Feminism

I’ve been thinking about feminism a lot lately. It’s a mix of reasons.

The first reason being the recently bandied about news phrase ‘The War on Women” (from recent news and blogs 1, 2, 3). This issue has come to a head recently when, during a hearing on contraception, only men were present. They actually kicked out a woman for not being ‘qualified’.  Also, a Personhood bill and transvaginal-ultrasound-before-abortion bill were up for votes in Virginia–both were retracted to be revised.

Second, this whole Pantheacon mess*  has brought to light how much I do not know about…well, anything to do with feminism, the transsexual population, sociological gender structures…Nothing. I know, intellectually, about the struggles women faced throughout history. I know–again intellectually–about the foundations of which Z. Budapest created Dianic Wicca and advocated for women’s-only sacred space. I know–one more time, intellectually–about why transwomen would feel hurt, excluded and angry. The only other thing I know is that I certainly do not understand or know enough.

In an age where Rick Santorum is considered a viable candidate for the presidency (and indeed–Republican women are beginning to favor him), when Rihanna and Chris Brown are recording albums together, when families like the Duggars popularize the Quiverful theology…I think it’s time to start (re)considering feminism, women’s spirituality and what, exactly, is going on.

Honestly, for me, it’s time to get started.

I’ve read one-and-a-half books/texts on feminism. Growing up it was something I took for granted. My parents loved me, supported me, told me I could do whatever I wanted, I was smart, I was never pressured to wear makeup, dress a certain way, be a ‘girl’. Never. My parents valued brains and character and kindness more than looks and normative feminine behavior. For that I’m forever grateful.

The first–and only, thus far–feminist book I read was called Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. Funnily enough, it was the book that shook me right out of Christianity. It opened my eyes to the rotten core, and try as I might I never could reconcile my longing for a spiritual truth to the Christian doctrine or institutions.

Grateful as I was to that book and those ideas, I didn’t pursue it further at the time. I leaped into Pagan literature. Which was fine. It broadened my thinking in tangential ways.

Then, last year’s Pantheacon controversy happened. I spent a lot of time researching transsexual issues, something that I never knew much about. This year, when it became an issue again–right in the middle of all of this GOP hatred of all things women, gay, different, other–something in me seems to have snapped a bit.

Or, rather, I’ve realized that I’m hungry. I’m hungry to read, to think about all of these things that I’ve always taken for granted. Truly, I don’t know what I’m hungry for, in a way. If that makes sense. It just seems that something out there has to make all of this (::waves hands about to the news, etc.::) make sense.

…Right?

Recommendations for literature happily accepted.

**For those of you who don’t know, Pantheacon is a large Pagan festival held every year. The past two years (2011 and 2012) there has been much controversy over a beloved (by some) elder holding rituals that discriminated against transsexual women. You can read more here and here.

Tipsy Confessional.

So, I’m tipsy. I thought I should let you know in case the quality of this post goes downhill. Because I’m most likely going to post it.

Three margaritas on a Wednesday leads me to realize this:

That even on my blog, I feel like I censor myself.

Isn’t that…silly?

I created this blog to have a place to collect my various interests. It has the Pagan label because, in broad spiritual terms, I am a Pagan. I love so much about the community: the thought, the curiosity, the introspection, adaptability, creativity. I feel compelled to say that yes, I know the downsides too: the petty behavior, the bickering, the fixating on people who disagree with you.

But you know what? That’s par for the course in any community. The curiosity? Creativity? Courage? Not so much. The Pagan community has taught me so much those aspects.

This post comes about  because the last post–about sugar–has been nagging at my mind. That I shouldn’t have posted it. That it didn’t have to do with Paganism, that it was too complain-y, etc. That it was…well…a bit vulnerable. And maybe off-topic. But my other mind said–hey, fuck you!It was real. It was what I was dealing with at the time. I got it off my chest. Whatever.

Finally, after three margaritas I thought–or I realized–that I do censor this blog. I don’t post my inner most feelings/thoughts/dreams about the gods and goddesses. I don’t post things I do magically/intentionally. Even here I bring the attitude of being in hiding, being in the Pagan-closet.

And that, my friends, is heresy. It’s sad. It tells me that even in my private spaces, I’m not real and honest with myself. I can’t let the people who know this address–mostly people I’ve met in real life who are incredibly accepting of me–know the real me.

Again, it’s sad. And it’s time for a change.

I’m not going to live my life in hiding. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And I start with  you–reader and friend. I start with being real with you.

