Politics of Sexuality and Gender

As a small disclaimer, before we delve into something that is essentially a rant, but has been spruced up with politeness and reference to call an essay. Half of this is spawned by conversations with a few good friends; the other bits from my reading of Queer Theory, Gender Theory. Which I would recommend to any and all, but especially those with an interest in the (oft ironic) nuance of – wait for it – gender and sexuality, and how we have evolved it as a core feature of our identities.

In a simple overview, I’ve noticed a lot of trends in society. Perhaps they have always been there, perhaps they are more obvious now with social media and the great push for equal rights in gender identity, expression, and in sexuality. There still remains prejudice in all groups, an attempt to sub-categorize everyone based on minute details of appearance and lifestyle choices. The internalized need to verify and enforce sexuality, or romance, or romantic inclinations. Polarizing gender identity, while advocating for abolishing traditional standards of constricting roles in masculinity and femininity. Down to society’s dating structure (and what part of our lives have we, as humans, left free of the idealism of romance ?) A broad spectrum of topics I suppose, but they are rather tightly intertwined I’ve found and … well, most of them are easy to address within one another.

Onward,

It is the idealism regarding romance that I find irksome. Throughout life, we are surrounded by talk of marriage. By monogamy. By this vague, expectant goal that romantic love is an ultimate goal. A hallmark of one’s life, by which others who do not achieve this goal are measured and found lacking. Individuals who find fulfillment and peace in purely platonic companionship, are pitied – and urged to seek out a romantic partner. Perhaps it isn’t intentional, but others have a tendency to look down on these people, as though their lack of partner is a mark of some deficit in their person.

This bleeds into the ever-so-common misconception that; a person is attractive so how could they not have a romantic partner? As if someone’s physical looks plays any part in their interest (or lack thereof) to engage in such relationships. As if they must want to, because how could anyone not? When it is so dogmatically socialized into us that we cannot be whole, complete, or truly happy without romance.

Perhaps it all spurns from the driving “need” to procreate. I use need in the loosest sense, as we make claim to be so above the mere “animals” we share a planet with, and yet humans breed without thought to consequence. Thousands of children go homeless year after year, while – frankly, arrogant and greedy – individuals feel the need to produce their own. Why? It comes down, again, to romanticized ideal. Romance is the epoch of any relationship, and reproducing with this ‘perfect partner’ is the epoch of how each partner can display their devotion to one another. Although, I suspect the individual reasoning is far more simplistic than that. Babies are cute, women are supposed to have babies. Traditional home values and familial dynamics, and sexist gender roles.

Statements we’ve heard a hundred different times in a hundred different ways and yet never seems to even dent the thought processes of those so enamored with this lifestyle.

I read a statement once, on a blog, claiming that human procreation wouldn’t slow down until seeing families with three and four children was no longer a measure of awe, but one of disgust. Until reproducing like rats stops being this amazing feat, and seen as a repugnance, people will not slow down, or stop.

The aforementioned mentality does a lot in erasing the validity – and importance – of platonic relationships, and the existence of aromantic and asexual dispositions. How can people comprehend there are those among them who have no desire to sexual relations, when they cannot even conceive of anyone being fulfilled by something so subpar as platonic intimacy? It’s frustrating, a great deal because people don’t realize they are doing this, I think. Most people who are engaged in a romantic relationship look to their single friends with pity (or envy, in the event it is an unhappy situation.) That I have to catch myself while writing this to specify ‘romantic relationship’ rather than list it as an assumed romantic involvement simply through the word ‘relationship’, goes far in highlighting this idea.

In a way, viewing romance as the top-tier, most important relationship of one’s life, subjects platonic relationships to a role as temporary. They are ‘fillers’ until one finds that ultimate person. That perfect person to love them romantically forever. Why can this person not be a friend? A soul mate, a kindred, without designs of a romantic or sexual nature? Why must things like physical affection, kissing, sharing bed-space, home, and/or room, be things only appropriate in the confines of romance and/or sex?!

Beyond traditional values rooted in religion, there really isn’t any. If our lives, our identities, our sexualities, and our relationships are to be as vivid and broadly diverse as the current movement touts them to be. Then they must be treated as such.

No more ‘gold star lesbians’. No more looking down on heterosexuals and gloating not to have a heterosexual friend. No more pitying singles, or those without interest in sex or romance as somehow being defective or broken. When you alienate people for displaying the attributes you so loudly proclaim to be a core value of your movement, you’ve essentially chopped its legs off.

It displays a short-sightedness and lack of introspection we, as the new generation, as the more progressive, educated, and open-minded generation, like to pretend we do not suffer. 

