on aimlessness & anxiety

it’s been awhile since i’ve written anything. it’s been awhile since i’ve drawn anything. it’s been awhile since i’ve felt settled in myself at all. these past few weeks i’ve felt this hyper-anxious, single-minded focus ― i’m a girl on the prowl (for employment). if i’m not scrolling through Indeed or updating my Get A Job tracking spreadsheet, i’m anxious. and i’m feeling the thing even when i’m not doing the thing ― it’s been hard for me to focus on conversations with friends/my girlfriend, on reading or watching things, on doing anything at all besides securing that $dough$. it’s about the money, of course (getting a job i mean), but it’s also about the stability. it’s about knowing i can continue to pay my bills and save and do some fun things. it’s about the boredom that’s come after weeks of looking for a job and not actually having much to do during the day. and not feeling able to enjoy the gift of free time (as i could consider this if i were more Evolved) i have right now, because i’m so focused on needing to fill it again with another 9-5 job.

i’m scattered; this is scattered. like i said, it’s been hard for me to focus my thoughts.

i think we probably do talk about aimlessness after college and i’m just late to the game on this, but truly it is soul crushing how little i know what i want to do with myself. and honestly, not to be a giant pessimistic fatalist (because i know that’s not how you Get Things Done) but looking at climate reports, for example, does not inspire confidence in our collective future, so the question of “what’s the point?” seems to take on a deeper level of meaning than maybe it did for our parents or even for the earlier millennials.

i’ve really been grappling with a lot of identity and existential questions too. and then like, the big C questions ― i.e. on capitalism. trying to find a job and a purpose when all work you do for money is fundamentally involuntary and tied to the continuation of a capitalist system. because we need a certain amount of money to meet our basic needs and to achieve any sort of freedom from capitalism (link to Umair Haque’s piece on the matter; his work is spectacular) that allows us to begin to pursue our actuals “passions” and “interests” i.e. anything that may give us a sense of joy and contentment in our lives. i hate being alive in the time of capitalism. we are, at this moment in history, able to effectively end it. but america is, and has always been, a self-immolating garbage heap of a nation, and thus will never prioritize the safety, health, and happiness of its people.

so then, a big question ― what brings me joy? spending time in nature, wind in tree leaves, reading outside under blankets, drawing pictures while watching cartoons. #bubbline. sometimes baking. taking walks. fall. windy days, rainy days. cuddling. watching movies with popcorn. writing, even if it’s silly and inarticulate, even if i’m not great at self-editing yet because i’m too impatient (working on it) (#Sagittarius).

so then, another big question― how do i want to spend my working days, and is it possible to align my work with what brings me joy? or should i focus on having day-work that i can compartmentalize entirely such that i have enough left of myself to focus on joyous work after job work? struggling with this. i have a few job prospects open now (i’m hearing back about next steps or no next steps today) and they range between 1) something distant from my own self, 2) something with socio-political meaning, and 3) something artistic that i think would really stretch me and help me grow. naturally the last option is the one whose phone interview i think i flubbed.

and a third question ― how do i do good in the world and not check out to just focus on my own self and my own happiness? how do i help to un-do this shitty system and the violence it necessarily imparts to us all? focusing on joining the DSA (despite it’s many and varied flaws), focusing on participating and giving where i can.

i dream more and more of leaving the city and living in a little house in the woods somewhere. not sure how i’d swing that, except that it turns out you can buy nice houses for cheap in most non-new jersey places. kind of thinking that that would be an entirely selfish decision ― running away from the big bad city with all its violence and complications and beauty and humanity to self-isolate as the world falls apart around me.

and on that note! wish me well these next few days as i hear from some jobs and see if this little bit of time is over or stretching along. regardless i don’t know that i have answers to the above, so am working on stepping into the grey aimlessness and holding still there. resisting the urge to move, and move, and move, and learning to stay still in discomfort.

