Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shakespeare's Sister

[Shakespeare's sister] lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity , as I think, is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton's bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.
—Virginia Woolf, concluding her essay "A Room of One's Own."

Pass it on.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Deconversion Story

A recent post of Greta Christina's, inspired, somehow, by a comment I made on a previous post, poses a question: "If you're a non-believer in religion, and you used to be a believer -- what changed your mind? Was there one particular argument or incident or experience? Or was it more of a general softening of the ground, with lots of different factors adding up?" As I read through the comments responding to the question, I realized that I have not examined my own "deconversion" very much.

Before getting into my personal story, it is highly relevant to first talk about my parents, and it is well known that religion is most easily propagated through family ties. My mother has been a Protestant Christian for all her life, so far as I know, albeit a very casual one. She doesn't attend church anymore, but she did when my sister and I were kids - but even then, I would still call her a casual Christian. So my sister and I went to Sunday school and church services with her. She never "forced" her views on my sister and I; indeed, she never talked to us about God, Jesus, church, or what any of it meant outside of church. We just went to church because that was the routine. My father grew up Christian but left before I was born, I believe. When I was old enough to begin to really critically think about religion, I found that my dad was Taoist. By this time, I had stopped going to church with my mother, and my dad had divorced his second wife. More recently, I believe Dad would call himself a Buddhist now. (Yes, I just checked his Facebook (he's ahead of his generation. :P), where he identifies himself as "Buddhist - Mahayana.") Both my ex- and my current stepmothers are Christian, but in very different ways. My ex-stepmother was similar to my mom, sorta. She would take us to church on holidays (dress us up and everything), but not on Sundays. She had Lutheran missionaries come to the house to teach us about their side of the story (more on this and its affect on me later). My current stepmother does not go to church at all; she does not go with the "organized" part of religion at all. Her faith is mostly centered on Jesus himself, if I recall her own words correctly. Therefore, I have not spoken much about her faith with her, as it is very private to her (and that's fine with me).

So, in essence, I grew up with mostly the Christian theology as a part of my life, but not a very big one, certainly, and not one that even elicited thought from me for some time. I don't think I ever really believed any of it. It was just something that my parents expected me to do, I thought. Mom never talked about it, my ex-stepmother never talked about it outside of church, and my current stepmother chooses not to talk about it for her own reasons (and again, that's more than okay); really, only my dad talked about his Taoism and Buddhism. So I grew up with a cursory knowledge of Christianity; I knew more about Taoism and Buddhism, really. I enjoyed the world religions portion of the AP World History course. My high school friends were a wide variety of theologies and non-theologies: one atheist, one Jehova's Witness, one Lutheran, one Protestant, one Catholic, and one - I think - Wiccan (but we never talked about our religious leanings, so religion never caused any riffs). So religion was basically a subject in school, something that was not of importance or reverance in my life. No one ever asked me what belief system I adhered to, no one really questioned why we were going to church if we didn't believe in it (or even if we did - I didn't question that either).

But I just didn't like Sunday school or church. All I saw there was fanataicsm, with no evidence, just singing, reading, a crazy guy talking incessantly up in front, a lot of silly and adolescent stories from this nifty Bible thing, coloring books and toys, and it all bothered me. No one gave me any reason to "believe" in anything, and now that I think about it, I don't know that anyone ever really told me to believe in anything. It was all there as if I already believed. My memories are framed as if I were an outsider, behind a camera or reading about my past in a magazine. No one held me accountable for my belief or disbelief.

So when my sister and I finally started to complain to our mother, not wanting to go, she essentially shrugged, and we stopped going. It really didn't take much. She still went to church herself, and she still attended a singles group that operated out of the church, but she never made us go again.

