School


Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn My rating: 2 of 5 stars This book was good, but it wasn’t. That may not be obvious since I rated it so low. Firsts tackled some tough subjects, but it didn’t really do so in a great or helpful way. I honestly wonder if it may have done more harm than good. The intention of the author, much like the intention of the main character Mercedes Ayres, was probably a good one at heart, but, as the proverb goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions cannot fix what is truly wrong with this book. I understand the attempt to soften the approach people take to cheating and slut-shaming, but it doesn’t actually achieve that. Instead, it pushes those stereotypes even further and dismisses criminal behavior as seduction and bad parenting. Luke is portrayed as the former boyfriend, while the behavior described is clearly sexually abusive. He groomed Mercedes before forcing her to perform oral sex on him and before eventually raping her. Charlie’s actions are not really any better. Filming a person having sex without their consent is illegal. Trying to physically force someone to have sex with you is illegal. Attempting to blackmail someone over their sex life is, you guessed it, illegal. But the author chooses to say that Charlie was trying to “seduce” Mercedes. No, that’s not seduction. Those are acts of sexual violence. Kim is an emotionally abusive and emotionally & physically neglectful mother, and Mercedes’ absentee father who decided to punish Mercedes for her mom’s decisions isn’t much better. Kim is portrayed as a slut and a bimbo who only cares about spending the ill-gotten gains of her ex-husband. It’s the kind of storyline that you might get from websites run by “men’s rights activists” and MGTOW. Faye is the supposed-to-be-subtle-but-really-isn’t cautionary tale. Zach is the night-in-shining armor. Angela is the good girl, the girl with the patience of a saint and who is let back into Mercy’s life too easily. Mercedes is the fallen girl/girl gone bad who takes on the sins of all those involved & is nearly ruined in the process. She is constantly obsessing over what side she should show others, which is something that a lot of people feel, but it was never really addressed in the book. Yes, there’s the whole, her mom screwed up how she thinks about sex, beauty, weight, etc., but that’s not enough to explain why she is so hyper-critical and why she is convinced that she is unlovable. And if you’re going to spend a whole book tearing down the main character’s self-esteem, then you need to spend more than a couple of pages making her act like she’s all-better all of a sudden. Sometimes it came across as preachy. No, wait, it always came across as preachy. The sex lives of most of the characters in the book are regularly criticized. Angela, Mercy’s BFF, is super-religious and pushes her faith onto everyone. (There are even Bible verses that are quoted and referenced.) Her sex-negative attitude only pushes Mercy to hide her actions. Kim’s antics seem to push the idea that adultery leads women to even more vice-filled lives. Mercy’s internal dialogue about how many guys she’s had sex with pushed the idea that girls & women who have ‘too much’ sex might be seen as used up goods. The outcome at school for Mercedes pushes the idea that women and girls have to be punished for being sexual. When Mercedes describes how she feels about sex and intimacy, even when she sometimes thinks she’s attracted to Faye, it’s almost like reading a pamphlet on sex addiction. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by the way that her pseudo-attraction to Faye was handled. I know that with sex addiction, a person might engage in sex with people that they aren’t really attracted to, but the whole “is she going to kiss me” thing that existed through most of their interactions was just shrugged away toward the end. I didn’t know if Mercedes was only thinking about Faye that way because she really doesn’t understand relationship boundaries or if she might not be as heterosexual as she eventually felt the need to declare she was. Sex addiction or figuring out that you’re LGBTQ might be an interesting topic to cover in a novel, but it needs to be addressed in a better way. Come to think of it: all of the issues that are described within the book need to be addressed properly. In attempting to counter the sex-negativity that people, especially women and girls, encounter in their lives, the book actually pushed an even more sex-negative outlook. The book essentially normalized sexual violence, parental neglect, and shaming young women for being interested in sex. That’s why I don’t think I could ever truly love this book. It almost seemed like a book I could like until it became clear that it was just another in a long line of anti-sex books with ambiguous attitudes toward abuse and sexual assault. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. View all my reviews