 

on #kava-NAW, sexual trauma, and & trying to live your damn life

CW: sexual assault, Kavanaugh confirmation

 

you know what’s surreal? trying to go about your day while being constantly re-traumatized by the news cycle.

full disclosure: i haven’t yet watched the kavanaugh hearings, and i’m beginning to doubt i ever will. and actually what i mean is i haven’t watched kavanaugh’s part of the hearings. i stumbled upon Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies at the laundromat – i hadn’t even realized the hearings were happening. i loaded my clothes into the washer and stared up at her face, imagining the sea of white men she had to look into as she bared her trauma to the world. imagining the fear, and the simmering rage, and the knowledge that unless she kept absolutely cool, calm, collected throughout, her emotions would be weaponized against her, against all women.

because #yesallwomen. yes all women have experienced harassment. yes all women have experienced assault (in some way). yes all women are subjected to (some form of) gendered violence. and yes, that includes transfemme folx, it basically includes all of us but cishet men.

anyways. i was at the laundromat, i hadn’t even realized the hearings were happening that morning. i hadn’t even realized i was about to be asked, yet again, to feel the things i do about my own assault. about my sister’s assault. about my mother’s. about my friends’ assaults. about the many named and unnamed assaults that have happened and do happen and will continue to happen because the problem is not that the world won’t #believesurvivors, won’t #believewomen. it’s that the world doesn’t care. the people in power do not care. cishet men do not care. why should they? to care is to acknowledge that their power rests upon centuries of violence against womxn, that entire societies exist only in the way that they do because some people — women, people of color, indigenous people — are oppressed, while others are awarded undue amounts of power.

i was at the laundromat, and then i was home, and then i was applying to jobs, and then i was walking to meet my girlfriend. and then i would open twitter, and then i would see the news, seemingly the only news, and then — racing heart, panicky, on the verge of tears, because y’all, it’s just so fucking unfair. how can this be real? how i can be sitting here, years and years of womxn’s activism behind us, and still Dr. Ford will not receive recognition for her trauma? still, there are tens of qualified men who could be put on the supreme court (which like… the matter of whether that court should even exist is a conversation for another day), but still, the GOP and the government will uphold this one man, this one man who is proven to have assaulted, proven to have a blackout drinking problem, proven incapable of addressing past mistakes — still, he will end up being judge to us all.

how can it be that i was raped and i spent two years denying it, how can it be that i blamed myself when later i learned that my rapist was a serial offender, how can it be that so many of us are sexually violated, brutally violated, our brains and emotions and bodies breached, and still, this? it’s fucking unfair. it truly is.

and to be asked to continually process all of this, right now? i’m trying to apply to jobs. i’m trying to date someone. i’m trying to be happy. i’m trying to get my shit done. i’m trying to remember to take my iron pills, for god’s sake, i don’t have the time or energy to be pulled into rehashing my own trauma, but still i am, we are, asked to.

i think about the idea that people pose, that abusers necessarily dehumanize their victims. i don’t think it’s so. dehumanizing isn’t the right phrase. we aren’t being dehumanized. it’s just that our humanity weighs less in the that of cis men. our humanity means less, our humanity counts less. we remain utterly human in the eyes of our abusers, and that’s why they abuse us. their abuse of us would mean less and carry less power than if we were less than human.

standing with all survivors this week, and sending my most loving, strengthening vibes. we need it. ❤

you don’t have to be useful / you aren’t here to be productive

trying to figure out what i want to do, work-wise, is… so much. every kind of work i think of doing feels like a trap — like i’ll get in there, maybe even excited about the work, only to discover it makes me want to die as much as the last thing (because what the work is doesn’t really matter, does it). i feel like my brain is constantly wailing: surely this can’t be all there is?

but like… in this capitalist hell state, this is what there is. it’s not all there is, and in my opinion, this is neither the only nor the ideal outcome of a developed state. not that the US actually shows that many markers of development, given the levels of violence against women, massive and widespread income inequality, a government that represents the interests of an extreme minority, and truly embarrassing levels of child poverty, but i digress.

