Tag: identity

Science Fiction women who kick arse

NOTE: This post will be discussing female science fiction characters and their roles.  Therefore they may be spoilers for those who haven’t seen these shows/films.  It will also be discussing violence which may be triggering.

I was thinking today about Kara Thrace, better known as Starbuck, from the remake of Battlestar Galactia (of which I’ve only watched the first season), and the episode Flesh and Bone from season one in which she oversees/participates in the torture of a Cylon spy.  And I was thinking that typically women tend to fill the same gender roles in science fiction as they’re expected to in current day society, and those that don’t tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of hate.

I don’t condone violence, but I know that I’m fully capable of it if I thought that it was required.  I don’t think that torture is actually a way to get information from anyone, but I can understand the desperation that existed in that episode for another woman (the President) to order the Cylon to be tortured.  I do not condone torture in any way, I want to make that REALLY clear.

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Guest post: The genesis of my atheism

Hello everyone, my name is James. My wife Rebecca has kindly allowed me to write a guest post on her blog, discussing the end of my Catholic faith and the birth of my atheism. My usual writing topic is video games (here and here) so when I wrote a long email about atheism and Rebecca suggested I put it online, I did not have an appropriate channel through which to share it. This is why she gave me permission to put it on this blog as her first ever guest post. Thanks Rebecca!

– = –

As I showered this morning, I was thinking about the genesis of my atheism.

The process of losing my faith completely was a long, gradual one. At 21 I was a devout Catholic – anti-abortion, homophobic, and everything else that goes along with it. A couple of years ago, around the age of 34, I was surprised by my sudden realisation that a mostly unnoticed process of transition was complete and I was indeed an atheist.

I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but I will filling in some kind of survey or a form (the last census, perhaps?) and I was asked for my religion. Without even thinking about it, I ticked the box marked “atheist”. I then stared at the choice I had made, a little stunned. “I’m an atheist now!” I thought, shocked by the undeniable truth of it. “When did that happen?”

In my reminiscences this morning, I realised that there had been a little termite in the timber of my religious faith for almost two decades, nibbling away invisibly, until one day I found that the once solid structure had been replaced with a hollow shell. That termite was a single powerful idea that I never put into words until this morning.

In essence, that idea is this: God is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-everything-else, and he exists outside our human perception of time. All times are now to God, and all places are in his presence. This means that when he was a spirit floating over the water before the world began (if you subscribe to biblical literalism) he was aware of everything that was to come.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it, already knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, the human race would fall into damnation, that he would have to sacrifice his own son (technically himself!) to save humanity from a punishment of his own devising, and that this salvation would be scattershot at best, saving only a fraction of the people of the world.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that the future would hold the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Killing Fields, the Black Death, two World Wars, the Jonestown massacre, and countless everyday atrocities and horrors.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would suffer a multitude of cancers, blindness, brain tumours, strokes, heart attacks, and birth defects ranging from crippling to fatal.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would persecute each other based on features outside their control, that in fact God himself had built into them – the colour of their skin, the place where they were born, the religion of their parents, the sex or gender of their bodies, the sexual orientation built into their brains, and any of the other multitudes of ways in which we make our sisters and brothers into “the other”.

This supposedly supreme being, with the power to make every whim become truth and the ability to foresee every consequence of every action before he has even begun to perform it, could literally have made any world at all. Physics, chemistry, biology, and even logic and causality are subject to the will of the Judeo-Christian God, and any world we can imagine would be within his ability to create.

Yet this is the world he made, with its wars and diseases and injustices without end.

Frankly, any God that believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds is must incompetent, evil, or (and this seems to be the most likely option) simply non-existent.

Without even realising I had been debating silently with myself, I had reached the conclusion that the cruelty of the world we live in is a reflection of its chaotic, unguided development, and the occasional horrific behaviour of my own species is psychological residue of its evolution in a brutal, uncompromising, and competitive environment.

I quote Marcus Cole from the great SF show Babylon 5:

“I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

How terrible a place would the world be if all of this horror was planned? If some invisible deity were wilfully causing murder and death and famine and drought because it aided in the completion of some opaque plan that would only reach fruition in some unhinted future?

No, like Marcus I find randomness far more plausible and comforting that a murderous and vengeful man in the sky who blames me for the very faults he built into me, like Geppetto casting Pinnochio into a bonfire as punishment for his own flawed workmanship.

