Monday, 16 October 2017

P.S. #NotMe?

A quick addendum to my previous post:

In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, there is a viral trend on Facebook to call attention to the ubiquity of sexual harassment by asking women to post "Me too" as their status if they have ever been a victim of sexual harassment and/or assault.  Since literally every woman on the planet has been sexually harassed at some point in her life, the response rate if every woman on Facebook participated would be 100%.  In fact, there was previously a #YesAllWomen tag on Twitter to highlight that fact.

I had mixed feelings about this request.  I am not a joiner by nature; if everyone is asked to post something, even if it is something I agree with, my instinct is not to follow the crowd.  It's like in yoga class when the teacher asks us all to breathe or do an asana in sync with everyone else in the room.  I always follow an irresistible urge to break the rhythm, do my own thing.  I am both a feminist and a knitter but I didn't knit a single pussy hat last January.  I am quite proud of this trait—you wouldn't catch me participating in a wave in a stadium or holding up a lighter and swaying to the music with the crowd at a concert—so there is no chance I'd play along with a Facebook request.

I also felt I had never been sexually harassed seriously enough to merit saying "me too".  I've been catcalled on the street and online but I have never been personally harassed or assaulted in a work or dating situation, or any other context.  The random catcalls that all women experience just form part of the backdrop of being a woman in public; they're not in the same league of awfulness as, say, the childhood neighbour who was raped by her father when she was 12.  I fear my "me too" would minimize hers by seeming to equate our experiences.

There is also a form of survivor's guilt:  All these other women have been harassed and assaulted, why not me?  It is never the victim's fault—not at all, not even a little bit, not in ANY circumstances—so there is no possibility of rationalizing that I avoided it because I didn't engage in any particular behaviours.  The explanation that whispers in my head is that I simply wasn't attractive enough.

Both of those thoughts—that my harassment wasn't serious enough and that I wasn't attractive enough to be a target—are appalling.  Yes, it's objectively true that rape is way worse than a catcall, just as lynching is way worse than using a racial epithet.  But both are forms of sexism or racism and neither is acceptable in a civilised society.  And I certainly don't think any woman should judge her own attractiveness on the basis of whether she has been sexually harassed.  The fact that either of those ideas crossed my mind is indicative of how persistently patriarchal our culture is.

Finally, I was uncomfortable with the idea of the onus being on the victim, and it seems that I wasn't the only one as these two responses popped up:

"'If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'
Let me translate that.
"If the victims would just all get it together to say something all at the same time, maybe then somebody will listen."
If the victims would
It's on the victims
It's on (statistically) women.

  'If all the men who have sexually assaulted, harassed, or coerced women into sex, allowed it to happen without doing anything about it, or ever gaslighted a woman about it, wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'  There.  I fucking fixed it."

Not a Good Week for Women

Oh, it's great that Jabba the Hut in a bathrobe is finally being held accountable for 30+ years of sexual assault and harassment.  But the unfolding story is like Weinstein's expanse of back hair:  It just goes on and on and you don't want to contemplate its existence, let alone look at it.

(Incidentally, Weinstein's behaviour would have been reprehensible whatever he looked like but his hideousness and smarminess are so extreme that if this were fiction and central casting had sent an actor who looked like that to play the role he would have been rejected as a caricature.)

Weinstein harassed, threatened, groped, and assaulted women in many different places and contexts but his favourite method seems to have been to invite actresses to a hotel room to (supposedly) review a script and discuss a part for her.  He'd then request some sexual favour as a condition of getting the part.  His accusers have said he demanded everything from massages to threesomes but my personal favourite was this one:

He is definitely not alone amongst members of his sex in wanting hot young women to watch him flog the bishop, but definitely alone in thinking they would actually enjoy it.  Dozens of women (by the time you read this, there will probably be a few dozen more) have said that when they turned him down, their careers suffered.  Unfortunately, this means that we now look at the young women in his films with an automatic question in our minds about whether they gave in.  Even more disturbing are the rape allegations, and those victims are also coming out of the woodwork by the dozen.  It's easier for the ones who got away to admit they were propositioned than for the ones who either acquiesced or were raped to speak up.

