26 December 2014

Hidden Animal Ingredients

I've been feeling like a really lousy vegetarian lately. Not on purpose - just because I'm lazy and don't always check the labels of the food I buy. Here's the latest hidden animal ingredients I've found in the food I bought:

Lard (animal fat) - in my soft pretzels and soft pretzel rolls. I never even imagined that going vegetarian would mean I can no longer have soft pretzels. :(

Beef stock (like broth but without the solids) and beef fat - in the Hamburger Helper that I so carefully made with beefless ground (vegan ground beef substitute) and soy milk. What irritated me about this is that I knew I checked the ingredients list on another type of Hamburger Helper that I thought was the same flavor - so I guess they either changed the ingredients or I just got a different flavor without realizing it.

I obviously need to be more cautious when grocery shopping and read the labels more thoroughly. I just wish I wasn't so claustrophobic and anxious at the grocery store. :(

04 December 2014

Rant

There's going to be cursing in this post. Just a heads up.

I'm pissed off. I'm pissed that white cops can literally get away with murder of black citizens with only the flimsiest of reasons. That a cop can kill a 12 year old black child without a second thought. That a cop can strangle a black man to death with an illegal choke hold and not suffer any consequences. That a cop can describe a black man as a "demon" in a court of law and get away with shooting him to death when he could have easily taken him into custody alive. That news outlets are more focused on the alleged crimes of the black men who were murdered - the crimes of walking through a white neighborhood, of selling loose cigarettes, of shoplifting - none of which are valid reasons to put someone to death! Even if they were, even if the crime was rape or murder - there is no justice unless the perpetrator is arrested and tried by a jury of his peers before a judge. Is there no justice for black people? Does the Constitution only apply if you have white skin?

So yeah, I'm pissed off at the whole system right now. I'm also pissed off at the little racist remarks my co-workers are making every single day. After the riots in Ferguson, MO, it was: "I hope they get them [the protesters/looters] on video so they can prosecute them." Are you fucking kidding me. Michael Brown was shot to death, and the jury wouldn't even indict the officer that killed him. But it's so important that the people protesting his death be prosecuted for rioting. Yes, I understand that looting and burning buildings down is not a constructive way of protesting, but if you're honestly more concerned about the protesters being sentenced than a killer cop not facing the consequences of his actions, then you have some serious problems with the way you view the world.

Then this morning, it was:"She's dating a black guy. I'm not racist, but I just don't want to hang out with them [black people]."
"It's okay, as long as you don't choke hold or shoot them."
First of all, just because you say "I'm not racist" before you say something racist does not make it "not racist." Not wanting to be around black people does in fact make you a racist. And just because you are not actively killing black people does not mean you aren't racist; it just means you're a little more subtle with your racism.

This is not a fucking joke, as the unnamed person at my job seems to think it is. Police officers are executing civilians and not facing consequences. White people in similar situations are being taken into custody alive, but black people don't even get to live to stand trial. Where is the justice in that?

01 October 2014

Dog Poop: A Haiku

I love tiny dogs
because tiny dogs make small,
easy to scoop poops.

Guess which one makes the biggest poop?
or
This is why we can't have nice things.

03 September 2014

Dads Against Daughters Dating

I saw this shirt at a flea market a few weeks ago:

D.A.D.D. Dads Against Daughters Dating
My first response was anger, but I brushed it off by saying, "That's childish." I've been thinking about it ever since. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Why are they against daughters dating, but not sons dating? That doesn't even make sense. Who else would their sons date? Adult women? In addition to that, why are sons given the freedom to date, but daughters are kept under tighter control? The whole thing reeks of patriarchy.

2. Dating is a normal activity that most teens engage in. It helps them relate to other people, spend time with peers outside of the school setting, and better understand what traits they would like potential partners to have. There is nothing wrong with dating, even for young teens and children.

3. I'm tired of parents acting like they own and control their children's bodies. This happens at my job all the time. Mothers calling and demanding to make an appointment for their daughters. Threatening to "hold them down" to get birth control implanted into the daughter's arm. Children are not possessions, and parents need to come to the realization that they are their own people with their own rights.

All in all, I think I like this shirt more:

Her body, her rules.

19 June 2014

Suburban Legends and Sexism

I'll be honest: I love the ska band Suburban Legends. Their music is upbeat, they do dance routines at their shows, and they cover Disney songs. I've probably seen them live about 10 times, because they've toured with The Aquabats, Streetlight Manifesto, and Reel Big Fish, and they're easily one of the most fun bands I've ever seen.
They play Disney covers, in Disney Land! (photo from their Facebook page)

And they do silly things like this! (also from their Facebook)

But, sometimes, their music bothers me. Specifically, the way their music portrays women bothers me. Sometimes, it's just little things, like how they refer to women in their songs. Here's some examples:

  • "Don't be a faker come on be my baby maker" ("Blingity-Bling" - 2003)
  • "She's a demon at best with a kiss" ("Mean Girl" - 2006)
  • "That something so fine is alive" ("This Cherry" - 2006)
  • "You are my toy" ("Trophy Wife" - 2007)
  • "Baby girl" ("Infectious" - 2007)
  • "I like to chase that tail around" ("Unbelievable" - 2008)
  • "Shorty I think about you" ("Together" - 2008)
  • "I got a honey on my mind" ("Let's Be Friends" - 2008)
They refer to women as objects (almost always sexual), as infantile, or as evil. Only a few times do they actually refer to women as "woman" or by name (Teresa in "Together" or Natasha in "Natasha").

Most of the songs aren't that bad. Sometimes it's just a small part of the song, a throwaway lyric here and there. The song "Desperate" from 2002 says, "Cuz if you don't call then I'll probably rent-a-date / and my tab keeps rising cuz I do it every day ... And I got 20 dollars what can I get for that?", implying that women are just objects to be purchased for sexual purposes.

