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bra-shopping with Bourdieu. I know. weird.

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Speaking of “symbolic violence”, (which I am about to do) I have to tell ya, i hate marking.  I’m trying to teach about Bourdieu. Oh man, that guy is difficult. I think maybe he got more difficult after he died. That was 2002, mind you, nearly two years before I met him. So I can’t say. But I can say that marking papers about class, Bourdieu and ones social location in relation to urban or suburban teenagers — is a grind.

I bought a bra the other day. stay with me, here, i think i’m gonna get back to marking.

So, i’m kind of morally and politically opposed to wearing bras, but I’m also a bit self-conscious and have become socialized to hide  my nipples from public. I’m over 40, and obviously a lesbian, so by and large, I am not visible to men, (who are the ones sexualizing women and our nipples), but still and all, i get a bit twitchy. I know it’s socially constructed twitchiness on account of living in a fucking misogynist patriarchy and my nipples are lovely and all–but i’m fuckin’ twitchy.

right. So I go into this place that ONLY sells women’s underwear, ’cause my friend K she said, (and she should know, she’s smart about clothes and stuff, she helped me dress for my 30 year high school reunion, and it was even fun shopping with her. go figure) anyhow, K said, “go there, they’ll give you a proper fitting and a perfect bra for you”.

So, I went in. And I’m all twitchy, eh, and there’s a young woman hanging really tiny garments onto a display and she looks at me, smiles and says, “Can I help you?” And I’m all kinda sweaty ’cause i was just riding my bike and a bit nervous and I leaned into her, looking around to make sure no one could hear me (i don’t know why–EVERYONE knows that women buy bras there, fer pete sake, what’s the big deal? It’s like going to an AA meeting and being afraid you’ll see someone you know) –and I whispered, “I need a bra”. she didn’t laugh, but she looked like she wanted to, and said, “would you like a fitting, then?”

“yes please.” I said, “no wires, no padding.”

“ah,” she said, and smiled at me as she went  off to the back of the store, me following,  “we only have one with no wires or padding, that’ll make it easy. Unless you want to try a sports bra”. I said I’d try the sports bra, too. She took a tape measure and measured my circumference and eyeballed my breasts for the cup size. And it wasn’t awkward, either, she was good, that woman. I outweighed her by probably 20+ years, but she was very gracious and respectful. whew.

The sports bra  was like bloody armour  ! My breasts formed a shelf under my chin. I looked kind of formidable. but I also felt kinda stiff.

“Yes,” she said, “it’s okay for working out, not so much for all day”. not even for working out, i’d say. My pecs can do all that support stuff, really. they wer getting huffy being so constrained even for a few moments.

then she hands me the ‘no padding no wires” bra. lord thunderin’ moses. it was black. And that wasn’t the worst of it, it was lacy, too. Black lace! I ask you! I stared at it and then at her.

“I know” she said, “It has lace, sorry. I think we have it in ivory, would you like to try that?”

but they’d run out of ivory.

anyhow. it fit. I’m a 36 E, apparently. they have it recorded at the store, so when they get the ivory one in, i can just go get it.

See? It’s even difficult to get a fucking bra (that no one’s gonna see) that isn’t — well, I guess bras are gendered already–but OVER THE TOP gendered. I want a bra that fits well and so i go to a particular store and the only bloody thing they have has all this lace and shit on it. Oh sure it’s pretty, but I’m self-conscious, aren’t I? and I have a reputation to uphold, don’t I?

don’t I?

made me mad all the way home. that I have to wear a bloody bra in the first place, which I hate, and then it’s so hard to find one that doesn’t have wires and padding and levers and ramps and shit cause god knows we gotta make ‘the girls’ stand out, and up, and be all cleavage-y–but NOT (god forbid!) nipply because the cleavage is comfort, the nipples are the business part, and we have to remember that women are all about being comforting and playthings, but not Life-Givers–that’s dirty.

really really makes me mad. That I cave to the pressure to wear a bra (even when i’m way over forty and therefore invisible to men anyhow, (except in Istanbul))–and then that I have to wear lace. Or armour.

“sorry about the lace,” said the young woman. She was kind of smirking, but not in a mean way.

“it’s okay, it’s not your fault” I said, “and no one will see it.”

“ah. okay” she said, stepping back a bit.

“No one,” I repeated. “you’ve been very patient and kind. thank you.”

Oh yea, and as i was paying, she noticed my ‘synapse’, which is a silver pendant i wear–it’s the symbol of the Lesbian Tent Revival (created and performed by Carolyn Gage–carolyngage.com) and it’s a reminder to keep thinking even when the patriarchy does it’s very best to interfere with your thinking and keep us from making the connections between each other and tells us we’re silly or stupid or fucking pre-menstrual (they’re just afraid, ‘pre-menstrual’ is a FANTASTIC state to be in)–keep them synapses firing–and she asked about it and when I told her she and her co-worker said, “right on! that’s true, too!”

So I left the store with a new bra that fit well (even though it’s black and has lace–sigh), and I was both angry AND happy. Which is a pretty fun state in which to be.

oh yea, i was going to get back to Bourdieu, and marking papers and  how bras are symbolic violence, but I think i implied it, and i still have some marking to do anyhow, and i’ll talk more about all that later. I’m not gonna get back to it this post. I’m sorry. shiny things. you know how it is.

random

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I  start teaching this week. the course is for secondary school teachers and it’s called “social foundations of education”.  I was surprised that i got to pretty much design the syllabus myself. I was trying to get everything in there, you know, the history of education in BC, the social construction of childhood, the increasingly virulent reproduction of patriarchal socialization as evidenced by hyper-sexualization of girls (and boys, actually, all that camouflage and so on–though my friend L, who is a righteous Aboriginal warrior in her own right, advocates dressing all Indigenous children in camo stuff, because, well”we’re at war with you all, don’t you know, gotta look the part”) ahem.  right. Never just a fashion statement. Clothing choices are a political statement.  Either a capitulation to the status quo (like pink for girls and blue for boys) or resistance against it  (camo for all the Aboriginal kids).

I had this great conversation this morning with a friend of mine. She and I used to sing in the same choir, we were in the tenor section–“the terrible tenors”–which did not refer to our singing but to our behaviour. Sometimes the choir director brought her “bad kitty” spray bottle to practice. heh. We realized we were from the same province, though not the same town, pretty close to each other. and we liked each other right away.