What they all have in common this week is an unjustified backlash for not speaking up sooner.  The general outcry is that if someone had said something years ago, he could have been stopped before he harmed more women.  I even had to school one shithead who was calling for women who hadn’t spoken up to be prosecuted as accessories for his subsequent crimes.  Sexual harassment and assault victims who don't report the crime are sometimes wracked by guilt that the perpetrator will go on to hurt others.  But the cost to victims of speaking up is almost always higher than to perps.  Less than 12% of reported rapes result in any kind of conviction.  Some of Weinstein's victims did go to the police, who did nothing.  Others were paid off for their silence.  No-one in Hollywood was surprised, both because actresses had warned others and because the environment of male entitlement to, and objectification of, women is ubiquitous, both inside and outside of the movie industry.  The casting couch isn't a myth; it's a cliché.

The Weinstein scandal coincided with my efforts to help a friend who finally left her abusive husband, got a no contact order, and is attempting to start divorce proceedings.  But she has been unable to get an attorney because she was a SAHM for 18 years.  He was the breadwinner; he controls the money, and he has hired himself a lawyer.  She has called literally every divorce attorney in her (red) state, along with the bar association, legal aid, charities for domestic abuse survivors, etc., but there are no pro bono legal services for divorce in her area.  It's infuriating.  I did some research on her behalf and found precedent for petitioning the court to order the breadwinning spouse to pay for the homemaking spouse's attorney fees in a divorce to make it a fair fight but when she ran that by some lawyers they scoffed that it wouldn't fly in 2017.  So, she is screwed.

Add to that Trump gutting contraceptive coverage, yet another anti-choice Congressman urging his mistress to get an abortion, and the fact that all of it is Hillary Clinton's fault ("Hog Emperor of Rape Culture" is my new favourite name for Trump), I was in no mood to deal generously with the inane diarrhea of messages from the online dating site I have been using.

I get around 10 messages/day and most fall into one of the following categories:

1) Men who send a generic impersonal message that they clearly send to everyone that gushes “I love your profile" or "we have a lot in common" yet when I check their profile, we’re 100% enemies.  This is the biggest category.  It seems to be common practice for men to send messages based on photos without reading profiles.  Wow, so, you’re a smoker who voted for Trump, doesn’t want kids, and is just looking for hook-ups.  Under favourite book you state that you don’t read and you think the country’s biggest problem is that “libtards" are trying to take your guns.  What is it exactly that we have in common?  Breathing oxygen?

2) Xtians telling me that I am going to hell for being an atheist and/or supporting abortion & evolution.  They usually have Bible quotes in their profiles.

3) Men who message me again after I don’t reply to their first message to tell me I must be some kind of stuck-up bitch.  That’s so endearing!  Gosh, I really missed a good one by not responding.  My loss!

4) Married men who are looking for some on the side.  (These constituted the majority of responses I got at first but they have tapered off since the site started filtering them.)

5) Men who are only looking for hook-ups.

6) Men who don’t want kids.  100% of the men who have messaged me so far don’t want kids.  At the very top of my profile it states that the ONLY reason I am on there is because I want biological children before I am too old.

7) Men who state in creepy, disgusting, or threatening terms what they want to do to me sexually.  I include in this category all the men whose messages aren’t explicitly sexual but ask bluntly where I live, if I am alone, what my phone number is, or ask me to send nude photos.

8) Men who are so illiterate or drugged out I can barely decipher their message.

9) Men who message just to tell me why they aren’t interested in me.  I find this category particularly hard to fathom as I have never felt a compulsion to message someone who doesn’t appeal just to tell them why.  (It has been suggested that men do this to women they feel are out of their league, but that's cold comfort for enduring the insults.)