"High Fives" is a really catchy 2003 song that says, "When you're hangin' with the bros it's guaranteed sex at the prom." Sex is never guaranteed, not on prom night, not on Valentine's Day, and not on your birthday. Men do not have the right to a woman's body, ever. At the end of the same song, it says, "Props to the homies in the field / Well your best friend finally copped a feel," celebrating a man's conquest over a woman's body in an encounter in which she has no agency. Did the woman consent to being fondled? We don't know, and the point is: it doesn't matter.

"Golden Touch" from 2006 implies that women are corrupted and evil who ruin everything they touch: "Everything she touched it turned to gold / Her powers suck from her finger tips / Infecting people with their dirty tricks / You can't escape this metallurgy / Once was yours now just a fantasy."

"Mean Girl," referenced above, is also questionable. The lyrics are: "Got my heart locked tight in a safe / Where your sticky little fingers can't get it anymore / Cuz you / Were such a mean girl to me / I keep you out at arm's reach / And now I know what's wrong with the world / Tellin' everybody don't ever trust a girl / Take a look at her face / All the money that she wastes / It's not worth my time or the pain / She'd find a thousand ways / Just to ruin every one of my good days / Baby girl's much worse than she knows / She's a demon at best with a kiss / And this demon's got me by the / Throat and I don't think she'll ever let it go." Because clearly a woman is "not worth" it if she takes the time to take care of herself and the way she looks. And if one woman hurts you, then none of them can be trusted. And "demon"? Really? Ugh.

"Infectious" from 2007 really bothers me. It says, "Now shut your mouth cuz it's gonna happen fast / You can close your eyes baby but it's gonna be a blast." It may be just me, but this sounds like what a rapist tells his victim. It reminds me of the time Governor Corbett voiced his support for forced ultrasounds on abortion patients and told them if they don't like it they can just close their eyes during the procedure (http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/03/15/444999/pennsylvania-governor-supports-ultrasound-bill/). Not cool.

Then there's "Trophy Wife" from 2007 that straight up sounds like an abusive partner. The singer introduces himself to a woman: "Hello madame, I'm here to be your man ... Can't you see there's no other, ever loved you better / Come with me, and you'll see that I'm all you need ... Trophy wife, care not 'bout your strifes / I'm the only family you'll ever need / Get back, get back it's me you love the most / You don't need to talk to all these people that are close ... You are my toy, closed doors inside a bedroom." Abusive partners control their significant others by saying some of these very things: no one loves you like I do, you don't need anyone else, your family/friends aren't important. I don't even know what to say about the part about the toy closed inside his bedroom - besides that it creeps me out.

A lighter example comes from the 2008 song "Girl's Got What I Want." It goes: "That girl's got what I want / But shorty won't give it to me / If I stop playing the games / I'm gonna end up on the losing team / Hey little lady / Don't give me the / Run around, run around / I know you got your spell / On a lot of young boys / Around this town / And I kiss my hand to the sky / And I say / 'Girl is not that fly.'" Aside from the fact that I really hate the demeaning term "shorty" for women, it's ridiculous that the singer says he wants the woman until she rejects him - then he says she's "not that fly" anyway. Men do this on the streets all the time: flirt with a woman until it's clear she isn't interested, and then put her down as ugly, stupid, or bitchy. Childish at best, controlling at worst.

Why can't they have more lyrical gems like this? (picture courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
I've got a couple problems with the 2008 song "Let's Be Friends." Part of the chorus for this song is: "When all I hear is let's just be friends / Shorties all sing it loud / Let's be friends." I'm honestly tired of hearing about this "friendzone" shit. Women's friendship is not a lousy consolation prize, and we are not obligated to be in a relationship with you just because you're "nice" to us. "Girls are not machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out" (as succinctly quoted here: http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/lamenting-the-friend-zone-or-the-nice-guy-approach-to-perpetrating-sexist-bullshit/). Then there are these two gems: "The game never works when your heart's in the right place" and "Better seal the deal before she gets to know the real you." This is just awful: pessimistic, manipulating, and defeatist advice.  I would advise the exact opposite - be yourself - because there are like-minded people everywhere, and there are bound to be people who would be interested in "the real you." Lying and scheming are bad ideas if you're looking for a solid relationship. This song may be catchy, but I really don't like the messages behind it.

I have the same problem with the 2012 song "Take the Next Step." Just the first two lines alone tell most of the story: "We've been friends for so long / Maybe it's time we thought about dating." Again, this is a part of the bullshit "friendzone" idea that men are only interested in friendships with women so that the women will date them. That is simply not how friendships work. See above. On top of that, the chorus "Is it worth it? / Yeah I think it's worth it too" makes it sound like he's not even taking the woman's perspective into account - that it doesn't matter if she agrees with him or not.

Most of these songs I've already listed, I don't mind that much. I can still listen to them and enjoy them. These last two really bother me though. Take these 2008 lyrics from "Took My Breath Away": "Don't answer my calls so I'm hanging out / Hanging out in front of your house tonight / Some'ing needs to click to tell me that I'm being creepy / But that ain't right, cuz I'm pretty sure she needs to see me / Could you imagine a girl who'd slay the dragon / Is what they say when I wouldn't stay away / It's not a fake out, girl I came to make out / I'm pretty and harmless until I force my way to your life." This is a clear cut example of a stalker: waiting outside a woman's house to watch what she's doing, with the not-so-subtle threat of forcing himself on her, and all the time acting like he knows better than her ("I'm pretty sure she needs to see me"). This is not only "creepy," it's encouraging violence against women.

