Thursday, August 9, 2012

You Need To Go To Charm School, Bitches

One thing you may know about me, if we are friends, is that I collect old timey etiquette books due to the fact that they are hilarious. One thing you may not know about me, is that half the time, the only way I get through the day by fantasizing about and plotting the etiquette book I plan to write myself one day, using examples of all the irritating people I encounter. Because, although I think it's funny as shit to imagine someone trying to eat an ear of corn the way that Amy Vanderbilt suggests one eat an ear of corn (it involves forks, knives, only seasoning one bite at a time and would take you at least 2 hours to complete), I think good manners are the most important thing in the world, and I don't think there is a better thing someone can be than gracious. I also don't think you have to be a fancy debutante lady to have them (and frequently, they don't). Manners are not about crossing your leg at the ankle, or using the right fork, or not wearing white after Labor Day. Manners are about other people, whom we forget, sometimes, are important. While you forge your identity as an individual who will not be told what to do by The Man by chewing with your mouth open, someone else has to look at that. And it's probably not pleasant. Manners are the way we show people they are important. So let's talk about some etiquette, shall we?

You Are An Inconvenience To Strangers

Every time you leave your house, you are probably going to annoy somebody and you may not even know it. Without other people, one would always have a seat on the bus, would not have to wait in line, would not have to wait to cross the street, etc. You are probably always in someone's way, and someone is probably always in your way, and that, perhaps, is why we are all in a bad mood most of the time. Here are some things we can all do to mollify this situation.

- Pedestrians, stay to the right. For the love of god, just stay to the right. When you stroll thoughtlessly down the middle of a sidewalk, you force people to either try to squeeze past you or wait until you, the king and queen of the Ukranian Village have passed. Being that you are not royalty, this is not appropriate behavior for you. More importantly, if you choose to just chill out on an escalator and savor the experience of not having to move your legs, rather than walk up it, please do not take up an entire step and rest your hands on both sides of the rails. People have to get to work. It is quite simple for you to just stay to the right and allow others to pass.
                    - It is for this reason that I find double wide strollers to be one the most tacky things on earth.  If you feel you must have twins, or children especially in close in age to one another, I suggest that you get one of the inline double strollers. This way, you do not take up the whole of the sidewalk or supermarket aisle, and you also do not force people who work in shops to have to help you squeeze that monstrosity through the door.

- Hold the door open for the person walking in behind you. It won't kill you. If you are a man, it does not mean that you are a sexist, it means that you are polite. Regardless of what you believe you know about the women's movement, our problem was not so much with doors being opened for us as it was with not getting paid the same as you or being able to have governance over our own bodies, and with actually being oppressed.

- Be kind to people who are working when you are out having a good time. The best way to get good service is not to fiercely demand it as though the person helping you will try to put one over on you otherwise, but to be kind, friendly and patient to the person providing it to you. It's very nouveau-riche to think that you look extra classy and rich by being rude to people. Trust me, you do not. You look classy when you are being gracious.

Things Not To Say, Ever

- Never, ever, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant, or expecting, or anything until that baby is halfway out the vadge. Because you don't know. Because she could just be bloated that day. Or she could have a stomach tumor. You don't know! Err on the safe side, don't say shit. I feel like this should be common sense, but alas
- Don't ever say "You look tired". Do you know when I look tired? When I don't feel like wearing eye makeup. I'm not tired, I am just sans eyeliner. No one looks GOOD when they are tired, so it's not a compliment. Which means, don't say it.
- If you are a man, do not ever, ever, ever, under any circumstance, tell a woman you do not know to smile. Because seriously, fuck you.

People Will Love You For The Way You Make Them Feel About Themselves

This is the wisest thing my mother has ever said, and possibly the best thing anyone, ever has said, about graciousness and charm. My whole life I have been impressed with how much people truly love her, and it's not just because she's hilarious and witty, it's because she makes everyone she talks to feel like the most important and interesting person who has ever lived. She has a way of bringing out the best in people and it's wonderful to watch- you might think someone is dull as hell, but then they'll talk to her and seem wonderfully fascinating. So, this is something I always try to keep in mind, even though I don't know that I'll ever be as good at as she is.

- Always say hello and goodbye to people you know. I don't know, I think it's really always very nice when someone is happy to see you, and I feel very importantly about saying goodbye because you just never know, you know? Unless I'm at a 4am bar and cannot stand, I always try to say goodbye to everyone I know.
- Introduce people thoughtfully whenever possible. When I introduce people to one another, I try to mention something interesting about each of them, or something they have in common. I think it makes things less awkward, because that way they immediately have something to talk about.
- Fucking say thank you. Say Thank You to the bus driver, to the cabbie, to the person who holds the door open for you, to the waitress, to the bartender, to someone who pays you a compliment. Always, always, always.
- Always try to include someone who seems to feel left out. You get to know the best people this way. As someone who tends to sometimes feel awkward in social situations, this is something I always appreciate and remember.
- When you are having a conversation with someone else, listen to what they have to say rather than sit and think of what you would like to say next. This is something I used to have trouble with myself because I was once very enthusiastic about talking and about firmly letting people know who I was and what I was about. I have found that, in fact, no one cares to know exactly who I am and what I am about, nor anyone else.

