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Solstice: Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

22 Dec

It’s winter solstice today here in the Northern hemisphere (or, if you’re an ancient Roman, the birthday of the unconquered sun!). It’s the time of year to spend many hours inside, doing home-y things. Like baking cookies to mail to your friends and give to your neighbors and then eating them all instead. And reading Adrienne Rich poems about winter:

Homage to Winter 
by Adrienne Rich

You: a woman too old
for passive contemplation
caught staring out a window
at bird-of-paradise spikes
jewelled with rain, across an alley
It’s winter in this land
of roses, roses sometimes
the fog lies thicker around you than your past
sometimes the Pacific radiance
scours the air to lapis
In this new world you feel
backward along the hem of your whole life
questioning every breadth
Nights you can watch the moon shed skin after skin
over and over, alway a shape
of imbalance except
at birth and in the full
You, still trying to learn
how to live, what must be done
thought in death you will be complete
whatever you do
But death is not the answer.

On these flat green leaves
light skates like a golden blade
high in the dull-green pine
sit two mushroom-colored doves
afterglow overflows
across the bungalow roof
between the signs for the three-way stop
over everything that is:
the cotton pants stirring on the line, the
empty Coke can by the fence
onto the still unflowering
mysterious acacia
and a sudden chill takes the air

Backward you dream to a porch
you stood on a year ago
snow flying quick as thought
sticking to your shoulder gone
Blue shadows, ridged and fading
on a snow-swept road
the shortest day of the year
Backward you dream to glare ice
and ice-wet pussywillows
to Riverside Drive, the wind
cut loose from Hudson’s Bay
driving tatters into your face
And back you come at last to that room
without a view, where webs of frost
blinded the panes at noon
where already you had begun
to make the visible world your conscience
asking things: What can you tell me?
what am I doing? what must I do?

May your days continue to lengthen, dear readers. And have a good solstice – those cookies are in the mail, I promise. *covers mouth*

Explaining the Patriarchy

30 Nov

In the constellation of things that are hard to explain, patriarchy falls somewhere in between “quantum mechanics” and “proper semicolon use.” Although I haven’t found a magic patriarchy-explaining bullet just yet, I have found a magic bullet explaining the experience of “waking up” to it in the form of one of my Very Favorite Comics, Sinfest:

Click here to see it all embiggened and in its natural habitat.

If you saw the move “The Matrix” when you were young and impressionable, like I did, and you’re also one of the “lucky” people who’s been awakened to the wonderful world of profound injustice in one way or another, this comic probably resonates with you.

The plain definition of patriarchy is a system run by and for men, but in practice it’s so much more than that – it encompasses sexism, racism, ableism, and too many other -isms to count. There are Feminism 101 blogs that do an adequate job of explaining some of the basics, but if you really want to jump in feet first you should probably go check out I Blame the Patriarchy.

If you want a well-organized and pocket-sized approach to learning about patriarchy, you should probably read “The Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone. This book pretty much changed my life.

If you have found a good way to explain patriarchy to the Uninitiated, please do let me know in the comments.

Down With Smiles

4 Jan

I’d like to introduce you to a little something I like to call The Cityface. I invented it when I moved to The City in order to deal with a phenomenon which I will outline for you forthwith:

I am cruising down the sidewalk, squeezing melons in a grocery store, wending my way through a crowd of Pabst-drinking hipsters wearing ironic and medically unnecessary eyewear, or wandering despondently through the labyrinthine hallways of my office complex, when suddenly, I lock eyes with a total stranger. Like a deer caught in headlights, I do the thing which comes naturally to nice people: I freaking smile. But does this stranger smile back? Oh no. S/he does not smile. S/he looks directly into those dreamy windows to my soul, sees the ineffable beauty that resides there, and glowers.

Despite what mid-century television shows set in small towns would have you believe, this is not a phenomenon limited to The City. It does, however, happen a great deal more often in The City, due to there being significantly less elbow room. Every time this happens, it makes me feel embarrassed: I extended myself in the name of friendliness to a stranger, only to be rejected on the most basic of levels. They have taken the social power away from me, for no other reason than they can. Stupid meanie heads! Thus, I give you The Cityface:

Some call it The Bitchface or The Cuntface, but whatever nomenclature is used, its purpose is to stop smile-rejection in its tracks. I invented it to keep myself from proffering wanton undeserved smiles, and protect myself from power-theft. I wear it in public pretty much all the time these days, and avoid eye contact to fend off smile-temptation.

Given my essentially neurotic nature, imagine my surprise when I discovered that I am not the only one to have given extensive thought to the power dynamics of facial expressions: Shulamith Firestone, in “The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution” has this to say on the subject:

“The smile is the child/woman equivalent of the shuffle; it indicates acquiescence of the victim to his own oppression. In my own case, I had to train myself out of that phony smile, which is like a nervous tic on every teenage girl. … My ‘dream’ action for the women’s liberation movement: a smile boycott, at which declaration all women would instantly abandon their “pleasing” smiles, henceforth only smiling when something pleased them.”

I had pretty much fallen in love with Firestone’s giant brain previous to coming upon this passage, but this was the clincher. I, for one, plan to personally take this ‘dream’ action and make it a reality. I know I said my New Year’s resolution was to ‘take more pictures,’ but I think ‘smile less,’ or at least ‘smile falsely less’ will be a more instructive one.

Next up, I will be training myself to not only not smile, but to not smile at people who first smile at me. Take that, jerkfaces! Don’t worry, though: My “sitting on the kitchen floor at 3 a.m. after too many G&Ts” face will remain quintessentially the same.

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