Please note, I have grammar issues. In that I have given up on that for purposes of blog posting.
Today I’m just going to write random thoughts and not put anything in order. Today my blog is my journal, “my diary screaming out loud” like Anna Nalick’s Breathe.
It’s the anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s loss. I found her mail address last week and yesterday I wrote her a letter and I cried during the writing. I talked about my mother and how Secretary Clinton’s run for president was a bright light shining in the middle of the darkness of Alzheimer’s. For a few months talking about her to my feminist mother brought a smile to Mom’s face. And for that, I will always be grateful for that race.
Hillary lost, though, and although I never told my mother–she lost so much mental capacity in 2016 that she could not have understood it, and if she did, what would be the point?–but I sure felt it. Not just because I actually like Hillary (yes, that happens. really. I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Some people find Hillary likable, and not all of them are green alien robot women intent upon ruling the world and castrating men) but because of what it meant to me. I lost my first female president, and I honestly don’t think I’ll live long enough to hear Madam President for real.
I remember during that election a lot of people scoffing about women voting with their vaginas. First of all, women do everything with their vaginas. It’s, like, the definition of being female. Also, American men have been voting with their penises since the end of the Revolutionary War. In fact, only people with penises voted for over a century, while vaginas were forced to stay home and hope that the penis crowd would occasionally think about a special concern or two of the at-home vaginas. The vagina crowd had to hope that trickle down White Christian Male identity politics would do some good for them. Yes, I said it. Vagina, penis and called White Christian Males an identity. Because it is and catering to that group is also Identity Politics.
Anyway. Yeah. It hurt. I tried to explain a few times during that primary why wanting to vote for a woman president just because she’s a woman was perfectly acceptable behavior. I wanted to compare it to voting for President Obama, but I didn’t because that’s not fair, and I’m just not going down that road. I didn’t get a whole lot response to my explanations. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I didn’t post a picture of breasts or something and so men just sort of shrugged and walked away.
And that right there is my point. I’d think the Harvey Weinstein thing would make it clearer, but maybe it doesn’t. Here’s the thing–we hear people say stupid, infuriating shit like “Did you see what that woman wore, though? She was just askin’ for it.” I won’t talk about the asking for it part because I will end up throwing my computer through a window and I need my computer. What I do want to say is this–I don’t ever remember being sexually harassed at work. Know why? Part of the reason was I didn’t dress in such a manner that “asked” for that attention. I didn’t move up the corporate ladder either. Know why? I didn’t get attention. Partly because I didn’t dress for it.
Maybe you’re thinking I’m making excuses. Well this is how I know for sure. A “friend” of mine did dress the part. She attracted the attention of one of our bosses and slept with him, which got her the job I had worked for and fought for. The people in power had to move her to the job I wanted because they couldn’t have a relationship going on between a boss and subordinate. They gave me a “promotion” and moved me out of that group and the building altogether. Only it wasn’t really a promotion. A little pay and absolutely no upward mobility. I got to be next door, though, to the president of the company and the vice-presidents. Oh. The joy. I wanted to write anyway, and we wanted children, so I left to do those two things and to hell with them.
But I was angry at my “friend” for a long, long time. Now I’m angry with them, those men, and society for teaching women that the way to power is to get the attention of powerful men in any way possible. She shouldn’t have had to dress and flirt to get what she wanted, I shouldn’t have lost what I wanted because she did and neither of us should have been in a position where we had to fight our gender roles to advance.
That was how for women in ’80s.
That’s how it’s been for centuries. Women have a daily thought–how do I dress today for what I want to accomplish? How will I get the attention I need from those in power–who are men–so that I can accomplish that? For many, many years that was in a sexual way, often subtly, because that was the only way to get the attention. A woman had to hope that she could shift the attention to something more substantial, like whatever thing she wanted to accomplish. Sometimes that thing was a survival thing.
And yeah, I chose a picture for this blog post of a woman in a sexy red dress, because that’ll get people’s attention right.
Things have changed over the last 50 years or so. Especially over the last 30, since I was in the male-dominated workforce. Women are more likely to get attention just because they have a Good Thought than when I was an accountant. Still, there’s that thing in our heads. It’s always there even when we don’t know it. “How do I dress so that I can get the attention of men in power? How much sexual harassment or objectification am I willing to put up with so that I am seen and then heard?” You may be a guy who scoffs at that. You may be a woman who is saying “I’ve never thought that!” Fine. It’s there anyway. You don’t have to believe the world is round for it to be true.
I know Hillary gets that. How she answered and still answers that question in her head, I don’t know. But I know she’s been there. I know she understands that, just like I know she understands that hormonal shifts every month are a struggle, but they don’t make women too crazy to handle the nuclear codes (and don’t even go down that road with me anyway, because we gave ’em to Trump who is a walking, talking advertisement for malignant narcissism so we don’t really give a damn about it). Hillary knows that the pushback against birth control is another way to force vaginas into staying home again. Most women know this. Certainly, all women seeking power do. I would have voted happily for another female seeking power because of that understanding (as long as she aligned to a fair degree with my morals and beliefs), even if I didn’t like her. I want a female president. I wanted Hillary especially because, yeah, I like her.