Review: Firsts


For people who have known me since childhood, this isn’t an unsurprising revelation. It was when I first told them. My friends would always ask me why and it was difficult to explain. It wasn’t a religious thing. It wasn’t that I hated Halloween — I will always love Halloween. It was more a habit born out of a lack of safety in the neighborhood I had once lived in. Before I was 8 years old, I lived in a rather unsafe neighborhood. Gang fights on my corner were not unusual. If I was out after dark in our neighborhood, both of my parents were with me. My dad wasn’t typically home early enough to go trick-or-treating, and my mom did not feel comfortable taking me out without him. So we gave out candy to the few kids who decided to brave it. Usually, we were done by about 7 because it just wasn’t a big deal in that neighborhood. Right after my 8th birthday, my parents and I moved into the house with my grandfather. He lived in a safer neighborhood, so it would have been fine for me to go — I could have even gone without my mom. But I didn’t. I handed out candy. All of my friends who lived in my neighborhood seemed to come by my house, and I got to see all of their costumes. It was pretty awesome. I never felt like I was missing out on the fun. If we had candy left over at the end of the night, I could pilfer it. (We typically didn’t.) The only time I really went out trick-or-treating, I went as a chaperone for my foster sister. I was fifteen and she was twelve. We only walked down our street, but it was fun. I still didn’t get candy — since I wasn’t really going out for that. I did get some money from one of the neighbors. Instead of candy, he was giving out coins for people who could correctly answer math problems. I had always been in advanced math classes and was in Algebra II that fall, so racking up money was pretty easy. Regardless of where we lived, I dressed up every year until middle school and once as an adult at a church dance. One year I was a purple bunny. Another I was a ballerina. I dressed up in an antebellum-style dress the year that I discovered the movie Gone with the Wind. I even dressed up as a clown one year. My favorite costume was when I dressed up as Maleficent, my favorite character from Sleeping Beauty — actually, she’s my favorite from any Disney movie. My mom made my costumes and didn’t seem to mind that I always wanted to dress up in fun styles, even if I didn’t go out asking for candy. I’ve attended events that were Halloween-themed, as a child and as an adult. I’ve been to haunted houses and mazes, which weren’t all that thrilling. (I don’t get scared when watching thrillers and horror films, so that makes sense.) I’ve gone to autumn festivals at school. When I was 8, I had a Halloween party and three or four friends came over. It was actually the day after Halloween, which made getting food and stuff a lot easier. (Yay, post-holiday candy sales!) We had a cookie cake and used toilet paper to turn each other into mummies — you know, without the wire hanger up the nose and the organ preservation. (Yeah, I went there.) Being the day after also meant that we didn’t dress up for the party, which was probably a good thing since it was a rainy day and everyone had walked over. When I was 24, I went to a Halloween Young Single Adults (YSA) dance with other 18–30 year-old members of the LDS church in my region. I dressed up as a hippie that night and won the costume contest. I also lost one of my favorite earrings in the world on the side of I-65 that night, so there were good times and bad ones. I didn’t enjoy the good as much as I should have because I had already had a bad month — one week earlier, my friend’s car caught fire when I was in it, then I sprained my ankle later that night — so losing my earrings just added, for lack of a better phrase, fuel to that fire. RIP beloved earrings. Anyway, I digress. I know that for people who aren’t from the United States that missing out on something like trick-or-treating might seem like it isn’t that big of a deal, but it sort of is. It’s a part of our culture, especially if you’ve been privileged enough to grow up in a place where it is safe to go out. So not having that experience did sometimes make me feel like an outsider, but I didn’t really feel safe enough to have that experience — even when it actually was safe. It’s weird that I do sort of regret not having the experience. But I’m also okay with not having it. I guess that’s one of those complicated things about being an adult — coming to terms with the stuff that you experienced or didn’t experience when you were younger. But I hope that if I have kids some day that I get to take them out trick-or-treating or, at least, let them dress up like their favorite characters because I think that getting that night of fun and make-believe is really important. Happy Halloween.

