Archive for Ramblings

Why Saying “I’m Not a Feminist” is NEVER an Okay Thing To Do

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by KarenElizabeth

There are a lot of misconceptions about feminism in the world.

There are many different reasons for this, of course.  Feminism is a complicated topic.  It’s hard to look at approximately 50% of the world’s population — women of all races, all nationalities, all ages, all sexual orientations, all income brackets, all political affiliations, all education levels, etc — and define a simple, clear message that everyone can agree upon.  Especially since the advent of 3rd wave feminism, there are countless splinter and “niche” groups working under the greater feminist umbrella, and often working directly at cross-purposes to one another, or talking about completely different topics.  In an age where information is readily accessed with the click of a mouse, we’re faced with an overwhelming glut of information regarding feminism, and very little of it is concise or clear or speaks with a single voice representing all of us.

But when it’s stripped back to the bare essentials, feminism *does* have one simple, easily expressed goal:  gender equality, and the elimination of sexism.  We disagree (sometimes vehemently) on how best to *achieve* that goal, of course, but the goal remains the same for all.  And when you strip it back to that — when you say, “gender equality” instead of “feminism” — there are very few people who’ll argue against it.

And this is why the way we express ourselves about feminism, and the way we self-identify, needs to see some serious change.

If you believe that sexism is a bad thing, and that a person’s gender does not determine their worth, then you’re a feminist.  You may not agree with *every* feminist group (no one does — there are simply too many of them out there) — but you’re a feminist, of some description.  That’s all there is to it.  Saying “I’m not a feminist”, then, is a lie — and worse, it’s hurting feminists (and people) everywhere.

When most people say “I’m not a feminist”, it’s because they’re misguided about what feminism means.  They’ve bought in to a harmful stereotype — the man-hating, (often) lesbian, radical feminist who burns bras, thinks men should be slaves, and considers all penetrative sex to be rape.  This is a stereotype that was created by (and has been largely perpetuated by) the oppressing class, as a way of discrediting the perfectly logical claim that women are people and should be treated as such.  It’s a caricature, designed to make feminists look laughable and ridiculous and unfeminine, and unsexy, and unlovable, and criminal.  So when you characterize all feminists this way, it’s no different than characterizing all Scots as “cheap”, or all Irishmen as “drunks”.  You’re buying in to a bigoted stereotype, rather than learning about the individual people.

And when you buy in to that bigoted stereotype, and say “I’m not a feminist”, you’re also lumping yourself in with the people who actually ARE bigots.  You’re aligning yourself with the people who believe that women’s rights should be taken away so we can go back to the “good old days”.  You’re aligning yourself with sexual predators and rapists who don’t want their victims to have rights or be treated as people.  You’re aligning yourself with the Taliban who shot Malala Yousafzai in the head for wanting an education.

Do you really want to be on the same side as those people?

I’m not saying that you should blindly help any cause that identifies itself as “feminist”.  There’s no “supreme guiding council of feminist elders”, and no peer-review process, to determine the validity of any particular group’s claim to feminism.  There are plenty of self-identified “feminist” groups out there who have views that may not, in fact, be particularly helpful ones.  There are radfem groups who call themselves feminist but believe in the subjugation of men (I happen to strongly dispute their use of the term “feminist”, since by definition any group that advocates sexism is not, in fact, feminist — but that’s an issue that’s still considered up for debate in the broader feminist community).  There are feminist groups who are anti-choice, or who align themselves with religious organizations, or who are sex-worker exclusionary, or trans-exclusionary, or classist/racist/etc in their aims, and I disagree vehemently with all of those things.  And there are many feminist groups advocating for very specific, niche causes that may or may not be relevant to a particular person’s life — for example, a group dedicated to eliminating sexism in the medical profession might have a very good point, but not be relevant to me personally, as I’m an arts worker, not a doctor (dammit, Jim!).  So just calling yourself “feminist” doesn’t make you right, and it’s still important to research the motivations and background of any group you’re looking to join up with or support.

One of the biggest groups who commonly say “I’m not a feminist” are, unfortunately, men.  They’ll say, “I believe in women’s rights and equality, but I can’t be a feminist ’cause I’m a guy”.  And that’s just ridiculously misguided.  Not only is it perfectly possible for a guy to believe in gender equality (thus making him a feminist), it’s supremely important for people who are NOT women, who are NOT a part of the oppressed class, to take up the banner of feminism and make a conscious choice to support feminist aims.  Because it’s the oppressing class (in this case, males) who has the majority of the power — and thus, it’s males who have the most power to change things.  It’s been proven time and again that it’s easier for men (and especially white men) to get top positions at most jobs — they’re the bosses, the ones in charge of salaries, the ones in charge of hiring, and the ones in charge of policy.  They’re the majority of the politicians.  They’re the educators at universities.  They’re the police and the lawyers and the judges who enforce and influence the laws.  So if they’re working with feminist aims in mind (ie, a CEO who implements fair hiring policies, or a politician who fights for women’s reproductive rights), they’re in a position to do much more to help the cause than almost anyone else would be capable of.  They’re the ones who, by and large, have the ability to tip the scales and start the workings of a fair society.

Another group that commonly denies feminism is people of colour.  This is a more problematic issue — people of colour are already a part of an oppressed class, whether they are female or male or anything in-between.  They’re already fighting for fair wages, fair representation, and fair application of the law.  And many feminist groups are, unfortunately, very whitewashed.  Because it’s white people who have traditionally had more education & wealth, it’s white women who largely spearheaded the early feminist movements, and it’s white women who have remained at the forefront.  Many feminist groups are blatantly racist (or at least racially insensitive), and when you bring religion into the equation (people of colour are traditionally more attached to their faith, for a variety of reasons not worth going into here), it gets even more difficult — many feminist groups actively attack religious organizations, without regard to the people who worship that particular god, and this can be a massive turn-off for otherwise pro-gender-equality types.  And because feminism has historically been white, it’s difficult for people of colour to break that barrier — too many, already exhausted from spending a lifetime being oppressed for the colour of their skin, walk into a feminist meeting only to see a sea of white faces and no one who looks remotely like themselves, and they feel automatically excluded.  It’s hard to blame people for feeling that way.  In the end, though, we’ll never be able to make feminism more POC-friendly without having some people of colour standing in those rooms.  Some are going to have to break down those barriers, and walk into those rooms full of white faces, and decide they’re going to stay.  And those of us who *are* white need to recognize this difficulty, and welcome such people with open arms, so that more of them will feel comfortable saying “I’m a feminist”.

