Friday, December 11, 2009

I Write Letters

Dear Scott Kurtz,

I’ve been a long time follower of your comic, PvP. In fact, it was one of the first 2 webcomics I read on a regular basis, and from you I discovered multiple other wonderful artists. I know you don’t know me from any other person in this world (I met you once, at Staple! in Austin, so for all it’s worth, you’ve never met me before) but it came as a punch in the gut to read your comic today.

You see Scott, I know you don’t know this about me, in fact most people don’t, but I’ve been raped. I have some dear friends of mine who have also been raped. In fact, 1 and 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been raped. It’s probable that a sizeable portion of your audience has been raped. Rape is horrifying. It’s often violent and sometimes humiliating. It can effect how people live the rest of their lives. You know what rape isn’t? It’s not anything like hearing bad music, not even if it was the most horrendous, ear-bleeding music you could possibly imagine.

And yes, I did catch that it was a reference to Deliverance. But your joke? Just wasn’t funny. Rape being used to describe anything that’s not actually rape? Is. Not. Funny. And the word itself? Also not funny. Spatula is a funny word; so is goiter. Hell, even banana can get a chuckle out of me in the right case. But I hear the word rape, and laughter is the last thing on my mind.

I’m not angry, Scott. I’m contemptuous that you have so little regard for your readers. I’m sure you won’t miss me as a reader of PvP, but I still felt I should tell you that I won’t be back, both because of this and because of your apparent support of a homophobic, bigoted company (Oh hello there eharmony ad at the bottom of the page!).

I hope your time in Austin goes well, and I sincerely hope that you realize the hurt you have caused to many of your readers.

groggette

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Every Freakin' Time

Other Person (in the middle of some other conversation): You smoke?
Me: Yeah.
Other Person: OK, here take this joint that I just produced out of nowhere.
or alternatively: Really? I never figured you for the kind of person who does drugs.
Me: Wha? ..... CIGARETTES! I smoke cigarettes!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Garden Feeds Me

Admittedly not too much, but hey I gotta geek out about something since we ended up not playing Munchkin last night.

A little over a year ago, I moved into a place that provided me with my first little bit of green space and one of the first things I did after unpacking most everything was to turn to the green space and start planting things in it. I certainly haven't had success with everything (hey didn't I plant some strawberries way back when?) and I've made plenty of mistakes that I hopefully won't be repeating the next time I go on a major gardening kick, but over all I'm really happy with what I've been able to do. I can now make myself a tasty tasty salad and/or add any combination of herbs to whatever rice or pasta I decide to cook up on a given night.

And for reals, spinach straight off the vine is fucking delicious!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's a Hell of a Town

So I just got back from NYC (ok ok so I really got back a week ago but if it's not already obvious I'm kind of lazy...) and it lucks like my Timeline of Suck has officially come to an end. Yipee! I didn't take my camera (read: I can't find my camera) but maybe I can pilfer some photos from my vacation buddies for a later post.

I know hearing about other people's vacations can often be boring so I'll try not to ramble on this one ;)
New York was awesome, as expected. We did less of the touristy thing and more of the just walking around checking out whatever came across our path thing. I didn't see The Daily Show (sorry Ben) but I did wander around the NBC studios trying to hunt down a bathroom. The Ground Zero museum they have going is heartbreaking but beautiful. I want the East Village happy hours down here! The Stonewall Inn was fabulous and the mystery shot the bartender whipped up for me and a friend was delicious. While my vacation mates went to see a Broadway Show, I checked out the NYC Halloween Alleycat race... I still find guys with tattoos on bicycles to be just about the sexiest thing ever. Drool. Why do I have to live in a city with such abysmal public transportation? And I totally need to get me one of those hard cases you can put bikes in to fly with them so the next time I go somewhere I can get around at my own speed. Anything you peeps want to hear about the trip?

Oh, and I also finally got a new car. I'll procur a batch of internet cookies for anyone who can actually guess what my new wheels are. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Timeline of Suck

Thursday before last: Hot water heater dies; cold front moves in. I start week of showering at the gym and friends' places.
Last Friday: Wreck my car and am unable to find my cell phone or house keys after wreck.
Saturday: No car, no phone and I can't get any friends to come over and let me borrow their phone. Am supposed to get my water heater replaced today but since my landlady can't get a hold of me that doesn't happen. Haven't showered since Thursday night and I still have gasoline and dirt on me from the crash.
Sunday: Finally get hot water again after I'm able to borrow a cell phone from a neighbor and call my landlady. Also get a phone and am finally able to start calling the police and insurance and arrange to get a rental car
Monday: Rental company that is only 5 minutes away from my place is an hour late. Finally get back to my car to get my phone and house keys and everything else out of it. It's pouring while I'm doing this.
Tuesday: Come down with cold and start my period early.