This is the last song, and the only one that I really can't stand to listen to. It's the 2012 "Girlfriend's Pretty," and it goes like this: "Please forgive my dirty mind / Cuz I think of her naked all the time / Stalking her's my specialty / As long as her boyfriend doesn't see me / I'll follow her to her car / As I watch in the bushes from afar / Desperately just wanting her to look at me / Please don't think that I'm creepy / You'll learn to like it, I swear it's just flirting / She's got a man and that's alright / Cuz I admit it I like to fight / And I'm thinkin' / Would it be alright if I said / Your girlfriend's pretty, right / You know she's outta sight / Her skirt was super tight / The one she wore last night / She's wonderful, she's magic / Her rack is so fantastic / And I do believe / She's wearing a thong." Same problem as the previous song: stalking and violence against women is not cool, it's not "flirting," and it is most definitely "creepy." What's also creepy is all the descriptions of how the woman looks, her body parts, and  what she's wearing. Why would we as listeners even want to hear that? Then there's this part: "I think it's wonderful you've got a trophy girl / Why don't you lighten up and share her with the world / Or you can let her go and give her all to me / So that way, I'm the one who's happy." This indicates that women are objects to be owned or given away. It also implies that the health and happiness of the woman is not important, only that of the boyfriend is ("I'm the one who's happy"). An upbeat melody and good beat is not enough to save this song; the lyrics are so bad that I just don't like to listen to it.

Obviously, Suburban Legends wrote some problematic lyrics that I don't like. But overall, I still really like this band, and I've given them a lot of my time and money for concert tickets, merchandise, and cds (not to mention that my partner purchased an amp from their guitarist). Do they care that they have a lot of female fans that might or might not care about their sexist lyrics? Do they just think it's a joke? I don't know; maybe I'll post this on their Facebook page and find out. I would love to hear their point of view on this matter.

My partner and I with three of the band members
I would also love to hear more songs about friendships with other bands ("My Friend"), happiness ("Just Be Happy"), joy rides ("Bright Spring Morning"), music genres ("Alternative Is Dead"), dogs running away ("Come Back Home")...pretty much anything that doesn't have to do with women and trying to get laid. Seriously.

11 June 2014

And You're Surprised?

I recently read a couple of books about animals and farming: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Emotional Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff. A couple days ago, while discussing what I learned about factory farms with my partner, I explained to him how many cows are skinned and otherwise "processed" (aka have their legs cut off) while still alive and conscious. His answer floored me: "And you're surprised?"

Apparently it's pretty common knowledge that factory farms and slaughterhouses are terrible places where living animals are daily tortured and mutilated by sadistic excuses for human beings.

My answer is yes. Yes, I was surprised and disgusted when I found out about how these animals are treated. How can you be aware of the horrors that these animals are subjected to daily and not want to do something about it? Cows, pigs, and chickens are intelligent and emotional animals just like your house dogs and cats. When a story about dog or cat abuse or neglect surfaces, people are outraged; they demand something be done to the perpetrators so that the abuse doesn't happen again. When the same (or even worse) abuse and neglect happens to millions of cows, pigs, and chickens every single day, no one bats an eye. That's normal. Bacon tastes good, so who cares what happens to the animals that it comes from.

I'm so tired of this hypocrisy. I may be only one person among millions, but I am going to do something about it. I'm starting by educating myself and reading about factory farms and animal welfare in the United States. I'm cutting meat out of my diet (more than 90% of meat in the US comes from factory farms). I'm researching products that are not tested on animals. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Is anyone with me?

"Silence is the enemy of social change." - Marc Bekoff

31 May 2014

Sex Education

Do you remember your sex ed days? If yours were anything like mine, you got two opposing messages: "Don't have sex til you're married!" and "Feel free to experiment! But use protection against STDs and pregnancy!" There needs to be a middle ground. Somewhere along the lines of this:

Talk with your partner. Only do what both of you are comfortable with and actually want to do. Have a conversation - multiple conversations! - about sex, your boundaries, and what you want to try. (Do this well beforehand: not while you're ripping each others' clothes off.) If you don't know what your boundaries are, then think about them! Make three lists: what you want to try (or what you're comfortable with), what you may want to try (or what you're not sure about), and what you absolutely don't want to try (not negotiable). And masturbate! It helps you learn what you like (and it feels good). That way, you can tell your partner what you like and don't like. You have to be comfortable talking about it with them and giving them instructions. If you're not comfortable talking about it, then you're probably not ready to do it. Be comfortable with saying "No," or "Not yet," or "I'm not sure, maybe we should wait," or "Slow down," or "Yes, but go slowly," or "Do this, but not that," or "Yes, do that again!" Practice saying it aloud by yourself if you need to. And respect your partner when they say these things, or something like them. Don't pressure them, or try to persuade them, to do something they don't want to do. Let them know it's okay if they're not ready, and keep the lines of communication open. Communication is the most important part - communication and respect!

07 May 2014

She Didn't Say "No"

Trigger warning, obviously. Poem after the break.



02 May 2014

Strawberries Are Not Diet Food

I'm currently on a quest to become a vegetarian, mostly for ethical reasons. I'm slowly substituting my regular meals and snacks with plant-based foods to make the switch gradually. So, instead of a hot pocket for lunch, I have a salad and an apple. Instead of beef jerky for a snack, I have some strawberries.

Apparently, my co-workers have noticed. Here's what they said to me today (names both changed, obviously):

Sally: I got crackers and peanut butter if you ever want any.
Don: Stop tempting her.
Sally: I'm sorry!
Me: You're sorry for offering me food?
Sally: Only if you don't want it...You've been eating a lot of...diet foods lately...I don't want to tempt you...
Me: I told you before: I'm on a see-food diet. I see food, I eat it.

I really didn't want to get into my food choices with my co-workers, which is why I tried to take the easy way out of this conversation. But apparently eating healthier, plant-based foods means that I'm on a diet. Goddess forbid I just want to be healthy.