What I find, personally, the most painful, are those women who believe that identifying as feminist will make them seem unattractive.  They’re victims of fear — fear of being hated, fear of being spurned, fear of being alone.  These are the people who media depictions of feminists are directly attacking, and directly oppressing.  I just want to take those women and say, “It’s okay! What they said on TV was a lie — you can be a feminist and still be beautiful, and feminine, and a stay-at-home-mom, and people will still love you”.  And they tell me that they’re “not as strong” as I am, or that they “don’t belong”.  And that’s so wrong, because you don’t have to be an exception — or an exceptional person — to be a feminist.  You just have to believe in equality.

In most media depictions, it’s the loudest and most strident voices who get the most airtime.  These are the people who are easy to pick out of a crowd, and they give entertainment and good sound bites.  They’re also the people who are easiest to ridicule and discredit.  So we need more of the “normal” people, the ones with perfectly rational and moderate views (the ones that the majority of us espouse) to stand up and say clearly, “I’m a feminist”.  We need to drown out those radical voices, and get voices of reason to be standing at the forefront.  Because until we can “normalize” feminism, it’s never going to be fully successful.

And it really should be perfectly “normal” to believe that all people should have equal rights, right?

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Cluttered Desks and Other Stories

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

-Einstein

Confession time:  I’m a terribly cluttered person.  My desk is never clean.  My laundry is rarely put away.  I toss my backpack and coat on the floor when I arrive home from work (despite the conveniently located coat rack on the wall), and leave half-finished projects all over my apartment.  Dishes live in the drying rack until I use them again, and I only make my bed if somebody else is going to be joining me in it (the cats don’t count — they don’t mind if it’s just a pile of blankets and pillows any more than I do).  At this very moment I can only see about two square feet of the floorboards in my bedroom (the rest is dirty clothes and shoes and books and my sewing machine and a pile of gift-wrapping supplies that I pulled out 2 weeks ago and haven’t put away yet).

A couple of times a year, I go on a massive cleaning-spree and get everything in order.  All the laundry folded and in its proper spot.  All the books back on the shelves (organized alphabetically and by category).  Everything picked up off the floors, and the floors meticulously scrubbed clean of any remaining debris.  The kitchen and bathroom sparkle.

And it lasts for about a week.

And then there’s laundry all over the floor again.

And somehow?  I really don’t care about the mess.  Which is, of course, what allows it to proliferate in the first place, because if I actually cared about the fact that I can’t see my floor, I’d probably do something about it.

The fact that I’m a chronic clutterbug is something that surprises most people who know me in my professional life.  At work, I’m neat and efficient.  I fuss about things like putting the tools back in the correct cabinets, and making sure the paint brushes are properly cleaned, and sweeping & mopping the stage before the actors get anywhere near it and impale themselves on a loose screw or something (because if someone CAN injure themselves on something?  An actor will figure out how to do it).  I’m the one who takes notes at meetings and during rehearsals, writes and re-writes the schedules, and tries to keep everybody else on task.

The trouble is that, at work?  There’s a logic to being tidy.  Keeping tools in the proper cabinets means that everyone knows where they are, and you don’t have to go around asking 20 people who last used the nail-set because there’s a staple sticking out here and oh my gods why did you not put that back where it belongs this is taking frickin’ forEVER to do the simplest of tasks!!!  At home, though?  I live alone.  I’m the only one who ever moves things around.  I can set a tool down wherever I like, and I’ll remember where it is the next time I need to use it.  No one else may understand why there’s a cordless drill sitting behind the bathroom sink, but I know that I put it there after I installed the new soap-dispenser, and that’s all that I need to know.  Walking over there to collect it takes no longer than digging through my tool closet would, so I’m actually saving time in the long run by not bothering to put it away.

Work is also a different environment with regards to “down time”.  At home, I can finish a task and then immediately move on to something else that catches my interest.  Or there’s the Internet, or TV, or I can leave the house entirely and go somewhere else for a while, just because I want to.  At work, you’re often waiting for other people to finish a task before you can move on to the next thing, but you can’t be “not working” while you’re on the clock, so there’s built-in time to clean.

The one thing that often does inspire me to clean (or at least to shove the mess into a closet or other out-of-the-way location for a little while) is having friends over.  There’s a social expectation, especially when you’re female, that you should present a clean house to people, and the pressure of that can be enough to overcome my inherent laziness.  But even then, it’s only a partial fix — and the pressure to hide my clutter can actually be a source of stress & unhappiness, because I worry about it too much if a friend drops by unexpectedly and I don’t have time to “properly” clean.

einstein1

The Einstein quote at the top of this post has always been a favourite of mine.  The belief that “genius is cluttered” is a relatively common one (although there’s little in the way of conclusive evidence — for every “genius” that one can point out who was a cluttered mess, another can be found who was meticulously neat, and most studies on the subject have very small sample sizes and a lot of variables to contend with).

I do think, though, that people of high intellect are better able to “get away with” being clutterbugs.  A good memory, especially, is useful when you don’t always keep things organized in any rational sort of fashion — knowing what you have and where it is and when you need to do something about it is a lot of information to keep sorted, and it takes a special kind of brain to look at an apartment as messy as mine and go, “oh, I know exactly where (random object I haven’t used in 6 months) is, let me go get it”.  Being able to pull out the pair of pants I wore 5 days ago and retrieve a needed receipt from the back pocket, or remember where I hid a particular pair of shoes, or when I last used my plumb line, is one of the reasons why I can let my clutter get the better of me:  because it never impairs me.  It never causes me delays or annoyance, because I can still remember where all of it is.  In fact, I often screw myself up when I do take the time to actually clean, because I move so many things during a cleaning-spree that it’s harder to remember when and where I last touched a particular object.

One of the more interesting studies I’ve seen on the subject is this one – in which people were asked to complete tasks in a messy or a clean office/shop environment, and their efficiency was measured.  The theory that the researchers came up with was that a cluttered environment led your brain to try to “cut through” the mess and find the most efficient solutions.  Also interesting was the difference found between people with different political leanings (conservatives were more likely to be distressed by a messy environment, while liberals tended to care a lot less).