But that didn’t happen. And now I’m listening to Keith Urban’s Female–written by women, btw. Stop saying he wrote it. He said straight-up that he didn’t–and it makes me cry in sorrow and frustration. No, women don’t rule the world. Honestly, we don’t want to. Not 99% of us. We would just like to have equal representation. Many cheered Trump as the common man’s president (cough, cough, cough) and as that being a “change” and a “revolution”. We have never had the common woman’s president. We’ve never had any woman president. That would have been a massive change. Today, I’m wondering how many different kinds of “first” men we’re going to have to go through before that. First gay male president? First Jewish male president? First male Latino president? First male Muslim president. . .
How many first male presidents before we get the first female?
Women don’t want to rule the world. I don’t want to rule the world. I am writing a trilogy about a strong woman (and that’s her character arc so don’t tell me she’s not strong. I ain’t listening) who doesn’t want to be a leader. It’s not her thing. I wrote it because women shouldn’t have to lead men to be listened to. Women shouldn’t have to dress to be listened to. There are literally millions of wonderful men who make huge, noteworthy contributions to society (like Pulitizer prize winners and Nobel prize winners) who are not leaders. We love them. Can’t we love women for that too? Can’t they be that too? Can’t women be lauded as individual contributors, be strong and WANT A FEMALE LEADER?
Yes. Yes we can. So I wrote a book about that. I wrote a book about women doing kick-ass stuff without caring if they are kick ass. They’re just getting shit done. And I wrote those books with men getting shit done too and my heroine(s) asking guys “what do we do now?” and the heroes asking the women “what do we do now?” I wrote it because that’s how it should be (not the torture, mind you, and wife beating and all the other stuff). In my books men save women and women save men and guess what? Women save each other too and nobody is like, Wow! It’s like, “come on, run, we’re all going to die.” Because I want to believe in a future where equality means never having to consider your gender in your decisions.
Anyway, that’s my ramblings today. Maybe you’ll get something out of it. Maybe you won’t. It’s just my diary screaming out loud. I’m gonna leave you with a tiny little excerpt about women saving women, and warn you of spoilers even though every excerpt is a spoiler because if it isn’t why the hell is it in your book?
Instead of Enforcers, three men in those blue security guard uniforms confront us. Carrying state-of-the-art rifles, they freeze when they see me. Not due to recognition. It’s my hair.
It only distracts them for seconds; it’s enough. I hit the first in the chest before he even raises his rifle. I re-aim and take down a second. The third, though, has had enough time to aim his gun at my head. There’s no way I can move fast enough. I draw in my last breath and pray the shot kills me and that there really is life after death.
Two guns go off, his and Merrick’s. I watch the guard sinks to the floor.
“Hurry.” Merrick pushes past me. Her face is ashy and her lips are pressed together in a thin line. It’s her first kill. It won’t be her last.
No time for compassion, though. Not when we’re literally running for our lives.
A bullet whizzes by me on the right.
“The others are here!” I dodge left. We’re forty-five, forty, thirty-five feet from the elevator. The doors are open and everybody is frantically waving at us. Barratt’s zeroed in on Merrick. We’re maybe thirty feet from the elevator when panic twists his face. Without thinking, I lunge for Merrick as he shouts her name.
I crash into her, shoving her behind an abandoned gurney. It’s too late. The bullet has already found her. She screams, a heart-piercing sound steeped in pain. Then a hundred screams echo in my mind from a hundred executions. I see the blood, smell the fear, and it threatens to pull me under. I crunch down on the mint and fight for sanity.
Meanwhile, Merrick’s gasping for breath, which is accompanied by the explosion of shots fired from both directions. The odor of blood and gun smoke mixes with antiseptic, filling my nose. My stomach turns. When I glance at the elevator, I see Tansy inside, down on one knee, shooting. A quick twist of my head finds the two guards she’s taken out. That leaves three more. I draw a deep breath, aim my rifle, pull the trigger, and then there are two. I’m re-sighting the weapon when a too-familiar burning sears my upper arm. It’s just a graze, but it disrupts my aim. Instead of falling to the floor, dead, the guard grabs for her shoulder. Tansy’s next bullet hits her forehead. The last guard lunges toward an open doorway. Is she hiding or going for cover?
“Neri, now!” Helen yells.
I sling my rifle over my shoulder, flinching at the pain, and reach for Merrick. I note that a dark spot on her tunic is spreading downward. She moans, but comes to a shaky stand and drapes her arm over my shoulders. I wrap an arm around her waist and we stagger toward the elevator.
Another alarm goes off. Flashing red lights and this time a blaring horn. Stefan yells but I can’t hear what he’s saying. Left or right? I go with my gut and pull Merrick to the right. The bullet misses us. Helen, her pleasant face now granite-hard, shoots a couple more rounds off. Reaching the elevator, we lurch through the doors. Piers hits a button, the doors close and we start down.
“How many more,” Merrick rasps as we shift, trying to steady ourselves, “do you think are waiting for us?”
“No telling,” Piers says. I watch the lights overhead. Fifth floor, fourth. . .
The elevator slows down.
“Fuck!” Piers says. I jerk at the use of profanity. He yanks off a card on a chain around his neck and presses it to a reader. The car comes to a halt. We’re packed in so tightly, I can’t raise my gun.
I can reach my stunner. My heart hammers in my chest as the doors open. Three people are waiting there, two men in medical clothes, and a woman in a guard uniform. Her gun is pointed at the floor.
I’m not going to write much today because I’m not feeling very well. But I want to put up this symbol and point out something–it looks like a cross. In fact, it’s a cross with rays sticking out of it.