I Never Went Trick-Or-Treating As a Kid




Tomorrow is the big day. I get to see my cardiologist again. I won’t pretend to be excited about it. I’m not. I’m not dreading it either. I already know what to expect & that I need not expect the doctor to be all that personable.1   I have a feeling he will be a little nicer today than he has been in the past.2 I have discovered that doctors who might ordinarily be dismissive of me because I’m fat3 are super-excited to find out that I’m trying to exercise more & lose the weight.4 Of course, they also tend to go, “How can we let you exercise when your health is so messed up?”56 And I’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s what I tried to get across to you umpteen gazillion times before.”7 I digress.  He should be happy that I’m trying to do the healthy thing. I don’t know if he will actually be happy though. Maybe so.8 And I don’t know if he’ll approve of the exercising. I hope he will. I think he will. But I don’t know he will.9 I hope he won’t send me home in a holter monitor. I hate those things. They’re uncomfortable & they don’t go well with water, so it makes showering a no-go thing, and that causes the itching in my brain10 to go into overdrive. It’s not good when I start thinking I’m dirty.11 I know that UAB wanted a new echocardiogram ordered, but I don’t know if the cardiologist will want to do one. If he does choose to do an echo, it’ll probably be done tomorrow in the office.12 So if I go through one & find out the results before I leave,13 I will try to write an entry about it.  Oh, I went to the pool twice last week and again today. Last Friday, a woman asked me if all I was going to do was walk back and forth in the pool14 and asked how many more times I would do that.15 Anyway, I just shrugged & told her that I had no idea. Today she just smiled & headed to the other end of the pool.16  In other moments of awkwardness, this time online, there is this annoying ass group of people from Louisiana who just won’t go the fuck away on Twitter.17 LSU has let in some truly awful people into their institution as Freshmen for the 2015-2016 school year. Not only are they ignorant assholes, they know jackshit about SEC football. They thought my preference of Tigers18 wearing orange and blue meant I liked Clemson. Ew. When I pointed out that Clemson was orange & purple and not in the conference, they continued to harp on my “liking” Clemson19 and said there was no way for them to know that Auburn was the school I was referring to20 because they have lives.21 Anyway, they’ve kept my block button busy. I don’t understand how “adults” can be so childish. It’s just pathetic. They’re pathetic. I really pity them. Bless their ignorant little hearts, the real world is gonna eat them up.  Photo via Visualhunt.com He’s not. ↩Not that he’s a douche. He’s nice, but he’s not really the soft-eyed, overly compassionate type either. He’s the former head of the cardiology department at Huntsville Hospital, and the hospital is a top cardiac facility in the country, so he’s got medical skills. I’m in good hands. ↩So pretty much all of them. ↩Great self-esteem boost, guys. ↩Not a direct quote. ↩But “so messed up” is a scientific term. It’s gotta be. ↩I put off exercising for a long time for a lot of reasons, but the fact that various doctor<strong><em>s</em></strong> had told me over the years that my lungs or heart or joints or other issues weren’t healthy enough for exercise played a major part. ↩Fingers crossed. ↩That makes sense, right? ↩OCD. ↩OCD may look like a quirky, fun time. It isn’t. ↩They have a room where they do them. ↩Unlikely. ↩Bitch, I might be. ↩Until I’m hungry or tired or thirsty or some combination of these things. ↩Did I just level up on socialization? No? Damn. ↩I’ve blocked so many members of this one girl’s social group. ↩Not the cat kind. ↩Ew. ↩It’s called Google. ↩This is why they felt the need to tweet me on repeated occasions to compare me to Godzilla & various other monsters. Tweets they felt obligated to make because I don’t like Trump. Yeah, what awesome lives they must lead. There are shitlords out there who have more respect for others. ↩

Every Super-Fast Beat of My Heart



With the shooting yesterday at Umpqua Community College, do you think that America is any closer to stopping mass shootings? What could be done to prevent shootings like this? Is this an issue requiring stricter gun legislation? Is it one requiring better mental health screenings? Is it an indication of a broken mental health and/or criminal justice system? Is it an indication of something wrong with our culture in general? Why do you think violence is so prevalent in America?