i was listening to my favorite podcast today (Call Your Girlfriend) to an episode about universal basic income (UBI), which is this economic idea that is in use in several high-income countries and many low-income countries, that basically says every citizen will get a certain amount of money ($500-1000) monthly, no questions asked. the money replaces all forms of welfare payments for low-income folks, and replaces what amounts to welfare for wealthy folks — all the tax exceptions and loopholes and mortgage throwbacks they receive that decrease their monthly burden in the same way that welfare payments do. basically, the thought (and the evidence supports this) is that giving people this money flat out will do more to alleviate poverty and provide a financial net for people than the welfare system can successfully do. if you want to get people out of poverty, literally give them money.

i’m all for it. despite capitalist lore, the purpose of a human life is not to function as a cog in the GDP machine for a nation that refuses to supply even basic needs in return. governments exist to serve their people. what people need is access to housing, water, food, education, and health. what people desire is time enough to be happy, to find a mental health balance, to socialize, to create. just think of all the creation and joy humans would be experiencing if only they were given the time. governments need not exist to exploit the humans that live within their borders. governments should absolutely not exist to outright murder or indirectly sanction the murder of their citizens, to steal land and deny rights to indigenous people, to steal labor without compensating the laborers, and so on.

our value as humans does not correlate to our “usefulness” as determined by how much money we can make for our government over the course of our lifetimes. our value as humans is inherent and inalienable. a human being is valuable regardless of: their salary, their job title, their gender, their race, their sexuality, their disability/ability, their immigration status, their willingness to participate in the great capitalist race. we are valuable in and of ourselves, and we deserve to have our basic needs and desires met, and that is a fact.

the dichotomy of knowing and believing this and also needing to work endless hours at something i do not want to work at so that i can scrape by meeting my basic needs is infuriating and deeply depressing. the stress of finding a job that will cover your costs and also be engaging? endless. and that’s where i’m at, folks! thoughts?

 

on Assassination Nation, witch hunts, and feminine rage

Have you seen Assassination Nation yet? It came out on Friday, and to sum it up, it’s about a wide-scale hacking that happens in Salem, Massachusetts (yes, that Salem — very intentional) and the veritable witch hunt that follows, wreaking violence and sexism all around town. The following absolutely contains spoilers, as well as reference to sexual violence, so proceed with caution.

For me, Assassination Nation took the feeling of simmering, explosive rage that women* have been feeling extra hard since the 2016 election and bottled it up into one kick-ass film. The film’s message isn’t exactly subtle — “don’t dress like that, you’re asking for it; don’t take pictures like that, you’re a whore; come on, show a little skin, you’re such a prude” — as the main character Lily explains explicitly in voiceover several times, but it’s effective and viscerally real. It taps into the rage that women have been feeling so intensely these past 2 years, because we now live under the regime of a sexual predator/overall monster, we now live in a state that is actively defending the election of a r*pist (though obviously many of our public officials have been sexual predators) and we have always lived in a patriarchal, white supremacist state that is violent and oppressive to us, especially non-white, non-cis women.

The young women are so, so clearly the victims here. The more the men in the film hyper-sexualize and de-humanize them, the more apparent it becomes that they are girls, they are children, regardless of what they are doing and how they are dressing. The scariest character in the whole film is *heart eyes*Daddy (the father of a toddler that Lily used to babysit for) who groomed and seduced her, texting her for naked pictures, asking her to play the child/daughter role in their sexual scenarios. Towards the end of the movie — at this point their affair has been leaked and both are dealing with fallout, though Lily much more so — we discover that *heart eyes*Daddy murdered his wife and presumably his baby daughter when they tried to leave him. Running from *heart eyes*Daddy, Lily falls into the corpse of the wife in the bathtub, comes up screaming and drenched in her blood. He’s terrifying because his violence seems senseless, uncontrollable — but actually we know that it’s grounded in his understanding of his power over women as absolute. He sees himself as being the final authority in his relationships with women; he decides when to end them, when to end their lives.

There’s a lot more that could be said here to unpack, as well, the specific type of violence that Bex, a transgirl character, is subjected to. Interesting to note is that Bex was never misgendered, even as a mob of fuck-wad jocks colluded to literally hang her for “emasculating” one of their own who had hooked up with her. Their rage against Bex was a mix of homophobia and transphobia as in, they were reacting homophobically to the boy who hooked up with Bex, which is transphobic in and of itself because it denies Bex her girlhood, and further it represents established cis-male violence against transwomen. I liked that the film itself supported and respected Bex’s girlhood, though the jock mob did not.