Bigotry is Fucking Tacky, Ok?

There are a lot of things wrong with being a bigot. However, at the end of the day, it is just freaking gauche and undignified. You will never look at someone spewing streams of hate on national television and remark to yourself "Goodness! What class! What grace! What dignity! What charm!". It always looks petty and spiteful. Bigotry is rude for almost all the reasons anything I've written above is rude. It is good manners to include people, it is bad manners to not be inclusive. It is good manners to be fair.

- It is not good manners to act as though you are more important or better than others. This goes for all things.
- If you believe that you are better than someone due to your skin color or sexual orientation or whathaveyou, this is something better kept to yourself. It is something you should know well enough by now to be embarrassed by.
- There is no reason your religion ought to be entering the public sphere. That is a personal and private thing, please keep it so. If you are an especially holy person, I'm sure you can convey that to others without getting in their face about it.
- One of my favorite things in Streetcar Named Desire is where Blanche explains that she's done a lot of bad things in her life but that she would never, ever hurt someone deliberately. It's something that has always stuck with me. People make mistakes and fuck up all the time- and despite our best intentions none of us can say we've never hurt anyone, period. Hurting someone deliberately not only harms the person you're hurting in the first place, but it also takes away from you. I think that not ever hurting someone deliberately is the best thing anyone can have to be proud of.

Stop Insisting Upon Yourself

One of my biggest pet peeves is the "This is just who I AM" thing. It's very common among people my age who were raised to believe that who they are, personally, is the most important and wonderful thing in the world. Everyone can stand to change a few things about themselves- it's called growing and evolving. If someone tells me I did something to hurt their feelings or make them feel uncomfortable, that is something I am going to give some serious thought to. It seems ridiculous to me that people defend being an ass by saying it is "just who they are."

- I think that we need to stop telling people to "just be themselves". If your self is an especially terrible person, or if your self insists upon chewing with it's mouth open, perhaps you ought to consider being someone else for a while until you manage to improve.
- Adjust the way you speak depending on whom you are talking to. You're not being a traitor to your own identity by maybe not talking about how much you like getting spanked during a conversation with your grandmother. This should be a given, but one never knows.

Well! This is already insanely long, and I don't know that I've covered even half of the things I ought to. Should you have any questions regarding etiquette, let me know and I will try to answer them in a future post! Feel free to share your own thoughts on manners and things as well!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How My Personal Existence Refutes Pretty Much All of The Anti-Gay Marriage Talking Points

I have never really understood the opposition to gay marriage. Not just because I happen to be for it, but because the arguments against it make absolutely no logical sense to me. I've spent a lot of time Googling around to try and find like, one, single argument that makes some kind of sense- just so I could be like, "Oh, ok, well, I see where you're coming from here", and I keep coming up empty. It's not because I'm so strident in my beliefs; I'm pro-choice, but I can see how someone would not be; I have socialist leanings, but I can see how someone would be pro-capitalism; I'm an atheist, but I can see how someone would be religious, and so on. I can Devil's Advocate the fuck out of myself. The problem with the arguments against gay marriage, I find, is that if they did make any kind of sense, they would also apply to me and restrict my rights in some fashion, which they do not. Let's discuss.

1. Gay Marriage Would Inhibit Religious Freedom- This is like, the big argument right now. They've sort of glommed onto it, thinking it sounds more reasoned than "We jest don't like them gays and neither does Jesus!".  Apparently, if same-sex marriage were to be legalized, gay couples would start suing the crap out of churches and temples that refused to perform such ceremonies. Huh.

See, as previously stated, I'm an atheist. I am well aware that I cannot walk into a Catholic Church, a Jewish Temple, a Mormon Temple or the Church of Scientology, or any other religious institution and demand that they perform my marriage ceremony. Even if it's to a dude. I also cannot sue them for refusing to perform it!

2. Marriage Is a Religious Institution: There are myriad options available to me, your friendly local atheist, to be full on married. If I do want to get married, I can get married by a judge and I am still allowed to call it a marriage and not a civil union. I can also get married by a sea captain with a peg leg- which sounds like the best idea EVER- or by Elvis in Las Vegas. Or, if I were Ted Bundy, my beloved and I could be legally married  simply by "declaring it" in court in the middle of my trial. No priest necessary, still considered marriage.