But we weren't about to try the same on our ex-stepmother. The Lutheran missionaries are by far the most memorable to me. My ex-stepmother wanted my sister and I to learn about other people's faiths - I strange thing to want in retrospect. (I don't know if this was the beginning of a grand plan to meet with missionaries of all faiths that never got off the ground, or if Lutheranism was the only other faith worth talking about.) Only Diana, my sister, and I sat through these talks; my dad and our two stepbrothers were no where to be found. The fact that our stepbrothers didn't have to sit through this irked me to no end. It wasn't fair, and I knew they didn't have to sit through it because they simply didn't want to. They didn't go to the holiday church services either, and they didn't say prayers at the dinner table. They were special. But the Lutheran missionaries didn't last long; we only saw them a handful of times.

By the time I learned what agnosticism and atheism were, I was ready to call myself one. I had no affinity with religion or its followers; I hadn't had a million positive experiences with them; no one had bothered to make me feel included or to tell me why I should want to be included in the first place. In fact, the most positive they ever got were exclusively with the conversations about Taoism and Buddhism with Dad. I learned about those belief systems without feeling pressured to "convert"; I just got to learn about what my dad's system was and why he liked it. And that was cool with me.

Much later in life, less than a year ago, I had the first conversation with my mother about her beliefs. She's frustrated, sad, and confused by Christianity. She doesn't understand how God could have allowed the divorce to happen. If I didn't feel so bad for making her think about it, I would talk about it with her more often.

Why am I agnostic and not atheist? Well, simply put, because I haven't seen enough evidence yet. I'm working on another post that addresses this in more detail.

Please note that by NO MEANS is this post an invitation for a conversion! I'm a very happy agnostic. I am not ripe for the picking. However, I would love to discuss religion with you. Just don't think you're going to get an easy convert out of it.

Terrorism: Made in America

I am aghast at the terrorism that occurred in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, days after McCain supporters distributed the propaganda DVD, Obsession, to swing states (including Ohio). The fear tactic is working, just as it did on 9/11, just as it will continue to.

Only this time, Americans are terrorizing each other.

What's worse, there are some people that are condoning this behavior. A friend posted a link to the above Daily Kos link on her Facebook, which elicited this response:

And perhaps those innocent children will never grow up, right? I suppose I should be jailed because I see weeds sprouting up from my lawn and I pull them out before they can grow completely and taint the rest of the garden.

I would advise you to listen to some of Pat Condell's opinions on the matter and see what's happened to the UK ever since they tolerated the Muslim attendance.

And before you say anything to my "de-humanizing reference of weeds to that innocent group" consider the fact that mankind, especially female-kind if you will, is blinded by a natural tendency to defend the young. We all see children who are hurt and pity them because of the lost potential. Don't be blinded, weeds in a garden have only one potential.

This is not okay. This is not the way Americans should be talking. This makes me angry. This means the propaganda is working, and it probably means more (Iraqi/Muslim) people are going to die.

Terrorism is terrorism. It doesn't matter who commits it or who is the victim. We are already hated throughout the world for doing what we've done to people, and now we go and commit the acts of terrorism on our own soil. It's sickening and rather humiliating, not to mention these were kids they gassed.

I don't even know what else to say. I'm speechless.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A secret that really isn't a secret.

A PostSecret secret that stuck out to me today:

Of course, this is no secret, really, and feminists have known this for a long time. According to Andi Zeisler, co-founder of Bitch Magazine, the definition of bitch is this:
"Bitch is a word we use culturally to describe any woman who is strong, angry, uncompromising and, often, uninterested in pleasing men."
Truthful would certainly fall under this definition too. Those words - strong, angry, uncompromising - are more often than not words to describe men. And so when a woman shows those peculiarities, it's bad, because, somehow, men monopolize those characteristics. Bullshit, I say.

I rather like the basic definition of feminism, coined by Cheris Kramarae: "Feminism is the radical notion that women are human." It's short and to-the-point, with a touch of snarkiness that might cause the woman who coined the definition to be labeled as, well, a bitch. If telling the truth makes me a bitch, then sign me up. I just wonder what truth this secret-sender offered - if it was the truth about rape, violence, misogyny, then I hope she spoke up loud and clear.

