Friday, January 28, 2005

Catch Up

Spent pretty much all of yesterday in bed, getting up periodically to eat, check e-mail, soak in the tub, and watch the rest of Battlestar Galactica, which I will rant about later (half the female characters are still robots, Starbuck is the hottest character of them all, I'm sick to death of boringly pretty boy heroes who all look alike, why the fuck is there a useless "subplot" for the 14-year-old-boys that involves a woman robot in a red dress making out with the scientist guy for 1/3 of an entire fucking episode, the entire point of which seems to be "look how hot we are making out"?).

Slept in again today. Wasn't until this morning that I could honestly say I felt a lot better.

I rolled out of bed just after nine and took a good, long, look at my room and the rest of the apartment and realized how long I'd let stuff slide. Jenn's been in and out, and messes don't bother her, so most of the cleaning is my task, and it was the first thing I let go. About the only thing I'd managed to do with any frequency was take out the garbage. But the plants were dying from not being watered, ants had invaded in search of all the crap on the kitchen floor, I was fairly certain something was getting ready to grow in the sink, and I hadn't cleaned the bathroom - aside from a wipe-down last week when the SO came by - for three weeks. And there was a substantial pile of books and magazines spewed all over the floor next to my bed.

So I cleaned the whole damn place, watered the plants, put the basil out on the outside porch to get some much-needed sun, vacuumed all of the throw rugs, re-ordered all of the books overflowing from my bookshelf (most had to go out in the "library" area in the dining room and living room, respectively. We're at something like 1500 books in the house now), bleached, scrubbed, and windexed the kitchen and bathroom, dragged the gas stove out from its nook so I could clean out from under it (this is where the ants hide), washed all of my bedding and made the bed, toted out the trash from the overflowing can in my bedroom (paper trash gets less "eek" points on my internal monitor than the kitchen trash), and put away all of the DVDs in the living room scattered around on top of the entertainment center. I've started converting a bookshelf into a DVD shelf, as the entertainment center gets filled up. Jenn's copy of Buffy Season 7 has returned from the SO's, and I hadn't yet made a space for my copy of the Extended Return of the King. And, much to my geeky delight, I found a set of The Ewok Adventure and The Battle for Endor today at Borders. Excellent.

Finished reading One L, and tried to continue reading Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, an epic fantasy saga. Unfortunately, all I'm thinking while I'm reading it is, "When the fuck is George R.R. Martin gonna finish book four? This stuff is crap." In fact, it's not that bad, but epic fantasy for me isn't just about the battles and the bravery, it's about connecting with the characters. I give a fantasy saga more time than other books, cause they have to have some time to draw you in. 50 pages is about right. With this one, I'm 100 pages in, and there's no character I find terribly interesting or likable enough to trudge through the rest of the book with, let alone a series. George, where are you??

Yesterday, while pushing through my book pile, I picked up and finally started reading the first book of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which I'd bought a couple weeks ago, but hadn't had a chance to start. If I was wondering where George got all of his epic plots from, I will wonder no more. It's good stuff.

I also got a shipment of perfume from Paris today, which I ordered sometime early this week (fantastic fucking shipping). I had picked up a bottle of it when I was in Paris years ago, and finally ran out last year. It's so fucking expensive, and seemed so incredibly extravagent an expense (I mean, c'mon "I just ordered perfume from Paris" bah), that I put it off and put it off and put it off. Now I've got it, and I'm embarrassed to say how much it pleases me.

I also ordered a handmade pair of sterling silver earrings, also an extravagent expense, from a guy named Mark Ehrmann. I had dearly loved the pair I bought years ago in Alaska, but I'd lost them in Cape Town or somewhere on a research trip, and again, couldn't justify buying a new pair until now.

My rationale? What did I buy myself for my birthday?... Music to write novels to, and a copy of LSAT sample tests.