3. It Will Be FINANCIALLY IMPOSSIBLE, Health Care-Wise, and Social Security-Wise AND ALSO Straight People Will Get Fake Gay Married For The Benefits- This is supposedly the "OMG, Totally Secular" argument. Why would this be any different from like, all of the people in the country having straight marriages? And who says that right now, today, I could not get "fake" married to a dude? Who says that I could not get Green Card married to a dude? Who says I couldn't go the Michele Bachmann route and marry a gay man? Absolutely no one. Also, I think everyone should have health care anyway. This argument is stupid.

4. Marriage is For Baby Having!- Guess what? On the off chance that I do get married, I do not plan on having any babies. It is totally legal for me to do that. If I were to high tail it to court today and marry some random dude, they would not ask me if I were planning on having babies and refuse my application if I said no. Marriage still totally legal. For the record, though, I am pretty sure there are too many babies. 

5. Babies Need To Be Raised by Two Opposite Gender Parents- I am single. I could get knocked up tomorrow, have the baby, raise it by myself and it would be totally freaking legal. Also, seriously, I'm like one of five people I know whose parents are still together and crazy after all these years. I am no more well adjusted than anyone I know who was not raised by two opposite gender parents. In fact, possibly less so! There are lots of people that I think probably should not have babies. I don't think 13 year old girls should have babies. I don't think that's a good idea for anyone involved. Am I allowed to legally prevent a 13 year old from having a baby? Nope, not so much. 

6. Schools Will Be Forced To Teach Children That Homosexuality is Normal- I don't know about you guys, but the last time I checked, public schools really weren't allowed to "teach" that it's OK to discriminate against anyone. They weren't allowed to discriminate against me when I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance due to the "Under God" part. I mean, really, if you truly want your kid to be a weird, out of touch bigot, it's probably your job to make that happen. Public schools kind of have to remain neutral on the grounds that they exist to provide an education to many, many different children, and it would be pretty shitty of them to give preference to one child's system of belief over another's. Once we get into the "Christian Children should be allowed to bully Gay Children as an expression of their religious beliefs", we start treading what you all like to call "a slippery slope" whereby another child could claim to be bullying your child because being ugly or having braces is against his or her personal belief system. How about we just teach kids not to be jerks? Which brings me to...

7. If Gay Marriage is Legalized, Those Who Oppose it On Religious Grounds Will Be Considered Bigots- Guess what? You already are! I, Robyn Pennacchia, consider James Dobson to be a bigot. I am allowed to think that, and same sex marriage still isn't legal in most states. I can also think you're a jerk. And you can think I'm a jerk. You are allowed to have any opinion you like about me, and I am allowed to have any opinion I want about you. That's how shit works here. Suck it up.

8. It Will Destroy Traditional Marriage- GUESS WHAT I CAN DO? As previously stated, I am totally free to marry literally anyone with a dick. It doesn't matter if I love them. It doesn't matter if I plan have children with them. It doesn't matter if I do it at a drive thru chapel in Vegas, and get married and annulled 15 times in one night for funsies. It doesn't matter if I am doing it for the insurance. It doesn't matter if I'm doing it to get someone citizenship. It doesn't matter if I have not even known them for more than 30 seconds. It doesn't matter if I marry them and we move to that suburb from The Ice Storm and have key parties and I bang 17 different dudes every week. It wouldn't matter if I joined some weird cult and had an arranged marriage to a dude I'd never met before. And guess what? No one would give a shit and it would all be perfectly legal. And the odds of anyone suggesting that any of my hypothetical marriages would have any effect on their own would be slim to none.

9. It Will Lead to People Marrying Their Pets- Why buy the cow when you can get the sweet, sweet lovin' for free in any of the THIRTEEN states in which bestiality is technically legal? Which, um, is more than either the states that allow same sex marriage (6) or "Civil Unions (12). Also, it's way more legal to marry your first cousin (about half of the states allow it), which I think we can all agree is a lot creepier than wanting to marry someone you are not in fact related to.  But for reals, guess what I can't do? Marry someone in a coma, or marry a 13 year old boy, because guess what? They can't give consent! Neither can the cow. Problem solved!

10. Gay Marriage is Not Supported By Religion- GUESS WHAT? Neither am I. I am just as much a citizen, just as entitled to protection underneath the law as anyone else. You can go to church seven days a week and you are still not entitled to any more or fewer rights than I am. You have no more right to force me to believe in your god than you do to force anyone to live by the rules set by your personal religion. In turn, I have no right to force you to believe any of the things I do. You are totally free to like sour cream even though I think it is gross and weird. The only people who have any kind of obligation to follow the laws of your religion are those who have chosen to participate in it. That's pretty much how this country works. You wouldn't like it if the Mormons forced you to wear sacred undergarments, if the Jehovah's Witnesses refused to allow you blood transfusions and birthdays, if the Scientologists forced you to strap yourself to an E-Meter and undergo Dianetics, or if the Moonies demanded you have a mass wedding! Please understand that someone forcing you to abide by their religious tenets is just as bizarre as you demanding they live by yours. 