Now Scientology has the right to any symbol it wants. Legally. So there’s no argument there. The thing is, from what I know about Scientology there’s no good reason for a cross. Christians have the cross as a symbol because Jesus Christ was crucified. Crucification is a horrific way to die, and the fact that the son of God would go through that to save mankind is deeply moving to Christians. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand that. And while there’s something kind of disturbing about using the method of horrible death as a symbol of a religion, it’s not without rationale.
Why does Scientology use it, though? Hubbard was not crucified. There’s no link between Scientology and Christianity. Scientology says you can continue to practice your religion when you join the Scientology “religion” (which is not really true in reality). But if Scientology is about people from all religions joining them, shouldn’t the symbol be a mixture of the Star of David and the Star and Crescent of Islam and a few others?
Here’s why–Scientology uses it–to attract Christians. Preferably wealthy Christians. Not strongly faithful–that wouldn’t work– but lapsing Christians in search of some spiritual need that their religion does not address. This cross with the rays is a way to make them feel welcome and comfortable and for the “church” to feel familiar and suitably religious. It’s just another manipulation, which is pretty much what the entire organization is. Otherwise the Scientology symbol which is on “Big Blue” would look more like this:.
I wanted to talk more about the manipulation and the difference between established religions and a cult that pretends it’s a religion, but as I said, I’m not feeling well. Maybe next time. Feel free to add what you think the differences are, though
Add on: So when I wrote this, I was feeling sick but had Stuff To Say, so I just hit publish. But it occurred to me this morning that I don’t talk a lot about my books and here’s a perfect place. Because, like L. Ron Hubbard, I have created a religion (I know, that’s sacrilege to say that to Scientologists, but they aren’t reading this because they aren’t allowed to read anything criticizing their church). I also created a symbol. A new one. I didn’t just drag old religious symbols in to make people feel more comfortable.
So bear with me here. The PostPlague Trilogy takes place 274 years after plagues kill the world. One of the reasons the few survivors believe the apocalypse happened is the government lacked morality. The new government, they decided, would be based upon Reyism, the religion that sprouted up around Braedon Rey, the man who prophesized the end. This religion/government called the various governing departments sects. They created 10 (over time. These things don’t all happen at once). There are nine departments and the High Council, which is the ultimate governing body consisting of the High Priest or Priestess of every sect and the Prophet, the supreme leader of the country.
Each sect identifies itself with a color. These colors are worn by the Priests and Priestesses of the sect. Ceremonial robes are just the sect colors, and uniforms for the Enforcers and Guard have a standard mixing of sect color and white or gold (the latter being the color of the Prophet and his family.) Priests and Priestesses mix colors on their clothing, but the predominant color is that sect’s color. For example a 2nd sect Priestess (arts and education) might wear a pink gown with blue flowers. As long as the flowers are small and sparsely distributed, that would work. She could wear a white gown with pink flowers, as long as the flowers are the predominant color and the white is really “background.”
The symbol, then, should have all the color, to represent each sect. In fact it’s a pie, with pieces for each sect delineated. Because the Plague Wars were actually wars, there’s a peace symbol in the middle.
It was circled in gold because it’s the Prophet’s color. Each sect member has the symbol tattoed on his/her arm, only with the pie piece of his/her sect. The Prophet’s spouse and the Apprentice (next in line for governening, usually a son or daughter, but not always) has this exact symbol tattooed, because they serve all the sects.
The final addition to the symbol are the rays, to symbolize the sun–a new start–Rey (ray) and the ten parishes–states, districts, areas of the country–and the governing city Temple City. At least, that was the original intent, but over time it was decided that those rays didn’t look right, so more were added. They are still representative though. This is the national/religious symbol of Reyism. It’s in stained glass in temples, it’s on flags and buildings. It’s tattooed on the Prophet’s arm. He or she is the only person in the nation who has that tattoo.
So there ya go. Now I know Scientology uses other symbols, but that’s not what you see on the top of Big Blue, which is one of the iconic Scientology buildings. That’s because they aren’t a separate religion with their own religious doctrine. They’re an organization masking as a religion selling warped psychology (I mean, really, that’s what auditing sessions are in the beginning) philosophy and self-help, and some weird-ass stuff about Zenu. Reyism isn’t a real religion either. I made it up. But at least it’s not poaching symbols.
I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test a lot of times over the years. The first time was probably over 20 years ago. I was an INFJ then. I was an INFJ when I took an online test last week. In fact, only once have I ever not had a result that wasn’t INFJ.
I spent some time last week, though, reading descriptions and listening to youtube videos about INFJs. There are SO many videos on INFJs! Indeterminate numbers of ways you know you’re an INFJ when videos. And then there are videos calling out people who aren’t INFJs. There are videos wondering why everybody wants to be an INFJ.
I was flabbergasted. Amazed. Confused. I had no idea that this was a thing. Why would someone so want to be a certain type that they’d mistype themselves? And why on earth would an INFJ make youtube videos? This does not seem like an INFJ thing to me. I mean, I don’t even like to put categories and tags on my blog posts because then people might find them. Seriously. Not calling attention to oneself is basic INFJ type behavior and a huge problem in my life.