22 April 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Some days I get bogged down by negativity when I think about all the crap the Earth takes. News of oil spills, protected species being hunted to extinction, rainforests being destroyed, global warming, etc. just makes me want to give up hope about the future of the planet. Even just taking a drive through the city reminds me of how much we take our natural resources for granted: trash covers the streets and clogs the storm drains. And, considering how much influence the huge oil companies have with their billions of dollars, I know there's only so much I can do to help.

But that little bit that I can, I do. On our walks, Peppy and I pick up the trash around our neighborhood and in the shopping center across from our apartment. I just carry an extra shopping bag with me and pick up the wrappers, bottles, cans, bags, and most other trash that I find (I will not touch Q-tips, dental flossers, tampons, or condoms unless I have gloves). We usually fill a regular sized shopping bag with no problem. Peppy enjoys the longer, more meandering walks, and I feel like I accomplished something. We help the environment and make the neighborhood look nicer. I know I can't get all the trash, and that there will be more tomorrow, but I can do my part by picking up what I see. That's enough for me.

Peppy loves a clean environment

07 April 2014

My Top 5 Most Read Authors

I recently started using the site Goodreads, which is a great resource for book nerds like myself. It has tons of lists of books and authors, and it lets you indicate on your profile which books you've read or would like to read. This is going to be a great tool for me, considering that I read a ton of books and sometimes forget if I read a certain book or not. It even has the cool feature of telling you your "Most Read Authors." So, without further ado, here are my top 5 most read authors, according to Goodreads:

1. Stephen King (31 books - and at least 3 more under different pen names)
I got into Stephen King when I was younger, when I asked my mom what books she would recommend to me. Since she liked Stephen King and Dean Koontz, those are the authors that she gave me. I've loved horror literature for a long time, and Stephen King remains the ruler of the horror genre. In addition to his novels, I've also read a bunch of his short stories and two of his nonfiction books. My favorites are Carrie, Firestarter, and 'Salem's Lot.

2. Anne Rice (25 books - and at least 4 more under different pen names)
I really got into vampire literature once I discovered Anne Rice. I've read all the books in her Vampire Chronicles, all of the books about the Mayfair witches, and all the erotica written under her two pen names. I've even considered reading her Christ the Lord series, simply because I know they'll be well-written. And I'm stupid excited about her next novel: Prince Lestat.

3. Patricia Briggs (20 books)
If you asked me who my favorite author is (right now), I'd probably say Patricia Briggs. I LOVE Patricia Briggs. I have not read one of her books that I didn't like. Her Mercy Thompson series is my favorite, closely followed by the Sianim series. I'm currently reading Night Broken, the 8th Mercy Thompson book. Her books are full of fast-paced action and kick-ass female characters, and I can't get enough of them.

4. J. R. Ward (18 books)
Ward, aka Jessica Bird, writes mostly about vampires, war, and sex: not necessarily in that order. Although I like her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I'm not real fond of her Angels series. She's a supernatural romance author who writes men as all of her main characters and woman only in supporting roles. After so many books, I'm tired of it, but I'm so invested in the characters at this point that I'll continue to the end of the series.

5. Kelley Armstrong (11 books)
I've already read two of Kelley Armstrong's series, and I really like her characters and her writing, so I'm planning on reading her other series. I started reading her books a long time ago, and I guess I was just unaware that she wrote so many more books.

So there you have it, my top 5 most read authors, as per Goodreads. Who's in your top 5?

All images from Goodreads.com.

01 April 2014

More Stupid Things I Say to My Dog

In case you missed part one, check it out here: Stupid Things I Say to My Dog. Here's some more stupid things I say to my dog:
  • "If you have to throw up, then go out in the kitchen! Don't throw up on the carpet!"
  • "I lied--I don't actually have a treat for you."
  • "Quit eating grass, it's going to make you throw up again."
  • "If you eat my plant again, I'm going to skin you."
  • "Go ahead and lick your butt. Get the taste of my face out of your mouth."
  • Getting dressed: "Shoes! I know clothes excite you. But not as much as they excite your friend Gambit."
  • "Slow down and chew your food. You're going to throw it up again."
  • "There's nothing scarier than a chihuahua barking under a pile of blankets. Nothing."
  • Me: "Are you trying to choke yourself? Quit pulling so hard." Partner: "I didn't know your dog was into auto-erotic asphyxiation."
  • "Who's in my butt? Get out of there."
  • Going to the pet store to get a doggie rain coat: "I know you're happy now, but you're about to hate me."

He hates his rain coat almost as much as he hates rain.

25 March 2014

Mixed Messages

People and Woman's World magazines from February

I know these magazines are from last month, but I wanted to point out the hypocrisy of the media. These two magazines were on sale next to each other at Wal Mart. One is People magazine, and it says: "Biggest Loser Scandal: Too Thin Too Fast?" The second is Woman's World: "10 Day Total-Body Makeover! Lose 25 lbs! Botox in a Cup!"

Talk about mixed messages. "Lose lots of weight! Change everything about yourself! But don't lose too much weight! Lose as much weight as possible! But only until you meet the arbitrary ideal body image!" It's pretty much impossible to meet the media standards of beauty, and I think that you can see that in just this one image.

What really kills me is the other messages on the Woman's World cover. "Bake Up Some Happiness!" "Make Stress Vanish!" So basically: "Lose tons of weight! Look perfect! But don't stress about your looks! And make lots of awesome food! But don't eat it, 'cause then you'll get fat! LOL!"

Ugh.

23 March 2014

Make Life More Worth Living

Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive...anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There's only one rule to follow to make the kind of blanket permission work: Don't be mean.
-Kate Bornstein, author of Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws

What makes life "more worth living"? Brainstorming!

