On One Hand

December 31, 2007

Enough already!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:36 pm
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I’ve seen enough poll findings, online questionnaires, Facebook forums, and stupid comments about the ability of a black person, a “Muslim,” or a woman to be president of the United States. Here’s how I would like to see that question asked.

December 30, 2007

New Years’ Resolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:25 pm

When I talk about myself, it’s not because I think I’m that interesting. I talk about myself because I’m looking for input. I just want to figure myself out. I want to understand why I’m me and everyone else is everyone else, or why I have experienced what I have experienced and why everyone else’s experiences have been so comparatively different than my own. It might be a fallacy of subjectivity, but I think people talk to me for about ten seconds before they put me in a separate category. I want to know what that difference is – is it differences I chose or differences I just have? I don’t think I’ve had it worse than anyone else; it has all just been really different, often harder, sometimes easier, but mostly just different.

When am I going to fucking figure it out? I am 22 years old. You’ll say that life is a continuous process of figuring out who you are, and no one ever really comes to the answer, they just peel away the layers of an endless onion that continues to grow from the center. But eventually I’ll be working a career and raising children, and I won’t have time to constantly ask myself who I am; I’m going to need to focus on other things. So if I don’t come up with a working theory soon (and by “working” I mean, still in the process of figuring it out, but good enough for now), I’m going to delay my coming to maturity.

Somewhere along the line, I became extremely fucking competitive. I don’t know how; when I was a kid, I said I hated sports because it entailed mean-spirited competitiveness, and wondered why people couldn’t just get along. That’s when I was getting black eyes and bruises at school, so perhaps that instilled something in me – a sense that something was fundementally lacking and I’d need to compensate in other ways – so by the time I realized I could actually hold my own in a social situation if I just quit acting afraid, I was so self-evaluating that I had no choice but to try to pull ahead. Maybe. Or it could have been the fact that I grew up hearing that my IQ (whatever that is) was so far above average that performing similarly to my peers would actually be a pathetic faliure – yet somehow that only really hit me after coming to college. Maybe. All I know is that these last few years I’ve found myself to be concerned with being the best at everything and constantly compare my own success to the successes of other people.

My New Years Resolutions are this; to make friends for who they are rather than what they mean, and just trying to appreciate people as people. To stop (as much as is possible) comparing myself to other people, especially men, especially men who have the same interests or talents that I have. To stop trying to figure myself out and just be in the world with all the mysteries and intracacies of identity.

I spend so much time thinking and working on ethics, and in relationships, I wonder what it means when a person has different ethics than me. Should I be vegan or is vegetarian OK; what should be my attitude towards someone who has no problems with eating meat, or justifies it with what I consider to be weak or offensive moral arguments? Could I date or love someone who has different politics because they have different views about the poor, women, or racial minorities? Am I making every effort I possibly can to accomodate this person and forgive him or her for actions and choices he can’t control or doesn’t fully understand? Am I taking every possible opportunity to forgive and act out of compassion rather than emotions? Can I or should I fall in love with a person who doesn’t express that same compassion or understanding towards others – or do I assume that if he or she can’t be kind to everyone, he or she will eventually be just as intolerant towards me?

It’s such a perrenial dillema. It may seem closed-minded that I suggest I need someone to think like me to fall in love, but consider this: could you fall in love with someone who is openly racist? Who is openly sexist? If you are heterosexual, but have gay friends, would you date someone who doesn’t respect gays and lesbians? Could you date someone who thinks that non-Christians go to hell or says he or she would never be friends with a Muslim? We say we can tolerate differences, but these things are often just crossing the line; they indicate that the person we are talking to has fundemental differences in life philosophy, and could never fully respect our views.

