Friday, 14 September 2007

Belonging

Crossposted at BlogRhet

What part of yourself do you have invested in the online community? A good number of the posts and comments at BlogRhet over the last few months have either addressed or resonated with this question. There have been posts and comments about race and culture and how the differences among us in this respect colour our perception of the blogging world. There have been comments about inclusion and exclusion, ranging from the sense of alienation many of us take away from high school, through the discussions of tagging and sub groups inside the mommy bloggers' orbit and often touching on commenting and response to blog posts. What all the discussion seems to have in common is good will, the determination to make the community work and the willingness to speak openly and expose deep emotions in the cause of making this happen.

'I was always on the outside in high school' is a very common comment. 'I wasn't one of the popular kids'. 'I felt alienated'. 'I'm shy and inhibited face to face'. 'I don't feel confident about meeting people' -- a statement a lot of us made, while discussing the BlogHer conference and at other times. A recurring theme among those of us who answered the BlogRhet meme was that the online contacts were somehow more engaging and fulfilling than 'IRL' day to day interactions. (I think IRL is short for In Real Life - one of the things I have had to learn fast is the acronyms, short forms and references that are in common use in this on line world. What's a 'MILF', anyone?) Those of us not part of the 'white' dominant culture express concern about feeling that an important part of ourselves is not valued or ignored.

There are two areas where my experience closely matches that of the comments and posts I've been citing. One is in feeling that the online lives I touch and the discussions I have here are more fulfilling than most of my daily contacts. The other is that I am a minority; because I'm a senior I'm sometimes treated differently or with indifference by people who deal with me face to face. While agism is not on the same page as racism, getting put down or ignored because of white hair and wrinkles sure gives me empathy.

What I have invested in my blog and here is my love of writing and a commitment to write, to stretch myself, to participate in as many of the threads and tags and challenges as I can. The bloggers that I feel the most kinship with are the others of you that are doing that. The quality of a lot of what I read, and the quality of the women and men who are writing is thrilling. The encouragement, the positive responses and the wonderful way in which ideas and techniques are shuttled from person to person through the mommyblogging community is enriching, I believe, to all of us.

Some of you have invested your hearts and souls, your most cherished ideas, your emotional responses, your deepest selves in your blogs, reaching out to others in so many ways. You discuss race, religion, your personal fears and triumphs, your intimate lives. You not only write, you read, and the comments you leave when someone needs a response or comfort or advice are generous, perceptive and often hilarious. The courage of some of you, who meet very difficult days with laughter and share the experience, is immense.

When we write with this intensity, however, it is not hard to be nervous, even fearful, about the response we will get. I know that I sometimes have an inner insecure self who worries about how what I write will be received, who is disappointed when there are no comments, who feels down if something doesn't get noticed. I find it necessary to stomp on this tendency as soon and as often as possible. Because the mommy blogosphere is full of generous people who read, comment and respond and who feel guilty when they can't do so. I can't get to all the posts I want to read as soon as I would like and most of the people I know about are much busier than I am. It continues to amaze me that there is so much comment and exchange when I know how short of time and energy many people are.

Getting comments fosters a sense of belonging. So does the receipt of one of the various awards that bounce through the blogs -- things like the Just Post, the Perfect Post, The Thinking Blogger, the ROFL. Getting 'tagged' to do a meme is also a boost to the camaraderie quotient. I think these are all good things. But they come with a price. To get one of the post awards, it is necessary to write that kind of post. It is also gracious to look for posts that fit the criteria and nominate them. Established bloggers go out of their way to select newbies for awards and tags, which is one of the things I like a lot about them, but they can't include everybody. It is not productive to be hurt if you aren't selected for something: tags, for instance, only work if they are consistently spread. We should participate as much as we can and understand that others are doing the same, without being too dependent on this kind of recognition.

The forum here at BlogRhet has one of the best formats I have found. I stuck my neck out and volunteered to be part of it, as a real newbie, was welcomed in and am really glad I joined. It's inclusive, stimulating and fun. It's managed by a bunch of horrifically busy women and so the bus wheels may occasionally wobble but, by and large, it's amazingly smooth. And really worthwhile. If you're reading this at my own site, please pop over and scroll through it. You'll be glad you did.

But in the final analysis, the feeling of belonging is something each of us has to create for herself. It comes from confidence that what we write will resonate with others and that other writers will appreciate our comments. Most of all, it comes from the satisfaction of having done well in what we set out to do.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Veiled Comments


We seem to have a controversy in Canada, especially in Quebec, about modesty face coverings. This is in a country that a Time poll just rated as one of the most free in the world today. Elections Canada has ruled, if I have it correctly, that a woman can vote with her face covered if she has someone with her that vouches that under the face covering she is who she says she is. People are pretty annoyed with this. Funny. Up to a very short time ago, a Canadian could walk into the poll, say 'I am Mary Smith of 123 Street, and be handed a ballot. And the poll clerk would maybe not glance up from her book and ruler at all. Now we are going to be 'ID"ed.