(Shakespeare's Sister also has an excellent post about the word bitch and other forms of misogyny, why they're alienating, and why they should not be ignored. This is where I got Andi Zeisler's definition.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This sounds familiar...

I think there is a scandal in the works with the McCain campaign botching around with CBS' Katie Couric. Here is one part of the interview:

There are two primary points to make here:
  • Everyone is waiting to see what McCain does? Where did she get this idea? It's laughable that she can't back it up either.
  • She has no idea what contributions McCain has made towards corporate/finance de/regulation.
I think Shakes is right when she says that Palin "just doesn't know policy at all" because "she's never had to be a doctrinaire Republican. Until now." And it's proving to make her look like an idiot (I don't agree with Shakes that she isn't stupid, as you can see).

Here's the next train wreck:

Watch CBS Videos Online

So she still doesn't know how being able to see Russia from her backyard counts as foreign policy experience. We aren't surprised.

Defenders don't think it matters, or try to distract us elsewhere. For example, another of the videos of this interview is titled as "Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric (liberal activist) on CBS Evening News," as if being a liberal activist makes this interview unimportant or irrelevant. But, regardless of whether or not Couric is liberal, her questions are perfectly softball. "Isn't that a conflict of interest?", "Explain what you meant by being able to see Russia from Alaska is foreign policy experience," "What is an example of McCain leading the way with regulation?" - they're all pretty simple. The same was true with the ABC Charles Gibson interview. And expecting a straight answer, even a simple yes or no, is not being liberal - I should hope that Fox News would expect the same straight answers. But the reason Palin couldn't answer simple questions well is that the simplest answer would have to be an honest one, and being honest is not what McCain's campaign is about. Being honest would mean that Palin would have had to say, yes, that is a conflict of interest, I don't have any other foreign policy experience, there are no examples of McCain leading the way against deregulation. But that would not be politically expedient, of course, and so that means she needs to talk herself through it, and she certainly does not do that with the veteranship that McCain speaks with when asked these types of uncomfortable questions.

After this fiasco, McCain was supposed to appear with on the Late Show with David Letterman (also a CBS show), but he canceled at the very last second, saying that he had to jump a plane to DC to help with the economic crisis. That's fine, I suppose, but Letterman did point out, in his show, that in this sort of a situation, shouldn't it be Palin's job to continue to campaign while McCain is serving the Senate, particularly since she isn't a member of Congress? But from interviews like the above, it's pretty easy to see why McCain campaign staff practically barricade her from reporters.

But here comes the twist: McCain appeared on Katie Couric's show at the same scheduled time he was supposed to appear with Letterman, and he didn't leave for Washington DC until the next morning. Poor Mr. Letterman. Some are speculating that this interview was meant as damage control, and it certainly went a lot better than Palin's interview with Couric. It's too bad he nominated a VP that needs so much babysitting.

Now, compare those videos to this one, as commenter dannybauder pointed out in this MyDD story about the latter video:

I guess Palin's former beauty queen is shining brighter than her future vice president.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Tie

I wore a tie to work the other day. It goes down to my belly-button; it's red, with small, diagonal, black stripes; and I don't have to actually tie it. It's not a strip of cloth that I have to wind and weave around itself. It's actually on a zipper mechanism so that you can slide the tie up and down a zipper to tighten it around your neck. A brilliant idea. I wore it with a white, button-up shirt and gray slacks, by the way. I thought I looked pretty sharp.

So I wore it to work the other day. I've only worn it twice so far, but both times, my male colleagues have ignored it while women compliment me on it. "Cute tie," they said. After I heard it the second or third time, I realized that they didn't say "nice tie" or "neat tie" or "sharp tie." They said "cute." What on earth is cute about a tie? It's a masculine article of clothing, a garnish of personality added to a business suit that's otherwise meant to convey professionalism and seriousness to colleagues and clients. Nothing cute about it. (Unless it's pink with bunnies and kittens on it, I suppose. But that's not what my tie looks like. It's red with stripes. Classic. Unisex.)