For example, I was talking to a guy I was very interested in, who told me he supports Hillary but hates her healthcare plan because it “isn’t fair that just because I can afford to go to college I have to give up my money to pay for the healthcare of someone who doesn’t have it.” He explained, “the facts of life are, if you can’t afford health care, you don’t get it. Just because I went to college and someone else didn’t doesn’t mean its my job to pay when he gets cancer if the best he can do is work at McDonald’s.” He also opposed Social Security because he doesn’t want to pay for some “old bitches” to “live longer than their use.” It was patently offensive, but my feeling is that a majority of Americans would express this kind of attitude on some issue, if given the chance. We got along when it came to most conversations, and when we talked about politics, the focus was usually on social issues, on which we agreed since we were both gay. But this difference was a red flag. Would it indicate that he wouldn’t have the proper feelings towards me when I’m in a time of crisis? Who knows. But if I excluded any romantic interest who made some forehead-smacking comment resembling that, I’d have a pathetic few left to choose from.

One of my resolutions is going to be to try to make less of those differences. It’s a conclusion based on practicality, not on what I think is right; I can’t deal with these differences anymore. It would be my dream to find a cute vegetarian who beleives in giving people every benefit of every doubt and negotiated life on my level; there would be no doubt we understood each other and were truly peers. But that isn’t going to happen. People don’t feel good when I conspicuously disagree with their attitutes about something, and it reflects poorly on me.

December 28, 2007

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December 27, 2007

2 girls 1 cup

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:32 pm
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It has come to my attention that many of you have not yet come to experience the joy that is 2 girls 1 cup. Those who know are asked not to spoil the secret, but if you don’t, this might give you an idea about what we’re talking about:

2 Girls 1 Cup reaction #1

REACTION 2 (Grandma watches 2 girls 1 cup)

REACTION 3 (a second attempt to get through the whole thing)

I suppose you might want to know what all this is about…

the REAL 2 Girls 1 Cup!!! (not safe for work)

Extra credit if you videotape yourself watching it.

I showed my dad some of the above reaction videos, posted throughout the years on YouTube and other sites, and he couldn’t help himself but to load the actual clip to see what everyone was freaking out about. My mom looked on from the couch, knitting, and said “I’m not dumb enough to look at that.” But while my dad covered his eyes, howled and fled the room, my mom calmly muttered, “that’s not real poop.”

An hour later my mom started talking about how the video showed how far our society has decayed and that she can’t beleive I would know about such a thing. “Nobody else knows about that,” she insisted, “maybe YOUR friends would but nobody sane would know about that thing and pass it on.”

Being as it was Christmas, and since he is nearly as obnoxious as I am, my dad showed my grandfather the reaction videos and, ultimately, the de-facto 2 girls 1 cup. My grandpa, a 67-year-old, 30-year military veteran who was once stationed in Southeast Asia, and his son-in-law, also a career military man, stared at it and laughed for the full 2 minutes without looking away. My dad said he was shocked that they could get through the whole thing. When it was done, my grandpa looked up and explained, “what you don’t realize is that we’ve been to Thailand.”

The next day we were seeing more family, and my mom, thinking it was an inside joke, mentioned 2 girls 1 cup. Three of my cousins, aged 14, 15, and 16, simultaneously screamed. It eventually led to more aunts and uncles watching 2 girls 1 cup. But one of the boys insists that he knows of a video online that is “much, much worse.”

I bring you this because 2 girls 1 cup has been the overriding theme of Christmas 2007. Happy holidays!

December 22, 2007

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December 18, 2007

1/1000

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:08 pm

If I get the grades I think I will get this semester, I will be 1/1000th of a point from qualifying for honors.

1/1000th. Yes. This is not the Olympics, but 1/1000th of a point still counts.

All those years not caring about grades have come back to haunt me. I’m working extra hard to get As in difficult classes to make up for getting Bs in easy classes three years ago when I wasn’t trying. Most grad schools require a 3.3 (which I have), but I want to be able to get into a good one.