Which rolls rather neatly into the stigma that surrounds many in the trans community. Especially those who do not conform to gender standards. There is a huge issue with people identifying as trans, who do not wish to fully transition, being treated as “fakes”. As if the validity of their gender identity lies solely in their desire to physically alter their appearance. While a vociferous point of the trans community is the freedom of gender expression. 

So how does this make sense? When a community pressures those within it to conform to a structure their very existence shatters? It is the same mentality as those who claim that ‘you are irrevocably what you are dubbed at birth’, forget the argument that these concepts only even exist to begin with because humans created them. 

In many ways, I understand the need to be fully recognized as one’s identified gender, but I wonder, if a lot of trans individuals aren’t swallowed up by the need to prove their validity? Not, that I think they are invalid. But the pressures put on them and non-trans people to conform to ideals of gender identity and presentation, can be overwhelming. This is doubled when, elitists within the community treat those comfortable as they are – so long as their identity is respected, as less than true. As if, by not undertaking the hallmarks of altering their physical appearance, they are less serious about their identity. Less valid. 

Really, the only way to even address those issues would be to step back and look at one’s self and one’s behavior. But that is hard isn’t it? It really wasn’t even something I thought about as recently as two years ago. It was just… accepted? Trans-men should of course, want to look like men…. but then there is the  question of what does a man look like? We of course have the example of those who have a penis and identify as men, but even there the image is vast. Sure, some are hairy and toned and fit. Some aren’t. Some are thin, some have hips, some are born with partial mammary glans, some never really develop body hair. Some wear dresses, or lingerie, or grow long hair and pluck their eyebrows. Does that make them any less their affirmed gender? No.

So why should it alter perceptions of trans individuals?

Long as this has droned on, and generally as I’ve swept each topic, I’ve rather come to an end of this string of conjecture. Of course, there’s about a hundred things I haven’t addressed, but for now, I’ve belched enough of my own personal rants into the ether.

Until next time.

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Reflections: A Picture of Dorian Grey

Art by: Unknown (( please leave a comment if you do know so I may credit ! ))

Throughout my later adolescent life and early adulthood, I gorged on classic literature; from the sordid angst of ‘Madame Bovary’ to the, admittedly dry, journey of ‘Dante’s Inferno’. Some novels I hated some I loved. Some, even now, stand out in memory though I have not read them since that first time. In particular, there is ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’. This was the first work of Oscar Wilde I read and found myself immediately enthralled by his way with words. Writing that flows, has a rhythm and grace of its own beyond base description and dialogue. I do not know if I was more enamored with the story he told or how he told it.

Encountering such a style fundamentally altered my own approach to writing. Where before I considered description in terms of the concrete, my eyes were now opened to a whole other way of seeing things. While I understand much of Wilde’s style can be attributed to a standard of writing pervasive in his era of life, it inspired a hunger to improve my own writing in a way other works had not.

“He is all my art to me now,” said the painter, gravely. “I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance in the world’s history. The first is the appearance of a new medium for art, and the second is the appearance of a new personality for art also. What the invention of oil-painting was to the Venetians, the face of Antinous was to late Greek sculpture, and the face of Dorian Gray will someday be to me. It is not merely that I paint from him, draw from him, sketch from him. Of course I have done all that. But he is much more to me than a model or a sitter. I won’t tell you that I am dissatisfied with what I have done of him, or that his beauty is such that Art cannot express it. There is nothing that Art cannot express, and I know that the work I have done, since I met Dorian Gray, is good work, is the best work of my life. But in some curious way – I wonder will you understand me?- his personality has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode of style. I see things differently, I think of them differently, I can now recreate life in a way that was hidden from me before. ‘A dream of form in days of thought:’ – who is it who says that? I forget; but it is what Dorian Gray has been to me. The merely visible presence of this lad – for he seems to me little more than a lad, though he is really over twenty – his merely visible presence – ah! I wonder can you realize all that that means? Unconsciously he defines for me the lines of a fresh school, a school that is to have in it all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the perfection of the spirit that is Greek. The harmony of soul and body – how much that is! We in our madness have separated the two, and have invented a realism that is vulgar, an ideality that is void. Harry! If you only knew what Dorian Gray is to me! You remember that landscape of mine for which Agnew offered me such a huge price, but which I would not part with? It is one of the best things I have ever done. And why is it so? Because, while I was painting it, Dorian Gray sat beside me. Some subtle influence passed from him to me, and for the first time in my life I saw in the plain woodland the wonder I had always looked for, and always missed.”
– Oscar Wilde, ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ Pgs. 11 – 12

Basil’s dialogue with Harry about Dorian Gray was my first encounter with seeing a muse described. Before then it wasn’t something I understood to exist in writing or in art. Beyond that, this is, I think, one of my favorite moments in the early part of the book. Despite my unfamiliarity with a muse, I could, in a way, understand what was being said. After all, reading the book left me with the most intense hunger to be able write like that and evoke such profound, I suppose feeling with words the way Wilde was able to achieve.

