the rack and the screw

Who’s Afraid of the Hairy Lesbian Cat-Lady?

Posted in feminism, pop culture, something queer by bellareve on May 1, 2009

Not me. I always thought this anti-feminist insult to be so absurd and ineffective. As if the person saying it expects me to feel demoralized and shitty and disgusting. But why would I? 

I love cats. I have two and plan to have more, Grey Gardens style, once I settle down. (Unlike Little Edie I’ll take care of mine)

We already know how I feel about body hair…see previous posts.

And I also love lesbians. I ultimately want to be with a woman.

So technically, becoming a hairy lesbian cat lady, or the thought of being with one, makes me happy. Which is the total opposite of the way the anti-feminists want me to feel when I hear that insult. Maybe time to come up with something new?

Bisexual & Bipolar Stereotypes Overlap

Posted in feminism, mental health/madness, something queer by bellareve on April 14, 2009

I’ve noticed that there are similar and  recurring themes, stereotypes, and discourse about bisexual women and women with certain mood disorders (particularly borderline & bipolar) 

Members of both groups are often accused of:

* being manipulative to loved ones (including lying and cheating)

* being unpredictable and impulsive (what will the crazy bitch do next?) 

* being unable to form healthy, stable relationships

* behaving wildly or dramatically (sleeping around, drinking a lot, doing drugs, etc)

* being heartbreakers, abusers, and in general fucked-up (yet exciting!) women to stay away from, lest they ruin your life

Think about how many times you’ve heard variations of “sex with damaged/bi girls (and hey, strippers too) is awesome, but don’t get too close or marry them or take them home to mom.” This is pernicious, stigmatizing, and objectifying. And it doesn’t seem to apply to bisexual or bipolar men. (Although they have their own set of myths & stereotypes)

Does this stem from the expectation that individuals with mental disorders are violent and harmful? For instance, many think that people with schizophrenia are dangerous, but studies suggest they are actually more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. When women are added to the equation (and I say added because men are the default) the threat of physical violence is turned into emotional violence. Mentally ill women become “monsters” who wreck family ties with their “attention seeking” stunts.

And bisexual women will totally fuck someone else behind your back! Just ask a guy or a lesbian who has been betrayed. You see, bi girls are unfit for long term commitments. Better have that hot threesome and discard them!

I heart my bush

Posted in blogwars, feminism, sex work by bellareve on April 14, 2009

This is a post on pubic grooming. So I want to preface it by saying that I don’t care how other adult women manage their genital hair. I don’t think women shave/wax to “look like little girls” and I don’t think shaving/waxing has anything to do with one’s status as a Real Feminist. I do believe that male (and female) preference for the bare aesthetic is heavily influenced by trends in pornography. But ultimately it’s your call if you want to pluck it all out, braid daisies into it, or shave it into the shape of a swastika. 

Basically, this post is about my bush, not yours. (overshare warning)

And boy do I have one! When I was stripping, I got rid of it, and came to miss the damn thing. These days I trim around the edges to create a sharp, neat triangle on top, shave what would stick out of a bikini, and leave the rest as is. 

This may not seem earth-shattering or revolutionary, but I have found that literally everyone I know is shocked by it. The people demand answers. My answer is that I like the way it looks more – my eye is drawn happily to the dark triangle. And sex feels good for me either way. 

Having a bush isn’t inherently “empowering,” but I do feel empowered by keeping my body the way I like it, regardless of what a sexual partner may prefer, expect, or demand. If someone isn’t into my bush, they can feel free not to fuck me. (I’ll be ok, I promise)

I perform many other gendered beauty rituals. I am a lipstick bisexual, after all. I dye the hair on my head, I wear dresses, heels, and rouge. I’m not particularly low maintenance, and have been described as “prissy” and “dainty.” Perhaps this is why people are surprised when they find out I’ve got a thick, curly bush with a mind of its own. 

So far she hasn’t deterred any potential partners. My last two girlfriends were pleased with the fuzzy texture. Some men have found it titillating and transgressive, as it is now so rare for girls of my generation. But even if I get the odd complaint in the future, my bush is nonnegotiable and here to stay. She’s in it for the long haul.

Top three NSFW reasons I love my bush:

1. It makes me feel like my pussy is wearing a fancy lace corselette. 

2. I like touching it against other beautiful bushes.

3. When I talk about it, people laugh.

In defense of the second wave

Posted in blogwars, feminism, sexual violence by bellareve on April 5, 2009

Second wave (1970s) feminism is probably the most vilified, misunderstood, bad-mouthed, trashed and bashed social movement in American history. It is dismissed as ineffective, obsolete, and irrelevant, and at the same time blamed for doing irreparable damage to men, women, and society.

Now, it is absolutely reasonable and productive to be critical of certain aspects of the second wave, including the leaders, the strategies, and the ideologies. Among other things, I find tremendous fault with the focus on middle-class professional women, with the hostility towards sex workers and butch/femme lesbian relationships, and particularly with some of Betty Friedan’s assertions. (Like when she said Phyllis Schlafly should be “burned at the stake,” or her insistence that being a housewife is equivalent to being a child)

However. I am still fucking grateful for the accomplishments of second wave feminists. My life, and the lives of other women, would be qualitatively worse without them. And the perceived “failures” of the second wave are as much the result of anti-feminist stereotypes, mischaracterizations and distortions as they are the result of poor organizing within the movement. 