If I hadn’t been on the student newspaper for 3 semesters, I would have already qualified for honors and would not have had any problem getting into graduate school. The paper required about 15 hours a week of work and I just didn’t have time for that, what with other classes, my job, and other internships. I figured it was still wise to stay on the student paper in spite of some bad grades I was getting there, because I was getting published clips. But once I worked for the Daily Camera, there wasn’t even room for the Campus Press on my resume anymore. (Nobody even knows what the Campus Press is, and an Online-only student paper doesn’t look like anything compared to the Camera, with a print circulation of 30,000). Meanwhile, the student paper’s credits offered NO progress towards my degree, and in the mean time it taxed me to the point where my grades in all my other classes dropped.

Meh, live and learn.

When I was 9 years old, my two educational goals were this: 1 Go to Harvard. 2 Get a scholarship. They were not necessarily in conjunction with each other; I could get a scholarship before or after going to Harvard, or could go to Harvard before or after getting a scholarship.

I got a scholarship my freshman year at CU, and never applied for a scholarship again because I realized other people actually need scholarships while, for me, in-state tuition wasn’t that hard to pay up. So, check one for meeting the goal of getting a scholarship.

So much for my Christianity and Culture class… I did the best I could, but the odds were stacked against me; apparently I misread the syllabus and wrote my first essay on the wrong topic. I was supposed to compare an item on a list of texts discussing theoretical models for looking at religious studies to a “course text” NOT on the list, but I compared it to a text ON the list. The syllabus didn’t say that the comparing model couldn’t be on the list, but it said compare it to one of the “course texts,” and I am now of the understanding that nothing on the list counts as a “course text.” The teacher had to dock my grade because, she explained, “none of the other students did that, so apparently it was clear enough for them.” I got a C on the paper, so an A in the class is probably out of range. The teacher graciously offered me a chance to re-do the essay, but since I didn’t get the graded paper back to know there was any problem until this Friday, and already had 3 15-page essays to write by the following Thursday, there was no chance I could re-write it by today, when it was due.

Ironically, my Christianity and Culture professor is from Harvard. There is an agreement amongst the graduate students that Harvard people are anal retentive, and also elitist. Harvard is not on my list of educational goals anymore. It’s weird, though, to actually know there is something I don’t academically qualify for, that is to say, essentially, I’m not smart enough to do it. I’ve never been told I’m not smart enough for anything, except by the 19-year-old news editors at the Campus Press, and by my ex boyfriend Garrett, who said I had “problems with logic and reasoning skills.”

Which was cute. Because this was the kid who thought I was “closed minded” when I didn’t believe that the President of the United States has the power to dissolve congress. “The media doesn’t tell you all the shit that’s going on!” he told me. “Unconstitutional? Where have you been!? Everything the government does is unconstitutional!!”

I have, however, decided that I really like the graduate students in Religious Studies at CU.

Religious Studies graduate students:
MOST likely of students in any graduate department to be vegetarian. (I’ve counted about 55% to be vegetarians)
Also, MOST likely to smoke organic cigarettes. It’s cute; you aren’t health-conscious enough to stop smoking, but you are environmentally-conscious enough to buy organic.

Well…

Oh God, if I can’t go to Harvard…what if my soul mate goes to Harvard!? How would I ever meet him!?

*Ahem.*

Everything the government does is unconstitutional!” Heh. I miss hearing those rants.

I googled that phrase, to see if it was ever before uttered by human lips. I got a 70 percent match; HERE, titled “Why almost everything the Federal Goverment [sic] does is unconstitutional” on a website by a libertarian. Libertarians – yes – my thoughts exactly.

So, 1/1000th of a point, and I’m trying extra hard to make that projected A- into a projected A to bump me into where I want to go. If I do that, my 1/1000-of-a-point GPA shortfall becomes a 4/1000-of-a-point GPA surpluss. It’s funny how small a difference single grade makes when you have more than 140 credits. If I could just get rid of those Cs I got in the Campus Press

meh. Live and learn…

December 16, 2007

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December 14, 2007

Sex Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:55 pm

One of my posts here about sex and gender sparked a bit of controversy, but I’ve taken some time to process it in my head and I think I have a clearer explanation of my views on the matter.

