Friday, October 23, 2015

Gender Me This

There has been many an article, blog, news story, and discussion regarding the treatment and perception of women as seen through the lens of men. Just about any book or movie. GamerGate. Sexual assaults on college campuses. Fewer women in positions of power. Celebrity nude photos. Doxing. Less pay for women. Imposter Syndrome. Lean in. Many of these musings have a similar point: that women are defined by men. Having grown up in a culture where women are defined by men, women have been conditioned to believe and accept this definition. The current rise in discussions about women’s treatment in relation to men is due to women no longer buying into this paradigm.

All throughout history, and even today in parts of world, women were considered the property of men. This great historical weight is not easily moved or overcome. The fight for gender equality, largely beginning in the 1960’s is still, 50 years later, in its early stages. As a society and culture we are shining a light into the dark corners of masculinity, the alpha male, macho men – the male perspective that has worked tirelessly promoting their own agenda to the determent of women. Shining this light to expose the narcissism and selfishness of men.

Almost all TV shows, movies, books, our entire culture! All of these place women into a certain light, paint women into a certain corner, defined by men. Over the decades in film and TV, who has created and controlled the image of women? Women's bodies have always been used in advertising to attract, peddle, and sell. Does a woman feel sexy based on what she thinks is sexy? Or what men think is sexy? Is a woman's behavior based on what she wants? Or is it a male ideal, a template, bombarding her since her earliest memories?

As you read the following quote consider that men have defined the reality in which women live.

"Think for yourself. Question authority. Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself. Think for yourself. Question authority."

"Forming in our minds their view of reality." In our culture and society as girls grow into women what has formed in their minds is men's view of reality. Question what has formed in your mind, and determine if that is indeed your true self.

And now a related tangent. Just for funsies. I want to talk about these things.

The first season of True Detective written by author Nic Pizzolatto. Do men hate women? Or do men hate themselves and feel better about themselves by mistreating women? It comes down to ego and status, power and control. I AM A MAN, DAMMIT!! In the first season of True Detective there is a decades long sexual subjection and serial murders of women and children. One man so emotionally neutered that he forgoes close relationships. A second man so caught up in the bravado of masculinity that he ignores his wife and daughters and commits multiple infidelities. The TV show received heavy criticism for treating women poorly, with stereotypically weak-women or women-in-peril characters, and generally being anti-feminist.

Female characters are indeed marginalized, the focus of the show being two men compartmentalized by their own machoism, who end up with only each other. True Detective, season one perpetuates the old school paradigm of women existing at best as accessories to men, and at worst to be used by men, often brutally, and then discarded. It is a male-centric story, which is fine, but it fails to include real-life female characters. It fails to treat any women in the story with respect. Is this laziness? Or is this simply another cookie-cutter, traditional crime story about men being men, and women defined by those men?

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels by Stieg Larsson. Adapted into three Swedish movies, and one Hollywood version. The original title was The Men Who Hate Women, a searing indication of the theme. There is another decades long sexual subjection and serial murders of women. Forced prostitution. A cabal of men in government who ignore the abuse of a woman, and who lead the charge in the abuse of her daughter. The lead male character, Mikael Blomkvist, while seemingly the most sympathetic towards women treats his romantic partners with indifference. Lisobeth Salander, the central character and heroin, stands in stark relief to the cookie-cutter women portrayed in popular culture.

Lisobeth has suffered her entire life at the hands of brutal and selfish men. As an adult she embraces and exudes her true identity, yet still the target of the sexual tyranny of men and their abuses. Stieg Larsson is not perpetuating the male-centric idea of female identify, he is crucifying it. Drawn and quartered with its entrails pulled out for all to see. The male view of female sexuality is not romanticized. The entitlement men believe they have over women results in at best indifference, and more likely in assault, rape and murder. Juxtaposed by the non-conforming image and behavior of Lisobeth who eventually triumphs over the selfish brutality of men.


"Think for yourself. Question authority."


Friday, October 9, 2015

Me and My Not White Privilege

"Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate."
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
by Peggy McIntosh

I am white. Thus by definition I must have white privilege. What is white privilege? This thing, this apparent power I never knew I had until someone who didn't like it told me I had it? White privilege is what racists give to white people while they are being racist to non-white people. Just as the victim of racism cannot control the racist, or the acts of racism, so the victim of white privilege cannot control the racist, or the acts of white privilege. Each is a byproduct of racism.