Yes. I believe in magic. Ghosts. The supernatural. Faeries. Gods, goddesses, phenomena we can’t explain. I believe in intention. I believe in ritual. I believe that when I raise and direct energy something happens. I believe that, out there, is a coven or circle or grove, ready for me to join when I’m ready to find them.

(I am also scared of many of those things.)

I believe in compassion, friendship, companionship, hedonism, sensuality, grey-areas, kindness, sexual fluidity, commitment. I believe in the shadow you see in the corner of your eye, the love you feel for the world on a perfect Sunday, the sensual feeling of sliding into cool sheets for a stolen nap and suddenly ____ god/goddess pops into your mind and you say: thanks, dude(tte).

That’s it. That’s my tipsy confessional. I might read this tomorrow and wince (maybe from the tequila, too), but this is an oath. Time to be real. Time to be honest.

 

Sugar (Oh, Honey, Honey)

You are my candyyyyy girl! And you’ve got me wanting you!

Right. Sorry. Now that song is stuck in your head, I’ll continue.

Being intelligent readers, you have probably properly surmised that this post is going to be about sugar. To the point, my relationship with the stuff. I’ve done quiet a few posts on my food philosophy, but I haven’t done one in a while.

For the past year, I’ve had a pretty decent and moderate relationship with sugar (and by proxy, white flour). By that I mean that I’ve cut down my consumption to one of super-dark chocolate and occasional gluten-free treats.

In December that changed. It started with a box of gluten-free cookies that I purchased because I went to the store so damn hungry. The irony of it all is that I was talking to my mom about how! good! I! felt! not eating sugar and eating primarily a Primal-ish diet. Well, half the box later I shoved it off onto J, who took it to work. Problem solved.

Except, not. Except Christmas. A vacation. New Years. Etc. More and more, little bits of sugar began to creep into my life. Until, for the past week, I’ve been in a loop of mini-binges and mini-fasts.

Not. Good. If there is a slippery slope in my life, it is that of my eating disorder. When I’m eating well, exercising moderately and being a productive person I don’t even think of myself as having an eating disorder. But when that one bite becomes two becomes secret cruisin’ to eat…well. Then I have a problem, again.

On a positive note, I haven’t had this problem in exactly a year. Last January was when I stopped the craziness and started moderating my carb, grain and sugar intake. It was an experimental year, and a largely successful one.

Over the past week (yes, the same binge/fast week) I’ve been trying to moderate my sugar by doing things I KNOW WON’T WORK. Exercise (specifically, cardio! That’s right! Get back into that cycle!). Fasting (but now we call it intermittent fasting.) And my favorite: moderation (just one…no two…no three…Fuck! Who ate all the Girl Scout cookies?)

Moderation may work for some people. It does. not. work. for. me.

This is when the rubber meets the road when it comes to change. I have to accept that who I am is a person who cannot eat sugar and flour. I just can’t. I can hardly even have the stuff in the house before I eat it. This has always been the case, even when it featured prominently into my ‘healthy whole-grains’ quasi-vegetarian diet.

But what makes change attainable? It’s tricky, that’s the only thing I know for sure. I used to have these grand ideals of purity and perfection (um, hello, eating disorder). Extreme idealistic positions intrigued me, veganism and evangelical Christianity being the most prominent examples. Juxtaposed to this was the way I lived my life as a failed perfectionist. Since I couldn’t–who could?–live up to these arbitrary perfect standards I set for myself, I would just accept my inevitable failure. Enter binge/purge cycles, shame/judgment complexes, etc.

This changed, drastically, when I left the church. I eschewed notions of purity and perfection as completely unworkable and unproductive. I embraced sensuality and pleasure, and found my place in the pagan spectrum of belief.

I eventually (last January) changed my diet to reflect my new sensual/pleasure paradigm: lots of good meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, dairy, fat and wine. Occasionally high-quality chocolate and desserts (but not often). I largely nixed refined sugar, flour and most grains. I cut the cardio, opting instead for walking, yoga, heavy-lifting and occasional sprinting.

Life was balanced. I became productive. My moods moderated. I didn’t binge. I became strong and healthy, more creative. Life seemed to open before me. Food and body-image issues took a backseat, for the first time, to life.

(Amazing what getting your nutrition in check can do, right?)