She’s a yoga teacher. Now, I like yoga, but sometimes yoga teachers and yoga practitioners can be a bit whifty, you know what i mean? They go rabbiting on about chakras and chanting and energies and that’s all fine, I guess, but sometimes it makes me a bit uncomfortable. For instance, there was this one yoga instructor at my gym for a while, and she would have us do this big long chant before and after practice. That made me all twitchy, on account of I didn’t know what the words were, or what they meant. For all I knew, we coulda been calling the wrath of whomever, the ancestors or the rivers that used to flow through this city, or the ocean gods, down upon our heads. One wrong syllable, and WHAM! curtains fer you, sister. So enough of us asked her for the words and the translation that she finally supplied them. She was a bit…oh, righteous about it, though. When she brought the photocopied sheets for us to refer to, she said, “Sometimes the Western Mind needs the words” or something like that. In that tone some people have of “i’m so much more enlightened than you are” kinda thing. pah.

She was young and white, too, by the way. pretty much as Western Mind as I am. probably she’d been to India, though, so she got all tuned in there.

Anyhow, back to my buddy today, she said, and this was really great to hear, “Some of the harm that’s being done in the name of yoga here is just….maddening. it’s really dangerous how some people practice”. I’d never thought of that before. How can yoga be bad?

“Well, take Kundalini, for example”, she said, “it’s a practice where breath is really emphasized and fast poses and it stirs up lots of energy, and when people do that they’re practically floating–” so in an altered state, that is, they are practically floating and all energetic and happy. But they are also really vulnerable and exposed. And in this city, people don’t have a guru, a teacher who keeps track of how you’re doing and what you’re learning and how the practice is affecting you, and we pick and chose too, oh, today i feel like Bikram’s, and the next day it’s this studio that does Hatha, or Iyengar or whatever, and we never settle and if someone is vulnerable or in trouble or even just ignorant, they can get in a lot of trouble.

huh.

You know, it’s another sign of our liberal, or neo-liberal times, eh. We’re supposed to just do what feels good, and take on whatever identity that “resonates” in the moment, and float around from one thing to another without attending to the contexts within which our choices are made, and our identities formed. it made sense what she was saying, that so much harm is done by this proliferation of teachers and yoga studios and this and that…people are desperate for connection and meaning, but also we don’t really want to work hard at it, cause we’re afraid. and we’re in pain. J. said that she was so filled with self-loathing and she was so anxious about drawing attention to herself and so fearful and confused when she finally found yoga that she too latched on to the New Age goop that said, “you can create your own reality” and all that. It was just as she feared, she had created her own reality and it SUCKED. But she hadn’t, not really. She had taken on the messages that said that we are responsible for how we feel and we do have an array of choices and this is the new world and we are creating the context as we are living it….but what about where we come from? and what about our ancestors and the land upon which we walk and the powerful who maintain the structures within which we have to make these so-called “choices”? As she practiced yoga, and started to be able to breathe and open up to the big world around her, and make some connections and stop being so self-involved and at the same time becoming aware of the world beyond, she could see–

anyhow. what she was describing as the harms of yoga practiced willy-nilly without context sounded to me like harm reduction. you know what, it began as palliative care for drug addicts. It emerged from medicine and it has always been only to reduce disorder, crime and overdose death. It has NEVER been to end addiction or make any systemic changes. no. so now, now that harm reduction has spread like a viral you tube clip over the land of social services there is this confusion about what it is meant to do, and how it is meant to be implemented, and it’s attended to at the expense of ANY other approach to ALL social problems. and like yoga, it is the individual practitioner who is meant to be responsible for how it all goes. The addict has to use the safe injection site and clean needles, the woman in prostitution has to negotiate condom use and refer to the ‘bad date’ sheet to keep herself safe–it is up to those who are harmed to reduce the harms done to them, and the inconveniences that others endure because of their ‘choices’– to use in public, to dispose of condoms in gutters, to die in dumpsters…you know. Same like the yogi who goes mad because all this energy has been stirred up and awareness opened and then they go out and experience the world in that new way and lose their connection to reality–

“There is so much harm being done” said J. “And don’t get me started on kharma,” she said, and I wanted to ask more about that, too, but it’ll have to wait, ’cause i have this course starting tomorrow and i’m just frantic with nervousness.

But anyhow, I know it’s all tied up with this neo-liberalism. And as we were talking, i realized we’re in the same soup together. We are looking for improvement, relief, connection, meaning. The liberal way is to look for a negative conception of freedom–the ‘you do your thing and i do my thing, we are not in this world to live up to each other’s expectations’ kinds of freedom. That’s harm reduction. That’s North American yoga. ” this will make you safer, this will keep you from dying, this will open up your energies”

But THEN what? Then you’ve got a lot of still addicted, but now dependent on all the systems that simultaneously preserve life and enthrall life, still prostituted, but now dependent on the services that open the doors to the punters and offer you condoms and referrals to services that amount to band-aids, not engagement with solutions–still lonesome and self-trashing, but now euphoric and rootless in the same world there was before the yogic practice–

maybe i need to add more sentences to that last paragraph–I think I understand the connections–it’s the same de-contextualized answer in different guises–it’s not a solution. The radical solution has not yet been found, but there are women working on it. We know, Simone De Beauvoir figured it out, we have to be responsible for the well-being of others–a positive conception of freedom (thanks Darlene R. for that insight, all your work on that has left a lasting impression on me)–we need each other. we are all of us implicated in these structures of class/race/gender and unless we are looking at the big picture, unless we are always connecting the dots, we are always going to be settling for this lonesome fruitless ‘feel-good’ emptiness.

And Hannah Arendt, you know what, she was no friend of Simone but they came to roughly the same conclusions–these difficult brilliant women, they both realized that we need each other. and no one can be free until all of us are free, and we can’t achieve freedom by just doing what we want and having what we desire. We have to DO freedom by taking care of each other and by sometimes throwing ourselves in front of the tank, and by really attending to examining our responsibilities and who is with us and how we can end the suffering of others. end it. not reduce it.