10) Men who think I should feel blessed by their attention.  They usually say something to the effect that at 48 I must be thrilled to get any response.  They seem to assume they are the only one messaging me and expect me to fuck them in gratitude.  This category overlaps with one for men who tell me that I will never find what I am looking for so I should instead take what they are offering.  The married men and the men looking for hook-ups say that as a follow-up.  If I say, “not interested, looking for a relationship” they respond that, at 48, I should be grateful anyone wants to fuck me.  They disguise it as a compliment, “Wow, are you really 48?  You look amazing!  Maybe we could hook up?”  Their profile will list an age range of something like 20-35.  They don’t want to date me but deem me still attractive enough for a hook-up.  I can’t resist mentioning that these guys are usually ugly.  I get married Danny DeVito lookalikes who somehow imagine that I'd be eager to be a piece on the side for them.  The hubris that enables them to believe that any woman would want to fuck them must be staggering.  Is it the same mentality that leads repulsive monsters like Weinstein and Trump to believe that there is any woman on earth who wouldn’t be nauseated at the very idea of them?

11) Men who are looking for a rich woman to support them.  Yes, this happens a lot; it’s not all the other way around.

12) Men who friend-zone me because of my age, usually apologising that they are looking to date someone younger but that we both like horses or opera or Byatt or whatever so perhaps we can be friends.  I am happy to make new friends but could do without the preemptive age-related rejection leading into it.

13) Subs who want me to tie them up and humiliate them.  This dating site isn’t FetLife and I am not a pro domme, although it might be more lucrative than adjuncting.

14) The outliers: I’ve gotten the odd message from couples looking for a threesome, men in open relationships, and men who live abroad but travel to the U.S. on business looking for stateside pussy, etc.  What all the outliers have in common with the other categories is that they haven’t read my profile.  I have filled out every section, ticked every box that specifies serious, long-term relationship only.  Almost no-one who messages me is looking for that.  Of those that are, they have huge deal breakers:  they don’t want children, they’re Republicans, they smoke, etc.  I am overwhelmed with messages and I answer less than one out of 50.

Why don’t I just message men instead?  Because there aren’t any men whose age range goes up to 48.  60-year-olds list 25-45.  The only guys who have an open-ended age range are just looking for hook-ups.  The serious blokes are looking for someone younger even if they are my father’s age.  Yeah, yeah, I can’t blame them; it’s a biological imperative.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t piss me off and frustrate me.

Another thing that pissed me off this week:  The site has a rule that all photos must include your face.  No body-only shots, no pets, no inanimate objects, etc.  Most guys have multiple photos that violate this rule—their dog, a sunset, their six-pack, etc.  I have 7 clear face shots, more than most people, and I added in a photo of some ice cream, just for fun, with the joking caption that you have to compete with this.  Well, someone reported it and they removed it.  WTF kind of petty bullshit is that?  Why did this bother someone enough to report it?  I could report pretty much every guy’s profile for photo violations in retaliation.

Most of the messages I get are so daft or disgusting or show the asshole didn’t so much as glance at my profile, that I am getting both fed up and creeped out.  I am there for ONE purpose only: To have children.  I am not interested in hooking up.  I am not interested in dating.  I am not interested in a relationship.  (Am I not ever horny? Yes, unbearably so, constantly, but getting laid is not worth living with some narcissistic jackass.)  Above all, I am no longer interested in them.  They are a means to an end, nothing more–just as they are not interested in me as a person based on my profile but only as an object based on my photo.  Turnabout is fair play, dickheads.  I can’t afford a sperm donor nor can I afford to go abroad for IVF (no U.S. IVF clinic will take someone at 48 who refuses to use donor eggs because no-one has ever yet conceived via IVF with their own eggs at 48. The Guinness World Record is 46.) so I am looking for someone with the money to drop on IVF who wants kids right away.  That’s it!  I think the rest are all scary, egotistical douchebags & women should run a mile from them.

Now, is this bitter misandrist screed (which I appended to my profile and will probably delete in a week or two) going to reduce the number of messages I get?  No, because no-one reads my profile.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Funereal Thoughts

City Boy's father died last night, the day after his 71st birthday.  I'm finding the situation weird because, even though City Boy and I never married, he was essentially my father-in-law for 13 years.  I've spent the last few days, since I learned he was on his death bed, reminiscing and sorting out my feelings.