The wonderful folk musician Penelope Swales said well in her song Monkey Comfort:

Can you see, my friends, why I don’t find my insignificance frightening? Oh, no! I find it comforting. It steadies me. /
When I’m hounded by fear, grief or loss, frightened by my death or yours it grants me some serenity. /
Coz I’m knowing that I will die and take my place in eternity. Ah, just one more monkey that lived on a rock where 10 trillion monkeys lived. /
No more important, nor less essential, than any other snake, bear, insect, or monosteria /
And when I go, it’ll be a compliment to me if some other monkeys grieve.

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What’s wrong with me?

For the past few weeks, the gym has become increasingly harder.  Cardio (the rowing machine) has left me gasping for breath, and I’ve had to stop so I could breathe as I felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen (no narrowing of vision though, just a sensation).  I’ve been waking up more tired and almost falling asleep at work.  I feel that no matter what I do I’m putting on extra weight.  I look at the stairs at work and my body flatly tells me that climbing them is a VERY bad idea.  Today when I was folding the washing and then making the bed, I was breathing heavily and sweating.  I’m vague and forgetting things that normally I’d have no trouble in remembering.

I know I am actually really tired.  I’ve had a very stressful month[s], I’ve not gotten all the sleep I should or need, and I worked for part of my weekend at Sexpo, as well as organising most of it, instead of resting.  I hope that it’s just stress and exhaustion.  I hope it’s nothing more serious, though sleep apnoea is also on the cards.

The worst thing is that right now I’m very unhappy with me, this is not how I normally feel.  I know that my energy levels are up and down generally, but making the bed has never been an effort for me before.  I also feel that I can’t do much about it right now because I’ve just become permanent at my lovely global multinational, and I don’t want to stuff that up.

So… I’ll make a GP appointment for Wednesday or Friday night and see what can be done.  I know it might be as simple as low iron, slight asthma (worst asthma season in Melbourne for years), sleep apnoea, or stress.  I’d like to know how to fix it, so I feel more like me again.

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A reflection

My girlfriend said to me the other night, after I told her that I was typing out a (yet to be finished) post on language and it’s misuse, that she has really enjoyed watching me get into feminism and speak up about it (I’m paraphrasing).  And my immediate thought was, “no… don’t say that”.

Which I didn’t respond with, because I thought it’d be rude, and I wanted to unpack that and figure out why I had thought it and what I actually meant.  It wasn’t false modesty, I knew that from the beginning, I wasn’t attempting to be humble or to put myself down in order to seek more affirmation or praise, it was something else, and that took a while to pin down (partly because I didn’t have my mirror (James) to reflect for me what was going on in my head).

But anyway… here is what I’ve unpacked so far (and it’s late and I am tired, so hopefully this won’t be too long).  My background is in science, that’s what I studied in VCE and then I did a year of Engineering.  I didn’t understand feminism for a long time, though I would have been called a feminist by some I suspect because I demanded equal treatment in most things regardless of my gender (thanks to my upbringing – another story for another time).  Because I didn’t understand feminist thought and feminist theory, I avoided it for a very long time.  Working in the public service (Immigration – another story for another time also), where I was treated as a person first and foremost and a woman second, also meant that my encounters with sexism were few and far between.

So when I realised that feminist theory and feminism were actually directly relevant to me as an individual, and that with the power of blogs I could write about what I thought and had experienced (something I’d already done on another topic – far more personal and as a diary versus an online unpacking of ideas), I thought, “Why not write about religion, and feminism and stuff” and so did.  At this point, I had not yet discovered the Australian feminist community and was struggling to identify with the US feminist community because many of their experiences did not translate across to me so well.

Then I discovered the Australian and New Zealand Feminist Community (mostly through Hoyden About Town) and was blown away by the amazingness of the blog authors, their firm grasp on feminism and intersectionality, their engaging writing style and their apparent ability to pull a comprehensive post together regarding today’s issue with little (apparent) effort.  I felt like the three year old at the bottom of the tree, yelling up to the bigger and older siblings, asking if I can join in too.  But then that’s ok, because everyone has to start somewhere, and although I think I have good (well I think it’s good) ability to deconstruct an argument and find flaws in it (something learnt at work and through my Business Degree in parts – and my husband’s love of logic which has rubbed off a bit), I don’t feel that I am yet good at linking appropriate and relevant theory to such things.  I feel like I have an idea, but I can’t fully form it because I don’t have the language for it yet.

I’m a feminist with training wheels, which is an improvement on the feminist embryo I was some years ago.  So thank you dear readers for putting up with me as I figure this stuff out, and while I wish I could write as well as the people I follow and read in my RSS feed.