I've also been reminded, once again, how much I love my house. I love living here. I love the hardwood floors. I love the huge kitchen that's so great for cooking in. I love that I'm growing herbs on the back porch. I love the built-in hardwood cabinet that we use as a liquor cabinet. I love that the majority of the furniture is actually composed of bookshelves. I love that I've reserved an entire space next to the elliptical machine for a punching bag, once I can afford it. I love my cozy room. I love that the video store is across the street, Borders and Starbucks are a block away, excellent Thai food places populate the entire block, there's an Asian grocery store across the street, and upper-scale restaurants are just a quick 6-8 block walk away onto Clark.

I love my house. I love this life. I even sometimes love the mostly-useless job that pays for all this. I am very lucky. I know that.

On Being a Woman in "Liberated" Iraq

Maybe we should stop listening to the old rich white guys about "women's liberation" and start talking to the women. They might have something to say about it.

Read it all here:

I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?

In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and US-led military assaults of the 20-odd months since Saddam's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.

Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other women in the Middle East, women in Iraq are now losing even their basic freedoms. The right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality, but the subjugation of women was never a goal of the Baath party. What we are seeing now is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection combining to take Iraq into a new dark age.

Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing make-up, or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists.

Read the rest.

Today Was the First Day I Considered a United States Without the Right to Legal Abortion

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush told abortion foes on Monday he shared their support for "a culture of life" and claimed progress in passing legislation to protect the vulnerable.

"We need most of all to change hearts and that is what we're doing," Bush said as anti-abortion activists marked the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion with a day of rallies, protests and other activities.

I finally decided to start thinking about it. I've been fobbing it of and fobbing it off for a long time now. I didn't think he'd outlaw partial-birth abortion, either. I don't seriously think he can get away with overturning Roe.

But I considered what I would do if that happened.

I've discussed before the great fertility of the women in my family. My fertility has always been a big issue for me, and I've negotiated all of my sexual encounters knowing just how great my risk of pregnancy was. I've never slipped up. I've never had to get an abortion. I never engaged in unsafe sex - not once.

But that doesn't mean that there won't be a future "oops" pregnancy. And no, I wouldn't hesitate to get an abortion if I got pregnant, say, in the middle of law school.

And today I seriously considered it: what happens if Roe's overturned?

Well, I'd spend a day or two sobbing in my bedroom, probably, out of sheer anger and frustration. All that hard work trying to get the world to see me as a person and not the incubater of some guy's sperm - all that work trying to change people's ideas about what children really are: they are created of a woman's body, a woman's breath. Yes, a man contributes half the potential child's DNA, but at the end of the day, the stuff that goes into the creation of heart and lungs and fingers and toes comes out of my body, is nourished by what I eat, how well I sleep.

So what would happen if I got pregnant without wanting to, without choosing to?

Well, likely, I'd take a trip to Canada. I'm one of those lucky people who could afford to take off to Toronto for the weekend if I had to. I could afford to stay in a hotel, afford to pay for the procedure. In fact, Canada would likely have a nice little business providing reproductive health services to American women hopping over the border.

I would be OK. I'm intelligent, I'm well-off.

But Roe V. Wade is about a bigger issue than just the abortion part. It's not about protecting life or fetal rights or any of that bullshit (again, if this was about life, we'd be putting all that energy into childcare services).

Overturning Roe V. Wade, making abortion illegal, is about controlling women. Always has been. Always will be. You won't convince me otherwise, not with all of your arguments about sacred egg meeting sacred sperm: a couple of DNA strands slathered in proteins that have about as much self-awareness as a can of coke.

So when I hear Bush & co. make these broad statements about "life" about "championing life" what I'm actually hearing is an old rich white guy telling me who has control over my body - his sperm. His agency. I will be forced to labor against my will producing a child of my body for nine months. Anyone who has given birth, whose wife has given birth, will be the first to tell you why it's called "labor." Making babies doesn't come easy, doesn't come without cost.