Other theories I’ve seen include the idea that geniuses tend to be “non-linear thinkers” and thus don’t have the same sense of “order” that a normal person does (although I’d have to argue this one somewhat … a terribly intelligent theoretical genius like Einstein might have been non-linear, but I’m betting that a terribly intelligent applied mathematician or computer programmer is probably pretty linear in their thoughts).  And there’s also the (flattering, but likely inaccurate) idea that geniuses are simply “too busy thinking to spend time cleaning”.

Ah, well.  Perhaps now that I’ve written about it, I’ll be motivated to spend the next couple of days on a cleaning spree … clean all the things?

Expectations of Genius

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

I stumbled across this story today in my ramblings around the Internet.

It bothers me how the media buys in to the stereotype of the “dumb blonde” and the idea that beautiful women cannot possibly be intelligent, too — I’ve talked about this before.  It’s hard to be judged as “stupid” before you’ve even opened your mouth, just because of how you look.  It’s hard to fight an uphill battle every day against the preconceived notion that if you’re pretty, you’ve had everything handed to you on a silver platter and have never had to work or to fight for what you have in your life.  It’s hard to stay positive when people attack you based on those assumptions, or avoid you entirely and refuse to get to know you.

But what actually struck me more, in reading this story, was the commentary surrounding how this girl is “wasting her potential”.  How she’s wasting valuable time, thought, and energy on a beauty routine that involves self-tanner and fake nails.  How she’s wasting her mind by watching trash TV shows.  How she’s wasting her thoughts and her potential on dreams of a future in performance.  The general disdain for beauty and so-called “superficial” pursuits is prevalent throughout the article, and even more so in the comments being left by readers.

This kind of pressure is commonly faced by those of us with higher-than-average intellects, and it can be absolutely crushing.  When everyone’s telling you how much you could do and pushing you to “live up to your full potential”, it feels as though the expectations placed upon you are almost impossible to live up to — as though nothing you do can ever possibly be good enough.  Any “wasted” time becomes a source of guilt, and whenever you can’t be in two places at once or do everything perfectly on the first try, you feel as though you’re letting everyone down and not doing as well as you “should” be.  And when you need to ask for help, you feel bad, as though you’re somehow failing by needing someone else to lend a hand or show you the way.  And it can feel incredibly unfair when you feel those expectations being put upon you, but not on anybody else:  I still feel a huge sense of injustice when my parents brush off my siblings’ lack of scholastic ability, when they spent so much time berating me for every “A minus” grade that I “could have done better” on, or when a well-meaning friend or relative criticizes my choice to pursue an arts career when I “could be” a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist or whatever other career they happen to think is more suitable.

This is a pressure that I’ve faced throughout my life, and I’m sure the girl in this story is feeling a huge wave of it right now.  And it’s completely unfair.

First of all, there’s the simple fact that just having a high IQ does not mean you’re good at every single subject.  You may be able to grasp unfamiliar concepts more quickly, remember things more readily, or assimilate information in a quick & easy fashion, but that doesn’t mean you’re good at everything you do.  I still have my subjects that I struggle in, and so does every other “genius” I’ve ever met.  I’ve needed extra help, from time to time, and it’s often frustratingly hard to get — it’s amazing how often people will say things like, “but you’re smart, why can’t you understand this?”, or dismiss your efforts as though you’re not even trying because “you’d get it if you just put your mind to it”.  But just being generally smart does not mean you’ve got a natural aptitude for everything.

And along with aptitude, there’s interest.  Different things catch different people’s attention, and we shouldn’t feel limited to only certain areas of study because those are traditionally seen as more “intellectual”.  So what if a smart person wants to apply their brains to an artistic field, or if they’d rather do a job that involves using their hands?  A person shouldn’t need to feel intellectually challenged by their work every single day (unless that’s what they themselves actually want).  And if a person decides to go into a field that’s not “intellectual”, they shouldn’t feel guilty because they “could” be doing something else.  I may be intelligent, but I wouldn’t be happy working in a lab — spending my life trying to cure cancer or blaze new legal trails would leave me feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, and ultimately I’d never have the sort of passion for the work that drives true innovation.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that IQ is only one measure of intelligence.  As we come to understand more and more about the way the human brain works, we’re beginning to place more important on things like the “emotional quotient” and on different learning styles and “types” of intelligence.  A person who has a relatively average IQ, but is very passionate about their subject, is likely to spend more time and energy working on it — and if they’re coming at it from a different angle or “learning style”, they may see things in it that a traditionally-intelligent, “booksmart”-type would not see.

There’s a high level of “burnout” among high-IQ individuals, and a lot of that is directly related to these pressures that we face.  We’re expected to be highly self-reliant and to need less teaching.  Our peers often rely on us to help them out when they are struggling with a topic (“hey, you’re smart, can you explain this?”), but who do the “smart kids” turn to when we’re in need of a little help?  If we choose to spend a few hours relaxing and playing a video game or watching TV, we face the criticism that we “should be” learning something instead, never mind that down-time and letting your brain shut off for a while is important for all people (“why aren’t you off curing cancer right now instead of watching that reality TV show?”).  And often our less-intellectual friends come to rely on us for things that aren’t even really our responsibility:  we’re the ones who are expected to remember every little detail, even if we’re not directly in charge (“well you should have known better”).  Sometimes the more you deliver, the more it seems people expect of you, until everything in life becomes a thankless struggle to keep up with the expectations that are being placed on you.

Happy Valentines Day! Musings on the Nature of “Fetish”

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

I’m not a huge fan of Valentines Day (for all of the usual reasons) — so rather than taking one of my boys out to an overcrowded “romantic” restaurant on a date and spending a bunch of money on gifts (blargh, no thanks!), I’m spending the evening eating homemade pirogies while the cats fight about who gets to sit on my lap and beg for a piece of my bacon (haha, fat chance, kitties: the bacon is mine!)

Anywhos.  In honour of this overly-commercialized pseudo-holiday, I bring you a (gasp!) post about a sexual topic.  Fetishes!  What they are, why we have them, and a little bit of gender theory on the topic.

Collar & leash fetish (model: me; photographer: blurred photography)

As with a most sexual topics, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation and judgmental bullshit to be found floating around the Internet (and in real life, as well).  It’s hard to even find a decent definition of what constitutes a “fetish”, so I’ll start this post off with a little bit of a vocabulary list, and some discussion of the term itself.