City Boy and I split up over two years ago and I've had little contact with his family since.  I emailed his father twice about money that City Boy owes me, in the faint hope that he might be able to put some pressure on him to pay up, and perhaps give him the money to do so.  He never replied, which angered me.  It's a legitimate debt, which I can back up with records and receipts, so it's an issue of personal integrity and I hoped futilely that his father would urge him and help him to do the right thing.  So, I have some unresolvable anger at his father for not backing me up there.

Also on the negative side, many of City Boy's flaws can be traced to his father.  That's true for everyone so we often blame our parents for our shortcomings.  There comes a point when we must take responsibility for ourselves and stop blaming them but that doesn't mean that other people can't look at us, look at our families, and make connections.  So, I've felt some frustration on that score when I observed his father modelling some of his worst characteristics.  Likewise, those flaws sometimes made it embarrassing and stressful to deal with his father in public.  I don't want to say anything too identifying on my anonymous blog but he was a Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn, and the embodiment of certain boorish stereotypes that, in environments such as restaurants, were cringe-inducing for this uptight WASP.  E.g.: In a vegan restaurant, he kept saying to the waitress, "Honey, could you go next door and get me some butter?" & repeated this routine about cream for his coffee, eggs, etc.

But he was also kind and generous.  He loved his family unconditionally.  He taught school before he became a lawyer, worked for the city until corruption drove him to leave, and he never got rich because he stayed in his working class neighbourhood, even as the demographics changed radically from Jewish to Asian and Latino immigrants, to serve local clients who needed him.  He was highly regarded by everyone that knew him for his warmth, cheerfulness, generosity, humour, and positivity.  He accepted me into the family even though I am not Jewish, and joked about our pets being his "granddog" and "grandchickens".  He took City Boy and me to Pavarotti's last ever performance at the Met.  One Thanksgiving, he overheard me say I had never gone to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and he immediately got us tickets to the Xmas Spectacular.  He would make the long drive up to see us just for one night when he had a busy work schedule, take us out for dinner and brunch the next morning, and secretly buy us a gift certificate for more meals at the restaurant.  He was a kid at heart, sometimes giving us toys for Xmas—I remember getting a Mr. Potato Head one year.  Once when we were showing him around the area on a beautiful fall day we stopped for ice cream and later passed another ice cream place where, knowing ice cream is my favourite food, he insisted we stop for a second helping.  He couldn't eat ice cream, so this was all for us.  He simply enjoyed being generous to his family; it gave him pleasure and satisfaction.

I've been reminiscing about him today, and more generally about City Boy's father's side of the family.  City Boy's aunt, his father's beloved sister, died of breast cancer on City Boy's 16th birthday (awkward timing).  His cousin, son of his father's brother, died last year of a drug overdose.  His father talked frequently about losing his own parents, and about the deaths of his own aunts, cousins, etc.  He was always conscious that time was limited and he strove to make the most of it, traveling frequently to see relatives around the country.  He came to visit us when City Boy had a Fulbright in Paris, renting a car and driving us to amazing historic attractions all over northwest France.  Since he ended up dying so young, he was right to make every moment count.

When I heard he was in hospice, I toyed with the idea of asking City Boy's stepmother if he'd like me to visit, but by then it was too late, he was no longer responsive.  I will send a condolence card to his uncle (as I did when his cousin died) and to his stepmother.  I considered going to the funeral but I don't want to create any unnecessary drama.  I may make a shiva call, if it seems appropriate.  I could bake something and bring it.  I keep making mental lists of the many practical things to be done now.  His father's law office will need to be closed up and cleared out, his car sold.  Some of this can be done by his uncle and stepmother but City Boy should take some responsibility.  He is now stuck down in NYC for all of the Jewish mourning rituals and he may not have brought enough clothes when he rushed down to his father's bedside in hospice—wait, what?!?  Why do I give a shit?  None of this is my problem anymore.  These people aren’t my family and they certainly don't give a shit about me.  City Boy has said and done such reprehensible things that he doesn't deserve a shred of consideration or help from me.  He is not a good person and the death of his father doesn't negate that.

