Category Archives: Gender

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The Tidal Pool Treasures of Thailand

There is a place in Thailand that, to me, is the most magical place on Earth. I found it by accident, but I think I’d like to die there someday. I won’t say where it is, but if you ever want to go, tell me and if you’ve been kind to me over the years I will hand-draw you a map. In the mean while, I think we could all use a little magic during these tough times, so I’ll show you what I found there.

It all began when I woke up in my cliff-side bungalow the morning after I arrived, and looked out the window. By the first light of dawn, I saw something interesting outside:

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It looked like the entrance to a cave off in the distance. I’d stayed here once before but this was a new bungalow—two years ago the jungle was covering this particular view and I didn’t know the cave existed.

While eating  breakfast I chatted with an adventurous Slovakian couple. After finishing, the man hopped over a low rail partitioning off the dining area from the rocky cliff, and waved goodbye. I turned to his partner, and asked where he was going. She pointed to the rocks below. I was amazed they were going down there, because not once had the idea occurred to me last time I was there. I assumed it was too dangerous and stuck to the several sandy beaches, each offering its own slice of nature that was more than fulfilling for me. Minutes later, she finished her yogurt and prepared to walk down to find her mate. Knowing nothing about them I thought perhaps they were the rock-climbing type, and asked about the decent. “Yeah the path is kind of treacherous but it’s worth it,” she said, climbing down in flip flops.

Surely if she was wearing flip flops, I could do it in sneakers. But she wasn’t lying about it being treacherous. When I climbed down later there was barely a path through the jungle overgrowth, and I crabwalked and bouldered down most of the way. When I finally reached the bottom though, it was magnificent peaceful rocky heaven.

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Blood lust

Why is it that women aren’t supposed to have enemies, only oppressors? We can have cutesy competitions and petty rivals over men, or we can be under the thumb of some big bad force that we require saving from. But to acknowledge those people who have crossed us and held us back, those entities so inherently unjust that the knowledge of their continued existence activates a blood lust deep within that can’t be satiated until we see them flounder and fail… well, that’s not very ladylike.

When it comes to The Prisoner’s Dilemma, I much prefer a fair game. But let it be known, that if a bridge needs burning, I have no hesitation in striking the match.

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Casual Predation: Postscript

A week ago I published an essay on LadyBits called Casual Predation, about the ways in which women are made to feel hunted by random passersby. You can find that essay here:

View story at Medium.com

Since publishing, I have received quite a bit of feedback, both rewarding and distressing.  The best was the overwhelming response of acknowledgement from women I respect, such as Cindy Gallop, Kelly Bourdet, Nilofer Merchant, etc. Part of the reason I wrote this is that when I’ve spoken with women about the incidents I’ve experienced in the past, they always have some kind of story about being alone and freaked out because they were being hunted in some way—every single one.

The other part of why I wrote this is because I’ve noticed a major lack of understanding from guys about this very real, very common occurrence—even from the most awesome guys who I adore to pieces. And so another facet of rewarding feedback has come from guys who were finally able to have some sort of revelation through this essay about what it feels like to be a woman. One man emailed me so say: “Thank you for writing that. As I seek to reflect on making more positive contributions to the world (and at least quit being a jerk, to quote Marshall Goldsmith), I find writing like yours to be very useful.  I’m sure you catch all sorts of troll crap, and I wanted to provide a voice of thank you.”

You are welcome.

On the flip side, I’ve gotten some very bizarre feedback from a handful of guys who have read my story and been very defensive. Their line of reasoning seems to go something like: “I enjoy looking at women and having sex with them, and it’s offensive to me that you’re calling me a predator for doing this and trying to mate.” First of all, no. The whole point of the essay was to describe a very specific behavior that women notice that sets off defensive alarm bells in our bodies. While some people are certainly more sensitive than others, we can usually tell the difference between a look from someone who is a potential predator, and anything else. It isn’t hard to do if you are paying attention (provided you don’t have a condition that prevents you from detecting human emotion such as autism).