There are a few different things that people mean when they call something a “fetish”.  They may mean fascination.  They may mean kink.  Or they may actually mean fetish — but I would further define the term into two distinct categories:  soft and hard fetishes.

Now, a fascination would be non-sexual in nature.  If something fascinates you, it grabs your attention.  It’s something that you think about — perhaps even obsess over — often and in great detail.  The word “fetish” is sometimes used to describe this behaviour, but it’s not what I’m referring to in this post.

kink, meanwhile, is something that interests you on a sexual level.  It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it falls outside the category of “straight” or “normal” sex (“normal” being, of course, a problematic term, since what is “normal” is culturally influenced and can be endlessly debated — but that’s neither here nor there to this post, really).  Anyone who has an active and happy sex life has probably had kinky sex at some point — whether you’ve brought a set of pink, fuzzy handcuffs into the bedroom, blindfolded your partner, whacked them with a riding crop, dressed like a sexy schoolgirl, licked ice cream off their nipples, tried re-enacting a scene from “50 Shades“, or gone full-blown “story of O” with one another, you’ve probably introduced some kink into the bedroom.  It may have been exciting, it may have been silly, it may have been a gigantic and horrific failure.  In any case, kink is pretty casual (and, yes, entirely “normal” — but that’s a whole other post right there).

In the “true” sense of the word, fetish has referred to a sense of sexual arousal derived from a specific object, situation, non-genital body part, etc. (genitals don’t count, because they’re “supposed” to arouse you).

Webster defines fetish as:

  • an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression

Other dictionary definitions include:

  • any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.
  • any object, activity, etc, to which one is excessively or irrationally devoted
  • Something, such as an object or a nonsexual part of the body, that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification.
  • a form of sexual desire in which gratification depends to an abnormal degree on some object or item of clothing or part of the body

Obviously there’s some significant deviation between definitions. While Webster defines a fetish as something that is “psychologically necessary for sexual gratification”, other definitions only say that this may become necessary, while still others ignore that aspect entirely. Some definitions refer to the having of a fetish as “abnormal” or “irrational” (again, I must point out that “normal” is a somewhat subjective thing), while others refer only to a “habitual erotic response” and skip the judgmental language.

Added to the confusion is the fact that having a fetish is something that is often pathologised, with psychotherapy, counseling, and behaviour modification techniques being commonly recommended as ways of “curing” a fetishist.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the definition that I personally consider to be most correct.  In my definition, soft fetishes are those things which are non-sexual in and of themselves (so, not genitals or common erogenous zones) but which cause sexual arousal in the fetishist. Hard fetishes are when that normally non-sexual thing becomes necessary to the fetishist achieving orgasm (or even sexual pleasure of any sort).

Either a soft or a hard fetish may become a source of psychological distress, but neither is (in my non-medical opinion) a disorder all on its own. Having a fetish is not a bad thing, and I think it’s important to remove the negative and judgmental language that has so often surrounded the word.

So!  Now that we’ve defined the term, let’s talk a little bit about why, exactly, we have fetishes in the first place.

being_kinky_makes_me_interesting_and_special_trollcat

It has long been supposed by psychoanalysts that fetishes are commonly formed through “imprinting” or “classical conditioning” — often in early childhood, although it can happen in adults as well. The basic theory is that which was illustrated by Pavlov: if, for example, a person who is first developing a sense of their sexuality always masturbates in the shower, they may begin to associate the feeling of an orgasm with the warm water, or with the particular scent of the soap they use, or with the feeling of a porcelain tub.

A particularly striking or traumatic incident may also “imprint” upon a person’s behaviour: if a person’s first sexual experience was particularly negative, for example, they may afterwards find themselves being aroused by shame or violence or pain — or by something much more specific, like the sound of your first lover’s derisive laughter. Non-sexual incidents may also leave their mark upon a person’s sexual desires: having been wrapped up in a blanket by an older sibling & scared by that as a child may result in a mummification fetish, while a person whose favourite babysitter wore a leather jacket may find themselves aroused by leather clothing or objects later in life.

Because the mind is such a complex thing, it’s hard to determine what will “imprint” (and how), and what will not. Two people may go through the exact same experience, and one will come out with a fetish while the other doesn’t, or each will come out with a completely different fetish. And since some of these events happen while we are young children, they’re not always remembered or reported by fetish-having adults.

Transitional objects and behaviours are also commonly thought to be a source of fetishes: a thumb-sucker may grow up to have a particular penchant for fellatio, while a child who clung to their teddy bear may fetishize the feeling of faux fur on their skin.

But there are other, more subtle (and less understood) factors at work, here. One widely publicized study indicates that there has historically been a rise in the popularity of foot fetishes during times of widespread outbreaks of STIs. Does something as abstract as a fear of disease encourage us to fetishize? Are we really that logical about it?

There’s also a theory out there that certain personality types are more prone to developing fetishes: introverts are more likely than extroverts because they are shy and tend to be more self-reliant (so they seek ways to find self-gratification, rather than seeking “normal” sexual relationships). And people of high intelligence are also supposed to be more prone to fetishizing, possibly because “normal” sex is not challenging enough (like the child who acts out in class because they are bored), or perhaps just because of a tendency to overthink and obsess over minute details.

As with many sexual topics, there is a somewhat depressing lack of information and scientific fact out there to be discussed: much data is self-reported, and many of the conclusions commonly presented are nothing more than untested hypotheses. It has been shown in a few studies that classical conditioning can work to produce a soft fetish response in men (women haven’t been studied), but that’s about as far as it has ever been taken.

Which brings me to my next point: gender.  Discussions about fetishes tend to be very gendered affairs:  there’s a perception out there that it’s men who primarily have fetishes (especially hard fetishes), while women are not prone to such things.  I don’t think that this is an accurate perception at all.

Or is it?

I think that the idea that fetishes (or even sex in general) are more of a “guy thing” is largely learned, not a hard-wired part of the “man-brain”.  A big part of this has to do with the difference in the way our society treats male and female pleasure.