And all this shit right before my NYC trip tomorrow :(
All I'm saying is that next week better be the best fucking week of my life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

PAX Redux the Second: Sexay Panels

Sorry it took me so long to write the second part of my PAX adventures. Part of it was me being hella busy this past couple weeks, but another part was me being my usual lazy self. But in good news, I was not one of the cases of swine flu that broke out in Seattle that weekend!

Since I don't play many video games past Rock Band, and I doubt PAX was holding a Scrabble tournament, I decided to spend the time I wasn't basking in Seattle or nerdom in some of the panels that were offered. My apologies if my thoughts are a bit jumbled. This is what I get for waiting so long to write this up.

How to Make it in the Back Door: A Rainbow Colored Perspective of the Game Industry
The Gay Gamer panel was made up of some of the writing staff of GayGamer.net (The moderator was the genius who took on the sexism and heteornormity of EA and Dante's Inferno)and some of their friends in the industry: designers, programmers, and even PR were represented. This was hands down the my favorite panel of the ones I attended, for the truths and advice, for the insights, and for the absolute hilarity of the personal anecdotes. Plus how can you not love a panel with a title like that?

All the panelists were great, but the person I focused on most was Helen, a bisexual former sex worker who now works for Harmonix. Yeah, there was some estrogen solidarity going on, but really it was because I was able to draw some parallels with her difficulties being an out bisexual (Bisexuals don't exist! You're just a slut/perv! You totally want to have a threesome with me!) and my difficulties in coming out as a polyamorist (Poly women don't exist! You're just a slut/perv! You totally want to have a threesome with me!) She was fabulous and I could probably listen to her tell stories all day long. She also loved my vulva shirt.

It made my cold bitchy heart grow a little to hear the (little) steps these people have been able to make in an industry that is often strongly homophobic. Helen talked about how disappointing it was to have characters she developed be "straightified" before a game's release, but another panelist was able to take pride in being able to put a gay character into a military game and in getting his straight male coworkers to get as excited working on a Hanna Montana DS game as he was. The common theme was that, yes, the industry is homophobic, but it's also maleable, and momentum is building. They've seen people quick to change their language and actions once they met people different from them. Go Team Diversity!

Girls and Games: The Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry
Maybe it's just yea for low expectations, but I was seriously impressed that even a half hour before the doors to this panel even opened,the line had already folded over on it's self a couple time.This panel was packed and split pretty evenly between men and women! The panelists were a good mix as well. 2 younger (looking) women and 2 older (looking) women; a programmer, a CEO, a COO, and a designer. And an extra woohoo for diversity, they weren't all skinny and white! Whoever brought this panel together definitely deserves credit for bringing together women at all level of industry and with different experiences.

All in all, this was another incredibly informative panel. The panelists talked about how women used to be relegated to the marketing and PR side of the industry, and even when faced with a female CEO many people still assume that's the case. The only part of the panel I was less than impressed with was the answers to one audience member's question about any potential wage gap between men and women in the gaming industry. Maybe the women on this panel didn't have any data on this subject, but I felt they were just sidestepping the issue and blaming any difference on wages on women taking time off to have children, ignoring that that is already taken into account in wage gap studies.

On the topic of female avatars, Annie commented that having female characters is freeing, while Deirdra lamented that there are still no female characters/customizations that look like her. There should be more options for women, in the games themselves, and in the game characters available.

Marketing games for women and girls was another fun topic. In addition to having more options in general, the panelists pointed out that there should be more diverse focus testing, and that game publishers need to step back from the hyper focus on the young white male demographic. One panelist said games should be marketed towards ages not genders, and that when it comes to games, women and girls should be allowed to like multiple things, both first person shooters and Hello Kitty. There's no reason why it needs to be either/or.

One of the more memorable parts of the panel came when a male audience member asked the panel what men could do to help women have a voice in gaming. The moderator (and only man on the panel) Jeff from Penny Arcade answered, "Stop being dicks." I like his answer, but mine would have been even shorter, "Shut up." It may sound harsh, and I know the asker had only the best of intentions but honestly, the answer is in the question itself. You want to help women have a voice? Let them use their own voices. Don't interrupt them or talk over them. Listen to the women in your gaming group if they have complaints about how they are treated. Shut up and listen.