This movie is wild, y’all. Essays could and should be written. Towards the end there’s this perfect image of the four main girls in these red patent trench coats with a load of guns and various weapons strapped to their bodies just gunning down their would-be assailants. I loved the aesthetic, which was an ode to Tumblr’s kawaii-sex-baby look — think ringer shirts with pink hearts above the nipples, platform jellies, lots of pink, tiny sunglasses, all washed out pastel lighting.

And then, of course, the ending. Who did the hacking? We know that the hacker used Lily’s family’s IP address — it really could not have been her, and definitely not her luddite parents. Naturally we forget about the silent, almost unnoticeable little brother character; just a geeky little white boy with very little impact thus far, of course the only other person with access to that IP address. He’s the one who did it, “for the lols” — for no reason except his privilege and his inability to see or care about the impact on other people, for no reason except perhaps he felt outshone by his wise-cracking, beautiful older sister. You could just hear in the theatre the chorus of confused murmuring — but honestly, who else could it have been? Like most terrorists in America, the culprit behind it all was a dissatisfied young white man.

 

*and everyone who is not a cis man, though gendered policing is against femininity/femme-ness, perceived or actual, IMO

 

(Also! Can we talk about how Mike Montgomery from Pretty Little Liars played the evil ringleader of the jocks — I screeeeamed.)

the bodies of our leaders: mental and physical health stigmas & talking about Tr*mp

When someone steps into the public sphere, how much of themselves are they giving over to the people they’ve committed to serving? Public criticisms of Trump frequently descend from nuanced political debate to ridicule of his physical and mental health. Arguably, some discussion of Trump’s health as it aligns with his ability to perform as president may be warranted. As an elected official, and one with an incomparable amount of power, “we” empower him in theory he owes it to us to use that power in the way that will most benefit us. If the highest ranking official in our government is physically or mentally unable to do that job, does it not fall to the people to demand that he make changes such that he become capable, at risk being removed from his office? But if it’s on us to do so, certainly it’s on us as well to examine our cultural standards of mental and physical health and what it means to apply them to our elected (and potential!) leaders.

Our bodies are one of few things we tend to feel are under our ultimate control. We’re wrong of course sickness, genetics, environment, race, gender, sexuality, trauma, and so on work together to determine how our bodies behave. But one of the essential lies our culture tells us is that Wellness can be achieved if only we restrict, if only we exercise in just the right way, if only we buy the right supplements, if only we exert an iron will and bend and shape our bodies into lithe, pure things. We can stave off illness and ugliness and, ultimately, maybe, our mortality. So is the promise of the Wellness movement and the frenzy that accompanies it, driven largely by able-bodied wealthy white folks. But the perception of control and the satisfaction that comes of controlling one’s body are real can we hold our presidents to some standard of mental and physical wellbeing, taking away this one last thing, control over food and body, when the president is already asked to give up control over so many aspects of his life?

Importantly, we have to acknowledge that to hold Trump or any president to a level of health is to hold him to our very American definitions of health. In America, to be physically healthy is basically just to be not-fat. Aesthetic Wellness is in; fatness remains massively stigmatized. We hypermoralize body size and body fat and food choice. Early in Trump’s presidency, descriptions of him in bed at 6:30p eating McDonalds and yelling at unflattering news reports of himself were heavy in circulation. The food he chooses to consume is monitored and mocked, as if to lambast him for what he eats is to throw a dagger straight to the center of his moral ineptitudes. When he underwent a presidential health exam, the results of which have historically been released (at least in part) to the American public, there was a veritable outcry about whether or not he’d fudged his height to escape having his BMI land in the “obese” range. Picking at Trump’s weight and physical health has become a national pastime, an outlet for the unparsable rage we’re confronted with as our politics and culture become more and more farcical — but it’s grounded firmly in fatphobia and in classist ideas of what foods and bodies represent moral Goods (thin bodies, kale) and which represent moral Ills (fat bodies, so-called fast foods).

