Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Should feminists marry?

[A Practical Wedding has the best information on marriage and wedding that is sane, true and balanced for a multitude of opinions and lifestyles. They are awesome. For many quality posts on feminism, check this out: 'feminism' keyword search]

My opinion on the institution of marriage has gone all over the place the last few years, from believing it is instituted by God with specific duties for husband and wife, to all but opposing it, and now I think I've settled on a final opinion.

This is important to talk about, because as modern-day feminists, we can feel like sell outs if we do decide we want to marry. And that's totally legitimate. I want to share why I think marriage is ok, even for the feminist.

A funny thing happens when you break away from religion--or at least the very negative parts of religions: freedom. You are free to investigate, learn and decide based on evidence and your own preferences. There's no one telling you what to do. You have to make your own decisions. It's very exciting, but scary because there's no cookie cutter road map of How to Live anymore.

Marriage has a rather disgusting history for the most part. The religious right currently likes to pretend that marriage is one man, one woman and has always been that way. But that's just not true.

Even when marriage is for one man and one woman, historically women were traded as property, a servant forever dependent on some man to provide for her. In any culture, before effective birth control came to be, a sexually active woman was guaranteed a life of housework and childrearing. How could there be any time for any further pursuit?

Thankfully, things have changed. Nowadays women can (in most modernized countries) do and be anything they want, for the most part. Unless, of course, fanatical politicians succeed in making abortion and birth control illegal, but let's set that aside as I am talking in huge generalities here.

My point being: in a free society, marriage is what YOU make of it. It can be a religious marriage. A childfree marriage. A same-sex marriage. A polygamous marriage. An "open" marriage. Whatever.

Marriage has been many things and will continue to be many more things because it evolves with people and their cultures. What it boils down to is that marriage is an agreement between 2 (or 3, 4, 10...) consenting adults, and each marriage is different because the people are different. What other people do in their marriage has no effect on you and yours, nor does what has happened in the past concerning marriage define yours. We are free to make our own rules. I think marriage is basically a legal and/or relational contract between consenting adults, and what that contract contains is up to them to define.

There are several aspects of marriage: legal, spiritual (if you're religious) and what I call relational (if you're not religious). Let's set aside spiritual marriage for obvious reasons. Relational marriage is defined by the individual relationship; for example, I feel and behave as if I am married, and I frequently call my partner "husband", because we completely share our lives together and are completely committed to being together. To me, that's my marriage. It's an agreement between ourselves and what makes us happy. I know several other couples like us, and I'm sure you do too. You don't have to be legally married to be married in your heart (i.e., emotionally). This relational marriage is what's most important, I think, as marriage really only takes place between the people in the relationship. I don't have to use the word married to describe my relationship, but sometimes I do, because that's what it feels like to us; we have reached that level of happiness and commitment and neither of us plans on going anywhere.

I also don't believe marriage is till death to us part, unless you want it to be. I will only stay married as long as I am happy and the relationship is healthy; if it ceases to be both of those things, I will no longer be committed to it for my own sake, and I extend the same courtesy to him if he is not happy and healthy. When I was at Catholic Pre Cana, the hostess said that, "Marriage is like this big, beautiful house that has all these really cool rooms... but once you go in, you can't ever leave that house." I beg to differ! I see no point in voluntarily suffering. When that house is rotting and unfixable, leave.

Legally, of course, can be the can of worms everyone is worried about. It is a risk, yes, and it's not for everyone. Personally, it's right in my situation because 1) I have a high level of trust and love for him, 2) I'm comfortable with this risk because of #1, and 3) I have a batshit crazy family and don't want them to have control over my assets should something happen to me. #3 is what is really behind my making my marriage legal. BTW, this is NOT to say that because someone doesn't get married that they don't love and trust their partner. It's just that because of my family, his fairly dangerous job, and our level of commitment, that I'm ok with making it legal.

Originally I was going to do all the necessary paperwork to make him my beneficiary, and medical power of attorney, etc, but when I looked into the legal forms it made my head spin. The laws are crazy, and they're so different for each state. I would have had to hire a lawyer to make sense of it all. And guys, I'm lazy. I realized that I was committed to spending the rest of my life with him anyway, and marriage is just easier because it does all that crap in one fell swoop and is recognized in all states. Plus, we get tax and health insurance benefits. That process gave me much more empathy with my same-sex brothers and sisters who are in my position, and are pointlessly denied their rights to do so.

