31 January 2018

What Happens When You Switch the Genders?

Image from Wikipedia
A few months ago I had an idea. I wanted to take some classic works of literature and change the genders of all the characters to see how it changes the story.

So for the last few months I’ve been working my way through Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities doing just that.

I find it fascinating, the changes it makes to the story. All of a sudden, women are lawyers, doctors, carriage-drivers, and innkeepers. Some of the behavior that was attributed to female characters in the original is downright silly when attributed to male characters now, which highlights to me the silliness of accepting or expecting that behavior from women in the first place. Crowd scenes are suddenly populated with men and women, not just men.

I’m hitting some road bumps, though. I’m trying to decide what to do with historical figures such as the kings and queens, George Washington, and God. Changing the genders of the general population changes some of the history, of course, but part of me wants to keep the story in a realistic historic period. I’m not doing a simple search and replace of all the pronouns and calling it a day. I’m going through line by line, making decisions about changing genders or making certain terms gender neutral to be all inclusive rather than all female. Do I change the genders of the horses pulling the carriages? I’m changing some of the clothing references (but I like the idea of keeping women in trousers and frock coats) and removing facial hair for the most part.

I’d like to share this eventually. Maybe chapter-by-chapter here on my blog. But I still have a lot of work to do before I’m at that point. Hopefully in the next month or two I’ll be ready. Even if no one else is fascinated by this idea, I am and it’s keeping me going.

I know that this is still going to be a very white and very cis/straight and very British story. Here’s the thing, though. If you want to read a Black version, or a trans or gay version, or a version that takes place in India and Pakistan rather than London and Paris, or any other version, go ahead and write it. And share it with me and I’ll read it, too. We are limitless in our possibilities. (I downloaded a copy for free from Project Gutenberg. I’m not a copyright expert, though. It’s up to you to read the fine print when it comes to sharing it if you’re going to do something.)

There will be more to come on this.

17 January 2018

I Wrote About That Thing Between Those Two People

I am so conflicted on the Aziz Ansari and Grace situation and my feelings change with every new opinion and article I read about it. Am I disappointed to hear this about one of my favorite actors and comedians? Yes. Do I feel as disgusted as I did hearing about sexual assault by another favorite comedian, Louis C.K.? No, that horrified me and I haven’t been able to look at him the same way since.

Is it possible the woman was pressured into an uncomfortable situation? Yes. Is it possible Ansari was an asshole? Yes. Is it possible she feels jilted about a situation that didn’t go as she expected it might? Yes. Is it possible that they are both humans who don't handle every single moment in life perfectly? Yes.

Wow, this isn’t black and white, cut and dry, is it? It’s nuanced and complicated.

One thing that’s bothering me is the calls from individuals and from media outlets that this woman should have done more. Should have done something differently. That this was a date gone bad and she didn’t do enough to get out of it if she wasn’t happy. But they’re quick to say they aren’t victim blaming. They are victim blaming, though, if they’re giving out armchair advice in hindsight about what she should have done differently. They also haven’t been as vocal about saying what Ansari should have done differently.

After all the support given to celebrities who came forward with the sentiments of, “Of course those celebrities didn’t say anything. Power positions, loss of work, etc,” apparently we are to expect every woman who is out on a date to be more powerful because it’s just a date, it has nothing to do with their jobs. Women can feel intimidated by men for reasons other than money and careers. Is it that hard to believe that a woman was so star-struck by a celebrity ten years older than she that she couldn’t voice every objection she wanted to during the evening? 

Now we are demonizing women for not speaking up more often, as if a switch has been turned on and every single woman and man in the country has magically changed their behaviors. Look at all the romantic comedies where a man doggedly pursues a woman until she gives in. It’s what we’re all told is romantic. If men and women have both been conditioned this way, what does it say that we’re now asking women to be bitches and turn down those advances without equal footing given to telling men to get the picture and stop making the advances? And without the patience to realize that this change isn't going to happen to every woman and every man at the same time. Cultural shifts take time.

A note on verbal and nonverbal communication: My husband and I have been together since 2001 and we still don’t get the nonverbal communication and signals right one hundred percent of the time so should we expect people who don’t know each other well to read those signals accurately? I don’t doubt that Ansari misread her signals but by her own account he called her a car when she said she wanted to leave and she also didn’t say the specific word, “No,” until quite a few incidents had passed. She says at one point that she moved away and mumbled something. If she mumbled, maybe Ansari honestly didn’t hear her. Maybe by not leaving sooner in the evening he was reading the signal that she was enjoying her time with him. Once he found out the next day that she hadn’t had a good night he apologized and didn’t bother her again. If we are going to expect men to read the signals I think it's fair to expect women to be more clear.

I could really live without all the commentary about what people should or shouldn’t do on first dates. On the fact that people think going back to a man’s apartment is a clear sign that sex should be expected. No one else gets to make those decisions for other adults so just STFU about it. Sometimes adults like to have sex on a first date and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s consensual. Sometimes adults like to have sex without a relationship, and that’s fine, too, as long as both parties (or all parties) are on board with it. If you bring someone back to your apartment you still have to talk about sex. Don’t assume sex will happen. Sometimes a woman might want to on the date, but then she sees that your bathroom is disgusting and gets turned off. (And that’s on you for not keeping your bathroom clean; don't be mad at her for changing her mind.)