And Pierre Bourdieu, he’s the dude i’ll be teaching about mostly for the next six weeks, i’ve mostly been reading him lately, and i need to know more so i’m gonna teach about him. he was a working-class guy who became one of the most influential thinkers of all time, and he kept saying, especially in his last years, that those of us who have a little influence, a little more room to move, we HAVE to look at the structural causes of suffering and inequality. it’s our responsibility–as academics, as journalists, as teachers–we have to push and pull and make room and interfere with the downward spiral of expectations and chances–(that’s from Pascalian Meditations, 2000, p. 216 or so–“we adjust our expectations to meet our objective chances”–that is, if we’ve been poor all our lives, we are going to expect to deserve more of the same–basically). it’s more complicated than that–and really dense and difficult and French, but worth wrestling with.

and my friend, J. It was refreshing for both of us to meet and talk and realize that we are on the same kind of path, we are not content and we are not willing to settle. She uses yoga (among many other things) to help people ground and to keep connected to alleviating suffering and tapping into the connections, I use, I dunno…blogging, maybe teaching, (we’ll see i hope that works out), telling stories, making jokes, lovin’ my friends…

Context is very important. a “post-structural” analysis of anything is premature. oh dear. look, that’s the first time i’ve said ‘post-structural’ in this whole post and now i’m gonna hit ‘publish’. talk about out of context! sorry. I’ll get to it. now i’m gonna go to choir practice, though. And of course that’s political too….

Slut-Walk. sigh.

Remember Take Back the Night? That was a BIG thing for decades. It was a women-only protest against male violence against women. We gathered as dusk fell over our cities and towns.  As many women as could come–no permit, the cops were never invited (though they always showed up)–we provided our own security–women in vests, or identified with armbands, who made sure we were all together, that the women who were spray painting or stickering were shielded from the surveillance of the state. That the women who removed their shirts had room to move, but be safe within the march, too. We had an “arrest one, arrest all” policy that everyone attending these marches agreed to. We wore jeans and sneakers, dresses and heels, feather boas and long elegant gloves–boots, slippers, rings and bangles, or wallets stuffed into our back pockets.

As we gathered, there was often music, always speakers–women who were activists, anti-violence workers–one or two women gave a speech about the work of the year, the reasons that we gathered like that, every year, third Friday in September, across the nation. We read telegrams, then faxed messages, then e-mails from other women in other cities and towns in Canada–all of us gathering in solidarity as dusk fell. We together lit a way for us to walk together in safety and defiance with each other. All of us were (are) women who had been harassed or attacked on the streets by men, women who adjusted our behaviour in attempts to keep us safe (don’t walk at night, carry your keys in your hand as a weapon, don’t go out alone, don’t do this, don’t do that–you can’t wear that). We were (are) women who had been raped, battered, incested, prostituted, insulted, harassed, put down, held down, excluded, diminished–by men. By patriarchy.

But together, for that one night, everything was possible. We knew we were safe to be together, we protected each other, encouraged each other, healed each other and stoked the fury of our collective rage and faith in each other. Faith in our Liberation Movement.

I tell ya, those marches were so much fun. One year, the year before I got to BC, I think, ’86–when Expo was in full force in Vancouver, the women of Rape Relief built these giant puppets and danced them through the city. The next year, ’87, I was part of the organizing committee for Take Back the Night in Victoria. We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. But we got maybe 20-30 women (and a couple of sensitive guys–we did agree on women only, but these guys didn’t get the memo. whatever, i didn’t notice them till the end of the march) and we walked down the middle of the road (and partly on the sidewalk) for a few blocks–I gave a speech about pornography in front of an “adult” video store, and we yelled at the man who had the fine timing to open the door and scurry away from our taunts as we arrived. We opened the door to the police station and chanted “get your laws off our bodies” at the cops at the top of the stairs. I don’t think they took us seriously. well. Never mind. we were fine. we chanted and sang and danced, the tiny band of us, through the sleepy streets and then we held hands and sang and made our plans to get home safe.

The next year i missed it. I was wrapping up a treeplanting contract in Northern Saskatchewan. Another great story altogether….

I remember those marches–exuberance and rage, joy and light in the darkness, all women together. We always had to ask men to leave. We always had some push back from women who said we were sexist for excluding men–but we also always had men who were willing to do childcare, and provide rides home to women after the march, and back off.

“whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!”

Take Back the Night was a women only protest against male violence against women. Very clear. We knew that sexual harassment, you know, wolf whistles, invitations to perform fellatio, queries of “how much?” and so on, were along the continuum of men’s everyday violations of our safety, bodily integrity, confidence and abilities. We knew that we needed each other for protection (not our boyfriends or husbands or fathers). We knew that those seemingly innocuous comments about our looks, or our expressions (“Smile, Beautiful!” they would command) were/are not  compliments, they are intimidation.

Men rarely attack women they do not know. But when they do, it makes front page news, because all the other ordinary men can point at the monster and say, “see? that’s terrible, I would never do that, you’re much safer with me”, and the patriarchy wins our capitulation again.

so. Take Back the Night was about that. We knew there were always women who could not come out at night because they were held prisoner in their homes by abusive men. And we knew there were women who could not join us because they could not take the risk, however slight, of being arrested. We marched for them, too.

Now, there’s no Take Back the Night. There still are marches held here and there, but they’re not women only, for the most part. They’re not even about male violence against women. They’re about bullying. or violence. in general, as if it’s an air-borne virus that randomly strikes out of the blue. “we must stop violence”– like, um, how do we do that if we don’t NAME who is doing it to whom? you got a vaccine for that?

no. Now we have Slut Walk. this cop in Toronto, he said that women who dressed like sluts were asking to be raped. Or something like that, some offensive, victim-blaming remark like that. which included the word “slut”. So, women in Toronto got all dolled up in their hosiery and push up bras and short tight skirts and went walking together in Toronto. This weekend, they’re gonna do that in Vancouver too.

I won’t be there.

I know, I don’t have to dress in a skirt or anything in order to participate. But the whole thing kinda skeeves me out. It’s not about male violence against women. It’s not about the systems of oppression, rooted in patriarchal power, that keep us from freedom and safety wherever we go. It’s more about individual choice, and capitulating to the impositions of stereotypical gender roles — “This is what a feminist looks like” kind of rhetoric that valorizes a certain kind of beauty that is appealing to men.  How the hell did we get here? This whole business of “I choose to wear this clothing, these shoes, I CHOOSE it” stuff. Do ya? really? how is our choice shaped? what are we giving up when we choose one thing over another? what are the costs or benefits to our freedom–our real freedom, i mean, I mean the freedom that comes from acting in solidarity with others–taking responsibility for the well-being of others? When we wear shoes that hinder our ability to walk easily, when we wear tight clothing that shortens our stride, when we wear binding undergarments–I know, I know, “they’re comfortable, I can run in these shoes, I LIKE this stuff”–I know. I’ve heard women say that.  But who designed that stuff? And to what purpose? and how can it be liberating to wear constraining clothing? I don’t get it.

and this whole slut walk thing, it’s only about women’s individual choices of what to wear,  it seems. Men are not named as the threat to our autonomy. But they are. the man who called those women “sluts”, he was talking about women who had been raped by men. He blamed women for the violence done to them by men. He said, in not so many words, that men are incapable of governing their own behaviour, nor could they be expected to be responsible for the decisions they made when faced with a woman dressed a certain way.  He let men off the hook. Enormous insult to men, that comment, as well as to women. but women, in response, have not made the connections between our individual choices and the structures of domination within which those choices have been made. This walk is not about shaking the foundations, or dismantling those structures of domination. This walk is only about the legitimacy of the individual choices made within those structures.