Sex in Videogames: A Comparative Study
Before I even left for PAX I joked with some friends that I would be that girl who questioned if the panelists were talking about sex or women's bodies. Turns out I didn't have to because, 1)someone else beat me to it, and 2)the answer was obvious when the panel came out and was entirely made up of white, (seemingly) straight men. Now the panel didn't completely suck. The panelists actually called rape "rape" (re: Custer's Revenge). They also pointed out the double standard in US culture when it comes to sex versus violence (Anna Paquin pointed out the same thing recently in regards to Tru Blood). But seriously, not one woman or openly homosexual* panelist? On the topic of sex?!? Um, fail guys.

Unfortunately for the panelists they had to deal with some technical difficulties throughout the hour, but that wasn't the only thing that turned the audience off from this panel/presentation. There was vocal dissent from several audience members about the purpose and scope of the panel, and the panelists were questioned about their backgrounds in gender and cultural (a large part of the presentation was comparing the US attitude towards sex with the Japanese attitude) issues. At one point a female audience member got up and asked why 50% of the population wasn't represented on a panel about sex. One of the panelists responded that they didn't want to have a "token" woman. The audience member quickly responded that she'd rather have a token woman than "a bunch of cocks." There was a mixture of cheers and boos from the audience but the panelists really seemed to get her complaint. One even invited her (I think legitimately) to help them on any future sex panels they might host.** Not everyone appreciated her comment though. After the panel a male audience member hunted her down just to chastise her for being rude.

Final Thoughts
I think I managed to pick some damn good panels for someone who's not as much into the gaming culture as most of the PAX goers. I do hope that in the future though, PAX is able to get more diverse people for their panels. Excepting the Women in Gaming Panel I saw only 2 women***, one on the gay gamer panel and one in the geek musicians panel (that I didn't discuss here because it mainly involved the musicians cracking jokes and people fawning over Jonathon Coulton). And over all, I only saw one person of color, Deirdra on the women in gaming panel. But really I'm just in hearty agreement with Annie from the women's panel, I hope we get to the point soon where these panels won't be needed.

*They were actually supposed to have someone to talk about sex in games from the gay perspective, but he was unable to make it out to PAX. No excuse for the lack of women though.
**I hope the panelists were serious about their offer. In talking to that woman afterwards I learned that she has actually been involved with sex in gaming panels at other conventions.
***Granted I only went to a very small percentage of all the panels offered, but I didn't see to many obviously female names when I looked at the makeup of the other panels.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Cats Are Smart

While I was at work today, one of them managed to knock my copy of The Rules into the toilet.... without disturbing the small pile of stuff that was on top of it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

PAX Redux the First: I Am a Gamer!

Yesterday I got back from Seattle, Washington, where I spent the weekend at the gaming convention to end all gaming cons, the Penny Arcade Expo. I'll get to some of the real meet of PAX in a couple days, but for now I just wanted to throw out some random thoughts about the whole trip.

Seattle has forever ruined me for any and all farmer's markets in Texas. Oh, I'll still head out to my local markets for some fresh veggies and the occasional plant, but after seeing row after row of the most delicious looking fruits and vegetables... and all the fresh fish... and the utterly ginormous bouquets of fresh cut flowers stretching for blocks on end..... Excuse me, I think there's something in my eye.

I miss hills. And bike friendly (or at least tolerant) streets.

If you are going to throw a pre con dinner and charge people $30+ a head to go to it, don't charge extra for drinks. That's just not cool. I'm not even talking about anything alcoholic. There was only one drink option available at all, for $3 more. I didn't even see any water fountains around.

Awesomeness is when you're hanging out with an old college buddy and it just so happens that you're wearing a shirt with a vulva on it and he's wearing a shirt that says simply, "balls."

I'm pretty sure that PAX is the only place I can go to wearing a shirt with a vulva on it, and no one even notices.

HEY EVERYBODY! IGOTMYFIRSTCHICKTRACT! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Paul and Storm, you guys are unbelievably talented. No really, it's true. Your fake jingle for Kleenex is made of 31 flavors of win. Now can you please cut it out with the slut shaming and hipster racism? That would be great.

Somehow, accidentally, making it to the front row of the Jonathon Coulton concert? Fucking Awesome.

And as for the title of this post, um, yeah. It turns out I'm a gamer after all. Yeah I know it sounds stupid and obvious, but seriously I have the hardest time referring to myself as a gamer. There's a couple console games I really enjoy. I'm not hesitant to jump in on most board and card games. And I used to kick major ass at Centipede and Rampage and Soul Caliber, among other titles. But I don't play any first person shooters. I never pay attention to new releases. I don't own a console of my own. I don't tabletop. Because of that I disqualified myself from "gaming". No, I'm not A Gamer (TM), but I am still a gamer, even if it is just a casual one. And a shout out thanks to Ash for pointing out what should have been obvious to me. Do any of you do the same thing? Tell your self that you're not a gamer even though you play X, Y, and Z, or something similar? What's the deal with that?