And that cost is not my biological burden to bear against my will. It is not something to be forced upon me by men, by women, by the President of the United States.

So though I will travel to Canada, fly over the heads of poorer women who cannot afford the luxury and instead submit themselves to risky and dubious back-street procedures in their god-given, natural right to control their own fertility, I will come back to a country whose laws still view me as vessel, as no better than an empty jug in want of filling.

That is what the laws will say I am. That is what all this talk of life, and packing courts with judges, means to me.

It means I go back to being a dumb body, a thing, a sperm receptacle, a baby vessel, and NOTHING else.

And soon after I will begin reading even more "studies" about how I can't do SCIENCE because ovaries get in the way of learning, and SCIENCE is bad for babies. I will be told I cannot drive a car, because I don't have the spatial reasoning skills. And if you're not careful, if you're not careful, if you begin to view us as things instead of people, if we become a means to an end instead of an end, an asset, in and of oursevles, then you begin trading women for cattle. Men begin hiding us from view like their best possessions. Men begin encouraging us to go back to finding our strength and identities in men, no matter if that man is weaker, stupider, more spineless than we.

Movie heroines will easily slide back to telling their beaus, "You'll have to think for the both of us!" and they'll mean it.

These gains, these little steps that women have taken toward being considered "real" people, are not very old. There have certainly been other times and places where women were treated as people, but none in our recent cultural memory, the Judeo-Christian one that most of the US comes from, and given any excuse, given fear, we'll slide back very easily to equating women with possessions, because it seems so much simpler, so much easier, so logical, so reasoned.

Life. Yes. We're protecting life. We're protecting the 50s ideal that never existed, the one we all pretended was truth, and was nothing so much as a bald-faced lie that everyone told themselves they wanted to live, they should live.

I want a life where I'm treated like in intelligent, informed, responsible person. I want a life where people look at me and see not a vessel, not untapped fertility, but just a person, just this, me. Not my womb. Not my ovaries.

It is never "one" thing. It will not stop at the outlawing of abortion, just like he didn't stop with outlawing Dilation & Extraction. It will not stop.

It will not stop.

This is why this issue terrifies women. Until you have grown up knowing that old men like these have the ultimate control over your body and what you do with it, over your labor, over how you choose to spend your body's breath and blood, you won't know this terror, this uncertaintly, this screaming, terrified anger at the co-option of all that you are for use by the state.

The closest male equivalent I can think of is the draft: being forced to fight a war you did not vote for, for a cause you did not want, at a time in your life when all the world's possibilities are spread before you. And there is no honor in it. There is no medal. Because you will be told that your purpose in life is just this: to live or die for the state. That is your biological burden, and if you survive this war, you will be forced to take home with you a burden far greater than merely serving the state: you'll be given a child that is yours, whose future, whose mental and physical health, whose deeds, will be forever your responsibility.

And there is no conscientious objector clause. There's no medical leave. There's no reprieve if you're mentally ill.

If a man has sex with you, and you become pregnant, you're consigned to the will of that man and his laws.

Your life is no longer yours.

That's the battle women fight. That's why it's such a brutal battle, and that's why we get so violently passionate about the abortion debate. Because what we're talking about is the co-option of our bodies, our lives, for the state. We're talking about giving up our rights, our bodies, to the will of men and their wants and desires.

And we're fucking tired.

We're not going to be non-people again in the eyes of the law. We're not going to be second-class, second-best, by virtue of birth.

Never again.

Clarion East Auction for the SF/F Fans: Go Buy Something Cool

Stolen from Matt Cheney:

Clarion East, one of the oldest and most prestigious SF-writing workshops, lost their university funding last year, and so they are holding an auction, where you can bid on remarkable items from people like Michael Bishop, Cory Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer, Kate Wilhelm, and Connie Willis, among others. The auction only lasts until tomorrow, January 29, at 11.59pm EST.