Maybe what happened between them is assault. Maybe it’s a case of miscommunication. Maybe Grace was expecting Dev from Master of None but got Tom from Parks and Recreation. Tom often acted inappropriately but female characters usually called him on it or were charmed by it which apparently made the behavior acceptable. (Of course, let’s not forget these are characters and not the real Ansari.)

In a perfect world men will stop being assholes and women will be more vocal about their needs and comforts. I hope this is a cautionary tale for all people to be more vocal with their potential sexual partners.

P.S. As I was trying to do a final edit on this (I say "trying" because this is certainly not the last word in general nor my final thoughts, since they keep evolving) I saw a piece on tv where a woman was saying something along the lines of it's not sexual harassment if it doesn't have anything to do with the workplace. Fuck you.

*In writing this, I reread one of my earlier posts (https://whereintheworld-stephanie.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-are-you-doing-post-weinstein.html) to make sure I’m living up to the goals I set for myself. I think I am.

**This is about one specific coupling dynamic based on the experience of Ansari and Grace, a straight man and a straight woman. Communication is important in sex, for all genders and sexual partners.

15 January 2018

Motivation Monday: Avoiding the Plague

A run in Rhode Island, February 2014
Today is Day 78 of the run streak. Last week I took advantage of warm weather and ran outside several days, getting a few 5K days in there. But mostly the streak has been one mile at a time. This morning we met some friends for a hike. I started out ahead of everyone to run a mile then meet up with the group. Mike carried an overcoat and over-pants for me because even after the run I was going to need another layer to stay warm on a hike. Yesterday I ran a mile on the treadmill then drove to farmers’ market instead of running or walking the mile to the market like I usually do. I discovered a couple weeks ago that the running to the market part isn’t so bad in sub-freezing temperatures but walking around and shopping at the market in my sweaty running clothes when it's that cold is not amazing. (It really sucks, honestly.)

I haven’t felt great for a few days. I’ve had cold symptoms that never seem to fully materialize into an actual cold or flu. As long as I don’t have a fever, though, I’ll continue to run. When my body tells me to sleep, I’m sleeping. I’m trying to drink a lot of water and eat fruits and vegetables for vitamins. But there was a day I ate nothing but muffins and I’m okay with that. (That was probably my sickest day, when I slept from one in the afternoon until seven the next morning.)

It's that time of year when New Year's resolutions, or new healthy habits, or whatever you want to call them, become endangered so soon after trying to make them because of the winter weather and all that comes with it. It's so much easier to run through the winter in San Diego than in Rhode Island. I'm going to listen to my body and rest when I need it. I'm going to listen to my experience that tells me not to brave icy sidewalks because I've fallen twice in the past year (and not even on ice, just regular sidewalks) and each fall took me out of running for a couple weeks. I can't make those decisions for anyone else, though. It's a time to get creative with treadmills and home workouts. It's a time to invest in some good gear in order to stay warm if you choose to go outside. And, really, I can't over-emphasize the importance of some good rest.

08 January 2018

Motivation Monday: Snow Days

Frozen Narragansett Bay at low tide back on Run Streak Day 60
Today will be day 71 of my run streak. Between the cold weather, school holiday break, and snow days, it’s been difficult to get outside and it’s been difficult to find the time for more than one mile but I’m keeping the streak alive so far. Today is another snow day and I’ll get down to the fitness room in our building for another mile on the treadmill. I’m reminding myself that the running makes me a happy, healthy person. That it’s okay for Kiddo to play with my phone for fifteen minutes so I can get it done. She sometimes hops on the treadmill next to me for a quarter mile or so, then plays with the giant exercise balls. (A current favorite activity of hers is to bellyflop onto one and roll it across the room.)

It’s only January 8th but it already feels like it's been a long, dark winter. I have no specific races in mind this year. I have nothing specific to train for. I don’t know why I’m doing this daily running, except I guess I want to have a decent base for when I do decide on a race.

On Friday’s snow day I took Kiddo to the climbing gym. It was nearly empty, which surprised me. Since it was a cold-weather day, not a bad-weather day, I expected more people to have gotten their kids out of the house for some indoor activity to wear them out. But Kiddo and I pretty much had the run of the place. After a few climbs where I belayed her, we decided to go to the bouldering side of the gym, where you climb without ropes. Kiddo attacked the wall. She was at the top before I could blink. And she wanted to keep trying over and over again. I managed to get her to sit still for a few minutes so I could get some climbs in. It was wonderful to hear her cheer for me when I got to the top. I realized that I need to see her boundless enthusiasm to continue encouraging me and she needs to see me continuing to try new things and tackle new challenges even if I’m tired or in a bad mood.

She and I spend so much time together, she watches everything I do and gets her cues from me.
And I guess that’s why I’m going on with the run streak even on these dull, dark days. I have no physical or mental reason not to. Kiddo sees me having my activities, my life, and making it a priority, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes out of the day.

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...