The concept of “surrendering humanity” has been sticking in my head a lot lately.

Like, at what point, if any, does a person lose any and all right to human dignity because of their actions?

This first got put into my head when I read this article from Bitch on whether or not the current punitive system for street harassers should be abolished in favor of a more rehabilitative approach. I have really conflicted feelings about this. Do I think that the community message about the utter wrongness of street harassment should be disseminated so as to try to stop it before it starts? Abso-fucking-lutely. But I can’t help but shake the thought that this article takes away the agency of the people who do it and ignores the fact that there’s some point at which a street harasser makes the decision to commit an act of verbal or physical violence on his* own free will, and while he probably wouldn’t have decided to do so if not for the influence of his environment, it isn’t the environment itself that makes the choice for him, he does. And while I intellectually agree with the opinion that nobody should be judged by the worst thing they’ve ever done (especially if I watch something like The Shawshank Redemption—shush, I love that movie—that has an admittedly romanticized view of criminals) on a gut level I think the victims deserve to see the people who ruined their lives suffer as much as they did.

And the most disturbing thing about this topic is that it makes me have thoughts, albeit irrational ones, that could be interpreted as my own humanity/grip on reality slipping away. If I see someone, for example, claiming that all autistic people should have been aborted before they were even born, I start to think, “I could seriously kill you right now without a shred of remorse.” But that’s part of my OCD, considering I loathe ALL violence and am generally the kind of person who would cry over the corpse of someone they had to kill in self-defense. It just disturbs me immensely, and although I don’t self-harm, thinking about these kinds of things do make me stim so convulsively that it can physically hurt me. I feel like I could neither be a complete pardoner of people who commit horrible acts nor someone who condemns without exception, but here I honestly feel like there is no middle ground. Any thoughts?

*I’m not scapegoating men here, but the fact is that men are the ones who commit the overwhelming majority of these acts.


*dusts off blog* Geez, it’s been a while. It’s not that I haven’t been writing anything in the half-year I’ve left this to lay dormant, but I’ve just been writing in smaller bursts. So some of the things I’ll be posting on here in the near future are smaller pieces that I’ve written elsewhere, usually as commentary on other social justice websites.

Anyway, do you know what really bothers me? Shaming people for crying.

Now, there are some areas here where I know I can’t talk with authority. I’m thinking in particular about the “white/cis woman’s tears” phenomenon, which isn’t exclusive to women and generally refers to people who try to avoid taking responsibility for their own fucking up through emotional appeals and antagonizing the person who called them out. But if you ask me, the issue should be not that the person’s crying, but that they’re being a manipulative, privileged twit.

In my experience, very few people outside of professional actors can cry on command, and the vast majority of the time it’s beyond the person’s control. I know this because I cry extremely easily. The mockery I got for this throughout my childhood and adolescence made me internalize that crying equaled failure, particularly when I realized that while petty things like getting a B on a test made me cry, sad movies didn’t. (I always thought, “Why cry about it? It’s just a movie”…I am SUCH an Aspie) Neither, to be honest, did the deaths of my grandmothers, since one I maybe saw five times in my life and the other was someone with whom I never quite saw eye to eye. I felt as if I had too many faucets in my mental waterworks, but the ones I was supposed to have were broken. What finally cured me of this attitude was the one time in my life I couldn’t cry—when I was having the OCD-related panic attacks that would later send me to the hospital and on a nearly year-long academic leave. I wanted to cry then more than I’d ever wanted to in my life, but no tears came, which sunk me further into wretchedness. After the hell I went through began to lift, I knew never to take my ability to cry for granted again.

This is why I can’t blame anyone for crying, no matter how much I may agree with general criticism of the person. Even with John Boehner, I would criticize him for being a loudmouth reactionary, but refuse to join the public mocking him for his crying. This has very real ramifications in someone’s PR—in 1972, Edmund Muskie was swept out of the Democratic primary for crying in public! Some may claim that things have improved since then, that a man crying in public shows that he’s compassionate, but that’s only in the baldest of senses—way more people are going to call him a sissy. Women crying in public is no better in the public eye, as it prompts people to go, “Oh, typical feminine weakness.” (And I can only assume it’s the same for an androgyne like me, especially someone who’s read as a woman.)

The fact is that on a public level, crying is still seen as a sign of immaturity and weakness, and it saddens me to see this attitude within the social justice community…characterizing someone making petty complaints with “Waaah! Waaah!” remarks isn’t cool, even if the complaints are indeed bunk. There are far better ways of skewering them. And a lot of the time, from what I’ve seen, offering sympathy to someone crying profusely only extends as far as how willing the “sympathizer” is to be seen with the crier until they feel too embarrassed to continue. People cry in all sorts of different ways—silently or loudly, alone or with a loved one, from profound grief or simple frustration. It’s no substitute for words, but it’s a chemical release and often washes out the gunk in our brains before we can say something more coherently. Perhaps we need a new version of that old Free To Be You And Me song “It’s All Right To Cry”—”Everyone Has The Right To Cry.”

This post probably won’t be as long as some of my older ones since this focuses around a rather specific topic I’d been thinking about this morning, and it’s also an add-on to this great post at FWD/Forward on bad OCD stereotypes. This morning I did my usual run-through of social justice blogs, but since I still have a lot of internal prejudices I have to confront and work on correcting, this can spark some pretty damned ugly contrarian thoughts, that I’d much rather not share here for my own comfort and fear of being misunderstood, from my mind’s little “doubting devil.” They hit me as I was about to go downstairs to eat breakfast, and made me freeze and imagine taking a violent tumble down the stairs. But the way my mind presented it to me was in that kind of cheesy, wobbly, quick-take style typical of the sort of horrible, horrible horror movie I was subjected to in my film class at the community college I attended while on leave from Cornell last year. This made the bad thought seem almost comical, and the fact that I can actually now laugh off some of the things that would scare me into panic attacks last year makes me extremely grateful that I have that kind of inner strength.