Anyhow. I won’t be going. I think anytime women organize together in our own interests, it has transformative potential. But in this case, I don’t think the potential for transformation will be realized.  to quote Gertrude Stein (out of context, to be sure–sorry, Gert), “There’s no there there”, ya know?

back to the salt mines…

Well. Saturday I went to the airport again, with Mom. To send her home. We went for a drive in the morning, i drove her around to where the rich people live, because they have pretty gardens. And we went to Southlands, by the river, next to Musqueam. Southlands is where rich people live, too, and their horses. We saw some horses, and small girls riding small ponies. Serious looks on their faces (both the girls and the horses). Musqueam is where the Musqueam people live, the First People who were here. the government, on behalf of the Musqueam, leased the land to (mostly) white rich people, who built big lovely houses on the land. 75 houses. In the late ’90s there was a big fight when the Musqueam people took over managing their own land, and increased the rent on the land to more accurately reflect land values. whoa. That was a come-uppance to the people who’d built the big houses, and leased the land for $400 a year. I think they finally settled, in 2000 or thereabouts, for about $10,000 a year. don’t know though. anyhow, it was a big stink for a while. You wouldn’t know it driving around those wide quiet streets, though. Like we wouldn’t have known about the Hawaiian Sovereignty  movement, either, just by being there. The tour bus operator told us some of the history, and how the last Queen had the rug pulled from beneath her, and then we went to see a play, Ululena, that told the story of Hawaii from the point of view of Hawaiians — but we wouldn’t have known about the tensions and the movements of the people for their land and rights if we hadn’t had an idea from those movements here. Everywhere. Indigenous people are rising. Still and all, this revolution, as all revolutions that stick, is glacial. We want to be allies, but we were on vacation, and we didn’t seek out the storms and live lava flows. We can pick and choose. it’s a double edged sword, that privilege that prevents us from offering fully and suffering fully and allying fully.

On Thursday night, we’d gone to see Cavalia, which is sorta Cirque de Soliel with horses. So there were acrobats, clowns, aerialists — human and equine. None of the horses were aerialists. In fact, none of the men were, either. Only the women flew. It was a stunning show. Magnificent horses, and powerfully tender moments between horses and humans–like the bit where the one woman stood in the middle of the stage with six horses and they all did as she asked. She made a gesture, and they galloped together in a circle, separating two out, who galloped in the opposite direction and then all of ’em lined up and turned toward her and she touched each one and said something to each–she was a “horse listener”–and then there were the men and one woman who each rode two horses at a time, standing up, one foot on each broad back, and like this they jumped over a log held up by two of the acrobat guys–and the one woman who rode like this, at one point she had a team of SIX horses, all of whom jumped over this log, two at a time. Hot.

And the aerialists, they danced light on the air above the proud stepping white horses ridden by men in blue velvet jackets. The women sometimes touched down upon the horses, gently behind the rider, then they’d fly off, faeries above sawdust.

I watched. I didn’t see even one horse poo on the stage. Not even the two colts who opened and closed the show.

Anyway. We stood with the rest of the crowd at the end and gave the troupe a resounding ovation. We talked about bits of it for the next two days. “How about that guy on the ball?” one of us would say, and “remember that woman driving those six horses all at once?”

Mom said as we were leaving that she couldn’t have imagined a better holiday. And that she’d treasure the memory for the rest of her life.  Me too, I will. Sometimes i got impatient. Because she tells the same story over and over, and she’s kind of forgetful, and she doesn’t move too good and she gets tired easily. But I think I was impatient not because I was angry, but because I was–am–afraid. Afraid of what her forgetfulness, and limited (diminishing) mobility and fatigue and increased dependence means.

We didn’t have such an easy time when I was a younger person. I was willful and headstrong and impulsive. Creative and restless and independent. She was afraid for me, and protective and I don’t know, maybe she understood me better than I thought (probably)–but there were some things she didn’t understand. She still doesn’t understand the whole lesbian thing. She doesn’t get why I don’t like the institution of marriage so much, and the whole radical feminist thing makes her kind of nervous, I think. But she loves me. And she’s met some of my friends and lovers here, and she’s reassured that i am not lonely, and can see that I am not bitter or unfulfilled.  And i see that, too. That there are people around me who will always be my friends, and we will help each other out when we need help, and celebrate each other and love each other. Mom and I both have those kinds of friends.

When we arrived, my cold was waiting for me here at home. So i’m sick and snotty and hacking again. But still and all, i’m nearly finished my course outline, and i’m reading up on Istanbul, and have both unpacked and begun to pack and made doctors appointments and started to catch up on the work i left to wait for me as I went swanning off to the tropics, there. But oh, my, I would love to go surfing again. The minute i can breathe fully again, i’m going into the Pacific Ocean again. I know, I know, it’s colder here, but it’s the same water. Healing. Rejuvenating.

Also, Mom has called me every day to find out how i’m feeling. She misses me. I miss her. I’m mailing her some pictures I took of our trip. I’m so lucky and happy that we were able to do that together.

compassion seems thin on the ground in these neo-liberal times…

Okay.  You know the shit storm I referred to a couple of posts back? Well, it’s died down a bit. But there’s still acrimony. Now, I’m as twitchy about disagreement and conflict as the next person, and I have a defensive streak, yes I do. But these people, they didn’t just disagree with me, they called me “hateful” and “phobic” and “anti-sex-worker” and some other stuff. They didn’t actually engage with the ideas they found so hateful. They said, “you’re hateful and transphobic.” Um. But why? Some of ’em said they knew of our “differences” before, but thought I was respectful of that. Well, I am, I think. But once I posted on my blog the  argument for abolition that a few of my allies and I came up with, that demonstrated not just unspoken differences, but articulated disagreement. A bit more frightening, perhaps.