I used to have a parrot and sometimes he would bite me. Eventually, via observing his behavior prior to the bite, I learned to recognize his intent to bite me before he would lunge. He would get very attentive to the part of my body he was preparing to attack and his pupils would dilate. I learned to move just in time before he would fly into a monstrous rage, lashing his beak in every direction, and would put him in his cage to chill out.

If we can detect these warning signals in our animal companions, we can certainly detect them in other humans.

The first mention of “vagina” in a film

…was by Disney!

From Oddee:

As strange as it may seem, Walt Disney was on the forefront of women talking about their vaginae (plural of vagina). In 1946, Disney was commissioned by the Cello-Cotton company (who made Kotex feminine napkins) to make a film called The Story of Menstruation, which mentioned the V-word for the very first time on celluloid. The film was never released theatrically, but was shown to 105 million American students, along with advertisements for girls to make sure to use their brand when it came to “that time of the month.” The film was hardly pornographic – in fact, menstrual blood is shown as white instead of red. It is now in the public domain and can be watched below!

It’s actually pretty awesome, but pretty sad to notice how not far sex ed has come since the 40s. My kids will have 3D hologram diagrams of ovaries if I have anything to say about it.

Via Ira Cashewnutskya

Deliberate vs casual poisoning

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I heard an expression recently that I’ve been turning over in my mind the past few days while simultaneously reading the Machiavelli and Sun Tzu editions of The Art of War: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I heard it from someone who was essentially telling me to let go of something that was bothering me, because it was doing more damage to me than to the entities at fault. It made sense at the time and is a convenient mechanism to be able to let go of whatever is bothering oneself, but I haven’t decided if it’s valid or not.

I’ve always been intrigued by responses to female aggression, and how they are so very different than responses to male aggression. Men are allowed and encouraged to be angry from time to time, as it reinforces their manliness. But when women show even the slightest bit of aggression it is cause for behavioral modification. “Your message would be delivered much more effectively if you could deliver it without getting defensive,” is the PC psychological device to convey this. This is usually true, and a good thing to consider regardless of gender. But it depends on the audience and the validity of the statement.

Sometimes it’s not true though. Sometimes anger is a really effective way to deliver a message. Sometimes you’ve gotta throw down. But this should be done sparingly and considered a nuclear option for optimal results.

Only with both those methods exhausted is it time to turn to the poison. Sometimes the other person will stop in their tracks and look at you in your poisoned state and realize the fault in their actions. Sometimes when you drink poison, the other person does die. However, you can’t just casually drink poison and expect success. If you reach for the poison too quickly or frequently, your opponent will cease to feel the effects while you continue to suffer, resulting in inevitable defeat.

I originally thought this was a Buddhist quote, but then I looked up the origin and found it’s first source was an AA manual from the 80s, so that makes sense. But this is neither here nor there in terms of validity.

 

Gaslighting explained in GIFs from Clueless

Tonight I re-read one of the most important articles ever written in the history of the internet (according to me), Why Women Aren’t Crazy, by Yashar Ali from one of my favorite publications, The Good Men Project. It explains a situation that we ladies (and some gents) have likely all found ourselves in at some point or another. A situation that sucks so badly because it has the ability to derail logical circuits and send thoughts spinning off in all kinds of wacky directions. It trashes your self esteem and makes you question your sanity and your intelligence all at once. It is the phenomenon of GASLIGHTING, and it must stop.

Gaslighting is emotional manipulation that confuses people into thinking they are crazy for reacting to inconsiderate behavior. It’s not always intentional, but it is always hurtful. This manipulation is often carried out by men on female partners, but sometimes it happens the other way around and other times the term can be applied to parent-child or boss-employee relationships. For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to arbitrarily assume we’re dealing with a gaslighting guy and his innocent, unsuspecting lady friend.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.

Before I read this article, I had no idea there was a word to describe what so many guys have done or attempted to do to me throughout my dating career. But once I learned that this power trick is as old as time itself, or at least as old as black and white movies, I felt better (but then worse when I didn’t even see it coming when it happened again).