For this feminist, marriage is a good choice. My partner and I get to define what marriage is to us, and we will not stay married if we are unhappy and so will never be trapped. It is an equal partnership and a mutually beneficial one. There are financial risks if things don't work out but I am well aware of them, and I'm comfortable making things legal because I strongly believe I know who he is and who I am and that we are a good fit for life. The benefits outweigh the risks. Obviously, it's taken years for me to get to this point with myself and with him, as it should. We are old enough to be settled into who we are and our beliefs and habits, and ready for one life partner.

After my first marriage, I vowed against being in a relationship ever again because they completely took away your freedom. And don't misunderstand--being single is awesome and you are more free single than you are in a relationship. But I've found someone who makes my life better when I'm with him than when I'm single, and I loved being single! It's a conscious choice that I made, and re make every day, to give up some freedom for the benefit of my life partner.

This has been incredibly long and for that I'm sorry, but I hope it helps my fellow feminists, or any person struggling with the question of marriage, see that marriage can be a good, and happy thing (officially legal or not!), when freely undertaken with someone right for you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Then why call him God?

Oh, man. What a past few months it's been. I am still here. I have not forgotten about my blog! I've been extremely busy! It's getting better. I'll post more soon, but want to share this gem:

Isn't that the truth? It really is the quick and easy guide to God. I know, I know, logic hurts. It's painful, but it's gotta be done. Theists will go down the arguments in this chart, and conclude that "God works in mysterious ways." Well, that's just bullshit. If he is almighty, all knowing and all good, working mysteriously serves no point. It is just a cop out that theists give God; they try to pretend that all the pain and suffering is part of a Master Plan. God is all knowing, all powerful and all good? Ok, fine. Take a look at this picture:

Look at it. Really look at it. If you are a theist, understand that the God you believe in sees this too. He knows about it, and all the other horrors of the world.

He sees this too. He knows about it, and he can change it, but he doesn't. He is so powerful and so loving, that he does nothing.

If he was lonely and created us, he could have made us to be completely perfect. He could have designed the world in any number of ways that would have not made suffering and evil possible. If you had the power God has, wouldn't you abolish suffering? Or would you keep it around, just to be mysterious, because it works into some nebulous Master Plan concept?

If that's God's plan, it sucks. I don't care how powerful and loving he is--if this is the best he can do, God is either not very powerful or a complete sadistic asshole. Under what circumstances is it ok to allow these things to occur? None.

If there were a man who knew about his child being repeatedly stabbed, for example, and this man could put a stop to the stabbing and immediately heal all his wounds, but he just... didn't... we would be outraged. The morality is the same. God doesn't get his own custom morality unless you want to believe that morality is relative. But since God's law is eternal, unchanging and just, I doubt many theists believe that morality is relative (and for the record, I don't either, but for different reasons).

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.
Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?
- Epicurus

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You're so vain, you probably think this post is about you

If you haven't heard about the Samantha Brick debacle, you should. That shit is hilarious. I apologize in advantage for indulging in some "celebrity" trash.

I am not one to downplay anyone's beauty--I am regularly teased for finding people pretty when others do not--but come on, Ms. Brick! In the pictures I've seen you range from pretty to pretty average. I think what makes you lose friends is your unbelievable arrogance. I have friends more beautiful than I, and I am more beautiful than some of my friends... that's very normal. But never has there been any difference in the way I've been treated, or the way I treat my friends, nor have I ever even heard of the catfighting that you describe. My friends trust me, and I trust them! I can't even crack a joke about American girls vs. British girls, because there are some damn hot English chicks out there.

I can't imagine the balls to be so wonderfully average, and to agree to have an article published about it! And did you seriously just compare yourself to Angelina Jolie?! What the fuck are you smoking?!!

I don't care if you are physically more attractive or less than I am, and I don't think most women do either. Even if you were the most gorgeous woman in the world, this arrogance, so amazingly public, would be ugly. But it sure does make it funny when you are pretty average!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Death is the departure of the soul, or is it?

My mother once defined death as that moment when the soul is ready to depart this world.

There are probably millions who would agree with this, but do you know how ridiculous that idea is? Let's run down the top 10 causes of death (in the U.S.):

1. Diseases of heart.
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer, tumors, growths).
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases.
4. Cerebrovascular diseases (limited or no blood flow to the brain, such as a stroke).
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries).
6. Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Diabetes mellitus.
8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (disorders of the kidneys).
9. Influenza and pneumonia.
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide).

This is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), published January 11, 2012 of the 2010 National Vital Statistics Reports.