One person said, “I knew we had our differences”. But that’s not accurate. We disagree. We have differences, yes, we are not the same. Different hair cuts, favourite foods, hobbies– But we also disagree. And our statement about lesbian feminists and prostitution articulated the disagreement, which my adversaries seemed to perceive as attack. This is common in this realm of pretend conversation and faux activist space. We write things, and then we attack others for writing things we disagree with. What happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and what happens to many others of us in this strange space-of-no-space, the world-wide-web–was not dialogue or debate–it was attack and it was bullying.

I think we attack when we think we are in danger. When something dear to us is threatened, or we perceive a threat.

Now, i’m not whining here. It’s troublesome, this. My adversaries are not the enemy. The enemy is the structure within which we live, and those who benefit the most from the imbalance of power and the inequitable distribution of resources. That is to say that patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism rewards men, middle-and upper-class men; middle and upper class, white-skinned, North-American or Western European born men. We try to name who is doing what to whom. So we say “male violence” and we say “women in prostitution” and we say “prostituted women” because it names the women as in a system of exploitation which is fueled by the demands of men. And in that system, women do not have the power to set the terms or call the shots.  Maybe they are choosing, sure. But choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. We all see that. Those who want “safe working conditions” and those who want the abolition of prostitution all see that the most visible of the “public women” are also the ones whose choices are the most constrained. And we all know that the women we see on the street corners, the young ones, the old ones, the ones who are addicted and sick–they would not be able to find a place in a brothel.

And men who buy sexual access to such women do not WANT to go to a brothel. They would if they wanted to. We all know where they are. But saying that we know men target specific women is somehow dismissive of the women?  One of the people who was offering insult as argument lately said that the women in prostitution she knows “felt dismissed and unlistened to”.  Never mind that “unlistened” isn’t word, and should never, ever be used in a sentence, but neither word describes a feeling, or emotional state. They are judgments. Which is okay, we asked for people’s judgments, and critique and engagement. But what exactly was dismissive?

See, this is a good way to shut people up who are saying things that are uncomfortable to think about. Tell them they are bad, hateful, dismissive, disrespectful. We are feminists. We can’t bear to be told that we are not respectful. We don’t think of ourselves as hateful. None of us do, not on either side of this debate. And we’re women. We are trained to second-guess ourselves. We are trained to try to be “nice” and to avoid conflict. And we are trained to see the threat in each other. Not in men. We are trained, in fact, to align ourselves with power in order to protect ourselves.

What does it mean to align with power and against each other? Well, we are pressured to lose weight and wear makeup and wear underwear that yer bum eats and shoes that give ya bunions and take all the hair off our bodies and remake our bodies to look like what we think men want. And we are pressured to have babies and take care of them and we are pressured to get married and take care of our partner but rely on them for income and we are pressured to compete for the attention of men and we are pressured to pay more attention to boys and we are offered shitty jobs for not much money, or good jobs for not much money, but more than the shitty jobs, just less than the men would make and we love the men in our lives, the helpless little fellers who can’t cry, poor darlings and they don’t have a clue but they sure get the grants and the raises and the attention and the power and then they want more or they want something else, and we need the stuff they have, the space and the money and the influence but we don’t have it so we have to attach ourselves to them, and that means doing what they want at the expense of our relations with each other, other women.  Even lesbians, even lesbians do this stuff in some way or another. In fact, most of the people who are really mad at me and vocal about it (well not vocal, like they haven’t actually approached me, they just write shit on each others’ walls about me), they are lesbians. No, wait, they are queer. or trans. Butch or femme, they do attach those labels to themselves, but not lesbian, in general.

what’s that about, I wonder? I think it’s about not wanting to be identified with or as one of those hairy, seventies, ‘womyn with a y’ womyn’s libbers. I think there’s something in there about that. Several comments i have read, including some to the abolition post, called us “80s feminists”.  As if that was a bad thing.  But no explanation about why it would be a bad thing. Mullets were big then, for hair styles. That might be part of it.

Just the other day, one person sent me a note on crackbook in which she said our statement that lesbianism and prostitution are opposites is dismissive of heterosexual women.

Now. Let me look at her sentence.  On the one hand, it seems  she does not agree that lesbianism and prostitution are opposites. However, she did understand that we thought that lesbianism is a more positive choice for women to make.

so that might imply a glimmer of understanding. But we didn’t mention heterosexual women, because that’s not who we were talking about. We weren’t dismissive of heterosexual women, not at all. We’re lesbians.  Indeed, we meant to trouble the notion that prostitutes and lesbians are in the same boat, ‘choice’-wise, or in the way of enjoying an ’empowered’ version of womens’ sexuality. Which is generally how the pro-pimp folks put it. She added something in there that we did not say. We did not articulate our judgments of heterosexual women, because we were not writing about heterosexual women.

We were writing about what we knew, from where we are right now. feminists. lesbians. who have worked for a combined, oh, about fifty years in anti-male-violence work and activism.

It’s just been a strange trip altogether. It’s tiresome, this exhausting struggle with each other. We ought to be allies. There have been NO men commenting on this blog, far as I know. And no men commenting on the facebook flame fests, far as I know. A couple of my male friends and allies have clicked “like” to some of the posts and links that I and other women put up. But on the whole, this is a cat fight.

And that’s wrong on so many levels. We should be able to disagree (and that’s not ‘have differences’–that’s disagree–You think something that i think is a mistake, i think something you think is a mistake–that’s not ‘difference’–that’s ‘disagreement’)–without being reactive. We should be able to say, “I think you’re wrong when you say this” and say reasons why (and not “because you’re hateful” or stupid or phobic or anti-sex or whathaveyou). We deserve way better from each other.

We get mixed up and can’t tell the difference between an emotional state and a thought or judgment. We get mixed up and confuse insult with argument. I’m not likely to agree with you if you call me ‘hateful’ right off the hop. Don’t get me wrong, i’ve rode into town on some pretty high horses, for sure. I can get all righteous and in yer face about what a jerk you are–but bottom line is, if I really think that the way I understand things will get us closer to freedom, then i’m gonna stick to making an argument, and i’m gonna try to remember to feel the love. And when I’m not feelin’ the love, then, well, i’m going to fold up my tent and walk away.

We really DO need each other. All of us. It’s going to be more difficult to rise to the occasion and help out one of those mean sisters who’s been trashing me when she needs help, but i sure hope i will do if if that need arises.  Can’t say for sure, though.

