A Book Suggestion

I wanted to do something a little different, a little the same. First though, I am beyond honored to say I’ve crossed the 150 mark for followers and I am so very humbled by you all. Thank you for hearing what I have to say and being around to have some excellent conversations!

Alright. I’m all for reading-especially for being informed, but also just for the sake of reading. And I have a book suggestion that is both an excellent piece of work, but also incredibly well-written and vital to this day and age. I’m pasting my GoodReads review, because I think I said it best there, and you’ll get the gist. The book I’m recommending is Being Emily by Rachel Gold.

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Here’s my GR review:

**Slight spoiler alert** Having known a few people who made this transition story personal for my own read, I can honestly say I am completely impressed.
First, let me just say that although this book is rather short, it is packed to the brim with information-some of which you won’t process until after you’ve slept on it! There are no facts or figures in this book, but your brain will process the new characters in such a way that you’re going to make some sums. With that being said, there are some things I want to review as a bystander to this situation.
The chapters with Claire are my favorite. Claire asks the questions that a bystander is curious about but doesn’t want to seem rude over. And she slips up with her gender pronouns-just like most of us do. It’s a process and Claire is the closest thing to an ally that I could relate to. Natalie is seen as the pinnacle of success, as is Elizabeth-for having been able to completely “integrate”, but I would personally have like to have seen them more developed as characters. Maybe this could be done in a spin off or something-because an older “T-girl”, who say, started her transition in the 80s or 90s would also be a great read-especially from RG.
As you follow Emily, you really start to ask yourself questions about where you stand, who you are and the books requires you to see things from a perspective that may not be your own. And that’s the best part. Because at the end of the day, there needs to be a main character that people of any form of minorities relate to be it a gender minority, a sexuality one or an ethnic one.
I think the reason I found so much truth in this book is that I, like so many others, have grown up in a very conservative Christian area, where the questions raised are incredibly similar to the ones I’ve heard about Other gender and sexuality issues. The arguments are similar, the frustrations an punishments are similar and I think that that’s what draws people in-especially young people. But to have the one family member who backs her first be her own brother, is very telling. Children do not come born with hate and fear of differences, they are taught these prejudices. And then to have her father bring about the ultimatum about HRT was just great. I think a lot of people expect mothers to love their kids more unconditionally and to have that story line altered was superb.
I gave this book five stars because although as I said it is a quick read, I finished it in about 3 hours total, there is so much information to be gleaned from it that it carries the emotional baggage of a novel twice the length. You come away from it every bit as aware of your surroundings and biases as though you were actually a side character, stumbling through the fog yourself.
I’ve already begun recommending this book to others, for the pure and simple fact that although it may not be your preferred genre, it is a story that needs told and RG was the one to do it with love and grace. More people need to understand the pain and hardships of other individuals and open their minds to the possibility that there may be a different view point than the one they’ve been indoctrinated into.
This book was recommended to me by the alpha reader for RG. I will be heavily recommending this book as a read for several psych courses, as well as some human growth and development ones. (Obviously, I will be recommending this to other readers as well.)

 

Seriously. This book is an excellent place to start for people who are just getting introduced to the topic of transgender, as well as for parents who have questions (especially in a religious capacity). Anyway, I definitely recommend this book, it’s fantastic.

And a quick PSA: If you do read, leave her a review-that’ll help her get recognized, and allow for more books about these issues!

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

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Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!) 

Thankfulness, Day 26

Today, for my fellow Americans, was Thanksgiving Day. On this day, we fill our tables full of food, we talk about being thankful and we eat. A lot. In my family, it’s a gathering of nearly grown children and parents, along with significant others. A lot of faces are made, food may or may not be thrown at various occasions and book series are discussed. My husband and I spent 5 hours in a car to getto our families today. It was a long trek, and took all day, thus the late post. But it’s nice to feel like people are genuinely waiting to see you. And of course, when we came home, we were greeted by our furbaby. It’s nice to feel wanted.

Today I don’t have a theme. It’s not mebeing lazy, or taking a day off of the 30 day goal I set out with. Today I am thankful not for anything in particular, but everything. I am thankful that I have a chance to be thankful. I have a family (three, in fact), a home, friends, readers, and those are just people. I am beyond blessed with marvelous things and events and occurrences. I have many personality and character gifts which give me purpose.

And at the end of the day, there doesn’t have to be a reason to be thankful. It’s something that I am because I have been blessed with much and am appreciative. 

Thankfulness, Day 24

I had a thought yesterday that I had meant to include in my list of thankfulness, but what I have to say requires a bit more than just a blurb in passing.

When I was a child, I was impatient, self-centered and at times, a little devil-spawn. No one else even knew. Because by the time I reached kindergarten (well, actually pre-school), I had been trained. Of course, the only people who knew I was a little hellian were my parents.

I am incredibly lucky that I have both parents, and they are together, they are both healthy and they are patient people. My mother is supportive, she makes excellent food and has taught me several things which only mothers can do. My father is proud (and proud of me), he works incredibly hard to provide for my siblings still living at home and has taught me multiple things which only fathers can teach daughters. Growing up, my siblings and I were always introduced to crowds as “the cross between a hillbilly and a polak.” My father’s family is the stereotypical country folk, coming from West Virginia, Virginia and Southern Ohio. There’s a twang in their voices, and they are red-skinned from work outside. My mother’s family is a very stereotypical Russo-Polish family, even though we’ve been in America for two generations. We love food, we thrive on familial support and don’t seem to mind the cold. We ate pierogies before they were cool, and all of us are pale skinned with dark hair (except my sister, who is oddly blonde, but we love her anyway). Both sides of my family are infamous for their hotheadedness and quick tempers. 

My mother has a teacher’s aid certificate, but chooses to farm. I don’t mind, because I help her till up the yard and thusly get to have some of the food. My father works for the biggest newspaper in the midwest, and I get to tour the factory and inevitably just end up covered in ink. They’ve been together for an incredibly long time, they married while he was still in service to our country (he got married in his dress uniform and helped make/decorate the cake). I was born just after Operation: Desert Storm, when my dad came back from Kuwait/Iraq/The Persian Gulf, where he cooked and drove a tank on occasion. He doesn’t talk about it, but I am proud of him regardless. War cannot have been easy.

I put my parents through the ringer as a kid. I was never a “bad kid”, and in fact, that’s probably why I was such a hell raiser. But the thing is, I always knew they loved me. And they still do. My mom and I talk every day, my dad and I are basically the same person in different genders and time frames. For a long while, that’s why we didn’t get along (I mean, two people with bad tempers and the ability to lash out quickly don’t make for a fun time all the time). But once I grew up and actually tried to take responsibility (and otherwise acted like an adult), we got along splendidly. My parents are such wonderful people. 

So on this day, if it isn’t obvious at all, I am thankful for my parents. Without them, I would not be the me that I am now. I love you, mom and dad. Thanks for always being there-even when I didn’t deserve it.

Where I Come From

For the longest time I was a member of ancestry.com. I simply couldn’t afford to pay the fees, and had to take a brief pause. However, before I left, I was able to find the name of the town my great grandfather came from as well as the boat he sailed on to come to America. Also of interest, I found the church that a 7x great grandfather was baptised in.

There is no problem locating the church, as it is in Ireland, and the records are quite precise.

But I cannot find the little town that my Russian great grandfather came from. So I guess, if anyone has any idea how to go about finding it, or knows anything about small places in Russia which may or may not exist anymore, I’d be interested in speaking with you.