20 March 2014

Celebrating Death

As you may have heard, the former leader of the hate group Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died this morning. Phelps is infamous for picketing funerals of dead American soldiers with signs like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

When news of his death came out, people had strong reactions. Many people, such as myself, are hopeful that his death signifies the end of the WBC's legacy of hatred. But others have been celebrating. Yes, celebrating a man's death. Now I understood when they celebrated Saddam Hussein's death, and they probably celebrated Hitler's death, too. While it's true that Phelps caused a lot of pain for a lot of families grieving their loved ones, it's also true that he was exercising his right to free speech--not slaughtering innocent people.

Fred Phelps was a hateful man who picketed at the funerals of dead soldiers, but he was a human being: a father, a grandfather. If we celebrate his death, we are no better than the hate-mongers of the Westboro Baptist Church. Have some compassion for your fellow humans, even if they would have none for you.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-fred-phelps-20140321,0,4718547.story#axzz2wX312QhQ

19 March 2014

Settling for Unhappiness

"Why don't people do what they really want to do, Reuben?" he asked. "Why do we so often settle for what makes us devoutly unhappy! Why do we accept that happiness just isn't possible?" [...] "I don't know why I woke up every morning with the idea that I had to adjust, had to accept, had to go along with."
-Anne Rice, The Wolves of Midwinter

I do this a lot. Maybe it's because of my depression, but I have this belief that I just can't be happy. I don't try to make changes in my life regarding things that make me unhappy, since I don't think it will make a difference anyway. My depression tells me a lot of nasty things, and this is probably one of them. That's why this part of the novel really jumped out at me. Why do I just accept what makes me unhappy? I have to learn to not listen to my depression when it tells me things like this, but I have to learn to identify the voice of my depression first. Maybe then I can work at being a happier person.

12 March 2014

How Easy It Is

I got a nasty phone call today from someone who clearly thinks that fetuses are more important than the women who carry them, and in some of the hate-fueled garbage that she spewed at me, there was this gem:
How easy is it to kill a baby these days?
First of all, a fetus is not a baby. That's pretty typical rhetoric though, and that's not what I want to talk about.

I'm not sure what country she came from, but here in the good ol' US of A, it's not easy to get an abortion. In fact, it's getting harder and harder every year. In the past three years alone (2011-2013), there have been more abortion restrictions enacted than there were in the entire decade before (2001-2010).

In states such as Pennsylvania, a woman has to attend a "counseling" session at least 24 hours before her procedure. This extra step means that the woman has to come back to the office at least three times: first for the counseling session, second for the actual procedure, and third for a follow up visit. In many states (such as Texas), there are very few abortion providers, which means that women have to drive long distances (sometimes hundreds of miles) to get the procedure. The more times they have to come into the clinic, the more the travel expense is, and the harder it is to arrange to get off work or to get other childcare arrangements (most women who get abortions already have one or more children).

Even though multiple states already have mandatory counseling sessions and waiting periods, some states are trying to make those waiting periods longer. In January, Louisiana tried to implement a 30 day waiting period. That's an additional 4 weeks. In some places, women can't even get abortions if they're more than 20 weeks pregnant. The longer the woman is in the pregnancy, the more expensive it will be. And many clinics will not perform abortions after a certain number of weeks.

In addition to the counseling session, many states mandate an ultrasound before the procedure. In some states, the doctor has to show and describe the ultrasound to the woman, as if she doesn't understand that there's a fetus inside her. In some states, and in certain cases, the doctor would even have to do a transvaginal ultrasound for early pregnancies, since the fetus is very small and could be hidden behind the pelvic bone. (A transvaginal ultrasound is exactly what it sounds like: the doctor puts a wand inside the woman's vagina to see the fetus. It's invasive and unnecessary.)

Also in Pennsylvania, young women under 18 need to have parental consent before they can get an abortion. If they cannot or will not get consent from a parent, they have to go through a judge to get a judicial bypass. Even if they go through that process, the judge could still decide that they're too immature to get an abortion (but mature enough to carry, birth, and raise a child).

It's also important to mention that abortions are not cheap. For many people living around or below the poverty level, scraping up a few hundred dollars for an abortion and the related visits is nearly impossible. Most insurance plans will not cover abortions, and neither will any federal funds. The cost alone is sometimes enough to make abortion out of reach for low-income women.

And after a woman jumps through all those hoops and legislative burdens, she has to come to the clinic and face the protesters. Sometimes, the protesters are "peaceful"; they hold nasty signs and pray loudly at you. Many times, it's not that easy. Many protesters yell at patients and their family members: disgusting things about killing "babies" and going to hell. Some are violent and "in your face." A select few go with terrorism: shootings and bombings of abortion doctors and clinics. Even worse, the woman coming into the clinic often knows some of the protesters, especially if she goes to church with them. I've already had patients call to ask if we have a back door they can come in to avoid their fellow church members protesting out front.

And those are just the burdens on the patient. There are also plenty of laws about the actual abortion facilities and doctors that perform them, called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Some of these laws force abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which can be difficult when local hospitals are not politically inclined to provide those privileges to abortion providers. Other laws affect the actual facilities where the abortions are performed. These laws force clinics to adhere to Ambulatory Surgical Facilities regulations (ASF), which are burdensome and unnecessary. For example, ASF regulations dictate frivolities such as how wide the hallways must be. Meeting ASF standards can be extremely costly, and they do not ultimately benefit the patients.

So please, don't try to tell me that it's "easy" to get an abortion in this country. Just because it's legal to get an abortion in the US, does not mean that it's easy or even accessible to most women.

Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/women-losing-access-to-abortion-as-opponents-gain-ground-in-state-legislatures.html
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/11/many-accessing-abortion-already-undue-burden/
http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2013/statetrends42013.html
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/01/27/new-louisiana-rules-require-30-day-waiting-period-legal-abortion/
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/15/1597701/wisconsin-forced-transvaginal-ultrasound/#

11 March 2014

Prince Lestat is Back!

It's official!
Can I just say that I'm REALLY FUCKING EXCITED for this? Please excuse me while I put my life on hold to re-read the original five books of the Vampire Chronicles. October 28 can't come soon enough!

For more info: LA Times article

10 March 2014

My Tats

I currently have three tattoos, and I'm planning on maybe one or two more. People sometimes ask what my tats mean, so here's a quick explanation.

Tat 1: Paw print for Mercy Thompson

The first tat I got was in summer of 2012: a paw print on my stomach in honor of Patricia Briggs and her character Mercy Thompson. Mercy is a kickass coyote shapeshifter in a world of werewolves, vampires, and other creatures bigger and scarier than she is, but she holds her own and is unapologetically herself.

Tat #1

Patricia Briggs - Moon Called

Tat 2: Raven for Edgar Allan Poe and Raven from Teen Titans

My second tat is a raven on my right calf. I got it on January 19, 2013, to commemorate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, author of my favorite poem, The Raven. It's also a symbol of Teen Titan's Raven, who happens to be my favorite comic book character. I've identified with Raven ever since I first saw the Teen Titans cartoon in 2004.

Tat #2

Two Sides of Raven - Alassa (DA)

Tat 3: Bat for Bram Stoker

My latest tat is of a bat on my left calf. As you can see here, I've been obsessed with vampires for a long time. On November 8, 2013, I got a bat to commemorate the birthday of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula and the father of the contemporary vampire genre.

Tat #3
I don't have a source image for this one because I had my artist design it for me. Yay for cool tattoo artists!

Future Tats

I had wanted to get a lotus flower and the Sanskrit symbol for Om above it, but the more I think about it, the more I think it would be appropriation of Hindu or Indian culture. So I probably won't get it done.

Sprial goddess
Then I came across this image on Facebook, and I fell in love with it. I don't know where on my body I want to get it, but I'm pretty set on this image.

Superman / Bon Jovi
And I've wanted to get this combination of the Superman symbol and the Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet symbol for a long time. Still not sure where I want to get it, which is why I still haven't gotten it.

That's about it for now. Who knows, maybe later I'll find some other tattoos that I want to get. I just know that I love the ones that I have.

08 March 2014

What Being A Fat Woman Is Really Like

Apparently Cosmo did an article interviewing fat women and their experiences. I'm not going to lie, I hate Cosmo and have pledged never to give them my money again. But a bunch of other fat women bloggers have been answering the same questions from the interview to give a wider perspective, and I'd like to jump on the bandwagon. There's a list of other participating bloggers here, and I learned about the project from Issa (whose blog is totally awesome, and you should check it out!). Without further ado, here are the questions and my answers:

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

It makes me feel both sad and embarrassed. Sad because they are more worried about their weight than anything else, and embarrassed because they think it's okay to give intimate details of their food and body to someone they hardly know. Why is that socially acceptable? I think it's just awkward, and I try to change the subject.

How has your body image changed since high school? College?

I was pretty self-conscious in high school, even though I weighed a lot less than I do now. I felt fat even when I was in the normal range for my height. In college, I worried more about trying to lose weight simply because I recognized that I was gaining weight (I probably gained about 50 lbs between high school and college). In college, I became more and more depressed, which led to a lot of self-hatred that I still struggle with today. My self-confidence took a nose dive along with my mental well-being. [Also, way to assume that everyone can afford college. Did I mention I hate Cosmo?]

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

I have tried dieting on and off, but my focus has always been more on exercising. One summer I exercised pretty intensely at least five days a week, and I did lose some weight, but of course I gained it right back with some excess. I was never good at dieting just because I don't like to be hungry.

Do you think in your case you weight is partly or entirely genetic?

Of course it's partly genetic. If it has to do with your body, it's at least partly caused by genetics. Other people in my family are fat, and I look like people in my family. (Does the "duh" need to be stated?)

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

I'm healthy in some ways, and unhealthy in others, but that doesn't necessarily reflect my weight. I had depression and asthma before I was fat.

Are your parents supportive of you at the weight you're at? Have they always been?

My mom comes from a family where a lot of the family members are fat. I think that she understands that I look like the rest of the family, and I don't think she's ever really mentioned it. I know that I look just like her and my sister. :)

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-sized people?

Carry more sizes. I hate going into a store at the mall and not being able to find my size at all. Why is it so hard to carry the same clothes in bigger sizes?

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-size men are? How?

Women are always judged in a more sexual nature, like how sexy or "fuckable" they look. So if we're fat or unattractive, that's worse than a man being fat or unattractive.

Do you think there's an assumption made / stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?

Of course there are stereotypes about fat people. We're lazy, sloppy, smelly, easy, gross, whatever. Stereotypes about fat people, just like stereotypes about any other kind of people, should be called out whenever possible. If you hear a stereotype, challenge it.

Do you think there's ever a right way or time to express concern about someone's weight?

Not unless you are that person's doctor or baby doctor. A family doctor should be concerned if a patient gains or loses a lot of weight in a short time person, and a baby doctor should be concerned if a pregnant patient is not gaining enough weight or is gaining too much weight. If you are not that person's doctor, then you should not mention it.

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body? How did you respond?

Except for on the internet, people don't say nasty things directly to me. They say them behind my back. In both cases, I ignore them (or block them on the internet).