The folks that most vex me are my greatest teachers.

Compassion is sharing the suffering of another and working to alleviate that suffering. It’s difficult and maybe even dangerous. But … why not try?

ach. i want to write what neo-liberalism has to do with this, too. And I wanna write about the Lesbian Tent Revival weekend–but later. another time. i still have a syllabus to figure out…jeez…

mistake

the other day, a friend and political ally gave me something. She told me what she thought about a line in my “about” page. the one where i was dismissive of transsexuality. I agreed with her. The line said i rant about, among other things, ‘weird gender silliness’. She said, “I know you think it is a serious political fight, and one worth having–I don’t think you think it is silly, but you sound as if you are dismissive.” Ah. yes. See, I do find it a problem, the whole transsexuality thing, male-to-female, female-to-male–surgery, hormones, workshops on how to assume the gendered behaviors of the category you wish to ‘transition’ to–it all seems to reinforce gendered behaviours that are problematic, constraining, and often just plain tiresome. Seems that that whole trend reifies gender, and does not trouble it at all, or reinvent or help to liberate us from the bonds of gender.

Which is not to say that trans issues are silly. to say that stuff is ‘silly’ is, my friend is right, dismissive. Which is sometimes my response when I am angry. or even just annoyed.

Sure, i get it when someone says they are uncomfortable in their body, that part I understand. I was convinced–determined that I was going to grow up to be a boy. Were I a child now, depending on where I was growing up, I might qualify for hormone blockers and other interventions to ‘help’ me become my real gender. I find that quite frightening, to be frank. If I had had my way when i was 11, I would not now know how delightful it can be to feel the surge of power that I feel when i’m pre-menstrual.  I would not now know how enlivening it can be to be part of a group of women sitting around a kitchen table, talking about raising children, and cooking and subverting patriarchy and plotting actions all at once. I would not know the pleasure of the small intimate moments women share with each other, as friends or lovers, because of our shared experience of becoming women from girlhood.

And i grieve the loss of that for young people today, who think they were “born in the wrong body” and who enter a system that will save them from this fate. I think we’ve let them down. I understand being uncomfortable in ones’ body–mine was most uncooperative–but I don’t think that changing the body with surgeries and hormones and drugs is any solution. We are letting each other down when we look to big ‘M’ medicine to solve this sense of dislocation. Why are we attaching ourselves to gender at all? instead of looking up and seeing each other and trying to invent a bigger better something that is really inclusive and life-affirming? No gender. Humanity.

I don’t know what to do from here. I see men come into the women’s centre, trying (or not trying) to look like what they think women look like, trying to act like what they think women act like, and they can’t. The women do try to include them (sometimes because they have to,sometimes because they want to), but they don’t get it either–because the way these fellows have of being women is not the way we know from being identified female at birth and raised as female into our womanhood. Their experience is different, and okay, they need somewhere to figure it out with each other, but not there, please.

and as for the women who decide to become men–well. that’s cause for grief, that is. Why are you turning your back on your womanhood? I kinda understand that, ’cause I would have gone that route, possibly, were I a little younger, and had I not found a women’s liberation movement. So that’s also why i find it so sad. Because somehow they couldn’t find the women’s movement–somehow we didn’t share feminism with them–somehow we lost them. And that’s damn tragic. Also,  women’s softball leagues and hockey teams and so on are losing some good players, who really enjoy the sport. but if you decide you’re a man, well…guess you can’t play in the women’s leagues anymore.  And that’s sad, too.

But not, as my friend reminded me, silly.

So I changed that part of the ‘about’ page. And I added this post, because i agree with her, this is a serious political point, and we are better off having the discussion, heated as it may become, in good faith with each other, and without being either dismissive or insulting.

We are all lonesome in some way or another. And we all need each other. My dismissive comment came from anguish and frustration, not from fear or hatred. but it was a bit mean. ah, well. learning to be human.

Two

Two years ago, it snowed here. I remember that because two years ago, Sophie was born. I’m her “godless mother”. Her mother prefers to call me Sophie’s “spirit mother” because it sounds more like hope, I think, and full, rather than ‘less’. Anyhow.  Today is Sophie’s birthday. It is also exactly two years since my first date (which I did not know was a date) with J, with whom I just broke up in October. She was here yesterday helping me clean up my place, along with my other J-name friend.

side note, here–i kind of try to not name people on account of this is a pubic document, and even if it’s benign stuff, not controversial, it seems important that they be in charge of where their name is used on-line. I dunno. Unless it’s in relation to a public event, or something public that is attached to their name, like a speech or a book or a paper or something, I try to not say who is coming in and cleaning with me,  hanging out with me, fighting with me or lovin’ me up, ya know?

Anyhow, so J and J, dyke renovation team were helping me excavate yesterday, and today was Sophie’s birthday and J and my “not-anniversary”. We are interesting together, J and I. There’s this intimacy but there’s also a bit of distance, as we move further from being lovers and closer to being friends…we have quite different lives, separated as they are by age and employment and other kind of intangible but real stuff… like, you know, she has a straightening iron that she knows how to use, and i don’t think she even owns a swiss army knifethere are not at all the same markers of “lesbian” for younger women, by and large, as there were for us who became lesbians twenty or thirty years ago.  Anyhow, I love that she gave me the opportunity to walk beside her for a while, and does still. She’s still teaching me a lot, and learning some things from me, too, i hope so…

She’s a hard-ass at cleaning stuff out, though, holy doodle. but my place looks much better. And my other J, she went through my ‘fridge and jeez, there’s room for LOTS of stuff in there now, it’s so much brighter and more spacious there, now, i could maybe have  a roommate!

Two year olds are interesting creatures, aren’t they? Uh-oh, should i not use Sophie’s name either now? oh bother and tarnation… she’s two. never mind. I’ll just tell ya the story–Her present was a box of building blocks–you know the kind–solid wood blocks with numbers and letters and pictures on them, right–but these ones are Korean! Because her mom is Korean, and she’s always in this tension of how to raise Sophie to know and understand and value her Korean-ness when they’re surrounded by mostly European-Canadians (especially English-speaking) whose experience of culture and language and all that takes precedence, and is the dominant class. It’s an ongoing struggle for my friend. To do this without tokenizing her own culture, eh, that’s the other thing. Plus, you know what, she’s homesick, dammit. She has not been back to Korea for a long time, and her parents have never even met Sophie and she’s kinda sad about that.

