Thursday, October 9, 2014

Privilege is a Funny Thing

There are a lot of men, especially of my generation and younger, who see women as something they are entitled to. It's really funny, because this attitude is becoming too common. There are men who have this attitude toward women, and they do it with a straight face. If a woman decides that she doesn't want his advances, suggesting thereby that she wants to make her own choices, he becomes obsessive and, with the blessing of early 2010s pop culture, he becomes more aggressive. 

How dare she deny him his suddenly urgent need to have a wife and make a family? How dare he have to find someone else, do some work, sort through the endless milling faces of society as a whole to find someone who actually enjoys his company and is happy and comfortable with the idea of becoming part of a family. The best part is that this is how we've been taught to be as men. We've been simultaneously taught that women are independent creatures when it comes to dressing and feeding themselves, but that they're also not quite human compared to us. They can make their own choices so long as they don't go against our choices.

It's sad when I really think about it. I am almost directly impacted by this attitude, and I see it every day. The majority of my friends are women, and I get to watch this happen from both sides. For whatever reason, women are also taught to be more forgiving and tactful than men, and society tells them to accept advances or be known as a bitch. It always hurts to see your friends in pain, and trust me, having someone insist that you have no right to reject them, it's painful.

This whole blog is essentially the hypothetical story of someone with straight and male privileges (which are real only to those outside of such a privilege, apparently. That's another, more hateful blog directed at straight, white, heterosexual men, and it will occur at some point) who treats dating as acquiring property rather than getting to know someone. I cannot see that being a happy life situation, and it's usually not. Unfortunately, men are taught to acquire and women are taught not to argue, even if those men are silly, talentless, worthless, undesirable, smelly bitches.

I have to say that in my experience, this attitude also extends into homosexual situations, but it meets an equal and opposite reaction. It usually goes one of two ways: either the two are mutually obsessed for about a week, then they hate each other; or one is not interested, and the other becomes more and more obsessed, and he starts to actually harass the other guy. I've been there. I've been on both sides of it, I'm embarrassed to admit. It's a sense of entitlement, and when it comes up against opposition from an equal sense of entitlement (that men have this singular ability to make their own dating choices, reinforced by society), it becomes a new creature. It becomes silly, unattractive, and almost cartoonish. Men are taught, ironically, to resist any attempts to control them.

I'm going to go back to privilege for a minute, talking about it not existing to those within it. This is something that I've seen discussed online in many, many places, and some of the discussions are informative. Others are screaming matches between straight, white, heterosexual men and the rest of the world. The thing about existing within male privilege or white privilege or straight privilege is that you're born into it. Most privileges start out as birth rights. It's all you know. It's not privilege to you, it's just the way it is. Everyone screaming at you about privilege are telling you that you're being an asshole on purpose just by living the way you've always lived.

But that's the thing, isn't it? Those of us who haven't grown up in that world get to look at it from the outside. It's a glass wall. We can see through it, but it's not our world. We see it as a box. Those on the inside can't see the box. They think the whole world is made of the same material that they live in, because the box moves with them. It goes where they go, and it's just large enough to fit around them without including anyone else. This is why privilege as defined by those outside of it does not exist to those inside it. That's why those inside it insist so hard that they have no such privilege. They can't see it. There's almost no use trying to point it out. Some of us who exist within certain privileges but not within others are able to see and recognize the ones we live outside of and therefore realize that there must be others.

Perhaps this blog has turned preachy. I suppose I might feel bad if I weren't so absolutely fed up with watching the way people behave toward one another. I guess I feel some burning need to sort things out for everyone, because the people doing it right now turn into illogical, screaming walruses when confronted with a solid argument from either side. Allow me intervene.

I don't know what I am as far as activism goes. I'm certainly not someone who goes to conventions or participates in many discussions. The word feminist has come up a few times, and I like that word a lot. I don't know the true definition of it, so I might do some research just to make sure. I do actively believe that we all need to stop living in the world we inhabit now.

I really started to cringe when the "cool story, babe, now make me a sandwich" internet meme started, followed quickly by many more almost-not-joking memes suggesting that women shut the hell up. In the last five years alone, I've watched the attitude of men toward women swing from annoyed to violent to entitled. It's almost as though women are viewed as a necessary inconvenience if one wants to have a family and pass on his DNA. That's another thing I hear more than I can stomach as a reason for chasing after a woman: "I want to have kids" or "I want a family" or "I want to pass on my genes " In gaming terms, women are an achievement to unlock. This attitude sometimes comes up with gay men, too. Occasionally, a gay man goes on this rampage to find a fag hag who will let him impregnate her so he can have a family. In my opinion, this is the most disturbing thing I've ever witnessed.