*    *    *    *    *

I suppose the gist of what I am trying to say here is that none of these "arguments" are the basis for anything other than laws specifically discriminating against one group of people. No one is suggesting that I not be allowed to be married ever because I am not religious or because I don't plan on having children. Not even James Dobson. And that's fucking bullshit, so there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Sally Jessy Raphael Revenge Fantasy/ The Case of The Disappearing Bully

You know how on talk shows like Sally Jessy Raphael and Ricki Lake and all the other ones, they used to have those "geek to chic" episodes where a school bully would be surprised on the show by a former classmate they used to tease who was now hot and awesome (or, in the case of Jenny Jones, a stripper or porn star)? I used to love that shit. In fact, fantasizing about the day when I would finally appear on one of those episodes was half of what got me through middle school. I knew exactly who I would bring on, too. This girl Rae Ann, who made my life a living hell all through school. She was horrible to everyone, but I was her special project. She hated me for reasons I've never understood, nor do I really want to.

"How could you have been so cruel to this obviously marvelous human being!" Sally Jessy would say.

In this daydream, she'd be there, sitting in the chair, all raggedy and trailer park-y and possibly missing teeth. Still with the spiral perm and tight rolled pants and cruel eyes and stupid pointy face. "I can't possibly imagine who this could be, I was so popular in school!" she would say. And then I would emerge from backstage. She wouldn't recognize me because I wouldn't have braces or the huge gap in my teeth that I had before the braces, I wouldn't have frizzy hair, I wouldn't be backed into a wall on the playground while she and her minions surrounded me, demanding to know why I was wearing bell bottoms when I was not in fact wearing bell bottoms. I would be a GLORIOUS BUTTERFLY, and I would be wearing a long red sequined cocktail dress like Jessica Rabbit, because that is what I thought glamorous people wore all of the time when I was 10. I would be a Broadway Star, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Acclaimed Novelist and Renowned Tireless Advocate for Social Justice! I would tell the whole audience, nay, the whole world, how she had tortured me. How I had hid from her in the ceiling of our sixth grade bathroom to avoid her trying to beat me up. How I spent every day hoping to god she would just leave me alone, and how that never happened, ever. Except for the one time where she told me that I was pretty and could be popular if only I would tight roll my pants and not be so weird all of the time. Sally Jessy would be all like "How can you live with yourself knowing that you destroyed this poor girls childhood! And how do you feel about the fact that she is so much more awesome than you are now?" And the whole audience would cheer for me, and demand that I favor them with a song from my new show. And they would boo her, and maybe throw some rotten vegetables at her or something. She would be filled with such shame, and she would apologize for having made my life a living hell for ten years, and she would beg my forgiveness. I would give it to her. I would even offer to pay to have her teeth fixed, because that would just be the kind of wonderful, gracious person I was.

Feel free to listen to this while you read for the full effect.

I don't fantasize about that anymore. Because I am an adult now and would feel pretty weird about going on a TV show to brag about how awesome I've become. Also, I think bullying is shitty whether you grow up to become a glorious beautiful butterfly or not. For the most part, I am also pretty much over the whole Carrie Without The Telekinetic Powers era of my life. I mean, there was definitely some PTSD going on for a while. There were things that I thought and ways that I dealt with things that were a direct result of all of that. Some of them were good, like the fact that I am always very concerned that people feel included and important. I've made some great friends that way. Some of them were not so good, like the fact that it took me a very long time to accept that people who were my friends were not going to turn around one day and yell "Psych!" at me. On my more depressive days, the well that I go to is still that everyone must secretly hate me. The hardest thing to get over was this idea I had that there was something deeply wrong with me that everyone could see but that I would never be able to understand. Like the whole world was keeping some secret about how terrible I was, and I was so awful that they wouldn't even deign to tell me. A lot of that is because I never really understood how or why I had become a target in the first place. When you're a target,  it's like every single thing you do is wrong, is something people will make fun of you for. Anything you do is wrong simply because you're the one doing it. It's horrible, and it can make you insanely paranoid. 

That being said, I've searched for her for years. I've googled to no avail. I've asked people about her, and no one has any idea what became of her. Hell, they don't even know if she graduated with them (I moved to Rochester when I as 15). She's not on Facebook, though I can hardly blame her. I imagine if she did have one she'd be constantly inundated with messages from people like me. I wonder about what happened to her a lot. I wonder if she's still cruel. I wonder if she is locked up in a mental institution, driven insane by the guilt. I wonder if she pissed off the wrong person and ended up in WITSEC. It used to be because I needed to know why. I had this thing in my head, telling me if I could just understand why it happened, why I was a target, then I could fix it all. I always had a really hard time believing that people were assholes "just because", probably because my mom had me read The Diary of Anne Frank in 2nd Grade and if Anne Frank could believe that everyone was really good at heart, than how could I not think that? After all, I was just some girl who got picked on in school! I wasn't being hunted by Nazis. Who was I to not think everyone was good at heart? And if everyone was really good at heart, then they just must have had a had a reason for hating me that they wouldn't disclose to me, because it was *that* terrible, that shameful, and that awful. I realize now that this is faulty logic, I realize now that sometimes there just aren't reasons, but hell, I was a kid, not a logician. 