This made me wonder if any famous (or not-so-famous) horror writers struggle with OCD, particularly since my mother, in an only half-joking manner, has suggested that I ought to channel the imagery I get from particularly anxious times into surreal or macabre stories and drawings (I really want to get back into drawing, but I’ve never been much of a fiction writer.) And while I really don’t like horror movies at all, if writing the script for one proved to be a mental or emotional catharsis for the screenwriter, I would most certainly have respect for that person. But that’s not what the vast majority of people think of at all when they hear OCD. As OuyangDan stated in her FWD/Forward post, it’s almost regarded as a synonym for “meticulous” or “nitpicky” by those who don’t have it, as if it’s just a benign little quirk of behavior that is actually nice to have as having it makes sure that everything gets in order. That’s bullshit, pure and simple. What really makes my blood boil about that attitude is that it never even takes into consideration the obsessive part of the equation—it might as well just be called “CD” to them. (And while I’m sure pure-compulsive disorder exists, I can’t speak for the people who may have it.) As anyone with OCD can tell you, what drives a person with it to undertake such compulsive behavior are tormenting thoughts of what is the absolute worst thing one can imagine, what is absolutely anathema to one’s nature. People with OCD get so desperate in trying to convince themselves that they’re not psychotic and would never actually DO the things that their minds are presenting to them (and oftentimes the thoughts are so real and all-encompassing, whether or not they’re actual hallucinations, that delusions of believing that one has actually done the action in one’s obsessive thoughts are not uncommon at all), that they are willing to do anything, even the most simple repetitive motion, to try and dispel them. This is what shows up on the outside, but on the inside is a much bleaker picture, and sadly, the torment these people feel rarely comes to the surface without guidance and understanding since in general, people with OCD, including myself when I first noticed it, are terrified of telling about their obsessions (even to close friends and family) for fear that they will be thought to be dangerous or even criminal.

Some people don’t even have the compulsions. As documented in the wonderful book The Imp Of The Mind by Lee Baer, which was more or less my Bible throughout last year, Pure-O OCD, as described in my first post, is actually the most common form of OCD out there. These people, until they learn how to manage their obsessions in a healthy way, tend to just freeze up and descend into tormenting spirals of horror and guilt, a feeling I know all too well. Some of them can get to the point where they can “pass” in public, and unless someone very close to them has become attuned to when they begin to feel anxious and obsessive (my mother, for example, would call it “the shadow falling over my face,” and I would also squeeze my eyes shut during a particularly strong or violent obsessive thought), it is hard to suspect anything is wrong with them. I’ve recently found that I’m not quite as Pure-O as I once thought—when I’m in an Anxiety Period, sometimes I have obsessions and sometimes I don’t, as it’s completely random. My obsessions are usually more subtle, though, as they’re typically not viewed as destructive—sometimes I’ve gotten so frustrated with picking hairs off my face or popping zits that sometimes it leaves little blood spots or scabs, but it’s never intentional. Some of them are even productive, as I started sewing when I was at my most anxious and sometimes I would just stay up in my room and sew for hours on end in an attempt to make the bad thoughts go away. I’ve gotten to the point now where I still sew even when I’m not anxious as I genuinely enjoy it, and I’ve made an entire quilt for myself that I’ll take back to Cornell in the fall, and I’m working on a baby quilt for my new niece in Ithaca. But as I said in my last entry, my main compulsion, when I have compulsions, is muttering. I’ve muttered all my life, actually, usually just repeating nonsense words to myself when I feel that I’m in an awkward or embarrassing situation. But when my anxiety started getting out of control, some of the words that plagued my obsessive thoughts leached into my otherwise benign mutterings, which then became vengeful-sounding, “I’m going to kill all you murderous anxieties”; that period was also a time when I over-personified my anxiety and treated it as a literal villain I had to vanquish rather than a series of mental anomalies that I had to work to get back to some sort of equanimity. As I’ve learned to not take my obsessive thoughts seriously, the muttering has decreased, but it never really goes away so I still do look sometimes as if I’m speaking in tongues. It just impels me to write more, as when there’s less junk in my brain the less it leaks out as mutterings.

Just as the mental health community cannot be pinned down as a whole, likewise, even people who appear to have the exact same mental disorder cannot be said to have the exact same experiences—similar ones, certainly, but there are as many different struggles with OCD as there are OCD survivors. Yes, some mental anomalies actually do have unexpected perks to them (I really do believe I wouldn’t be as passionate about a lot of things if I didn’t have Asperger’s—and a predilection for language) and I’m grateful that the OCD helped fuel my sewing, but trying to characterize, or worse, fetishize a particular disorder goes beyond naïveté into pure ignorance. Not all OCD patients have compulsions, but we do all have obsessions—maybe not all the time or as frequently as at a certain point in the past, but we all share the fight to keep a grip on reality and not to let our delusions take control. If you want to have someone around with organizational skills, go see an interior decorator and don’t trivialize the experiences of people with a very real and often paralyzingly scary syndrome.

(Okay, so this post did wind up being fairly long. So sue me. :P)