What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? Black people learn how to alter their behavior to avoid being targets of racism. In the past few years I have heard black parents relate stories of how they teach their children how to avoid confrontations with police. I know of a black man with a good job and great career who drove a very nice car but grew tired of being pulled over so he reverted to driving a not so nice car. My white privilege is I do not have to teach my children about how to avoid confrontations with police. My white privilege is I don't get pulled over as often. My white privilege is I do not arouse suspicions when I browse in a department store. My white privilege is I am less likely to serve prison time, I more likely to receive a better education, and I am more likely to find decent pay for a decent job. Is that really white privilege?

What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? The problem with racism is not black people, the problem is the racists. The problem with white privilege is not white people, the problem is the racists. Of course, in this example the racists are white. Racists can also be black, and in those situations is there a such a thing as black privilege? If I am a victim of racism at the hands of a black person then it stands to reason there are some who are victims of black privilege. Or brown privilege. Or yellow privilege. Or whatever privilege. Just as historically in culture and society men have held the power and so sexism by men is seen rightfully as the greater evil, historically in culture and society white people have held the power and so racism by white people is seen rightfully as the greater evil.

What is up with the "white privilege" movement? There are many who never witness racism and thus say racism is not a problem. Those combatting racism shout "white privilege" in an attempt to raise awareness among those who do not experience racism. "Look! You receive these benefits because of racism!!" I get it. Raising awareness. Accusing someone of white privilege just because they are white is racist in and of itself, and a white person simply receiving a benefit from a racist is not white privilege.

The term "white privilege" implies an expectation of favorable treatment based on the color of your skin. This is form of racism. They are two sides of the same coin, white privilege and overt racism. On the one side is how you treat others differently (worse) because they are not your race, and the other side is your expectation of being treated differently (better) by those the same race as you.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Travel Blog

She had to be under 5 feet tall. She was seated, but, yes, not tall in stature. Also very athletic. Somewhat like a gymnast. Alone at first, then a man arrived. Also short, muscular, looks like a gymnast, too. Same skin tone, similar features. If they aren't brother and sister then they look like two people meant to be with each other.

They talked prior to departure. She mentioned several times she wanted to workout, and she didn't want to get fat. As can be the case a woman's body image is based on an ideal incongruent with her actual body. This is a leap because she didn't actually call herself fat. She does carry a small amount of pudginess that can be attractive on the young.

For their trip she has planned out where they will eat. Only burger places seem to be listed. If she eats burgers daily then, yes, working out sounds like good life balance choice.

A man one row up has on a brand new cowboy hat. It is on his head but he is carrying the box, which seems empty. The box says the hat is rodeo style, which I guess means the sides are turned up, like his are.

Why don't I have a fit bit? I am asked by the mother of my children, one of which sits between us. Everytime I hear someone talk about their fit bit I feel like asking, if you wear it on the arm with which you masturbate how will that be reported by the fit bit? Would it record in cold hard numbers a log of your mastubatory habit? I am not going to get a fit bit to find out. I did not ask my ex-wife this question.

People choose to wear a wide variety of clothing while travelling by plane, but this is not true. Men wear what men always seem to wear, which is to say men typical underdress. It is the women who dress casual-comfortable for a flight. Sweats, yoga pants, baggy clothes. Then there is the woman who boarded a 6:15am flight on a Thursday morning wearing a tight spaghetti strap top, cutoff blue jean shorts cut way up to there, and 3 inch heels. Party on, Wayne.

Mile high club? I can barely fit into this airplane bathroom. Two people can't fit in here, much less have sex in here. Maybe the only way two people can fit in here is if they are having sex, taking up less space, joined as one. But they would have to first join up outside the bathroom, and then squeeze in. I can't even tuck in my shirt without banging the walls with my elbows.

I don't care if you are traveling together, on your honeymoon, even. If there are two of you on a row with three seats why would you sit next to each other? Why would you not have more space by sitting one seat apart? And neither of them are in the aisle seat. (Addendum: they did watch a movie together, and have to sit next to each other for that.)