How ridiculous is it that we have all forgotten that the purpose of love and relationships is not to command and conquer Risk-style, but to get to know someone for who they are, find a friend you can live with and not kill, find someone who can stand to be in a car with you long enough for a trip to the Rocky Mountains and so on. People are not prizes to be won. People are not entitlements. People are not awarded to other people like participation trophies. That's the worst part. My generation is the worst generation in regards to this attitude because we're all used to getting awards and ribbons just for participation. Men of my generation think that merely showing up having showered and slapped deodorant on ought to be good enough. Talent is not necessary, nor is a compelling worldview or anything resembling a personality for that matter. They also don't consider what might happen if roles were reversed, because my generation also lacks the ability to step outside of their own experience. We see the rest of existence as the background of our selfies, nothing more interesting or alive than that. We lack the ability to recognize good leadership, and it relates directly to the last item, so that the people we choose to represent us have no debating skills. They scream, yell, punch and claw their way into power, and that's just how they treat debates. Discussions about abortion, feminism, gay rights or marriage equality are conducted like WWE matches.

It's unfortunate the state we find ourselves in. We're really lost, folks. The word "privilege" has almost been hijacked in a sense, because it's become a dirty word, and rightfully so in the way it's used. The actual definition of "privilege" fits the meaning we've given it recently. It's something that's a benefit of being a part of society not subject to certain rules and hardships applied to others. That's very close to the dictionary definition. The main difference is that this particular privilege seems unrevokable unless it is done willingly, and if the offending party doesn't recognize the privilege, there's nothing to revoke. You have to know you have something for it to be taken away sometimes. Isn't that sick? And you can't make someone aware that they have privilege by screaming into their face that they most certainly do or opening the argument with bullshit tiny examples like the position of someone's hands in that one movie no one but you watched. Start with big, obvious things so you don't seem like a reactionary asshole right away and discredit yourself. Trust me. You'll get fewer eye rolls if you start with the big stuff. I'd give you examples of the big stuff, but I'd like to think that Tumblr hasn't turned us all into microcomplaining social justice zombies incapable of remembering that at one time, people had problems beyond the first world PC outrage nonsense we busy ourselves with now.

This is where I get all preachy again, because people who don't know the privileges they exist within are the ones who say things like "shemale" and "talk a little more urban" and "you talk too white" and "how do you know you're gay if you've never done it with a man/woman?" and "there are plenty of women in power. Look at Oprah." People who say things like this make me want to punch them in face until they're dead. Seriously. I want to throw them off a cliff, run them over with a car, toss them into the East River and watch them sink. I dislike racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. It makes me physically ill, no matter how jokingly it's said. We ought to be a society of adults, not a society of entitled little white boys.

Yes, I said it. And if you think otherwise, that's fine. I'm not saying I'm right and you're wrong. I'm not necessarily subject to the black-and-white view of the world we as millennials exist within. I'm saying that if you do and say the things I've talked about, you're probably one of the little white boys I mentioned. You're an infant Godzilla, and the world is your sandbox. When the sandbox rebels, you wipe it clean. Am I right?

Privilege: that's how it's done. That's how you define it. That's how you address it. You have to explain what it is at the most basic level. Assume the person you're addressing has no idea what it is. Don't get into a screaming match because you think they're just being an ass and pretending they don't know your pain. It's likely that they actually don't know. Tell them, because you can scream at a brick wall all day every day until your throat bleeds, and the brick wall is not going to change. However, painting the wall will at least change it in some superficial way. It's a start. Go from there.

We are adults, even we millennials, and we need to conduct ourselves in a way that conveys this. We need to say to one another: I get that you don't get it, and here are some big obvious examples of why you need to change how you think.

Don't scream at one another. Don't live inside a box where everything is PC and friendly so that going outside requires sunglasses and ointment. Don't let Tumblr shape how you argue, because some of the material is good and some of it is just too aggressive for how tiny the examples are. If you scream and yell, expect to be more of a spectacle than a catalyst, because no one learns anything from being yelled at, regardless of what you think you learned growing up. If you want to remake the world into a kinder place, make sure you aren't identifying as a hostile takeover. No one walks willingly into a dictatorship anymore. That shit's ugly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Hard Veto Toward Trigger Warnings

I've always censored my writing. Starting with Antioch, I began refusing to write sex scenes because I wanted to prove that, contrary to popular opinion, a book could be written without dicks plunging into holes every five seconds. I had moderate success with this idea, and it encouraged me. Eventually, though, suggestions of sex leaked into my stories. It only happened if it moved the story along, and I always felt the need to warn people. I have straight male readers, and somehow, in my mind I always pictured them coming across some mention of gay sex and turning into this immature, disgusted asshole and making a huge deal out of how disgusted they were. After all, that's what society expects. Or rather, it did during the Bush era, I suppose. The gay rights movement really moved back about ten years from 2000 to 2008, didn't it? We're almost back to the level of acceptance we were at in 1999. That's another story, though. I'll get to that in another blog at another time.