First and foremost, I think the “straight guy allure” (which is the fact that gay men often fetishise heterosexual guys) is more about gender than it is about sexual orientation. Gay men see other gay men as not-quite-completely male, but since they are attracted to a man and the idea of manliness, are turned on by a straight guy because the heterosexual is unquestionably completely male and manly. The method by which a person’s basic homosexual disposition is translated into a desire for specific “manliness” in what would otherwise be a broad and general definition of “male” is entirely culturally constructed; we are grown and raised to determine that men are not valued or powerful simply as men, but are instead valued and powerful as masculine men, so a person having having a basic biological attraction to males will add the cultural component of preferring men who are masculine. Here, “masculine” can be a broad variety of things, but heterosexuality is a necessary component.

I have to admit that I have experienced the “straight guy allure” before, but I try not to. At its core, it is queer-phobic and homophobic. The idea is that a man needs to have sex with a woman to validate his maleness; if he has sex with men only, he has not fully achieved credentials as male. That is why why bisexual guys are also considered sexy and alluring in the gay scene. It’s also why gay men who are exclusively attracted to men will sometimes outwardly present an “occasional attraction to a woman,” which, though unconsummated and unverifiable, is thought to make one more sexually potent and alluring. It’s ironic that, while our culture considers “man” and “woman” to be essential, unchanging qualities (while they are actually cultural constructions), masculinity is NOT essential and must be continually proved, in this case by desiring women.

I also continue to vehemently disagree with attitudes in the gay community that gay men are only effeminate because they are trying to live up to stereotypes, or that men are more “natural” when they are more “masculine.” Masculinity, like everything else here, is a social construction, and it comes at a detriment to gender-queer people who do not function under a completely-male or completely-female role. It ultimately comes back to our culturally-constructed idea that masculinity must be constantly proved; an effeminate gay man does not perform his male duty of proving his masculinity to other gay men, ergo is inferior. It is strange that men who constantly criticize and condemn other effeminate men by one standard are often, ironically, themselves somehow effeminate by a different measure; (say, one is effeminate because he lisps, the other does not but is effeminate because he shaves his body hair) leading me to speculate that there is always a self-loathing or nervous gender-maintenance element involved when men conspicuously point out effeminate behaviors that they do not like in others.

I do understand the attraction to masculinity, and find myself socializing more easily and more fluidly if I present myself in a masculine way. I used to be afraid to be masculine because I associated it with homophobia, and now I do not. But though I think there is room for the “masculine” gay man, too, I think the message should be that we should respect and appreciate a diversity of gender presentations, rather than criticizing those who are effeminate. That includes even presentations to the greater culture; effeminate gay men in movies are not “misrepresentations” but are good for society because they challenge gender roles. And yes, conspicuously pointing out that you are un-attracted to effeminate guys counts as criticism.

Now, speaking of anal sex, which I will complain about from time to time (since it really isn’t my thing), I have to wonder if here, too, there is a gender element at play. Does a gay man who does not have sex with women instead “prove” his masculinity (or his partner’s masculinity) by being in a penetrative sexual role? This is ironic, because while anal sex is here celebrated because penetration is a vital component of masculinity, anal sex is also deeply criticized by the greater society because being penetrated is a vital component of femininity. The person who is being penetrated, though wanting to be masculine, temporarily suspends this desire in order to celebrate the masculinity of his penetrative partner, who he also desires to be masculine; the penetrated partner is sexually aroused by the masculine-ness of his penetrative partner. Anal sex is necessary as the primary definition of “sex” when neither partner can conceive of a sexual encounter in which ultimate masculinity is proved or expressed in other ways than penetration. In this case the gender dynamics are so complex that I can’t justify the critique of people who like anal sex as being inherently mysogynistic; instead I’ll say, if it works for you, good for you.

I do think that a male who performs/receives anal sex, for whatever reason, sometimes experiences some degree of self-questioning when it comes to his challenged masculinity, which leads to a variety of intolerant attitudes towards the sexual behavior of others.