Daily Debate: Oct. 2, 2015


Anyone who likes Christina Hoff Sommers should probably leave this blog. I see people talking about her debunking of the wage gap and her “equity feminism” beliefs without mentioning that she isn’t exactly the best source of what is good/bad economics- and equality-wise. Why? Well, her current job, for one. (Her previous job of ethics professor doesn’t really mesh with it.) Christina Hoff Sommers works for The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which is a “think tank” for rich white people who don’t like to think. On AEI’s Board of Trustees, there is the totally equal ratio of 24:1 (men to women). That sure sounds like equity has already been achieved there. AEI’s interests aren’t in actual equality, but in fighting America’s “culture war” and reforming education, affirmative action, and welfare. They have also been advancing their causes of making sure all voters have photo ID (potential poll tax), doubting the reality that is climate change, opposing regulation of the financial system, opposing increases in minimum wage, and defending big tobacco. “Scholars” of AEI have written articles in favor of government censorship of art. I can almost hear the goose stepping now. When he was in office, George W. Bush appointed over a dozen people from AEI to senior positions within his administration and they helped promote his war machine. Reportedly, they offered money to scientists who would dispute a climate change study. They’re big on the whole “anti-lobbying” thing and I’m guessing that that’s because you don’t need to lobby when you’ve already got people in positions of influence within the actual government. Once upon a time, Kenneth Lay (of Enron fame) and Dick Cheney were on the board of trustees; Dinesh D’Souza is a fellow there. And its current incarnation has ties to both ALEC and the Koch brothers. AEI’s affiliate, Charles Murray, published The Bell Curve in the 1990s; it established IQ was a determinant of socio-economic status. But that’s not the only issue.  

IDGI: Christina Hoff Sommers Fans



3
I read that lovely little piece on xoJane/Time about the girl who was so awesome because she didn’t have student loans. She talked about her parents and grandparents helping her pay for her education. She talked about going to a local school and living at home. She talked about all of this with the attitude that she is somehow smarter or more resourceful than those of us stuck with crushing debt. My feelings can be summed up in two words: Fuck her. That’s not very eloquent, is it? So let’s travel back to August 2001, when I started at a community college. I had to fill out FAFSA paperwork like other students. That semester (and the next) I qualified for a Pell grant. Those go to students from lower incomes to enable them to go to college. It didn’t cover enough and my parents couldn’t contribute more. I didn’t have a job. I tried multiple times to get one. On campus and off. I was 17 and I had started to college a year before I was supposed to because my mental health had made going back to high school impossible. I’d been out of a psych unit for almost four months when I signed my first signatory note. I understood what that meant: I’d need to pay it off one day. In 2001, I thought my health would improve or I’d learn to cope. In 2001, before 9/11, the economy was good. I expected to be able to pay it off. In 2001, my dad had a job. Life changed. The next year was the first time I qualified for a SEOG in addition to a Pell and a subsidized loan. Each year, I got in more debt. Each year, my personal finances were getting worse. I was living at home, but I needed all the help to get the education I deserved. My dad ended up losing his job around the time that I was planning to go to a college around two hours from home. (An out of state public university.) I was going to live in an apartment on campus, which was pretty much the only campus housing they had. I had picked out my room for the apartment and started talking to my prospective roommates. But I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t go to that school. I went to A&M, an in-state public university. I qualified for a diversity scholarship. It was supposed to cover everything, including room, board, books, etc. It didn’t. And funnily, A&M would send my grants back, so I could only pay for things with the help of loans. When I had the issue with the professors and had to take time out, I had to accrue more debt because A&M rebated my loans (including the one for the previous semester). This put a lock on my transcript. I had five years of debt and couldn’t even go to another school until I came up with thousands of dollars to pay this debt back. I needed the loans, but they made my life more difficult. They still do. I know this girl would say that that I didn’t have to get a loan or that I wouldn’t have had the rebating issue if I had managed my money better. When you’re trying to figure out how to pay fees for parking (when you don’t drive) or a nonexistent athletic complex, or you need a book that’s not at the campus bookstore so your stipend doesn’t cover it, or you’re trying to cover gas to get to school or buy food, you do what you have to do.1 My loan money had gone toward buying our groceries, along with the EBT benefits my mom qualified for at that point and my disability money. That loan money had covered hundreds of hours for classes and for food so we didn’t starve. Loans were necessary. Seeing this girl act like they’re not needed is just annoying. It stinks of a privilege level that I’ve never known personally. I applaud her ability to pay for her education, but she’s just being shortsighted in her apathy toward those who couldn’t do that. So, like I said earlier, fuck her. I considered things like selling essays, which would have been grounds for me to lose my scholarship. I also considered sex work. I was desperate. ↩

I HAVE Student Loans and I Feel Bad For Others ...