I don't feel like I need to know why anymore. I doubt I'd ever get a satisfactory answer, in fact, I doubt that there is one, and even if there was, I doubt that I would give even really give a shit. Growing up and meeting other people who have gone through this, whom I find nothing deeply, inherently wrong with, is sort of what made me realize that. In fact, almost every kick ass person I know was bullied as a kid. Also, realizing that I will never go through something like that again, but that I did, and that I survived, is also pretty awesome. I know that it wasn't just her doing the bullying, it was a lot of people. It was also the people who never said anything. Hell, in a way it was some of my "friends" who were only willing to hang out with me in secret, outside of school, for fear of getting taunted themselves. But a part of me will always be dying to know what ever became of her. I will probably Google her name once every few months for the rest of my life. There will still probably be days when I lie in bed and daydream up a letter to her, admonishing her for all that childhood cruelty. Hell, there will probably still be days when I have my Sally Jessy Raphael revenge fantasy. It will always feel like some strange unsolved mystery to me, it will always hang over my head in one way or another- because no matter how "over it:" I am, this girl still played a huge part in who I am today, both good and bad, and I will probably always want some sort of closure, whatever that is. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Delusions For Everybody!

So, here are two things you can know about me right now- I have not posted anything about my personal self on the internet in a few years for the same reason I have actually been avoiding the crap out of any dude that I feel may not promptly disappear after a few weeks. As previously mentioned, I had a stalking incident involving this very blog, and even thought it wasn't that bad, I never fully recovered. I didn't realize that I'd been seriously avoiding men until last night when I got a message from Rick Astley and felt sick to my stomach.
Get it? Rick Astley? Never Gonna Give You Up?

Rick Astley was not my stalker. He's just this sort of clueless dude that stuff happened with a few times by accident SEVERAL YEARS AGO who does not seem to realize (despite my ignoring him for three years) that I am not interested in him. It's not a big deal, he's not a jerk, I should not feel "threatened" in anyway. Of course, I feel completely threatened because I always have that lingering fear that a dude is going to go all Glenn Close on me again. 

However, I need to get the fuck over all of this. Now that I have come to terms with what my crazy is, I can just go ahead and stop it. 

Now that THAT'S dealt with, let me tell you about last night.

I work at a fancy ass restaurant. Last night, at said fancy ass restaurant, a lady came in wearing only a bra, a cardigan, tights and a sheer lace skirt. Not a fancy bra, mind you, but like, the same sort of t-shirt bra that I was wearing UNDERNEATH MY CLOTHES. Like a sucker. Or an Amish person. One of those things. She was all kinds of nonchalant about the fact that she was out at a fancy restaurant, on a Wednesday, in her underwear. Because why shouldn't she be? 

I was a little jealous, honestly. I've had no less than fifty seven panic attacks this week over the fact that I am obviously a hideous monster and the fact that everyone secretly hates my guts and all of my friends are just humoring me out of pity. Every time I leave the house, I want to die/ just run back to the bell tower and sob and pet my cat and eat Nutella out of the jar as the good lord intended. Before you get all "OH NO GIRL, YOU ARE LOVELY AND EVERYONE LOVES YOU AND YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY JUST FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS" on me, I should tell you that I am cognitively aware that these things are not true and also that I am totally uncomfortable with compliments and would therefore never fish for them. It's just that I've got this wacky pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder thing that makes me feel like they're true for a few days each month. It's fucking horrible

But something about the naked lady caused me to snap out of it. So, you know, thanks, naked lady!

So anyway, AFTER work I go to the bar next door to my apartment because obviously I need a goddamned drink, and I need to tell people about the naked lady. Obviously. And obviously, I end up in a conversation with some random dude about privilege systems, because that is just apparently how I roll. That's my comfort zone, I guess. 

It came up because he was talking about how he was homeless at one point and, um, was mad because a random black person yelled something out of a car at him one time? I don't know, it sounded like he made it up. Anyway, the gist of his story was the fact that said black person didn't realize that he wasn't white. 

"I am pretty sure you're white." I said, being that he was a white guy and all.

"I'm not white and neither are you", he tells me. I stare at my pasty ass arm. 


He then goes on some diatribe about how we're Italian and thus descended from Moors and thus not white. Which is actually not even true (sorry, you can't believe everything you hear in Quentin Tarantino movies...), and even if it were, it would not matter because no one is sitting around contemplating our ancestral history before deciding whether or not we get to benefit from white privilege. That is not how it works. That is just not how anything works. 