First, and most obvious, a person who is always the penetrative partner will vehemently refuse to be the penetrated partner fearing his masculinity would be challenged. The fact that unwavering “tops” act ashamed and secretive about the few times they have “bottomed” indicates that their sexual choices have more to do with social identity and gender-maintenance than actual physiological preference about what “feels good” to them.

Second, a person who actively performs same-sex anal sex and feels insecure about it will want to encourage others to do the same thing to shore up doubts that he is an an anomaly. This leads to intolerant attitudes towards gay men who do not like anal sex, do not do it “the right way,” or insist on using condoms, et cetera.

Third, a gay man who is ashamed of performing anal sex because it is effeminate (or dirty) may have strong negative attitudes towards men who do it openly or do it more often, leading to moral condemnations of promiscuity or general negative assumptions about gay men who have HIV. My experience, though anecdotal, is that men who don’t have a lot of anal sex aren’t necessarily offended that others do.

That doesn’t quite answer my question wondering how anal sex became so ubiquitous in the American gay world in the first place. Homosexual communities, barring a “gay” identity, have existed in all human cultures past and present, and by no means are universal in expressing themselves sexually through anal sex. In the United States there is a strange feticization of anal sex, or a presumption that it is the main definition of “gay sex” and that other forms of sexual expression are some kind of modified homosexual sex. I take strong issue with that.

I explain this by my previous argument that our greater culture considers penetration to be a more vital component of masculinity than other cultures do. A person who wants his partner to be masculine will want to be penetrated and a person who wants himself to be masculine will want to penetrate. I am not arguing that this is the only reason why people have anal sex, but I will argue that it is why anal sex has become near-ubiquitous or culturally near-ubiquitous compared to other gay communities in other historical eras or societies, or why anal sex is seen as ubiquitous even if it does not reflect what individuals are doing.

December 13, 2007

Weird Campaign Video

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“jhalak dikhla ja ek bar aja aja aja aja aaaaa”

December 12, 2007

Is it OK to eat “humane” meat?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 10:18 pm
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According to two commentators writing for Satya magazine, an environmental and animal-rights periodical, even “humanely” raised meat is unethical for humans to buy and consume under normal circumstances.

Lori Bauston, co-founder of a farm sanctuary in Southern California, explained that cruelty is an intrinsic factor in the production of meat, because even when animals are treated well, killing them is inhumane. But her statement of belief leaves room to support euthanasia of animals that are suffering, and also concedes that, while all killing for food is ethically problematic, well-treated animals raised outside pens and cages represent a mildly better scenario than other circumstances.

For background: almost all commercially-raised animals (and therefore almost all the meat you’ve ever bought in a store or restaraunt) come from “factory farms,” where animals are raised for meat as efficiently as possible. Pigs and chickens are confined to small pens their whole lives, and are forced to constantly live and stand in their own feces. Cows are confined in bigger pens and are only moved into small, standing-only pens only to be fattened up in the months before slaughter. Most factory farmed animals are kept in warehouses and will never see sunlight, and many of them die of infections because of overcrowding and their cramped conditions (or are fed antibiotics to keep them alive, which leads to human health issues when diseases develop a resistance to all the antibiotics introduced into the environment). The animals’ bodies are sprayed with incecticides to kill flies and fleas, which causes pain, irritation and health problems. Laws protecting pets would make this treatment of dogs or cats illegal anywhere in the country, but among farmed animals it is nearly universal. “Humane” farms, though rare, try to prevent some of these problems by ensuring that animals are allowed to stand, walk or even graze, are allowed to socialize with other animals, and are killed in the least-painful ways technelogically available.

But James LaVeck, who focuses on the economic and political aspects of the “humane meat” industry, gives companies marketing “humane” meat special criticism. His key term is “exploitation,” and his essay explains that the concept of kindly-killed animals exploits not only the animals but also the good intentions of consumers who think they are in the clear because the animals they are eating were not factory farmed.