Do you notice a pattern? In all instances of death, to explain it very broadly, there is a dysfunction or cessation of a biological process. If these biological causes are in fact results from the soul choosing to "meet its Maker", then why are not all the causes the same? Wouldn't it make more sense that only one cause would happen, over and over? But I think it would make the most sense that there were no biological causes at all, and death was spontaneous, random and without an external effect. What care would the soul have if it left the body because of heart disease, or because of kidney failure? There is no purpose for a spiritual entity to have any concern with a biological cause of death. That would be like my houseplant caring about what kind of car I drove!

If death is a result of the soul leaving the body, then we can easily conclude that the soul or its departure has some kind of connection to biological processes, since 100% of the time, a biological process failure also occurs at death. The goal then becomes to establish the connection between the soul and the body. How does one do that? This is where we find the problem. There is no evidence, no footprint, residue or trace elements left behind to examine. The soul can't be touched, smelled, seen, tasted or heard. It can't be examined, tested, observed. Why? Because we cannot find it! It is nowhere. It is invisible, intangible, inaudible. There is no essence or substance that we can grab onto. We are assured very much of its existence, but we have to take it on faith. Conveniently, the only experience we will have with being just a soul won't happen until after we die, after we are gone, and only when it is no longer possible to communicate with those still living a physical existence.

Theists don't see this as a problem. Of course the soul is intangible and invisible! The spiritual plane is a separate (but parallel) universe to our visible, physical plane. Just like God. We have to take it on faith that all these claims are true, because the tradition of the religion, the church elders and doctrines, and the religious texts say so--human expressions, all of them. If God and the soul are these invisible puppeteers behind the scenes, how can I possibly distinguish between their completely invisible/intangible/inaudible existence, and their non-existence? I can't! There's no possible way, except for "faith". Faith is poetically defined as hope in things unseen, but I define it as belief in things without any reason.

If you are a reader of this blog, you know where I am going with this. If I can't distinguish between a thing's non-existence and a thing's invisible/intangible/inaudible existence, then that thing is completely meaningless. It is completely pointless. It is a belief that exists only in our heads--oh, it's not? Show me. I don't insist on physical proof because I am short-sighted. I insist on physical proof because it is the only measure of reality that we have.

Physical proof is the only thing that is logical. If you want to believe in things that you understand are illogical, that's fine, but don't insist that anyone else do so, don't judge them if they don't, and don't have a double standard. If you believe in illogical, unproved things in one aspect of your life, be open to illogical, unproven things in all aspects of your life. Why don't you believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, leprechauns, paganism, buddhism, Zeus, or whatever it is you don't believe? What is your process for determining what's correct, and what's not? What idea wins out over another and why? How? How did you establish the reality of one, and the fantasy of another? Why are Christians wrong, and Muslims right?

And why, oh why, does God (whoever he is) not come down from the heavens, right now, in modern times with video cameras, Facebook, Twitter and instant photography, and prove to us all that he is real and what [insert religion] teaches is true? It would be a bit like this scene from the tv show called V (2009), in this clip, where Anna turns the sky red over the entire earth and her spaceships are seen all over the world. She communicates with earthlings in all their languages, everyone can see (and visit!) the spaceships, and it is covered on the news. And guess what! Not a single person earth can ever deny the existence of aliens.

Again, if we are to rely on faith, or believe things solely because of faith, how can you compare and contrast two faiths (or more) against one another? If you cannot demonstrate that one is more correct than the other, how can you demonstrate that one is correct at all? There is nothing to hold onto, to show, to illustrate, to compare.

The soul, in any definition, is a nice idea, but one that has no substance. We are but temporal, temporary beings, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is still morality and immorality, justice and injustice--but all the battles are fought here. All of love, laughter, learning and exploration happens here and now. Enjoy this life! If there is an afterlife--and there could be--we have to be honest and accept that there is no evidence for it, and stop fighting each other, insisting that our story is true, and everyone else has it wrong.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unintelligent Design

Intelligent Design "theory" is one of the dumbest ideas out there, for multiple reasons, but today I am going to focus on only one. If you are going to say that god exists because everything appears to be ordered and designed, then you need to own up to the fact that truly everything is designed by god. Theist always cop out and leave the dirty work to the devil, blaming Lucifer for everything malicious or imperfect. But that is just way too convenient, and hello! there is no evidence of this invisible power war going on, just a bunch of ridiculous humans trying to rationalize the universe with religious fantasies. The Universe is the way it is, and that is that. There are reasons for everything, some of which we even know.

Do you know what the #1 reason is that I don't believe the universe was intelligently designed? UTIs. That's right, urinary tract infections, baby!

In the hilarious words of Neil Degrasse Tyson, " It's like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system--no engineer would design that at all!"

DO watch the full talk on YouTube here. It is fascinating and entertaining.