Anyhow, I got the blocks as much for my friend E as for Sophie. Who was, in any case,  much more interested in the bubble wrap i wrapped it in and the box the blocks came in. Sophie’s dad helped her pop every one of the bubbles and she giggled and giggled, and picked up the sheet of bubble wrap and showed all the popped bubbles to me and ran down the hall with it. She seemed to like her card, too, which i made myself, (very proud of that, i was)–I put a bunch of stickers on it and drew pictures with coloured crayons and wrote a little poem on the inside. I read Sophie a book, and she wanted me to change her diaper, and we had juice and scones and E and J (Dad) and I talked too about grown up things as Sophie coloured in her photocopied book of pictures and Korean children’s songs. What a fun morning. Just before I left, J put Sophie down for her nap and she chose a book for him to read to her. “That one?” he asked, “We just got this one yesterday, and we’ve already read it ten times, are you sure?” she was. I remembered when my brother and I were very small, we had a board game like snakes and ladders, but with astronauts instead, and we LOVED that damn game, and one day, we asked Mom if we could play it, and she burst into tears. I think she might have been kinda tired of playing it with us. I told E. that, and she laughed. Maybe there was a tinge of hysteria in her laughter.

But she’s got a life as well as mothering–she is one of my little school friends, too. so we get to talk about the sociology of everyday life. I told her about all the vitriol that was spewed about me after i posted that “feminist lesbian argument for the abolition of prostitution” that J and K and I wrote together. She was interested, (and interesting!), to understand how it is that people sometimes express disagreement with personal attack.  “That’s like cyber-bullying” she said. Yea, it is–and it’s an interesting phenomenon. I don’t want to go on and on about it, really, ’cause these on-line controversies kind of have the life span of fruit-flies, and who wants to revive them? Zombie Cyber-Fruit-Flies–eeeewww. But I do want to figure out how to influence people to change their minds about things, or at least have a conversation about ideas instead of attacking the people with the ideas, you know?

I’ve re-read some of the comments on the previous posts, though, and I don’t know if conversation is possible at present. We’re using different frameworks. Like, Completely Different. I tell ya. I had this conversation the other day with a woman who was once on the right side of this debate, but something went terribly sideways and now she’s all over with the “rights of sex workers” stuff. I tried to avoid her, god knows, but she found me and started talking, and she asked what i was workin on, with my PhD. Now I coulda lied, eh, and said something like, um, the life cycle of the salmon or something. but no. I told her. A critique of ideology and practice of harm reduction and prostitution as it is understood by women who do front line anti-violence and social services work. That’s a mouthful. And i said, fair warning, I told her, “we’re on the opposite side of most of the debates going on”. but still. She insisted on trying to talk to me about this, and it was the weirdest thing ever, because I kept saying, “we can do better–prostitution is unknown where there is gender equality” and she would keep saying, “where is that?” as if she hadn’t heard over and over the women of AWAN (Aboriginal Women’s Action Network) and the women of NWAC (Native Women’s Association of Canada) say, “there is no word for prostitution in our languages”, and telling the stories about pre-European contact–and she kept saying, “we have to make women safer”, but she wasn’t willing to agree that “out of prostitution” is the safest thing. Too judgmental, I guess. But that’s ’cause she wasn’t talking about the men–and it seemed to me that she had some negative judgments about being a bit idealistic. She said the word “Utopian” a couple of times as if it was poison in her mouth.

Finally, I said something about “prostituted women” and she went off, “that’s such an offensive term” she said, and I interrupted her, “ya see? We’re speaking different languages–I cannot see prostitution as work, I can ONLY understand it as exploitation–to call it work is, to me, deeply offensive and dismissive of the lives of the women who are in prostitution–I’m not willing to accept that men can’t help themselves, that they deserve sex on demand–” and then i said, “you know what? I’m getting frustrated. I came here to have a nice time, and i’m not. Can we just shake hands and stop talking now? or at least change the subject?”

and she said okay. and then she said, “you know, frustrating as this conversation has been, this is the first time i’ve had a conversation with an abolitionist when I have not been shut down or dismissed”.

“Well. I guess that’s hopeful then. You have a nice night.” and we shook hands. Then i went to the dessert table. There was some peach cobbler that was MOST soothing.

But you know what, that thing Sister said about that being her first respectful conversation with an abolitionist? I don’t think that’s so, exactly. I mean, if that’s her perception, fine…but I’ve been to events where she’s taken the mic at the Q and A part and kind of gone on and on without either making a point or asking a question–and I’ve been to events where there have been exchanges, and they looked to me like they were respectful–but our perceptions are weird, eh? I see reasonable, and she sees threat.  Both may be true. How do we find a way to stand on the same ground together? How can we find the natural points of alliance and not get in each others way?

I want her to get out of the way of abolition, for sure. But she thinks that’s dangerous, abolishing prostitution–she hears that and thinks we want to abolish prostitutes–which is the common mistake–but we don’t of course–we want to abolish pimps and johns.  And I want to get IN her way of legitimating prostitution. Because decriminalizing the whole shootin’ match for sure opens the door to a whole bunch of predatory men–sniffing around for women to buy and sell. Don’t have to look very far to find ’em. You bet i want to interfere with that agenda.

points of agreement–sellers of sex must not be criminalized. There must be a range of comprehensive exit services and programs. Safety. then that’s all, far as I can see. But if it’s work, why would ya need exit services? And if it’s exploitation, how is safety even possible within it?

next post (maybe) I’ll pick up that dropped thread of bullying on the ‘net.

anyway, those two hours with Sophie and her parents were the highlight of my day. oh, and my women’s group tonight, too. that was lovely. so much love in a day. everyone should have this.

 

Talking to Zero

I was on Davie street last night, and i started to stick a “buying sex is not a sport” sticker onto the sandwich board outside one of those sextoy and peep show shops. I just get angry when i see the silhouette of a woman advertising these sex shop places– long fluffy hair, big sticky-outty boobs, teeny waist, ass stuck out at kind of an odd angle, and stiletto heels–c’mon. like, really? how do we KNOW that’s a representation of a woman, really? ’cause no  woman I know looks like that, even back-lit.

anyhow. so i stuck a sticker on her head. and this big scary lookin’ guy comes outta the shop. he’s got this little red beard, and round-ish glasses, and a kind of faux-hawk and black shorts and a black long-sleeved t-shirt on. i remember a wallet chain coming out of his pocket and piercings here and there. He’s only  a little taller than me, but he’s pretty broad. Big forearms. and he’s MAD. he starts peeling the sticker off, so i smooth it down, and then he smacks my hand away. Like i’m a little kid with her hand in the cookie dough, not hard, just a smack, you know. And i say, “hey, man, be gentle.” He starts yelling, he’s really mad at me for putting this sticker on his sign.He says, “What do you think you’re doing??”