Since I’ve put myself back into this cycle, I’ve also begun veering back into the unworkable idealistic extremes that defined my late teens and early twenties. First, intermittent fasting was the answer! (No.) Then, a complete sugar detox! (It lasted two days–and everything got worse). Then, a sugar challenge! Five pounds of sugar, one year! (Siiiiighhhh).

So, here I sit, thinking about the ‘answer’ when really, it’s not hidden from me. It’s the answer I know. Meat, vegetables, full-fat dairy, limited fruit, dark chocolate, wine. Walking, heavy-lifting, sprinting, yoga. Good sleep, good books, writing, sewing, sunshine and sex.

A life of pleasure is my answer to not eating sugar. A life of decadence, indulgence and productivity. But my mind still goes to the grass is always greener line–well, those people can eat a cookie! I want a cookie!

Goddamn, what is so special about a fucking cookie when I enjoy all of the above? Without guilt, without thought? With much pleasure and satisfaction? When said cookie introduces bad moods, excess weight and binging back into my life?

I guess it’s the human condition. Rather, my condition. My child-brain wants what my adult-brain has restricted. Right now, I have to educate my child brain like I’d educate my child.

No. You cannot have a cookie.

Instead, go out and play. Write a story. Read a book.

And don’t be late for dinner!

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

It’s not hard to imagine how the publishers felt when they happened upon Deborah Harkness’ book (however that mysterious kind of thing happens, I honestly have no idea). Well, I suppose it could have happened two ways. Either exasperation–more vampires, really? Or glee–smart vampires, finally!

Well, kind of.

A Discovery of Witches is a complicated first novel in the All Souls Trilogy. It begins by a reluctant witch and science historian, Diana Bishop, finding an enchanted manuscript during her work on ancient alchemical texts. When the manuscript surfaces it draws witches, daemons and vampires to begin lurking around Diana. The text is wanted by all, purported to hold the secrets of their evolution, destruction and powers. Chief among those intrigued by the text (and by Diana herself) is Matthew, a highly esteemed scientific researcher and geneticist who also happens to be a 1500 year old vamp.

I can’t help but liken A Discovery of Witches to…well, Twilight. I just can’t help it.  Possessive male vampire? Check. Girl that doesn’t seem special but just IS (rather, the narrative never seems to say why she is so special besides the blasé SHE HAS TONS OF POWER!…but…why? Maybe that’s forthcoming…)? Check. Well written..ch–wait, what?

Therein lies the primary–and most important–difference between A Discovery of Witches and Twilight. ADOW is well written. There are many lyrical passages, cozy settings, a whimsical, secrets-in-the-dusty-library atmosphere. The world-within-a-world structure (a palimpsest, if you will) is clearly drawn and evoked. The characters are (mostly) likeable. Harkness deftly weaves in scientific theory, fantasy genre elements, historic minutia. There are funny moments, tender moments, romantic moments. The plot clips nicely along. When I turned the last page of the book I wanted to know more, and I’ll be back for the sequel.

But…Here are my quibbles.

One, I’m sick and tired of the possessive vampire schtick. In the beginning of the book, Matthew, our vampire-hero-anti-hero, is an interesting, if aloof, character. In fact, I wasn’t clear that he was the romantic hero of the novel for a bit. I liked that. I felt that it gave me a little room to get to know more about the guy. But as soon as he falls for Diana he becomes…you know. Edwardian, and not in the historical sense. Harkness, the author, does a credible job of explaining why this is but it still doesn’t alleviate my irritation. Because as soon as that happens…

The heroine gets much less interesting. It never fails. In a novel where you have a possessive hero, the heroine is either defiant and stupid, or submissive and meek. Somehow, Diana manages to be both. I’m not sure how it happens, but it does. Diana goes from becoming kind of interesting to dull, very fast. The plot seems to be happening to her, instead of by her own agency.

The only other problem I had was the pacing. Towards the end the action became disjointed. Plot points seemed to happen for the sole purpose of moving the story along, rather than generating from the characters. The Matthew and Diana in the beginning of the book didn’t match the Matthew and Diana in the end, which was a real shame. I liked M & D in the beginning.

I’ll read the next book. The premise has a lot of potential. The writing is smart and whimsical. The weaving in of genetics, evolution, biology, ecology and history is fascinating and well done. I’m happy to see the fantasy genre being taken seriously for what it is–a medium on which many different genres can come out and play.

Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher: Penguin

Cost: $9.79 at Costco

Read With: Strong black tea (cream and sugar, please) and a scone. With clotted cream. Mmm.