From childhood, men are more encouraged to explore their sexuality. Self-gratification, masturbation, and exploration of kink & fetish are very taboo for young women, not as much so for young men (this has to do with the slut/stud divide: where men who are sexually aware & active are seen as virile and masculine, while females in the same situation are seen as dirty and deviant). So during those formative years when some of our base sexual desires are being discovered and wired into our brains, males are being encouraged (and even pressured) by their peers and by media and by society in general to explore and to touch themselves and to find their sexual side. Females, conversely, are being told that touching themselves is dirty, that sex is scary and dangerous, and that only bad people are interested in sex. This leads to males, as a general thing, having a greater variety of experiences during those formative years, because they feel a freedom that females do not. A young woman learning to touch and explore her body is likely to keep it very private, and unless she has a great deal of unsupervised freedom in her life she’ll be unlikely to introduce a lot of outside elements into her masturbation habits. Young males, on the other hand, are somewhat encouraged to just go ahead and stick their bits into anything with a hole of approximately the right size.

Psychologically, it’s much more likely that a hard fetish will develop young. So the greater prevalence of hard fetishes among males likely has a lot to do with the age at which sexual exploration begins to be encouraged.

On another level, male gratification is seen in mainstream media (and thus by society in general) as the ultimate goal of sexual activity. It’s rare to see any portrayal of sex where the man does not “get off” — and it’s rare to see portrayals of sex where the activity continues after his orgasm has been achieved. The “male gaze” is also a factor, here: since we are almost always intended to identify with a white, hetero, male protagonist, we are most concerned with seeing him get what he wants. And that attitude is reinforced even in places that are more sex-positive for females: women’s magazines may tout the newest vibrator as the best way to achieve your own pleasure, but they still carry articles about how to “please your man” in overwhelming abundance (even though most men report being happy with their sex lives). Women exist in supporting roles. Women are taught that achieving orgasm is difficult & rare, that it’s okay to “fake it”, and that it’s expected (and even virtuous – gross!) for a female to not enjoy sex as much as a male does (or at all). What this means is that a man who has a hard fetish (or even a soft fetish that makes achieving arousal easier) will continue to explore that, because erection and ejaculation are seen as being very important elements of masculinity. A man who cannot orgasm is “broken”: there is something terribly wrong with him. The stigma against erectile dysfunction and the fear of being “unmanned” will likely overcome any shame that might arise from unusual masturbatory habits. Women, on the other hand, may discover a fetishistic behaviour at some point in their journey of sexual exploration, only to shun and deny it as “shameful” and “deviant” (see earlier comment on the “slut/stud divide”). It’s less likely to become part of a normal masturbatory routine (and, of course, repeating the same fetishistic behaviour on a regular basis is one of the things that can turn a soft fetish into a hard one). It may remain as an occasional “guilty pleasure”, but it’s likely something that she’ll keep limited and private.

And that leads me into my next point: it’s easier for women to hide a fetish. Because males are expected to achieve erection and ejaculation during a sexual encounter, while women are permitted (and sometimes even expected) to just “lie still and think of England”, a man can’t hide it if he has a hard fetish. If he can’t get it up without a particular object being involved, he’ll have to share that information with his partner, or face being the guy who can’t please a woman and isn’t a “real man”. A woman might be seen as “frigid” if she doesn’t respond to sexual activity, but that’s not nearly as much of a negative thing.

Men are also traditionally seen as the “leaders” in heterosexual sex. Men are supposed to “take the reins” and be “dominant” and “assertive” about what they want in bed. Since femininity is associated with passivity and being quiet and all of that nonsense, men are likely to feel more freedom in bringing up a fetish (even a soft one), because they feel “in charge” of the situation and are used to asking for what they want. Women have to deal with a much greater fear of rejection in this sort of a situation, and are under some pressure to not appear “sluttish” by demanding things that will please them in bed.

As a final thing, I’d like to talk a little bit about how and why fetishes — both soft and hard — are so often seen as a negative thing.

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Like many sexual activities, proclivities, and preferences, fetishes have spent a lot of time being demonized. It is only very recently that fetishes and paraphilias have begun to be redefined. Until the last decade, simply having a fetish of any sort was enough for a person to be defined as mentally ill!  Of course, it was only in the mid 70s that homosexuality was taken off the list of mental illnesses, so this is a problem that extends way beyond just the fetish and kink worlds.  Our understanding of human psychology is overall kind of crappy, and we need to work on that.

But back to the topic at hand.  Society’s general disdain for sexual acts (especially those which are not a part of the status quo) is only partially to blame, here, because even within the kink community there is something of a negative stigma attached to certain fetishes — and to hard fetishes in particular.

What it boils down to is that fetishes have an inherent selfishness to them — especially if it’s a fetish that your partner does not share. If you must involve (for example) shoes in some way in order to get off, it limits your sex life in some regard and puts a burden on your partner(s) with regards to how they can express their own sexuality. Depending on how generous you are as a lover (are you willing to put aside your fetish on some days and forgo your own pleasure just so that they don’t need to worry about it?), this can quickly put a strain on a couple’s sex life.

Soft fetishes are somewhat less problematic, because they don’t need to be dealt with in all sexual activities, but there is still a “you want me to do what?” factor. Some generosity on the part of a non-fetish-having lover is required, or the fetish-haver will likely feel unfulfilled and unhappy that their fetish is never acknowledged or appreciated.  But the fetish-haver must be understanding as well — they have to recognize that their partner doesn’t share this desire and that it might seem “icky” or off-putting.

Depending on the fetish, it may be something that comes up only occasionally, or it may be something that is constantly being brought up as a factor.  Having a fetish for boys in dresses, for example, is something that you can explore occasionally and then put back into the closet in-between times, to be brought out at your convenience.  You’re not going to encounter boys in dresses very often in your day-to-day life (or in your regularly scheduled sex life), so it’s something that can be, at least sometimes, ignored.  A shoe fetish, though:  almost everybody wears shoes.  You’re going to see those all the time, on all sorts of people.  It can become something distracting and can cause jealousy — if your partner knows about your fetish, they may find themselves second-guessing the relationship every time you compliment a friend’s footwear.  And a foot fetish can be even worse:  it’s not like your partner can leave their feet out of it when you’re having sexy-times together, so it’s easy for them to start feeling as though you focus WAY too much on their feet and not enough on the rest of them.  Unless you are a very sensitive and communicative person, it’s easy to leave someone feeling objectified and undervalued in this situation.