Naturally, since I read and listened to how everybody wants to be an INFJ I started to wonder if I am one. Not that it matters in the long run, but I don’t like mislabeling myself. So I read and read. Apparently, INFJs tend to talk in metaphors. And that made me think I am definitely not an INFJ; I don’t talk in metaphors. I really suck at coming up with metaphors. Or at least I thought I did until I wrote a blog post about how the sound of a lawnmower tastes *green. A day later, I stopped in the middle of making a point in a facebook comment by using a metaphor and thought, yeah maybe that description has some merit.
Long story short, I’m an INFJ. I don’t know about all these other people. I only know about me. But there are two things that you always read about INFJs that just do not line up with me.
1 All these descriptions about INFJs mention soft-spoken people. Frankly, I don’t know how that aligns with any Myers-Briggs type, but apparently, people think INFJs are. I am not. I inherited a deep voice from my Dad. I have a loud laugh which I make no attempt to quiet because laughter is infectious and should be shared. I can be very quiet in a loud group if I’m lost in thought or just soaking in what everybody’s saying. And I rarely speak forcefully unless I feel impassioned or it’ll get a laugh (laughter is huge for me. It’s life for me). I am not softspoken. At all.
I’m not shy either. I used to be. I was very shy as a child, painfully shy. Then I read Dale Carnegie, realized that it’s rare for strangers to want to hear about you–mostly they want to introduce themselves–and I was freed. I want to learn things about strangers, and I don’t want to talk about myself to strangers. That was eye-opening for me.
So maybe most INFJs are softspoken. And maybe that’s because INFJs are all about harmony and making sure everybody is feeling good. But me, I do that by making jokes, passing around hugs, asking people how they’re feeling and then making stupid jokes again. I can play the extrovert with gusto, as long as I have hours, days, weeks to recover. If someone else wants to take center stage, I am happy to pass it off. But if the best way to make others comfortable is to be silly myself, I’ll do it, and it’s pretty hard to be both silly and softspoken.
2 Tidy–INFJs are supposed to be tidy. No. No I am not. I hate bad smells. I can’t ignore those. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to move trash into the garage because the smell is bothering me. But I don’t need things to be put away.
Again, I look at the reasoning behind that. INFJs are supposed to be super sensitive (that whole NF thing) including to external stimuli. Noises? Yup. Smells? Yup. But things being out of place? No.
Here’s the thing, I’ve been writing since I was 14. When I write–I assume all writers are like this, but maybe not–I am in the story, so much so that I don’t notice other things. Even when I edit, I’m in the story. When I’m not writing but thinking about the story, I’m still in the story. I get up from my computer to switch laundry over, I am mostly still in my story. Years ago I was writing a book that took place in Colorado in June, July and August. I was working on this during the middle of a New England winter. It was March before I actually realized it was one of the snowiest winters on record. I’d been shoveling snow–I was just so lost in my book between storms that I barely noticed it.
Years later, a couple of stories came to me out of nowhere. I had to write them, and I was lost, lost in those characters. I got into no less than three fender-benders during that time. Kind of hard to keep your mind on the road when you’re living in 1885.
I don’t generally notice messes in my house or my car. On the other hand, big changes in my environment are jarring, even good ones. We really need to get work done on a bathroom, which we’ve been saving up for, for years, but I haven’t yet called anybody on it. Talking on the phone–oh the horror–to strangers–even more horrible!–to come to my house and rip stuff up? It’s torture. I like when things are prettied-up for sure. But to get there is disruptive and disturbing. Honestly, I don’t even move furniture around. I considered long and hard about the optimal place for the furniture. Why would I move it to a less optimal place? It doesn’t make sense.
That. Right there. That’s an INFJ thing. At least it seems so to me. If you’re the MBTI type that completely analyzes things including all the emotional implications, then when you’ve made a decision, it’s the right decision. I’m not moving the furniture unless some kind of big change has happened. That’s rare.
So yeah. I guess if you’ve read this far, you’re wondering how this is at all helpful to you. Well I guess I’d say this–if you’re not sure about your Meyers-Briggs type (and you care), look at the reasons behind the descriptions. For example, it is entirely possible to be a soft-spoken extrovert. Or a shy extrovert. Your upbringing could make you both of those things. Still, you might absolutely love to be with people and actually get tired when you’ve been alone too long (and I have no idea how that is possible, but it’s a thing). You’re an extrovert no matter what people say. It’s not how people see you–it’s how you feel. And that’s a really NF thing to say, and I don’t know how in hell I thought I could be an S or T.
*Green–When I told my husband that the sound of a lawnmower tastes green I got a very, very strange look, even after all these years together. He said things don’t taste green. Yes. Yes they do. Salad, asparagus, green beans all have a similar “green” taste, in the same way that beef, lamb and some cuts of pork have a similar meaty (red) taste. When you hear a lawnmower you will often get the smell of freshly cut grass. Smell is a hugely important part of taste. Therefore, the sound of a lawnmower tastes green.
I have read about HSPs over the years–a highly sensitive person. I have a wonderful, treasured friend who is one. It’s more common, I believe among INFJ’s than other Meyer-Briggs personalities, and no matter how many times or ways I take that test, I am an INFJ. I’ve taken the test for an HSP a few times and I never really hit all the marks. It seems one of the biggest signs of being an HSP is a dislike of loud noises. I don’t dislike loud noises at all. And I actually like crowds.