LaVeck specifically discusses Whole Foods, a grocery store chain that markets to health and eco-conscious shoppers, but still carries meat and veal because of consumer demand. He compares the marketing strategy to that of “organic” foods, which became popular riding a wave of environmental idealism but are ultimately not much better than any other food because, as they increased in popularity, the standards that agricultural products were required to fulfill to be considered “organic” were drastically watered down.

The other side of this argument would come from Whole Foods company itself, along with countless other producers and consumers of non-factory-farmed meat. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, subscribes to the philosophy that doing a little bit to solve a problem is a reasonable alternative to solving it completely.

Though Whole Foods sells meat that runs the gamut in its production methods, Mackey can justify facilitating the sale of meat by pointing out how, unlike most other grocery stores, Whole Foods offers an abundance of free-range and vegetarian alternatives to factory farmed meat.

When faced with contrasting moral perspectives, Americans tend to seek the “middle ground” as a reasonable default; without the time or ability to pursue every moral or ethical dilemma to its fullest, they assume that a moderate approach will achieve the best of both worlds. Mackey and other proponents of non-factory-farmed meat products fall into a category that the majority of Americans would fall into – which is those who care about the welfare of animals and don’t want to see them suffer, but also consider meat consumption necessary or beneficial overall, so will justify their behavior on the assumption that things were once, or could have been, much worse.

To me, “it could have been worse” seems to be a weak justification for any ethical argument. Certainly there are situations in which one can minimalize harm but never reasonably eliminate it – but this is not one of those situations. Eating meat as food is neither necessary toward feeding human populations, nor significantly beneficial to their health, to justify the suffering and killing of animals – even if said animals grew up and lived outside and were killed in relatively “painless” ways. Indeed, the increased consumption of natural resources required to produce meat over plant foods, combined with the public health problems associated with a culture that eats too much meat, indicate that there is little contrasting interest to balance the ethical problems that killing animals entails.

I have been a vegetarian for five years, and am not likely to change that decision in response to an argument that eating less meat or a different kind of meat is “already doing enough.” As far as I am concerned, all meat available for consumption anywhere comes from an animal that was better off living than dead. I do think there is room to consider humane production techniques for animal food products that do not involve killing an animal, but this is obviously not a possibility when it comes to meat. There is another argument that animals produced commercially would never have been born at all if it weren’t for their usefulness as food, and if they are treated decently in life, it is OK to kill and eat them because some life is better than no life. Again, this argument is weak to me, because if our concern were really to celebrate the existence of a life before we eat it, we would be better off letting those farmed lands naturalize to celebrate the existence of wild birds, wild deer, wild coyotes and prairie dogs that existed on the land before it was fenced for domestic cows or pigs.

Here’s a bigger, more nuanced issue that vegetarians face: if I’m at a dinner party and someone else is serving meat, can I eat it? Or if I accidentally order food that happens to have meat in it, do I have to throw it away? Those are cases when the animal has already been killed, purchased and served; refusing it only causes it to go to waste. Turning to a developed ethical system that serves as a model, Buddhist monks who do not support the killing of animals will eat whatever food is donated to them, even if it is meat. I personally don’t think there is anything unethical about eating meat in that situation; as long as one is consistent, one has eliminated one’s own contribution to the mistreatment and killing of animals without having to be rude or having the inconvenience of going hungry. Some people may find it easier to simply boycott meat sold in stores and restaraunts than to actually become “vegetarian.” However, I don’t eat meat even in this situation, because it’s easier for me to just refuse meat completely. Vegetarians usually lose their taste for meat a few months after they stop eating it, which makes it easier to turn it down or avoid buying it. I don’t want to re-discover a taste for it, and I certainly don’t want to get sick from eating meat for the first time in several years.

I also find it to be a useful political tool to politely ask for vegetarian options at a store or restaraunt, or ask if ambiguously-labeled dishes have meat in them. It is a good way to let businesses know that there is a demand for vegetarian food, but in a non-confrontational way. When vegetarian options are offered, even non-vegetarians will often choose them, decreasing the overall demand for meat which leads to a decrease production and a decrease in animal suffering.

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