It was also about this time in their discussion that Harry’s irreverence really began to sink in. He is, to me, a hedonist. I found it curious, how he seemed to seek only pleasure or entertainment from life. While many of his statements were profound to a degree, I found them to be interestingly rationalized. Excuses, justifications for his amoral actions, although I do not think he was truly a bad person. In comparison to Basil, and his rose colored idealism, Harry is almost shockingly down to earth. Well, as down to earth as any aristocrat could be, I suppose. Lord Henry Wotton, Harry, an incorrigible character who seems to delight in pulling Dorian Gray from the pedestal Basil sets him upon. Almost from their very first interaction, it was as if he settled himself in pruning every bit of extraneous naivety and innocence he could find out of the young man.

“There’s no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral – immoral from the scientific point of view.” 

“There’s no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral – immoral from the scientific point of view.” “Why?” 

“Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions.”

 ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ Pg. 20

The irony of Lord Henry’s statement is galling even now. What better way to hook someone in than to completely refute things society accepts as common, normal even? I was terribly frustrated when watching Harry break down Dorian, but fascinated as well. There’s just something interesting about watching characters break, watching what once was picked apart – or perhaps it is so simple as uncovering something always there, but hidden.

Either way, Lord Henry’s role in this novel as something of a ‘should devil’ is irrefutable. He was a catalyst through which Dorian could be thoroughly corrupted, and poor, poor Basil, losing his muse to such darkness. Perhaps neither of them were meant to present such a dichotomy, but I cannot help but to see it. In a way, I wonder if the entire thing isn’t a commentary on human nature.

What would we all do, if offered freedom from repercussion? If we would not (could not) die; if we never aged? Is it in human nature to remain upstanding, righteous – admittedly naïve even – when faced with such power? I admit, I am somewhat jaded to as to the existence of inherent goodness, so I can definitely see where most people would give in. Perhaps not at first, but as one watches family, friends, or children age and fade and die – what would be left? What would fasten a person to humanity, to humility when all they have is themselves and their secrets?

All of this brings me to the most fascinating plot point in A Picture of Dorian Gray, his portrait. Basil claimed it as his greatest achievement yet, feared it for how much of himself was in it, feared it for how much of Dorian’s essence he captured. I have heard that people once believed painting portraits, like making dolls and taking photographs, could steal the subject’s soul, trap it on the mortal plain. While I think many of these were whispered by fear of drawing ghosts after death, I find Wilde’s more literal translation of that so very interesting. It wasn’t something I had read as a plot in anything before this novel.

I adore the concept of a portrait which takes on the true essence of a person, reflects their soul to them. I dread what this would do to a person, however. It is difficult to fathom having something so intangible, something ethereal made concrete. The soul isn’t something anyone ever really thinks about, not immediately. Even the most devout religious followers,  I would imagine, think of it as something disconnected from themselves. They think of going to Heaven, or being reborn in a better life, but that is different than imagining every bad thing they’ve done as tarnishing their soul.

Dorian loses that luxury, though he doesn’t think so at first. Until every cruel thought, every capricious action begins to change him. He doesn’t see it in the mirror, but every time he looks upon his portrait, his soul, stored in oil on a canvas, it’s different; a blemish here, a wrinkle there. Perhaps the eyes are hollower; perhaps they’ve lost a bit of that boyish light Basil so adored in the young man Lord Henry introduced to sin. He stops aging, but the painting grows old and withers, but people still adore him. After all, his face is beautiful, youthful as Adonis and immortal. No one believes anything truly bad about him because how can someone so angelic possibly be vile?

I think, perhaps, the portrait would only make it all worse. It became an object to display all his inhumanity, a perfect show of what a monster he is beneath flawless skin. Paranoia, in such a case, would only make sense. What with an ageing Lord Henry still whispering in his ear, doubts and jaded musings. Then there is his own fear, after all, if he can’t see a change in himself obviously it isn’t happening. So long as Dorian isn’t confronted with the effects of all his sin, he can deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist. His paranoia increases, his trust decreases – and then he begins to grow bitter, jaded to life and other people. Dorian begins the story as a naïve boy, and ends it as a twisted up, bitter man… but he was never really bad, not evil. Not really, though he did make so many terrible mistakes. Dorian was human, after all, and had he been completely bad, he would never have ended himself . I believe his guilt over Basil’s death to be selfish, less about killing the man and more about how it would affect himself.