Because I have poor judgement, don't realize when I'm talking to a dumb person, and also probably just like to hear myself talk, I think I went on for about five minutes trying to explain Sociology 101 to this idiot. I am pretty sure that at one point I yelled "Race is a social construction!" into the night.

This whole "Italians are not white" thing is only something I've heard since moving to Chicago. Maybe because there are fewer of us here? I don't know. I mean, sure, some people here totally think that any relative I mention with a vaguely ethnic sounding name is DEFINITELY in the mob, and will give me knowing looks to that effect, but that is merely hilarious. That is not systemic oppression of any kind. 

So what fantastic moral lesson did I learn last night? I learned that everyone is fucking delusional in their own special way. If I am going to be delusional, I want to be delusional like the underwear girl was. I want to be that kind of delusional. Because I bet she's really happy and feels great about herself always. We should all be so lucky to be that kind of crazy. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is This The Weirdest Crisis Pregnancy Center Ever?

Ok, so, here I am, going about my own business, Googling around to see what sort of crazy crap the Republicans are pulling *today* regarding our collective vaginas, when LOW AND BEHOLD, an advertisement for an organization called "My Choice Chicago" stating, and I quote, "Abortion Chicago Free- It's Your Choice: "You May Not Need An Abortion! Free Ultrasound and Test". 

I had to "re-google" a couple other things to find it again, but please note that 2/3 of the ads in search results for "Abortion Free Chicago" are for CPC's

Though I am loathe to click on such an advertisement, for fear that said click will result in some kind of implicit endorsement of something shady, my curiosity got the better of me. Why, oh why, oh WHY might one not *need* an abortion? Inquiring minds, bitches.

Obviously, My Choice Chicago is one of those "Crisis Pregnancy Centers". If you are not familiar, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are unbelievably shady organizations that pretend to be abortion clinics, but then when a woman shows up looking to obtain an abortion, they attack her with a barrage of crazypants anti-choice lies and try to talk her out of it. There are also several instances in which these organizations have lied to women (either by telling them they're not pregnant in the first place, or by repeatedly "delaying" their "appointment" for an abortion) in order to put them off until the abortion would no longer be legal. Amazingly, these centers are funded by your tax dollars. Which is incredibly frustrating given the huge cuts to organizations that provide actual health services to women. Here are the results of a study NARAL did a while back on 15 different CPC's:

■ 73% of the CPCs investigated repeated the false claim that there
is a link between abortion and an increased risk of developing
breast cancer.
■ 87% of CPCs investigated advised that abortion will lead to severe
mental health problems.
■ 67% highlighted a link between future infertility and abortion
either through personal stories, pamphlets distributed at the CPC
or through their website. In addition, 75% of CPCs investigated
suggested a link between abortion and future miscarriages.
■ One CPC lists their position on abortion explicitly on their
website. For other CPCs, it is only after a woman arrives in-person
at the CPC that their true bias is disclosed.
■ None of CPCs investigated refer women for birth control. In
fact, 67% provided misleading information regarding the risks
associated with birth control and 60% provided medically
inaccurate information about Emergency Contraception (EC).
■ Based on research by NPCMF, the majority (87%) of CPC representatives
were medically untrained volunteers.

So, yeah. Your tax dollars at work! In the few instances in which there has been some kind of legislation to prevent these organizations from lying to women, they have insisted that it is their "first amendment right" to do so. Which is gross. It hasn't worked, but it's still gross. 

So what's different about My Choice Chicago? Remember that little blurb about "You may not need an abortion"?

Well, guess why? On their website is a darling collection of "statistics" stating that 1 in 4 pregnancies will just end in miscarriage anyway! Which, duh, is not true- only 10% of pregnancies are likely to end in miscarriage after the first missed period. But, they are more than happy to provide "testing" to see if you are one of those lucky women who don't need an abortion because the pregnancy will likely end in a miscarriage.

(This is from the Nevada branch, I couldn't find an image for the Chicago one, but it's the exact same thing)

Why, oh why, do I have this sinking feeling that any woman who walks in there looking to get an abortion will be deemed "likely to miscarry" regardless of the actual health of the fetus? Does anyone know a pro-choice, newly pregnant woman who wants to do an undercover investigation? There can be trench coats!

As it turns out, "My Choice Chicago" is part of a much larger network of CPC's called "Enlightened Woman Centers"- all of which have the "You don't need an abortion! You're just going to miscarry anyway!" angle. Do I even have to elaborate on how disturbing that is? Especially because I think we can all understand that not having to go through serious invasive surgery, or pay for said invasive surgery, might seem like bit of a relief. Surgery is scary! I'm still to scared of it to have a breast reduction! I can completely understand why someone might find this appealing on some level, despite how traumatic (and painful, and possibly dangerous) a miscarriage would be. 