It occurred to me that when I come across a straight sex scene, I survive anyway. I have no reaction to it, in fact. Why should anyone have a visceral, violent reaction to a written scene unless they are so uncomfortable with their own sexuality that they simply cannot stand how much a scene like that functions as a mirror. In which case, sad day. However, I suddenly have no fucks to give. If there's a sex scene that moves the story forward, it'll happen. You'll not be warned.

Also, trigger warnings are officially gone from my writing. I was informed a long time ago by a friend of mine who simultaneously rallies for equality and talks about "damn Mexicans" that I ought to warn people when a particularly upsetting scene is in a story. Rape, for instance. You know what putting a rape trigger warning on Spin the Bottle did? It made it my most popular story. People see words like rape and death and sex and molestation and suicide and they immediately want to see it. It is not my problem that triggers exist for people. I am no longer going to do trigger warnings. You'll read my work as it is written without warning and you'll either freak out and kill yourself because you just can’t deal with reality, or you'll see the purpose behind the scene and examine your own life. It is neither my fault nor my problem that my writing a story with a rape scene causes you to have rape flashbacks. Maybe that's what I'm going for. I'm a fucking artist, and I create worlds with the purpose of disturbing, causing emotion, causing a reaction. I personally have triggers as well. It doesn't stop me from reading if the book is triggering. Quite the opposite.

Trigger warnings are a bullshit invention of millennial hippies, telling you that you can indeed write a scene of incest, but you have to make sure everyone knows beforehand that it's there. As though life itself needed warning labels. As though every aisle in every grocery store needed a warning label saying TRIGGER WARNING: PEOPLE for those of us with social anxiety. Trigger warnings are cruise control for people who lack the ability to control themselves when exposed to triggering stimuli, and I don't write specifically for people who cannot keep their emotions in check. If someone cannot find within them the maturity and sense to be able to read one of my stories without having some kind of strong reaction that is so bad they can't stand it, they ought not read my stories. They're about to get worse. I'm releasing one of the darkest things I've ever written on Halloween, and I am through holding everyone's damn hand through their personal set of triggers. If it's a trigger for you, don't pull it and you won't get blown away. It doesn't pull itself. That's not how it works. Learn how to control yourself or get medicated. We all have to do it at some point. I am not here to hold your hand and make the world less scary by warning you of what's going to happen next. That defeats the purpose of writing. We call those things "spoilers" and they're generally frowned upon. In Spin the Bottle, the rape scene was the part of the story known as Rising action and climax. It was pretty much the end. By putting a “trigger warning” at the beginning, I let everyone know how the story ended. I am bitter, bitter, BITTER about being told that I need to use trigger warnings, because in the end, I censored myself even harder.

I realize that sounds hostile. I didn't intend for it to sound that way, but I have started to resent the idea of having to hold your hand through the experience of reading my work. I understand issues. I get them. Writing is supposed to reflect them like a mirror. Art itself is supposed to cause a reaction, sometimes unpleasant, to the world around you. In my opinion, my generation is so busy trying to avoid triggering events that we forget how to be truly moved by anything. My advice is to take some pills, calm the hell down, and enjoy the ride. The things that you consider triggers shan’t be going away, and you can’t always prepare for them. If life is really so upsetting that you need to be warned that it’s still happening around you, maybe you should retire from the internet. And reading. And movies. And social interaction. And life. I am no longer censoring myself, putting up trigger warnings, or in any way indicating to my reader what’s going to happen at the end just because it might cause some particularly unstable person to freak out. I refuse. This is art, not therapy. I am an artist. I am not here to smooth the world over for you.

Expect changes. You can accept them, or you can leave. I'm not doing this anymore. I may continue my spiral in person, but writing is my one safe place, and you will not make me put up warning signs because something makes you uncomfortable. These are my stories, and you've invited yourself into them. You wouldn't go into someone's house and insist on warnings that some of the carpets are green, and you'll not be doing something similar in the only safe place I have left to express myself. Fuck your triggers. Grow a spine or stop reading altogether, because there's a whole world of literature out there with triggering scenes. Art is what it is, and I'd rather create art that stays true to life than make sure your stupid fucking life stays free of irritants. Veto. Absolutely not.