Being a female, getting UTIs is ridiculously easy. In fact, most women experience them up to several times a year. It's pretty much a given. Among other possible reasons, the biggest is that, well, the back door and all its bacterial glory is inches away from your hoo-hah! What intelligent being would ever design it this way? Why, as Tyson also points out, do we eat, breathe and communicate out of the same hole in our face, accounting for thousands of choking deaths per year (as well as social faux pas)?

Simple questions, simple answers. We are not designed, at least not intelligently. We are the product of billions of years of nature's trial and error. We have the leftover body parts in our genetic code to prove it, like appendices, coccyges and wisdom teeth. Look at all the birth defects, and these are just the ones that are still here! There must be hundreds of thousands that nature has edited out by now.

Theists define what they believe, and then try to warp the evidence to make it seem to fit what they what it to say. Let's be honest. Let the evidence speak for itself, and tell its own story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's hard not to be smug

It's only because breeding is the norm and default (and frequently a religious mandate) that is seems so strange to not do it. For those of us childfree who came to it later, we feel like we won the lottery. We're free, yippee!!!!! It's like being handed a million dollars. It's this huge burden lifted off our shoulders. We thought we knew two things: we had to have kids at some point, and we didn't want to, thus a major conflict that can take years to sort out. When we finally realize that breeding is completely optional we are happy and at peace. This mindset has been considered immoral, bizarre, selfish and unusual and it wasn't until the last few decades that this is beginning to change.

This is generally how we see ourselves, and how we see our childed friends and family. Many childed believe that the childfree are bored, selfish, unfulfilled and miserable; many childfree see the childed as frazzled, overworked, unpaid, unappreciated, stressed, boring, mentally stifled... I could go on.

I often wonder why there are such vast differences in mindset when it comes to having children. Are we just wired differently? Why do some women have baby rabies and some women are repulsed by children?

I have friends whose dream it is to become mothers. In one case, it's nearly an obsession. I just can't relate. I can't fathom throwing away my time, my body, my energy, my money, my happy relationship towards such a miserable endeavor. There's not even a guarantee that your children will be healthy, productive, or even good people! Those are HUGE factors. Every murderer, rapist, serial killer, oppressive dictator and thief is someone's child. Every clueless idiot who doesn't have two brain cells to rub together is someone's child. Every disabled, mentally ill, suicidal, paraplegic, cancerous person is someone's child.

Still this compulsion to breed is very strong. It's got to be biology. What person in their right mind would want to take such a risk? Who wants to fix breakfast, lunch and dinner for someone else 3x a day, 365x a year for at least 18 years? Who wants to sacrifice romance in their relationship? Who wants to deal in spit up, vomit, poop, drool, pee and frequent illness for each child? Who wants to worry about a child's education and entertainment, and all the time and expense that goes into those? Parents do, apparently. To the childfree, all that looks like hell.

And parents, you guys make it easy to see the misery to anyone who is paying attention. If you have baby obsession and your eyes glaze over at the sight of a child, you're hopeless. But to anyone who analyzes child rearing critically, it's pretty obvious that shit sucks. Parents, we see your tired eyes and saggy boobs. We know that you moms pee a little when you sneeze, and that your vaginas are now as spacious as a grand hallway, and your husbands' penises the proverbial hot dogs within them. We see your kids tugging on your shirt, whining for something, and throwing tantrums. We hear about your adventures in vomit, poop and mysterious illnesses on your Facebook statuses. We hear about your marriage problems because you have neither time nor energy to maintain your relationships, not to mention major disagreements about money and child rearing. We know that you miss the happy, energetic woman your wife used to be, and you resent having to work to support her SAHMness, even though the house is always gross and kids are brats.

Knowing that this is a choice, and as adults we are able to think about the decisions we make, I don't feel bad for parents and I truly hope they are happy with their choice. Many of them are, though I can't understand it personally. One man's trash is another man's treasure, I suppose.

But it's impossible for me to not feel really happy with my choice when I see all these things going on around me. There's nothing about children or the child-raising experience that could ever make all the bad things worth it for me. Every time I see my friends' Facebook posts about having to take their baby to the doctor 5 times in 1 week for his ear infection, or a rant about a teenager's rebellion, a big smile creeps up on my face. When I come home to my clean, quiet house, I rejoice. When I sleep through the night, every night, and sleep in every weekend, it feels great. When I drink wine in my bubble bath, I'm not missing anything. When I don't trip over toys, or don't have to ever cook for kids, when my furniture stays in good shape, my body intact, my relationship happy... I don't miss a damn thing.