It paints an interesting psychological event, although I doubt such was really Wilde’s intention when he wrote the novel. I wonder, should such circumstances befall anyone else, how different their actions would be. Would they regret an unchanging life? Would they fear laying eyes on their soul, marred by whatever decisions they made? How many would slow down, or consider their actions more heavily if they could actually see what affect their actions had on themselves?

 

 

Meditation Day 2

Sat later today to meditate, again not for very long but I tend to stop when I get fidgety. Sort of defeats the purpose if I can’t even sit still.

Definitely feel more relaxed still, despite the short time (and sleepy, honestly, but I attribute that more to the rain and being comfortable.)

Tried it with a vajrasattva mantra today, I think the chanting makes it easier to still the mind (a bit). I can focus on the voice and breathing and then sort of… drift. Until of course I remember something I need to do in 10 minutes, and start trying to micromanage my schedule again.

Ah well, progress.

~Jess

Meditation: Day 1

Art by megdowntherabbithole on etsy.com

I’ve started a lot of new endeavors this year, and all of them are geared toward self-improvement. As I have a tendency to charge headlong down a path, and push harder and harder to try and get there faster, more efficiently… I have a tendency to burn myself out. Chomping at the bit, so to speak, to succeed. 

So I’ve added meditating every day to this list of improvements. Mindfulness.

So I sat this morning, for, I don’t know? Five or ten minutes. Just… basking in the excitement, the nervousness, the impatience… the hunger for more, more, more… and it’s amazing, I think, just how much difference in tension and stress five minutes can make.

So, day one, journal-ed and marked down. I’ll probably keep dropping these, with maybe a comment on something I’ve learned to improve technique. Mostly as a way to keep myself going. Keep doing it every day, rather than letting myself cram on other things and push it back and push it back until it’s 11 PM and I’ve not meditated at all.

Mindfulness guys! It’s a stupendous thing.

Also to focus on:
Spend less
Eat Healthier
Waste Less
Be more environmentally aware
Exercise every day

~Jess

Friendships and Networking

 

Networking – that big scary word that comes up in any career that requires socializing. Although, if we think about it, networking is a pretty big part of every career now. Writers, artists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, politicians, salesmen/women; everyone networks. Even if it’s just among immediate colleagues (although I would bet if we sat down and thought about it for a minute, that web extends well past our coworkers.) Still, it seems… daunting. And I suppose it is?

There’s the beginning question of where to draw the line with this ‘networking relationship’, do you draw a line? Do you even bother making a line, or does that inherently hinder the progress of the relationship? How do you approach an individual with the desire to network, to form this symbiotic co-existence on a professional level to assist, motivate, inspire, “promote” etc. each other? Is there an etiquette for that? Or do we just approach them like a potential friend, and move into the “hey be a business contact with me”? Does it depend on the situation? The person? How do you avoid coming off as disingenuous?

So many questions. So overwhelming, and if you’re anything like me, poor reader, and find comfort and confidence in social etiquette… it’s almost too much. Like treading water in a tempest in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Sayonara sanity? Yeah, that’s how it has felt. Overwhelming to the point of anxiety and frustration.

Still, it didn’t occur to me to actually Google networking until a few days ago. Mostly, I think, because I – like many others – assumed I knew how one networks. Maybe not the proper social parameters to approach an individual through… but I thought I knew. In a general sense, I did. However, I was thinking on much too large of a scale. Much too broadly. Big leaps rather than small steps.

I also sat through a livestream of the Buffini Success Tour yesterday afternoon, and listened to Darren Hardy speak. Brilliant. Brilliant speaker. Just, some of the things I learned in that hour and a half, some of the reinforcement, the reminders; they settled a lot of those worries (not entirely, I’m a neurotic wreck and nothing will entirely silence that.) But it helped. It gave me a point of reference to start, at least, looking for answers. How to form questions.

In another sense, this blog will (has already) helped solidify a few of those more ambiguous questions.

So last night, motivated by this speaker and having a more solid idea for taking action, I googled networking (-gasp-). What I immediately found was this glorious little article that broke networking down  into 8 steps.

Read It Here.