Join me next time for another edition of PAX Redux wherein I analyze the panels I went to: Gay Gamers; Women in Gaming; Sex in Gaming.

Just Watch

I've seen this before, but filthy grandeur reminded me of it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Poetry Throwback

Wherein I dig through my high school and college poetry and try to find something with which to "entertain" the masses.

Late Night Coffee
i stare in silent wonder as the words come trip-traipsing through my mind
is it love
is it sex
is it just the smell of it all making me drunk on the moment
his smoky voice rises and falls with each inflection of every verb
but he leaves the nouns alone
and does untold wonders with the apostrophe
i cannot stand these emotions bottled up inside me
but if i let them out now i'll explode
so i stay in the drunken stupor of the moment
staring at the wildflowers and him
letting his verbs work their magic on my heart
and wishing...

ETA: Older and Wiser Commentary
As you can see, this was from my "capitalization and punctuation are for assholes" phase. Doesn't every aspiring poet go through that?

Freak in the Frame

My latest musician crush right here.
If you're in Houston you should definitely check out this awesome group. They perform most Sundays at Bohemeo's open mic.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Expecting Men to Not Be Assholes Does Not Mean I Hate Them

I have to admit, I’ve kind of been floored by the response to my Dear Het Men post. I wrote that poem/letter from a place of extreme pain regarding recent events, and I never really expected it to resonate with as many people, women and men, as it did. But then this morning, a dear friend of mine emailed me a link to that post with a small rant attached to it. To her, the post was man-hating and “ascribing stereotypical and untrue characteristics” to all men. To her, the author of the post gives all feminists a bad name.

She was just joking right? I mean, she had to know that it was really me and she was just pulling my leg. I sent her back a quick email asking if she was serious. She was.

Oof. I think an actual punch to the gut would have hurt less.

Admittedly, a big part of my subsequent hurt came because those weren’t just anyone’s words she was attacking, they’re mine. And it wasn't just some random person on the internet saying these things, she's a friend who knows I don't hate men. But it also hurt because I chose my words carefully. From the time I first put pen to paper until I hit submit in blogger, I was crossing stuff out and deleting whole lines and tweaking words and phrases left and right. Because I know not all men are monsters. My letter wasn’t meant to condemn men, but to tell them that at least one person expects men to be responsible for their own actions, even if society doesn’t.

When I wrote several months ago that,
Doctors (once again) are trying to protect women from themselves, when the evidence clearly shows that we do not. need. protecting.

No one commented back to me that not all doctors are like that and I shouldn’t tar all doctors with the same brush. Instead the comments were along the lines of, “You’re right, doctors shouldn’t do that. We need to call out that doctors who do that and support the doctors who don’t.” So what the fuck is the difference now that the subject is men?

And you know what, Dear Het Men wasn’t even about me. Yes, I’ve experienced some of what I wrote about, but what woman hasn’t?
Dear Het Men was about:
The women killed or injured by Sodini.
The Amish girls killed in Pennsylvania.
The women who interact with these men.
The women of Polytechnique.
The 1 in 6 women who are raped.
These women and their families.
The girls and women attacked with acid just for going to school.
These missing women. And these. And these. And these.
Women and girls who are raped as a tactic of war.
Every Woman and girl who spoke up here.
The girls forced to be child brides.
And every woman and girl who sees their bodies treated as less than every day of their lives.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And Now For Something a Little Different

Check out these awesome sonnets devoted to genitalia over at filthy grandeur's spot:
o filthy grandeur!: How do I love thee, genitalia?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blame

I was born a feminist into a conservative Republican household. Just the luck of the draw I guess. I remember in the 3rd grade standing up and questioning our resident Playground Lady why only the boys were asked to help move tables and chairs for school assemblies. And in college I would make sure to ask questions of guest speakers in my engineering department if I noticed that no female voices were being heard. I've referred to myself as a feminist at least since high school, and I would often argue with my dad growing up on why my brother was allowed to do certain things while I wasn't.

Despite the shocked exclamations of some friends, I refuse to not go out just because I can't find a friend or date to go with me. I've never accepted that there were things I couldn't do because I had a vagina instead of a penis. In fact, I was downright ecstatic when I found that, with a little practice, I could even pee standing up.