I don’t want to be an HSP. I mean, it kinda sounds good because hey, you’re really sensitive and maybe people should be kinder to you or something like that. And special maybe. But HSPs are always die in horror movies and they are rarely the hero in a survival story. I kind of want to be the hero. I mean a lot, actually. I want to save the world. I am, after all, an INFJ and we always want to make a difference.
The last few months have caused me to change my mind on if I am an HSP for a whole bunch of reasons, though. (and I am not happy about this). The sticking point is the noise thing. Do loud noises bother me and I just don’t admit it? No. But sounds, all sounds affect me. I listen to a white noise maker to sleep at night. It has to be the white sound because the sounds of the ocean and birds or a forest, or any of that is not uniform. Any change in sound drills into my head. It’s not just a focus issue. If I snore, the snoring becomes part of my dream. If my husband poofs (which isn’t quite snoring, but an actual poofing noise) it comes into my dreams. I cannot push these things away.
Chipmunks bug me. They sit outside my window and wake me up sometimes or interrupt me when I’m writing. I open my window and yell at them to shut the hell up. The sound of the heat coming on in the winter wakes me up. The sound of the air conditioner changing from fan to cooling wakes me up.
So I started thinking of this post as I was lying on the sofa napping a little. In the background was the sound of somebody mowing their lawn. I like that sound, even when it comes and goes. I can sleep to that. The sound of a lawnmower, I realize, smells like fresh cut grass. It smells like sunshine and tastes green, and it feels like warmth and relaxation and satisfaction all at once. The sound of a lawnmower is emotion.
For me, sounds are emotion.
The sound of crackling bacon is the smell of bacon and the smell of orange juice and coffee. It’s the color of sunshine and the feeling of joy and intellectual excitement. It’s my sons and husband and I sitting around the breakfast table after not seeing each other in a while, happily exchanging new thoughts and new ideas and laughing. It’s the feeling of life flowing through me because these are the people who get me. Who understand overload and too much sensitivity and appreciate it and love me for it, not inspite of it.
The ticking of a clock is the feeling of emptiness. It’s white and cool. For some people the sound of a ticking clock is anxiety, but not for me. If I can hear a clock ticking it’s because everything else is silent and my mind is quiet and empty. Sometimes that’s bad, but sometimes it’s relief. It’s always empty.
The sound of crickets smells like sun-heated dirt cooling down, midnight blue and the green of vegetation. It’s a warm summer breeze and the feeling of mystery and excitement and sex.
The sound of thunder is the smell of steam and tar rising from a sidewalk or driveway. It’s warm and welcoming. It’s the feeling of excitement and wonder and joy and love. It’s my Dad and I when I was a little girl standing in the open garage, watching lightning streak across the sky. I was safe; I was with my Dad. And he understood the wonder, and so there is always joy and love.
The crinkling sound of the heat in heat registers, the sound of the furnace, is the sound of anxiety. It smells like heated dust and brings on fears of big bills and not enough money to pay for it.
So. There it is. For me sounds have a feeling. Yes, I can walk into a noisy crowded room without trouble, because I have my bubble up and to hold off the emotions of all those people. I don’t know them. I don’t have to know them. I am not responsible for them, but I am there being part of humanity, feeling somewhat connected. Honestly, small groups can be more stressful for me because I generally care about these people and I need to feel their emotions. I have to drop my bubble and feel. That’s not what most HSPs will tell you. They prefer small groups. But I am an emotional sponge, and I’m incredibly pain sensitive, sounds have emotion, and my mood can change when the sun goes behind a cloud. I feel it all. I am an HSP like it or not. Everything for me is emotion. Not sure what I’m going to do with it, other than to stop fighting it.
Oh, and my favorite sound? Not sure, but the sounds of waves crashing is pretty darn high. (and is white and green and blue and smells like salt air and peace and hope.)
P.S. Do sounds have emotions to you? I’d love to hear about it. Sincerly! Please add them to the comments.
A couple weeks back I was working on one of my romances and I couldn’t decide if I should use murderer to describe a character or murderess. Naturally, I asked my facebook friends. They all said murderer, and there was some small discussion about the sexism of murderess (yes, these are the kind of facebook friends I have, and I love them). Even as I type this, WordPress is trying to convince me that I mean murderers, not murderess. It’s an “old-fashioned” word from a time before our women’s rights’ society.
I went with murderess because I was writing in the Victorian period.
Question asked, answered, and solved, right? I wish it were. But it’s not. Because now I’m writing 274 years into the future and I have priests and priestesses. Should I not separate them, should I keep gender out of it and use the gender-neutral term priests?
Here’s the thing: when I was in grade school and learning the basics of writing I was told that when referring to an unknown person or a group of people in a singular way I should use the word he. Or him. Or his. Saying he or she was wrong and cumbersome, and the default was he. It irked me. It still irks me. To this day I fight it and either use the number-challenged “their” or go for cumbersome instead of forcing everybody into a male pronoun. I’ve seen people switch back and forth between paragraphs as a way to avoid that kind of sexism. I get that. It’s an equal thing. Know what I’ve never seen? People consistently saying “she” as an unknown person. Or her or hers.