Here’s an example of how it happens, as explained by the cast of Clueless:

It starts when a guy you’re into looks at you with those eyes and makes your heart flutter a little bit.

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There’s probably some kind of physical exchange, as is only logical when two people are into each other.

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If you are an emotionally rational human, you will probably carry on as such, trying to move your relationship forward in a satisfying way, impressing him with your moves. But much to your dismay, you may find that he begins to act distant and becomes impenetrable to your charm. Maybe he says something mean, stands you up, or is just generally inconsiderate of your feelings.

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Because his new-found disinterest or agitation seemingly appears out of nowhere, you begin to question what you did, or what it is about yourself that caused this response and the break in the logical progression.

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When you try to initiate communication to point out the discrepency between what you think you experienced and what your interactions have become for no apparent reason, the gaslighter will try to dodge the questions and retreat into a further state of aloofness.

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Pressing them further will likely result in anger and accusations that you are the one causing the problem in that very moment.

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He will disregard your confusion and make you question your assessment of the situation, eventually making you believe that your sense of perception is off-kilter and that you are being paranoid, clingy, or crazy. He may even go so far as to blame the entire problem on your craziness and demand that you stop this behavior immediately, leaving you in a tailspin of internal confusion and emotional haze, powerless to do or say anything because you don’t understand what you did to cause this negative response in the first place.

You may do a number of things to try to remedy the situation such as acting like nothing is wrong or apologizing for overreacting and being crazy. All the while, you know in your gut that it’s not actually your fault. The more introspective you are, and the more you attribute events to an internal locus of control (sorry for the psychobabble), the more this knowledge will slowly erode your self image and sense of reality.

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Thankfully, this is what friends are for (or therapists, doormen, random people on twitter, etc.). When you objectively explain the situation, your friends may not be able to explain why the emotional interaction is occurring, but they will be able to recognize that something is off and it’s not your fault.

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At this point, the person being gaslighted may chose to end the interaction. Sadly, far too many people in the world allow the behavior to continue, constantly apologizing without knowing why and living in a state of confusion for eternity. But if, like myself, your unrelenting pursuit for knowledge and possibly concern for the person outweighs your emotional thresholds and your sense of self-respect, you won’t simply apologize and move on. You will figure out what the reality of the situation is.

Once the true motivation for the gaslighting behavior surfaces (such as guilt, emotional illiteracy and subsequent shame and avoidance, feelings of inadequacy, mental preoccupation, sadism, and in the case of poor Ingrid Bergman flat out criminal deception) the gaslighting psychosis will lift.

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Once you posses the missing information, your mental circuits realign and you can once again see yourself as the awesome person who attracted your cowardly little gaslighter in the first place.

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Hopefully the truth is something minor or something that can be stopped in the future. And if you’ve found yourself in this situation, don’t fret—it doesn’t mean you’re some kind of weakling. According to Ari:

The act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

The solution to preventing and approaching ongoing gaslighting is easier said than done, but something worth working for. This may sound cheesy, but be open and honest with your partners and accepting of their emotions. After all, if the thing causing the gaslighting is really a deal breaker, it’s better to be honest and find out your relationship is doomed sooner rather than being miserable and emotionally mute for an extended period of time.

Full Article: Why Women Aren’t Crazy

A man walks into a bar…

Not just an ordinary bar, a speakeasy bar tucked away in Williamsburg proper with an entrance so discrete you could walk right by it while knowing the address. Above the narrow gray cement entryway is the word “bar” painted in the most delicate of fonts. The heavy wooden door gives way to a long hallway and a second door, which finally lets out into a huge, wooden room with no decorations except for the back light on the bottles of liquor positioned in an array across the wall behind the bar.