You know what? I’m no longer going to apologize for having big gaps between entries. It’s harmful to me and everyone around me. (Hell, I even do this when I write in my personal handwritten journal, even if I’m the only one reading it!) The fact of the matter is that blogging is an effort and sometimes I don’t have the time, the energy or the spoons to get an entry out of me, even when that entry, as this one is, feels like a baby that’s been gestating for weeks if not months on end and wants nothing more than to see the light of day, kicking as it’s trapped in my head. Reading the blogs of other mentally anomalous bloggers who often have gaps between entries for similar reasons has made me more confident in my position, even if a whole lot of the time I have to face the demon of doubt that tells me I’m not a real blogger since I only have a puny three entries (the intro doesn’t really count, natch) and there’s no way I’m going to be respected and get on people’s blogrolls unless I write at least twice a week. But that’s unrealistic for me not only because there are times when I do have a lot to write but not an endless reserve of time/energy/spoons to sufficiently drive me to write, there are others when, despite both others’ and my conception of myself as a person with far too much on her mind and a brain that often feels like collapsing under the weight of too many thoughts, there are times when I really, genuinely don’t feel like writing much, whether on here or in my handwritten journal! I tend to get far too caught up in a lot of endeavors I take on and blow them way, way out of proportion—for about five months in eighth grade I would diligently keep a journal and write in it every single night (which proved taxing for me, even though I had a far shallower knowledge of myself at the time and wrote about very trivial matters for the most part) I thought that someone would find that journal—which I later destroyed for emotional reasons, and sometimes but not all the time I regret doing so—long after I was dead and I’d become an Anne Frank of sorts, which was a horribly privileged and flippant position for me to take as there’s no way that sheltered 13-year-old me could even begin to comprehend what Anne Frank went through. Sometimes I even go through the same delusions with my written journals, especially since I’m now on my third ever since I started keeping them regularly last year. Sometimes I go months between entries, sometimes I write every single day for a given period of time. And really, that’s okay! I just need to keep telling myself that, since I have this irrational guilty feeling about it or this blog “gathering dust” and therefore going to waste—although when I do need to write, I need to conserve energy that I would’ve otherwise spent doing less useful things (Vie De Merde, I’m looking at you) and get the stuff out of my head so that I feel less of a weight on my shoulders. Still, I never should apologize for something in which I did nothing wrong.

What I’ve mainly been wanting to write about for such a long time is the concept of setting deadlines for one’s self and why that doesn’t help anyone and in fact hurts quite a lot. In my cycle of anxiety, I have an unsettling tendency to switch between Complacency Periods, in which I take a lot of things for granted since I’d somehow gotten to a point where my triggers affect me less and I exploit that fleeting ability, but it inevitably crashes at some point or another into an Anxiety Period, which are absurdly systematic with me—they’re just as predictable as when I catch a cold—and always go through the following four stages: irrational thoughts of harming others close to me, irrational thoughts of harming myself, feelings of vengeance toward my anxiety in which I mutter essentially meaningless nonsense such as “Murderous anxieties! I’m going to kill you all!” to myself as a sort of tic or compulsion, and what I call “grotesquerie-bizarrerie” thoughts, which are surreal mental images—which are not visual hallucinations but are just as vivid with my imagination—such as bleeding ink (hence the name of my blog) or hanging from the ceiling by a fishhook, not dead but just peacefully sleeping and confounding everyone around me. I got a sketchbook for Christmas to get these images out of my head, but I really need to use it more, and I hope that doing writings like this will break me out of my recent creative stagnation and motivate me to do more things like drawing. I usually have this theory that my Anxiety Periods are like radioactive particles in that they have half-lives, becoming half as traumatic each time I have one, but I started with an extremely high level last year, so I’m still coming down…and this does mean that it never truly goes away, after all, just becomes so small that it’s imperceptible. I’ve come to realize that quite a good bit of the complacency/anxiety cycle has to do with me setting more or less arbitrary finish lines for myself when it comes to “recovering” from the meltdown that sent me first to the hospital and then home for most of the year in March of last year. I thought that once I finally made it through the first semester back at Cornell, I would have proven myself to the point where my anxiety would, if not completely vanish, than become some moribund version of itself that annoyed no more than a paper cut. Inevitably, when those expectations are not met, the Anxiety Period comes out from the shadows and pounces upon me—and if I haven’t had one in a while, it flies in the face of the half-life theory by being stronger than usual. (I did make the dean’s list at Cornell this past semester—and dammit, I worked for that—so I think I’ve made it pretty well in spite of OCD.) What I need to do and am now starting to do is reframe the situation. I need to stop thinking about my anxiety issues as something that started in March 2009 and never existed before that. That’s a load of bull—the earliest-ever panic attack I can remember having is when I was seven and my mom was two hours late from a parent-teacher gathering; I’d worked myself into uncontrollable crying thinking that she’d died in a car crash and that the cops were going to call any minute to tell my dad and me the news. (Keep in mind that cell phones were not widespread at all in the late 90s, so I couldn’t get a hold of her!) Likewise, even though my AS diagnosis came in the hospital and was confirmed by my Springfield therapist, I’ve had that since birth, more or less, since so many of my childhood quirks can be easily explained by it. Once I acknowledge that this is something I’ve had my whole life and will most likely have for the rest of my life, I can see it as a continuum that I’m moving along rather than a race (since life’s only real start/finish lines are birth and death), and even though I would have given anything to have avoided the trauma of going to the hospital and being put on academic leave, I am forever grateful of the self-awareness I’ve gained from the whole experience of last year, and I find it very humbling to recognize how little of myself I knew before that point. Sure, it means having to acknowledge things like allowing extra time for travel since it leaves me feeling both physically and mentally drained, and always to have my medicine on hand, but I’d much rather have to prepare for that than be caught off-guard and start to panic. It’s funny, since my parents have always been telling me to live in the moment when I’m feeling out of sorts about a given situation, but that’s the opposite of expecting instant gratification, really. What I need to do is both live in the moment and not expect things to come to me immediately, which requires that most elusive quality to me—patience. I really wish that we as a nation could learn that, since it saddens me to see, say critics and pundits descending upon Obama when he doesn’t appear to fulfill everything they expected of him, even though a lot of those expectations were things the public had grafted onto him and not things he necessarily promised himself—despite the messianic aura seeming to project from him two years ago, he’s only human, and it just makes me shake my head in shame to see people deserting him, or any other political leader for that matter, because they don’t do things quickly enough (politics is SLOW business!) or because they don’t agree with a particular person on every single issue in existence. Similarly, I think the reason the Tea Party has taken off is because people are so concentrated on the here and now—yet at the same time, not living in the moment and taking time to enjoy things—that they just assume that all taxes are the big bad government taking away hard-earned money without even taking the time to consider how the spending of that money would enrich their lives and the lives of their families and communities. We all need to learn patience, says this admitted impatient (but working on it!) hypocrite.