What have people said (or do you wish they'd say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

The only time I'd like a compliment on my appearance is if I make a drastic change to my hair like dying it or cutting it. Other than that, I find it awkward for other people to comment on the way my body looks. A woman at my old job asked me on more than one occasion if I had lost weight, and I was just at a loss for words. Telling me I look smaller than I did before is not a compliment, and it's rude. Seriously, keep that crap to yourself.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

Not really. I'm very socially isolated (due to depression and anxiety) right now, but in school the people I hung out with were both fatter and skinnier than me. We hung out because we were in the same clubs or the same classes, not because we looked the same.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?

It made me more self-conscious about my body, but I'm getting over that. Other than that, we just push the fat out of the way. (Yay for TMI!)

When you've been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

I haven't been single for more than 6 years. Last time I was single, I was at a "normal" weight.

Do you feel weird if the guy you're with only dates larger women?

First of all, I hate that Cosmo assumes that they have no bisexual or lesbian readers. It would be so easy to change "the guy" to "the person." But no, I don't think that's weird. Unless the person is purposely trying to manipulate fat people because they think that fat people are easy or desperate. Then, it wouldn't be weird, but it would be creepy and manipulative.

Do you feel weird if he's only dated slimmer women before you?

I might feel self-conscious if that happened, but it wouldn't be hard to get over. They're dating me--and not their exes--for a reason.

That's all for the questions, but feel free to ask others. Check out some of the other interviews here!

07 March 2014

Intersectionality


To better educate myself, I've been reading feminist and African American history. Currently, I'm reading bell hooks' Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. In this book and in the article quoted above, the two authors talk about the racism in the feminist movement(s).

Feminism, to me, includes women of color as well as poor women, trans* women, immigrant women, lesbians and bisexual women, disabled women, fat women, ALL women. We have to recognize and work to end problems for all of these women. If we just focus on white, middle-upper-class educated women's problems, then we're not doing anything to help women who may have it worse off than we do.

That's not to say that we should be comparing who is more oppressed or who has it better off, aka playing the "Oppression Olympics." We just have to acknowledge that different forces affect our lives in different and intersecting ways, thus the word "intersectionality." Straight working-class black women have different experiences than do disabled queer white women.

We have to work to end all types of oppression against women. Racism is a strong force in black women's lives, a force that white women can help combat. We have to start by recognizing and fighting against our own racism. And by listening to black women and what they have to say. That's where I'm at now.

05 March 2014

My Love Affair with the Vampire

Ever since high school, I've been in love with the vampire. It probably started with Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Ever since I read Interview with the Vampire, I've consumed any and all vampire books that I could find. I read the classic and the modern, the great and the garbage. I don't care if it's poems, novels, short stories, or graphic novels. I'm more picky with the movies I watch, but that's only because I have a hard time watching overly gory or violent movies.

To better remember what I've read and watched, I've started a list of books and movies. Of course, none of these lists are complete, but I'm going to keep working on them. Here's a start:

Literature
The Vampyre - John William Polidori (1819)
Carmilla - J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)
Dracula - Bram Stoker (1897)
Dracula's Guest - Bram Stoker (1914)
Dracula (play) - John Balderston & Hamilton Deane (1924)
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (1954)
Salem's Lot - Stephen King (1975)
The Dracula Tape - Fred Saberhagen (1975)
The Vampire Chronicles - Anne Rice (1976-2003)
Vampire$ - John Steakley (1990)
The Vampire's Promise series - Caroline B. Cooney (1991-1993)
Goodnight Kiss Vol. 1-2 - R. L. Stine (1992-1997)
The Last Vampire Vol. 1-4 - Christopher Pike (1994-1996)
Carmilla: The Return - Kyle Marffin (1998)
Carpe Jugulum: A Novel of Discworld - Terry Pratchett (1998)
Vampire and Werewolf Stories - Alan Durant (1998)
Women of the Otherworld series - Kelley Armstrong (2001-2008)
The Mammoth Book of Vampires - Stephen Jones (2004)
Bite - Laurell K. Hamilton & Charlaine Harris (2004)
Fledgling - Octavia Butler (2005)
The Curse of Dracula - Marv Wolfman (2005)
Twilight series - Stephanie Meyer (2005-2008)
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series - J. R. Ward (2005-)
Mercy Thompson series - Patricia Briggs (2006-)
Renfield: Slave of Dracula - Barbara Hambly (2006)
Vampire Doll Vol. 1-2 - Erika Kari (2006-2007)
Marked - P. C. and Kristin Cast (2007)
Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives Vol. 1 - Ellen Schreiber (2007)
Vampire the Masquerade (not sure which one)

Film
Nosferatu (1922)
Dracula (1931)
Blacula (1972)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973)
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Dracula 2000
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)
Twilight (2008)

Still Need to Read
Varney the Vampire - James Malcolm Rymer (1847)
Dracula series (the rest of it) - Fred Saberhagen (1978-2002)
Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania - Raymond McNally (1987)
The Vampire Book (encyclopedia) - J. Gordon Melton (1998)
Mina - Elaine Bergstrom (2000)
Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K. Hamilton (2002)
Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004)
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova (2005)
Real Vampires Have Curves - Gerry Bartlett (2008)
Dracula the Un-Dead - Dacre Stoker (2009)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith (2010)
Shadow World series - Dianne Sylvan (2010-)
Prince Lestat - Anne Rice (2014)

Still Need to Watch (If you have seen any of these, please let me know if they are very violent or gory!)
Vampyr (1932)
Horror of Dracula (1957)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Dracula A. D. 1972
Salem's Lot (1979)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Near Dark (1987)
From Dusk Til Dawn (1996)
Pitch Black (2000)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Underworld series (2003-2012)
Van Helsing (2004)
Let the Right One In (2008)

If you have any other good movies or books that you would recommend, please let me know! Especially if you have a copy of the movie or book that I could borrow--that would be awesome.