This is my place of sanctuary in New York, my Cheers, where everybody knows your name and if they don’t they learn it within minutes because all the weird night owls of Brooklyn go there to banter with strangers when they need to be alone in public. “Regularity” isn’t a term you can apply to much about my life in New York City, but going to that place on Tuesday nights is probably the most regular thing I’ve done throughout these past four years. On Tuesdays, the bar is pleasantly scarce, allowing my favorite, long-haired, Alkaline Trio-loving bartender plenty of time to pay attention to me. Sometimes he sings my name when I walk in, as I saunter across the room before I take my place on the last bar stool, the seat that is reserved for the bartender’s favorite by unspoken speakeasy law.

So last night, I was sitting there when a man walked into the bar. He was a patron of some regularity, as the bartender and Mary, the regular sitting next to me, greeted him by his name, Connor, and introduced him to me. I watched him interact for a few minutes, without saying anything. There are so many instances in my everyday life where I am compelled to force pleasantries with people who simply must be liked, but when I am out by myself in Brooklyn, I allow myself be as standoffish as I want.

Connor started explaining to the three of us that he had come here to escape an odd situation in which he had felt compelled to suddenly leave his girlfriend’s house. “I just had to get up and go right at that moment,” he said, confused. “I don’t know what came over me, I just got up and left.”

“Why?” the bartender asked.

“I don’t know,” Connor replied. “I asked myself that and I just couldn’t come up with an answer.”

“Do you usually?” I asked, entering the conversation. My participation was like a prize for him, and he began to speak animatedly as if his words were a return gift.

“Yeah. You know how like, when you’re thinking about something, and you ask yourself a question, and your brain answers back with the answer? It’s usually a back and forth, but this time it was just a blank. There was no answer. Don’t you do that when you think?”

“It’s a pretty fluid process for me,” I replied flatly. There was something about Connor and his lack of introspection that set my loser alerts on high.

“So you just left your girlfriend?” Mary asked.

“Yeah, I just needed to leave.”

“What happened that prompted you to leave?” I asked, playing psychologist.

“It was a pretty normal night,” he said.

“But what happened right before you got up and left?”

“Well…” he said before pausing for a moment, “there was a dysfunctional vagina incident.”

The end of the bar erupted in a chorus of “Ooooh”s and “Okay”s, glad to finally have the logical truth. I said nothing but put my elbow on the bar and pressed my fingertips to my temple. He continued:

“Yeah, we’ve been dating for a while and whenever we have sex it’s like fucking PEMDAS. You know what PEMDAS is, right?” he asked looking at me with a challenge in his eye.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” I said, squinting at him. “How does PEMDAS apply to sex?”

“Because she needs everything to be done in a certain order or else it derails the whole train.”

“You know, just because you can’t get your girlfriend wet, it doesn’t mean she has a dysfunctional vagina,” I said. The bartender stifled a laugh.

“I knew one of you women was going to say that,” Connor said.

“So you got mad at her for not getting wet and then you just left?” Mary asked in disbelief.

Connor shrugged, and said he would have stayed if it had been later or he was tired, but there were waterworks of self-doubt, so he left and came here. The bartender was shaking his head at this point and caught my eye. Once upon a time in college, I used to think there was something wrong with me, that my body was broken somehow because it wouldn’t respond the way the boys I dated expected it to. I decided that sex was inherently unenjoyable, that the whole act was just a patriarchal plot to keep women submissive, and that women who claimed to like it were probably just deluded in a way similar to Stockholm Syndrome or were simply enduring it to obtain some power in the relationship. It wasn’t until that bartender and a few sets of soaking sheets that I realized how wrong I was.

I wonder how many women live their whole lives thinking they’re sexual misfits because the men who govern their sexuality aren’t comfortable or giving or skilled enough with their own to activate the sexual response mechanisms innate in their partners, physically and mentally.

Connor did a shot and asked the bartender if he wanted to roll the dice with him in a game of threes, but the bartender dismissed the idea. Connor didn’t ask Mary and I to play, obviously, since we’re women and all. But I slapped a bill on the table and told him to roll.

I took his money every game with a smile on my face.