Back to my discussion about worries that I’m not a “real” blogger since I write so infrequently—I’ve been struggling with the pernicious thoughts that I’m not a “real” one of many things lately. This is especially hard for me to swallow since I absolutely cannot abide liars and fakes, and even though I’ve broken through the emotional shell, never to retreat within it again, that I built around myself after I had been cruelly betrayed at the end of middle school by a group of girls whom I thought to be my friends, it still makes my blood boil to hear about deliberate deceivers. That makes it all the worse when the doubting center of my mind hooks onto the idea that I’m not a “real” member of a group I feel a kinship with and I should just stop kidding myself. The newest and freshest one in my mind is the idea of gender identity—I came out to myself as gender-fluid not too long ago and I’ve been trying to explain to others what that means in terms they can understand. But considering that I’m not totally agendered and still use “she” and “her” (although I really wouldn’t mind “ze”/”hir”—I think if those are going to be the most commonly used gender-neutral pronouns, I think everyone ought to get used to them, not just non-binary folk) for pronouns, I feel awkward and inauthentic around genderqueers who really do feel as if they are neither male nor female. And on top of that, incisive articles have been written about how, much like “party bi” syndrome, “hipster genderqueers” are not uncommon at times. At one point I feared that I was one. But once I analyzed it, I thought…no, that’s not the case. I’ve always felt there was a part of me that wasn’t quite human female (I say “human” since when I was five that other part of me was a rabbit!) and is just human, a plain old androgynous homo sapiens. It’s not something that I do as a political statement, as I’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable trying to fit into a role for something like that, it’s just who I am—and it’s not something, although my brain sometimes says otherwise, that I need to gauge, seeing how often I feel female and how often I feel androgynous, or feel that I always have to have my current button-down shirt/shorts/pixie cut ensemble to have—it’ll still be with me if I grow my hair out and go ultra-femme or don a suit and a false mustache and be a drag king for a bit. (I do quite like the idea of all sorts of drag and wish to experiment with it in the not-so-distant future…) That being said, I’m always cautious when I’m on the margins of a certain movement, and I would never try to claim to know how a genuinely agendered person feels, or anyone whose experience is not similar enough to mine for valid comparisons to be drawn. It’s the same thing with autism, although since I became aware of that earlier I’m now more comfortable with it, but I did definitely struggle with feeling like I wasn’t “really” autistic since I’m a high-functioning Aspie, and that I was “stealing” the label from lower-functioning autistics. On the contrary, I use it as a sign of solidarity—I’ve heard of other Aspies who refuse to call themselves autistic since they don’t want to be associated with the negative stereotypes of autism, as shown by this brilliant comic. Autism is something that controls so many aspects of my life, and I feel as if I’d be erasing part of myself to deny it of myself. So I’d much rather stand together with my fellow mentally disabled people in our fight for equality than self-segregate and bring more negativity onto our movement.

What does distress me, though, is that the fact that I have to struggle with such doubts is because a lot of activist movements seem to have this bizarre paradigm in which anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of such an activist is viewed as suspect. This has been extensively chronicled by feminists of color, as well as feminist transwomen and disabled feminists, on how they’ve felt betrayed, tokenized and ignored by upper-middle-class white cis feminists. The unfortunate reality of activism is that our polarizing nature to the public at large makes us a frequent troll target, and that’s something we have to learn to deal with forcefully and decisively without resorting to the tactics of the attackers. But far, far, FAR too often when trying to shut out trolls, mainstream activism also refuses to acknowledge those who aren’t “traditionally” a part of their movement but have so much to offer for it, especially when it comes to making mainstream activists aware of their own privilege. When you shut out those people, you’re becoming just as bad as those who you claim oppress you. Give me intersectionality or give me death.

(Yes, the title of this post comes from John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten, whom I usually find to be a jerk. But sometimes, even jerks can have good advice.)

As candid as I am, and as much as my candor can prove to be provocative, I’m not really a very angry person at all. It takes something huge to get me fuming mad. And I admit that if someone is angry at me to the point of yelling, my first instinct is to shrink away and cry. In many situations, I honestly fear anger. But the events of the past year with me have caused me to reconsider my familiar old positions on the emotion. It’s been extremely hard for me, especially when at points being angry has caused me to spiral off into tormenting obsessive thoughts, which has caused me to feel excessively guilty for my anger, since at those points I used to think that being angry necessarily produced irrational, torturous OCD-related mind-static. But ultimately, the rupturing of my emotional “shell” that followed the start of my mental health issues has forced me to confront even those emotions that make me rather uncomfortable. As it turns out, even though I don’t think I could ever be what you could call a hothead, in the past I’d often felt an emotion similar to anger at points, but it was really more like pessimism, frustration or bitterness, and instead of letting it out in some way, I let it stew, which only left me feeling worse. Not only was I afraid OF anger, I was afraid to BE angry. Yet those substitute emotions came to me more frequently than I would acknowledge to myself, particularly when I butted up against a particularly gross injustice in the world.