I can get by with an indifferent server in most of the service industry. At resturants or stores I can be served by a robot, by a Vulcan, and I am fine with that. As long as they do their job. But a friendly, cheerful flight attendant is awesome. A flight attendant with a neutral demeanor (or worse) can go teach their grandmother to suck eggs.

It is colder on this plane than the first flight, and there is less leg room.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Man, Girl, and What the Witness Saw

Someone posted the below on Facebook. Several times I stopped myself from commenting on the post, as I did not want to be a complete ass. Instead, I will be just a regular ass and make fun of the post here.

“Just watched a 50-something man drive up to a blonde teenage girl to "ask directions" in a back parking lot at a mall. She had parked as far away as possible from the store she was leaving and was trekking across the middle of the parking lot when he pulled up to her. Really? He had to have her help? That's so creepy and sure could've ended differently.”

This post says little to nothing about the man and the girl. This post says everything about the person who witnessed it. The comments were supportive by declaring the situation to indeed be “creepy” and “scary.” What I find scary is how witnessing this simple exchange brings out such fear and paranoia.

The post included the location, a more recently built shopping mall, which means there is no back parking lot. Modern shopping malls all have one big parking lot encircling the mall. Let’s just say it was a more remote section of mall parking, if the girl was able to park so far away that she has to trek across the middle of the parking lot to reach her car, then that doesn’t sound at all like a back parking lot. The witness has included “back parking lot” in the story because it adds a level of danger. The girl was not out in the open, in a more public parking lot, for anyone to see, the girl was in a back parking lot, just one step up from a back alley, where we all know perverts linger, just waiting to do nasty things to unsuspecting blonde teenage girls.

It should be pointed out that the post was made at 2:14PM. And since the witness claims to have “just watched” this exchange, then it occurred approximately 2PM on a weekday afternoon. Bad things don’t happen in back alleys … ummm, back parking lots … only in the middle of the night. So I guess this one is a wash. Girls are abducted by strangers in broad daylight all the time!

The man talked to the girl to “ask directions.” Since the witness provides no additional information on this point then we must assume the man did indeed ask directions. Why the quotation marks? Hmmm …

  • “Excuse me, pretty blonde vulnerable defenseless na├»ve virgin teenage girl, can you tell me where I might find … DICK’s Sporting Goods?”
  • “Hello there, blonde just –asking-for-it teenage girl, how exactly can I find my way into your pants?”
  • “Greetings, my pretty, is there a Victoria’s Secret in this mall? I need to buy some clean, fresh, pure, white panties for my daughters who I assure you I am keeping save from the world by home schooling them and never letting them out of my sight or the sight of an approved guardian, but I do like to see them wearing clean, fresh, pure, white panties … what kind of panties are you wearing?
  • “Good afternoon, blonde teenage girl, I am going to pretend to ask you directions so I may ogle you, and maybe stuff you into my trunk if it weren’t 2PM in the afternoon, and we weren’t in the middle of this back parking lot, and that lady over there wasn’t witnessing this entire exchange."

How did it actually end? We must assume the man asked directions, and then the girl provided directions, and then the man drove off, and the girl proceeded to her car.
How could it have “ended differently?”
  1. She doesn’t give him directions.
  2. She gives him directions but they suck and he still can’t find what he is looking for.
  3. The girl pulls out a gun and shoots the man dead while he is sitting in his car which is still in gear and his foot falls off the brake pedal and the car idles or creeps slowly across the back parking lot like a wayward shopping cart and hits another car.
  4. A man is hiding in the back of the girl’s car and abducts her.
  5. The witness feels concern during this exchange but the man drives off and the girl walks safely to her car and the witness realizes this was just another regular everyday exchange between two strangers into which she injected her own fear and paranoia which she feels motivated to inject into her own daughter (who was with her at the time) by using this as another teaching moment but then realizes the hundreds of previous teaching moments should suffice where she instructed her daughter that strange men are the most dangerous thing in the world to girls and indeed men are very dangerous to girls but they usually aren’t strangers they are usually family or a friend or a known authority figure and she decides to let the concern pass and not put more of her fears into her daughter because her daughter is probably full-up anyway and the witness never even thinks about relaying the story nor posting it on facebook. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

7 Minute Footsteps

Life proceeds in 7 minute increments. Does everything you do take 7 Minutes? Of course not. Don't be silly. Think of the 7 minutes as footsteps; mental, intellectual, emotional footsteps. You are moving in a direction, one step at a time. Will you continue doing whatever you are doing? Or change directions?