Start small, and build out. Common sense, right? Well, honestly, in the mad scramble of ‘get business’, ‘meet people’, ‘make money’, ‘learn’, ‘be successful’, etc. etc. etc. That sort of gets lost. You want to cast the net as broadly as possible, gather in those gems as quickly as possible, and like a gold miner, sift it through water. Timely. Tedious. Daunting. And not as likely to be successful as targeting specific individuals, connecting with them. Offering an exchange of knowledge, of professional companionship, of assistance and/or work; and building a few, firmly rooted contacts with people who will be important to your success. Whose success you can hopefully play an important role in; give and take.

Buffini said one should go into a relationship with the expectation of giving 100% and receiving nothing, because that is the only way you’re going to gain. To cultivate a relationship rather than looking to use someone to progress yourself.

Not even a revelation, but putting it down like that… it makes it less frightening, this beast they call networking.

So I made a list of friends, people I already have good relationships with, or who I know but lost touch with and travel different social circles than me. I figured, that increased my chances of meeting new people I don’t already know. I made another list of people I don’t know quite as well, but who I enjoyed talking to before and hope to sort of… solidify a relationship. Then I copied down a few people I don’t know very well, but who I respect and would be excited, honored  – a gushing mess, really, – to work with. People I want to learn from but also, I suppose, become a peer to.

So friends are a good place to start building. Your GP, people you see regularly all the time. Begin with them… express a desire to be contacts, to promote each others business.

ASK THEM FOR REFERRALS.

I think that is the most ridiculously shocking thing I’ve learned (but haven’t put properly into practice yet as i should be doing.) ASK FOR BUSINESS. It is not rude. It is not bad. One would consider, in hindsight, it’s an obvious thing to do? But something that, again, hadn’t occurred to me.

 

 

Another Morning Begins at Night

9:43 PM to be specific, and I really have no aim or purpose for this blog. I’ve read that is always a good place to start, with a topic. I have one of those ‘topic focused’ blogs, and I find my motivation for it waning (in the capricious way all sleep deprived ideas put into action at 4 AM have a tendency to do.) In any event, all of this is just really self-indulgent “stream of thought typed out into words”, journalistic sort of unloading of the swirling thoughts and shit I need to learn, do, acclimatize to…

And a small bit of hope that by veritably word-vomiting it out in a forum which may provide some form of entertainment or amusing insight for others, will help settle the thoughts. Provide clarity. An “It’s all out in words now, so let’s focus” type of situation.

Emotional dumping in nonsensical tangents, I suppose, as life affords us so few chances to do that without exposing ourselves unnecessarily to ridicule. Or the potential of ridicule. Funny how that happens. That people applaud the poignancy of emotion displayed in a book or on a screen, but deride it in their peers.

Anyway, to begin one such dump. I have been learning – so much, not too much, never too much – about networking, building a business; about success. Really, check out Darren Hardy, brilliant, brilliant man. However, it all feels a bit overwhelming honestly… how to network, who to network with, when to network; reaching out for referrals, for leads, for work, for training, but still need to make money. All this wanting hunger, it’s exciting to want things again. To aspire to great things. Even more so, to learn how to get there rather than just wanting to.

Still, I started real estate two months ago. It seems almost daunting to begin laying the groundwork for a local network and I’m honestly not sure how to even begin. I mean I do know, in theory, but most of that theory requires knowing people… and for the last five years I was terribly alienated from the people in my community. To the point that, outside of a scant few, I know hardly anyone. Now it comes down to how to use those few to expand the network… and how to do so in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m asking for handouts (because people still consider networking manipulative, even in the 21st century, idiotic as that sounds.) From there, converting that networking and “hey you” into leads. Into people who can/could bring in business

Videos, mail-outs and cards sound so much easier than trying to face-to-face meet. All hail the internet (and LinkedIn) for small mercies.

I’ve learned in this time that, while Facebook is sworn upon, it is not precisely ideal for business. Mostly, I would assume, for the sheer daunting amount of informality and uncouth displays of TMI.

Social media was, in many ways, I think, the slow-death of discretion.

One one side, real estate. On the other acting. I am new to both, but I can also see… how well they could play together. The overlap of learning one, and using that learning to benefit the other. Yet still, the sheer volume of information I’ve crammed into my skull since November is almost… disorienting. It needs an out, and I need a way to vent it out in the discombobulated mess it has become, so that it can be neatly ordered. Into files, into shelves.

Into a cohesive, foundation of a plan. and more determinate, precise actions to fulfill that plan.

That all sounds so clandestine, and maybe it is, maybe I should just really go to bed and give my grey-matter the rest it obviously desires. Rather than pushing through that haze of heavy-lidded-almost-sleep to finish this up and snicker at myself over a snack of strawberries.

I think I’ve run out of words anyway… for now?

~ Jess