So why did they say cute? Is it because the wearer is a woman? Is it because the complimenter is a woman? Is it because I'm younger than them, and so I am not to be taken seriously? When you think of a female wearing a tie, what do you see? I see a young girl in a school uniform getting off a bus to attend class at a private school. I realize that's not the image that I want to see. It's not professional. It's young, and young girls are often cute.

Am I trying to find meaning where there isn't any? Maybe.

I'm not trying to make a statement by wearing this tie. I'm not trying to be a staunch feminist, insisting on wearing slightly manish clothing so that I am taken more seriously. I just like the tie. I like red and I like stripes and I like the contrast with the white shirt. I like the tie in the same way that I like the string of tigers eye beads that I sometimes wear with collared shirts - I think it looks nice. It's a nice garnish to otherwise professional, boring clothing.

In fact, I am not the only adult woman to wear a tie. I know I've seen it before. And I know I did not think of a schoolgirl when I saw her. If I find a photo, I will post it. And I will continue to observe reactions when I wear it. Perhaps I have not collected enough data.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Abortion is a touchy subject, particularly for women. It kills women and it kills would-be babies. It goes to the core of what it means to be a woman, and the number one function that society proclaims women should perform.

So it makes a lot of sense - particularly from a feminist point of view - why society recoils from giving women the right to abort. Women are mothers. Women are not CEOs, women are not vice presidents, women are not database administrators, women are not atheletes. Women are mothers. Society is uncomfortable with women who choose to remain childless. A newly wedded woman is often asked, "When is the baby coming?" as if there is no other alternative. An infertile woman is seen as broken, unworthy, something less than other women (and, similarly, a sterile man is seen as something less than manly).

Please note, before I go on, that I am not going to delve into some of the typical arguments for and against legalizing abortions, mostly because I don't see them as relevant (such as when a fetus is considered a living baby with rights, memory, etc.).

But pro-lifers and pro-choicers can agree on a couple of things:
  • Abortions are bad. Abortions are harmful. Abortions are (or should be) unnecessary. Abortions should be a last ditch resort and should be avoided.
  • The reality that - illegal or not - abortions will always be an option. We have the technology, we have people willing to perform them, and we certainly have a plethora of pregnant women that don't want to be mothers (and are even willing to perform the abortion themselves if necessary). This is the grim reality.
  • Sex is a fundamental, instinctual human function. Remember that the biological reason humans are on this planet is to procreate, and that makes the instinct to do just that very strong. Remember that society relies upon women to be mothers; the instinct to do what is required in order to be a mother (or father) will always be there. (Unless you're gay; but that's another story for another time.)
But, that brings us to the question. Outlaw them or legalize them? Here is the way I see it:

"Tens upon tens of thousands" of women died from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade, according to SocialistWorker.org. In 1932, a study estimated that 15,000 women died each year, more to the infection and hemorrhaging that followed than the abortion itself. "Because of the fear of being punished and socially ostracized, many women - and their doctors - kept their real condition a secret." The same fear of being punished also explains why we can only estimate the number of deaths caused by abortion - so "tens upon tens of thousands" could actually be much greater. After Roe v. Wade was decided, deaths from botched abortions dramatically dropped. People that support the overturning of Roe v. Wade perhaps don't realize that not only will fetuses continue to be aborted, but their mothers will more than likely die too. Remember that we already agreed that abortions will continue to happen, illegal or not. That means that nearly twice as many will die if abortions are outlawed, because we are assuming that the same "tens upon tens of thousands" of abortions will continue as they did before Roe v. Wade. And those deaths are not clean, not painless, but cruel, gruesome, and perfectly avoidable. So it's not a question of "who's life do you value more?" Abortions will continue whether you outlaw it or not; it's a question of saving the aborting women. And if we outlaw contraception completely - the numbers will skyrocket.