So what did I, the Great Red-Blooded American Feminist, do when in the middle of the day, in the middle of a bike ride, a man stopped me under the pretense of car trouble and tried to rape me? I did everything I had been taught to do in this situation since I was old enough to start being taught. I screamed "no" and fought and kicked and held him off long enough for other people to show up and scare him off. I followed through with the police, identified the man, and testified against him in court.

And I blamed myself.

It was what I did the most, and I started to do it just seconds after my attack was over. All the years of natural feminism and "girl power" and I couldn't stop from wondering how much I was to blame. I knew it wasn't my fault, but I still felt it was.

I was the "perfect victim" according to the District Attorney handling my case. I was well-educated, sober, and not provocatively dressed (unless of course Lycra shorts make you all hot and bothered, rawr). No one was supposed to be able to find fault with me, but I still found a way.

This is our culture. A person can do everything "right" and still find a way to blame herself. How ingrained is the misogyny; how subversive is the idea that only women are responsible for the violence perpetuated against them? How can there even be such a thing as the "perfect victim"?

Women have to defend themselves. Women can't drink too much, or at all. Women have to be careful what they wear. Women can't go anywhere without a chaperone or else they are fair game. If women don't want sex (or just don't want sex with a particular man or men in general) they are frigid and just need a good screw. If women do want sex they are sluts who are just asking for it, and they shouldn't lead men on by telling them no. If a woman is attractive she's a stuck up bitch if she refuses a man's advances. If she is less than attractive, she should thank her lucky start that any man would look twice at her. Women have to do this. Women can't do that. Our culture has failed all of us, and my privilege blinded me to this it until it failed me.

In my home state, a man raped at least 4 men and boys and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. In another state, a man raped at least 4 women and girls and was sentenced to 8 years and was out on parole in 5. A few weeks after his release, he found me. These cases don't share many details, and as noted aren't even in the same state, but why was there a 90+ year disparity between the sentences? Of course the 1st man deserved every year of his 99 year sentence, but why didn't my attacker deserve the same? Why was his sentence no longer than 8 years to begin with?

I spent 5 months blaming myself and falling deep into depression. I couldn't even talk to anyone about it because I was sure they would see just as plain as I did what I did wrong. It took me 5 months before I realized that I wouldn't change a damn thing about that day. Someone asked me for help and I stopped to help, and I would do it again. It is not my fault that someone turned out to be a rapist. It is not my fault if there is a rapist around when I am drinking. It is not my fault if there is a rapist around while I am wearing a low cut shirt. It is not my fault if the man I go on a date with is a rapist. It is not my fault if a man decided my "I do" means an everlasting "yes." It is not my fault. IT IS NOT THE VICTIM'S FAULT.

I just wish society would back me up on this.

So Maybe This Isn't A Bike Blog Afterall

When I originally set out to write this blog, it was really just supposed to be some funky little thing where I relate my surely epic adventures pedaling around Houston, with the occasional random post thrown in like drunken book reviews or whatever else struck my fancy. But as you can tell with the disconnect between the blog title and the the topic of most of my recent posts, some thing changed. The boring part of my explanation for this is that 1) I've been a total slacker when it comes to cycling, and 2) I barely wrote anything here for the 1st year so it doesn't take too many posts on a particular subject for it to become the dominant theme of the blog.

I also came to realize something about myself. I can live without bikes. Yeah, yeah. I know it sounds simplistic and obvious but bear with me here. If something happened to all my bikes tomorrow, or if something happened to me where I was no longer able to ride a bike, or if I just got bored or disgusted with cycling and decided never to get on a bike again, I'd be OK with that. Sure, I might stare wistfully if I see a nice ride or spot someone with sambas and a rolled up pant leg, but my life would still be just fine without bikes or cycling.

I can't say the same thing about feminism. If I had to live my life without feminism, I'd be even more angry and depressed all the time than I already am. I would hate men for being men, and I would probably hate women too. I might believe that women are just as good as men, but I would think there is something inherently wrong with femininity. I know this because I did think this for several years.

Feminism isn't something I can separate out of my life. It is my life and it informs my daily interactions. So yeah, I'm still going to have the occasional post about me flicking off cars, or bashing my head into some pavement. And I'll maybe even post the occasional poem whenever I'm feeling particularly antsy. But the majority of my posts are going to deal with me working through this patriarchal world as a woman. And you and my other 3 imaginary friends who read this blog are just going to have to deal with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Like Riding a Bicycle

In fact, it was riding a bicycle.

It's been a while since I last got on a bike. I could claim it's because I had 2 surgeries (one of them major) back to back, and I've only recently been cleared to do, well, anything. But really that only accounts for my slackerness since April. The 6 months before that I have no excuse for.