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My body and me

I do, it must be said, take my body for granted.  I live far more in my head than in my skin, perhaps part of being such a verbal thinker, that I don’t always notice my body until something goes wrong.  I’m incredibly grateful that it gets me from A to B, is getting stronger and fitter as I go to the gym, looks good in clothes (so I’ve been told) and carries my brain around.  Mostly though, it’s an afterthought.  I don’t personally consider myself attractive, though apparently I am, just because that really doesn’t matter to my image of me too much most of the time.  I am fat, and that sometimes bothers me, but mostly because my body is telling me about it through mild sleep apnoea, foot cramping (now fixed with orthotics), a small range of other mild annoyances.  I’d like to lose the 10 kgs I’ve put on this year through illness and starting a new job, and I will in time, and then my body will be happier with me.

I cut my finger badly on Saturday night while cooking dinner and every time I injure myself I’m brought back into my body and what it does, how it works and how I use it.  I discover that I use bits of my body that I don’t think about in ways that I never considered before.  I didn’t realise until Saturday night how much I use the side of my fingers, or how they are used as I move through the world.

I do love my hands, I suppose I spend more time admiring them than other parts of my body, but then again I do have a thing for hands.  And eyes… and I certainly love my eyes.  I will stare quite happily at them in a mirror for minutes at a time, provided I’m not caught doing so.  I like to touch things and feel them against my skin (well some things), and I’m currently intrigued with my body being as hairy as it is right now for the first time since puberty, as I’ve stopped waxing while dealing with a case of recurring hives (and wanting less triggers for itches than I already have), and feeling the wind interacting with my leg hair is certainly a sensation I’d completely forgotten.

I do have self image crises from time to time, worry that I’m not attractive enough (whatever that really means – I’m not even sure now – but its a crisis when it happens), or that I’m not able to fit into that corset I bought 4 years ago when I weighed less.  Generally though I’ve reached a point where I know that this is the only body I’m going to have and that I should start appreciating it and stop hating it (I reached that about 5 years ago).  I’m at that point where if someone else has a problem with the way I look or am shaped, then that’s their problem and certainly not mine.  It’s made my life easier, but also means that since I’m not stressing about how I look or what others think, that I tend not stress or think about my body very much – which may or may not be a good thing.  I dress professionally (though usually comfortably) for work, comfortably and whatever works for home, and when I go out, if I feel like dressing up I do, but if I don’t, then I don’t.

I’m incredibly grateful I’m surrounded by people who love me for who I am, enjoy spending time with me, love my brain and my body and that they are the ones who matter most to me.  Random people who know nothing about me can say all they like about my physical appearance, and I won’t care – those that love me, know me and care about me – their opinion matters when I ask (which I don’t), “does my arse look big in this?) or when I actually ask, “How’m I lookin’?”

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A matter of respect

Dear Colleague and everyone else that does this,

I have a small request.  If I ask you to not refer to me by a particular name, then don’t.  I don’t care if you think it’s funny or cute or sounds interesting, if I ask you to stop using it in relation to me, just do.  To not do so, indicates that you don’t respect my wishes and think that your fun, desires, whatever are more important than mine.

I know that it can seem trivial, but there are lots of good reasons why people don’t want to be known by particular names or labels, or want to be known by particular names and labels and it is not your place to judge their desires, and ignoring them suggests that your desire to label them or to call them something is far more important, regardless of the reasons why they don’t want you to.

It is not your place to judge the validity of the reasons why someone refuses a label or name.  It should be enough that I can say, “Do not call me X”, without also having to provide a reason behind that.  And if I do provide a reason, listen to that reason and respect it, no matter how irrelevant you find it.  Because it matters to me, if you respect me then it should matter to you.

Yes, my reasons for not liking the name “Becky” may seem trivial, but I hate that name being applied to me and have threatened violence upon people who have called me that name,  unknowingly or otherwise.  So when I ask you to not use that name, just don’t.  Because when you do, I know that you really don’t respect my wishes about how I want to be known.

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Sometimes it is just about sex

I participated yesterday in the comments section of an article on The Age about infidelity and again whether or not monogamy is the answer to everything (it is, but not for everyone).

The comments, on the whole, were quite positive, very little slut shaming going on and some people opening up about how infidelity has hurt them.  Quite a few members of Australia’s poly community (myself included) spoke about being ethically non-monogamous, how expecting that one person can fill all your needs is unrealistic and that with trust and honesty, insecurity and jealousy can be reduced.

One commenter agreed that one person could not meet all your needs, but that was what friends and family were for and asked why it always had to be about sex.  I suggested, in response, that because sometimes it was.  I gave two examples, of which they responded to only one.  The first (the one that wasn’t responded to) was about non-monogamous bisexuals who wanted/needed the sexual contact of the gender of partner they weren’t seeing right now or felt more balanced when they had partners with different genders.