Last night we heard that Boy Scouts is now allowing girls to participate in some things. My husband, a former committee chairman, heard that and his immediate reaction was “That’s stupid. I’ve been on campouts. You can’t do that.” I agree with that–for obvious reasons–but said I think (I didn’t research so this is an assumption) it’s more about the award of Eagle Scout. That girl scouts don’t get that. He replied that there is a high award for girl scouts. Before I even finished my reply to that, he finished it for me–it’s not the same. The Gold award might be the same in the eyes of girl scout leaders, but it’s not in the eyes of the world. I didn’t even know what the highest award for girl scouting is. I had to google it, and I was a girl scout. My mother was a leader.
We are all familiar with Eagle Scouts.
While I applaud this bending of the Boy Scout rules (if I had a daughter I would definitely be looking into it because Eagle Scout is cool), it shows us the inherent sexism in our society. We don’t raise boys up to the level of highest Girl Scout achievement, because who would want that? Our society won’t make that achievement mean the same as Eagle Scout, either. Instead, we raise girls up to the highest of Boy Scout achievement. That’s the gold standard. The best a girl can be is a boy.
We do the same thing when we make a choice for gender-neutrality in words–we go for the male version of the word. It “feels” right for many, but it reminds me of the laws that governed wives in the U.S. (coverture) before 1839 (first property rights for women law). The law of the land at that time was that when a wife committed a crime, often the husband would do the time because the wife had no agency. As a wife she was required to obey her husband, so how could she be at fault? When man and woman joined in marriage they became one, and that one was male.
Here we are in 2017 doing the same thing. Actoresses=actors, priestesses=priests. That’s what equality looks like, raising women up by letting them be men. Yay us. You know what equality would actually be? Calling male actors actresses. But we are never going to do that, because letting men be women is letting them lose their power. And until or unless we ever get to the point that we deep down–down to pronoun–believe that women have the same power as men, we are not equal. Not even close.
Conclusion: So in The PostPlague Trilogy my female priests are priestesses and I am going to cumbersome in that writing. I don’t have another word that works and as terrible as the PostPlague world is, I am not making my female characters be men in order to be strong. The torture and death is enough.
Seeing the video and pictures out of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is pretty much the last straw in a summer of straws. I visited Puerto Rico on a cruise a couple years back. My mother spent time there as a young child, with her grandparents who were missionaries. That doesn’t mean I have ties, but I can’t look away either. I am furious and distressed and overwhelmingly sad all at the same time. Not just because of the tragedy but because there’s seems to be no rush to help. I even had a woman to tell me, when I pointed this out, to breathe. Because, yeah, breathing is going to help those people instead of, I don’t know, writing my congresspeople to DO SOMETHING. And I am taking breaths. I’m just about hyperventilating.
Anyway. I don’t want to write a whole post about this. In the end the only thing I’ve really got to offer the world is my writing. It’s hard as hell in times like these to write; my instinct is to try to get there and help, but I have no clue as to how to do that and will most likely only mess things up. That’s not my path in life. So. It’s the writing. That’s what I’ve got.
Here’s an excerpt from 20 pages into Children of Liberty. Maybe it’ll take your mind off this summer’s tragedies for a couple of minutes.
“This is heavenly,” I say after the first forkful of Tansy’s roast duck with raspberry sauce. “I’ve never had anything this good in Temple City. Or Central City for that matter.”
Two pretty red circles rise in Tansy’s cheeks. She beams at me. “Really?”
“Really,” I answer. We’re sitting in the dining area of their two-room log cabin. This furniture is handmade as well. A huge stone fireplace heats the entire room—dining room, kitchen and living area.
“Tansy’s a very inventive cook,” Maya says. Her voice is cool and even, but nobody could mistake the pride in it. “No matter how short we are of supplies, she always comes up with something delicious.”
Tansy offers me some bread. “You’re lucky. Yesterday was baking day. We only have enough flour for one loaf a week.”
I’m a fugitive from the law and my life isn’t worth the chair I’m sitting on. That’s hardly lucky, but I try to keep my usual cynicism out of my voice. “I’ve always had good fortune when it comes to running from bears and falling down cliffs.”
Maya raises her eyebrows. Oh well, at least I tried.
Tansy laughs. “If you’re going to make it a habit, do it on baking day.”
“How about I forget the falling part, and just arrive on baking day?”
“You are welcome any day, High Priestess,” Tansy says warmly. Then, for the third time since we sat down, her eyes rest on my Temple tattoo.
I’ve eaten enough that I can stand putting down my fork. Turning my right arm over, I push back my sleeve to show it to her. It’s a gold facetted circle, cut into ten pie pieces to represent each of the Temple’s sects, which are the governmental departments of the Order. Each pie piece is colored with a corresponding sect’s color: 1st, the Guard, is royal blue, the 2nd, Arts and Education is rose pink, and so on. All Temple members have a tattoo of the circle, with the sect they belong to colored in. Only the Prophet, High Priestess and Apprentice—the next in line for Prophet—have all of the pieces colored.
Tansy gasps. “Oh, it sparkles!”
“It’s the kind of ink they use,” I say. I move my wrist for effect and watch it sparkle in the light, courtesy of solar panels on the roof. The tattoo really is gorgeous. Or would be if it didn’t represent oppression, cruelty, and my six years of living in fear. “Go ahead, you can touch it.”
She runs her fingers over it, and then smiles shyly at me. When she’s done, I dig into my dinner again. “So, Maya,” I start casually, “you said Temple City is three days away. How often do you visit?” And who do you visit, my worried brain adds. Friends on the High Council? Inquisitors?
“It’s three days by horse,” Maya says. “You’ll want a couple days to mend first, so that’s five days.” She peers at me. “Will the Prophet be worried about you?”