But anyways, I got back on a bike Sunday night and damn it just felt so good. It was only for a 6 mile round trip but as soon as I started turning those pedals I forgot all about the 10 minute argument I had with myself before I left the house. I don't really need to ride my bike tonight. I mean I went running yesterday and I have softball tomorrow night, plus it'll be dark by the time I'm coming home....

Once I was back on the goddess though, I forgot about all of that. She was so smooth and despite my neglect I didn't even have to tune her up at all. Just pump up the tires and wipe off the dust and cobwebs.

Now I just need to work on actually remembering to take my bike lock with me. Oh well, baby steps.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dear Het Men,

You are not entitled to my body.
You do not deserve access into my pants.
I am not an object for you to receive or use as status.
If you find me attractive, I do not owe you a date.
If you find me unattractive, I do not owe you my invisibility.
I do not owe you anything, regardless of your feelings about me.

I am not a bitch for not being interested in you.
I am not a slut for dating someone other than you.
I am not your servant, trohpy, or mother if I do date you.

I am not to blame for your issues with women.
Women are not to blame for your issues with women.
We are not responsible for your inability to cope with rejection.
Stop blaming us.
It is not our fault.
We do not force you to do anything, just like you cannot force us.

Hopefully you've heard this all before.
But maybe no one's ever told you. Or you just never listened.
Whichever, hear what I am saying now.
Listen to these words.
Remember them. Memorize them.
Tattoo them on your goddamn forehead.
YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO MY BODY.

Sincerly,
A person of the female variety


Update: See here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Run to 3rd so they can bounce some more."

Really? Did you really just say that?
You think you have a right to comment on anyone's body like that?

You don't.

Talk trash all you want. It's softball. Whatever, we're just having a good time. But you don't get to sexually harass the players. And commenting on a woman's breasts? That's sexual fucking harassment.

You being drunk is not an excuse. The size of a woman's breasts is not an excuse. There is no excuse. You crossed a line and hell yes, we are going to call you out on it.

And us complaining to the ump about you so that he could confront you about your sexism? That isn't you being "told on". It's us realizing that if you feel comfortable making sexually suggestive comments about our bodies on company property, then us poor womenfolk telling you to cut that shit out (which we did) isn't going to get the job done (which it didn't).

You make your company look bad. You make the league look bad. And you identify yourselves as sexist assholes.

Fuck you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Open Letter to Drivers

Note: This was written a couple years ago after a verrrry long bike ride I took part in.

After cycling for over 4100 miles across 2 countries you tend to notice a lot of driving habits, from very good to very bad and everywhere in between. I'd like to spend some time now to discuss some of the behaviors I've noticed along the way that all motorists should be aware of so that drivers and cyclists can coexist peacefully.

Disclaimer 1: This is not a blanket condemnation of all drivers. I have a car too, and now that I live in Houston I drive more than I bike. But the truth of the matter is, some people just have no clue how to properly behave around cyclists, whether out of God-honest ignorance or just total assholery. Maybe there is something you just never realized is a bad behavior, or maybe you have a friend or coworker who does do some of the following actions. Knowledge is power; share the knowledge.

Disclaimer 2: Just as not all drivers are unfriendly towards cyclists, I know that not all cyclists behave responsibly on a bike. I've seen my share of cyclists that I just want to smack around for doing such stupid things. But for the purposes of this entry, when I refer to cyclists I refer to the responsible, law-abiding cyclists who just want to share the road safely.

So without further ado, here are my guidelines for being kind to cyclists while driving:

1. SHARE THE ROAD!!!

According to the laws in every place I've lived, bicycles are vehicles and should be treated as such. Don't tell us to get off the road, beacuase as long as it's safe and there are no signs specifically saying no bikes, we have just as much right to be there as a car does, and we do not have to be on the shoulder either (see Item 2 for the major reason cyclists stay out of shoulders). This also includes not driving as close to us as possible, not driving behind us on the shoulder to "teach us a lesson" and definitely not veering into us from the opposite side of traffic because we're interupting your drunken commute home in the morning.

2. Don't throw anything out your window. EVER.

In the words of my friend Amy: "There is a special place in hell for people who throw [anything] out their window." Throwing trash at cyclists as you drive by is unforgiveable. Seriously, what are you thinking? At best you get flipped the bird by a now irate cyclists or get a water bottle chunked at your rear window. At worst you can cause a serious crash. Why would you ever do something like that? But this rule doesn't just apply when there are cyclists around. Throwing trash out of your car at any time creates a lot of debris that often times cyclists can not ride through. This means we have to move from the shoulder and into traffic. Trust me, cyclists don't want to have to move into 50+ mph traffic any more than you would want to slow down because we're in your lane so do your part to ensure that we have a safe place to ride.