I say, “you’re making money off the degradation of women”

“How do you figure that?” (he’s still shouting) “Degradation of women, we sell dildoes, too, is that degrading to men?”

“well, yes, as a matter of fact–this whole industry–it’s degrading to women, it dehumanizes men–you know, it makes men lousy lovers, porn does”.  That’s a line I heard once from a lover of mine. She often came out with these pithy, smart statements.

He looks disgusted, he calls me narrow-minded, he says, “you don’t know what you’re talking about, all you’re doing is spewing this stuff, you don’t have any evidence–come inside, come talk to me about this–”

“Ah, I got my bike…” I don’t really want to talk to him. I’m kind of afraid, and I want to make a good argument, I don’t feel confident, though I know what i’m talking about sometimes it’s difficult to be articulate.

“bring it in” he says. So. I do.

The shop is bright, the dominant colour is pink. the walls lined with female mannequin torsos dressed in bikinis and boas, i see a maid’s uniform (but not a sensible one) and leopard print lingerie. there’s a rack of jars with various coloured gels and pink penises in shrink-wrap hanging on the wall. There are pictures of women, white women mostly, “provocatively” posed, advertising lubes and gels and toys of various sorts. A jar of condoms on the front counter.

He yells at me that i am trying to restrict people’s choices, “you people” he calls me. “you gotta give me proof–I am doing people some good, here.” He tells me that women come in and ask for things that will  help them with their sex life, with their husbands and then a few weeks later, they’ll return and thank him for saving their marriage. He doesn’t say anything about men coming in asking about how to please their wives, how to save their marriages…funny. I don’t think to point this out to him.

I say, “you know, it’s not just about “choice”–how do we know what of the things we do are free choices, and what come from reacting to constraint? Look at the increasing sexualization of children, of EVERYONE–we are being reduced to our orifices–in the case of women–and you’re right, it’s degrading to men too–you are nothing but a cock, and I’m a cunt. I’m not willing to put up with it.”

He is not satisfied, of course. He asks if I knew anyone in the sex industry.

I think of the women I know from the drop-in. The young ones who are addicted now, who sway on the street corners near the port–the brassy middle-aged woman who teases me about lingerie–the Aboriginal women who take handfuls of condoms and stuff them into their purses before heading out at closing time. I think of the women who have told me stories about their childhoods–being beaten with jumper cables, being passed around from father to uncle to cousin; I think of the women who worked dancing in bars who tell me about men following them to their hotel rooms, and the names the men call them and their strategies to protect themselves–

And I say to the man, I say, “Yes, I do as a matter of fact. Many women, and of those women, there is not one who would be there if she had other choices–and they say that  it is really difficult for them to make healthy sexual intimate partnerships outside of the industry.

Of course, he knows a girl (that’s what he called her, a girl) who is a sex worker (that’s what he called her, too–a sex worker), and she’s never been raped or assaulted, and she loves her job and she makes lots of money, she has a very healthy sex life with her boyfriend. I said, sure, you can find women who say they choose it, and they like it, and it’s all working for them. But ask again after they have been out for a few years.

He said that not everyone who’s been raped has a bad sex life, he said he himself had been raped as a child, sexually abused, and he had a healthy sex life with his wife. I said that’s good, and i’m sorry that some man had hurt him and i kept repeating, if we were equal, we wouldn’t even think of using this stuff, we would have talk instead of toys, we could imagine exciting fulfilling sex that didn’t depend upon silicone and botox and pictures of unreal women–

“It’s not just women,” he shouted, “men too, there are lots of women who come in here for toys to enjoy with their husbands”

Sometimes i’m inarticulate in the face of defensiveness like his. he tells me that he’s worked his whole adult life in the sex industry, and he tells me that I am unrealistic, “do you know how much money the sex industry makes?” Yes, i know. I know it’s huge. I know all that. but I also know that we must push back, we have to interfere with the demand, we have to not put up with it…

I said ‘interfere with demand’ and he heard, ‘ deny people choices’. I said, “equality” and he said, “there’s no such thing, you think there is, but there isn’t, and there can’t be”. I said, “i don’t agree. Why settle for this?”

He said, “it’s not just women who are objectified, and it’s not just men who are my customers” . I said, “Oh yea? look at your own store–in the window, women’s bodies, on your sign outside, a woman’s body, along the walls, womens’ bodies, pictures of women on your walls, on the packaging, and sexualized representations of women–

“look” he finally said, “I agree with you, and I would never sell anything I thought was degrading, I help people, I help people make choices…You people want to take peoples choices away”

“Lookit” I say to him, “I am not blocking the door, I am not saying people can’t come in here, I don’t have the power to do that, and I don’t even want to. I want people to make different choices, that’s all. I want people to think about what they are doing, think about where their choices come from, think about the consequences of their actions–” I didn’t say, but I thought of it after, “and I want you and other men to know that there are other ways to be masculine, to be a man”

Sometime in there, he says, “I got offered a job running an escort agency last year, and I said, ‘okay, if you can guarantee that the girls are there by choice, and they’re fine with it, and happy and have their shit together…”

I guess he didn’t get that guarantee.

another time he says, “i’ve never paid for sex, I think it should be something between two people, who have a relationship, and know each other”

But he still sells porn, he sells women through the peep shows at the back. Two bits for the peep show.

He says to me, “look, I get guys coming in here for GHB, lots of guys, mostly Asian, to be honest, and they’re not from here. I explain to them that we don’t do that here, that’s not how we treat people, it’s wrong and against the law. I won’t sell that stuff. But I know they’ll get it somewhere else, I know that.” I can tell. He thinks I’m idealistic and naive.

Maybe. But I am not despairing.

I’m trying to recreate our conversation. But I can’t remember now, not exactly. I finally left because I had to go, and I could tell we were not going to agree. But I gave him a sticker, I said, “look it up”

buyingsexisnotasport.com

And I thanked him for asking me to come in to talk.

I liked him.

He shook my hand at the end and said, “My name’s Zero”

I said, “my name’s Erin. Thanks for inviting me in. Be well, Zero”

Really? his name is Zero? as in “nothing” or as in, “infinite”?