Very much. But not in the way she thinks.
I need a good answer, though, one that will satisfy curiosity, not inflame it. My head is still so foggy. A minute goes by. A minute and a half. What do I say?
“Maybe Priestess—” Maya starts just as a thought hits me.
“He thinks I’m in SouthMid.”
She starts, then frowns. “Why does he think that?”
Why indeed? And why was I running for my life from a mother bear in the middle of the wilderness? I need a good lie. The best are based in reality. There was a train accident, and I ended up here.
There’s no reality in that, and trains don’t run near the mountains.
I was on a camping trip and got lost.
Closer to reality, but who was I with? The High Priestess would never camp alone. Honestly, the High Priestess, or at least this High Priestess, would never camp, period.
I was on a picnic—
“Try the truth,” Maya says. She speaks coolly, as if she isn’t calling me a liar. I should respond with indignation; the High Priestess is not to be questioned.
Except by Grayson. And the Inquisitors.
I’m not indignant, and I am no longer the High Priestess. At best I’m a dissident, which is just a nice word for traitor. “I ran away.”
Maya raises her brows.
“What?” Tansy asks, perplexed. “But why?”
“I needed some time . . . alone. To think.”
Tansy blinks. Socials, even in terrible situations, would run to other people, not to the wilderness.
Maya puts down her fork with careful precision. “They must be searching for you.”
“I told the Prophet I was going to SouthMid.” That lie works now, and I’m vaguely pleased with myself. Given enough time I can weave lies as soft as silk.
“I’m sure they’ve discovered you aren’t there.”
“Possibly,” I say with a wave of my hand, “but they’d never think to look for me here.”
“So you pretended to board a train,” Maya says in clipped tones, “but instead borrowed a horse. Then rode out into the wilderness with no provisions to speak of. No tent, no lighting. No food. Because you wanted to think?”
“When you say it like that it sounds stupid.”
“I don’t know how I’d say it so it wouldn’t sound stupid.”
“Maya,” Tansy hisses. “She’s the High Priestess.”
“I don’t care if she’s God herself. She’s lying.”
Damn. Now what? She’s not buying my lies, silken or otherwise. “I did run away,” I insist. “And they aren’t looking for me here.” Because nobody in their right mind would do what I did. But I am not in my right mind and Maya is realizing that. She continues to stare at me with that penetrating gaze. She’s waiting for an answer, a truthful one. She reminds me of Jarvis, whom I trusted with my life. Maybe I can trust her too.
At any rate, I’m out of options.
I shove aside the pain that thoughts of Jarvis always bring and hold Maya’s gaze. “I’m a fugitive. The Temple suspects me of spying on the Prophet. I escaped before the Inquisitors could take me in for questioning.”
“Oh,” Tansy breathes. “Pa told us horror stories about the Inquisitors. But surely . . . surely they would treat the High Priestess with reverence? Follow every clue until they discover who is really responsible.”
Neither Maya nor I break our gazes. After a few seconds, her eyes flicker. “She wasn’t set up,” Maya says. “She did it.”
“No,” Tansy says doubtfully.
I just shrug.
Maya sits back and I watch as the tension in her muscles drains away. With it goes the unnatural aging of anxiety, leaving behind a woman who’s probably five or six years my junior. “Well I’ll show you the way back, but you’re welcome to stay with us if you’d rather.”
You’re welcome to die here. That’s what she really means.
I’ve been thinking about writing this for a long time. And to be honest, I don’t really have the time currently to do it. But I’m going to anyway because I’m angry and writing helps me work through it.
I was born in the 60’s. This was a period of time when banks literally asked women to bring men in if they wanted to open up bank accounts, apply for credit cards, apply for mortgages. They discounted women’s pay a lot more than men as well. At this period of time and all the years before that, society considered women “less than” men. I mean, hell, even the terms pretty much say that–woMEN, feMALE.
So back in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s etc, women were pretty happy, generally speaking, just to get roles in male-dominated literature/movies/television. It was pretty damned awesome that Lt. Uhura was on the bridge of the Enterprise. Even more fantastic was the pilot of Star Trek, which had a woman doctor wearing pants. Yup, originally, the original Star Trek didn’t have women in short, short skirts. It was the 60’s though and that was nixed.
Uhura was cool, though, still. She was black, she was a woman, and she rocked. Kirk depended upon her to be smart and capable and because of that, I grew up knowing that women could be smart and capable.
The 70’s and 80’s brought us other role models. The Mod Squad (woman!), Charlie’s Angels, and my personal favorite, Princess Leia. She grabbed a gun and shot it. She saved the men. She shoved ’em aside and basically said she didn’t have time for sexism. She had shit to do.
Because of Uhura, because of Leia (and I’m sure there are many more that I’ve missed) women are now ubiquitous in sci-fi. I’m happy about. But in an effort to make women “strong” people too often seem to write a man with a woman’s name and body. And that annoys me. So without further ado, some pointers.
1) Let her have female friends. Yes, women can have women friends and be strong. Katniss did. The movie took that female friendship out and it irritated me. She later formed a bond with Johanna. That got cut from the movie too. Hermoine–male friends. Jessica Jones has a female friend, thank God. But we don’t see a whole lot of her. Her fellow super heroes are mostly male.