3. Give us room.

If you've ever riden a motorcycle you know that you have to aware of drafts and gusts from other vehicles... well, it's even worse for bicycles. I've been literally blown off the road before by passing cars. If there is strong wind or inclement weather, give us more room. If you don't trust a cyclist's riding abilities or your own ability to drive close to a cyclist, give us more room. If you are on a narrow road with no shoulder and you can't share the lane with the cyclist then SLOW DOWN and wait until it is safe to MOVE TO THE OTHER LANE and go on your merry way. A person's life is worth more than the extra 20 seconds this will add to your commute.

4. Honking etiquette

This one's kind of a mixed bag. Some honks are generally friendly, some are just a warning that a car is approaching, some are from total douchebags just trying to be all douchey. Some cyclists can appreciate a friendly honk every now and then and really, as long as you have the best of intentions it's up to personal preference if you want to send an encouraging honk as you pass by a cyclist. Personally, I think that all honks are dangerous honks and would be a much happier cyclist if no one ever honked at me again, but that's just me. We can hear cars coming, so we don't need a warning. Additionally, honking sometimes scares the crap out of cyclists because we're not expecting it. Remember honks are a lot louder outside of a car than inside one. If you do insist on (friendly) honking though, try to wait til after you pass the cyclist and throw a little wave out the window so we know it's friendly and we don't flick you off in return, and NEVER honk as you pull even with a cyclist.

5. Don't be a asshole.

This is your only warning mister or miss truck driver who likes to spew out that lovely cloud of black smoke right as you pass by a cyclist, I'm taking down liscense plates and you'll be receiving my asthma bills in the mail shortly.

P.S. Stop being a asshole.

6. Turning

I've hit over 45mph on my bike before.I have friends who have gotten warnings about speeding when they're cycling around town. Just this weekend I was riding with a guy who was doing 20+ mph on a single speed. Basically, some cyclists are hella fast. What does this have to do with making turns? Chances are you are misjudging the speed of the cyclist who is coming up on the road you want to turn down. So what do you do? Slow the fuck down and let us pass the road before you make your turn. This is the single biggest type of car-bicycle accidents so seriously, pay attention to this one. Do I need to repeat myself about a cyclist's life being worth more than your time?

There you have it. There is a lot more ground I could cover but with these few simple rules and guidelines you are well on your way to having a symbiotic relationship with cyclists.
And if you are still of the type that believes that all cyclist just need to get a car and get the hell out of your way, remember this: In a collision between a bicycle and a car, no matter who is at fault, the bicycle will ALWAYS lose. Do you really want someone's death or maiming on your conscious just because someone pissed you off?

Good day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why, No—I'm Not an Idiot, But Thanks for Assuming

When I was much younger, I didn't know that childless (by choice) women existed. I believed that every good girl had to get married and have children when she grew up. But even in the patriarchy-induced stupor, my girlish fantasies involved loopholes. I didn't daydream of mini-groggette's, but about convents or adoption.

I didn't want biological children then, and I don't want children at all now. Hey, I like kids; I just have no desire to have children of my own. And, well, being an atheist kind of knocked that whole nunnery thing right out of the picture. I don't want children, but—surprise, surprise—I do like sex with men (sorry, Catholic Republican parents!), so I decided to opt for a birth control that was a bit more permanent and didn't come with the negative reactions I've experienced with other temporary options. I thought about it, did the research, thought about it some more, did even more research, then decided on a permanent, nonreversible option that worked best for me and my concerns.

Unfortunately my OB didn't care about any of that. She didn't care how long I had thought about it or how much research I had done. She didn't even care about the serious reactions I was having to my current birth control method. She didn't care about any of that because she never heard it. All she heard was 25 and childless and her only response was along the lines of, "No, you might regret it. Lots of other women have."

After lots of tears and screaming into the phone (oh, I was classy, let me tell you), I decided to do some research on that one little thing that I kept being told: "Lots of women have regretted it." Something about it just didn't sit right, starting with never being told how many women "lots" is, and also not being told, despite asking numerous times, what this magical age was when I'd finally be able to determine my own reproductive future. I decided to find out for myself.

1. The most recent (2002) study I found said that only 7% off all women who were voluntarily sterilized experienced regret up to 5 years after their sterilization, comparable to the rate of women regretting their husband's vasectomy.* And the greatest risk factor for regret (according to the abstract) was when the women reported conflict with their partners at the time of sterilization. Even so, the reversal rate (not just regret) for women topped out at 2.2%.