But just as with my intolerance of violence culture following my anxiety attacks, having been through the mental hell that trapped me for so long made me less willing to hold in my anger. To paraphrase Dee Snider, I wasn’t gonna take it anymore, and it was time for me, when the moment presented itself, to follow the sage advice of the splendidly savage Harpies and be a bitch. In this case, the opportunity arose in regards to a boy living down the hall from me (against whom I’d admittedly borne a grudge due to his being an ignorant, bigoted loudmouth) who was saying taunting things to a girl while she was yelling “Stop! Stop!” in a high-pitched voice. I’d heard these noises before but not done anything about them, yet they’d haunted me all day and I felt horrible for not having intervened. So this time, I wasn’t just going to sit on the sidelines. I marched up to this guy’s door, asked as a preliminary precaution, “Is anyone in pain in there?” He grunted, “No. Go away,” but I didn’t believe him since the girl still seemed to be protesting, so I blew the whistle I always carry with me for the first time. This immediately elicited a “What the fuck?! She just blew a fucking rape whistle!” reaction from him, and he went outside with the girl, who, according to him, was just the subject of a tickle fight. I still didn’t believe him, though, and I said in my firmest voice, “This is your first warning.” This caused him to shoot back, “What did you say?!” I almost didn’t say anything, but I was sick of being a coward: “Listen, this is your first warning. If I catch you making sounds like you’re raping someone again, I’m going to call the cops.” Then he yelled at me, “Well, that’s only going to backfire on YOU if you get caught making false accusations. YOU’RE the one who’s gonna get punished!” and then stormed back into his room. I was shaking when I got back to my room, and I nearly cried. I didn’t regret what I did at all, but as the incident occurred right before I was going to go for a run—where I usually leave my room unlocked since I don’t like taking my keys with me when I run—I delayed the run for about an hour since I was terrified that he’d want to get revenge on me by vandalizing my room, or worse. Later that week I had tormenting paranoia that I might’ve “put ideas in his head” and might try to assault me or someone else. But through all that time, I told the other people in my hallway about what had gone on so I made sure my side of the story was the one that got told—and after that, the boy has just left me the hell alone. I don’t know whether I genuinely scared him or whether he just thinks “that psycho bitch isn’t worth my time,” but I feel extremely lucky that this worked out well for me. (By the way, I talked to the girl later on and thankfully she wasn’t indignant at me, and she said that she would do something if anyone actually did try to assault her. Whew.)

However, I don’t know if I’d feel so confident in standing up to a bully if I were in a less controlled environment than my own dorm. Reading several feminist blogs about how obscenely underreported rape is as a crime was what stoked my fury into action when I thought such a crime was occurring in my own living area, but would I have had the same anger and courage on a dark street in an unfamiliar neighborhood? What’s more, since my intervention turned out to be a false alarm, I’m now worried that a crying-wolf phenomenon will arise and nobody will believe anyone who genuinely claims to have been raped or sexually assaulted, since the accused could try to write it off as a tickle fight or similarly chaste horsing around. (Ironically enough, when I first got my whistle nearly three years ago, I confronted another “tickle fight” that I’d mistaken for assault, but that incident seemed infinitely more innocuous to me than this more recent one. All my alarms and red flags were going off in this past week’s occurrence.) Although I believe that women should never feel scared or ashamed to take action when they feel as if they themselves or someone nearby is in danger, I can completely understand why they would feel scared—even I feel hypocritical for my last statement since I now have serious qualms about self-defense because of my tendency toward violent obsessive thoughts; I’m not yet at the point where I can learn a self-defense maneuver without panicking that I might inadvertently use it against someone I love. And if women have been assaulted in the past for being honest, I do not blame them at all for reticence, even if a lack of intervention can lead to more crushing guilt and misery on their part. I credit the feminist blogs I read for helping shift my mindset from “women, don’t get raped,” as if rape were an inevitable and sad fact of life, to “men, don’t rape,” but I believe that to be a subset of a more general phenomenon: the anger that rapists feel when deciding to assault women is ignorant anger, a rage stemming from wrongheaded feelings of entitlement and denial of women’s personhood, while the anger that women, rape survivors or not, feel toward men who assault women is righteous anger, a potent fury that seeks to redress an inherent wrong at all costs, yet without resorting to the tactics of their oppressors. Too often in these cases, ignorant anger is used as a silencing method for righteous anger.

My problem with anger was that until very recently I didn’t know the difference between the two different kinds of anger that I’ve now classified, and even now I have a hard time separating them when, as I said in my last entry, righteous anger over wanton acts of violence makes me spiral off into vigilantist thoughts. But my getting involved in social justice movements has been the best thing for me to learn the difference between those kinds of anger—the problem with so much of the mainstream media is that the main force for anger is ignorant anger at the hands of people like Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, while righteous anger is written off as “whining” or worse, “jealousy.” Indeed, on social-activist blogs, commenters’ claims of “Why are you so angry?” “This isn’t a big deal, get over it!” “Chill out already,” etc. are prime derailing techniques, that is, efforts, whether conscious or not, by the privileged to silence the disenfranchised since the privileged are too cowardly to examine the consequences of their privilege so they project ignorant anger on others. Yet as a person who has a lot of privileges to confront—I’m white, American, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied if not able-minded, slim, not unattractive, middle-class and attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country—and a notoriously impatient person, I know that confronting one’s privileges is hard. Listening to the anger of someone who doesn’t have one or more of the privileges I have can make me feel humbled, guilty, sad and appalled. But angry? No, not at them, only at myself and the groups I belong to. Or at least I try not to be, but I fuck up all the time and have no pretenses of claiming that I’m a Good Ally for Not Being A Bigot, when of course I have lots of hidden bigotries to confront, not least because of where I grew up. (I admit, though, that sometimes I want to swing too far in the opposite direction—I just finished a Southeast Asian history course and I always sympathized with the Vietnamese for what they went through in the 60s and 70s, but this made me forget about the draft and how many were sent over against their will. God, that was just a bloody grim chapter of history on all possible levels.) I know that being female and autistic, the main two axes on which I lack traditional privilege, do not give me the right to be anything more than an ally to social justice movements other than feminism and neurodiversity advocacy. The more I read about social justice, the more I try to listen and absorb the messages of those who don’t have the privileges that I do, since listening to the disenfranchised is the only way to begin the slow and hard process of redressing grievances. And the disenfranchised have absolutely every right to be righteously angry—anyone who has been scorned, taken for granted and ridiculed by the powers that be deserves the right to be furious. Righteous anger, I believe, is the best way to separate the real allies from the fake ones—real allies respect this anger and respect the disenfranchised’s need at times to have spaces to themselves, while fake ones fly off the handle and become indignant, taking everything as a personal insult and feel the need to defend themselves against these supposed charges of libel, all while spewing bile at the disenfranchised. As for when I myself lecture about the things I feel I have the right to lecture about—feminism and neurodiversity—I pull no punches. The only limits of my anger are logic and when my throat gets sore, ha. And I don’t serve to “educate” the privileged about what they’re doing wrong…if they want to learn from me, it’s going to be when I choose to unleash an angry rant, not when they do.