Focus. Attention. Engagement. Think of these as making up the footsteps. Mentally. Intellectually. Emotionally. Every "7 minutes" you unconsciously decide if your focus will stay or shift, if your attention will hold or falter, if your engagement will remain or wane. Every "7 minutes."

Here is the point. The most important moment in your life, ever, is your current 7 Minutes. Doesn’t matter what you are doing. Sleeping, driving, sitting on the toilet. Your current moment is the only moment that matters. Sure, remember past moments. Sure, plan future moments. Do not become preoccupied with either. No matter what you are you doing, what you are doing is the most important moment of your life.

Stay focused on your current 7 Minutes.
Pay attention to your current 7 Minutes.
Remain engaged with your current 7 Minutes.




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Love is Simple, the Rest is Tough

While I was working on my masters in Liberal Arts I took a theater class. The professor was great. Not just because of his experience, knowledge and passion about theater, but also because of the tangents he would take during class. One time he went off on love. His main argument was that no one can define love (certainly not a new idea). He spoke of how we “love” everything. I love those shoes. I love that movie. I love this restaurant. I love that TV show. I love this weather. I love that song. I love you. His complaint here is that we adulterate love by applying it to everything we like. He pointed out that any parent who ever abused or even murdered their own children contended all along they loved their children. Many may scoff at that notion, but who are we say whether they did, or did not? Just because we think the outcome is appalling?

I say this to you. We know exactly what love is. Anyone who says they love shoes or a movie knows exactly what love is. Love is not some complex unexplainable concept that can differ from person to person. Love is one simple thing: it means you care. That’s it. You care. And not necessarily in a good way, as evidenced by those who hurt the ones they love.

I care about those shoes. I care about that movie. I care about this restaurant. I care about that TV show. I care about this weather. I care about that song. I care about you.

Love is most definitely not all you need (with apologizes to John Lennon). Loving, or caring, is important, but it is only the start. In tandem with love is devotion, which results in committed, persistent behavior (of whatever nature). Love and devotion combine to form the foundation of behavior. Think of love as the spark and devotion as the fuel, and together you have the flame (how is that for cheesy analogies!!). Caring and devotion will motivate you to act, but your behavior might be good or bad. Other factors determine whether your behavior is actually loving and caring, and not mean and hurtful.

Love (to care for) and devotion are the foundation. Together they spur you into action. But what action? Will your behavior lift someone up, or break them down? Now we get to character. Your character determines whether your “flame” will be warm and nurturing, or burning and destructive. You can find combinations of the following in all people, and they determine how they use their love and devotion, and to what end. Selfish or unselfish? Kind or mean? Hold a grudge or forgiving? Compassionate or cruel? Generous or spiteful? Open-minded or closed-minded?

To hear someone say they love you is uplifting. But of more importance is their behavior toward you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ice Ice, Baby

Icebreakers. For several years now I have been responsible for icebreakers at department meetings. I am the icebreaker king! Course, we all know each other so these aren’t getting to know you icebreakers, more like lighten the mood icebreakers. I decided it was time to act on an idea of mine to play the game Don't Break the Ice as an icebreaker. Clever, right? You know it! Around 30 people at a meeting. Say 8 tables with 4 people at each, so I needed 8 games.

I was at Target near my house and took a look at the games and found 2 Don't Break the Ice. Cool. I am thinking hit 3 or 4 more Targets or Wal-marts and I got my 8 games. Do you think you know where this going?

There are two Wal-marts close to me, to the north and south. I visit both. Zero games. I head down to the Target at Parker and the Tollway. Nothing. I scoot over to the Wal-mart at Coit and Bush Tollway. Nada. Do you think you know where this going?

At about this time you may be thinking to yourself, "Damn, Fro, just order the things online. This is the 21st friggin' century, dude!" You are entirely missing the point. It is about the quest! The task! The adventure! I am kicking it old school! I am not even going to let my fingers do the walking! What is your quest? I seek 8 Don’t Break the Ice games, gatekeeper!

Monday. A day off. Martin Luther King, Jr Day and all. Let the quest continue!!