2. In a Journal of Reproductive Medicine study that broke down the results among age groups, women under 27 years had only a 2% higher rate of regret than older women. And, the part that made me particularly happy, "single women were more certain than mothers of their decision to be sterilized."

3. A CDC study also found the same 2% difference between older and younger women, with the former having a regret rate of 2.4% and the latter having a regret rate of 4.3%.

4. The longest-running study I found (14 years versus 5 years) had the highest regret rates—20.3% for women under 30.

This last one is most likely the number (1 in 5! 1 in 5!!!! BOOGABOOGA!) that doctors will cite to young women like me, but even just looking at the abstract, 20% is not the end of the story:

For women aged 30 or younger at sterilization, the cumulative probability of regret decreased as time since the birth of the youngest child increased … and was lowest among women who had no previous births (6.3%).
Women who don't want children tend to continue to not want children. Who knew?

And what is this dreaded regret anyway? First off, regret does not necessarily mean desire for a reversal. I regret not applying to MIT for college. I wouldn't have gone there regardless, but it would be kind of neat to see if I would have been accepted. Regret can simply mean you didn't think out all the details as well you would have liked. And yes, young age is a stronger indicator of possible regret, but so is a change in marital status, having experienced marital problems at the time of the procedure, and being sterilized immediately after giving birth. And what is the best way to ensure satisfaction instead of regret? Presterilization counseling. Something I was never offered.

Yes, regret after a permanent procedure like sterilization is a horrible outcome, but looking at the numbers, and knowing how to counteract a lot of potential regret, it is ridiculous that an entire subset of the population is outright denied this procedure. Are there any other common procedures that are denied to huge swaths of people simply because of possible regret afterwards?

Liss made the point: "Millions of women have elective—and irreversible—cosmetic surgery procedures done every year, some of them high-risk, just to adhere more closely to the contemporary beauty standard, and yet doctors don't routinely discourage the practice by ominously quoting rates of regret or reconstructive surgery to 'fix' or make further adjustments to surgically-altered areas. Isn't it funny (where funny equals totally fucking infuriating) that women who want to alter their bodies to conform to patriarchal expectations aren't disabused of their desires, but women who want to alter their bodies in a way perceived (often rightly) as a rejection of those expectations are discouraged at every turn?"

Isn't it just?

This is a huge issue. Doctors (once again) are trying to protect women from themselves, when the evidence clearly shows that we do not. need. protecting. It took me 3 pages of doctors** and half a day of phone calls before I was finally able to find a doctor even willing to see me. What happens when a woman doesn't have the time that I did to make those phone calls? If she lives in a place that doesn't have 3 pages of doctors who do a certain procedure? If she gets discouraged by the constant nos and inability for anyone to listen? If she doesn't have insurance (or good enough insurance) to be able to cover the procedure when she finally does find a doctor, or if any doctor she finds will even be on her insurance plan?

This is just one more aspect of women being "less than" and it's fucking sickening. If you don't want children, you're outta luck. If you do want children, but society doesn't find you "acceptable," you could have your children forcibly taken away from you or you could be sterilized against your will or under false pretenses. You're outta luck. If you want children and you're fortunate enough that society does find you "acceptable," society will still do fuck-all for you the second you need any kind of help in caring for your children. You're outta luck. Even if you do the "right" thing by society, and give up unwanted children as opposed to aborting, you're still outta luck.

We need to fight for all of our reproductive rights, and for the rights of women who can't fight, because the people in charge sure won't do us any favors.

UPDATE: I don't know how I missed this article in all the rampant google research I did on sterilization. It describes just perfectly the frustration young women like myself go through when we are denied sterilization and the paternalism of doctors who refuse to provide us with treatment. There are 2 quotes I'd like to highlight, but definitely go check it out for yourself.

Why do we arbitrarily choose thirty? Because of the thirty years of practice in my life. Because of the number of years of experience that we, as physicians, have come to see that twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven year old women have, historically, more often than not, told you they regretted their decision to get their tubes tied.

That was Dr. Daniel Wiener, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McGill University in Montreal, who obviously did not do the whopping half a day of research that I did.

I think there's definitely this idea where a woman's function is to have babies cause your body is made to do it. My body is made to do a lot of things. It's made to run. That doesn't mean I go running every day. Nor should I have to.

And that was Lauren Green (name changed), giving the best. quote. eva.

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* In all my mad googling, the only regret rates I could find for vasectomies studied the wives and not the men themselves.

** Until I called up that last doctor, only one person even bothered to ask why I wanted permanent sterilization. At one point she asked me what I would do if 10 years from now I changed my mind. Evidently "adoption" is not a legitimate answer.

(Crossposted.)