27 February 2014

Stupid Things I Say to My Dog

I live alone with my dog, so naturally I talk to him. A lot. We have some pretty deep conversations. Here are some gems:

  • "Do you want a treat? That was a stupid question."
  • In the bathroom: "Get out of here; I don't need your help. I can pee by myself. I've been doing it for a long time."
  • "It's almost March, so I hope that means it's almost spring. I better not have to wait until April."
  • "That would be the correct sentence structure. Not that you care about sentences. You only know five words." *
  • "I love kisses. Except the ones that go up my nose."
  • After working out: "Yep, lick all the sweat off. Salt is real good. Tastes like Gatorade. Sweat flavored Gatorade."
  • "No, if you're not going to pee, then we're going in. I didn't come out here in the snow to chase squirrels."
  • As he barks at the neighbors: "You're so ferocious. You just made me shit myself in terror."

He pretty much always has the same response. He tilts his head and looks at me like this:
You talkin' to me?

*He actually knows at least ten words: no, okay, bad, sit, stay, down, out, walk, treat, food, ride, and leave it (which is two words, but he doesn't know that)

25 February 2014

Depression Meds

I've been living with depression since my high school years, maybe since 2005-2006. Since then, I've tried a bunch of different medications to try to treat my symptoms and make living bearable.

These are the some of the medications that I've tried:
Prozac (fluoxetine)
Celexa (citalopram)
Paxil (paroxetine)
Lexepro (escitalopram)
Zoloft (sertraline)
Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
Cymbalta (duloxetine)
Viibryd (vilazodone)

Some of these have been more effective than others, and some gave me some pretty bad side effects (like dizziness and terrifying nightmares). I had been using Effexor for a couple years until I started having regular panic attacks--a couple every week. My doctor switched me to Cymbalta (duloxetine) about a week ago, so now I have a new med to add to my list. I really hope that this one is going to work. I have not been sleeping well since I started it, but I'm not sure if it's because of the medicine or from something else. I'll give it some more time and keep my fingers crossed.

24 February 2014

Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size

Over the weekend, I went to a GSA Summit at Dickinson College, and I finally got to meet Ragen Chastain, author of one of my favorite blogs, Dances with Fat. Ragen spoke about body acceptance and the media, and she taught a dance class after lunch, which was actually really fun (I've never danced before, so I was waaaay out of my comfort zone).

Ragen Chastain presenting at Dickinson College
Ragen is a really inspiring person and speaker, so now of course I'm stoked to talk about Size Acceptance and the Health at Every Size philosophy.

The thing is: I'm fat. I'm 5'2'' and around 175 pounds, which the doctor's office loves to tell me is obese. I used to be a "normal" weight in high school (still felt fat though, that's another story), and I gained a lot of weight in college. So now I'm fat. There are a lot of fat people in my family, so I'm sure some of it is genetic.

I'm also moderately active: I do yoga, walk my dog multiple times per day, walk 5k's a few times per year, and do other activities such as swimming when the weather permits. My numbers (aside from weight--like blood pressure etc.) are in the healthy range. I happen to have asthma, but who knows if the weight caused the asthma or if the asthma caused the weight or if it was caused by something else entirely (possibly genetics, since my mother also has asthma).

The point is: yes, I'm fat. I'm also working out, trying to stay healthy, and working on loving myself and my body the way it looks now. Yes, I am tired of hating my body, which is why I was so happy to discover the Size Acceptance (SA) and Health at Every Size (HAES) movements.

Size Acceptance is essentially a movement for civil rights for fat people--you know, basic human dignity and respect for everyone regardless of their weight. Chairs and airplane seats and hospital beds to accommodate everyone. Radical, isn't it?

And Health at Every Size is a health practice based on the belief that people can be healthy no matter their weight (thus "at Every Size"). HAES practitioners work on intuitive eating and doing exercises that they enjoy with a focus on being more healthy, not losing weight.

I've been working on accepting myself and other fat people for the past couple months, and (SHOCKER) it's a lot harder to accept myself than it is to accept other people. Thankfully, there are people like Ragen who tell me every day that being fat does not mean that I'm a horrible person and that foods are not morally good or bad. It was wonderful meeting such an inspiring person! Check out her blog if you're interested in learning more: Dances with Fat.

17 February 2014

Guilt

Living with depression and anxiety comes with a lot of guilt. Up until recently, the main thing I felt guilty about was moving out of my aunt's house while she was in the middle of chemotherapy treatments. Even though she assured me that she would be okay and that she had friends that she could rely on, I felt lousy about it for months.

Then I drove by the trailer where I spent a few months of my childhood while my family was homeless. I was in the area for other reasons and wanted to show my partner a piece of my past. I figured that it had been many years since I had been by there, and I was a little curious if it looked as horrific as I remember it.

The place itself still looked like a hell hole, but how it looked was nothing compared to the memories it drug up. Being told continuously that we (my brother and I) were unwanted and on the verge of being kicked out onto the street (we were about 10 and 12) is what I had remembered from this time; being told that you're going to be "on the outside looking in" is hard to forget. However, I had apparently repressed even worse memories.

The one that haunts me is of our family dog, a rottweiler/lab mix named Bo (named for Bo Diddley). We usually kept Bo inside at our home, but when we moved to the trailer, there wasn't enough room for 12 people as well as our dog (obviously there wasn't even enough room for just the people). Bo stayed outside like the other animals, tied up by himself.

Honestly, I don't know whose responsibility it was to take care of him and make sure he had food and water. All I know is that one day I saw him for the first time in weeks. He was skin and bones - literally starving to death. I can't even imagine the pain he went through during those weeks. It makes me sick just thinking about it.


Bo survived for about another year before he died when I was in 8th grade. I was heartbroken. I had awful dreams about his death. And now I have the weight of guilt. It doesn't matter if his pain and death was my fault or not. It's going to be on my conscience for the rest of my life.

Bo and I at our old home