Here are, IMO, the most significant contributions of the second wave, obviously not an exhaustive list:

1. Awareness of domestic violence and rape, specifically support for survivors (hotlines, shelters, counseling, trauma centers) and prevention campaigns and legislation. These things have literally saved women’s lives. Personally I might have committed suicide after my rape and abuse if it weren’t for such programs and the social recognition of violence against women.

2. Speaking of saving lives: reproductive rights, primarily access to abortion and contraception, but also the knowledge and demystification of female anatomy and sexuality.

3. Recognition of/laws against sexual harassment – both physical and verbal -in the workplace. I’m pretty happy I don’t work in an office like the one in “Mad Men,” thanks. 

(Not to say that the above problems are solved. They aren’t, but we sure got a good start and things are mighty different now compared to forty years ago)

love money sex

Posted in feminism, something queer by bellareve on March 29, 2009

I have often wondered how much truth there is to the stereotype that straight women are sooooo super attracted to rich guy$!!! The whole thing about money as an aphrodisiac, and about females as biologically programmed to seek males who “have resources” and “can provide” etc.

I suspect very little. 

I am not a straight woman, so I wouldn’t know for sure. But I have dated people of both genders, and I can say unequivocally that of all my partners, the poor ones treated me a lot better than the ones with money.  And really, I have been in relationships with some broke people. They were always kinder to me than the financially well-off ones* who tended to:

a) spend in an effort to have control over me/manipulate me

b) make me feel guilty about not having enough of my own money to buy gifts, dinner, etc.

c) act suspicious that I was ‘using them’ for money

*This pattern, in my experience, was the same whether my partner was male or female.

C is extra funny and inaccurate, because I have never ruled out potential partners based on how rich/poor they are. My level of physical attraction or commitment to a person has nothing to do with wealth, and expensive shit just doesn’t impress me. Now, one could accuse me of being superficial on other accounts…I am very picky regarding physical appearence. Cute face or forget it.

White Privilege & Jewish Identity

Posted in I may be a bit of a Jew by bellareve on March 25, 2009

I am not a religious person, but I am ethnically and culturally Jewish. I do not go to temple or speak Hebrew, and I never had a bat mitzvah, but I appreciate my heritage and certain cultural elements like Jewish food, music, and humor. I like living in a city with a Jewish community. My family does speak Yiddish, and we celebrate the major holidays by being with family, not by invoking God. We are Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe. 

I do “look” white and am generally treated as such, to the best of my knowledge. One never knows exactly how one is read or perceived, but I sense white privilege when, for instance, I go to a store and am not looked at with suspicion, but instead am catered to. I sense it when I am taken seriously by professors and at job interviews. 

But I don’t “feel” white, per se. Meaning, I do NOT in the slightest, identify with mainstream WASP culture. It is foreign to me. I feel more comfortable around other ethnic groups. I actually feel somewhat anxious and insecure around whites. The experiences of hearing a non-English language at home, and bringing lunches to school that are not American cuisine, that looked and smelled weird to my classmates as a kid, are othering. 

None of this negates the privilege of looking white. However, the point of this post…I guess it is frustrating when Jews and whites are lumped together, as though we all experience the same level of privilege, occupy the same rung on the racial hierarchy, and oppress other groups to the same degree. Because that is inaccurate. I resent when people assume such. It means they don’t know the history of Jews in America, or the extent to which being Jewish is an ethnicity, not just a religion. For instance, when Jews first immigrated from Europe, we were not considered or treated “white.” (The same is true of the Irish and Italians). And to the people at the top, to the ruling class, to families like the Bushes, Jews are still despised. And anti-Semitism is not only about persecuting those who don’t believe in Christ; the holocaust was based on the existence of Jewish “blood” and genes. It was a racial issue. 

Also, some Jews, many whom are Sephardic, actually don’t look white. My mother, for instance, looks Middle Eastern, although our ancestors come from Russia. I know other Jews, some Persian and Israeli, with darker complexions, who were actually targeted and profiled in the post-9/11 anti-Arab/Muslim hysteria.

To understand Jews as white, in terms of social position, is an egregious oversimplification. 

My personal experience of this: As an undergrad, I took a class called “Women of Color in the U.S.” At one point, the TA, a WOC, told me that “as an Aryan woman,” I had to be extra careful to check my privilege in the class discussions. 

Rewind that. I’m sorry, ARYAN? Actually, it was the “Aryans” who tortured and gassed my relatives. Read that sentence again. And thanks for assuming that pale skin = Aryan. This is doubly absurd because I have a clearly Jewish last name, and the TA must have known this from grading my papers.

Types of dancers, types of customers

Posted in sex work by bellareve on February 24, 2009

Although a variety of women can be found dancing at a club, and a variety of (mostly) men can be found watching/paying, I have noticed some general categories that have shown up over and over again, in my experience, in terms of the WHY. Obviously some categories overlap.