So, why does my mind even go there?  I think I have figured it out: It has nothing to do with City Boy or his family per se.  It's just the natural human resistance to feeling peripheral in a familiar setting.  It's not rational; one of my greatest joys in not being stuck in a miserable relationship with City Boy was no longer having to deal with his family.  In the years before we split up, when the relationship was long dead, I stopped attending family events.  I was thrilled that I would never have to see them again.  I don't want to see them again.  But I felt a part of something when I was in the family, as I had when I was with Country Boy.  When you end a relationship, for better and worse, you lose the entire family, and the sense of being an insider.  City Boy and I were together for 13 years so I got to know his family well.  He'll be at the funeral with some random current girlfriend who won't know anyone.  I have no sexual or romantic interest in him (on the contrary, I don't respect him and thus find him repulsive), but I have this residual sense of belonging, like I would know exactly what to say and how to handle each relative and situation, what disputes to stay out of, how to counteract City Boy's immaturity and myopic selfishness and prod him into acting dignified (I might have failed at that), what to say to his stepmother to mitigate whatever he said that was tone deaf and insulting, etc.  It would not be a situation I'd relish, but it's one I could stage manage from years of experience.  It feels odd not to be part of it, although I am resoundingly glad not to be.  I don't want to be involved with him or his family, it just feels weird when something like this happens.  I'm sure it will fade with time.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Defending Gravity

Young women are rejecting the term "feminist".  When I hear a woman state that she is not a feminist, I grill her on her views.

"So, you don't think women should vote?  You don't think we should be allowed to drive?  Be educated?  Own property?  Leave the house without a man's permission?"

They are invariably shocked and stammer that they believe in complete equality of the sexes.

"Ah," I reply, "you are a feminist."

At which point they protest that they don't hate men and they don't believe women are superior.  That is what they believe the definition of "feminism" is.

According to one survey, only 23% of Americans identify as "feminists" but 82% agree with the statement that “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.”  In a survey of millennials, only 35% identify as "feminists" but a majority agree that discrimination against women is still a problem.

It seems we have a semantic snag.  According to the OED, the definition of feminism is, "The advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes."  Not, please note, "the advocacy of women's superiority on the basis of misandry."

So, help me out here, people.  I'm having a Rip Van Winkle moment.  When and why did the definition of feminism morph in the popular view from equality to misandry?

I can take a guess:  It's the same problem as Charlottesville.  The civil rights movement changed the laws of the land and forbid legal discrimination on the basis of race and sex.  But it didn't change people's attitudes.  It affected how they could behave, what they could say in polite company, but not their mindset.  The disgusting racist displays we have been seeing since Trump's ascendance to the presidency indicate that racist attitudes have not died out; they were just hidden underground (another reason to protect free speech, but that's a rant for another day).

In a related fashion, men have increasingly been called out on sexist behaviour so some of them have learned to put on a veneer of civility to women in the workplace to avoid getting fired.  But it hasn't changed their attitudes, just their surface behaviour.  Their resentment at having to treat women like equals has manifested in a victim mentality.  They used to be in charge and having to share power with women (and minorities if they are white) feels like a defeat, a blow to their egos.  So, they retaliated by labeling feminists as man-haters, claiming we want special rights rather than equal rights.

Gays have also been accused of requesting special rights when seeking equality.  When same sex marriage was being debated, it was common to hear opponents blathering that gays were asking for special rights.  That twist was a way of delegitimizing a bid for equality.  It's the same with feminism.  By claiming that women who seek equal rights with men are man-haters who think we are superior to men, they delegitimize the term.  Don't buy into it.  Call yourself a feminist.  Reclaim the word.  Defend gravity.

Friday, 15 September 2017

The Big E, Revisited

Today was opening day for the Big E.  Best day to go as it is the least crowded & admission is discounted, although traffic is still from hell.

My post last year about the Big E is my favourite ever post for this blog.  If you haven't read it yet, read it.  If you have, read it again.

I don't have much to add to that thorough guide except I am sorry to report that the singing animatronic dairy products are still there, ready to inhabit your worst nightmares.

On a much better note, the pumpkin pie & graham central station ice creams are also still available, with hot fudge, in the Connecticut building.
 I saw an oreo cow getting blow dried.