Of course, a part of the problem comes from the fact that fetishes have been marginalized for so long.  There’s a lack of information, and a lot of the information that is readily available (especially with the Internet) is not particularly accurate (like with most things to do with sex, porn is almost never the place to look for an accurate depiction).  Until we start accepting that fetishes can be a part of a “normal”, healthy sex life, they’re always going to be viewed with disgust and distrust.  The recent changes to the psychological definitions of fetishes have been a step in the right direction, and therapists (especially those who specialize in sexual issues) are becoming more knowledgeable about the subject, but that knowledge has yet to filter down to the general public.  Finding out that your partner has a fetish can be intimidating, and we’ve not yet developed many resources for helping with that.  But hopefully my blog post adds something to the discussion!

If you are looking for resources & support with regards to fetishes (your own or a partner’s), here are some links that might be helpful — or just leave a comment below and I’m happy to offer whatever advice I can!

The “Friendzone” is a Myth, and You are Not a Nice Guy

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

“Friendzone” is one of those terms that I absolutely cannot stand.  While the term’s been around since the 90s (most sources credit the TV show “Friends” with its origin), it has become much more popular in the last couple of years, and now seems to be a fixture in common parlance.  The Internet is rife with the rants and whinings of the “friendzoned”.  Of course, this whining usually has the opposite effect of what was intended — its only purpose, really, is to let me know that the person using the term is an asshole and not worth being friends with in the first place.

For those unfamiliar with it, Urban Dictionary defines the friendzone as “What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to.”  Wikipedia’s definition is a little bit more honest (as well as being gender neutral):  “the friend zone refers to a platonic relationship where one person wishes to enter into a romantic relationship, while the other does not.

Now, I’m not saying that wanting “more” from a friendship with a person who you find attractive is always a bad thing.  I actually prefer to date people with whom I’ve already built a friendship, as it’s easier to trust a person who you already know and like.  The problem is that “friendzone” is generally presented as a negative thing, as though being friends is some sort of “consolation prize”.  It creates the impression that you were only in it for the possibility of sex, and if that possibility is removed, you’re really not interested in continuing the friendship.

I’ve lost my share of friendships this way, and the usual way of things is this:  you meet, chat, realize that you have a lot in common.  You hang out more often, find shared interests that you can do together.  You talk about all sorts of different topics.  And at some point, one party falls for the other.  The crush is revealed and – oh no – it’s not mutual.  Awkward.  Everybody feels kind of bad.  You say that you won’t let it change anything, and then … they disappear.  They’re never available to hang out any more.  Calls go unanswered.  You’ve lost a friend, because they couldn’t deal with the embarrassment of being sexually rejected.

It’s pretty unpleasant, not to mention rather insulting, to think that a friendship you’ve invested time and energy into was only a plan to get into your pants.  And it can be heartbreaking when someone you’ve spent a lot of time with, and built a connection with, decides that they don’t want to be around you any more because you won’t offer them sex.

There can be dozens of different reasons why people who are compatible as friends may not feel a sexual attraction for each other.  The simplest explanation is physical attraction (or the lack thereof) — there’s not much that you can do if you just simply aren’t attracted to the person.  But there are countless other factors as well.  Maybe your wants and needs in a relationship are different (ie, if one person is polyamorous and the other is monogamous, it’s unlikely to work).  Maybe your future plans don’t mesh (ie, one person wants kids and the other doesn’t).  Maybe there’s already someone else, or you’re not over a recent breakup, or you’re still figuring out your sexuality, or you’re simply happy with being single.

Whatever the reason, deciding that friendship, without sex or other “benefits”, just isn’t quite “good enough” for you?  It’s an asshole move.  Ditching a friend because you’ve decided it’s not “going anywhere” makes you a total jerkbag asshat.  At least the person you’re dumping as a friend is probably better off without you, but that really is a totally shitty consolation prize.

The thing is, if you’re using the term “friendzone” to describe your relationship with a person?  You probably aren’t really their friend.  Friends care about each other as more than just objects, and want one another to be happy.  It’s fair to be disappointed when you fall for a person and they don’t fall for you — it’s a shitty thing to happen.  But grow up, be an adult about it, and respect their feelings.  You’ll get over it and find somebody else to crush on soon enough.  If you’re really their friend, you want them to find somebody great to be in a relationship with (even if that person isn’t you) — and they’ll want the same for you, as well.  You might even be able to have some good discussions with them, now, about why they don’t see you as a romantic possibility and about how you can go about improving yourself to become a better “catch” for when the right one comes along.  If you’re really lucky, you might even gain a “wingman“, to help you with approaching and attracting the next person you develop a crush on.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking right now, so I’m just going to nip this in the bud — substitute alternative pronouns if necessary.  “But I’m really a nice guy!  Why can’t she see that I’d be perfect for her?”

To start with?  No.  No, you’re probably not a nice guy.  Because the guys who complain about how “nice guys finish last” and “girls only like to date assholes”?  Are usually not particularly nice.  They are, instead, what is known as a “Nice Guy” (note the capitalization and quotation marks).

In the world of the “Nice Guy”, people to whom you’re attracted are not seen as individual human beings.  They are interchangeable objects, into whom you deposit token gestures of how “Nice” you are.  Paying compliments.  Giving gifts.  Doing favours.  You count up all of these gestures like notches on a headboard, and expect that at some point you’ll be “paid back” with sex or a relationship, once the person is sufficiently in your “debt”.  Never mind that their feelings might be different from yours — they “owe” you, for all that you’ve “given” them.  It’s a shitty way to treat another person.  If you were truly their friend, you’d do favours and make such gestures without expecting anything in return, because that’s how friends treat each other.  You’d be upset if one of your friends gave you a gift, and then turned around and said “now where’s my present?”, so don’t do that to people you’re attracted to.

In addition to this, even if you are an excellent match?  They need to come to that conclusion themselves.  It might be a case of “right person, wrong time”, and if you stick around and are a genuine friend (and not a “Nice Guy”) to them, they may eventually reach that conclusion.  Don’t sit around waiting for it, of course, and certainly don’t pester them about it — seek other relationships and friendships in the meantime, and leave the ball in their court — but don’t consider the conversation over.  People grow, and change, and sometimes an initial rejection will turn into something different over time.

But wait — what’s that, Morpheus?

That’s right — there’s one other category that I haven’t dealt with yet.  That’s the people who “friendzone” themselves, because they never even bothered to say anything about their feelings.

This can be one of the most hurtful things to experience.  You make friends with a person, spend a bunch of time together … and then out of the blue, they stop calling, stop being available, and the friendship simply ends.  No explanation, you didn’t have a fight or a falling out, it’s just over.