What saddens me, though, is when righteous anger is not respected within a social justice environment, or worse, when ignorant anger infiltrates it. The most notorious examples of this have been transphobia within some radical feminist factions (grounded on the essentialist argument that transwomen are not “real women”) and silencing of transwomen as well as women of color and disabled feminists on mainstream feminist blogs. I can’t believe the kind of hypocrisy it takes to fight one form of oppression yet to be so cowardly to not recognize your own privilege and how it oppresses others when you’re called out on it. I’m not suggesting that we all put aside our differences and come together in a Kumbaya moment—far from it, as our differences need to remain intact to put up a good fight against the kyriarchy. In other words, if a social justice movement doesn’t address intersectionality of the myriad axes of privilege/disenfranchisement, I want absolutely nothing to do with it. Righteous anger, when amassed and directed against a certain target, is an extremely powerful and positive thing, but ignorant anger does nothing but destroy.

I do promise to update The Ink Donor more frequently (it’s just that I’m still getting the hang of this whole process and making time for myself to type out my long, verbose rants instead of just thinking them), and I do intend to get out that pronoun article I promised a while back sometime this week, but I have to delay that today to talk about an issue that’s been a pressing matter on my mind for a long time now, and something that disturbs me immensely: violence culture. “Rape culture” is a popular theme in feminist criticism, and indeed, it was an article on rape culture that inspired today’s entry, but I’d personally like to see that as a particularly abhorrent subset of what I term “violence culture.” By “violence culture” I mean the pervasiveness of violent acts in both real life and popular entertainment, and what that says about American culture as a whole. This has been a rather problematic issue for me to write about since I loathe censorship and don’t want to come off sounding like a Tipper Gore, bubble-child advocate type, but the overall desensitization to violence in the public mind is one of psychological importance to me personally, and doubtlessly to many others, and I believe it is creating a crueler, more constricted and more reactionary world among us.

I can’t be desensitized anymore. I used to, throughout high school, as a reaction to the cruel betrayal I’d had at the end of middle school from those whom I had thought to be my friends. Following that weakest and most abject moment of my life, I thought it would benefit me to become cold and unfeeling as a means of self-protection—I remember in my world history class as a high school freshman we were watching the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and I prided myself on not flinching a bit at the gore. (Ditto The Patriot two years later, although we watched the whole thing and it was a horrible movie.) But this led to severe self-denial and repression of emotions on my part, and as soon as the combination of going away to college and entering into a close romantic relationship hit me and filled me with unfamiliar and often scary emotions, my shell shattered. Suddenly, occurrences of violence in the world set off horrible thought processes for me; during the worst of my OCD-related anxiety attacks I was paralyzed with the fear that the fact that my mind was flooding me with appallingly nightmarish images of suddenly assaulting my loved ones meant that I was turning into a soulless psychopath, and it was only a matter of time before an infamous mugshot of me, staring blankly with no trace of regret, would show up on TV and in the newspapers. Since it’s been over a year since such attacks occurred to me, I’ve been able to manage these kinds of thoughts much more effectively and interpret them as irrational and nothing more, but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer susceptible to bursts of panic brought on by flashbacks and triggers. In particular, a local story about a Cornell grad student who killed his wife has proven particularly chilling to me, not only because of it occurring at my university, but also because many of the defendant’s delusions are not entirely dissimilar to mine (and the murder was committed with a knife, by far my most triggering object) and sometimes such stories make me sink back into spirals of “No Caitie, this isn’t you, you’re not psychotic…” as a means of reassurance. Similar stories gave me pause throughout last year when I was back in Springfield on my leave, particularly the Annie Le murder (am I safe even in the Ivy League?), the Binghamton, NY immigrant center shootings (am I safe even an hour away from where this occurred?) and the Fort Hood shootings (can I even trust my therapist?!)

There are times that such news stories cause me so much torment that at times it seems tempting to try to build myself another shell of desensitization, even though I know full well that I’ve lost the naïveté that permitted me to do that in the past. And what does desensitization get you, anyway? Violence is so pervasive in our culture that it’s impossible not to be influenced by it. Innumerable crime and gangster movies, especially those of the past two decades, toss corpses around like so much garbage and glamorize killing as just another way of life. Music videos, even those of artists I like, often explore similar territory. (While the feminist blogosphere’s general reaction to the “Telephone” video of criticizing its initial transmisogynistic angle was definitely valid and valuable, it disappointed me that nobody seemed distressed by the bloodbath later in the video, or the similar casual violence in the “Paparazzi” and “Bad Romance” videos; thus proving that even the most enlightened among us aren’t immune to desensitization.) And to me, a poor urban boy caught in the violent rituals of a street gang and an affluent suburban boy playing a video game that seemingly idealizes such a life are two sides of the same coin, only the latter gets to go on with the rest of his comfortable life with nary a thought as to the ramifications of his vicarious actions, while the former is virtually destined for an early death.

This process may not be as clean-cut a cause-and-effect relationship as some politicians and parents support groups would want the public to believe, but there is a definite effect from the inundation of our youth by violence culture. The Richmond rape case I linked to at the beginning of this article is a perfect example of this: as utterly inhuman as such an act is, it is the logical consequence of a patriarchal culture that treats women as objects of conquest with no valuable things to contribute to society of their own, and a lack of positive role models, be they adults or peers, to teach young men how wrong—no, more than wrong, completely fucked up—such a mindset is. And this really is nothing new. This desensitization and dehumanization was also at the root of the phenomena of lynchings being public spectacles in the American South in the first half of the 20th century, and daily outings to insane asylums as a source of amusement and ridicule in Victorian London. Most people would consider themselves more enlightened than those who perpetrated such incidents in the past, but when confronted with the Richmond rape case, they would probably say that it was a case of the onlookers being trapped and too afraid to take action for fear of reprisals, or worse, a case of “boys being boys.” What kind of enlightenment is THAT?!