History has shown us that providing the public with choices works out a lot better in the end than removing options. The prohibition movement is an excellent example - women called for alcohol to be outlawed because it caused their husbands to lose their jobs, stay at the bar all night, etc, not to mention that it was dangerous to drink anyway because there was no government regulation of it. In the end, of course, we legalized alcohol, and I do not hear anyone complaining or rallying to outlaw it again. We legalized it, regulated it, and then educated people to use it properly (or not at all). There are plenty of people that drink responsibly. There are plenty of people that don't. But the choice is there, and even people that refuse to drink at all don't feel the need to condemn or punish other people for their use of it.

I feel that the same will eventually happen with abortion. (And marijuana, but again, that's another article for another day.) I think we should take the same steps with abortion that we did with alcohol.

Keep it legal, regulate it well, and eliminate the "tens upon tens of thousands" of deaths to come if Roe v. Wade is overturned. I recognize that this does not mean that babies will stop dying (and they haven't). But it does mean that the vast majority of their mothers will stop dying. We are now at the final and probably the most important step in the process: education.

We agreed that abortions are bad and it's something to be avoided, whether you're pro-life or pro-choice. Education is something that both camps can work on and champion together. If we educate people about contraception, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and all of the consequences of having unprotected, thoughtless sex, then we can further eliminate the numbers of abortions, because we are providing people with alternate choices. We already know that abstinence-only education does not work. It's been proven, time and time again. (I will edit this later with some links to studies.) It only makes things worse. And, again, outlawing contraception will worsen the situation further.

On a related note, mandating doctors and clinics to perform abortions should not be necessary. If you are pro-life and refuse to be treated by a doctor that performs abortions - that's fine. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to see a different doctor, because that is your right. I suspect that there are enough supporting practitioners to provide the service without having to mandate it - though the number is dropping, I've read. Perhaps state- and federally-funded hospitals should be mandated to offer abortions; I don't know. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.

And if none of this is relevant to you because your religious background tells you that abortions and contraceptives are sinful and that you should not use either in any situation, then that's also fine. Don't use contraceptives and don't get abortions. That's your right. But it is definitely not your right to tell me that I cannot either.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Blogosphere

There's something captivating about the blogosphere. As its importance and influence has grown, I have watched, captivated, wishing I could be a part of it, a voice in it. But the wonder of the blogosphere is that I can, at my own will. I don't even really have to have anything unique or intriguing to say. However, I have no intention of filling posts up with trivialities - unless, of course, they are relevant because they are trivialities.

This blog will be about my thoughts and experiences regarding the following:
  • Atheism, agnosticism, and (organized) religion in general;
  • Feminism;
  • Technology;
  • Sex and love, both of the gay and straight nature;
  • Politics; and
  • My cat.
Sorry, but I have to sneak my cat in there somewhere, as the other topics are so dull and heavy.

At any rate, I am an agnostic, feminist, straight, liberal woman, born in 1986. I am currently a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology as an information technology major; I plan to graduate in May of 2009. There may be bumps in posting between now and my graduation; I tend to throw myself into school when I am taking courses.

I don't know where the title came from exactly, but I feel like Nowoman's Land is about where I live right now. I post this, of course, at the height of the 2008 election season; Sarah Palin has been announced as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, and I am livid about the choice and what it means for women. Perhaps that's where the title came from. More on the election (and Sarah Palin) later though. We'll save that for a whole 'nother post.

Posts may be anything from reactions to a linked news article or blog post to commentary about an experience or event and how it relates to the above topics. I really don't have any concrete plans for this blog, other than it will be intellectual, and hopefully not mundane or insipid. I would like to encourage a readership of thoughtful, questioning, and uncommon people. I hope that I am thoughtful, questioning, and uncommon enough myself.