Once you get to the fine print, the organization does not state that any of its centers (there are three of them in the Chicago area) actually provide abortions. Which I suppose is a plus. However, the rest of the site seems to explicitly use "pro-choice", kinda feministy language ("It's your choice! This is what Roe v. Wade said! Yay women!), which to me seems intentionally misleading. Not to mention the "Free Abortions!" ad on Google. 

I find this particular CPC far more disturbing than any other I have come across. The likely result of telling women they are going to miscarry when they will not is not only unwanted children, but unwanted, possibly unhealthy children- given the fact that a woman who believes she will miscarry will likely not get the necessary medical treatment. How these people sleep at night is beyond me. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

If I Were Christian, I'd Probably Hate Women Too

I am no religious scholar. Unlike even most people I know who are now atheists, I did not grow up with religion. The closest we ever got to magical thinking in my house was when my mom needed a break and would tell me to go look for four-leaf clovers in the back yard so that I might meet a leprechaun who would grant me wishes. Not that my relatives didn't attempt conversion- when I was 7, one of my Uncles even gave me some book on tape of "Stories from The Bible for Children"- which I actually liked (the Old Testament part, anyway.)- but it was coincidentally at the same time that I was super fascinated with the stories of Greek gods and goddesses. They were basically the same jam as far as I was concerned. 

I guess I was a pretty swift kid.

Not knowing much about Christianity in America is sort of like someone not ever having seen an episode of Saved by The Bell. It's a whole cultural zeitgeist that I just really don't get and am not a part of. While I don't think (at all) that all Christians hate women- prejudice is just as much a form of magical thinking as anything else and I don't see how it's much different than thinking you have psychic powers- I think that when Christians do hate women, it comes from a deeper place than I can really comprehend.

I started thinking about this after the "Women as Livestock" bill passed in Georgia. That's the one where women are going to be forced to carry stillborn fetuses to term (because, um, according to Rep. Terry Englund, if cows and pigs do it, women should have to as well). The whole thing was pretty jarring to me, because, I mean, not only is it cruel, but it also seems entirely pointless. I mean, even if you're against abortion... why would you want someone to carry a stillborn fetus to term? What good does that do anyone? I spent a lot of time thinking about it, because the hardest truth about people is that no one ever thinks they're being the bad guy. And then I realized- it wasn't about the fetus... it was about righteously punishing the women. For being women.

This may sound like I'm exaggerating. And I'm not saying this is a viewpoint all Christians ascribe to- from what I can tell for the most part, everyone just sort of makes their own version of religion anyway- and there are certainly Christian feminists. Given my relative ignorance of religion, I'm hesitant to go about speculating. Still, I have to think that if you really believed that we'd all be immortal beings prancing around in paradise right now were it not for some broad fucking shit up by eating an apple, if you really believed that the painful childbirth was the price women were supposed to pay for this, then maybe you'd have a bit of a chip on your shoulder too. Maybe you'd be mad that women were trying to avoid "justice." 

"To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you."

From what I can tell, women are the Big Bad of the Bible. You've got one over here cutting some dude's magical strength giving hair, another dancing around with scarves ordering a holy man's head on a platter, whatever it was that Jezebel did (I feel like it involved wearing make-up?), some other chicks getting their dad blitzed and then raping him, that dude's wife turning around and then getting herself turned into a pillar of salt. There are female demons, but all the angels are men. It seems there are a lot of stories about women using their sexuality to destroy and manipulate men somehow. A woman's sexuality is fine when it's a thing controlled by men- for instance if you want to offer your daughters up to the townfolk for rape, or have your wive's handmaid bear your child, or magically rape a virgin so that she can give birth to the savior of humanity. That's all well and good, and you are a wonderful and holy man. The problems arise when women take matters into their own hands. 

It's not something entirely specific to Christianity. After all, in Greek Mythology it was also a woman who unleashed all the badness in the world. But no one grows up thinking that story is true. I feel like growing up with these stories, with this mindset, must have a kind of an effect on a person. Because I think that when they imagine a teenager being pregnant out of wedlock, they don't see someone in an unfortunate circumstance. They see her as a vixen who used her evil sexuality to seduce a poor defenseless man and is thus being rightfully punished by god. To try to avoid that punishment is an affront to god himself. 

I could be wrong here, and I'm sure there are other factors at work. I'm not a mind reader so maybe Rep. Englund and everyone else freaking the hell out over women making choices these days have other reasons for being so fucked up. But this is at least a possibility.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Limbaugh: Why We Are Just Getting To This Now

It's been a while since I posted in this blog. It was mostly abandoned due to a weird stalking incident and then I never really got back to it since I've been slightly more busy with this one. Nevertheless.