And what continues to humble me about all this is that I’m still trapped within violence culture. I’m no saint and will never claim to being completely free of any sort of injustice, but this is something that strikes me particularly deeply. In response to a story like the Richmond rape case, my inner vigilante comes out and I start thinking things like, “God, I wish that girl would grab a knife and personally, publicly castrate every single one of her rapists.” But I’m saying this as someone who can’t even begin to fathom what that girl might actually feel like, and so by thinking such things while knowing admittedly very little about the situation, I’m falling victim to violence culture. Such vigilantist desires come out in me and others no doubt because we as a nation have lost faith in the concept of diplomacy as a deterrent to malevolent forces. I very much like the idea of sitting down for international diplomatic talks with Middle Eastern countries notorious for terrorism (but then again, I also like the idea in theory of 1,000-year-belated reparations for the Crusades, since those are what really started that whole mess in the first place) but it’s impossible to know how the leaders will react, and if they cooperate, nothing guarantees the disarmament of renegade terrorist groups. This is logic enough for right-wing hawks to claim to justify continued assaults with bombs, thereby continuing the cycle of violence, but diplomacy has largely become equated with “appeasement” and Neville Chamberlain’s fatal mistake towards dealing with Hitler—it’s a sad catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (I realize now that I’ve been switching scales dramatically in these last two paragraphs, but that’s as much a testament to the pervasiveness of violence culture as anything else, its ubiquity in microcosm as well as on a large scale.) Such vigilantist thoughts provoke great shame in me since I utterly abhor violence, yet some cases just seem too tragic and complicated for me to know how to deal with—such as how to deal with psychopathic serial killers. Negotiate with them and try to rehabilitate them? That’s often too risky as psychopaths are pathological liars. Imprison them? Easy enough, but that seems extremely unfair to put a serial killer in the same place as garden-variety robbers and other, more “harmless” criminals. Euthanize them? No, that would lead to witch-hunting and the execution of non-psychopaths who have only committed the “crime” of having an anomalous mental configuration. Or (in my most vigilantist mood) let the families of their victims kill them? No, that would satisfy temporary revenge but would undoubtedly leave even deeper scars than the ones they already have. Vigilantist thoughts are just as irrational to me as my former fears of psychopathy, but I can’t help being angry at stories of horrible crimes…I just wish I knew a way to be angry without spiraling off into immature revenge fantasies.

What’s more, I don’t know what the proper middle ground should be between the current deluge of violence culture and restriction thereof to the point of repressive censorship—that is to say, horrible things that happen in the news should not be withheld from the public so as to make them feel better, particularly when they could make a difference in the resolution of or recovery from such tragic events. But the degree to which tragedies are exploited in this nation is obscene. Even before I started having anxiety attacks, when I was working as an intern in a Senate office in the summer of 2008, right before I went off to Cornell, I was bombarded by information about the Caylee Anthony case on a nearly daily basis, and it just made me want to scream, “LEAVE THIS POOR FAMILY ALONE!!! They’ve gone through enough grief as it is, so don’t add exploitation on top of that!!” This pattern continued when I was at home on leave last year and I was subjected to similarly unnecessarily drawn-out news tragedies as I went to the health club frequently. Does every missing small child or young life tragically cut short have to become a cable news story for weeks, only dragging everyone who knew that person into further despair? (This has been going on for quite a while, actually, as when I was growing up and would constantly see blurry pictures of kids on TV who had been killed in school shootings or died in car crashes I internalized such images, and I still, unfortunately, have no trouble at all envisioning myself dying young.) My Springfield therapist and I have been talking for a while about getting together a survey of the psychological effects of violent and exploitative news stories on the public, but the problem is that I don’t want to sound like I advocate censorship. What I advocate is knowledge—as far as I’m concerned, violence is merely ignorance made manifest (I can’t think of a single act of violence that does not ultimately stem back to ignorance) and violence culture cannot be destroyed until ignorance is.

“These mist-covered mountains are a home now for me/But my home is the lowlands and always will be…” Mark Knopfler, in Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms”

Ithaca may have hills as opposed to mountains, and the rest of the song isn’t exactly pertinent to my life (although its titular album, by virtue of my having grown up with it, is my all-purpose comfort album for when I’m feeling low) but this particular line just resonates with me so, so much. Ever since I left Springfield to make Ithaca my home for most of the year, I’ve had a sense of having a split self. I really do feel equally at home in New York as I do in Illinois, and since while I wasn’t born in Springfield, I’d spent all of my life that I can remember—from the age of two—there, this is a very strange feeling to me. Everywhere I am I feel as if I’m longing for someone and something, yet for the most part I can find contentment in either of my homes. But there’s another dimension to it that I never would have expected: a lot of the time, I feel as if when I’m in one home, I have to be defending the other one to a certain extent.

I didn’t really like The Great Gatsby that much when I read it four years ago in my Am Lit class as a high school sophomore. I’ve never been a fan of Lost Generation literature in general, since so much of it seems to be so hedonistically numbing as to be practically soulless. And while I could wrap my head about the concept of Gatsby’s alienation as a (mid)Westerner who went East and watched his idealism die as the social elite refuse to accept him, at the time I thought it would never pertain to me since at the age of fifteen I was hell-bent on studying journalism at Northwestern. While I haven’t reread the book since—and I still don’t think I’d like the entire thing—now I finally understand why Gatsby was so shell-shocked. Coming to Cornell made me realize how sheltered my existence was up until then. Springfield is a very racially divided town (and while this was over 100 years ago, it was also the site of an infamous race riot that helped precipitate the creation of the NAACP) and prior to my going away to college, I had hardly any contact with black students and I didn’t know a single Hispanic. There were a fair number of Asians in town, many of whom were attracted by our medical schools, and I began to think more critically about racial differences as a Chinese girl became one of my best friends in high school. On the other side of the coin, I had hardly any exposure to upper-class whites—another one of my best friends comes from a very well-off family but is one of the most down-to-earth people imaginable. Cornell seemed worlds away from everything I’d known, and I suddenly was an anomaly among a sea of Northeasterners, with many international students and Californians as well.