And then you hear from a mutual friend: “oh, X had a crush on you, and you didn’t like them back, so they decided to end it”.  And you’re floored.  You didn’t know they felt that way.  Were there signs that you should have seen?  Why didn’t they talk to you about it?  It hurts to think that a person felt so intimidated by you that they found it easier to cut you off than it was to just talk to you about it.

This is one of the stupidest things that a person can do.  In addition to the usual problems associated with “friendzoning” (you’re treating the person as an object rather than a person, you’re more interested in sex and your own desires than you are in the friendship and their wants & needs, etc), there’s the added hurt of being completely left out of the decision-making process.  Maybe you hadn’t thought of that person as a possible sexual partner, but knowing that they feel that way about you might have left you feeling open to exploring the possibility.  But they chose for you; they decided how you felt (and took away your ownership and agency of your own emotions), acted on it, and you didn’t even get a say.

So to sum up:

  • Never use the term “friendzone”.  It’s a term only used by assholes.
  • If you’re attracted to a friend, and they don’t feel the same way about you, respect them enough to accept their decision and move on.
  • Cutting a person out of your life because they won’t have sex with you is shallow and childish, and not the way you’d treat a friend.
  • If you’re attracted to a person, say something.  Don’t assume that they are psychic, and don’t assume anything about their feelings in return.

Online Identities: Navigating the Minefields of Trolls, Bullying, Privacy, and the Lack Thereof

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by KarenElizabeth

The Internet is aflame this week (even more so than usual) in the aftermath of two very high-profile incidents which have once again thrown the spotlight on issues of online privacy.  I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about:  Amanda Todd’s suicide and its aftermath, and the “outing” of Michael Brutsch (a.k.a. Violentacrez).  Even Mittens’ latest social blunders haven’t distracted us entirely from the discussion and debate that has ensued.

The real question, the one that has kept people talking (and it’s something that’s come up before, and will certainly come up again), is this:  what expectation should we have of online privacy, and how does one preserve one’s anonymity in the face of a world where all of our online doings can be traced and collected?

The short answer, of course, is that no one gets to be anonymous.  Every action, every word: whether online or in “real life”, we must own our own behaviour and be answerable for our own actions.  What we do and say can always come back to haunt us, and on the Internet everything is recorded — it’s like living your life in front of a video camera.

Of course, on the Internet we do have the privilege of anonymity, to some degree, simply because so much of the time?  Absolutely no one is watching what’s being recorded.  What websites we visit, what we search on Google, what porn we download — most of the time, nobody really cares.  The information is recorded, there to be found by anyone who searches, but searching takes an effort, and for most of us?  The fact that looking us up takes work is enough to maintain our fragile anonymity.  The same is true in real life — while someone easily could be following our every movement, watching our every action, does anybody really want to go to so much trouble?  Unless you’re some sort of mega-celebrity with the paparazzi hounding your steps, the answer is very likely “no”.

There are ways to increase the difficulty factor involved in that search, of course.  Using pseudonyms, shielding your IP address, protecting your passwords and Internet behaviours from people you know in real life, taking care that the online identities you use from one website to the next are not immediately traceable to each other.  You can be discriminatory in what information you talk about or share at all online (for example, by never posting photos that show your face) — these are all legitimate strategies.  They take additional effort on your own part, and are not insurmountable obstacles (nothing can completely shield you all the time), but increasing how hard it is to trace you can be enough to deter a casual searcher with not much to prove or to gain by figuring out just who you are and what you do on the Internet.

There are those, of course, who believe that nothing should be hidden.  On this point I have to disagree:  while I am an advocate of honesty in most every sphere of life, I also understand that concealment and deceit are not necessarily an indication that you are doing something wrong, and there are things that we all keep private (most of us probably don’t detail our sex lives to all and sundry, for example, or tell all our friends about the intimate details of the bout of diarrhea we suffered through, or tell the people at work what we really think of them and their stupid and annoying little habits).  We all have personal lives and private feelings.

But we’re not entitled to them.

Privacy is not an unalienable right.  It’s a privilege, one maintained mostly through a general sense of social propriety and politeness.  And it’s something that we can lose at any time, often through no fault of our own (try having a serious medical issue some time: an extended hospital stay will let you know just how much of your life is *really* private).  We have no legal protections from those who might choose to seek us out and invade our most intimate secrets, because knowledge cannot be copyrighted or owned.

Unfortunately, knowledge can also be used to harm.  While I have no sympathy whatsoever for someone like Michael Brutsch, who has reportedly lost his job (among other things) in the wake of his being “outed” as the man behind such Internet horrors as the “creepshots” and “jailbait” subreddits, I can still feel disgusted at humanity when the man is facing threats of death and violence.  He deserves to be ostracized, judged harshly, and treated accordingly, but violence is never a justifiable response to anything, and the people who would make such threats are truly no better than he is.  But at the same time, he at least can be said to deserve the negative reactions to his actions — he has admitted to deliberately “trolling” for negative reactions, and shouldn’t be surprised that those reactions have been extreme, because extremity is exactly what he aimed to provoke.

Where I feel a lot more sympathy is with people who need Internet anonymity in order to be able to speak safely about the topics they tackle.  People like Orac, Bug Girl, and other pseudonymous bloggers:  they are required by their jobs to maintain separation between their Internet personas and their professional ones, and a pseudonym allows this (even while it does not provide 100% protection for their identity, and determined searchers are still able to — and sometimes do — find them out).  Others use pseudonyms for more concrete forms of safety:  those who criticize certain political or religious groups, for example, may be putting their lives at risk by doing so, and an extra level of difficulty in finding out one’s identity may be a very prudent step to take in that sort of scenario.

The other facet to the current discussion is, of course, just how easy it has become for a bully or a troll to ruin someone’s life by spreading false information through the medium of the Internet.  Something as simple to create as a phony Facebook account can cause a person untold amounts of social strife, and how do we protect against this?

Well, the same way we always have.  There are already laws against character defamation, libel, and slander.  There are laws against harassment, and against uttering threats.  We don’t need new laws to police the Internet — we just need to educate people on their rights and on how to deal with such attacks.  If a troll or a bully is harassing you, you can report them to the police.  If someone is saying false things about you, you can sue them.  Even if someone is using true information (as in the Amanda Todd case), but they’re doing it in such a way as to harm you, you can take legal action against them and stop them being able to attack and hurt you.