I can take vacations and spend money without have to worry about babysitting, kid-friendly crap or budgeting for my kids' needs and wants. I have time. I have freedom. I have peace. I have financial security, and can plan for my later years. I have time to nurture friendships and experience life. I have more of myself to give to charity, being able to reach out of my daily bubble, because I'm not wrapped up in my own little world of daily child rearing. I am not adding any more to environmental devastation and overpopulation. I can zip through my errands and grocery shopping without hauling a kid around, dealing with temper tantrums or hassling with diaper bags and car seats. I am efficient. I don't miss work unless I want to. Sticky toddler kisses and occasional Kodak moments aren't worth it. I don't have to listen to kids' music or TV shows 500 times a week.

I think I'll go enjoy a bottle of fine wine and fancy cheese, and read in my quiet home.

It's hard not to be smug. /schadenfreude.

2012 so far & some reflections on death and the future

Life has been kicking my butt this year. I've had some high points, and some very, very low points. I wrote about this before, but my grandmother passed away in January. That has been hard, but it has been a normal, peaceful process of grieving as she was in her 90s and we had known for years that any day would be her last. I was lucky to be able to say goodbye to her before her mind was completely gone, and spent her subsequent years loving and appreciating her, and knowing she did not suffer is enormously comforting. But what has devastated me deeply is the death of my chocolate lab 10 days ago. This has hit me like a ton of painful bricks. It is still so fresh it is hard for me to talk about; he was my best friend, my child and my confidant. He went from perfectly fine to completely paralyzed in a week, and it was not pretty. He was in pain, was extremely anxious, and couldn't control any body function. When he was correctly diagnosed with a spinal tumor, we knew he was only going to get worse, and quickly. To date this has been the worst and most heart-wrenching experience of my life, far exceeding my divorce, the death of my human child in my old life, and near-complete ostracization from my family. I had to make the decision to put him down in order to spare further suffering, and though intellectually I know it was the best, emotionally I am racked with guilt. Fortunately I have friends who have been here, too, and their understanding and support is invaluable.

In the midst of all this pain, two things become very clear: 1) Life is precious, and 2) I have a much more personal understanding of why people believe in the comforting fairy tales of life after death.

I wish it were true, and I certainly hope it is, that we all go to some utopian place after death and are reunited in eternal bliss. The reality is that there is no real reason to believe that this is so. I would love to be wrong, and I hope I am, but I have to deal with reality on reality's terms. Well, I suppose I don't have to, but I chose to, rather than believe whatever marshmallowy fluff feels good. It would be easy to stick my head in the sand and believe something sweet and sugary; but it is such actions, such mental atrophy, that ultimately place barriers in our path to knowledge (see my recent post for specific reasons why). When you believe you have the answers, then a quest for attainable knowledge becomes completely meaningless. Curiosity becomes meaningless. Ambition to push the limits of our abilities becomes meaningless.

As it is, death is final. We don't yet know if there is anything beyond it, or any way to end it. I have hope that as we continue learning about the Universe and the origins of life, we will be amazed at the beauty and possibility that is out there. Maybe one day death will be optional--I sometimes see this in the future, with the advances in medical technology, especially witnessing the baby industry of lab-grown human organs. Maybe one day we will discover Earth-life planets that can sustain life, and we will have the ability to travel to and from there. Maybe one day we will meet intelligent, extraterrestrial life. Maybe one day humans will evolve to despise conflict of all kinds, and we will become a unified, kind species that loves knowledge and art. Maybe one day there will be no poverty, no politics, no suffering and no hate.

Maybe these are pipe dreams, but I believe that all those things are possible, at least in a small scale. Surely, though, none of it will happen if religion--and its pointless rules, and insistence on unsubstantiated dogma and invisible beings/places--continues to be considered a positive institution. Thankfully, this is changing. As knowledge increases, religion changes to an ever-more nebulous idea with a God whose only power is to fill in the gaps. From our primordial goo, humans--at least many of us--have evolved to think critically, to seek knowledge, and to respect each other and our fellow animals. I have hope that this can continue.

Even if we outbreed our planet's ability to nourish us, I have hope. If we don't change our behavior globally, we are certainly headed that way, but even so, Earth will survive and we humans will experience a great natural culling of our species. If that happens, maybe after the dust settles and we die off until we reach a sustainable population level, maybe then we will have learned our lesson. Humans are famous for making some really huge mistakes with horrendous consequences, but over time we generally do learn from them. Maybe, just maybe, we will finally learn that God isn't going to swoop down and care for us; we have to take care of ourselves. Maybe we will see that our choices are to choose to breed less, or breed carelessly and wait for a natural culling, wars, and mass excessive suffering.

Knowledge is the key, as is perseverance. Don't give up.