I don't have much patience, myself, with women who cover their heads and faces, at least in North America. If they live someplace where they are going to get arrested or beaten, that's another matter. Women who cover their faces when it is not required have a problem. Either their menfolk are making them do it or they have bought into the mystique so much (the word 'brainwashed' springs to my mind) that they have lost their common sense. I have heard such a woman speak of the sense of privacy and security that a veil gives her. Maybe. The fact remains that a woman so cumbered cannot see colour properly, cannot cross a street safely, should certainly not be driving, and in most places would be hot. I wear a black fly veil in May here in the Ottawa Valley, and that is what happens to me when I do.

I want to make a clear distinction between the burka and niquab and the hijab or even the chador. I have nothing against 'modest dress', whether it is the woman's personal choice or a cultural identity or a religious requirement. A headscarf (hijab) is completely innocuous. Perhaps a few of the more extreme manifestations of religious dress can be pretty silly and even unsafe; for example, I am thinking about a nun I saw in a pre John Paul starched white wimple that framed her face like a horse's blinkers. The problem was that she was driving a car and had no peripheral vision. If a girl is playing soccer in a hijab, it should not do that. Otherwise, what is the problem! Usually, though, cover up clothing seems to me to be purely a matter of personal choice. Some of the 'required dress' conventions might be cumbersome, hot or impractical (wearing a wig over your own hair? A body suit under your dress? An ankle length coat in August?) but that's the wearer's problem, not mine. And when I see how some teenagers choose to dress, I really wish I had a few chadors to shove them into. But a face veil and deep scarfed hood are pretty extreme, and as for the burka, it's punitive.
The banning of hijab in schools in France and the ban and debate in Turkey has got to be a political statement. And making a ban makes the wearing of the hijab even more of a political statement than it would be otherwise. Think about it -- if you are a teenager, how better to get up your parents' noses than to put on hijab when your family doesn't. If you are a 'fundamentalist' male, how better to make a statement than to make your female relatives wear it, even if it prevents them from going to school. (And maybe that is also a wanted result?) The authorities are doing a silly thing, I think, because banning something makes it both high profile and more desirable. To make a martyr, provide an opportunity for martyrdom.

In yet another category are the religious leaders in places like Iran who are sending out the clothing police to arrest women who don't meet the code and the menfolk who ( I read) beat their wives and daughters for leaving the burka at home. I gather that the concept behind this 'cover up, woman!' imperative is that women are distracting and take men's thoughts away from important things. Not unlike the mediaeval Christian teaching that women are inherently sinful and sex traps, to boot, and that they are property to be kept subjugated because they love sex and sex should be only for procreation for the glory of God. Some women affirm great pride in the testament to their faith that a distinctive dress or dress code provides. A lot of the nuns who went into modern dress at the call of Pope John Paul were sad to lose their distinctive habits. A lot of genuinely devout girls see their hijabs as a statement of their faith and identity. But it's a cause for weeping that women and girls are forced into these customs and the thought patterns behind them.

It's those thought patterns that have been occupying my mind to-day. Some of the women who wear various versions of Islamic modest clothing seem to enjoy the sexual aspect of it. They aver that their femininity and sexuality is hidden but there and that in their own space they can flaunt it and enjoy it. I have seen comments that imply that Western women just don't get it and that to be a 'hidden woman' is better for sex. Maybe. How would someone like me ever know?

What I think these women are saying is that they buy into the concept that they are just so sexy and desirable that they have to hide themselves so that men will not be distracted. This goes with the idea that men think about sex all the time, or every six minutes anyway, and can't be expected to control themselves about it. And isn't that silly. I can pass by a coffee shop oozing delectable odours from every crevice, even though I love the stuff. Ditto the bakery. Most people do the equivalent, unless they are, literally, starving. No one is shutting down coffee shops, here or in the Islamic world either. Alcoholics recover, brave souls, and manage to live productive lives in a world full of chances to drink. Sex can't be much more compelling, can it? So you're distracted? Refocus. I feel sorry for women, veiled or not, who are out to be distractions. And for men who play that game.

If you want to get a man's attention, I have found, it's easy enough for a woman to do. My technique always involved making eye contact. Worked like a charm. And you can do that in anything other than a full burka with a peep hole. Even then, the flash of a painted nail, scent, the way you walk, all these could send a message. Veiled prostitutes in classical Greece wore sandals that printed 'Follow Me' in the dust of the street. If a man is primed to think that way, the sight of a black tent that has a woman under it is a signal. Ooh, hidden delights. It's probably just as much of a signal as a thong panty coming out of low rise trousers. If you have nothing else to occupy your mind.