The second, which was responded to, was about BDSM and what did you do if your partner wasn’t into BDSM and you wanted that outlet.  I was told by the commenter that they were a BDSM practitioner and BDSM is all about freedom and not sex.  And that’s where I stopped playing and went and did something else.  Because, you see, it can be all about sex.

Prescriptive responses like that tend to annoy me.  It leaves no room for someone who wants their sex rough, if we stick with the example above, and for whom BDSM does not cease on penetration (as I’ve read it is “supposed to” in some books).  Clearly there are multiple groups in the BDSM community who practice their flavour of BDSM in different ways.  There is, apart from safe, sane and consensual, no right way to practice BDSM.  There are things that work for some people and things that work for others.  Telling me what BDSM is, as if it applies to EVERYONE else on the planet who is interested, dismisses my beliefs and experience with BDSM as not being correct or right or pure… basically that I did something else that wasn’t BDSM even if I call it that.

There is no one way for most things that people do.  There is no one way to be gay, there is no one way to orgasm, there is no one way to be trans*, there is no one way to be disabled, there is no one way to be white, there is no one way to be a person of colour, etc.  Each of these things are customised by me, my thoughts, experiences and feelings.  The people I tend to associate with get this, thankfully, so I do not have to constantly fight to identify certain ways or to use language that fits me best.  I am privileged in that way and grateful for it.

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Things I have learnt – kitchen edition

Although not a post about everything I’ve learnt (because that would take a very long time to catalogue, and you’d all be bored before I was done), this is a post about cooking mostly.

I was a very precocious child (I have finally looked up what that actually means and yes it does fit me).  My mother had a stroke when I was 3, and that’s when I started acting like an adult – well as much as a 3 year old can.  By the age of 5 I had 3 younger sisters and I looked out and after them – though I didn’t actually have to clean up after them or cook food for them.  My early memories of my mother after her stroke were of a woman who slept a lot of the time, which is understandable really.

I cannot remember exactly how old I was, but it probably was about 8 or 9, I decided I was going to make some biscuits for everyone.  Apart from helping mum chop up ingredients (with blunt knives) for Christmas puddings, I had never actually cooked anything all by myself.  I thought that making biscuits would be nice for everyone when they came home from where ever they all were.  I remember my parents were not in the house, and I’m not sure about my sisters.

So, the chocolate biscuits, you see the recipe said that the biscuits were chocolate, but I had no idea what cocoa was, so I used chocolate Quik instead (I can’t remember them tasting evil, so the Quik must have been ok).  I knew I was not allowed to light the oven, or play with it, so I went next door and asked my neighbour if she could come and light the oven for me.  She stayed to supervise the rest of the proceedings.

From thereon, I learnt how to cook, mostly teaching myself by following recipes and clearly not daunted by things that looked complicated as long as the recipe was complete and had clear instructions.  I also learnt that there were some ingredients where measurements were guides and others that had to be exact.  I learnt to cook in Imperial and Metric and translate such wonders as “quick”, “hot”, “moderate” and “slow” ovens into actual temperatures.

It is in relation to the exactness, or not, of ingredients that I found the creativity of cooking.  I surprised my father one day when making some spiced biscuits as I measured the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger directly over the mixing bowl, levelling off the teaspoons into the bowl.  He asked if I realised I was putting in more than the recipe called for, to which I replied, “yes, trust me, they’ll be good”.  And they were.

For a very long time, cooking was my main creative outlet.  I’d experiment with tastes and textures (and sounds… have you ever thought about how important sounds are when eating?) and recipes from different parts of the world.  I still do these things, but now cooking is not my only creative outlet.

For me, cooking was easy.  I grew up in a house where cooking was normal and both my parents did (though mum was always a better cook than dad).  I was not discouraged from experimentation and from the age of 15 was expected to cook dinner regularly for the family (as did my sisters once they reached that age also).  My cooking was actively enjoyed by family and friends and I had relatively few disasters in the kitchen (and the ones I did have I learnt from and never ever did again – honest).

Another part of not being scared to try new things and new dishes (I’ve now fallen in love with Moroccan cuisine), is that as a child I was told I could do anything, be anything, achieve whatever I wanted and that nothing would hold me back.  This translated, in part, to me being ambitious in the kitchen and trying out new (and potentially difficult) things.  Growing up believing that shaped me as a person but also has its drawback.  I’ll blog more about the ambitious child in another post – including the benefits and drawbacks of that.

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