Men, on the other hand, have friendships. They have bromances. I’ve written about the bromance triangle in Star Trek. Lots and lots of shows and movies and books with men forming friendships and working together. Precious little women, which is ridiculous because women really, really value their friendships.
2) And don’t make ’em lesbians. This is incredibly annoying. I sit and watch the sci-fi channel with my husband, and we see two women becoming close. He says “Here it comes. Bring on the lesbians!” and invariably he’s right. I have nothing against same sex couples. I’m all for inclusion. But I have a LOT of anger over this weirdness–to the point of fetishism–that every friendship between strong females is just a lesbian relationship that has not yet been formed. NO. NO. NO. Stop it. Okay? Just stop it.
3A)Bechdel test–this is a feminism thing that says that women should have conversations with other women that don’t center on men. And yeah, it’s good. I like it. But you know has happened? Instead of creating conversations between women that aren’t about men, we just don’t have conversations between women. Problem solved!
Here are a few things you can have women talk about between each other–food. drugs. music. guns. explosives. bad guys. evil dictators. survival. zombies. mountains. sofas. television. cheeze-its. bathrooms. rugs. movies. books. trees. grass. water. leaves. cars. planes. asphalt. politics. football. baseball. basketball. hurricanes. earthquakes. dogs. kittens. monkeys. elephants. . . .
I can tell you with absolute certainty that I have talked with female friends–STRONG female friends–about all of those things at some point in 40-year long friendships. So. . .do you want to adhere to the Bechdel test and you’re writing about a battle against evil aliens and you’re wondering what your two female friends will talk about that isn’t about men and their romantic relationships with them? Here’s an idea. HAVE THEM TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE EVIL ALIENS. Don’t give all the good planning and idea conversations to the men. Give some of them to the women. Honestly, people, it is not that hard.
Woman one: Do you think the x87 has enough fire power to kill the locust people?
Woman two: I don’t know. It worked great against the snake people, but their hides weren’t that strong. Maybe we should test it.
Woman one: You’re right. Why don’t you grab that x87 there, and we’ll try the x90 too and go out and see if we can puncture the armor.
Woman two: Oh yeah! I’ve never shot the x90. You’re on.
3B) Bechdel test–Women do talk about men. We do talk about relationships. We like to talk about relationships. It’s a Thing for us. We talk about relationships with men, with parents, with children, with coworkers, with pets, with bosses, and yeah, with men. Romance is a thing. There’s are whole industries centered around it. It’s just not the ONLY thing. And honestly, there are a helluva lot of romance novels that have themes other than just romance.
Scene with women trying the x87 and x90
Woman one: (shooting x87) So guy1 has started dating woman 3.
Woman two: (shooting x87) Are you fucking kidding me? He just broke up with you 15 minutes ago!
Woman one: (still shooting x87) The 87 isn’t working. It’s just bouncing off the shields. We’ve been at it 3 minutes. I’m going to try the 90. Yeah, guy1 always liked woman 3 but damn, that was fast. You’d think he’d at least let the bed get cold first.
Woman two: (getting x90’s for woman one): How are you feeling about that?
Woman one: (aiming x90) Like I could drink a keg and cry from now until Tuesday.
Woman two: Oh hon, I’m sorry. Listen, when this is all over, we’ll have a long talk, okay? And in the meantime, just pretend every Locust is guy1.
Woman one: (wipes eyes quickly). Okay. I can do it. (shoots x90–blasts a 70-foot hole in carcass). Damn did you see that?
Woman two: Gimme, gimme! I want to try!
4) “Women’s subjects” are not weaknesses. Women like clothes. Women like hair. Women like coffee. You can talk about all of those things, and STILL lead a battalion into a battle where half of the soldiers are going to die. In fact, when something horrible like that happens, we take comfort in the mundane. Stop making “women’s subjects” weak. They aren’t.
Woman one (keyed up, making last minute checks with her team, looks up to see woman two join them): nice hair!
Woman two (Looks out the window at firefight. Takes a breath to steady herself): Do you like it? I dyed it blue to go with our new uniforms.
Woman one: I love it. If we live through this, show me?
Woman two: Ha! If we live through this, I’m thinking about going bald. Just to mess with everybody. . .
Woman one: Okay, team, you ready? Go!
Team rushes out the door into a rain of bullets.
5) Strong women are not always angry. This is a trope that pretty much is part of 1-4. WE ARE NOT ALWAYS ANGRY. You can be a strong woman and not have a chip on your shoulder. Seriously. You can not be angry. You can be ambitious or deadly just because you are ambitious and deadly. Yes, I know, tortured heroes are fun. I get that. I like ’em too. Just, please, don’t make every strong woman a walking, talking time bomb. Was Kirk a walking talking time bomb? James Bond? Was Obi-wan or Luke? Come on–you can be alpha and not be angry.
6) Women cry. Yes, even strong women. No, we aren’t going to do that in front of people we are leading. We can actually hold back the tears so nobody sees. But we do cry. You can put her in solitude somewhere and let her cry it out. And come out even stronger and tougher, because that’s what we do. There is an actual physical reason for this–emotional tears contain enzymes that stress creates. Crying it out is literally crying those enzymes out. It’s cathartic and useful and is NOT WEAK.
I could go on, but you get the picture. When you’re writing strong women, just write women who are strong. It’s not that hard. And don’t forget, strong people are often only as good as the friends they surround themselves with–and those friends can be women too.