I guess what I'm saying, if you've followed the train of thought around all these curves, is that the world is full of other things to do if you're following current events and trying to make the world a better place, or learning, or working to feed yourself or your family.
My value system says that public life should not be about sex. No flirting in the office. Public dress should not be an incitement to riot. (Including you, the guy over there in the jeans with the carefully constructed bulge in the front.) Advertisements should tell me something about the product. Beaches are for swimming. Life is for doing all kinds of things.
In Canada, you can wear your veil to vote. Unless all the guys hissing and spitting all over the place get the rules changed. You can wear it to school. You can be interviewed on the radio talking about how you love to wear it. Note that in Canada, this woman is voting, going to school and taking part in public life. And I really hope that both those things continue to be true.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Painted Mapole is making up and organizing the Monday Missions this month. She's got a great post up with a neat take on horoscopes. And when I put this post up, I forgot to link to the site. I hereby award myself a blogger blooper award, and am contemplating what kind of hind end to put into it.

Agitarious

Sign: Chicken

Moon Alert:
Whatever phase of the moon it is, it's wrong for planting something.

Star Chart:
That's a falling star, not the whole sky, for pity's sake

Monday's Horoscope

The signs are clear that you will find something to worry about today. Do not make important decisions until after you have read at least two more horoscopes. Try not to bite off that last fingernail until after 4:00.

If your birthday is today:
You share it with Chicken Little, Mrs Bennett and The White Rabbit.



Two of the several sides of my brain are nagging at each other -- I am sure this happens to you from time to time.

Right Brain: That horoscope sucks. Were you trying to be funny? Pretty lame.

Left Brain: You were supposed to help -- you're the one with the creative creds, after all. Anyway, it may not be very funny, but you should think about it. It's your horoscope, worrywart.

RB: That's not funny either. I'm not like that.

LB: Oh? And who's been fretting about her daughters all week? For pretty silly reasons.

RB: Was not, either.

LB: Was too. Did the YG not end up getting exactly what she wanted?

RB: Well, yes, but……….

LB: And hasn't she fallen on her feet, just the way she always does?

RB: I guess so.

LB: You know so. Stop trying to wiggle out of it. You spent a whole two weeks fretting about nothing. Didn't you?

RB: Uh, yes.

LB: So have you learned anything?

RB: I guess, maybe.

LB: And you're going to stop doing this stuff, right?

RB: Well, I thought I might phone Little Stuff's mom and just see how ………..

LB: Hopeless. You're hopeless!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

I've just spent some happy time editing my photos from Vancouver Island. Gritting my teeth and throwing out some of the repetitions and bad focus: straightening crooked horizons (bad photo technique!) and cropping. I am really sloppy with a digital camera, mainly because I know I can do all of this, and so I take shot after shot and then have to discipline myself. I do put the originals on a disk and file them since I once had a virus that ate a year's worth of .jpg files. I also have every negative I ever shot with film. Packratitis, bad chronic case. Anyway, here are the best of the sunset shots. Something to cherish.

Peach Sunset

Red Sunset

Sunset Reflections


Sand Beach Sunset

Water Pattern Sunset

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Gulls Take Wing


I'm sitting here doing what my mother called 'stewing'. If I weren't typing, I would be chewing my fingernails. Not because there is anything in my life to cause anxiety attacks; rather, both my daughters are going through traumas of various sorts and I can't do anything about any of it. And I can't even lay the problems out here, because they are not my problems and not mine to tell.

We all know the symptoms. Inability to concentrate. Shortened tolerance for annoyances. Lost sleep. A general lost savour for the little things that make life good. Seeing the negative side of things loom larger. Mountains out of molehills.

I like to be positive about things both big and small. If my daughter takes off for a four day hike into the Namibian desert, solo, I tell myself that she is capable, fit and a good problem solver and can convince myself that she will arrive at her destination, on time and in good form, having enjoyed the adventure. I believe myself, mostly. Especially when, in due time, said daughter does arrive at her destination intact and joyfully describes her journey. I do not lie awake at night worrying about lions, usually. I am not kept awake by someone who is tossing and turning and fretting about them. Mostly. But right now, I'm not listening to myself very well.

It's a funny thing, worry. It probably is hardwired right into all our genes, as the ability to foresee the lion and figure out a way to stay safe is the ultimate survival trait. Little kids' trepidation in new situations is part of it. This caution, I think, turns into the anxiety about fitting in and succeeding at things that most adolescents suffer. A lot of young adults can seem very cocky, but the blessed 'I can do this' stage is pretty short. For me it only lasted until I acquired seven odd pounds of squawking baby and realized that I was IT -- the go to person to ensure that this infant would survive and thrive. The baby's father is faced with a similar, maybe slightly more diffuse, reality check. It's time to really work on the spear and the stockade. And make sure there's enough wood to keep the fire burning all night.

Only, the defenses might not be enough. Maybe there will be two lions. Worrying can be a constant weight on the mind and a drain on the body. Especially when the dangers are diffuse or unknown, or the problems are affecting someone you love. It can be really, really hard to stop overpreparing, to let your mind and body rest. I know people who never seem to be able to let things alone. Their minds turn up more and more problems and they fret about things they can't identify, let alone solve. Have you ever watched a flock of birds feeding who, whenever a shadow flickers over them, fly into cover? The shadow might be a predator. It almost never is, but the flight defense is innate and so they go, over and over again.

My mind is full of shadows this morning.