I’m pro-choice. I have been for twenty years now. I will be until my death. There is nothing that can be said or done that will change this. This leads to a lot of bad shit. People say a lot of shitty stuff when they find out that you’re pro-choice.1 Today I posted a link from NARAL on my Facebook profile that promoted an editorial in the LA Times. I had a friend respond with this–beware, it’s a bit gross:2 Have you ever had an abortion? How about an abortion where the EXPERTS were wrong on the age(12 weeks when it was actually 16) of the fetus? How about hearing the heart beat of a fetus at 12 weeks? No, I highly doubt you have. Having to go through an abortion that when the EXPERTS finally realized the actually age of the fetus with a strong heart beat and could actually determine the gender and yet still performed the abortion? To be awake to hear them auctioning out a fetus of 16 weeks, a heart beat, a gender if female and in doing so you hear them say oops as they puncture your uterus resulting in bleeding out? No I highly doubt you have? While waiting in the waiting room and hearing some stupid girl who brag on how it was her THIRD ABORTION and how she found it a great choice in birth control. This country and the people of this generation have lost ALL RESPECT of morals and how to be responsible for their actions. We have become a disposable world, even of life. The following is my response to this friend. There is also a quote included that is even more grotesque than the one above. I have not had an abortion, nor would I ever plan on having one. I do believe in individual choice. I have morals and I am very responsible. I just believe that it is not my right to make a decision on another woman’s health. And, before you ask, I have heard the argument that the decision to have an abortion ends up affecting the life of the fetus. The problem with that argument is that the fetus involved is depending on the life of the mother to survive. If a woman chooses not to carry a child to term, she should have safe, legal alternatives. Abortion is not a new concept. It existed before the decision in Roe v. Wade. All that that decision really did was give women access to safe, legal abortions. Abortions that were a lot less likely to end in the death of both the mother and child. Abortions that were a lot less likely to take away the fertility of the woman because of some infection. And every time that politicians and lobbyists try to take away the availability to those abortions, they endanger the lives of women. This is a quote from Jessica Valenti’s book The Purity Myth: “A woman in South Dakota who wants to get an abortion, for example, is subject to so many hurdles—geographic, financial, and legal—that getting an abortion is near impossible. Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, says that in her region, the obstacles make don’t women so desperate that they take matters info their own hands. “Stoesz tells me the story of an eighteen-year-old living in western South Dakota who had an unplanned pregnancy. Because of financial constraints that prevented her from traveling across the state to the Planned Parenthood clinic in eastern South Dakota, this young woman inserted a toothpick into her cervix in desperation, hoping it would induce an abortion. After several days, she became afraid and called a local doctor to help her. The doctor informed her that removing the toothpick from her cervix might cause an abortion, so he refused to see her.” After all sorts of obstacles were put in this woman’s way, she endangered her life by this desperate act because she didn’t want a child. When people argue against abortions, this is the alternative. It’s either the life of the potentially aborted fetus or the life of both the fetus and the mother. If people really wanted the abortion rate to go down, then we would have things like stronger (more informative) sex education classes. We would provide easier access to birth control, rather than have court cases like with Hobby Lobby, to prevent access. In places where abortion and adequate sex education classes are in place, the rate of unwanted pregnancies and abortion is lower. If you want to stop the abortions and have younger people be “more responsible”, then fight for that, instead of against abortions. Because when you really look at what causes the abortion rate to go down, it’s birth control and sex ed–not attempting to slut-shame, not accusing people of being irresponsible, not victim-blaming. No, if you want people to “be more responsible”, you make it so that being responsible doesn’t cost them their job or get them kicked out by their parents or isn’t so expensive that they can’t afford it. You teach them their options and ban education techniques that only promote abstinence or that give faulty information. You let them know the actual failure rates. You react with honesty and compassion. If they decide to have an abortion, you continue to have compassion for them. You believe that they know what is best for their lives. I know that’s what I’d want if it were me. I am the only person who gets to make a decision about my health. A doctor can make recommendations. My family can make their objections known. I’m the one who has the say because I’m a person and I know what is best for me. I don’t know what’s best for my friends or my family or for total strangers and they don’t know what’s best for me. It’s called bodily autonomy and respecting it means that you respect another person. And […]

If You Wanna be Pro-Life, Be Pro-Sex Education