Don’t know who the person is?  That doesn’t matter.  Because as we’ve already established, everything on the Internet is traceable.  Even if you’re not computer-savvy enough to hunt down a troll, other people are.  The authorities have resources in this regard, and they can find out a person fairly easily.  Lack of anonymity is a double-edged sword, and when you’re the victim?  You can use it in your defense, as well.

In the end, the best thing a person can do to protect themselves from losing their online anonymity is just to simply be blameless.  Don’t do things online that you wouldn’t do in real life, or draw attention to yourself through bad behaviour.  Don’t use anonymity as a shield, because it’s a very flimsy shield — like Wiley Coyote hiding under a tiny umbrella to ward off a falling boulder.  If you’ve got serious concerns about hiding yourself (if you’re using the Internet as a medium to distribute a message that might get you shot in the head by the Taliban, for example), seek real-life ways of protecting your person and your safety, as well as using the tactics I outlined above (pseudonyms, hiding your IP, no photos, etc), because to rely solely on Internet anonymity is foolhardy.

My Personal Artistic Manifesto – Updated June 2012

Posted in Ramblings, Theatricality with tags , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by KarenElizabeth

When I first started univeristy, I was introduced to the concept of the “artistic manifesto”.  It was something that struck me as immediately useful, whether for a company of artists or for a single person: a document to which you could return, time after time, to review the reasons why you started out on a particular path, and to examine whether those goals are still valid, whether you’ve remained true to them, and whether some of your practices need to change.

I sat down to writing almost immediately, and after several drafts I had a starting place.  An artistic manifesto that I was proud to put my name to — something to build the beginnings of my career from.

Every so often since then, I’ve sat down and re-read the document I wrote.  I’ve updated it a few times — even re-wrote it entirely, at one point — but certain things have carried through.  Even as the world changes, and my life changes, and my knowledge grows, I like having something that I can go back to.  Something that says, “this is what I want from my life”, so that when I’m facing a choice, or an obstacle, or just feeling unmotivated, I can read my own words and feel inspired.

I spent part of my day, today, updating and re-writing portions of my manifesto.  Not because it had become less valid, but because it’s been about two years since I’d last done so, and some things in my life have changed since I last took a serious look at this.  And when I was finished, I thought:  I want to share this.  So here it is, in its entirety.  My personal artistic manifesto, in its current iteration.

—-

1.

I believe in art.

I believe that art is not merely a pastime, or a hobby.  Art is a necessity for human life, as important as food, and safety, and shelter.  A life devoid of art is not worth living — indeed, cannot even be called “life”.  To live without art is merely to exist, in a sort of existential limbo, awaiting illumination and enlightenment.

I believe that art is the purest of human endeavors, beginning as it does with the most basic of human qualities, the thing that separates intelligent beings from mere animals:  the need to communicate.  When early man painted on cave walls, told stories around the fire, and learned to create music, the purpose was to communicate.  To share, with other intelligent beings, a bit of their knowledge and experience.  And this was not mere entertainment, a simple way to pass the time:  important knowledge was passed on, bonds forged between individuals, and the advancement of the human species was fostered by this great variety of communication.

I believe that art has more power than science, or religion, or politics, because none of these things would prosper without art to support them.  No idea, however grand, can be realized without communication.  If it is not shared, and spread, and accepted into a culture, an idea dies.  Kings and empires have been brought down by the stroke of a pen; revolutions sparked by the notes of a song.  It is our responsibility, as artists, to use and shape this power wisely.

2.

There is no art that is not political.  Art is an expression of the culture from which it comes, whether in support of or against the status quo.  To dismiss art as merely entertainment is to ignore its true nature and power, and the artist does this at their peril.  It is when we engage the power of our chosen medium that we can truly shape the message we convey, and create the most powerful end product.

There is no art that is not collaborative.  Every artist is shaped by the people and the culture and the world that surrounds them, so that even if they create in absolute isolation, they are still bringing the world in with them.  And when the art is shared with an audience, then there is collaboration as well:  the audience’s thoughts and feelings and reactions will shape the art in different ways, so that one piece may touch every single person in a slightly different place.  Thus, art is never static, never “finished”:  it is always living, changing, existing in the present tense for all who encounter it.

There is no art which is “good” or “bad”, for these absolutes cannot apply to the basic need to communicate.  There are, however, different levels of skill with which a piece may be executed, and some art is therefore more effective.  Then, too, there is art that effectively serves its purpose, but lacks any relevance:  this art does not speak to an audience, or does not share anything worth saying.  It is the artist’s responsibility to use the power of their art to its fullest — to always execute a piece to the best of their ability, and to make sure that their message is a thing worth saying.

3.

I believe that artists should always aim to communicate something meaningful.  Without passion, art rings hollow, and quickly becomes irrelevant.  What is meaningful to each particular artist may be different, but what is most important is that passion be the thing at the beginning.

Art is a great motivator for change, and should always be used for promoting action.  Art which supports the status quo is ineffective, as it only promotes inaction.  It is the responsibility of the artist to create that which communicates a need for something to be done.  A participant in art — whether they are the creator or an audience member — should be left changed by their encounter with art, and motivated to go out and do something about it.

4.

I believe that theatre is one of the most effective forms of artistic expression.  Theatre is highly collaborative, to a degree not seen in many other mediums, requiring many different people with a great variety of skill sets to realize a production.  The involvement of the audience is live and immediate, with their presence and feedback providing the opportunity for the same production to be different on every single night.  This immersion and involvement of the viewer places them into a state where they are ready to be impacted and changed by the message being communicated through the art.

5.

It is my aim to create art which is effective and relevant, and to shun that which supports the status quo and inaction.  I will create art that effects the changes I wish to see within the world.

Theatre is my chosen medium, although I am not exclusively a theatrical artist.  I will work to promote the creation of theatre and to advance the craft of the stage.

I believe that art is more effective when it is created with the audience in mind.  Thus I will focus my creative energies on art that is specifically relevant to the people who surround me and who will be my audience.

Art is meant to be shared with others.  I will share my knowledge of my craft and work to create opportunities for other artists, as well as for myself.

I will keep learning, and seeking to learn.  I will never consider myself “finished”, because a piece of art is never finished as long as there are people to interact with it.

I will not give up, no matter what obstacles stand in my way, because to live without art is not living.

I will change the world.