his head on the sidewalk.  I didn’t stick around to find out if he was alright.

When I see men defending street harassment, they always make it out like it’s just innocuous compliments. “Aw, I’m just trying to tell you you look good, why can’t I tell you that?”  Yeah.  No.  That’s not what it is and we all know that.

That incident that happened when I was 13, I know it could have been a lot worse and for a lot of women it is much, much worse.  After that, I found myself considering what men might say to me or try to do to me if I dared to do something risky like leave my house.  No, it did not keep me from living life, but it was always there in the back of my mind.

How many times have I looked over my shoulder?  How many times have I crossed the street to avoid walking close to a group of men or even one man?  How many times have I felt my heart pound and race in my chest? Too many to count.  Those experiences colored my whole life.

It’s not just hello.  Almost every woman can tell you.

Standard
rant

Berating People For Their Health

So I notice that people like to make extremely rude/judgmental/condescending remarks to and about people who are fat or mildly chubby or even just not totally fat-free dehydrated muscle-covered skeletons.

One of my quirks is that I constantly psychoanalyze everyone.  This stems from having a psychologist father and a psychiatrist mother, no doubt.  I am always trying to figure out why people do things.  It’s an intellectual curiosity sort of thing.  I know I can’t control other people’s behavior; I just find it interesting to try to figure out what they get out of it.  I do this to myself too, by the way.  I once had someone tell me that I “reached depths of self-analysis never before seen in a human.”

I have several theories about the mean-to-fat-people people.  Here are some of them:

1. They are trolls who are trying to stir up drama.  Trolls are interesting in their own right, but I think this one is pretty self explanatory.  Maybe I’ll write about my theories on trolling some other time.  The basic gist is that they are making intentionally inflammatory statements just to cause trouble.

2. They think being fat is a fate worse than death.  I can’t really blame people for this one.  Our society is pretty fucked up when it comes to the way we talk about anyone who is not a totally fat-free dehydrated muscle-covered skeleton.   We are bombarded with the message every day that anyone who is even remotely chubby is a lazy, useless slob with zero self control, no goals, and mentally inferior.  I have even seen a few people state that they believe fat is a “mental illness”.  So I think some people react to this by separating themselves from any possibility of being mistaken as one of the inferior fat people by making broad proclamations about fat people.  Some of the people who do this are fat themselves, and they hate themselves for it and blame themselves for being a moral failure (I know this because I have been this person before.  Hint: it never made me thin).  The people who believe this have a visceral reaction to anyone who is fat, especially if that person is unabashedly okay with herself.  Being okay with not being skinny is like WHAT?! especially to a person who spends her entire life fighting her body out of fatphobia.

3. They think it’s really unhealthy to be fat and fat people are all slowly killing themselves of heart-diseasabetes.  They also believe that unless fat people lose weight, they are doomed to die young of a preventable disease.  This one is interesting to me.  I’m not surprised people believe this.  We are constantly bombarded by messages that the “obesity epidemic” (in quotes because I don’t believe this really exists) is ruining the very fabric of society.  Ok, so let’s say that being fat is the worst thing ever to happen to anyone’s health AND that it’s easily reversed by a few simple behavioral changes (I know for a fact this isn’t true through my own personal experience, but let’s say it is) AND that if you do lose enough weight not to be fat, you will magically be immune to all disease, like all thin people are (hahahaha!)

Ok, so if all of that is true, and fat is a horrible health problem, and it is going to cause death, WHY do people use that as a reason to berate people?  This is where I get really confused.  I have seen so many people declare that the reason they have just made some kind of derogatory comment about fat people is because HEALTH.  So you’re telling me, health-concern trolls, that because fat is unhealthy, that’s a reason to be a total asswipe to fat people?  No sir, you are just a total asswipe.  But I find it really interesting that these people seem to think they are benefiting society with their asswipery because Health.  Delusional.

4. They are mean sad bullies who need to put other people down because they hate themselves and everything.

5. They are bigots.  They are prejudiced judgement-filled people who allow their personal attraction or revulsion to other people’s appearances to determine the worth of that person.  They believe that thin attractive people ARE smarter and better and more-goal oriented and, of course, healthy.  Because all thin people eat vegetables and work out every day, right?  Actually, numbers 1-4 are usually caused by or mixed in with a bit of #5.

 

Berating people for their own good.  For their health.  I just can’t get over that one.

Standard