Dancers:

1. Single mothers who do sex work as a second or third job to make ends meet. Many women I have met alternated between night shifts as nurse practitioners and day shifts as dancers, or vice versa. 

2. Students and/or artists who dance in order to pay tuition/rent. (The girl stripping her way thru college is no myth. I was her.)

3. Immigrant women who don’t have the documentation required to get another type of job, and also had a difficult time getting hired elsewhere because they struggled with English. 

Customers:

1. Men who are severely shy & socially awkward.

2. Men (often married) who share their, IMO, silly and innocuous fetishes, like feet & femdom & armpit licking.

3. College guys who can be boisterous and don’t generally pay well, but were my favorite because many are cute and seem just excited and appreciative to be around naked girls. 

4. Oh dear. The smug, entitled assholes who visit strip clubs solely because they get off on treating women like shit. Body snarking on all the dancers, blatantly racist comments for the WOC, mocking/insulting you for being a sex worker, grabbing, trying to “scare” and intimidate you, stalking & following, calling you a bitch if you don’t do “extras,” trying to not pay or actually stealing your money. Unfortunately, these were the VAST majority of customers I came in contact with, which is ultimately why I stopped stripping. 

See, categories 1-3 never bothered me. As someone who likes to look at naked women, I can hardly blame anybody else for liking to look at naked women, and going somewhere for that purpose. But the category 4s pay money specifically to express hatred for women. I was lucky in the sense that I was never raped on the job, although I was effectively held hostage once.

PTSD

Posted in mental health/madness, sexual violence by bellareve on February 23, 2009

A few months after being raped at 18, I was hospitalized for PTSD. 

It took a few months because the symptoms came slowly at first. Intense anxiety, fear, vulnerability. Being always alert and on edge. Then sadness. Then howling rage. It all culminated in some episodes of suicidal thoughts, at which point I checked myself in.

For the next five years, therapy, medication, and the support of various friends, family, and partners kept me alive. And not only alive, they kept my symptoms, for the most part, under control. To the point where I was highly functional, safe with myself, and occasionally even happy. (Part of this had to do with discarding incompetent counselors/doctors who weren’t helping me, and experimental meds that made things worse…no easy task as many know)

But now the damn thing is back.

I realized this is probably what provoked me to start this blog, subconsciously. Because I’m having such a hard time and writing calms me down. In any case, my current therapist, the one who I like the most, suggested this. Apparently PTSD can in a way be “dormant” in one’s nervous system/mind,  similar to a virus, “activating” years later due to some type of trigger.

It came flooding back, not gradual this time, but tough and black and all consuming like tar. The same longing to self-destruct, the same difficulty getting air into my lungs, the same terrors at nighttime. The trigger, I’m certain, was the recent end of a serious relationship. The symptoms came almost immediately, eerily familiar, and just as unbearable.

I’m trying to survive but it goes against the instinct to disappear.

BDSM & “mental health”

Posted in blogwars, feminism, mental health/madness, sexual pleasure, sexual violence, something queer by bellareve on February 19, 2009

I’m not going to talk much about BDSM, except for this: The idea that women who like it are sick and need “mental help”/therapy.

Guess what? The mental health establishment is not always kind or helpful to women (or queers). Not even in 2009!!!! The institution you recommend is not exactly grounded in feminism. Although psychology and psychiatry can and have benefited some suffering people tremendously, they have also historically been coercive, violent, misogynist, and homophobic. So I wouldn’t dream of telling a stranger on the internet that she “needed” therapy. Disrespectful, for one thing. 

Now if you wanna talk about how fucked up and sick SOCIETY is, have at it, because that is another story.

Agency

Posted in blogwars, feminism, mental health/madness, sex work, something queer by bellareve on February 19, 2009

Here’s another topic that I feel gets drastically simplified in the ol’ sex debates. 

In one corner, we have some rad fems (like Twisty) who insist that, in a patriarchy, women have no agency. Zip, zero, nada. We might as well be inanimate objects batted about by our Overlords.

The other corner says women do have agency, and get mad over and over again when this is denied. They don’t really buy the whole patriarchy concept at all, and treat it like an wacky, irrational conspiracy theory wielded by mean-spirited womyn on the internet.

Once again, I’m not comfortable with either position.

I am comfortable with saying this: many of the world’s women don’t have agency, because they are impoverished, enslaved, institutionalized, and/or incarcerated. Agency can also be limited by things like financial duress, lack of educational/health resources, and being of a marginalized race or sexual orientation. Also, I cannot speak for other survivors, but I felt my agency was nonexistent when I was in an abusive relationship. And I do not speak for others with disabilities, but I feel that my mood disorder significantly limits my agency. 

On the other hand, there are women with the luck, privilege, and resources to have agency. And if a woman tells me she’s free, my instinct is to believe & trust her. Also, I would need to see some type of solid evidence that patriarchy erases all agency for every single person born female before I could get on board with that. It’s not something I can just take as a given if you say it enough.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.