Mental health in America is defined even more nebulously. To be mentally healthy, besides presenting as someone with no overt struggles with anxiety, depression, and the like, seems to be a designation that belongs mainly to cis straight white men.  Mental wellbeing seems to be equated in the mainstream with this idea of “rationality” who is capable of making a “rational” choice, who should be followed, trusted, believed? Whosoever gets to lay claim to rationality is another interesting if self-evident question women certainly don’t; our “hyper-emotionality” precludes our ability to be rational. And “rational” choices are essentially those which uphold the mainstream power structures choices and statements that uphold the white supremacist cis-patriarchy that is American power. Choices and statements that undercut this mainstream power structure are thus viewed as “irrational,” “hysterical,” “fraudulent” whether they come from women demanding accountability for the perpetual sexual violence our nation supports, people of color demanding accountability for the perpetual racial violence our nation supports, low-income folks demanding accountability for the flawed economic structures supporting ever-growing wealth gaps, and so on. To be mentally unhealthy is a designation only given to white men when to do so actually functions to uphold their power as in the many, many cases of white male gunmen in school shootings and incidents of mass violence, who are called mentally ill in a way that disallows a fuller conversation about the violent intersections of white male entitlement and toxic masculinity. In our conversations about the president, Trump’s rationality is at once questioned by his detractors and assured by his supporters.

Obviously people are fulfilling certain needs by critiquing Trump’s body and brain. Criticizing someone’s physical appearance is a universalizing, accessible form of criticism you don’t have to engage critically, you just get to express your rage. And feeling rage at the current state of our politics and the person and people leading them is inevitable if you’re a person who is impacted by their leadership (many people) or a person with any level of basic empathy (hopefully many other people).

Picking at Trump’s mental (un)health gives people something to blame, a simple explanation for the complex, layered bigotry he regularly spews and espouses. Much like other situations where an empowered group is exercising their power through violence white male gun violence, white supremacist violence, sexual and gendered violence pointing to mental illness in the perpetrator gives us a simple answer to a complex problem. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the idea that Trump’s violence is the natural outcome of someone who exists at the top of so many power structures and is thus completely removed from the lived reality of most other people. It’s easier to see this as anomalous, something alien to the rest of us and our society, rather than contend with the arduous work of deconstructing the power structures at the core.

But critiquing Trump in such a way only serves to hurt already marginalized communities people with mental health issues and people who are overweight or obese, factoring in as well the overlap of these two with racial and class dynamics in the U.S. These kinds of criticisms of Trump add further stigma without adding any real value to the conversation these are surface level critiques that avoid any real engagement with the many layers of Trump’s bigotry and violence. In addition, if our view of health is bigoted (it is) how can we uphold it as any kind of standard? Where is the line of “healthy enough” to be president or to serve as a leader? If we’re upholding a fairly arbitrary and biased definition of mental health, it adds weight to the millstone telling folks with mental health problems that they are incapable of doing difficult and important work. And as we should know but collectively seem incapable of recognizing, weight is not a determining factor of health. Trump’s weight is not what’s making him a horrible president and person, and Trump’s mental health is a red herring as to the real cause of his bigotry and violence.

This all said, Trump does seem fundamentally unstable but is this because he’s legitimately mentally ill in a way that precludes his ability to do his job, or because he’s never been in a position where he had to be “stable”? He’s always been empowered to act however he wants and he’s still just doing that. To a degree, his ability to function within the bounds of “normality” is imperative to his position as the leader of our country, and it’s worth discussing whether or not we can set levels of acceptable behavior for our most powerful leaders. But in our discussions and critiques of Trump, we need to be aware of how the stigma around bodies’ mental and physical health does damage above all else. And how in this case it is further stigmatizing those who live in fat bodies and those who live with various mental health problems, rather than adding useful context to our conversations around Trump’s presidential viability.

 

*Piece inspired by conversations on the She’s All Fat podcast (season 2, episode 8, “Our Fat President”)