The first bumper sticker I ever had was a "Flush Rush" sticker from NOW that I proudly placed on my 7th grade binder. I've been appalled by the man since he first appeared on the airwaves. I actually got into a giant screaming fight with my entire World History class about it, which ended with me screaming "What the hell? You can't hate immigrants! You're freaking Italian! We can't hate immigrants! We *are* immigrants!" at one kid and being sent to the office. For god knows how long now, he's been spewing horrid, racist, sexist bile all over the radio airwaves. I am willing to bet that every five seconds he says something that, by all rights, we should have tried to take him down for. So, you gotta wonder- why are we just getting to this now?

I saw a comment, somewhere, in which someone pointed out that he's been saying vile racist things about Obama and his family for the past four years- asking why we're only trying to destroy him now that he's attacking a white woman going to a fancy college. Good fucking point. And one I would vehemently agree with, normally. Except that- well, this is hardly the first time he's done it. Dude coined the word "feminazis", referred to Chelsea Clinton- then a teenager- as "The White House Dog" throughout the Clinton years, and has pretty much never spoken a word about women that would not easily be classified as vile and disgusting. We have always hated him, we have always been appalled by him- and we were certainly just as horrified by his racist statements as his chauvinistic ones. However, I think that we sorta just now realized that we could actually take him on and win.

Do you know who Anita Bryant is? A lot of people don't. Normally, I get all befuddled when people are unfamiliar with certain things- like the time four people in one day didn't know who Carole King  was, and last night when I couldn't handle the fact that this guy had never heard the term "Gesundheit" before. But in this case, it's actually pretty great thing. Anita Bryant was a former pageant girl who was trying to make a name for herself as a singer of terrible songs like "Paper Roses", which was later covered by Marie Osmond. She also *really* hated gay people, and went around saying that because they couldn't reproduce on their own, that they would be coming to a town near you to recruit your otherwise heterosexual children. Because that's how human sexuality works. It's a lot like the ROTC, but with far superior parades. And glitter! She led a campaign ("Save Our Children") in Florida against a recent county ordinance that banned discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation based on sexual orientation. She said lovely things like this:

"If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters"

Which clearly is true. I mean, now, it's totally legal to both be gay AND ruin your manicure. It is still not legal to have sex with a St. Bernard. Except in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming- where there are not, in fact, any laws against it at all.

I digress! Anyway, Ms. Bryant was also the spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice.  As a result, there was a massive boycott of orange juice and public condemnation of Bryant herself. And now she couldn't even get a gig at a D.A.R. variety show if she wanted.

When I first started becoming politically active, my mother kept telling me that we were doing things wrong. She had two pieces of advice:

1. If you're going to protest, don't look like hobos. Dress like Catholic school girls. Wear sweatervests. If people turn on the TV and see the police beating the crap out of a bunch of radicals, they don't give a shit. They think you deserve it. They see them beating up Suzy Creamcheese, it's a whole different story.

2. BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT. For years, she has been telling me that boycotts and strikes are the only things that have ever really worked. "You all don't know how to give things up. I loved orange juice. I loved grapes! But I was happy to give them up to make something actually happen. They don't give a shit about you walking around with a sign. They care about money."

And she's right. As usual. I can't tell you how freaking annoying it is to have a mother who is right about everything always. For some reason (like a lot of the things she's been irritatingly right about), even for me, this took a while to sink in. Sure. I didn't buy Coke products because of the School of The Americas, and I stick to fair trade coffee and chocolate. Mostly. I actually feel really guilty right now because there's a canister of Nestle hot chocolate in my cabinet. None of that, however, does much good when the boycotts aren't all that organized or publicized. Even I didn't realize how much better they worked than all the protests and situationist tactics we'd been trying for years. We forgot the lessons we learned from the Anita Bryant incident, from the lunch counter boycotts, from the grape boycott and more.

I think, truly, that what did it for me, and for lots of other people out there, was the success of the campaign against Susan G. Komen dropping Planned Parenthood. Because, for all my years of beating the drum, that was one of the few things I'd ever seen really work. It worked! We won! We actually won! We went after the money, and we won. In the 15 years I've been politically active, I have really never seen anything we've done actually work. Petitions, guerrilla theater, marching on Washington- none of that ever actually did anything. We still haven't freed Tibet- or Mumia- or Leonard Peltier- School of the America's still exists and sure, the war in Iraq is technically over, but it's not like it had anything to do with an especially awesome chant we came up with or anything. We've seen 90% of our causes wither away and die, and for a while, it all just seemed a little futile. The campaign against Komen helped us realize a very valuable thing- we're not going to win with heartfelt pleas, rational arguments and clever bumper stickers. We will win by getting them where they live. We will get them in their wallets.

We've been emboldened. And that's awesome. We're not going after Rush because this is the first time we've been disgusted by him. We're going after him because we finally figured out how to do it correctly. And I really hope that in 30 years, no one will know who they hell he is either.