Somehow, I escaped without eating anything fried, on a stick, or fried & on a stick.  But I am compelled to report that this is a thing that exists:

Sunday, 3 September 2017

More Tales From The Trenches

(You can read my first post about online dating, in which I explain the dick pic phenomenon, here.)

"Is racism a deal-breaker?"

The genesis of this post lies in the moment I observed that I was asking myself that question in all seriousness.

It happened after speaking with an online suitor who ticked so many of the boxes (even ginger!) that I found myself unusually hopeful and optimistic.  But over the course of a two hour conversation, during which he asked me zero questions, it became clear that he held some racist views.  We left it that I would call him if I were still interested and I found myself considering it.  I mean, if he ticked other boxes, was believing that other races were intellectually inferior to whites something I could overlook?

It was one of those step-back-and-look-at-yourself moments that makes you question your entire life path since conception.
I have already explained in another post that I embarked on this online dating lark for two reasons only: 1) I want financial security but I have no chance of achieving it on my own; and 2) I want biological children before ye olde eggs spoil and I cannot afford to be a SPBC—new acronym I just learned: Single Parent By Choice.

Dating in such a time-sensitive, calculating way has proven distasteful.  One of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was never to be emotionally or financially dependent upon a man.  As a feminist, the idea of needing a man for his money is anathema. On the emotional side, "I've had enough so-so for the rest of my life" but the dictates of biology and finances don't give me the luxury of waiting.

Add to this some recent discussions about men amongst friends and online:  Increasing numbers of women are describing themselves as "happily" widowed or divorced, declaring themselves "post-men" or otherwise not seeking out relationships.  The general consensus seems to be that men are not worth the hassle—if you don't need one to co-parent or help pay the bills, then you are better off single.

If I am questioning whether I would seek out a new relationship if I were independently wealthy, and if many women are choosing not to date, that is a pretty depressing indictment of half the population.  There have to be some advantages to being in a relationship, right?  Most couples are together for financial reasons, but surely not all of them?  I could think of a few possibilities:  I occasionally have to move heavy objects.  It would be nice to get a lift when I have to take my car to the garage for repairs.  It would be useful to have someone to watch the house, take care of the cat, and water the plants when I go out of town.  I need daily massages.  I like to have someone to cook and bake for who appreciates it.  But none of those things requires a romantic partner, or even a male.  (And I've never met one willing to reciprocate a massage.)  Sex?  Horniness is a constant problem but I've only fucked four men in my entire life, so clearly I am not the casual sex type.  I've never had a one-night stand but one obviously does not need to be in a LTR to have sex.  Intimacy?  I've yet to date a man capable of it so that's not guaranteed in a relationship.
I posed the question about the value of relationships in a private, candid online forum populated by thousands of thoughtful women over 40.  I expected a poignant stream of responses describing the joys of coupledom that were eluding me, anecdotes, and odes to concerned, supportive partners that would restore my faith in relationships.  Or, at the very least, give me some less cynical views on dating.

I think you can guess what happened.

At this point, I don't expect to meet anyone online.  I am overwhelmed with messages (I respond to about one out of 100) but it's easy to dismiss anyone who does not tick every box on my list.  A 51-year-old man from CT messaged me yesterday and his profile reflected a well-earned cynicism about online dating: "What's so frustrating is that [after 7 years on this dating site] I have to qualify myself to mostly antisocial, contemptuous, vainglorious, standoffish, superficial, narcissistic, aloof, fickle women...Which I refuse to do. Ladies, you should be lucky to meet/date me." I can understand his frustration; I'm yet another woman who is going to see that he is only 5'8" and balding, and never write back to him.  Yet, if I met that guy in another context, perhaps he would have some qualities that might inspire compromise or there might be chemistry that overrides every other consideration.  Well, not him, he's clearly an asshole, but I mean any guy to whom I don't deign to reply based on a 5 second glance at his photo and profile. 

OTOH, I could have great chemistry with someone I met in person who turns out to be unsuitable – maybe he doesn't want kids or he doesn't have enough money.  That would suck, but at least I have a better chance in person of meeting someone whom I like rather than who ticks boxes, who inspires me to view a potential relationship other than as a necessary evil.