I head up to the Target at El Dorado. Nothing. As I drive out to the Target at Custer and 121 I am beginning to entertain the notion that I can’t find 8 games locally. In which case I will certainly have to order the damn things, which pushes playing the games to a later meeting. If this Target is dry, I say, then I just might give up. A quitter. Quest failure.

The Target at Custer and 121 had 1 game! I am emboldened! I am energized! The quest continues! Targets and Wal-Marts dot Central Expressway north of the Bush Tollway. It can be done!

The very next Target, in North Allen, has 2 games. YES! And there is a Toys R Us in the area (I thought they were closing down stores.) However, the Toys R Us does not open for 25 minutes. I am not waiting around.

I go too far down Central Expressway and decide to cut over to the Target in the middle of Richardson. Along the way I pass a Wal-Mart. Nothing. And the Richardson Target? Nothing. I work my way back up Central, the Target at Parker. Score 1 game!

I keep heading back up Central, back towards the Toys R Us that opens at 10. I hit the Wal-Mart at Spring Creek. Zilch. I hit a Target in south Allen. Zilch.

Whatever Toys R Us has or doesn’t have, I am heading home afterward. The son and I are going to the movies at noon. I enter the Toys R Us. The game section is easy to find at Wal-Mart and Target. Just one aisle, or along one wall. But upon entering Toys R Us I know that things could be spread out. I do the unthinkable. I ask for help. The woman takes me to a section, similar games are there, the games I have found at each of the other stores (Cooties, Ants in the Pants, Don’t Spill the Beans). THERE IS NO DON’T BREAK THE ICE!! What? Toys R Us, you have let me down!!

Wait, she says. There will be more over here, she says. What? I say. Around the corner and down another aisle there are at least 10 Cooties games. The woman pulls them out, and hidden behind them are Don’t Break the Ice!. I grab two.

Final count:
  • 7 Targets yielded 6 games
  • 1 Toys R Us yielded 2 games
  • 5 Wal-marts yielded zero game. F you, Wal-mart!
  • Mission accomplished. Quest complete. Level up.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First and Second Tattoo

Within 10 minutes of coming up with the idea for these two tattoos I wrote exactly the following:

On my right forearm I would get the knot, and on the left forearm the same rope but just straight. Ultimately they are about acceptance. Accepting myself for who and what I am, and accepting others for whoever and whatever they may be. In a sense the knot is No Agenda, and the straight rope is No Timeline. The knot is how we often perceive life: a knot that has to be tied or untied in order to feel ecstasy, or joy, bliss, or contentment. We make our lives complex and complicated. But experiencing ecstasy, joy, bliss, and contentment is simple, as long as you don't judge yourself or judge others. Just be. Live in the now. Accept. Don't tie knots, be the straight rope.

Five months ago in August I adopted the mantra No Agenda, No Timeline. There was a discussion involving expectations and since I believe anger, frustration, and depression derive from the difference between expectations and reality, I try not to have expectations. To convey this during the discussion I said no agenda, no timeline. Don't force it. Don't box yourself in with preconceived notions. Go with the dynamic. Let all of your relationships grow out of sharing over time. No Agenda, No Timeline.

In September I read a book called The Four Agreements. As a result I created four agreements with myself. Two of them are extensions of No Agenda, No Timeline.

  • I will recognize who someone is, what place they have in my life, accept them and their role in my life, treat them accordingly, and know that they might change and if so I will change my attitude with them.
  • I will make peace with who and what I am, know and understand what motivates me, and live within those motivations.

For several months I worked to ingrain these concepts into my life and into my being. It wasn't quick and easy. I had to keep reminding myself, keep working at it. I am still working at it, and still reminding myself. I probably always will be. For several months these concepts percolated.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article and this picture of knots was used as a graphic. The article was not about the knots, they were not even mentioned. I searched for the source of the image. Was it from a philosophy? Used to explain some concept or lesson? Seems to simply have been created by a graphic artist.

One week ago I was lying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, staring at the ceiling and contemplating life. All of these elements swirled together in my thoughts and the idea of the straight, untied rope in juxtaposition to the knotted rope floated into my mind. Symbols for my first and second tattoos.

We make knots in ourselves and our lives. We erroneously believe we have to untie knots in order to experience joy or contentment.

There is no knot.