I was entranced by this new diversity, but the unconscious prejudices that my hometown had instilled in me kept popping up at inconvenient moments. Even though my boyfriend and I have been together for nearly a year and a half now, when I first met him I worried that he was unattainable since I thought he was gay, when in fact he just rejects the trappings of traditional masculinity—a standpoint I’d rarely, if ever, seen in Springfield. Worse, when my anxiety issues started last year, one of my most tormenting thoughts was the notion of shouting out racial slurs to minorities, the thought of which made me writhe in anguish; undoubtedly this obsession was linked to my rather homogeneous upbringing. This caused me to take up a “Springfield has corrupted me!” polemic for a good while, and I couldn’t help comparing the community college at which I took classes during my leave to Cornell. It was surprisingly diverse for a small community college, and the students there were for the most part very polite to one another, but at the same time I ran up against people with beliefs that I found shockingly small-minded. (One notorious example came when discussing capital punishment in my ethics class, one student suggested, in apparent seriousness, that inmates ought to fight each other to the death, gladiator-style, on pay-per-view.) It was hard for me to keep these beliefs to myself, and I have gotten in trouble for them—when my boyfriend came to visit me last August and we took a train ride from Chicago to Springfield, I had a long talk with him about the love-hate relationship with my hometown, yet when we arrived, an indignant woman marched up to me and practically yelled at me for expressing what she saw as flagrant ignorance. This made me stammer and cry—I couldn’t believe she’d had the gall to call ME ignorant when she seemed rather provincial herself, and for commenting on a private conversation (although I do admit I have a loud voice). But now I’m starting to rethink that—I still think she was in the wrong for chastising me like that, but she was not completely without reason.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m caught in the middle of the culture wars, at least when it comes to regionalism. I’m equally offended when people refer to the Midwest as “flyover country” on one end of the spectrum and “real America” on the other. While Ithaca is no huge city, it’s nevertheless a bastion of Northeastern progressivism—a popular bumper sticker in the city reads “Ithaca: 10 Square Miles Surrounded By Reality”—and at times I’ve gotten so angry at the willful ignorance of right-wing populist movements that I almost want to run around wearing a shirt that says “Proud Ivy League Liberal Elitist.” But really, that’s just one of my irrational spite-thoughts—I’m really neither a populist nor an elitist, and I’m extremely skeptical of pride in the sense of tribalism. But what does that make me? When I’m in Ithaca and people ask where I’m from—and nearly everyone asks if I’m from Chicago when I say “Illinois;” I have nothing against Chicago and find it a secondary home of sorts, but that’s by no means where I’m from—I try my hardest to make my hometown not sound like the middle of nowhere/Podunk/boring, while when I’m in Springfield and people ask where I go to college, I have to talk about my adopted town in such a way that I don’t sound condescending. It’s a delicate balance, and I’ve still got a LONG way to go.

What Mark Knopfler was singing about in my quote from the beginning is no matter where you go or wind up settling down, you always carry a piece of your hometown with you whether you like it or not. Despite all I have to criticize about it, I really can’t hate Springfield, as there’s so much of me in it. I’m still in the process of making peace with Springfield, and making myself feel like more a part of Ithaca. And while I understand why people generally go to college near where they grew up (I absolutely loathe flying, as much as I like the Northeast), what I wish is that more people would have that wanderlust, if not in college then later, and try life in a part of the country unlike your own, so that you step outside your comfort zone and see how other people live. Plenty of non-Northeasterners go to Ivies, but how about Northeasterners going to Wash U or Northwestern, Duke or Rice, Stanford or Berkeley? Or go to a state school or community college—the classes I took back in Springfield were as challenging as anything I’d ever taken, and forever shattered my perception of and prejudices toward community colleges. Travel. Learn. Listen. We won’t bridge the gap created by the culture wars overnight, but we can start. We can’t afford another Lost Generation.

NOTE: This was originally published on March 30, 2010, on my old URL—I’ve fixed it now.

Well, I guess I’m doing a blog again. This should be interesting.

Most of the blog-things I’ve done in the past were some attempt at a personal journal that were aborted either because creeps were creeping about, or I just couldn’t be bothered to maintain it. I know I have some of my old blogs of such a nature floating about the Internet, and make me cringe with their pubescent hyperbole. Oh well.

What makes this one different is that although I’ll be talking about myself from time to time here, it won’t be in any kind of explicit personal detail—that I reserve for my handwritten journal. I’ve been keeping a handwritten journal for nearly a year now, and I’m very proud of both that and the fact that I’m now on my third notebook after having already filled up two. But I’ve been wanting to write a lot of things as well about my general thoughts on the world that would seem far too self-indulgent for my journal, especially when they affect my life indirectly rather than directly but still stir strong emotions in me. Enter the blog.

The name of my blog may seem a little strange, but it does have personal significance to me. As I have what’s known as Pure-O OCD, I am prone to having bizarre, surreal thoughts, and a common theme for me since I started treatment for it last year (at which time I also started my handwritten journal) is the image of blood as ink. When I write, I do in a sense feel like I am draining tension from my blood, not blood-“letting” so to speak, but letting what poison there may be out of my body…alas, I have not yet written with a proper ink pen! Ink, to me, then, symbolizes passion, and is more appropriate and less violent of a metaphor to a writer than blood. The ink concept also ties into language, one of my chief passions along with music, and I hope to devote much of this blog to the intersection of language and social justice movements, particularly feminism and neurodiversity advocacy. That has stirred a lot of thought in me that occasionally does trouble me when I let it stew, but it helps to talk about it—yet I can’t always have that, so this will be my “screen therapist” at times, just as I call my handwritten journal my “paper therapist.” Even so, I hope to write about things that are relevant to the world at large and not just navel-gazing—in the next few days, I hope to write about the problem with pronouns, throwing rocks (metaphorically, of course—I prefer my revolutions from the inside out) at the Powers That Be, and a little something I like to call the “Gatsby Effect.”

I hope to express what “ink” has been flowing about in my mind through this blog, and I hope there are others out there who appreciate it!

NOTE: This was originally published on March 25, 2010 as part of my old URL. I’ve fixed it now.